Will the Real Christianity Please Stand Up?

In the discussion after a recent post here, commenter Vishmehr24 said [I’ve made minor corrections of spelling and form]:

Alan Roebuck,

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Protestant?

How is Protestantism defined ?

You write

“confessional Protestantism (that is, the Protestantism that honors the Word of God by explicitly identifying what it teaches and then codifying these teachings in the various protestant confessions) is the best system.”

You write from theologian’s perspective, perhaps that is looking for best systems. But a believer or a seeker is looking for the best church. Your answer “confessional Protestantism” is too loose, too flabby. It seems like to mean -anything except the Catholic church or the Orthodoxy.

Here’s my response:

OK Vishmehr24, good questions. You sound skeptical, but I hope you’ll allow me to set the record straight.

The key issues underlying your questions would be these: First, Who, or what, has the authority to define Christianity?  Second, What difference does it make if one adheres to an invalid (or not-fully-valid) version of Christianity?

The answer to the first question has to be Jesus Christ and the Apostles he trained. And since they are no longer available for direct consultation, we must look to the written record of God’s words, the Bible.  This is the correct way to know what Christianity is.

Yes, yes, everybody knows that people disagree about what the Bible means.  But this objection applies to all authorities and therefore it does not count against any authority. Disagreement proves nothing.  It just shows that we must be diligent in seeking to understand the Bible rightly. I assume that the true meaning of Scripture can be had, if we apply ourselves.

So which is the true Christianity?  Obviously, the Christianity taught by Christ (and, indirectly, by the Apostles.) What other answer could there be? When in doubt, consult the highest authority. That would be Jesus Christ, who took pains to define his doctrine.  He didn’t just wander around the Judean countryside delivering pithy sayings. He delivered a body of teaching that he wants his followers to know and affirm.  That’s not all he did, but it’s the part that’s most relevant here.

And I don’t just refer to the passages where the Bible quotes Jesus. The rest of the New Testament was written—or directly authorized—by people trained by Jesus. And Jesus affirmed the Old Testament as being the words of God, not just of man. The entire Bible is the teaching of Jesus.

And which version of Christianity is the most careful to refer back to the highest authority?  Certain versions of Protestantism. The ones that take care to identify what the Bible actually teaches and to require members to know and agree with these teachings. It only makes sense that we ought to be faithful to the Founder, especially since the Founder took great pains to tell his followers that they should hold to his teaching and guard themselves against false teachings.

Which brings us to issue number two: What difference does it make if we fail to hold to the Christianity actually taught by Jesus?  Well, the Bible (and especially the New Testament) repeatedly warns us to guard ourselves against false teachers who offer false gospels about false Christs. And the Bible also repeatedly tells us that salvation from the penalty of sin comes only through faith in (the real) Christ.

And “faith” does not just mean knowing true facts about God. It does that, but more fundamentally it means to trust God, especially God in the person of Jesus. The one who trusts Jesus will want to know what Jesus teaches, and will believe it.

That’s where theology comes in. It’s not an intellectual game (although it can be perverted into that.) Instead, theology honors Christ by seeking to know and believe what he taught.

Take, for example, the doctrine that Jesus is God.  Jesus himself said “unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24.)  And that phrase “I am” is the name by which God the Father named himself when he revealed himself to Moses out of the burning bush. So here Jesus is claiming to be God, and also claiming that agreement with this is necessary for salvation.

The primary issue here is not abstract theological knowledge. The primary issue is trust. The one who trusts Jesus will believe what Jesus teaches. The one who does not trust Jesus will look for excuses not to believe, for example, by badmouthing the idea that God is both one and three, a Trinity.  The one who trusts Jesus will believe what the Bible teaches and trust (i.e., faith) in Jesus saves us.

All this may be foreign to your ears. That’s because Christianity is qualitatively different from other religions. No other religion was founded by a person claiming to be God. (One of the gods, yes. The God, no.) No other religion sets fairly clear-cut requirements for salvation. No other religion has its validity based on the identity and work of its founder.

And that’s why we Protestants worry about getting it right. It’s not just an academic game. It’s what our Founder wants.

Now to answer your questions.

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Protestant? No. They’re not even Christian. They intentionally teach falsehoods about Jesus, claiming that he is not Jehovah, which makes their name an unintentional irony. They may be Christian in the loose sense of claiming to honor Christ, but they really aren’t.

How is Protestantism defined?  These days, unfortunately, it only means “Not Catholic or Orthodox.” Institutional Protestantism is in bad shape because it has mostly abandoned its original purpose of identifying and holding to the true teachings of Christ using the Bible as the highest (but not only) authority.  That’s why I refer to “confessional” Protestantism as the best Christianity.

277 thoughts on “Will the Real Christianity Please Stand Up?

  1. Mr. Roebuck defined confessional Protestantism, along with evangelical, fundamentalist, and liberal Protestantism, in another post here at the Orthosphere: Fixing Protestantism.

    Perhaps we need a “Confessional Protestantism” category in the Categories bar on this blog, to make things like this easier to find.

    • Good idea, Mr. Lewis. I’ve just added “Confessional Protestantism” as a category, and populated it with its first two entries: this one, and the one you referenced in your comment.

  2. The ones that take care to identify what the Bible actually teaches and to require members to know and agree with these teachings.

    That would be, all of them.

    • Not so much. Have you attended a liberal church service lately? Lots of social justice claptrap, very little Biblical content.

      • My point’s somewhat sarcastic. Every Christian of every stripe will tell you they are practicing “real” Christianity.

      • But that’s a totally worthless observation. Aside from the fact that I identified who the real authority is, and pointed out that you will have to do the work of discovering who’s faithful to the deposit of faith and who’s blowing smoke, there is the fact that every organization, no matter how crazy, thinks they’re the real deal.

      • If discerning “real” Christianity boils down to the individual pondering over the verses in the dozen or more Biblical translations out there, then the process is completely subjective and worthless any way. They’re all right, it’s all good, and your viewpoint is no more valid or invalid than anybody else’s.

      • In the Gospels, Jesus assumes that his hearers can understand what the Old Testament means. He chides them for failing to honor the meaning of the text. Therefore it is possible to understand what it means. It is often difficult because of all of noise thrown up by heretics and the heterodox, but the cause is not hopeless.

      • @Alan

        I don’t think anybody is disputing that the New Testament is intelligible.
        What is disputed, though, is a) whether the New Testament “as is” is all there is to study; b) whether one has to do it in a fashion Protestants typically propose people do it.
        b) can be “unpacked” by noting that points of reference and their hierarchy are in dispute between Catholics + Orthodox vs. Protestants, that is, the Council and the Fathers and their relevance.

        Your cited appeal to the Gospels doesn’t establish either.

      • Georgy,

        The New Testament is not all we need to study, because its exact meaning is not clear to us, lacking as we do the knowledge of the cultural milieu of the Ancient Near East, the linguistic customs of the ancient Greek in which it is written, and other factors. All we Protestants say is that it is the highest authority.

        And this post is only partisan against non-protestants for those who wish to receive it that way. My main point was obviously that Vishmehr24’s skepticism is unreasonable, and that knowing the details of the true faith is very important. On that, I think we can all agree.

        Look at it this way: The proper way to respond to skepticism or relativism is with a belief in the truth. And truth by its very nature is partisan. One’s only options are agnosticism or a form of partisanship. Therefore I, for one, am not offended by partisanship, as it does not descend into crude insults or threats.

      • @Alan

        I suppose I should’ve written “and things pertaining to the New Testament as a set of books”.
        But at this point you’re already assuming Protestantism or some things shared by other people claiming to be Christian – specific doctrines as to the nature of the New Testament, say.
        But that is not the proper logical procedure here: why single out the New Testament rather than the Church it was written in and for, at least those periods of her existence where direct continuity is claimed and this claim is supported and there’s no reason to suppose a rupture?

        The reason I’m saying this is that I’m a former atheist, a convert who had to debate these things.
        What you’re proposing is not how people do history. And that is what I think St. Augustine meant when he said something expressing the point I’m making: “For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church”.
        He’s not proposing a circular argument, he’s not talking about the theologically established authority of the Catholic Church that moves him: he’s appealing to history.

        That truth is is self-evident, the latter quality highlighted by a reductio argument.
        Neither Protestantism nor Catholicism can be said to be that.
        Although on closer inspection, and I know it’s controversial, I don’t think it’s non-belief in Christ vs. SOME “Christianity”. At least not logically.
        It’s non-belief in Christ vs. concrete, specific Christianity.

      • W m. Lewis, I often qualify Christian churches on this boundary as well. There comes a point where a church ceases being a church and becomes a den of iniquity. The Unitarian Universalists are a perfect example.

      • No. Just pointing out that everybody thinks they are the ones practicing the true faith. You and me included.

        I’m Eastern Orthodox, btw.

      • Your original comment was to say that all the sects think they’re teaching the truth. Do you think they are, or do you think that your Orthodoxy is the most correct sect? And if you do, why make the nihilistic comment that they all think they’re right?

      • Orthodoxy is the True Faith and, from my perspective, the Protestants aren’t even in the right ballpark. Of course, every Protestant of every denomination will just as adamantly insist that they, in fact, are practicing the true faith. I’m not intending to be rude–I know many Protestants who are more loving, disciplined and prayerful than me. But the process you describe for discerning “real” Christianity is hopelessly subjective.

      • It is not subjective. It refers to an object, the Bible. That is, by definition, not subjective.

        Besides, the overall point of my post was obviously that one can know the true faith, and you agree with me. You think you can know the true faith. So why complain about how all the sects disagree?

  3. Pingback: Will the Real Christianity Please Stand Up? | Reaction Times

  4. And which version of Christianity is the most careful to refer back to the highest authority [Scripture]?

    You seem to fall into an impossible conundrum. You make Scripture the final authority, yet it was the Church (the Catholic Church), that “made” Scripture by defining the canon. So the Church would have to be the final authority. Or Luther for Lutherans, since he defined his own canon. Or Smith, for the Mormons, since he defined theirs. Even Scripture itself attests that not all that was taught by Christ to His Apostles is contained in Scripture – rather, it is contained in His apostles, and the Tradition they hand on to their duly appointed successors.

    Or, another point Obviously, the Christianity taught by Christ (and, indirectly, by the Apostles.)

    You put the hierarchy as Jesus then on to his Apostles (instructed and chosen by Him). No problem with that, except why stop there? What about the subsequent Apostles chosen by the Original Apostles – for example, Matthias? Or was he not a true Apostle in your reckoning, since he was only chosen by the Original Apostles to replace Judas, and not directly chosen by Jesus? If he is an Apostle, then why not subsequent successors (i.e., bishops)? After all, “Scripture” was not officially settled for at least a couple hundred years after the Ascension, and no where is it asserted that the Original Twelve survived to teach with authority during those intervening 300 or so years. They appointed successors, taught and trained by them, who were the “highest authority” before there was even any Scripture to which to refer. Only two groups maintain apostolic succession as far as I am aware – the Catholic Church and the Orthodox. My point, I suppose, if you want the Christianity taught by Christ, you have to go to the one that is taught by those taught by Christ and His appointed successors – that leaves Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

    • Latter-day Saints claim apostolic succession and have living apostles. The LDS canon is not closed, but open to continuing revelation. Latter-day Saints do not claim to be Protestants, as they do not claim succession from the Reformation-era leaders or hold some of the distinctively Protestant doctrines.

    • The Church did not make the Bible. That is a Catholic urban legend.

      Christians wrote the New Testament, but the Church did not make the Bible. The church recognized the Scripture that it did not have the authority to make. So the church was like a scientist, testifying to a reality that he did not make. It was not like a legislature, creating laws by using its authority.

      That there was this other, unwritten teaching called Catholic (or Orthodox) Tradition is a self-serving assumption. Since nobody in Christendom believed the disputed doctrines for many hundreds of years, and since they contradict certain points of Scriptural doctrine, Protestants were right to jettison them.

      But even if it were true that your Church made the Bible, it would not invalidate my main point: It is possible to know the true faith. As a Catholic you obviously agree with me that one can know the true faith.

      • You seem to be missing the point Catholic usually make: the Church made this specific set of books the Bible. Or so is the Catholic claim. It’s a reference to the canon problem.
        I think we can agree, at least, the truth of the Protestant position is not immediately evident.

        “A self-serving assumption” that is ancient and quite wide-spread among the people much “closer to the events”.
        To the supposed Catholic urban legend you think it necessary to reply with your own: that “nobody believed the disputed doctrines for many hundreds of years”. A little something mixed with a patched-up argument from silence (or difference in language?)
        As to the supposed contradiction with Scriptural doctrine (as-Protestants-like-to-read-it*), well, again, we’re going to have to disagree.

        P.S.
        Please don’t overly object to the assertions made in this reply.
        After all, it seems like a symmetric response. And do keep in mind, we’re on the defense here. 🙂

      • There’s a lot of competition for “the true faith” out there. What’s the argument in favor of your version, other than that Alan Roebuck has finally got it all figured out? I can click a few websites over, and find somebody else saying the same thing. Protestants are all trying to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

      • Mr. Roebuck has not presented himself as an authority, so your comment is out of place.

        Please follow the link I put in the first comment in this thread for an answer to your question.

        And no, we are not pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps; we strive to understand the Bible and follow what it teaches, including the insights that theologians of the past have found within it (e.g., the Trinity).

      • Discussions go off the rails when at least one of the parties fails to think accurately. Since the subject is an important one, we have to take that risk.

  5. The answer to the first question [who has authority to define Christianity] has to be Jesus Christ and the Apostles he trained. And since they are no longer available for direct consultation,

    Sorry, don’t mean to turn this into a Protestant v Catholic thing, but some of this rather puzzles me. It seems while the Apostles Jesus trained are not available for direct consultations, their duly appointed successors sure are, and have been throughout the Church’s history. Scripture itself attests to succession (see Matthias above). The very doctrine of the Trinity was developed through these successors through Church Councils, as was Jesus’ divinity (contra Arianism), and a whole host of other issues not directly covered through Scripture, or where Scripture may have lent itself to differing interpretations (e.g., Council of Jerusalem deciding whether circumcision was required of new converts to Christianity). Things seemed to work for about 1400 years or so (at least vis-a-vis Catholics and Protestants), and still work that same way for Catholics today.

    • That’s exactly right.
      I don’t think you’re turning this into a Protestant v Catholic thing, if anything, the author already did, by writing an obviously partisan post, mentioning “certain versions of Protestantism” as objectively (!) qualifying as the Church. “Thou art Luther, and upon this Luther I will build my church” indeed.
      I’m not promoting ecumenism here, God forbid. Nor am I inviting us all to engage in a sufficiently serious discussion of the topic (which at least the chosen form effectively precludes).
      But the premises of the argument are by no means evident to, it would seem, at least half the people present.

      • Also, “Real Christianity”?
        I don’t think Protestant readers of Orthosphere will appreciate a lengthy multi-post elaboration with various citations (including Pontiffs, Fathers and Schoolmen) on why the term Christian can only be applied to Roman Catholics and no one else.

        I mean, it can be done, and in my opinion a very reasonable position to hold (to say the least), but I hope all of us can see that this kind of thing is appropriate on 1) Catholic forums; 2) Forums dedicated to polemics between adherents of respective positions. Orthosphere seems to belong to neither category.

        That, or certain disclaimers demanded by decency must be made.

      • “Thou art Luther, and upon this Luther I will build my church” indeed.

        You’re missing the point. The point is that it is possible to know the true faith

        Wouldn’t you agree with me that the true faith is the one defined by Jesus and those he directly trained? Or does it, in your view, contain additional teachings?

      • The point you adduce I’m missing could be easily made by stating the knowability of reality including history. At the basic level that’s it.
        One could further specifiy the abovementioned conditions to, say, the existence of sufficient evidence testifying to Christ.

        Writing about “confessional Protestantism” as Real Christianity and begging the question (at least as it stands) against all those not adhering to it is a point clearly distinct from the true faith being knowable.

      • C’mon, man. I’m not “begging the question,” I’m making an assertion. I’m being a confident Christian responding to a skeptical non-Christian.

        A full-on debate between Protestant and Catholic / Orthodox would be an entirely different, difficult thing. I don’t have the time for that. At the same time, if a Catholic or Orthodox says something that is not true and is important, I allow myself to set the record straight. 🙂

      • Please do tell me the practical difference between petitio principii and a confident assertion made with no justification forthcoming? 🙂
        Response to a skeptical non-Christian does not necessitate the specific claims we object to.

        Perhaps I am reading too much into your post, and if I am, please do forgive me, but you’ve made this (perhaps unintentionally) into a debate with the Catholics & and the Orthodox, as the specific claims you’ve made are not necessitated by the epistemological predicament of the skeptic.

    • The development of the Trinity Doctrine is a matter of Christians coming to a better understanding of the meaning of the biblical record, and not a matter of introducing additional teachings. And the successors of the Apostles taught what they taught, not innovations. So my basic point stands.

      • You do, of course, realise, that both the Catholics and the Orthodox teach exactly that about all respective Churches’ teachings?.. That what you will call an innovation based upon disputed criteria would be viewed as coming to a better understanding of the faith?
        Again, whether it is reducible to the biblical record “as is” is precisely what is disputed? Prima facie this seems circular.

      • Not exactly. The Trinity was justified on explicit and clear-cut biblical data. The doctrines Protestants reject have only very fuzzy biblical justification.

      • I’m puzzled as to what “not exactly” refers to.
        I realise that you don’t agree with the Catholic/Orthodox view, but that means just that: you don’t agree. I’m aware of that.:)
        If you’re saying that your criteria for fuzziness, that is, the exact degree of Biblical support required is entirely objective and can be arrived at by simply studying the evidence, we’ll have to disagree.

        (And what are your reasons for thinking that the Council shared your epistemology in general?.. Then again, perhaps you’re not saying that the Council was made up of confessional Protestants (in essence of their belief), as logically it’s not necessary for making your point, I see that.)
        As I’m sure you understand, being Catholic doesn’t mean renouncing the New Testament. There’s a huge difference between this and maintaining the “Sola”.

      • P.S.
        Again, one can qualify “Biblical support” into direct and indirect.
        A Catholic, having deduced the Papacy and the visible Church from the New Testament properly considered, would have all the Biblical support he needs for infallibly pronounced doctrines, for example.

  6. It would be worthwhile for some enterprising religious scholar to make a taxonomy of major divisions of pseudo-Protestant sects.

    E.g. “New Thought” is barely Christian, but it can get defined as “Protestant” because it’s closer to a heretical, Gnostic interpretation of the Gospels than it is to actual Hinduism.

    Mormonism is in a class by itself (but if Swedenborgians still existed, they would be similar).

    Etc.

    • I would say what distinguishes JWs and Mormons from all other Christianity is that they have radically different notions of God, not grounded in the Trinity. This makes issues like the Immaculate Conception seem trivial by comparison, which is why both groups are often described as offshoot ‘cults’ of Christianity rather than part of the general theological brotherhood, though I have had very productive discussions with smart adherents of both.

      • The “general theological brotherhood” seems to favor a God without body, parts, or passions (The Westminster Confession of Faith, A.D. 1646). But that is hard to square with the plain reading of the Old and New Testaments, for if Jesus is God (as I truly believe and testify) He manifestly had (and has) body, parts, and passions. And so much did He resemble his Father that He declared that who had seen Him, had seen the Father. See John 14:9. See also John 17:3.

        The Apostle Paul predicted that his immediate “successors” would be wolves. See Acts 20:29. The whole tenor of the New Testament in times of persecution was not “hang on and in a few hundred years the whole civilized world will be Christian.” I was rather that the world would treat Christ’s followers no better than they treated Christ Himself (John 15:20) and that their reward would be found in heaven. See http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/book/when-the-lights-went-out-three-studies-on-the-ancient-apostasy/

      • Yes, Leo. Of course nobody would deny that Christ was a material entity! haha

        My point was that particularly with Mormons, they actually perceive God the Father to be almost a necessarily physical entity (He has His own planet and such). In this sense, the Mormon God does appear to be spatially and temporally limited in a way the Christian God is not. Whether this is a fair distinction is up to the individual perceiving the schism. I am by no means an expert on Mormon theology.

      • “He has His own planet and such.”

        He has ALL the planets. This reminds me of the story about Lyndon Johnson at Andrews Air Force Base. A young Marine points to one of the helicopters and says, “This is your helicopter, Sir.” And President Johnson replies, “Son, they are all my helicopters.”

        “I am by no means an expert on Mormon theology.”

        Not one man in ten can explain his own religion. Not one man in a thousand can explain his neighbor’s.

        For one serious analysis of some of the philosophical issues you raise, see http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2005-fair-conference/2005-the-fallacy-of-fundamentalist-assumptions

      • Leo has made a false statement regarding the Westminster Confession of Faith.

        “The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.” (WCF, Ch. 8, ¶ 2)

        The Westminster Confession of Faith clearly states Jesus is a man, “with all the essential properties” of one.

        Furthermore, The Shorter Catechism has this (amongst other things) to say about Jesus:

        Q. 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
        A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.

        That’s Jesus with “a true body.”

        In preaching and in writings and in hymns, I hear and read about a Jesus who knows how we feel because He, too, has felt what we feel. The Jesus of the Bible feels fear, joy, disappointment, anger, and more, because feeling emotions is part of the human experience.

        You do not seem to be that one man in a thousand who can explain his neighbor’s religion, Leo.

        WCF Excerpt From: Orthodox Presbyterian Church. “The Confession Of Faith.” Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 2010-03-03T16:10:16.087418+00:00. iBooks.
        This material may be protected by copyright.

      • @William Lewis

        You have done an admirable job agreeing with me that Jesus has a body, parts, and passions. We all agree on that, and I knew that you and Mark would as would almost everyone reading this site. And we agree that Jesus is God.

        What you haven’t explained is why God (“one only living and true God” according to the Confession) is described in said Confession as being “without body, parts, or passions.” Those words are there. I didn’t make them up or misquote them or falsify them. Why would anyone conclude from reading the Bible (as opposed to Neo-platonic thought) that God is without body, parts, or passions? Why are those words there? It is hard to imagine them coming from the mouth of Moses (Gen. 1:27, 5:1, 9:6, 32:30, Exo. 32:30, 24:10, 31:18, 33:11, 33:23), or from Galilean fisherman grounded in the Old Testament.

        You are absolutely correct that I don’t understand the Westminster Confession of Faith. I don’t claim to. And I know that those words are sometimes given very technical meanings, which presumably are lost on the casual listener and most of the congregation. Hence most of the congregation doesn’t understand it either. But, of course, it is congruent with Neo-Platonism, and maybe the congregation does believe in that. My point is that it is hard for most lay people and to me almost impossible to make plain sense of it and reconcile it with the plain reading of the Old and New Testaments without reference to non-Biblical texts, ideas, and concepts (cf. sola scriptura).

        Surely learned and highly educated experts on Anglicanism such as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, understand the creeds intellectually, theologically, and properly much, much better than I do and on a deep level, right? See http://anglicanecumenicalsociety.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/what-do-people-mean-when-they-say-that-presiding-bishop-schori-has-denied-the-resurrection-or-the-divinity-of-christ/

      • Despite trappings and claims otherwise, I do not believe that Bishoppette Schori, or the organization she leads, are Christian.

        God the Son, having taken human form and nature permanently, has a body, but neither God the Father nor God the Holy Spirit have a body. This is part of the mystery of the Trinity. This is a revealed, yet unexplained, truth.

        I don’t see the problem.

  7. Alan,
    thanks for considering my remarks. Now, if the term “confessional protestantism” is to make sense, there must be a body of teaching (at the very least) that is in common in these sects.

    What are these teachings that define “confessional protestantism”?
    Do Methodists and Calvinists and Anglicans and Evangelicals and Pentecostals have a sufficient commonality that defines them apart from RC or Orthodoxy?
    And is this commonality something else than non-RC?
    That is, what if the only point of agreement between various “confessional protestants” is that they are not RC?

    • Please follow the link I posted in the first comment for a detailed answer to the question, “what is confessional Protestantism.”

      In short, it is a version of Christianity in which the teachings of the Bible were, after years of painstaking labor among the participants, and building upon the wisdom of theologians before us, condensed into a number of points. Some of these condensations are called confessions, hence the name.

      The one I am most familiar with is the Westminster Confession of Faith, as well as its short form, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but there are others, such as the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dordt, the Augsburg Confession, the London Baptist Confession, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. As Mr. Roebuck put it in his article (link in the first comment), “[e]ach of these creeds has authority only by virtue of being a faithful summary of what the Bible teaches, the Bible being the supreme (and only inerrant) authority on every subject about which it speaks.”

      What unifies these versions of Christianity is that they have a mechanism to keep liberalism at bay: adherence to their confession/catechism. While it appears that the Eastern Orthodox churches are also keeping liberalism at bay, the majority of mainline Protestant denominations have not, and neither has the Roman church (according to my sedevacantist friends, they haven’t had a real pope since before Vatican II).

      So perhaps the unifying element is the confessions, and the ability to fight the liberal infection that following them provides.

      • Again, what a seeker wants is a Church and not a “version”.
        Where are these confessional “versions” found, if not in mainline protestant churches?
        Isn’t Westminster Confession of Faith required for Anglican Church? But has it kept the Anglican Church away from liberalism?

      • what a seeker wants is a church and not a “version”

        You’re quibbling about unimportant details. Replace “version” with “denomination” if it makes you feel better.

        Please read Mr. Roebuck’s post “Fixing Protestantism.” You can find the link under the “Confessional Protestantism” link on the right, near the top of the page.

      • the various confessions that you have listed, how much are they consistent with each other?
        The point is that one could speak of “confessional protestantism” only when there is a certain commonality in doctrine and liturgy.
        If protestantism A differs from protestantism B in some important things but agrees with RCC in those things, then why one should club A and B together but exclude RCC?

      • Vishmehr, you are quick to ask skeptical questions, but slow to consider the answers offered. Too much skepticism drowns a man.

        Why “exclude” the RCC? Well, they are different. They have papal infallibility. We don’t. They don’t have justification by faith alone or sola scripture. We do. They have purgatory, Mary as co-redemptrix and Queen of Heaven, Purgatory, indulgences, the mass as an actual re-sarifice of Christ. We don’t.

        There are real differences. We’re not being arbitrary.

        That said, there is a lot of similarity between Catholics and Protestants. We probably agree on over 90% of our doctrine, and we are in many way more like each other than we are like the Orthodox, who generally refuse to have precision in doctrine or basis of authority. Catholics and Protestants like to make precise doctrine and clearly identify our basis of authority.

    • Of course we’re different. What vishmehr24 is getting at is that so are Protestants among themselves. And that Protestantism remains defined as opposition to Catholicism.
      To take the example of the Mass. It’s funny, because in the post linked by. Mr. Lewis cites Anglicans. At least some of which will not immediately agree with what Mr. Roebeck cites as the differences.
      _________________________________________________
      “An actual re-sacrifice of Christ”. One, of course, has to qualify exactly what that means.
      And the Tradition of the Reformers Mr. Roebuck recommends us would have us believe that Catholics bloodily re-sacrifice Christ.
      And Catholics, of course, do not.

      As Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange most brilliantly put it:
      “Substantially, then, the Sacrifice of the Mass does not differ from the sacrifice of the cross, since in each we have, not only the same victim, but also the same priest who does the actual offering, though the mode of the immolation differs, one being bloody and physical, the other non-bloody and sacramental. Hence Christ’s act of offering the Mass, while it is neither dolorous nor meritorious (since He is no longer viator): is still an act of reparative adoration, of intercession, of thanksgiving, is still the ever-loving action of His heart, is still the soul of the Sacrifice of the Mass. This view stands out clearly in the saint’s commentaries on St. Paul, particularly in his insistence on Christ’s ever-living intercession. Christ also now, in heaven, says Gonet, prays in the true and proper sense (by intercession): begging divine benefits for us. And His special act of intercession is the act by which, as chief priest of each Mass, He intercedes for us. Thus the interior oblation, always living in Christ’s heart, is the very soul of the Sacrifice of the Mass; it arouses and binds to itself the interior oblation of the celebrant and of the faithful united to the celebrant. Such is, beyond doubt, the often repeated doctrine of St. Thomas and his school.”

      For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.

      Malachi 1-11
      _________________________________________________

      Perhaps Mr. Roebuck would object to the actual Catholic teaching and is in fact doing just that.
      The reason I wrote this comment is that Protestants engaging in polemics typically present a caricature, a strawman to tear down.

      • While I cannot speak for Mr. Roebuck, I think that it goes without saying that Protestants in general object to actual Roman teachings—at least the ones that are specifically Roman and not Christian.

        Protestants engaging in polemics typically present a caricature, a strawman to tear down.

        The same can be said of followers of the Church of Rome and their attempts at anti-Protestant polemics.

      • Obviously, position-wise, Protestantism’s actual tenets conflict with the actual tenets of Catholicism. At least these that are Protestant, not Christian.

        What I said is that individual Protestants are at times not exactly aware of what the actual teaching is. Especially when it comes to the subject of the Eucharist. At least in my experience.
        And no, I’m not disputing that Catholics possess no immunity from ignorance.

    • Also, according to those who know these things better than I do, there is better than 99.9% agreement among the various confessions, which makes it easy for different confessional churches to engage in fraternal relations, for their missionaries to work together, for members of one to transfer to another after moving, etc. There will be differences in details, but not in substantive content.

  8. “everybody knows that people disagree about what the Bible means”
    Do you regard the book of Sirach, the Wisdom of Solomon, Maccabees and the book of Tobit as belonging to the Bible or not?

  9. “And which version of Christianity is the most careful to refer back to the highest authority?”

    “versions” is an odd choice of word here. Shouldn’t it be “Church”? after all, Christians are found organized into Churches and not into “versions”
    Rephrase as:
    And which Christian Church is the most careful to refer back to the highest authority?”

    And the highest authority is “a book”?
    In whose say-so?

    • Please read the comments carefully, vishmehr. God is the highest authority, but since the Bible is the word of God, and the only authority we have reliable access to, we accept the Bible as the highest authority, understanding that it is not merely “a book” but The Book.

      Confessional churches are the most careful to refer to the Bible, and strive to keep extra-biblical practices out of worship. There are good-faith differences in interpretation among the different confessional churches, and even within denominations, of course (e.g., how frequently to observe the Lord’s Supper), but unity on the important points (e.g., that the Lord’s Supper must be observed).

      • Really, vishmehr, I expect better than this from you.

        This is an unabashedly Christian site. If you can’t be bothered to inform yourselves of the basics of Christianity—some of which can be accessed from every single page of the Orthosphere—then you can’t expect us to bother to respond to you.

        (Hint: click on the “Christian Apologetics: Giving Reasons to Believe” link under the “Resources” button at the top left. That’ll get you started.)

      • Wm. Lewis

        I don’t think vishmehr24 is being ignorant of the basics of Christianity. What he seems to be inquiring about is the justification of a specific tenet common among people claiming adherence to Christianity: Divine inspiration of the Bible.
        And it is clearly distinct from, say, belief in Our Lord’s Resurrection and divinity.

        One can accept the books of the New Testament as history/books relaying the words of God Incarnate without at the same time maintaining their supreme theological authority. These are distinct claims.

        This procedure doesn’t entail liberalism, per se, though perhaps it does among Protestants nowadays, per accidens. That is what Catholics chiefly mean when they say that the Church made the Bible what it is: gave the books of the Bible qualification of their theological significance.

      • Georgy, If that is the Roman position, then it does not appear to comport with 2 Timothy 3:15 et passim.

        Also, part of how we know that the Bible is God’s word comes from its very nature: 66 books written by 40+ authors over 1500 years on three continents, yet it is one unified whole, without contradiction. The Old Testament is suffused throughout with prophesies regarding Jesus, and He fulfilled them all. The fact that prophesy-containing Scripture is the word of God is confirmed in 2 Peter 1:21.

        So while you are correct in stating that the proposition that the Bible is the word of God is separate from the proposition that Jesus is God, the former is proved by the Bible itself.

    • Wm. Lewis

      You do, of course, realise that 2 Timothy 3:15 doesn’t cover the New Testament?.. And the statement you quoted are in no way determinate as to the list of the books?
      I’m not here arguing against inspiration and inerrancy.
      I’m talking about the logical procedure.

      Please do see the comment on my proposed “non-sectarian methodology”. 🙂
      The specific bits regarding Christ in the Old Testament and Christ’s own speech, historical reliability is enough for establishing Christ’s divinity.
      That alone does not entail the theological status of the Bible. Bible can and must be looked upon in different ways: first, as history, and only then, depending on what you manage to find out, as theology.

      • And it can’t be “Roman” at this point, for that would be question begging.
        Me being a Roman Catholic (or you being a Protestant) can’t possibly be a premise. 🙂
        Whereas I’m discussing the way a person who’s still undecided should go about it.

      • If the Bible is not God’s word, then it originates from man. If it originates from man, it may be mistaken, and we can ignore those parts that we wish to ignore. Therefore true Christianity is only possible if the Bible is regarded as God’s Word.

        (Obviously I do not claim that this proves that the Bible is God’s Word. I just use it to show the importance of correctly understanding the nature of Scripture.)

      • Mr. Roebuck, what you’ve written simply doesn’t follow.

        First, there’s no reason to be so skeptical (in the bad, non-reasonable sense of the word) about “man”. It looks like a presumption of guilt/untrustworthiness, which is irrational.
        With this presumption you can’t reasonably be a Christian, for regardless of the Bible’s ultimate origin (after all, God did not literally write the books comprising it and send them as the Bible is to us in a manifestly miraculous way) the report is a human report.
        Moreover, our “wishes” are not reasons per se, so no, arbitrariness is not necessitated at all, contrary to what you seem to claim.
        Your final conclusion doesn’t follow as well. True, real Christianity (Roman Catholicism according to me, Protestantism according to you) does hold that the Bible is in fact God’s Word.
        But logically it’s only necessary for your version of Protestantism, the way I see it.
        As I already noted, Christ’s direct speech, events of the New Testament and relevant portions of the Old Testament connected to these are to be accepted because of the historical veracity of the reports. That doesn’t make the entire Bible God’s Word in the sense of ultimate theological authority. An example: the Gospels are to be accepted as true history, but this alone doesn’t validate the theological content of the Pastoral Epistles, for example. These issues are distinct.
        What DOES validate them – at least partially, for there’s no explicit, utmostly clear statement about the infallibility (!) of St. Paul – is the fact that St. Paul was an Apostle.
        It seems clear to me that the ultimate theological validation of the Epistles (to go along with the example; I do think it applies to every specific book in a certain way, that is, at least to certain passages) stemms from an analysis of what an apostle is and necessarily of what the Church is.
        And of course that involves studying the Bible as history (of God interacting with His people, naturally), though I insist on the necessity of studying the early Church along with it (to even study the Bible in this way).

        P.S.
        Please stop objecting to the case in the word “Church”.
        I’ve already made clear that in this context I do not talk about the Holy Roman Church, but of the original Christian Church (though I believe that in fact these are the same thing under different names).
        P.P.S.
        I’m curious about your preferred justification for the Bible being God’s Word, given that you yourself say it’s a chief premise of your entire religious viewpoint.

      • Georgy,

        Please forgive my being flippant, but I think that such a response best illustrates the problem with your assertion.

        You do, of course, realise that 2 Timothy 3:15 doesn’t cover the New Testament?

        Oh, silly me! I totally missed the phrase “except for the New Testament” after the words “all Scripture is breathed out by God.”

        Flippancy off.

        I think I get where you’re coiming from, but your position seems to assume a linear chronological restriction to God that is inappropriate for Him, who exists outside of time (see Kristor’s many interesting posts here at the Orthosphere on how for God, all time is “now”).

        As for the list of books, the Holy Spirit gave it to us. Recall that the Holy Spirit “interecedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). If the Bible is God’s word (see Mr. Roebuck’s comments on this), then certainly He will ensure that we get the message and include all and only the right books.

        I don’t think that discussion on this point is fruitful. Followers of the Roman Church will follow its dogma and will not be swayed, while Protestants will insist that no human authority could possibly be over God.

      • “while Protestants will insist that no human authority could possibly be over God.”

        Because Catholics would disagree with this. Way to be charitable, Lewis.

      • @ Mr. Lewis

        Flippancy forgiven. 🙂

        It’s just that St. Paul almost certainly could not be referring to the New Testament (because of the date). What I mean is that it’s logically possible, granted, but…

        I honestly do not see a connection to chronological restrictions. My position outlined here is dictated by epistemological concerns.

        The trouble with the biblical verses you allude to is that it is no way determinate, that is, it doesn’t point to the Protestant position. Or, for that matter, as such they do not point to a specific way God ensures our knowledge of the true faith. It’s no better than the usually cited “my sheep hear My voice” argument. The same problem.
        Catholics simply apply all of that to the Teaching Church, ever-constant in Her Magisterium.
        This belief no more places men above God than maintaining Sola Scriptura does.

        I’m beginning to agree with you on the matter of the merit of this discussion.
        One question, though: exactly what dogma am I appealing to?

      • Josh, the Roman Church claims that it authorized the Bible, decided which books to include, that it is responsible for it. If that isn’t asserting human authority over God and His word, then I’m not sure what is.

      • Georgy, the Roman dogma that the Roman Church is a higher authority than the Bible. Perhaps dogma is not the best word; substitute teaching or tradition or whatever other word works better for you, if you wish.

      • No, Mr. Lewis, what you just described is a caricature of the teaching of the Holy Roman Church.
        What the Church does teach, along with all sensible people, is that there can be no real contradiction between truths.
        Both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are true. There’s no conflict between the Bible and the Magisterium of the Church.
        In short, the Catholic claim is that the books of the Bible are Catholic books.

        Though there can be (merely) apparent contradictions. But the fact that some people think there’s a contradiction does not mean there necessarily is.
        Both of us, I’m sure, are familiar with the tedious process of countering silly atheist claims about these.

        I’m sure you’re convinced there are REAL, irreconcilable contradictions between the Bible and the teaching of the Catholic Church. I’m convinced of the opposite. This is something people can discuss.

        But I beg of you, do not misrepresent what the Church actually teaches.

      • Georgy, I do not wish to misrepresent Roman teachings, but everything I’ve read, not only from devout followers of the Roman Church but also official Roman teachings, show exactly what I have stated: that the Roman Church puts itself in authority over the Bible. I have even seen the claim that Protestants have “plagiarized” the Bible—a claim I cannot make sense of.

        I suppose that the fundamental issue is that Protestants regard the Bible as the word of God, while, as you put it, Roman Catholics see it as a Roman Catholic book. You might not see a contradiction, but for those of us who reject Rome’s claims as its being the Church, the disjunction is clear.

        Mr. Roebuck has made some excellent comments here about Protestant positions on the Bible as well as what constitutes a church, as opposed the Roman conception of the Church.

      • Mr. Lewis,

        And does the Holy Roman Church reject Roman teaching? Obviously not.
        If you think the Bible expresses teaching different from that of the Catholic Church, I already no that, otherwise you couldn’t have coherently maintained Protestantism and the Solas, including Sola Scriptura. Naturally, I don’t agree, and we can argue about the necessary topics.

        But the point of my response was to prevent misrepresentation of what the Church teaches. And you’re still doing that.

        What the Church teaches is that the Bible is true, Tradition is true and the Magisterium is true.
        Given that all of these elements are true, no, the Church is not “an authority over the Bible” – for they teach the same thing, that is, Truth.

        What is correct is that the Church is a Teaching Church, and can inform people what the Bible actually teaches. So, yes, you could say, in a loose way, that the Church is a theological authority over “the Bible”, but only on the condition – to avoid equivocation – that here the Bible is understood as the way an individual claims to define the Bible’s theological content. In other words, the Bible has a determinate theological meaning, not readily available to each individual fully and manifestly, correctly and infallibly, but made available by the Church.

        Are you aware of some document of the Magisterium that teaches something contradicting what I’ve written here? Please do share.

        As to the comments made by Mr. Roebuck, I’ve responded to them.
        I still hold the Protestant view on the Bible unjustifiable within Protestantism, thus rendering Sola Scriptura question-begging, among other things. Same goes for the Church/church issue.

  10. C Matt is right. You claim that Protestantism ‘is the most careful to refer back to the highest authority’ – which is a more elaborate way of saying ‘sola scriptura, cut out the middle man,unless it’s our middle man.
    Protestantism = Not Catholic or Orthodox = Perverted Christianity

    • “Protestantism = perverted Christianity”

      At a first glance, one can understand why someone ignorant of the history and inner life of Protestantism might say this. Seeing only the most visible contemporary phenomena of Protestantism, with its hucksterism and gaucherie, the one who does not know very much could perhaps be excused for concluding that Protestantism is perverted.

      But it is only perverted Protestantism that is perverted. Non-perverted Protestantism remains faithful to the Lord.

      I find it revealing that some people respond with anger at the assertion that we ought to be faithful to the only clear and unambiguous record of our Founder’s wishes, namely the Bible. They would rather rely on their Tradition.

      But it is possible for tradition to accumulate anti-Scriptural elements over the centuries, as the Lord Jesus Christ himself showed (see, e.g., Mark 7:13). Caveat emptor.

      • Not to condone the comment of Gustav Mikailovich (with which I agree in substance), but let us not subvert the Orthosphere that happens to be a conditional alliance of opposing sides against a common foe. There are resources available on the Internet where the relevant debate can commence.

        I don’t know if by these people “angry at the assertion ” you mean C. Matt, others and me, but, again, it’s a “confident assertion on your part” (so is Mr. Mikailovich’s comment, but again, it’s a reaction to what you wrote, it would seem). All of your claims in this reply can be contested, especially the notion that Catholic (or Orthodox, vis-a-vis Orthodoxy) Tradition in somehow contrary (you assert contrariness/contradictoriness) to what is taught in the Bible. Again, the very separation of the two when understanding what the Bible teaches is contested.
        As I’m sure you understand, provided the foundation of the visible teaching Church, the area of “clear and unambiguous” wishes is somewhat bigger than what you propose.

        And Our Lord, of course, was referring to the Catholics, naturally. He did that right after commissioning the composition of the New Testament. Oh wait!..
        Think this is a caricature? Perhaps, but please do consider refraining from these in the future.

        Your objection would only be valid if there was no way to discern what is Tradition and what is innovation. And that is why your objection fails.

      • I was referring to the anger of Mr. Mikailovich, who called us perverted.

        Again, the Catholics and the Orthodox object to the clear-cut Protestant standard of the Bible. But any other standard is more vague, not consisting of written words preserved for thousands of years. And since innovation is possible, there needs to be a way to guard against heresy.

        Catholics and Orthodox guard against heresy differently than Protestants. They have confidence in their Organization or their Tradition. We Protestants think these are too weak.

      • I understand that. But I’d say Mr. Mikailovich’s “anger” is excusable – this post is manifestly provocative, as this whole discussion, I think, testifies to. Unless all of us Catholic/Orthodox objectors are simply too touchy and irrationally so, naturally.

        Correct, in that we object to the Protestant (!) version of the standard. Whether it (the Protestant standard of what the Church and the Orthodox would call taking the Bible out of appropriate context, among other things) is clear cut or not or whether any alternative is vague or not is not something to be settled here.
        However, now that you’ve brought it up, I find to fitting to remark that written texts are not as determinate in meaning as some people assert. And to understand it correctly you need to understand all the causes in detail: formal, material, efficient and final.

        I think it would be a correct expression of Catholic/Orthodox teaching to say that the Bible does in fact point towards Catholicism/Orthodoxy rather than Protestantism being true. What many Protestants seem to be failing to distinguish is the important difference between direct and indirect justification of a particular doctine.

        On your last point we can agree, surely, irrespective of whether our respective defenses are correct/successful or not.

        The bottom line is that Orthosphere is, please correct me if I’m wrong, a forum for Christocentric reactionary discussions.
        Not a Protestant (or Catholic or Orthodox) missionary enterprise.

      • Orthosphere is, please correct me if I’m wrong, a forum for Christocentric reactionary discussions. Not a Protestant (or Catholic or Orthodox) missionary enterprise.

        True. But we’re allowed to say what we believe.

        My intention in this post was not to be provocative. I honestly did not think that self-professing Christian would be riled up by my assertion that we ought to look to our Founder and his words to answer the non-Christian skeptic. Obviously I was mistake, although you don’t represent all (or even most) Orthodox / Catholics. But you obviously represent some Orthodox / Catholics.

        When I come back at your pro-Catholic (or Orthodox) assertions, I’m not trying to start a war, let alone win one. I’m just trying to set the record straight, as it were.

      • “I honestly did not think that self-professing Christian would be riled up by my assertion that we ought to look to our Founder and his words to answer the non-Christian skeptic.”

        I and you were right not to think that.
        I don’t disagree with that. But what you wrote is quite different from that, or at least not all of it, as I already noted. Please don’t equivocate.

        And do forgive me if I seem belligerent.
        It must be the language barrier 🙂

      • Are you saying that nothing in a post filled with peculiarly Protestant notions (to which appealing to the New Testament does not belong) presented as uncontroversial (at least on Ortosphere) merits a comeback, which all of our replies basically are?

      • I’m just a little surprised at how controversial some people took it to be.

        I’m curious, Georgy, how would you respond to Vishmehr’s skepticism? He’s saying that all those mutually-contradictory Christian sects make it impossible to know what Christianity is. How do you answer the skeptic in your own mind and heart?

      • Were it private correspondence or a Catholic webside, I’d be proceed to establishing the truth of traditional Roman Catholic teaching after covering the general background. 🙂
        But if I were constrained by the purposes of a website and required to be less explicit in things peculiar to Catholicism, this is a sketch of how I’d go about it (something I had to do with myself, heh). I already specified exactly what I objected to, but here goes the fuller, though brief, version.

        1. Basic epistemological and general metaphysical issues resolved.
        2. Natural theology and natural law, establishing the existence of God and ethics deduced from the way He created us, including the virtue of religion (corollary: the whole topic of sacrifises included).
        3. From 1 and 2 a criterion of establishing divine revelation follows: validation by strictly supernatural acts, as well as the lack of contradiction with things known naturally (both natural theology and law).
        *1, 2, 3 actually cuts off quite a lot of other religions, if the skeptic is still undecided*
        4. This point proceeds quite similarly to the approach of St. Augustine I referred to earlier: studying the New Testament as a historical document, and that includes studying it’s context and it’s audience. All of this necessarily includes studying the Church Fathers.
        5. Establishing the historicity of Christ’s miracles, validating His claims, including that of founding a Church. (Please note that this is different from validating the Bible as the inerrant word of God). Because of the nature of Our Lord’s preaching and status/activity as the Messiah, a study of Old Testament bits referring to it is called for (it’s interesting that from the point of studying the Bible the theological status of the Old Testament, at least proportionately to its use by Christ, is better than that of the New Testament excepting Christ’s own words).
        6. Upon confirming Christ’s divinity etc. etc. one has to act in virtue of his/her religious obligation in accordnance with Incarnate God’s will. At least ex hypothesi, this includes adhering to the Church He founded. If Christ is God, and He did found the Church, the Church exists (as God cannot lie).
        7. At this point, one needs to deduce from the available data, that is, the New Testament, the testimony of the early Church within which and for which it was written and finally the Old Testament what the Church Christ established is, Her marks. Then, depending on the results, one is to act accordingly.

        There. Nothing controversial I can spot, at least by Orthosphere’s basic Christocentric standards.
        Perhaps one would be tempted with accusing me of splitting hairs, but please do note that nothing in this sketch presupposes the truth of any particular tenet of any particular group claiming to be the Church of Christ.

      • A couple of observations. One, you describe a lengthy program, and most skeptics won’t stay put for you to school them so extensively.

        Two, you describe the approach you put forward as not favoring any particular Christian group. That’s mostly true, but when you say “adhering to the [capital C] Church He founded,” you’re using a Roman Catholic argument: that Christ founded a particular Organization to which He expects His followers to belong.

      • It might as well be lengthy. But it the only one I think is morally possible and intellectually honest under the mentioned circumstances. Then again, I guess if the person is a theist you might skip the first three points. The point still stands.

        As to your objection, no, I don’t think what I wrote necessitates such a reading. First, it’s ex hypothesi, and that is established in a way I described.
        Second “the Church Christ founded” could be read as either visible and invisible, so no, I don’t think I’m smuggling in Catholicism and I didn’t intend to do it.

        P.S.
        That I’m confident that Christ did indeed build the Catholic Church as she understands herself to be is irrelevant here, as this particular belief that I adhere to is a conclusion, not a premise.

      • And now you’ve written a post explicitly repudiating tenets of Catholicism, seemingly describing a step towards becoming an American traditionalist, neutral as that sounds.
        Was all of this for naught?.. 🙂

        Now really should get a post (a series of posts?..) tracing all the evils of modernity to the Reformation and the Protestant side of it specifically (possibly extending back to the Nominalists, but chiefly about them). And that to overcome modernity we chiefly need to cast aside the pernicious errors of the Reformers.
        Something all of us, chiefly confessional Protestants, surely, can agree on.

      • I don’t pretend to be neutral. Neither do I insult those who disagree with me. I say what I believe.

      • I have not stated that I’ve been insulted. Nor am I aware of any insult I inflicted upon you.
        Ah well. I’ll start praying for that series of posts exposing the Reformers, then.

        It’s just that you seem to be mentioning things that are not essential to either Traditionalism nor Reaction (that’s the reason for the unfortunate word “neutral”). It stikes me as very hard to argue that Sola Scriptura is, regardless of whether you believe it or not.
        Again, I’m not being an ecumenist.
        It’s just that if there is nothing essential to Traditionalism/Reaction that doesn’t have to be reduced to Protestantism, the reason grounding the unity of this blog seems to be lacking.
        This, of course, can be at least partially remedied by disclaimers, but..

        Sorry if I caused offence.
        Apologies.

      • You accuse me of ignorance, yet state clearly the reason why Protestantism is a perversion. It has been incapable of controlling itself. The ‘hucksterism and gaucherie’, as you elegantly state, is the final result of handing power, control, theology and biblical interpretation to every Pastor Bob looking for a new Corvette.

        The spirit of rebellion to authority inherent in Luther’s doctrine has allowed the overwhelming majority of ‘Christians’ in the English speaking world to be led astray. You find it ‘revealing’ that the Protestant obsession with ‘I’m more true to the real message’ is met with derision, yet fail to see the connection with this and the state of Protestantism today. ‘Cut out the middle man, and sign up for our direct-deposit membership. Try out our new drive-thru prayer booth, and pick up a take-away communion while you’re there’

        High-Church Anglican and Lutheran, as examples, do remain faithful to the Lord. But they have become such a marginalised and tiny group, and are fading into obscurity.

        I come from a long line of High-Anglican priests (from the Reformation to my great-grandfather), and they would be shocked to learn of what has happened to their faith. The small congregations of traditional Protestants tend to be middle-class and educated. Allowing working class people, perhaps not as moved by the mystical and transcendant, or appeals to Tradition, to break away and create Hill-Song is the price of ‘sola scriptura’ I believe this phenomenon to be a feature, not a bug of Protestantism.

        I would encourage more ecumenical dialogue between ‘non-perverted’ Protestants and Catholics and Orthodox. Our differences are small (despite Protestant insistence that they are great). The ‘anti-scriptural elements’ can of course be accumulated in Tradition. But within a well organised, scholarly Church, these can be better amended than in the free-for-all. No system is perfect.

      • You speak of the disorder within Protestantism. But there is just as much disorder within Catholicism. It’s just that Catholic doctrine covers the disorder with a theoretical unity. Theoretically every church in full communion with the Pope is part of the hierarchy. In practice, Catholics do and think as they please.

      • Every priest is accountable to the authority of his local bishop. They all must take orders. They are employed and housed by their diocese. They must take a vow of poverty. They are ‘ordained’ and trained to become priests. That is not to say there aren’t low-church or incorrect interpretations and ‘disorder’ in the largest world-wide denomination. But you cannot compare this to the range in Protestantism from Church of England to Baptist snake-charmers predicting the Rapture.

        ‘In practice, Catholics do and think as they please’. So do all lay Christians, faith and level of adherence exist on the individual level. But when the clergy and theology become completely corrupted, that is when one can point to particular denominations and say ‘that is not true Christianity’.

        I understand why, as a Protestant who takes theology and Tradition seriously, you would take offence to my somewhat blunt claim that Protestantism = Peverted Christianity. But as I have explained in my previous reply, I believe this to be largely true, based on observation of how most Protestants practice their faith, and on its ability to withstand corrupting influences from snake charmers, money grubbers and progressive morality (not to mention the general lowering of tone and lack of occasion, ‘bells and smells’).

        It would perhaps take some loss of face to admit as a Protestant, that Protestantism has largely failed (with the exception of the few) in its aims to thwart hierarchical self interest and get closer to Jesus’ true message. If you would accept this, you may find that you have more in common with Catholic and Orthodox faith.

      • Formatting fixed:

        Alan Roebuck writes:

        You speak of the disorder within Protestantism. But there is just as much disorder within Catholicism. It’s just that Catholic doctrine covers the disorder with a theoretical unity. Theoretically every church in full communion with the Pope is part of the hierarchy. In practice, Catholics do and think as they please.

        There are several private jets and helicopters owned and operated by Protestant ministers at our local General Aviation airport. At that same airport there are no aircraft whatsoever owned by Catholic priests or bishops.

        Catholic unity is more than merely theoretical. It is also juridical – it exercises at least some modicum of real authority, for better or worse, over all Catholics, and especially over clerics. Can you imagine something like the Catholic annulment crisis, or even the sex abuse coverup scandal, happening in Protestantism? Of course not.

        The reason why is because Catholic unity is not merely theoretical. And the world, including many individual Catholics in rebellion, absolutely hates the Church for that reason.

      • I was mainly responding to how some Catholics point to the disunity within the umbrella of Protestantism and make that an argument against Protestantism. But it’s not a valid argument for many reasons, one being the disunity within Rome.

        True, Rome does a slightly better job of disciplining priests, bishops, theologians and other church leaders. But where the rubber meets the road, lay Catholics are all over the theological map, just like Protestants.

      • Mr. Mikailovich speaks of “[t]he spirit of rebellion to authority inherent in Luther’s doctrine.” This is a typical Roman position on the Reformation (it might also be a typical Eastern Orthodox position, but I don’t know enough about them to say). From our perspective, it is not rebellion at all, and Luther acknowledged the need for church authority.

        We call it the Reformation because Luther perceived, correctly, that the Roman Church needed to be reformed (reform: to change to a better state, to cause to abandon wrong practices, to put an end to disorder). He saw the errors in doctrine and practice, the extra-biblical baggage that needed to be jettisoned. It’s not a rebellion and not a rejection of authority. Rather, it is the desire to worship God in the manner that He ordained, rather than how man decreed.

        I can see how adherents of the Roman Church would think otherwise, but imagining the Reformation was “rebellion to authority” leads to misunderstanding and discord.

      • Mr. Mikailovich, it is not that Protestantism has “failed”; rather, it is that liberalism is succeeding. After all, the Roman Church is suffering from many of the same ills as Protestantism, and those ills are not due to any flaws inherent in Christianity, but in those inherent in man.

        As for “perverted” Christianity, although we generally do not use that term, that is how we see Roman and Orthodox practicies. It is not a productive road to go down, as our different axioms prevent agreement on certain points.

      • Mr. Lewis

        I don’t think it’s wise to invoke etymology here.
        The word comes from Latin, obviously, and in Latin “reformatio” is “actus de novo formandi, actus iterum formandi”. “Re” being “again, new”.
        Of course, any human agent considers what he’s doing to be worth doing, the goal to be good or desirable, that is, it’s good at least subjectively, otherwise the agent wouldn’t be pursuing it.
        But that doesn’t mean it’s objectively so.

        But that’s in a language much more ancient than the Protestant rebellion.
        In English it does have this positive connotation of improvement, but one can easily guess how that came to be. The connection shouldn’t be too difficult to establish (at least to conceive of it). I think it’s evident that modern languages are not so trustworthy – for no one here on Orthosphere will extend the same acceptance to the received wisdom about and connatations of the “Enlightenment”, I’m sure.
        That change was happening and aimed at is a fact. Depending on your convictions, one can still call it the Reformation. Or the Deformation.

        So no, Mr. Lewis, the Reformation was in fact a rebellion against ancient and established authority, because “rebellion” and “reformation” are not at all mutually exclusive. De facto it was a revolution. I don’t see the “mis” in “misunderstanding”. As for discord, well, some things are inevitable (in the weak sense).
        That you believe it to be a just rebellion, a rebellion against merely apparent authority/stemming from allegiance to a higher authority, is no reason to deny that it was a rebellion.
        Again, that’s what all revolutionaries say: that they’re defending natural rights, primordial Liberty, proceeding to inforce the terms of the social contract, the march of liberty and progress, etc. etc. Revolutionaries used to “colonise” (the credit for this phrase goes to Fr. Edmund Waldstein O.Cist.) the past, perceived ancient ideals. Now it’s progress for the sake of progress, but it used to be different: most people didn’t buy it, and it tool centuries of Whig dominance to change this.

        Yes, logically, the latter are not wrong because (!) they are revolutionaries, though this sort of thing can be, and I’d say almost universally had been, morally culpable, but a just “revolution” is at least conceivable.
        Few adults are so satanic as to consciously rebel against authority for the sake of this rebellion alone, and though this subject is tricky, I don’t think it would be correct to say that the “reason” (for it is no such thing objectively) Lucifer rebelled was “non serviam” as such, for though pride is the cause of this rejection, it’s not identical to it.

        Moreover, yes, revolutionaries invariably affirm the need for authority – their authority. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the Protestant princes of the Empire (Protestants per excellence, a bit of etymology) the former handed over what used to be particular churches (of the Church) in their respective domains, for example.. they all did just that. Incidentally, at this point the Reformers, for some reason, refused to agree on essentials and “agree to disagree” on other matters.
        Of course, Luther, for example, was not a simple populist (note his reaction to the German Peasants’ War), but revolutionaries do not need to be that: think of the American revolution.

      • *continued*

        Also, you think that “perverted Christianity” is counterproducitve.
        What do say about a post named “Will the Real Christianity Please Stand Up”, where explicit Protestant claims are made in support of “confessional Protestantism”? Do you think it’s productive?

        As for your mentioning of axioms, would you please tell me precisely what you mean by that?..
        My position rests on no theological axiom, as far as I can see. Would yours be Sola Scriptura?

        Do you admit axioms that can be coherently denied? If so, would you agree with the following proposition: “The reason we reactionaries disagree with the liberals is just (!) that we have different axioms.”
        Or would you agree that this would, among other things, make any argument and discussion pointless?

      • Georgy,

        I was not invoking etymology, but definition.

        My point is that to misapprehend the Reformation as “rebellion against authority” is to misunderstand it entirely. I’m not saying you have to agree with it (though of course, you should*), but working from false premises will lead to false conclusions.

        Yes, I do think that a post called “Will the Real Christianity Please Stand Up?”, that espouses the Reformed faith, is productive and appropriate. This is a Christian site, not an exclusively Roman one. On the one hand, the Roman Catholic contributors make specifically Roman posts, promoting the Roman Church; on the other hand, the confessional Protestant contributor makes specifically confessional/Reformed posts, promoting that view. This site is semi-ecumenical in that such divergent posts are allowed. We don’t see too much denigration of the Roman position on the Roman posts, but sadly, we see quite a bit of denigration on Protestant posts. (This has caused me to be significantly less sympathetic to the Roman Church and its problems in general.)

        By axioms, I mean the foundational theological positions taken; yours are Roman, and mine are Reformed and confessional, specifically Calvinistic. While we agree on the most important points, such as the divinity of God, the Trinity, the importance off the sacraments, and the like, the two views are inherently at odds with each other—after all, the five Solas refute the Roman faith conclusively—which is why I say that after a point, further discussion is fruitless. I most certainly will not convert to Rome, and I doubt that many believers in the Church of Rome will convert, either. We end up repeating the same arguments, talking past each other, and generally wasting time.

        It is possible to reject one’s axioms and assume new ones—many Orthospherians are recovering liberals (including me)—but it happens infrequently at best.

        I do enjoy your company here, even if we disagree, and I hope you will continue to contribute your thoughtful comments.

        *Insert smiley here.

      • @ Mr. Lewis

        Well, to verbally define a thing is not to explain it nor to prove it, that’s all.
        But you’re not necessarily saying that it is, I understand 🙂

        Again, I don’t think it’s a misapprehension: Protestants did rebel against authority. Yes, they held it to be illegitimate. I don’t think anybody (including Mr. Mikailovich) is claiming that the the Reformation was a conscious (!) rebellion against authority as such (!!!), the principle of it.
        I think what is being claimed is that they were wrong in their view of it, otherwise doctrinally mistaken, wrong in their methods, tactically etc. And that these mistakes set up a pattern, adherence to which plagues Protestants still.
        Yes, clearly, it’s true that this characterisation is contingent on other theorems. Still.

        I haven’t seen a post promoting Catholicism, exactly. Devoted to Catholic issues? Certainly. It’s a big difference. Though perhaps being Catholic prevents me from noticing the promotional element, and given that I’m a kind of newbie (as a commenter) here, I can be mistaken.
        Sorry if I in any way reinforced your lamentable reaction.

        If you were to write a post devoted to, for example, the Calvinist understanding of Divine Sovereignty and its importance today, I would not be objecting to it in this way. Because although this view in its peculiarities will not be compatible with the views of the rest of people present, it’s no breach of the Orthosphere arrangement.
        Making specific and necessarily contested claims without disclaimers when answering a third-party (a commenter) in a whole post is in my reckoning rather different.

        And that is why what I’ve tried to discuss here is how one goes about settling these theological foundations. The reason I tried to do that is because that’s actually what the post covers when answering a question essentially concerned with this matter. One of the reasons I objected to the post is because instead of elaborating a method, that is, deducing, establishing these foundations, Mr. Roebuck was, in my opinion, simply presenting them. Treating Sola Scriptura, for example, as something immediately evident is simply question-begging.

        If you already accept the Five Solas, of course you will believe the Catholic Church to be mistaken. It’s a no-brainer.
        But I would hardly call it a refutation. For one can deny the Five Solas because of lack of sufficient reason to accept them, say, or because you find a conflicting view to be supported by the evidence. Either way, denying these causes no incoherence.
        That why I object to the term you’ve used – ‘axioms’. The Solas are not at self-evident and can be disputed. Perhaps in certain cases they can indeed serve as axioms – that of a Calvinist trying to understand the “Intitutes” better, for example.
        But generally and properly these can only be reasonably claimed to be conclusions.
        And these should be discussed. And if a debate is necessary, these are the things that should be primarily attacked and defended. It can indeed be hard, as you note.
        But as a former liberal talking to a former liberal, I can state that this can be done. And if anything’s worth arguing about, that’s it.

        Incidentally, that’s why I refrain from reading much “journalistic analysis” (and prefer blogs like Orthosphere 🙂 ).
        One is bombarded with particular conclusions – mostly of ethical nature – contingent upon very specific premises. Now the premises are very rarely discussed there (or at all, for that matter).
        The pattern, as we all know and as was brilliantly described here on Orthosphere, is repeated in the progressive-conservative arrangement – the “premises”, including most constitutions and law-systems – are progressive. So the “conservatives” keep defending positions that are not supported by the the premises, but they keep trying to deduce them (or pretend to be doing that). And end up adjusting, and later defending the very thing they fought against.
        That’s why “culture war” is an apt term. For the most part, obviously, it’s a propoganda war of attrition.
        Rather than an intelligent argument, a discussion of many issues, including foundational ones.
        The way quodlibets were. 🙂

  11. And this, if you’ll forgive me being flip, is why I’m a Latter-day Saint. Jesus Christ is the leader of my church, having called and appointed Apostles today just as in the New Testament. Dismiss our claims if you want, but theologically, the Latter-day Saints claim that the Catholic church as constituted today lost the authority at some point, and the Protestants never had it. Either the Catholic church continues, and the succession has been uninterrupted, or it has to be restored by Jesus Christ Himself. The scriptures themselves make the idea of “sola scriptura” unlikely.

    • The point of my post was not to start a debate, but when someone makes an important false assertion, I need to correct it for the record. The Jesus of Mormonism differs in kind from the Jesus portrayed in Protestantism, Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Therefore the Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus who saves.

      Regarding authority: Jesus never instituted an officially-sanctioned priesthood, other than the “priesthood of all believers,” which is not a formal priesthood. Christians need the true gospel, which induces true faith in the true Christ, not a formal priesthood.

      • “The Jesus of Mormonism differs in kind from the Jesus portrayed in Protestantism, Catholicism and Orthodoxy.”

        Rather than illuminating Latter-day Saint [LDS] beliefs about Jesus, this accusation sows misunderstanding and discord. Latter-day Saints have a high Christology while affirming the New Testament record of Christ’s mortal ministry.

        Latter-day Saints believe that:
        Jesus is the Jehovah of the Old Testament, Creator, Savior, Redeemer, and Judge
        Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, revealed in the New
        Jesus was foreshadowed by, and fulfilled, the Law of Moses
        Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father, but by Him
        Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of the Father
        Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and lived a perfect life, without sin
        Jesus performed all the miracles attributed to Him in the Gospels
        Jesus suffered and died on the cross for all mankind, was buried, and rose again on the third day
        Jesus appeared in resurrected form to Mary, Thomas, the apostles, to Saul (Paul), and to above five hundred brethren at once
        Jesus ascended to the Father and sits on the right hand of His power and will come again to reign in glory with all the faithful
        Jesus is worthy of every title and honor ascribed to him in the Old and New Testaments
        and that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father

        What we don’t believe is that these truths must be filtered through Greek philosophy to be valid.

      • Leo, that’s impressive. But it makes me wonder if there’s so much that’s the same why was Joseph Smith necessary? What did he add that was missing?

      • Mormons play up the similarities of their Jesus with the Jesus of the Bible, but there are major differences. And the differences are decisive. The Mormon Jesus is not equal to Jehovah. The Mormon Jesus is the brother of Lucifer. And the Mormon jesus does not save by faith alone.

        Then there is the fact that the Mormon God the Father started life as a human being and achieved godhood, and that he is only one of an infinite number of gods.

      • Alan is again sowing seeds misunderstanding and discord, making a drive-by attack without context or citation. When I confess Jesus is Lord and God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is because that is an integral part of my personal faith and testimony. You may accept it or reject it, but it is not “playing up” anything.

        As for the charge at hand, “Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel. As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.” See Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Answering Media Questions About Jesus and Satan,” Press release (12 December 2007)

        For a longer unofficial reply to the most common Protestant “shock talk” see
        http://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Is_Lucifer_the_Brother_of_Jesus.pdf

        Catholics may appreciate the reference above quotes Catholic apologist Karl Keating.

        We do not subscribe to the Protestant understanding of sola fide as you correctly state in your comment, but we are not alone in that, are we?

        A lengthy discussion would take us far afield, with so many mischaracterizations packed into a short comment. I recommend taking a look at

        http://www.amazon.com/Exploring-Mormon-Thought-Gods-Vol-3/dp/1589581075

        Suffice it to say that almost since its inception, the LDS concept of God has been distorted by critics and sometimes by members. There are diverse views on more speculative issues. Some of the views often brought up in discussions of this sort have never been canonized.

      • Instead of acknowledging that Mormonism is radically different from Christianity, Leo seems angry that I am making that claim.

        Leo, is Mormonism different from the other branches of Christianity? If so, in what way? [I’m looking for just a brief summary, of course.] And if not, why did the early Mormon church make such a big deal about being the one true church in a world of apostasy?

      • “Regarding authority: Jesus never instituted an officially-sanctioned priesthood….”

        He did. He gave the apostles (not everyone who followed him) the power to forgive or retain sins, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, etc.

      • That’s not what I meant by an “officially-sanctioned” priesthood. Or one might call it a formal priesthood, where one must formally be a member of the order, and the order determines who is in and who is out.

        Christianity is not a matter of being part of the officially-established order. It is a matter of being faithful to the teaching and practices instituted by Jesus Christ.

        And Christian clergy do not have the power to forgive sins. That power resides only in God, especially God the Son. Clergy only have the power to proclaim the remission of sins in Jesus’s name.

      • He gave those powers to the Apostles, but not to anyone else thereafter. They were one-time gifts, just as speaking in tongues was.

        Yes, yes, we all know that the Roman Church teaches otherwise. The Bible does not.

      • …and I, for my part, hope that we all know that the Bible does not teach, at least not explicitly, the following:
        “He gave those powers to the Apostles, but not to anyone else thereafter. They were one-time gifts, just as speaking in tongues was.”

        Nowhere in the Bible will you find this written. 🙂
        The early Church does not testify to this either, on the contrary, it would actually seem, at least to me, that her belief was directly in conflict with this.

        And both are not testifying as to the veracity of Sola Scriptura principle.
        At least not in a way immediately recognisable.

      • Mr. Lewis wrote:

        “He gave those powers to the Apostles, but not to anyone else thereafter. They were one-time gifts, just as speaking in tongues was.”

        He didn’t directly interact with the Apostles successors so I don’t know how, based on what’s in the NT, we would know that those powers weren’t given to the successors. It doesn’t make sense to me that He would establish an office/ministry that would just die out in one generation. And the “handoff” of the gifts to Timothy is described in scripture.

        and

        “Yes, yes, we all know that the Roman Church teaches otherwise. The Bible does not.”

        The Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, the Nestorians, the Catholic wing of the Anglican Church and (some) Lutherans teach this too. Protestantism, as the name suggests, is a reaction to Roman Catholicism so they have a tendency to forget about the other Catholic & Orthodox Christians.

      • Bruce B.,

        Protestantism, as the name suggests, is a reaction to Roman Catholicism

        This is not entirely correct. As has been discussed, both on the Orthosphere and elsewhere, Protestant is a name we are stuck with, one applied to us by our enemies, and is not the most accurate characterization. Reformed would be a much better appellation, though that term now has its own nuances and so is no longer as appropriate as it once was.

        This is not to deny that there was an element of protest (as Georgy noted), but the emphasis should be not on protest but on the notion of reform.

        Yes, it is easy for us to forget about the Orthodox and others; it was not my intention to slight them. In my defense, the majority of contributors to the Orthosphere, as well as the majority of commenters on this thread, are followers of the Roman Church.

        I believe Mr. Roebuck has dealt adequately with other issues you raise.

    • @ Mr. Roebuck

      Are you quite sure you’re describing the Catholic/Orthodox system?.. You seem to be confusing validity and liceity. Or perhaps not.

      I guess the remaining part of your post should read:

      “Protestantism is not a matter of being part of the officially-established order. It is a matter of being faithful to the Protestant view of teaching and practices instituted by Jesus Christ.

      And Protestant clergy do not have the power to forgive sins. That power resides only in God, especially God the Son. Clergy only have the power to proclaim the remission of sins in Jesus’s name.”

      It makes me wonder what you mean “officially-established order”.
      Wouldn’t you agree that if God established an order (and He is not averse to doing that, at least before Christ…), it would be more than sufficiently “official” and “established” order (as, for example, Pope St. Clement seems to think himself as a part of in his epistle)?

      • Wouldn’t you agree that if God established an order …, it would be more than sufficiently “official” and “established” order (as, for example, Pope St. Clement seems to think himself as a part of in his epistle)?

        The difficulty here is that the standard, existing terminology is not sufficient to allow me easily to communicate what I mean. For one thing, the word “church” has different meanings for Protestants and Catholics. Part of this difference is expressed by the capitalization used by Catholics: Church versus church.

        The Catholic view, rejected by Protestants, is that God did not just start a community of believer led by a leadership class. Your view is that God founded an explicitly-defined organization, somewhat like a modern-day corporation: It’s not just a group of people engaged in a specifically-defined enterprise, it has an existence as a single thing that persists through time and has a legal standing of its own.

        I see the Catholic view as making your church as something like a kingdom ruled by a leadership class that has a God-given right, and duty, to appoint all successors. So your priesthood is like a concrete order (think of the Franciscans or the Dominicans). It is not just defined by its beliefs and practices. It’s like a corporation that has a legal existence as a single thing that persists through the ages.

        [It’s like a corporation in that there is a Higher Authority that grants the rights. When I use the analogy of a kingdom, there is no analogous higher authority to grant it rights. That’s why I use both analogies.]

        And not only that, but your view is that God gave this “corporation” certain “legal” privileges: basically the right to define Christianity. The Bible, like Christianity, means whatever your corporation says it does, because your corporation has the divine right to make these pronouncements.

        If this view was correct, then I would have the duty to be a Catholic. But I have good reasons to deny this view.

        And about the Fathers: Some teach Catholic doctrine, some teach Protestant doctrine, and some even flirt with heresy. So they are not a reliable way to resolve the dispute.

      • Mr. Roebuck

        Capitalisation has nothing to do with this, I think. Would you not capitalise the Church understood as the community of all true believers?..
        You think this community itself, substantially as a community, is invisible, though the many forms of it as visible.
        Catholics think the Catholic Church is both (with the caveat of including the invincibly ignorant God-seeking people, being invisibly there, but we have to deal with what is knowable, recognisable, hence “visible” analogously). But alright.

        First, the Church is probably the reason why the West has corporations in the sense of concrete legally personal entities (even Rome didn’t have that). So if one was (I’m not saying you do) to read the Catholic view of the Church as a extra-Christian influence, I’d say this supposition is not at all substantiated.
        Second, you are correct to note that the Church is a kingdom, hough I think your misunderstanding is in the details.
        The Church believes she is the New Israel, God’s Chosen People. Now, I doubt you will dispute that God did in fact institute Israel, the first Israel.. Corporately, if you will.
        The Church is a monarchy, a kingdom. A Davidic one, at that. It’s ruler is the Messiah, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, that is, Jesus Christ. He is the King, the High Priest and the Prophet.
        On Earth, it’s ruled chiefly by the master of the house, the successor of Peter (hence the keys of the kingdom handed to Peter in Matthew 16, a direct parallel to Isaiah 22 and Eliakim, “the prime minister”), then other ministers and those serving them (bishops and priests). The apostles, the first ministers on the cabinet, as it were, were given the power to bind and lose, that is rabbinical for allowing and prohibiting. This government is a teaching office, because, of course, the purpose of it is to lead to salvation, and for that you need theological and moral truth. Just like under the Old Testament some taught from the seat of Moses, so do now the Church teaches from the seat of Peter (please do note that Christ condemned the substance of -some- teachings of the scribes and the pharisees and their hipocrisy, not their authority). This order of grace (differing in that from the old one), primarily concerned with truth, being it’s pillar is promised immunity from error – the way Matthew 16:18 and other relevant verses were historically read. So though the government is executed by men, and they exercise Christ’s three offices named above.
        The most important thing to note here is this: the constitution of the Church, as it were, is not up to her: it was laid down by Christ. Given that being the subject of this kingdom is essentially connected with the true faith, and we lack telepathy, the government has to sometimes provide precise definitions of it, so as to lead good people away from error and back to truth should a new danger to the faith emerge and also to get rid of the wolves.
        The notions of heresy and schism, contained in the New Testament, arguebly point to this formal structure (understanding what schism is without it in the background is hard indeed).

        But the Church can never change, because she doesn’t have the power (and she never did, nor did her teachings). It’s purpose is to defend and proclaim the truth clearly and manifestly and otherwise do God’s will, by offering the Sacrifice pleasing to God and administering the Sacraments.
        The Holy Orders – that of bishop, priest and deacon, contained in the Bible – are NOT established by the Church – they belong to her constitution. If someone is a priest, the Church cannot change that, just like she cannot unbaptise a person. So comparing this to monastic orders is incorrect – these are by-laws, if you will, just like laws covering the election of bishops.

        It would seem that the Protestant view entails that Christ’s kingdom is bereft of visibility. To my Catholic ears this entails that Chirst abolished the monarchy He as the Messiah came to restore. And no, it doesn’t mean the Church is not a spiritual kingdom. She is.
        Not of this world, but in it.

        As for the “right to define what Christianity is”, well, your view entails that He granted that right to the individual upon him reading the Bible. It would be interesting to see positive (instead of negative) arguments if favor of this position.
        I’ve already pointed out the difficulties I have with it, including the lack of reason to treat the Bible as it now is as the final theological authority or the written Word of God without the Church’s sanction. You grant that Christ did not directly authorise the New Testament. So you trace that authorisation throught His disciples. So it would seem that you do believe in a Church (capitalised) of sorts. You simply limits her purpose to writing and codifying the New Testament. The question is whether you’re right to do so, where the evidence points.

        I disagree with arbitraly dismissing the Fathers after what seems to be too general a statement (and I’m yet to see a crypto-Protestant Church Father in the proper sense of Father, but it’s a diffirent argument for a different time, I suppose; I only hope you’re not judging the Fathers’ orthodoxy vis-a-vis the “Institutes”, that would be question begging, inter alia). But, again, I think you fail to distinguish between epistemological and theological concerns: the reason I cite Pope St. Clement the I is because he lived “much closer to the events”, is directly connected to the Apostles. His epistle was even considered by some to be a book of the New Testament (a slight nod towards the problems already brought up), and in it he describes a hierarchical priestly Church (capitalised).
        Sorry if I’m being repetative, but the chief importance of the Church Fathers is epistemological: to know that the Church believed throught the ages.

      • The reasons for this exposition, and a partial reason of other posts is this: to state a broader epistemological approach than that of Protestants (Sola Scriptura), and a result of that modify the way Protestants view scriptural references cited in support of the Catholic position.
        For upon letting go of Sola Scriptura (especially it’s theological aspect), which is in my opinion totally unjustifiable anyway, one can 1) view them differently, in context of the early Church and the Fathers; 2) agree with the Catholics (and the Orthodox) that Scripture must not necessarily contain explicitly absolutely everything pertaining to the Faith (as it never claimed to do), and so would cease opposition to that which is not at all contradicting what is contained in the Bible, merely not explicitly there, and in case of an apparent contradiction, it is to be read without a presumption against it (like we do with apparent contadictions in the Bible).

  12. Alan Roebuck,
    You are misunderstanding me–I am not expressing skepticism but trying to understand your claim
    “confessional Protestantism is the best system.”

    1) It appears that Bible alone is not sufficient and needs to be augmented with a “confession” which is a summary of the Bible.
    I would not put “confession” as a summary but a statement of dogma that is variously supported with biblical and extra-biblical sources.

    2) Should Christians belong to Churches or not? It is unclear from your writings. The relation between “confessional protestantism” and various existing Churches are also unclear.
    What does it mean “to adhere with a confession”? What would it involve?
    3)You talk of “the best system”. but what we have is various confessions,Anglican, Lutheran etc.
    Do you think it does not matter which one is chosen provided one is chosen?

    4) “a Roman Catholic argument: that Christ founded a particular Organization to which He expects His followers to belong.”

    Why this untraditional reluctance to use the word “Church”?
    Did Christ not expect his people to organize themselves?

    • Forgive me for venturing a guess concerning your 4th question, but it would seem that a confessional Protestant who’s not maintaining the exclusivity of his particular confession vis-a-vis other confessional Protestants must logically, on pain of contradiction, propose that the Church Christ founded cannot be a particular organization, that is, a corporate body, with a concrete idenity (I know concreteness will be disputed by Protestants) and continuity (some Protestants try to prove it, some do not), and must be more of an umbrella franchise:
      Mr. Roebeck says that all the confessions have to fit what is said to be the Bible read with Sola Scriptura in mind and are salvific in proportion to this correspondence.
      It would seem that what is proposed is along the lines of the supposition that as long as confessional Protestants agree on the “essentials”, that is, once a certain level of correspondence is achieved, they all are the Church, irrespective of their disagreements among themselves, as the points of doctine not agreed on deemed to be lacking essential character.

      Catholics, of course, would object to this distinction between essential and non-essential elements on grounds of it begging the question – against God, and therefore temerarious, especially given His concern for details that ought to be known to a reader of the Old Testament. 🙂
      Morever, Catholics would point to places in the Bible where, say, St. Paul condemns schism (1 Corinthians 1:10 and further) and those pointing to the Teaching Church: all the “binding and loosing” verses, the offices of Peter, the Apostles, priests (I know Protestants would disagree, I’m not saying that statement requires argumentation, I’m just presenting the scheme) etc. Others can be cited, like Christ’s promise of perseverance for the Church, truth being salvific, the Church preceding the entirety of the Bible, the Church being primarily concerned with theological and moral truth, ergo etc, or something like a deduction of what the New Israel the Messiah was to bring about from the Old Testament (involving prophetic books like that of St. Daniel, for example).
      Catholics (and the Orthodox, for that matter) would argue that things like that coupled with the testimony of the early Church do in fact point to the Church being visible, that is a recognisable organisation (among other things, naturally) with stable teachings, direct continuity to the Apostles and infallible means of settling a disputed matter should difficulty arise.

      P.S.
      If Mr. Roebuck or Mr. Lewis is reading this, do note that yes, I’m asserting certain things here, though with disclaimers.
      You can count this post as a sort of counter to Mr. Roebuck’s brute, matter-of-factly statement that Our Lord did not instute priesthood distinct from “all believers”.

      • I agree that the (lower-case) church is a visible, recognizable organization. We Protestants disagree with the Catholic claim that the (upper case) Church is a specific body of people that has historical continuity and that resembles a kingdom (that’s my wording, not Rome’s.) The Catholic view is that the Church is like a nation in that it consists of a specific people with a continuity in time and space, and with a specific semi-hereditary leadership class (“semi-hereditary”=”apostolic succession”) with specifically-delineated authority, among which are the authority to determine who is and who is not a member of the nation, and the authority to determine the laws and customs of the nation, all of which are binding on citizens.

        The Protestant view is that any assembly of those who have true faith in Christ counts as a church, although it is desirable that they be led by one who has been trained in theology and church administration, that they have a formal constitution, and so on.

    • [This is in response to vishmehr24’s four-point comment at 6:55 am]

      1) Protestantism does not hold that “the Bible alone is sufficient.” It holds that the Bible is the highest, and only infallible, authority. Since Protestants hold that the Bible, and only the Bible, consists of words that originate from God (despite coming through human mediators), this position is logically valid. Of course, it presupposes that the Bible really is the Word of God. That’s another discussion.

      The Protestant confessions attempt to summarize biblical teaching without injecting any extra-biblical concepts. Of course, sometimes one must draw necessary implications of biblical statements, implications not formally stated in Scripture. The Trinity doctrine would be an example of this.

      2) Yes, a Christian should belong to a church. And the vast majority of Protestant churches and sects are not confessional. Some Calvinistic, Lutheran and Anglican churches are confessional. Some. The rest are not.

      “Adhering” to a confession is to make a conscious decision to regard it as an accurate summary of biblical teaching. Since most Protestants (like most Christians generally) reserve for themselves the right to believe whatever the Hell they want, this is in itself a radically reactionary act. Furthermore, confessional denominations require their clergy and elders to make a formal swearing of agreement with the confessions of that particular denomination.

      3) Seeking the “best system” is unavoidable for any person who takes his religion seriously, because there is a cacophony of mutually-contradictory claims about what religion teaches. Even to declare that all denominations are equally valid is to declare one’s allegiance to the system of ecumenism, and one’s belief that ecumenism is the best system.

      On the other hand, most confessional Protestants are “ecumenical” in the sense that they hold that it is repentance from sins and faith in Jesus alone which save, and therefore members of just about any Christian sect can be saved. But, of course, it is much better for a Christian to belong to a sect which teaches accurately the things of God.

      4) Of course, Christ expected his followers to organize themselves. By using the word “organization,” I am trying to identify the nature of the Church of Rome. It is a humanly-created organization, like all the other denominations and sects. Since the word “church” (or “Church”) carries many connotations, I chose to use a different word.

      • Given that we in this comment section are now accustomed to “setting the record straight”, I feel obligated to report the obvious: that Catholics believe the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to be divinely instituted.
        That it is the same Church that Christ founded on St. Peter, His Kingdom on Earth, the New Israel, His Chosen People, the pillar of truth against which the gates of hell will not prevail. That Catholics have Our Lord present, body, blood, soul and divinity, the Tabernacle and the Holy of Holies. That the Church has the altar on which sacrifice pleasing to God is offered. The one described in Daniel 2:44:
        “But in the days of those kingdoms the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and his kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people, and it shall break in pieces, and shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand for ever”

        There.
        And yes, I’m aware Protestants won’t agree.
        Just providing a perspective.

  13. “And the highest authority is the Bible, God’s Word.”

    How do you know this? Can you elaborate on the exact processes of experience and discursion that convinced you this was so?

      • “Are you asking whether the Bible is God’s Word, or whether it is the highest authority?”

        I’m terribly sorry, to begin with I was quoting and replying to your “How to Become an American Traditionalist, Part Six: Other Authorities”, and realized I misposted it here. An error on my part, I apologize.

        Also sorry for being so ambiguous.

        I just want to know how exactly you came to the conclusion that the bible is the highest authority on Christianity. To share with me, a Catholic, your reasoning, so I can better understand how you approach scripture.

        Above you say that “The rest of the New Testament was written—or directly authorized—by people trained by Jesus.” Which seems to me to imply the authority of scripture is contingent upon the human knowledge of Jesus’ disciples. Do you think this?

        How did you conclude that these claims of authorship are true? Some scholars debate whether all the New Testament books were written by their purported authors. And there are various other gospels and epistles purported to be written by Jesus’ disciples that are not present in modern bibles.

        Jesus’ disciples, being men, were all fallible. Is it not possible that they misunderstood, misinterpreted, or embellished his words? Is it not possible that Paul, claiming a divine source for his doctrines, was the source of them himself? Could not some of the epistles, the gospels be forgeries?

        Do you claim the scriptures are infallible, as many do? How did you conclude that the scriptures, though being works of men, are not contaminated with errors?

        How do you sort the New Testament apocrypha from the canon? At certain points in history Christians debated over which books should be included in the Christian scriptures. Some books were included; others excluded. This produced the modern bible. Were the debaters right, in so choosing? Would you say it’s possible some true books were excluded, some false retained? If not, why?

        I guess what my questions ultimately boil down to is this: how did you conclude which books accurately reflect the truth about God, Jesus, His disciples, doctrine, salvation, etc, and which ones did not?

        Hope this hasn’t been too long; sorry again for misposting.

      • You’re asking me how I know that the Bible we have contains the correct ancient manuscripts, how I know that the contemporary translations are accurate, how I know that what the Bible says is correct, and so on. At least that’s how I would paraphrase your question.

        There’s no glib answer, at least none that is correct. If you hold to Catholic teaching, you would say that one can know these things by trusting the Catholic Church to tell us the correct answers.

        But this relocates the problem rather than solves it. For now we have to know whether the Catholic answers are correct. Now we have to test Catholicism.

        Every mature system, and every person, has a highest authority. In Catholicism the Church is the highest earthly authority. In Protestantism, it is the Bible.

        There is a distinction between why something is true, and how I know it to be true. The Bible is the highest authority if it alone contains the Words of God, and if there is no other competing authority sanctioned by God. But since I am not omniscient, I cannot just know the truth automatically. I have to investigate it.

        Among the reasons why one can know that the Bible has authority are the testimony of the historic church, the fact that if God exists it makes sense that he would communicate with man, the fact that the Bible has a power and cohesiveness not possessed by any other book and, most of all, Jesus Christ identified the Old Testament as the inerrant word of God and authorized the New Testament by training (directly or indirectly) its authors.

        Is my process of reaching this conclusion infallible? No. But if my conclusion is true, and I believe it, then I am in possession of truth.

        And, as I said, the Catholic answer is no better than the Protestant answer. It’s worse in some ways, too, because to validate the Catholic answer we need to investigate an entire church instead of just one book.

      • @Mr. Roebuck

        It’s odd (“offensive to pious ears” 🙂 ) that you would refer to the Church as a “competing” authority, though it’s telling: I think there’s as least implicit Protestantism in this line of thought.
        The Catholic claim is that not only does it make no sense at all to separate the library that is the Bible from its four causes and the therefore the early Church (that’s dealing with history), there’s no reason to posit a conflict between the Bible and this Church (that’s theology), especially if the Bible indicates the institution of the Church, as it arguably – yes, I know we’re in disagreement as to the nature of it at the moment – does.
        All the factors you adduce to in support of the infallibility of Bible alone can be applied to the arrangement just described – the Teaching Church and the Bible together, and, again, arguably, it actually makes more sense. For example, the bit where you mention the authorisation of the New Testament “by training (directly/indirectly) it’s authors”. I’d say that’s a very indirect authorisation, somewhat thin (Again, for example, St. Paul in his epistles is not claiming that his epistles are part of infallible Scripture, he’s writing before all the Gospels are even written (Matthew could’ve been, then Luke and Mark*); and anyway years will pass between his martyrdom and the completion of the Gospel of John). What you are not disputing is that Christ did authorise someone to do something – though you’d limit this something to chiefly writing the Bible. The Catholic reply would be that there’s no clear indication of this limitation, but there are other commands Christ issued.
        Moreover, there are other interrelated problems I’ve already brought up here – the problem of the canon and the problem of establishing the theological status of the books comprising the said cannon. What you’ve alluded to is indeterminate as to that.
        The Catholic position is that the infallible Teaching Church recognised the Bible as such – the Word of God – in an appropriately authoritative decision. Nemo dat quod non habet. The Bible itself doesn’t define itself formally (what it is) and doesn’t describe itself in a way your view theological viewpoint seems to require it to do.
        According to the Catholics, the Church did that, and she could do that because of being divinely established for the purpose of preserving, explaining and spreading the truth.

        So no, one can’t say that the Catholic view is “cut” by the Occam’s razor, vindicating the conservative Protestant view of the Bible. Because, again, at least arguably, the Bible as such does not indicate everything needed to justify the latter. So explanatorily it doesn’t compete.
        (Not to mention the unreasonableness of the initial separation again).
        I don’t mean to insult anyone, but I think it’s quite similar to what one has to argue about with the New Atheists (now, I’m not comparing anybody present to them personally, for that would be absurd). They’ll talk about probability and the “relative simplicity” of the “hypothesis” of a godless universe, existentially independent and necessary.
        Whereas the theist defending the traditional arguments establishing God’s existence will inform them that they have not in fact explained anything, for what they describe as an explanation is absurd/unsupported.

        Whereas the Catholic view does provide one with reasons to believe the Bible as it exists to be God’s Word, it justifies the theological status of the Bible commonly ascribed to it by non-Catholics.
        The Catholic claim is that in order to establish the truth of the Catholic concept of the Church (enabling her to confirm the Bible in the status we all believe it to have) you do not need an infallible Bible nor an infallible Church – all you need are properly understood historically reliable reports of the said institution of such a Church by God Incarnate, who Himself is Truth.

        This is the way I see the logic of the Catholic argument. This is what I understand St. Augustine to be saying in the passage referred in the other comment here.
        It is logically possible that the Catholic claim is factually wrong.
        I’m not saying the necessary facts are self-evidently true. Expecting debates regarding them is most reasonable.
        But I think the logic is sound, and therefore if the premises are in fact true, so is the conclusion.

        *Yes, it might look weird, but I believe the so-called Clementine (because of St. Clement of Alexandria) Tradition of Gospel dating to be correct: Hebrew Matthew, Greek Matthew, Luke, Mark then John.
        I hope we can all agree in being skeptical of the untraditional Markan Priority thesis married most infelicitously to the Q-source hypothesis.

      • You do not need a church–Catholic or otherwise–for the Bible to be the Word of God. You do need a church to know it, because man is not omniscient.

        In practice, there always has to be a highest authority. If one does not formally recognize the Bible as that highest authority, then some human person or organization must play that role. In practice if not in theory, the Catholic Church is the highest authority for the Catholic.

      • @Mr. Roebuck

        “You do not need a church–Catholic or otherwise–for the Bible to be the Word of God. You do need a church to know it, because man is not omniscient.”

        Yes, thank you for reformulating you assertion again.

        Well, I’ll present the gist of what I wrote in respinse, then.
        Yes, for the Bible to be the Word of God all that is needed is that it be causally connected to God in a necessary way (inspiring the entire Bible etc. etc.)
        Trouble is, again, that there’s no reason, within your scheme, to believe that, if by saying that the Bible is the Word of God you mean that the Bible formally (all the books of the canon, the text within) is infallible. In other words, you present no sufficient reason to believe the Bible to be the Word of God. Considerations you forward in defense of your claim do not establish your conclusion and are indeterminate, more than applicable to the Catholic account and plausibly even more fitting, supporting it, or so I argue.

    • I must further note that should Catholicism be falsified – and it pains me grievously to write this – that will not mean that Protestantism as it existed for most of its history (and Protestantism you’re defending) is vindicated.
      In other words, I can see how Catholicism can be true and I do indeed believe it to be true.
      But I don’t see how Protestantism described above – with an infallible Bible – can be reasonably believed to be true. If the logic presented in previous comments is correct, I think I have established that.

      The only Christianity I can conceive of being true under such conditions would be radically different: it will have NO infallible authority in the strict sense whatsoever, excepting Christ’s direct speech, but even our understanding of that will inevitably be different. To maintain this hypothetic position one would need to do rather counterintuitive (in the sense of stretching) things with the the data available: I think it would entail acknowledgement of the early Church being deceived. It would necessitate a very different reading of Old Testament prophecies, relocating every Messianic expectation to the Second Coming, if one would be justified in accepting the Apocalypse of John, which would seem to be dubious, especially given the nature and the history of acceptance of the text. Etc. etc. Then again, I believe maintaining Protestantism involves just that, but to a smaller degree, but I do realise this is not uncontroversial, as is the substance of this whole comment.

      The hypothetical Christianity I’m describing does not logically entail liberalism – again, with the aid of metaphysics, natural law etc. it seems possible to escape this tragic fate, but, given the state of the world we live in and especially now, it seems quite reasonable to expect it to do just that in practice.

      Just like claiming that one doesn’t need an infallible Church to ensure supposed (for how was it established?) orthodoxy and carry on with an illiberal lower-case church, whereas in practice, in history, over time it would seem to lead to the corruption of belief and eventual liberalism.
      Yes, you can respond that the Holy Roman Church is in dire straights now. I agree with that. As an atheist convert half the time I think the end times are approaching, given the triumph of truly Luciferian ideas in the world that fallen angel is a usurper of.
      Yet the Church has a history of outliving her enemies without changing her settled doctrine. I think that “argumentum ab Ecclesiae furore” is a valid one. The pathetic sinfulness of people both inside and outside the Church, powerless to destroy the order of grace God instituted, contrasted with the sublime Truth.

      So far the Catholic understanding of the promise given by Our Lord to St. Peter is yet to be falsified.

      • @Georgy

        ”So far the Catholic understanding of the promise given by Our Lord to St. Peter is yet to be falsified.”

        Same goes for the orthodox protestant churches.

      • @infowarrior

        I think I have made clear in the earlier posts that I do not think that “orthodox protestant churches'” view of the promise of Christ (and generally) cannot be reasonably maintained, and so there’s nothing to falsify.

        Am I wrong? I might be. But here the discussion of the premises mentioned earlier is called for.

  14. “In practice, there always has to be a highest authority. If one does not formally recognize the Bible as that highest authority,” (Alan Roebuck October 11 at 2:15pm).

    I see Mr. Roebuck’s logical fallacy here. “The Bible,” which is a specific collection of manuscripts written down by fallible human beings, the specific contents of which are disputed, cannot possibly be an “authority”. One never speaks of the authority of a manuscript, but of that of its Author. (Note that “author” is the root of “authority”.) To suggest that an inanimate written manuscript is an “authority” on anything is a logical fallacy.

    Now, you can assert that the Author of the Bible is God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit inspired certain people to write down certain truths the collection of which we call the Bible. It is a fact that all of those people were members of Christ’s One True Church, who were delegated authority by the Primal Author, our Creator. A Protestant might quite properly assert (though I would disagree) that the Catholic Church has relinquished this divinely-delegated authority which is now instead present in some Protestant church. A Protestant who claims that this divine Authority has been delegated to an inanimate object is talking nonsense.

    A Protestant who maintains that the ultimate authority lies in the Bible is no different than a Deist who maintains that Creation is a clock wound up and run on physical principles. Both deny the personhood of our Creator.

    • Even though you may not word it that way, your highest authority is the Organization called the Roman Catholic Church. And you believe this because you believe that God gave authority to this specific human organization.

      But there is no good reason to believe that God gave this authority to this human organization.

      You refer to “Authority delegated to an inanimate object.” That’s not what Protestants believe. The Bible is not an “inanimate object.” It contains the words that God intended man to believe and live by, and that God intended man to regard as the ultimate earthly authority on every subject about which it speaks.

      Otherwise you get constant innovation, as we see in, for example, Pentecostalism, Vatican II, the current papal conference, and so on.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        You refer to “Authority delegated to an inanimate object.” That’s not what Protestants believe. The Bible is not an “inanimate object.” It contains the words that God intended man to believe and live by, and that God intended man to regard as the ultimate earthly authority on every subject about which it speaks.

        Which means, in effect, that every man is his own Pope, since all texts require interpretation.

        Otherwise you get constant innovation, as we see in, for example, Pentecostalism, Vatican II, the current papal conference, and so on.

        Catholic pastoral ‘innovations’ in the last century have been made, quite explicitly, in an attempt to appeal to the sensibilities of Protestants, to help bring them back into the fold. Whatever one thinks of ecumenism as a Catholic project, it is something ultimately driven by an attempt to be charitable toward Protestants.

        It is patently absurd to look at Catholicism and Protestantism objectively and conclude that the latter is more doctrinally stable than the former.

      • You say that when a Protestant interprets a text of Scripture he is his own Pope, because all texts require interpretation. There are several things to say in response.

        i) If the Pope does not have the authority he thinks he has, then “being your own Pope” is not so bad.

        ii) When a Protestant interprets the Bible with respect for his ancestors in the faith, the creeds and confessions of his denomination, his pastors and teachers, and with the understanding that he is not the measure of all things, then he is not “being his own Pope.”

        iii) When a Catholic reads the text of a Papal decree, he has to interpret it. He may then become his own Pope and interpret the Pope’s words any way he wants.

        iv) Just because a text can be misinterpreted, we do not therefore conclude that there must be an authority to provide the correct interpretation. For the pronouncements of the authority are themselves a text that requires interpretation, and so on

        v) Therefore the fundamental issue is not interpretation. The fundamental issue is authority. Who, or what, has the highest authority? The (earthly) buck has to stop somewhere.

        And about doctrinal stability: On the books, Catholicism is more stable than Protestantism. Where the rubber meets the road, concerning the beliefs and actions of all the people who think of themselves as Catholics or Protestants, it’s a much tougher call. Your church is full of heresy too.

      • Which means, in effect, that every man is his own Pope

        Wrong. Same old tired “argument.” Protestants believe in the authority of the church (lowercase c) and the need for tradition; we just refrain from making those equal to, or greater than, the word of God. Mr. Roebuck has addressed this topic repeatedly on the Orthosphere; there is also a relevant article here.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        Therefore the fundamental issue is not interpretation. The fundamental issue is authority. Who, or what, has the highest authority? The (earthly) buck has to stop somewhere.

        Agreed – interpretation is certainly a fundamental issue, and interpreting a fixed text is not the same sort of ‘problem’ as interpreting texts in an ongoing process of clarification and commentary by an authority. If I can interact with an authority on the text I am in a much better epistemic position to understand its meaning in various contexts correctly. But I’ll agree that interpretation is not as fundamental as the issue of authority.

        The Protestant must view himself as the highest earthly authority. When he claims that he views the Bible as the highest earthly authority he really means that the individual is the highest earthly authority — as others have suggested, the positivist notion that a text can be the highest authority is incoherent.

        As you’ve said before, correctly in my view, this doesn’t mean that there are no other authorities to the Protestant: but when push comes to shove, the individual is himself the highest earthly authority. All other authorities are formally subordinate to the individual himself.

        Protestantism is (at least one of) the deeper roots of liberalism, and that is why attempting to fashion a ‘traditionalism’ based in Protestantism will always, in the end, just be a reboot of liberalism.

      • If I can interact with an authority on the text I am in a much better epistemic position to understand its meaning in various contexts correctly.

        The “authority on the text” you’re referring to is the Catholic Church. But the Catholic Church does not have the authority you say it does. At most, it has the authority to proclaim a truth it discovered but did not create. It is this truth, existing independently of the church, that is the real authority.

        …the positivist notion that a text can be the highest authority is incoherent.

        Only if every authority has to be a human person or persons with whom you can interact. But if the author (or Author) of the text cannot be consulted in a routine way, then the text itself must be the highest authority.

        Consider for example a book in which the author describes his thoughts about event he is witnessing. Regarding his thoughts about the event (if not the event itself), he is the highest authority. And if the author is dead, we have no choice but to regard the text as the highest authority about these things. There is nothing incoherent about making a text a highest authority.

        And some of the Fathers of the Church regarded Scripture as the highest authority. So the idea can hardly be “incoherent.”

        And what exactly would it mean to say that the Bible is not the highest authority on those subjects about which it speaks? Since the Bible contains the words of God, not just the words of men, what would it mean for a human institution to have a higher authority than God’s words? Surely that institution would not have the authority to correct the words of God? And regarding the meaning of the words, surely God had specific meanings in mind, in which case man does not have the authority to define these meanings in any way he sees fit.

      • @ Mr. Roebuck

        To handle this within your analogy: no, your conclusion doesn’t follow.
        You are forgetting about the literary estate authority/publisher. Which one really should not.
        For one thing, the books themselves do not establish Authorship. Nor do they pretend to claim exhaustiveness. Nor do they elaborate on reference texts they are to be read together with.
        Morever, the books themselves tell that the “literary estate authority” serves in other capacities, rather than simply publishing. And nowhere does the text tell of the necessity of separating it from this authority, on the contrary.
        Again, see the comments not responded to above.

        “And some of the Fathers of the Church regarded Scripture as the highest authority.”

        Fascinating. Please do provide examples.
        I’d also note that none of them as far as I’m aware were contrasting Scripture with Tradition or the Magisterium.
        In other words, maintaining the authority of Scripture (which every Catholic does) simply is not claiming the truth of Sola Scriptura.

      • Georgy, your objections miss the point. Only the writer of the text can confirm that he did, in fact, have the thoughts that he did. And this example proves conclusively that it is possible for a text to be an authority.

        Also, if God is the author, the normal rules do not apply.

        Regarding some of the Fathers teaching Sola Scriptura, here is Gregory of Nyssa:

        …we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.

        [Source: Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, editors, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Peabody: Hendriksen, 1995) Second Series: Volume V, Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, “On the Soul and the Resurrection”, p. 439. Quoted at http://christiananswers.net/q-eden/sola-scriptura-earlychurch.html%5D

        The existence of Tradition or Magisterium is irrelevant here; “Sola Scriptura,” by definition, simply means that Scripture is the (highest) rule for identifying true doctrine. If a Tradition or a Magisterium were to defer to Scripture as the ultimate rule, then there would not be a problem. But the Catholic versions of these do not so defer, which is the problem

      • @ Mr. Roebuck

        Sorry, but for quite some time your responses to me miss the point.
        Using “testimony” and “authority” interchangeably is odd.

        Yes, I, being a Catholic, have reason to believe that the books of the Bible have God as their ultimate author. How you know that, I really have no idea (I’ve stressed this point of establishing the Bible as theological authority many times already).

        Interesting choice.
        I don’t see how this is any pointer to Sola Scriptura, especially given “intention of those writings”. Then again, in the text of St. Gregory it is a “rule”. “Highest” is yours.
        St. Gregory had interesting things to say about Tradition:

        “Let our author, then, show this to begin with, that it is in vain that the Church has believed that the Only-begotten Son truly exists, not adopted by a Father falsely so called, but existing according to nature, by generation from Him Who is, not alienated from the essence of Him that begot Him. But so long as his primary proposition remains unproved, it is idle to dwell on those which are secondary. And let no one interrupt me, by saying that what we confess should also be confirmed by constructive reasoning: for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from our fathers, handed on, like some inheritance, by succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them. They, on the other hand, who change their doctrines to this novelty, would need the support of arguments in abundance, if they were about to bring over to their views, not men light as dust, and unstable, but men of weight and steadiness: but so long as their statement is advanced without being established, and without being proved, who is so foolish and so brutish as to account the teaching of the evangelists and apostles, and of those who have successively shone like lights in the churches, of less force than this undemonstrated nonsense?”

        Against Eunomius (Book IV), 6 http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/290104.htm

        “Some of the brethren whose heart is as our heart told us of the slanders that were being propagated to our detriment by those who hate peace, and privily backbite their neighbour; and have no fear of the great and terrible judgment-seat of Him Who has declared that account will be required even of idle words in that trial of our life which we must all look for: they say that the charges which are being circulated against us are such as these; that we entertain opinions opposed to those who at Nicæa set forth the right and sound faith, and that without due discrimination and inquiry we received into the communion of the Catholic Church those who formerly assembled at Ancyra under the name of Marcellus. Therefore, that falsehood may not overpower the truth, in another letter we made a sufficient defence against the charges levelled at us, and before the Lord we protested that we had neither departed from the faith of the Holy Fathers, nor had we done anything without due discrimination and inquiry in the case of those who came over from the communion of Marcellus to that of the Church: but all that we did we did only after the orthodox in the East, and our brethren in the ministry had entrusted to us the consideration of the case of these persons, and had approved our action. But inasmuch as, since we composed that written defence of our conduct, again some of the brethren who are of one mind with us begged us to make separately with our own lips a profession of our faith, which we entertain with full conviction , following as we do the utterances of inspiration and the tradition of the Fathers, we deemed it necessary to discourse briefly of these heads as well. We confess that the doctrine of the Lord, which He taught His disciples, when He delivered to them the mystery of godliness, is the foundation and root of right and sound faith, nor do we believe that there is anything else loftier or safer than that tradition.”

        Letter 2, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/291102.htm

        St. Gregory doesn’t seem to be defending Sola Scriptura at all.
        Again, Catholicism does not entail “Nulla Scriptura”.
        It just denies the Protestants Sola.

        And, of course, any contradiction between the sources of revealed truth (as I already pointed out, reading contradictions in seems to require subscribing to a theological position that conflicts with Catholicism, and there have to reasons for that apart from ad hoc Sola Scriptura)

      • I, being a Catholic, have reason to believe that the books of the Bible have God as their ultimate author.

        Because your Church says so. And what authority tells you that your Church is right?

        About quoting the Fathers. They are all over the place. One can find quotations where they assert (in other words) Sola Scriptura. One can find quotations where they oppose it. Therefore quoting the Fathers, by itself, proves nothing. I was just responding to your implied claim that the Fathers never teach Sola Scriptura. Sometimes they do.

        The quotations you give above do not contradict Gregory’s assertion that Scripture is “the rule and measure of every tenet,” if the tradition to which he speaks is the tradition expressed ultimately in Scripture. The idea that Tradition is something that supplements Scripture is a later development.

        Also, my quotation of Gregory includes this phrase: “… and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.” That’s Sola Scriptura.

      • @ Mr. Roebuck

        Yes, because the Catholic Church “says so” I accept the entire Bible as a source of revelation, theology.
        The reason I believe the Catholic Church can do that is because I believe it to have been founded by Christ in the capacity she claims.
        This is a conclusion of studying the Bible, the early Church, the Fathers as history (that would intersect with “economic theology”, justified by the connection to OT prophecies regarding the Messiah). So I can respond with “Christ says so”.

        Yes, I already noticed your proposal to dismiss the Fathers, even for epistemological concerns.
        The Fathers never teach Sola Scriptura, or at least explicitly and uncontroversially. Keep in mind the criterion of consensus – even if isolated verses might look as supporting SS, the entire corpus of St. Gregory, for example, does not, and neither does the consensus Patrum.
        You seem to think that they were thinking in terms of contrasting Scripture and Tradition – and that is, for example, manifestly not what St. Gregory is doing. The exclusivity you cite is simply not there (and in context with other writings of the saint, cannot be there).

        No, that’s not SS. Can you conceive of a Catholic who would posit Tradition against the intention of the Scriptures?.. Clearly not. For the intention, the meaning of all true sources is truth.
        Again, Catholicism does hold Holy Scripture to be just that – Holy Scripture.

  15. The fundamental issue here is not authority or interpretation but Truth. An authority which deviates from truth is not authoritative nor is a interpretation which contradicts itself.

    Catholics like Zippy obscure the issue by hammering the authoritarian and traditional aspects of the Church. Newman, who was raised in the best Protestant tradition, did not become a Catholic on the basis of the Church’s authority, rather, he came to the conclusion that the tenets of Catholicism were true and hence his conscience was bound to follow them. Catholics failed to understand that Newman remained a Protestant in his approach even though he converted.

    Protestantism, in practice, is much stronger on the relationship between the faithful and the truth and its latitude in letting people believe what they want is in many ways better (spiritually) than Catholicism which demands that they believe what they don’t feel is true. In Protestantism the faithful are allowed to believe in what they think is true, in Catholicism the faithful have to believe in the Church. In many ways Protestantism allows a more direct line to God.

    Catholicism simply asserts that its authority and ontological concordance are always aligned. This is not true. Take slavery for instance, described by JPII as an intrinsic evil. The Church tolerated it till quite recently, the practice being buttressed by both authority and tradition and yet it is objectively wrong. I think the Church likes to excuse the errors in the past instead of admitting that there have been institutional failings in its relationship between authority and truth.

    Protestantism, on the other hand, whilst giving more scope for conscience puts no demands with regard to its exercise only demanding that the believer be sincere. No matter how stupid a Protestant position is, or how logically or scripturally unsound, Protestantism provides for no mechanism to stop its believers from being stupid.

    In essence, Catholics can be authoritatively made to believe in error whist Protestants are sincerely allowed be be erroneous.

    • Yes, and nobody’s disputing that the fundamental issue is truth.
      Catholics assert that submission to authority of the Church is in fact necessitated by truth.
      So did Cardinal Newman. What’s peculiarly Protestant about that, I have no idea.
      And no, submission to authority accords with epistemology as practiced by most people.

      I made all the necessary qualifications. Provided an exposition of the logic of the Catholic position. And even proposed counterfactuals.
      Please see my comments above.

      What you seems to mean by “better spiritually” and “feel is true”, I really have no idea. I hope you don’t mean what I think you do

      You should distinguish the word slavery: not all of it is “chattel slavery” (sometimes it can simply does mean labor differentiation), as was widespread in the classical world, or the kind practiced in the American South.

      To follow your scheme: Catholicism does care about sincere belief. It just wants people to sincerely believe what is in fact true, as that is by no means irrelevant, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

      I’d say you have misidentified the essence: do tell me what error the Catholic Church in her totality authoritatively taught her faithful? Obviously, an error that can be shown to be such (without appealing to the truth of Protestantism/rival religion).

      • do tell me what error the Catholic Church in her totality authoritatively taught her faithful?

        For most of Christianity it has taught the charging of interest on Loans is morally wrong. It does not hold that position now.

        Catholics assert that submission to authority of the Church is in fact necessitated by truth.

        No it isn’t. Here is the wiki link.

        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magisterium

        If the Pope teaches authoritatively but not infallibly (i.e could be wrong) a Catholic is required to submit in both intellect and will to the teaching. So if the Pope, for instance, said that the Sun rotated around the Earth, I would be obliged, as a Catholic to believe it. But that would never happen, would it?

      • @slumlord

        The Church condemned -usury-. There are differences. For example, investment credit would not count as usury.
        ..and she still condemns it. The only trouble is, it is very difficult to tell precisely what financial operations are usurious. Perhaps the Church is not making enough effort to study the topic? Could be. But that simply doesn’t amount to teaching error.

        Concerning authority.
        If you are not a physicist, I take it that you accept most of your physics on authority of people who are physicists. The same goes for any expertise. Doesn’t mean it’s not true – it just means that you trust someone in virtue of some truth.
        The same goes for Catholic Magisterium. It is to be trusted in matters of faith and morals in virtue of God instituting the Church qua Teaching for this purpose

        And no, your example doesn’t work, because the Sun’s astronomical movement is dubious (heh) as an article faith.

      • Georgy, your analogy with physics is a revealing one. Yes, non-physicists have to trust the authority of the community of physicists. But this trust is not on account of an inherent authority possessed by the scientists. It’s because we know that they devote themselves to studying physics and we have no reason to distrust them on the subject of physics.

        In other words, their authority stems from their bearing faithful witness to a physical reality that exists, and has the properties it does, independently of physicists. Physicists have no authority over physics in and of themselves. No Higher Power granted them authority over physics.

        It is the same with the authority of the church. (I mean the non-Catholic church.) She has no authority in and of herself, but only has authority by virtue of bearing faithful witness to religious truth.

      • Georgy:

        The only trouble is, it is very difficult to tell precisely what financial operations are usurious.

        I used to think that, but after studying the subject for a while I concluded that it is not difficult at all to determine which contracts are usury and which are not.

        As far as slavery goes, one problem is that modern people have a broken concept of property in general. The relationship between owner and property is properly one of stewardship, not a kind of libertarian-fantasy demi-godhood. It is therefore similar to the relationship between sovereign and subjects. There is nothing intrinsically immoral about being an authority over other human beings (a sovereign) when authority is properly understood. Chattel slavery is morally wrong, but property-as-chattel – the modern concept of property – is morally wrong in general. I’d link to my own discussion of slavery but I don’t want the comment to go into moderation because of multiple links.

        Protestants and crypto-protestants like slumlord are always looking for ruptures in Catholic doctrine in order to provide a basis for the pet ruptures that they would like to see. In slumlord’s case this is (at least) his long-standing public dissent from Humanae Vitae on the subject of hormonal birth control, which he has been blogging and commenting about openly for years. But every time I’ve done due diligence on one of these putative ruptures there has always been much less there than the proponents of rupture propose. In the end these claims of rupture always turn out to be a kind of childish ‘gotcha’, the rhetorical effect of which depends upon ignorance of the subject matter.

        Mind you, development of doctrine is inevitable given the epistemic nature of things and the fact that the unfolding of history always produces new facts and situations, and changes in common language, which encounter the Gospel. But authentic doctrine is continuous and harmonious, not characterized by the ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity’ that some people wish to promote for their own subversive purposes.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        It is the same with the authority of the church. (I mean the non-Catholic church.) She has no authority in and of herself, but only has authority by virtue of bearing faithful witness to religious truth.

        Everyone agrees that truth is ‘where the buck stops’. The Protestant approach to revealed truth is incoherent. Protestant epistemology is incoherent in general, not to mention historically counterfactual. But people caught in the mind trap can’t see that, and I don’t have a magic rhetorical can opener capable of breaking through the illusions.

      • The Protestant approach to revealed truth is incoherent. Protestant epistemology is incoherent in general, not to mention historically counterfactual.

        No. The “Protestant approach” to religious truth is that God was capable of inspiring and superintending the words of Scripture so that they are the words he wants us to know, and so that man is capable of understanding them (sometimes with assistance). All men are capable of understanding Scripture, but some men refuse to do so. The problem is not epistemological, but moral: man is naturally a rebel until God gives some the gift of faith, i.e., the ability to receive the truths of God.

        Your approach is that the authority of your Church solves the problems of knowing whether the Bible contains the correct words and of knowing exactly what the words mean. But if God did not, in fact, give this authority to your Church, then your approach is not correct.

        One advantage of my approach is that it can be derived from what Scripture tells about itself, which makes my approach dependent on a relatively clear-cut source. But to believe your approach, one must believe in an event (God giving your Church a certain authority) that is not easily derivable from a clear-cut source. It could be true, but the evidence for it is rather weak.

      • @ Mr. Roebuck

        All analogies limp. This authority limps in the details of derivation: God did institute the Catholic Church as an infallible teaching Church.
        I was adressing a very narrow point about there being no conflict between the principle of authority and truth. I again wrote that the theological authority of the Church is established via the study of history (including the Bible and the Fathers).
        I once again submit the groundless nature of maintaing the Bible as it is as God’s Word without the Church

        Instead o picking off responses that were not even made to you, I ask you to respond (or at least read?..) my comments elucidating the relationship between the Bible and the Teaching Church. And the logical procedure.
        You seem to be again failing to distinguish between the Bible as a historical text and the Bible (the whole of the Bible) as a theological authority.
        Again, you are seemingly narrowing “religious truth” to the Bible (as understood by you).
        And that is begging the question with Sola Scriptura again.

      • I ask you to respond (or at least read?..) my comments elucidating the relationship between the Bible and the Teaching Church.

        OK. Just tell me the time at which it’s listed, so that I can pick it out of your other comments.

      • @ Mr. Roebuck

        This is ridiculous. Okay, I suppose I can respond with “Yes, He did”.
        Again, I was just stating the Catholic teaching, because you’ve characterised my limited analogy as “revealing”, which I don’t find so at all.

        Neither my assertion (a “confident assertion, might I add) nor your denial of its content is uncontroversial. Anyway, as I have already noted (in the posts with no replies addressed to you, they are easy to find), you do believe in an “infallible” (temporarily) church – the Divinely instituted “publisher” of the Bible. You do need that, at least. Otherwise I can’t conceive of a reason for treating the books of the Bible as literally the Word of God.
        I see this specification of her role to be entirely arbitrary and, again, question-begging (in favour of SS), but I have already repeatedly said that here.

      • @Alan

        In other words, their authority stems from their bearing faithful witness to a physical reality that exists,

        That is correct. It’s my understanding that Pope Benedict saw the exercise of Papal Authority in this light. That is, not as an arbitrary determination between two positions, rather, as a statement on the ontological basis of any disputed religious claim. i.e. he doesn’t choose a sides instead he makes a statement on the truth of the matter. Infallible Papal determinations are ontological expositions.

        All men are capable of understanding Scripture, but some men refuse to do so

        I disagree with you here, not because I’m Catholic but because of human experience. I think one of the front loaded errors of Protestantism (and Western philosophy in general) is the notion that the average man is capable of complex philosophical distinctions and profound thought. I think you would disagree with me if I said all men are capable of understanding constitutional law, yet the Bible and its application to concrete situations are far more complex.

        Why is it then, that when using the Protestant method, Protestantism morphs into so many different variants, even amongst learned men of good will, when the truth of it is apparently self evident to all men? Is every Protestant who opposes your own version of Protestantism somehow devoid of faith? In my experience, I’ve known Protestants of good will who differ in opinion from each other. Any system of thought which allows P and -P to co-exist is in error and this is precisely the state of affairs that exists at the moment in Protestantism. Gay marriage, for instance is approved of by some of the established branches of Protestantism and opposed by others. Respectfully, the system of thought that allows this state of affairs to exist i.e. (P,-P) has serious systemic flaws.

        That’s not to say that Protestantism is capable apprehending truths which the Catholic church has yet to expound on. For instance, the drive to abolish slavery was Protestant driven and I think a good thing. The Church dragged its heels on the issue eventually recognising the truth of the Protestant claim. It appears to me that most of the good recent doctrinal developments in the Catholic Church have a significant Protestant origin. The reason for this being, apart for a short period in the 60’s and 70’s, the Church has been in the grips of the Traditionalists who effectively deny any form of new spiritual insight or doctrinal development. If JPII had not expounded on the Theology of the Body, it would never have happened.

      • About understanding Scripture: I meant that all men can understand what it says when the meaning of unclear passages is explained to them. Of course, some who explain Scripture do so incorrectly, so the Christian needs to study Scripture, learning from teachers, so that he can begin to sort out true opinions from false.

        Yes, it would be good in one sense if there were a tangible human authority that could always be trusted to explain true Christianity. But God has not given us such an authority.

    • Your characterizations of Protestantism describe the contemporary, liberalized version rather than the biblical faith developed in the Reformation. For example, proper Protestantism does not “only demand that the believer be sincere.” Protestantism makes a clear declaration of what Christianity teaches, and invites the sinner to come to faith in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins.

      • No it doesn’t. Protestantism, considered from an systems perspective, is fundamentally flawed. Prosestantism has no way to distinguish between individual interpretations of the Bible and to test for their validity. This is no objective criteria by which to assess competing, yet sincere, interpretations of the Bible. Agreeing that scripture is inerrant is easy, the problem comes with its interpretation. Protestantism has no interpretation resolution mechanism. In the end everyone’s opinion is equally valid and it becomes a partisan issue.

        If a particular branch of Protestantism achieves and insight which is ontologically concordant there is no way to assert that claim over the other branches. Catholicism at least has a resolution mechanism, i.e the Authority of the Pope, but even here simple Papal Authority may not be ontologically concordant. The only time when this is undeniably so is when the Infallibility clause is invoked. Here the Pope stops acting like a man and really becomes a sort of Oracle, being protect from ontological error.

        I’m not expecting you to believe that the Pope is infallible, but if you look at Papal Infallibility from a systems perspective you’ll see that it provides for both resolution between conflicting views and protection from ontological error.

      • Protestantism, considered from an systems perspective

        Surely there are better perspectives than this.

        Prosestantism has no way to distinguish between individual interpretations of the Bible and to test for their validity

        Sure it does. Any of the confessions serves. If an individual’s interpretation is in keeping with what generations upon generations of Christians have believed, as summarized in a confession, then it can be deemed valid.

        The confessions themselves are only authoritative insofar as they accurately distill the teachings of the Bible; this is more easily seen when the confession also shows which passages from the Bible support that distillation, as found, for example, in the Westminster Confession of Faith with Scripture Proofs, the Larger Catechism with Scripture Proofs, and the Shorter Catechism with Scripture Proofs (all accessible here).

    • I would challenge your assumption that slavery is objectively wrong, slumlord.

      While many forms of slavery may have been objectively wrong, the practice taken as a whole, in spite of its blighted reputation in Modernity, was an overwhelmingly positive thing for humankind. Contrary as this seems to our assumptions, there is a reason that slavery was allowed yet regulated in the OT and it wasn’t because God was trying to shield the Hebrews from some kind of culture shock that banning slavery entirely would have caused.

      The vast majority of slavery in human history has been either enemies captured during battles (they would have been slaughtered otherwise) or more commonly, people voluntarily selling themselves into slavery. People did this because before the advent of what you might call “consumer capitalism”, slavery was the most effective form of upward mobility ever devised. Places like Egypt are actually rare examples of governments seizing massive ethnic groups for slavery to build public projects. Most slavery has been to private individuals, and long before you had massive plantations, individuals typically didn’t own enough workable land to warrant having hundreds and hundreds of slaves. They had a few, and as a result, developed a personal relationship with them and their families. They were not horribly mistreated (by the standard of the times anyway). More often than not, they got educations so they could execute their tasks more effectively, their families were fed, and they were saved from grinding poverty and starvation as a result. They would then buy their freedom at a later date with coin they had earned in their off-hours (again, not enough work to warrant 24/7 backbreaking labor), and hey presto, they had become lower middle class. There are exceptions, Sparta being a big one, but these are definitely exceptions rather than rules.

      Don’t allow the virulent modern slavery of the Americas color your view of the practice as a whole. Let’s face it, slavery in a publicly sanctioned form today is not a thing of the past because we had some kind of moral revolution. That’s a fairy tale. For all the epic speeches given by preachers that fomented popular opinion against the practice, it has fallen out of society because we found new slaves who carried no moral value, namely machines.

      • The Pope, not Modernity, taught that it was objectively evil.

        “The Popes” – several of them – repeatedly granted bulls authorizing the enslavement of the infidels in the Iberian Reconquista. After the settlement of the Americas, the Church – both regular and monastic – had large quantities of slaves.

        Indeed, some of the best studies of Latin American slavery are based on slaves held by the Church, since the Church, unlike ordinary slaveowners, kept meticulous records, and its holdings were not constantly split by inheritance, making comparisons easier.

        Even where it was an inconsiderable minority, such as the colonial United States, did the Church keep slaves (see Thomas J. Murphy, SJ, Jesuit Slaveholding in Maryland, 1717-1838, 2001).

        If the Church has taught that slavery was “objectively evil” in all cases, no ifs or buts or exceptional circumstances or whatever, it’s been only after Modernity.

      • Slavery is not “objectively” evil; if it were, the the New Testament wouldn’t instruct masters to treat their slaves decently. Moreover, it is no wonder that Protestants — many, if not most — regard the papacy as anti-Christ. As slumlord himself tells us it is the Pope who determines what is evil and what is not, putting himself in the place of Christ as arbiter of good and evil.
        Protestants understand that God’s Word is the last Word on what is moral and what is not; and it boggles the mind that some of you Catholics throw the whole lot of Christendom under the bus because the only Christians on earth are to be found solely within the Catholic church — and you consider us heretics!!!
        What utter arrogance and ignorance. And to blame liberalism on Protestants!! I’m just appalled at the level of vindictiveness directed at true believers in Jesus Christ because your notion of original sin is so atrophied that you don’t or won’t even consider that liberalism is merely this era’s excuse for thumbing its nose at God. It has a lot more to do with Nietzsche (God is dead) and Leibnitz (“the perfectibility of human nature”) than with Protestantism.
        For the record, both Catholicism and Protestantism are infested with false teachers who are preaching “another” gospel.

    • In Protestantism the faithful are allowed to believe in what they think is true

      This is not so. While some denominations might be lax, some heretical, and others downright apostate, confessional denominations require people to profess certain beliefs before they are accepted as members. Should a member be in need of correction, he will be disciplined. The discipline can be as mild as pointing out the nature of his error and a loving exhortation to repentence, or as severe as excommunication (there are also stages in between).

      For example, while a potential member of a confessional church would be allowed to struggle with the Trinity, and would be instructed, with love and prayer, on the Trinity, a potential member would not be allowed to believe in Arianism, and such a belief would be grounds for non-acceptance. If a member of a confessional church were to persist in the Arian error after repeated attempts at correction, he would then be subject to censure.

    • Out of interest Zippy, do you think any of the grievances with Leo X were justified, even if the outcome of the Reformation was not? How should the Pontiff have addressed the problems that the Church was facing in the aftermath of the Plague?

      • Mark Citadel:

        Out of interest Zippy, do you think any of the grievances with Leo X were justified, even if the outcome of the Reformation was not?

        I haven’t done an in depth study of the question, but I would be stunned if there were no legitimate grievances with Leo X. Popes are men like any other man, and almost everything they say and do is as flawed as you would expect from ordinary men in positions of authority.

  16. “Protestantism is (at least one of) the deeper roots of liberalism, and that is why attempting to fashion a ‘traditionalism’ based in Protestantism will always, in the end, just be a reboot of liberalism.”

    I don’t agree with Zippy very much but I’m afraid he is right on this one.

    • I don’t agree with Zippy very much but I’m afraid he is right on this one.

      And I actually agree with slumlord quite often, while disagreeing with him specifically and comprehensively on sexual ethics and attendant moral theology.

    • And we Protestants are sick and tired of Roman bigots laying the blame on liberalism on us.

      If Protestantism were the source of liberalism, then why is the Roman Church so infected with it? Why does liberalism infect every other institution as well? Liberalism is the evil spawn of the devil, destroying all it touches by rotting from inside all that it infects.

      Liberalism is the rejection of God; Protestantism is the embrace of God, free from the unbiblical accretions of the Roman Church.

      Yes, many formerly Christian, Protestant “churches” are infected with liberalism, and those that allow the ordination of women, that accept practicing homosexuals, etc., are no longer Christian institutions. In light of recent developments, can you say the Roman Church is that far behind? Whatever flaws you consider to be inherent in Protestantism are equally true for the Roman Church, because they share the same fatal flaw: they have people in them. Fallible, sinful, rebellious people.

      • If Protestantism were the source of liberalism, then why is the Roman Church so infected with it? Why does liberalism infect every other institution as well? Liberalism is the evil spawn of the devil, destroying all it touches by rotting from inside all that it infects.

        You yet again completely miss the point. This is like laying the blame of the Ebola epidemic on the United States and Spain, because they are now cases of disease there. No the question is where did the outbreak start, why did it start there and can we learn anything of about the virus’s characteristics given the milieu it sprang from. Liberalism is a product of Northern Protestant European culture. It touches every institution in the world now. There are liberal-Muslims, liberal-Hindus, liberal-Eastern Orthodox ect. Liberalism came to Catholic countries mainly through conquest or through revolutionary violence. Even well into the 20th century Catholic peoples fought and bled against it with some victories. There was NO such resistance in Protestant countries, because by then liberalism and Protestantism were so intertwined.

        Yes, many formerly Christian, Protestant “churches” are infected with liberalism, and those that allow the ordination of women, that accept practicing homosexuals, etc., are no longer Christian institutions. In light of recent developments, can you say the Roman Church is that far behind? Whatever flaws you consider to be inherent in Protestantism are equally true for the Roman Church, because they share the same fatal flaw: they have people in them. Fallible, sinful, rebellious people.

        Did you even read Zippy’s comment above? Much of the Catholic Church’s problems are due to it trying to make nice with other religions, especially with Protestants. That’s what I’m all about getting rid of at this point.

      • About this “Protestantism is the Father of Liberalism” idea:

        i) Even if it’s true, Reformation Protestantism (i.e., the Protestantism of the confessional churches) is real Christianity.

        ii) Liberalism is premised—philosophically and psychologically—on the rejection of all Christianity, Protestantism included.

        iii) Since it appeals to all sorts of people and cultures, liberalism is not distinctively Protestant.

        iv) The true spirit of Protestantism is not rebellion. It is fidelity to the Word of God. The spirit of liberalism is rebellion against all authority, especially God.

        v) Man is not wise enough to know the true causes of things as deep as liberalism. Yes, there is a correlation between liberalism and Protestant nations. But to know if liberalism would never have arisen absent Protestantism, one would have to be God.

        vi) An honest debater must pit the best of his team against the best of his opponents. I could win a sham debate by comparing the most pious and knowledgeable Protestants with the most ignorant and rebellious Catholics. But it wouldn’t be a fair comparison.

        vii) Similarly, I could respond to the Catholic claim that the spirit of Protestantism is rebellion by claiming that the spirit of Catholicism is tyranny. But this would not be helpful.

      • Liberalism is not premised on the rejection of Christianity. It is premised on the political rejection of authority in favor of freedom and equal rights – basically the Protestant approach but applied to politics as opposed to theology.

        This ultimately results in the rejection of Christianity as the ‘backwash’ infects domains other than politics. But the idea that liberalism starts with a rejection of Christianity is false and misleading.

      • But the Protestant approach is not the rejection of authority. It is the rejection of one particular authority.

        Yes, man can take the rejection of authority too far. But man can also take the imposition of authority too far.

        Besides, since Christianity teaches authority, liberals have to reject Christianity.

      • The protestant approach was to reject the particular ancient traditional authority vested in particular actual men in the domain of theology. The liberal approach is the same, but in the domain of politics. You can see ‘echoes’ of these lineages in the parallel positivism of ‘sola scriptura’ and ‘sola constitution’, where attempts are incoherently made to replace the authority of real living men with the pseudo-authority of texts and other formalisms.

      • The protestant approach was to reject the particular ancient traditional authority vested in particular actual men in the domain of theology.

        But only because these authorities had showed themselves to be untrustworthy. And the Reformers knew that they were untrustworthy because they contradicted the plain meaning of Scripture at some points.

        The liberal approach is the same…

        It’s not the same, because the liberal does not point to a higher authority to correct the authorities he rejects.

        …replace the authority of real living men with the pseudo-authority of texts…

        If a text contains the recognized words of a recognized Authority, then that text is not a pseudo-authority.

      • The fundamental issue in both theology and politics is, where does the authority to resolve controverted cases reside? When people disagree how do we, as a religious or political unity, resolve those disagreements?

        Appealing to where people agree, or to where you think they should agree, just sidesteps the issue.

        You can’t say “the Bible” or “the Constitution”, because controverted cases are precisely those where people disagree about the theological or political implications of Scripture or the Constitution (or other written law), respectively. But that is precisely the kind of answer that traditional Protestants and classical liberals (and legal positivists more generally) give, and around the positivist racetrack we go.

        You can’t appeal to procedures or texts as a final authority. Liberals and Protestants want to do that because of the implications of men having final authority. Men are fallen and corruptible and corrupt — they always screw things up, so protestants and liberals insist on removing authority from particular men and devolve it to all men, as free and equal individuals, mediated by formalisms.

        At the end of the day, the “buck stops” in both Protestantism and liberalism with free and equal individuals making up their own minds, mediated by formalisms (democratic voting, interpretation of texts, etc). There is no unifying, final, earthly authority in the hands of men. Those traditional authorities are rejected by liberals. Liberalism and Protestantism are both quite precisely the rejection of real authority.

        Liberalism and protestantism are very much the same thing, applied to different domains. Protestantism is liberalism in the domain of theology; liberalism is protestantism in the domain of politics.

      • …protestants and liberals insist on removing authority from particular men and devolve it to all men, as free and equal individuals, mediated by formalisms.

        But real Protestants don’t do that. In a proper, confessional protestant church the elders actually have the biblically-mandated authority to discipline members, for example.

        I understand how a traditionalist longs for an authority who will step in and set things right. I do want a society and a church where authority is generally acknowledged and respected. But Rome oversteps. There is no good reason to think she has the authority she says she does. Real authority is conferred by a visible, publicly-acknowledged process such as a coronation or even an election. But the alleged authority of the Catholic Church rests on an unobservable and unobserved event of God conferring a specific type of authority on a specific group of men who allegedly had the right to pass all of their authority to successors in perpetuity.

        Also, the claimed authority of the Catholic Church does not solve the problem of religious confusion that it allegedly solves. The Church does not speak in a clear voice, and Catholics continue to do and believe just about whatever they want.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        Real authority is conferred by a visible, publicly-acknowledged process such as a coronation or even an election.

        Or ordination with Apostolic Succession. Each Priest and Bishop knows the Apostle from whom he descends.

        The Church does not speak in a clear voice, …

        That claim has already been addressed several times.

      • Liberalism began in ancient Greece, with the sophists and Epicureans. The stoics were the origin of the all men are born free and equal nonsense. The idea of government authority resting on the consent of the governed, is from the Catholic Nicholas of Cusa and was supported by Francisco Suarez. The renaissance and the rebirth of republicanism started in Italy and even when it came to the north it was substantially different. In Catholic countries it was the spread of paganism and secularism that came with the worship of classical Greece and Rome. This was led off by the Popes who went around conquering cities and holding triumphs. Which makes sense for an institution that claims temporal authority derived from Constantine and uses a title, Pontifex Maximus, that was invented by the Republic because Rex Sanclorum was too exclusive.

        the Renaissance in the North, to the extant it existed, which is a debatable topic, was focused on Religious revival. it was Based on learning Greek and Hebrew to better understand the bible and they never used Classical myths in art to the same extant as the south. The art of the Northern (protestant) renaissance even kept more of the medieval techniques and themes in it.

        The enlightenment was also largely the product Catholic France. Northern Europe had maintained the legal authority of husbands and fathers over their wives and children much longer than the south. Blasphemy laws were in place in Sweden and Norway into the early twentieth century. Liberalism in its modern incarnation came from classicizing Catholics and only lately spread to Protestant nations.

        As for the ultimate authority in the earthly realm, the answer should be obvious to reactionaries. For families it is the father, for nations it is the king. Kings such as Henry IV of France and James I of England, both of whom revolutionary Catholics tried to assassinate.

      • The fundamental issue in both theology and politics is, where does the authority to resolve controverted cases reside?

        You’re obscuring issues again.

        The fundamental issue in religion is what is the truth. The Papal office, when in a teaching capacity, is not an exercise of authority but an exposition on reality. The role of the Papal office is not to “boss” people around but to articulate the truth. Its resolution of conflict mechanism is by siding the party that is most true. The only teaching authority that Pope has is the authority of the truth.

        The Problem in Protestantism is that no-one has the right to be the final determiner of truth. Protestantism sees truth as the subjective experience of the believer (infused with Grace) while Catholicism sees truth as extrinsic to the believer. The real world effect of this is that, in Protestantism, the same text gets interpreted in a such a variety of ways that the interpretations become contradictory. But you judge a tree by its fruits.

        And sincerity and education is no guarantee of ontological error. It is a mistake to assume that those who support issues such as gay marriage are motivated by a spirit of hate or malice. Many of these people, though moronic, just want be nice to homosexuals. They see Jesus as a non-judgmental guy who wants everyone to be happy. When they interpret the Bible, all they see is a happy-clappy Jesus who wants nothing more than rainbows and unicorns and interpret the Bible in this light. Many of people who support such a union are trained theologians. So much for education.

        Liberalism is not based upon a rejection of authority but ultimately on the premise that objective truth is unknowable. Liberalism, like Protestantism allows for no definitive interpretation of reality and while liberalism and Protestantism are two separate things their philosophical structures are synergistic. Catholicism, on the other hand, insists on their being an objective truth and hence its conflict and protection against liberalism.

      • Protestantism sees truth as the subjective experience of the believer (infused with Grace)…

        For the 873rd time (give or take a few hundred), real Protestantism does not see truth as subjective. She just does not have a formally-defined Pope or Magisterium.

      • slumlord:

        The fundamental issue in religion is what is the truth.

        And again, of course truth is the fundamental issue in religion generally. The good, the true, and the beautiful are in some sense the ‘most basic issues of all’. But that doesn’t add anything to a discussion of theology and politics, because presumably everyone is most fundamentally concerned with what is true.

        There are fundamental issues, and then there are fundamental issues that separate protestantism from Catholicism: fundamental issues in theology. We could say that truth is the fundamental issue in all disciplines, but that doesn’t advance discussion of a particular discipline.

        Many Catholics probably think that Protestantism is empirically wrong, while Catholicism is empirically true. I am convinced that Protestantism isn’t merely empirically wrong as a matter of fact, but is not even rationally coherent, because of its positivistic epistemology. Catholicism though is not apodictically true, it has been revealed to be true. Nobody comes to accept it like accepting the truth of the Pythagorean Theorem — it always requires grace and the gift of faith. Catholicism is consistent; protestantism is ultimately, like its sibling liberalism, incoherent.

        The Problem in Protestantism is that no-one has the right to be the final determiner of truth.

        That is, nobody has the authority to speak for Christianity as a unity on what is and is not true.

        It is possible that you just really want to disagree with me on this subject because I happen to think you are a heretic and dissenter from established doctrine when it comes to the moral theology of sex. But I’m not fully convinced that you actually do disagree with me in substance on this particular subject.

        Skeggy Thorson:

        Your comment framing the issue as a question of historical connections misses the point completely. Setting aside the specific narrative you proposed, of course we can find all sorts of historical connections between Catholicism, Protestantism, liberalism, Islam, Teletubbies, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That is beside the point.

        What is at issue is the essence of Protestantism vs the essence of Catholicism. Darwinian wrangling over putative historical connections miss the mark completely when the issue under discussion is (say) the essence of birds versus the essence of dogs. Kristor’s recent discussions of nominalism vs essentialism are pertinent here.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        It’s not the same, because the liberal does not point to a higher authority to correct the authorities he rejects.

        Liberalism points to “the People” and pretends that that is the same as pointing to a real, final authority. Protestants point to a text and pretend that that is the same thing as a real, final authority.

        Protestants don’t actually point to an actual final authority (other than, implicitly, themselves). A fixed text is not and cannot be the pertinent kind of final authority – an authority capable of resolving disputes over, among other things, interpretation of that very text itself.

        Labeling a text “the final authority” doesn’t make it one, any more than labeling me a donut makes me one. Nominalism, again.

      • If “authority” (as a concrete noun, as opposed to an attribute) is defined to be a person or a group of people, then you are correct. But if it is not necessarily a group of people, then you are mistaken.

        In real Protestantism, although the Bible is the highest authority on every subject about which it speaks, there are also human authorities who fulfill the human function to which you refer.

        So your real beef with Protestantism is that we don’t buy the Catholic claim that the Catholic Church received authority from God. And not just in the sense that everyone who teaches accurately the teachings of the Apostles has authority, but in the sense that God placed the crown Peter’s head, so to speak, and made him something like a King who passes his authority to his descendants.

        Labeling the Catholic Church a God-ordained authority does not make it one either.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        Labeling the Catholic Church a God-ordained authority does not make it one either.

        Sure. I said somewhere else in this thread (I really despise threaded comments) that while I believe Protestantism to be rationally incoherent, Catholicism is a revealed empirical truth – a truth most will not come to acknowledge without the grace of faith.

      • Catholicism is a revealed empirical truth – a truth most will not come to acknowledge without the grace of faith.

        With regard to the point of contention between us, Catholicism is based on an empirically undetectable event: the alleged impartation of religious authority to a corporate entity some day to be known as the Roman Catholic Church.

        You might say that the impartation of authority to the Bible is likewise empirically undetectable. But in either case, we must decide whether the event occurred by looking to the RCC or the Bible for the marks of authority. When we look at the Roman Catholic Church, we do not see these marks. Instead, we see the gradual historical development of a theory of Roman authority over Christendom.

        But in the case of Scripture, both Scripture itself and the earliest Christian writers see it as the very word of God, and therefore fully trustworthy and not capable of being contradicted by any other, human writings.

      • Zippy:

        Many people here and elsewhere have argued that Protestantism caused liberalism. I was arguing that this is untrue because the first liberals existed long before Protestantism and the modern incarnations of liberalism first sprung up in non-Protestant nations.

        As for the argument that all texts need interpreters to be understood. that would mean that history is impossible, because we do not have the authors of the source materials or their vicars around to tell us what the texts meant. However, if we cannot use our understanding of logic, grammar, the definitions of the words used, or the cultural background of the idioms and symbols used in the text, then we would have no hope of understanding what the author was telling us even if we were speaking to him directly. What your arguing for is a post-modern understanding of literary criticism based on the Nominalist philosophy you hate so much.

        Furthermore, arguing that God is the highest authority and that the king is the highest authority on earth and that his sovereignty cannot be limited by an international body of dubious legitimacy is not arguing for any relative of liberalism.

      • It is possible that you just really want to disagree with me on this subject because I happen to think you are a heretic and dissenter from established doctrine when it comes to the moral theology of sex. But I’m not fully convinced that you actually do disagree with me in substance on this particular subject.

        I do agree with you in substance on this particular issue but I feel that your framing of it is wrong.

        This is for two reasons.

        Firstly, the exercise of authority may be pragmatic insofar as vesting an individual with it may help with the day to day running of an organisation and provide a mechanism for conflict resolution, but authority on its own does not confer ontological inerrancy. A purely authoritative Pope could make decisions which are wrong. Indeed, non-definitive exercises of Papal authority contain the possibility of error. Pope Benedict has stated that the Catholic can disagree with the Pope on many issues, say capital punishment, for instance and still remain a good Catholic. (Let’s not get into the sexual stuff, we agree to disagree on this matter.)

        Secondly, the error corrective mechanism is of no use unless it is somehow linked to ontological innerancy. Take Anglicans for instance. They have an conflict resolution system through their synods. Their synod may have authority but it’s determination to allow gay marriages conflicts with the word of God. Authority can therefore act without reference to truth. Therefore, when the issue at stake is how to determine whether a proposition is true or not you need to have recourse to something which has perfect access to truth. Definitive Papal teaching is just such a mechanism.

        The way I see it, many Protestants and Catholics tend to view the Pope as some guy who just makes the rules out of thin air. I think it is important to make sure that this is not the case. Now, I can understand how a Protestant could view this understanding of Papal authority as just some form of self justification but it think it is important at least to point out how the office at least sees itself.

        The other important point to point out is framing the Papal office as “truth access device” does sort of give those Protestants who are sympathetic to the Catholic church a justification for giving the Pope a sympathetic ear.

      • Skeggy,

        I agree with part of your comment, namely that certain elements of liberalism predate Christianity and made a return in the Renaissance. The rest of your historical narrative goes off the rail. The fact is the ideas of the Renaissance, did ultimately flourish in Northern Europe- the return of stoic ethics, a renewed interest in science and engineering, the drive to dominate nature. While it is certainly true that we see aspects of these movements in Renaissance Italy, these ideas really came into their being in the Protestant countries. Had there been no rupture or revolution I think Catholic Europe would over time taken what was best from the Renaissance, ameliorated the negative aspects and subsuming it in much the same way Aristotelianism was. Indeed in a sense this did happen in the areas that remained Catholic.

        I don’t see how Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Smith, Bentham, Mill,Kant, Rousseau, Hegel, Paine, Madison, Jefferson ect are anything but the product of Protestant societies. Protestant influences seem obvious in many of their writings and teachings- almost all of them were openly hostile to Catholicism.

        I am explaining this now for about the tenth time but I will repeat it again, the Enlightenment did not* primarily evolve in France. It prevailed in Britain, Prussia, Scotland and the U.S. without any sort of challenge. It did* arrive in France but could only impose itself through revolutionary terror. Hundred of thousands of Catholics perished fighting it. I cannot think of any Protestant analogue . You have to remember that the philosphes while men of means were at least before the revolution, isolated from greater French society. They also had an intense admiration for England and Prussia and enmity for the Church. By contrast, in Protestant countries Enlightenment, figures were not only not isolated from the rest of society they were frequently at the the heart of the political and intellectual life of their countries.There is simply no comparison.

        Northern Europe had maintained the legal authority of husbands and fathers over their wives and children much longer than the south.

        I’d say the Latins did a better job maintaining the traditional understanding of the extended family. It was in the Protestant-capitalist countries that saw extended family relations whither.

        Blasphemy laws were in place in Sweden and Norway into the early twentieth century.

        I couldn’t think of more bad example than Sweden. Sweden is ground zero for modernity, I am certain that they were one of the first countries to liberalize on all sorts of issues. What was their excuse? Catholic countries had such laws as well (and some still maintain them) before America brought “freedom” in the form of Hollywood Cinema.

      • If you really want to get into the history of liberalism, there are a lot more threads to follow. Nobody has mentioned Cabala, Hermeticism, Alchemy, or even NeoPlatonism. Or the Cathars who seem to be a kind of Paulicans. Or the Venetian Republic. Or Sabbatai Zevi. Or a million other contingent facts of history.

      • slumlord:

        Secondly, the error corrective mechanism is of no use unless it is somehow linked to ontological innerancy.

        We agree there too, and you are right that it is worth emphasizing.

      • Skeggy Thorson:

        As for the argument that all texts need interpreters to be understood. that would mean that history is impossible, because we do not have the authors of the source materials or their vicars around to tell us what the texts meant.

        Protestantism has an inherently flawed epistemology of revealed meaning. When you read a text, almost all of the meaning of that text is already inside you; else you would not be able to understand it at all. Almost all of the meaning of a text comes from outside the text. A text merely structures and presents meaning in a particular way — it can never completely capture meaning, and in fact the notion that meaning can be completely encapsulated in any formalism is (though it is difficult to show why this is the case to people trapped in positivist modes of thought) ultimately self contradictory.

        If you hand a book written in Chinese to someone who does not read Chinese, he won’t understand it. In order to understand it he has to not only know the language, but the history, idioms, traditions, etc that inform the particular text.

        Catholics call this epistemic contribution to understanding the Deposit of the Faith “Sacred Tradition”. Human language is inextricably bound up with tradition, so Protestant attempts to elevate formal text above tradition are incoherent.

        Tradition still leaves many things unresolved – including many things which cannot be simply left unresolved in a unified (catholic) Christianity. Questions of heresy are questions of controverted cases, by definition (e.g. Arianism versus the Divinity of Christ); and controverted cases on important matters arise all the time. There has never been a time in the history of Christianity in which there were no important controverted cases — up to and including the present day. Resolving the most important of those controverted cases as they arise on behalf of Christianity as a unity requires an active, living authority: Apostles and their successors who speak in persona Christi until such time as Christ Himself returns and speaks directly.

        So you end up with three required epistemic contributors to understanding the Deposit of the Faith: Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium. Try to saw off any one of them (for whatever reason) and you descend into anarchy and madness — a descent prevented only by the assertion of unprincipled exceptions.

      • You are speaking against the vulgar, low-church Protestantism that is so common. But real Protestantism does have versions of the other two elements you recognize as essential to Christian life, tradition and magisterium.

        It is true that nobody can just pick up a book and understand all of it. That’s why Protestantism has its own tradition, which consists of the understandings of the things having to do with Christianity (such as an understanding of the customs of ancient cultures and literature) built up over the centuries. And we have a version of the magisterium, that is, the authority to teach that comes from demonstrated knowledge about Christianity coupled with a visible investment of the individual with authority, such as occurs in an ordination ceremony.

        As a Catholic, you naturally regard these Protestant versions as invalid because they have not arisen within your system. But in your comment here you were speaking about what is generally required in order for a religion to work. We Protestants do have what is recognized for a system to work. [Real] Protestantism is not “incoherent.”

        In your view, the Church is like a government. But the correct view is that the church is like a group of scientists. That means that the leaders of the church do not posses an inherent authority over the subject they administer. Like a scientist, they can bear faithful witness to a truth, but they do not have the authority to determine it.

        But in your view, the Church must, in the end, be like a government, having an inherent authority to govern and to define that which they govern. And that is why Rome has innovated over the centuries, although you would regard these innovations as valid because they arose from within a system that you believe God to have instituted.

      • Acts 8:30-31 (DR):

        30 And Philip running thither, heard him reading the prophet Isaias. And he said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest?
        31 Who said: And how can I, unless some man shew me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

      • As I said above, the fact that the Ethiopian Eunuch required a teacher does not prove that Catholicism has the authority it thinks it has.

      • To Ita Scripta Est:

        Hobbes, Bentham, Mills, Hume, Paine, and Jefferson were against all religion including Protestantism. Rousseau converted to Catholicism in his youth, all though he did convert back. Bentham and Mills’ philosophy was heavily influenced by Claude Adrien Helvétius, from France. Protestants also fought against the enlightenment philosophically, the names of those in this group are far to numerous to list, and physically. Cavaliers, Jacobites, and American Loyalists fought and died to stem the enlightenment. It is also hard to see how Giambattista Vico, Galileo, Giordano Bruno, Marquis de Condorcet, Rene Descartes, Pierre-Simon Laplace, were anything but the product of Catholic countries. Concorcet was even a Royal adviser and Laplace was made a Marquis. Lorenzo Valla was a was a favorite of Pope Calixtus III, even though he openly admired Epicurus. Joseph II was the Holy Roman Emperor. Finally, the Scandinavian countries were quite conservative until the early 20th century.

        To Zippy:
        If that is all that is meant by sacred tradition, then no protestant has ever opposed sacred tradition. Furthermore, there are no Popes of philosophy or Mathematics, yet objective answers are still found. In fact there could not be, because all humans are fallible except for the one who also happened to be God.

      • Hobbes, Bentham, Mills, Hume, Paine, and Jefferson were against all religion including Protestantism.

        I never claimed that they were believing protestants. Just that they adopted many protestant arguments to mostly secular ends. After all, Hobbes too was very concerned with defending the rights and prerogative of the King against “revolutionary Catholics” as you put it. Their hostility toward Christianity was mostly directly against Catholicism, while they could at least tolerate Protestantism.

        Rousseau converted to Catholicism in his youth, all though he did convert back.

        So how was a man who was born Calvinist and died a Calvinist, who attacked Catholicism in his writings and spent much of his time in Geneva the fault of Catholic France?

        Bentham and Mills’ philosophy was heavily influenced by Claude Adrien Helvétius, from France.

        Yes, and Helvétius was in turn influenced by Locke (who also influenced Mills and Bentham).

        Protestants also fought against the enlightenment philosophically, the names of those in this group are far to numerous to list, and physically. Cavaliers, Jacobites, and American Loyalists fought and died to stem the enlightenment.

        The Cavaliers faced some of the most fanatical Protestants in Europe, and while the Parliamentarian/ Roundhead movement would eventually coalesce into Whiggish liberalism, I do not see how we can properly call them (just like we can’t call some of thinkers of the Renaissance) classical liberals. But assuming we accept your argument here you would have to then conclude that the devout Cromwell and his roundheads fought a war allied with liberals, which supports my thesis either way. The Jacobites had many Roman Catholic adherents and leaders, especially as time went on. Their opponents were all Protestant as far as I know.

        The American Loyalists were not essentially anti-liberal. John Locke was the most cited authority in the colonies by both Whig and Tory. From the very beginning American politics has merely consisted of intra-liberal disputes. According to a footnote in Bernard Bailyn’s magisterial The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution there was only one attack on Locke in the revolutionary literature- made by a preacher who cited Filmer. On the whole, however, American Loyalists rested their arguments on the same exclusive set figures as the rebels- such as Samuel von Pufendorf, Coke, Grotius and of course John Locke.

        It is also hard to see how Giambattista Vico, Galileo, Giordano Bruno, Marquis de Condorcet, Rene Descartes, Pierre-Simon Laplace, were anything but the product of Catholic countries.

        You have point here. Nevertheless I think some of the cases of the “big names” you mentioned here still lends credence to my argument. Descrates was a devote Catholic and while his ideas have certainly harmed Christendom, his philosophy springing up really only makes sense in the cultural wasteland of post-Reformation France. He attempted to answer the skeptics who in turn arose because of the Reformation. Galileo is interesting example. The Catholic Church still gets bashed for trying to silence him. For our purposes however, that seems to refute the idea that he was a “product” of Catholicism, if the big bad Catholic Church was persecuting him. Lastly Condorcet along with most of the philosophes admired Anglo-civilization, and in Condorcet’s case he had great admiration for the United States and essentially wanted to replicate the U.S. rationalist revolution in his own country.

        Lorenzo Valla was a was a favorite of Pope Calixtus III, even though he openly admired Epicurus. Joseph II was the Holy Roman Emperor.

        While these figures I am sure taught vile and bad things, I don’t think their influence on the formation and creation of liberalism was quite as pronounced as say that of John Locke, Adam Smith or Immanuel Kant. Nor where they indebted to Catholic theological concepts as some of the aforementioned Protestants were.

        Finally, the Scandinavian countries were quite conservative until the early 20th century.

        Yes what place in Europe was not “quite conservative” in the early 20th century? The still “quite conservative” parts of modern Europe are Orthodox or Catholic. Certainly none of the Protestant countries. I do not think the United States of the early 20th century was conservative at all.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        But real Protestantism does have versions of the other two elements you recognize as essential to Christian life, tradition and magisterium.

        No it doesn’t. Protestantism’s insistence that the text of the Bible trumps them in authority unravels the whole thing. To the extent any Protestantism has the equivalent of Sacred Tradition and a Magisterium, those perform precisely the same function in Protestantism that common sense and unprincipled exceptions perform in liberalism.

        None of this proves Catholicism is the true Church founded by Christ, of course. But once we’ve acknowledged that Scripture, Tradition, and a Magisterium are necessary elements of the true Church, and that no one of them can be placed above the other two in the theological epistemology of any unified Christianity, it is just a matter of determining which actual Church which actually exists in the world most authentically possesses and affirms those necessary and unifying (catholic) features. That rules out any and all forms of Protestantism, where Protestantism includes all forms of Christianity which treat Scripture as supreme authority over and above Tradition and Magisterium.

      • To the extent any Protestantism has the equivalent of Sacred Tradition and a Magisterium, those perform precisely the same function in Protestantism that common sense and unprincipled exceptions perform in liberalism.

        Wrong, because knowledge of the things of Christianity beyond Scripture is not “common sense,” but rather specialized knowledge either passed down from our ancestors in the faith or discovered by scholarship. And “unprincipled exceptions,” by definition, are unprincipled, whereas [real] Protestantism is a consistent system.

        But once we’ve acknowledged that Scripture, Tradition, and a Magisterium are necessary elements of the true Church, and that no one of them can be placed above the other two in the theological epistemology of any unified Christianity, it is just a matter of determining which actual Church which actually exists in the world most authentically possesses and affirms those necessary and unifying (catholic) features.

        Saying that not one of them can be placed above the other two is to presuppose that your Roman system is the correct one. But it remains true that since God is the Supreme Authority, a book written (as it were) by Him obviously has to have the highest authority. What could possible outrank a direct quotation from God?

        At most, you could say that the meaning of God’s words cannot be known without an authoritative interpreter, and that you need an executive to force Christians to toe the line. That’s the most that can validly be said.

        But who says that that Catholic Church has the right of correct interpretation? How do we know that this is correct?

        And saying that you need Tradition and Magisterium in order correctly to know the meanings of God’s words is invalid:

        i) The words produced by Tradition and Magisterium can also be misinterpreted. What then guarantees that we correctly interpret them?

        ii) The Bible is not that hard to interpret, if you have a few things explained to you, such as the exact meanings of the Greek or Hebrew words, or ancient customs. The main difficulty comes from man’s refusal to believe what it says, not because the Bible’s meaning is unclear.

        iii) The historical record clearly shows innovation of Christian doctrines. There is zero written record that any of the disputed doctrines were believed before about the fifth century. The natural conclusion is that the church innovated, and the Catholic authorities failed to correct the innovations.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        But the correct view is that the church is like a group of scientists. … Like a scientist, they can bear faithful witness to a truth, but they do not have the authority to determine it.

        Yes, precisely. Free and equal supermen, emancipated from the constraints of traditional and historic authority, in the domain of theology.

      • Apparently you’re not arguing in good faith, Zippy.

        “Free and equal supermen” describes (for the most part) current science. But true science recognizes its role and limitations, and nothing in my comment indicates contemporary science as my model.

        Also, science shows that some things can be known without a human authority to certify it.

      • The Cavaliers were no less devout in their Protestantism than the Round-heads. Most of the Scottish Jacobites were Protestant and many of them moved to the American south where they fought for the Loyalists. I find it hard to imagine that they justified their actions based on Locke but I could be wrong. Some English Catholics did support the Glorious Revolution and the Hanovers, however this was mostly due to seeing which way the wind was blowing and anti-Celtic sentiments. Yes the Round-heads were in a coalition with the leftistesque Levelers and Ranters and while this may support your position it does nothing to damage mine.

        As for Modern Right-wing Protestant nations in Europe, I would again point out Northern Ireland, the Western Isles of Scotland (although obviously not their own nation) and the Faeroe Islands, which have quite a bit of autonomy. Also if we look at 18th century France, its population was already stagnating due to widespread use of contraception. While in England the population was booming and even the anti-natalist Malthus said that contraception was like ” using you wife like a whore”. France also had a higher divorce rate than England at the time. Florence of the late medieval and early renaissance was as bad as any modern leftist state in terms of widespread infanticide and homosexuality.

        There is nothing objectionable in Locke that is not also in Suarez and his ilk and Nicholas of Cusa before them. Likewise Descartes’ philosophy did not come from nowhere. It was based on the atomism of Galileo and Bruno, who got it from people before them and so forth.

        You seem to hold to a mirror image of Whig history, agreeing with them in all the details just judging the progress as bad. My argument is that his was not the case. Liberalism first sprung in the western world in Athens, it was crushed. Then it took over Europe in the form of the Roman empire which was then overthrown. Next it enchanted the Italians, who seemed to have snapped out of though are descending into it once again, but before they snapped out of it, Liberalism spread to the rest of Europe. The capitalism that you hate so much is dependent on the concept of Dominium which was a Roman legal concept that began being accepted in both Catholic and Protestant countries in the 16th century. The Catholic Church was entirely in favor of Roman law. It is the basis of Canon law and many a medieval pope used it as a justification for torture. So while neither Roman Catholicism or Protestantism is responsible for Liberalism, both have been infected at different times and places and spread it to others. It is mainly the British contributions to liberalism that are remembered and given emphasis because Britain ruled the world and dominated all forms of thought for most of the modern era until its child took its place.

      • I fail to see how someone who believes he is totally depraved and saved solely by the unearned grace of God who has predestined his salvation before he was even born, can be said to believe he is a “free and equal superman”.

      • Skeggy Thorson:

        I fail to see how someone who believes he is totally depraved and saved solely by the unearned grace of God who has predestined his salvation before he was even born, can be said to believe he is a “free and equal superman”.

        “As the humblest of all, our interpretations are always correct and we answer to nobody except God Himself.”

      • That is what the Roman popes say. However, for the rest of us “we must obey God rather than men.”

      • Zippy wrote: “Try to saw off any one of them (for whatever reason) and you descend into anarchy and madness”
        The Eastern Orthodox sawed one of them off 1000 years ago and they didn’t descend into anarchy and madness. The Oriental Orthodox sawed that same one off 1600 years ago and they didn’t descend into anarchy and madness.

      • The Orthodox (unlike any Protestant denomination) do have a hierarchical Magisterium with valid succession from the Apostles, valid sacraments, and in their theology (AFAIK) they reject sola scriptura.

        Protestantism has none of those things.

        That doesn’t make Orthodoxy unproblematic; but it isn’t a form of sola scriptura protestantism and it doesn’t suffer from the epistemic self-contradiction which that implies. From my POV the schismatic Orthodox Churches are empirically wrong; but their theology is not positivist and incoherent the way that Protestant theology is positivist and incoherent.

        Protestantism is quintessentially modern, unlike the other Christian churches.

        The modern project is powered by a relentless drive to deny and avoid messy fallible human authority. Positivism attempts to do this in the domain of epistemology. Nominalism attempts to do this in the domain of language. Liberalism attempts to do this in the domain of politics. Protestantism attempts to do this in the domain of religion. Feminism attempts to do this in the domain of sex and the family. Scientism attempts to do this in the domain of ontology. Utilitarianism attempts to do this in the domain of deontology. Etc, etc.

      • You’re trying to squeeze Protestantism into your pre-existing conceptual grid. But you’re missing something profound.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        You’re trying to squeeze Protestantism into your pre-existing conceptual grid. But you’re missing something profound.

        No I am not. I carefully stated (somewhere in this messy threaded combox) that by “protestant” I mean adherent to the doctrine of sola scriptura; and that adherence is sufficient for me to conclude as I do, just as adherence to the doctrines of political freedom and equal rights is sufficient for me to conclude the things I do about liberalism.

        Folks may not perceive the sufficiency – that sola scriptura as a doctrine renders Protestantism rationally incoherent – but objective truth is independent of what various people understand or believe. The fact that liberals do not understand that liberalism is incoherent and do not believe that liberalism is incoherent doesn’t make liberalism rationally coherent. Same thing with sola scriptura Protestantism.

      • If God has superintended the generation and preservation of the Bible, and if the Bible is written in a language that man is capable of understanding without needing access to a hidden knowledge that could not be derived from the actual words of the text, and if a human reader is capable of understanding the meanings of these words, then we can know what the Bible means without the God-certified authority of any particular human institution.

        To call this view “incoherent,” as you do, is absurd.

        You do not need the God-certified authority of Rome to know what the words mean. You just need to pay attention to what scholars say about the more difficult passages.

        True, some people fail or refuse to acknowledge what the Bible says. And scholars contradict one another. But the God-certified authority of any human institution will not solve this problem. And, more importantly, the God-certified authority of Rome will not make the words, or one particular interpretation of the words, true. What makes the words true is the God who superintended them. And what makes an interpretation true is if it agrees with the actual meanings of the words.

        And when authorities disagree, you investigate their reasons for disagreement. You do not just search around to see which authority has God’s Seal of Approval. In my experience, you almost always find that one side in a dispute does not want to acknowledge what the text clearly means.

        You might say “How do you know which ancient texts are Scripture, or that the text of our current Bible has not been corrupted?” At most, these questions might show that we need a God-certified authority to answer these questions (although I don’t think that we do). But they fail to rebut the argument that if the Bible contains the words of God, then its authority is higher than any other authority.

      • I’ll point out again that what is most notable about the Catholic doctrine of infallibility is that it necessarily implies that almost everything that the Magisterium says and does, except in very specialized and rare circumstances, is fallible. Contra donatism and its cognates (including sola scriptura Protestantism via Wyclif and even the modern sedevacantists like Laura Wood), this almost-always-fallibility does not invalidate authority, nor doctrine, nor sacraments.

      • Zippy,

        And yet Protestant theology, as Protestant theology (meaning not just to the extent that it overlaps with Catholicism), is somehow able to produce some of the very best Christians. That is to say, the fruits pass the eye test, easily.

      • Andrew E:
        The Church is a Church of sinners, sure. Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and even Atheism produce good people who believe some true things too.

        But this isn’t about good people. It is about what is true.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        The Bible is not that hard to interpret, if you have a few things explained to you, such as the exact meanings of the Greek or Hebrew words, or ancient customs. The main difficulty comes from man’s refusal to believe what it says, not because the Bible’s meaning is unclear.

        Charitably, that is at best ahistorical and wildly counterfactual. What is at issue is and has ever been the resolution of controverted cases for Christianity as a unity — for example, the contents of the Canon of Scripture, the Holy Trinity, etc.

        Apparently you’re not arguing in good faith, Zippy.

        Very well then. I’ve enjoyed the spirited discussion, myself. Until next time.

      • The Bible is not that hard to interpret, if you have a few things explained to you…

        I should have recognized that my meaning might not be clear. Here’s what I meant:

        The meaning of any scriptural text is not determined by a (human) authority making a fiat pronouncement, nor is it determined by “hidden knowledge” not available except to a select few. The meaning of Scripture is determined by the ordinary meanings of the words.

        In many cases, this meaning is not clear to the average Twentieth-Century man on the street, although sometimes it is. But when it is not, the meaning is made clear by consulting the experts to determine the subtleties of the meanings of the words in the ancient language in which the text was written, or to understand the ancient and now-forgotten practices to which the words allude, or to understand ancient slang, or some such. And these experts do not need a supernatural revelation from God to know what they know about the interpretation of the text. They only need to use ordinary scholarship.

        We do not need an authority to determine what the Bible means independently of the ordinary means by which man determines the meaning of a written text.

        Yes, the scholars disagree. Experts always disagree. But then you ask them to give the reasons why they come to the conclusion they do. And then you can generally see which of them are interpreting the text according to a previous commitment and which of them seek to know what the text really means.

        Furthermore, when you grasp the overall system that the Bible puts forth, you can see it clearly. Those who do not grasp this system see the Bible as just a collection of sentences, some of which appear to contradict one another, some of which refer to ideas or practices that are bizarre to contemporary sensibilities, and so on. But once you have been instructed in the overall system that the Bible teaches, and you have seen that the actual words of the text do teach this system according to a normal interpretation of the original meanings of the words, then the Bible is not that mysterious.

        To be sure, there are some passages that remain puzzling, such as “baptism for the dead” in I Corinthians 15:29. But we can be sure that its meaning was clear to the original Corinthian readers, because the human author made no attempt to clarify his meaning. Paul obviously assumed that his readers knew what he meant. And whatever he meant, we can be sure that it did not contradict other Christian teaching, because God does not sow confusion.

      • @Andrew E

        I think it is important to point out, at least from my perspective, the interesting thing about Protestantism is while it has a poor error correction mechanism this same failing does, in-fact, allow good things to thrive in it as well. C.S. Lewis, who always maintained his Protestantism is beloved by many Catholics for his remarkably good sense and expositions on Christianity. Likewise, Chesterton, would not have been Chesterton without the Protestant upbringing he had.

        This is what makes Protestantism so tricky to analyse. It’s not a simple Catholic good, Protestant bad thing.

        As I’ve said before, one of Catholicism’s great problems is institutional rigidity. The development of good doctrine is stifled if the error correction mechanism in Catholicism is set far too rigidly. This is why I feel that some of the best doctrinal developments in Christianity have been Protestant led, with Catholicism gradually recognising their worth. Take tolerance, for instance. The Church was pretty intolerant through most of its history but now is. I think the Protestant example, in this instance, influenced Church thinking more than any abstract argument.

      • Zippy says . . .
        Or ordination with Apostolic Succession. Each Priest and Bishop knows the Apostle from whom he descends.

        Is this true? How could the answer be anything other than “all of them?” 2,000 years is a long time, and bishops typically are ordained by more than one bishop (so that if one bishop’s ordination comes into question that doesn’t call into question every bishop descended from him). Doesn’t the number of generations of bishops since Apostolic times pretty much guarantee that every bishop is the successor of every Apostle?

        My favorite bishop, Michael Olson (did you know he just illegally forbade his priests from distributing communion on the tongue? because . . . Ebola!), for example was ordained by 40 bishops and a cardinal.

      • Yeah, I was given to understand that the vast majority of bishops trace their episcopal lineage back to Card. Rebiba of the 16th century and no further, since it’s uncertain who, exactly, consecrated him.

  17. @Wm. Lewis

    This isn’t about bigotry nor is it a Catholic vs Protestant thing. So many other people looking at the rise of liberalism have come to similar conclusions. In my opinion, there is a flaw in Protestantism which permits liberalism to thrive there. Catholicism is composed of sinful people just like the Protestant Churches but “as a system” it has mechanisms in place which will quash any new ideas which contradict the old. Protestantism has no such mechanism. If two people make different interpretations of the same text in the bible, well Protestantism doesn’t have a problem with that. Yet there is only one truth.

    If there were such a thing as a Protestant Pope it would probably have prevented it from going to liberal but the problem is Protestantism does not allow for any such mechanism.

    • I think that one way a Protestant could respond is to say that the Word of God is the mechanism that defends against liberalism. The Bible isn’t liberal. The words in scripture can be twisted but those doing the twisting aren’t motivated by a sincere desire to obey God and understand His word, so what they’re doing isn’t particuarly Christian, Protestant or otherwise.

      • “The Word of God is the mechanism that defends against liberalism.” Amen to that!

        And although Catholicism, being more authoritarian that Protestantism, has been slower to be infected by liberalism, the infection has spread there too. Witness the current Pope.

      • , the infection has spread there too. Witness the current Pope.

        What exactly has the Pope actually changed with respect to Doctrine? The Pope’s personal opinions are just that, personal. I’ll admit that within the Catholic church that there are a lot of papal “groupies” (conservative and liberal) who tend to think that everyone of his utterances is somehow binding because he is Pope but this is not the case. The Pope can be an utter raving liberal but what matters in the end is what he formally teaches when making an authoritative or definitive teaching.

        This pope, despite his liberal leanings, has not changed the teaching one bit, even you have to admit that. One of the interesting things about the history of the Papacy is even though there have been some truly terrible popes who have sullied the papal office, they didn’t diddle with the formal teaching of the Church.

        The Church recognises, like you do, that man is corrupt, that’s why it teaches that Papal office “ain’t no normal job”. The office is divinely protected. The man occupying it may be a moron, libertine or puritan, but when he teaches definitively he is acting as God’s mouthpiece.

        Considered as “a system”, Catholicism recognises that man is fallible and that conflict resolution with its system is handled by a quasi-divine office, not a mortal man. Conflict resolution is handled by an office which is inerrant when it definitively teaches. Now, I respect your rejection of the Church but you’ve gotta admit that it provides a better conflict resolution mechanism than Protestantism which says “you can’t trust any man so we’ll devolve decision making to all men”. Hence the fissures in Protestantism.

        Protestantism would have been far more insulated against liberal incursion if it had a similar system to that of Catholicism, the problem is that the foundations of Protestantism make such a system impossible to set up.

        The remarkable thing about Protestantism “as a system” is that it permits both good and evil to co-exist in it. One of the good things about Protestantism is it lacks the institutional inertia of the Catholic church and in the free-for-all “space” that it provides, good doctrinal innovation (as well as bad) can proceed with much greater speed than it can in Catholicism. Protestants were way ahead of Catholics on issues such as tolerance, slavery, female rights, spreading the Cathechism, work ethic and personal relationship with God. The “Tradition” emphasis by some sections of the Church puts a brake on any new, but good, doctrinal development and the Church fails in its ability to dynamically respond to new challenges. The Church’s history in the 20th C is a case in point.

        Just to reiterate. There is no animus from my part in this discussion. I have the utmost respect for many of my Protestant colleagues who are both better than me in their faith and in the practice of it.

      • Even if the Pope does not touch the formal teaching of the Church, he still has a great influence, especially on unsophisticated lay Catholics and on non-Christians, who often look at him as the leader of all Christendom. So this idea of separating the Pope’s off-the-cuff remarks from his formally ex cathedra teaching seems to me to be somewhat artificial.

      • Alan Roebuck:

        So this idea of separating the Pope’s off-the-cuff remarks from his formally ex cathedra teaching seems to me to be somewhat artificial.

        If your criticisms are not of the Church’s own account of its own authority, they will pretty much always be straw men.

      • Even if the Pope does not touch the formal teaching of the Church, he still has a great influence, especially on unsophisticated lay Catholics and on non-Christians, who often look at him as the leader of all Christendom.

        With all due respect, that’s why making religious interpretation an “amateur sport” is fraught with peril.

      • OK, but one need not be in the officially-certified line of apostolic succession to teach correct doctrine. You just need to know and believe correct doctrine.

      • If your criticisms are not of the Church’s own account of its own authority, they will pretty much always be straw men.

        Zippy,

        But Catholics don’t seem to agree on its own account of its own authority — re. the sedevacantists.

      • Andrew E:
        Sedevacantists are (pretty much by definition) not Catholics in union with the Pope. They may not be Protestants per se, but they are rebels who reject the authority over them based on tendentious arguments that in many ways mirror the arguments Wyclif made about dominion. Even a heretic (in his personal beliefs, in juridical actions, in ‘pastoral’ practice) Pope is still the Pope, and still has legitimate authority. A bad king is still the king.

        Human authority is a messy business. That’s why everyone wants some sort of simple non-human machine-like formal solution (e.g. sola scriptura, democracy): everyone insists that God’s pedagogy has to work the way they want it to work, with all the formal assurances they insist upon, free from the foibles of men in authority. The idea that God would set things up such that those ridiculous flawed men in red hats actually have religious authority over us personally, just because they were appointed by men who were appointed by (who were appointed by etc) the Apostles, is just too outrageous to accept.

        But God didn’t establish His Church based on the expectations, specifications, and requirements of modern free and equal supermen.

      • Zippy,

        I think the short form argument that Laura Wood uses, for instance, is that a non-Catholic cannot be Pope and that Francis is not a Catholic.

      • Andrew E:

        I think the short form argument that Laura Wood uses, for instance, is that a non-Catholic cannot be Pope and that Francis is not a Catholic.

        Right: it is kind of neo-donatism.

    • Slumlord, as so many comments here attest, liberalism is not a Protestant thing. As Mr. Roebuck & I have tried to explain, proper Protestantism, i.e., one which follows the Bible faithfully, has mechanisms to resist liberalism and other external enemies. It is when Christianity is subverted that it ceases to be truly Christian. So the almost mindless repetition of the tired “Protestantism is all about rebellion” and “Protestantism caused liberalism” notions, which are demonstrably false (as has been demonstrated in this thread and elsewhere), does boil down to something along the lines of an animus that can be called bigotry. It’s almost as if some followers of the Roman faith, at confirmation, are given a copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Protestantism in which certain “truths” about Protestantism, such as “Protestantism caused liberalism,” are presented. These “truths” are then trotted out whenever speaking of Protestantism.

      If the flaw were in Protestantism, then we would expect the Roman Church to be free of it, but that is not so. Under the last several popes (or “popes” for our sedevacantist friends), the Roman Church has embraced open borders, social justice, and a host of other liberal agenda items, and under the current pope (or “pope”), they’re rushing to embrace homosexuals. So the premise is demonstrably false—and yet Roman Catholics keep repeating it.

      Lawrence Auster wrote a short essay (which was then followed by many comments) called What Christianity Requires in Order Not to be Destructive of Society. Here is a longish but germane quote:

      Christian society—any Christian society—must include non-Christian cultural and political sources.

      This is an absolutely fundamental point that Christians must understand. The original teaching of Christianity as presented in the New Testament is about how to live in what Jesus called the kingdom of heaven. It is about the individual soul’s relation with God through Christ. It is not about the political organization of society. The New Testament simply assumes the existence of political society and goes on from there. Because Christianity is not, like orthodox Judaism and Islam, a complete recipe for this-worldly existence, Christians must “render unto Caesar,” i.e., render unto a non-Christian basis of authority. Christian society is thus more complex—more differentiated, to use Eric Voegelin’s term—than any other. It is multileveled, mediating between the pole of the Christian, spiritual realm and the pole of political and cultural existence in this world, which does not come from Christianity itself. If the society loses its this-worldly pole it will go out of existence. This is the reason why Christian society is the riskiest and most dangerous type of society, the most open to catastrophic derailment, such as the derailment brought by modern liberalism. Yet Christianity’s this-worldly “lack,” which makes Christian society so vulnerable in comparison to the religiously structured society of traditional Judaism and Islam, is also the thing that, by requiring Christian society to be multileveled in order to function in this world, makes it the fullest and truest articulation of the human soul, extending downward to the apeirontic depths (the many) and upward to transcendent spiritual truth (the One).

      • <Roman Church has embraced open borders, social justice,

        So nationalism/Americanism and capitalism are the new litmus tests for what constitutes being an Orthospherean? We can’t talk about Catholic teaching because that makes us “bigots,” but Protestants, Jews and Mormons can constantly attack the Catholic Church and that’s apparently alright? I hope the Orthosphere doesn’t become First-Things-lite, an ineffectual, milquetoast, right-liberal echo-chamber.

        Lawrence Auster wrote a short essay (which was then followed by many comments) called What Christianity Requires in Order Not to be Destructive of Society. Here is a longish but germane quote

        What Church did he die in again? It wasn’t Calvinism I do know that.

      • It’s almost as if some followers of the Roman faith, at confirmation, are given a copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Protestantism in which certain “truths” about Protestantism, such as “Protestantism caused liberalism,” are presented. These “truths” are then trotted out whenever speaking of Protestantism.

        You know, that’s very disappointing. You know, we’ve had a terrible Prime Minister here recently (Julia Gillard) who really was quite hopeless. She received a storm of criticism from the public, but in the end she the explained it away all the claiming that it was result of misogyny. I feel like your reply is in pretty much the same vein. It’s hard to have a discussion with someone when criticism is immediately interpreted as bigotry.

        Think what you like but I’m sick of debating people pretending to come to an argument in good faith only to find that they are bigoted partisans. Such a waste of time.

        There is strong evidence to suggest that the conservative -liberal divide has genetic basis to it. Modern neuroscience has shown that most people are cognitive misers, with their political and religious beliefs being a function of intuitive response to stimulus. In other words, there will always be liberals and there will always be conservatives in any group of people.

        The Catholic Church has, and has had, its liberals but as vociferous and powerful as they have become they’ve always been kept in check by the Papacy. Sometimes I wonder whether the Borgia Popes should be made into the patron saints of infallibility. Corrupt as they were they never diddled the books. The office can be filled by a total clown and yet it maintains God’s word.

        Now I’m not asking you to believe in the Catholic Church, but as a system it maintains one set of beliefs which it considers the truth. It would have been far better for Protestantism if it had a similar mechanism, but it doesn’t and in-fact the Protestant system is premised on the fact that no one can make such a determination for another. The very fact of you claiming to have the only true Protestant interpretation stinks of crypto-Romanism. Perhaps this is the Lord moving you to the True Faith.

        There are a lot of stupid Catholics who have said a lot of stupid things about Protestantism. I haven’t. Protestantism did not cause liberalism. The Amish and mennonties aren’t liberal yet they are Protestant. Protestantism, however, provides an environment where liberalism can thrive since it does not have any mechanism to put the brakes on it. Everyone’s opinion on Jesus is equally valid.

        Except Catholics.

        Secondly, Protestantism is not (usually) about rebellion, rather, if I had to define Protestantism, it is about the primacy of an individual’s conscience with respect to the determination of religious truths. The problem is that the Protestantism does not recognise that an erroneous conscience can occur, even in men of good faith, nor does it recognise any legitimate correction mechanism for such a man except “you’re wrong if you don’t agree with me.” In fact, any attempt to change another Protestant’s mind about something in the Bible undermines Protestantism premise that all men can interpret the Bible.

        From a systems approach, the Protestant system has no error correction mechanism, nor has it any way of deriving a definitive version of the truth.

        However, just to show you that I’m not some mindless Papal drone, it is my opinion that Protestantism was inf act providential, enabling some much needed improvements in religious doctrine which Catholicism was unable to do. The Problem with the Catholic “system” is that, it’s institutional nature and traditionalist obsession, give it a rigidity which make doctrinal innovation and development very difficult despite changing social circumstances.

        But hell, what do I know I’m just a bigot, and given the tone that this conversation has taken, I’ll go back to reading my Protocols.

      • ISE, you have already trotted out your credentials as an anti-Protestant bigot, which I would not be able to say if you had, in fact, kept to Roman teachings instead of incessantly harping about Protestant teachings.

        I fail to see the relevance of Auster’s deathbed conversion to Rome.

        Slumlord, I do agree with you on the futility of arguing with “bigoted partisans.” This is why I call out those who won’t drop the “Protestantism is rebellion/Protestantism is the source of liberalism” ideas.

        In the Auster essay I linked above, commenter Bill Carpenter made the astute observation that liberalism has its origins, at least in part, in Epicurianism. He said, “The primary value of liberalism today is the Epicurean value of avoiding pain, whether it be the pain of inequality, the pain of difference, suspicion of disapproval, or guilt with regard to the sacrifices required to accomplish something.” As we know, when Paul spoke in Athens, he was addressing, amongst others, Epicurians. Given that Paul was arguing against proto-liberal Epicurian philosophers, you can see why I get tired of the “Protestantism is the source of liberalism” lie.

        Now it might be that Protestantism is more susceptible to liberalism than other forms of Christianity, but that is because Christianity is, as Auster observed, so risky, so vulnerable to subversion. Protestantism, free of the structure and authority of Rome, has fewer resources to protect itself; however, since it is also free of what we believe are the unbiblical elements of Roman teaching, it also allows the fullest and most faithful expression of Christianity.

        “The very fact of you claiming to have the only true Protestant interpretation stinks of crypto-Romanism.”

        But that’s not what I’m claiming at all. Both Mr. Roebuck & I have said that confessional Protestantism is the most faithful form, the most likely to lead followers to repentance and faith, but we also acknowledge that other forms, other denominations, can lead adherents to repentance and faith. (In all fairness, those comments appear to be in another thread.)

        Your claims about Protestantism lacking a mechanism for error correction in belief and/or practice are mistaken. Now, there might be some denominations for which that is true, and there is not a “Protestant Pope” with authority over all (thank God). However, building on what Mr. Roebuck noted above, teaching elders (i.e., pastors) have authority to teach and correct, and ruling elders have authority to discipline. When properly run, churches accept into their membership only those who accept not only those authorities but also what that church teaches. Members needing correction will receive it. Those needing discipline will receive that. Those who persist in error can find themselves excommunicated. Here is The Book of Discipline for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as a reference for how one Protestant denomination runs itself.

        So those mechanisms exist. I believe your objection is that those mechanisms lie outside Rome.

      • So those mechanisms exist. I believe your objection is that those mechanisms lie outside Rome.

        Nope. The Eastern Orthodox Churches lie outside Rome yet they seem to have a better error correction mechanism (which isn’t even Romish for that matter.) No one draws the link between liberalism and it. BTW, if I were to be bigoted, it would be directed more at the Eastern Orthodox rather than the Protestants since my ancestors have been directly persecuted by them but I have no animus towards them either.

        commenter Bill Carpenter made the astute observation that liberalism has its origins, at least in part, in Epicurianism

        The traditional philosophical understanding of man is deeply flawed. It tends to view man as either rational or irrational. There is an accumulating body of evidence from moral psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists that human cognition needs to be divided into rational, pseudo-rational and irrational domains, and in most people (i.e cognitive misers) it is the pseudo-rational state which is their default operating mechanism. This pseudo-rational state seems to have a strong genetic-temperamental components and operates by an emotive first rationality. i.e. the emotional state dominates the rationalisations of the mind. To quote the gamers, who recognised this phenomenon independently, it’s known as the rationalisation hamster.

        And just as it can lead women to bad mate choices, it can lead the religiously inspired to “dumb” interpretations of the Bible. Protestantism basically gives the rationalisation hamster full authority. The “Epicurean” tradition of liberalism is explained by the fact that people will rationalise along the lines which conform to their emotive states. The fact that people prefer pleasure to pain will mean that in any system where the cognitive miser is free to interpret the Bible as he pleases, the drift of the interpretation will be Epicurean.

      • The Eastern Orthodox Churches lie outside Rome yet they seem to have a better error correction mechanism.

        I know far less about Orthodoxy than I do about Roman Catholicism, but a few comments are in order here:

        Orthodoxy makes fidelity to their Tradition, rather than to the demonstrated meaning of Scripture, the litmus test for their Faith. This makes Orthodoxy a sort of loose Catholicism, with a few [semi-]Popes rather than one, and an unwritten catechism. But Orthodoxy retains the spirit of traditional religion, with its abhorrence of innovation.

        So Orthodoxy is good in that they resist innovation apparently even better than Rome, but bad in that their highest fidelity is not to the word of God.

      • ISE, you have already trotted out your credentials as an anti-Protestant bigot, which I would not be able to say if you had, in fact, kept to Roman teachings instead of incessantly harping about Protestant teachings.

        Yes yes and you’ve revealed yourself to be a bigot of all sorts, not just religious but also racial too apparently. But that’s okay I guess.

        I fail to see the relevance of Auster’s deathbed conversion to Rome.

        You quoted him as an authority not me.

      • A racial bigot, am I? Well, if by “bigotry” you mean “acknowledging that race exists, and has real effects on real people,” then yes. But that’s a highly idiosyncratic definition.

      • A racial bigot, am I? Well, if by “bigotry” you mean “acknowledging that race exists, and has real effects on real people,” then yes. But that’s a highly idiosyncratic definition.

        Right, you are just acknowledging “reality” and “facts.” There is no racial animus on your part. Everybody else though is an ignorant bigot. Normally I could care less, but you raised the bigot card. Ill catch you later though I’ve got to get back to reading my Protocols on the Elders of the Orthodox Independent Reformed New Light Presbyterian Church (est. 2005).

      • For those of you joining us now, I support my accusation against ISE by this comment of his from this post:

        “You* are not a Christian, the Catholic Church is the true Faith you don’t have natural “rights” to life, liberty and property and oh yeah I don’t care if that hurts yours or any one else’s feelings. Protestantism is indeed the cause of modernism broadly speaking, Prots here and elsewhere claim otherwise but whatever argument they offer up in response is usually so incredibly weak.”

        *Refering to a Protestant commenter.

        ISE’s charge against me is that I am a bigot because I believe the following:
        • It is morally wrong to allow the US to be overrun by tens of millions of Mexicans. (It would be equally wrong for us to be overrun by tens of millions of anyone else.)
        • Because Mexicans are taught revanchist views about large swaths of America that were formerly under Mexican control, even legal Mexican immigration ought not be allowed.
        • Because Mestizos are non-white, mass immigration by them can only cause racial strife. (Yes, America should be a white majority country; no, it need not be an exclusively white country.)
        • Because Mestizos’ average IQ is 92, they, as a group, will form a permanent underclass in America—just as they do in Mexico—with all the attendant problems.

        As for “racial animus,” I have had nothing but good experiences with the individual Mexicans I have known. I have traveled to Mexico, and look forward to going back. But I also see the havoc they wreak in America (and in their own country, for that matter), and endorse the idea that both we and they will be happiest if we remain distinct and separated.

        On the other hand, ISE, who has no love for America (which is well documented in his comments on the Orthosphere), appears to have no problem with his co-religionists aiding in the downfall of America.

        Oh, and ISE, you are anything but ignorant (the same is true of Slumlord, for that matter). I am impressed by the scope of your knowledge. But your anti-Protestant and anti-American biases go beyond reasonable bounds.

      • Slumlord: it might be good to make a distinction between corruption of vice and corruption of ideology. The popes of the past who were wicked men, you are correct, did not do so much meddling with doctrine. They were content to plunder the Papal treasury instead, but in the modern world, cardinals and subsequently popes will now begin to come out of countries with a progressive poison in them.
        It seems to me that Pope Francis is not a ‘bad’ man. By all accounts, his life has been one of laudable charity and good-will to men, but because he has come out of the cultural mileau of post-Peron Argentina, he does seem to have a liberal ideology. This is of course not helped by awful people like Kasper, but will the Church be as resistant to the corruption of ideology as it was to the corruption of vice?

        The simple answer is of course to say God will NEVER let the gates of hell prevail against the Church, regardless of who is pope, but is this the whole answer?

        I’m a little puzzled that you see an anti-Catholic bias on the orthosphere as a whole (and the blogs therein). It seems to me that Catholics actually dominate in number, some of the most prolific commentators being Catholics themselves. I try to be as respectful as I can to other religious traditions, including even ones outside Christianity, and the theological arena of dialogue is not necessarily my forte so I don’t delve into these deeper issues between the churches too much, but I don’t really see great animosity between Christians other than the odd thoughtless comment.

        All conversation should retain an intellectual level of rigor, and not devolve into pettiness. When it does, anyone is well within their rights just to end the exchange.

      • I’m a little puzzled that you see an anti-Catholic bias on the Orthosphere as a whole (and the blogs therein). It seems to me that Catholics actually dominate in number, some of the most prolific commentators being Catholics themselves.

        Agreed. Orthosphere is mostly Catholic-friendly, and those times when I disagree with Catholic doctrine, I do so gently. Unless I am challenged—especially rudely—by a commenter. But if you stay away from the comments sections of certain posts, I don’t see a problem here.

      • Slumlord writes,

        “in any system where the cognitive miser is free to interpret the Bible as he pleases”

        Roman strawman. Protestants aren’t free to interpret the Bible in any way they please. Liberals are, but Protestants are not.

      • @Mark

        I’m a little puzzled that you see an anti-Catholic bias on the orthosphere as a whole (and the blogs therein).

        I don’t know where you got that impression. I certainly don’t think the Orthosphere has an anti-Catholic bias. If there is any bias in the Orthosphere it is towards the Traditionalist direction. I must admit that I thought it rather ecumenical.

        No my gripe is with particular individuals that one encounters in comments sections who, presume because you don’t agree with them, you’ve got some other agenda that your pushing. When I’m criticising certain aspects of Protestantism, it’s not because I’m being parochial but rather because I see serious flaws in it. When people say to me that you’re only saying that because you’re Catholic I’m kind of disappointed because I realise that these people were never about objectively discussing things, rather they’ve approached the subject “my side, right or wrong”. These discussions always go nowhere.

        My concern is that religious conservatism is dying and a frank discussion needs to be made by all sides of the debate to see where things went wrong. But you can never have that discussion if you’re approaching it parochially.

        In my opinion (and I’m quite happy for people to disagree with me here) the Christian faith is in serious trouble in the West and I’m not sure, that without certain changes, it will pull through. In my mind the important questions are where did things go wrong, and, how to fix them. But if you’re never prepared to admit that perhaps you are contributing to the problem well then I think you’ve closed an important avenue of potential remedy.

      • My concern is that religious conservatism is dying and a frank discussion needs to be made by all sides of the debate to see where things went wrong.

        I share your concern. And I think we need to be free to say what we believe, or else we will be demoralized.

        I agree with conservative Catholics on about 95% of the issues that matter most, including probably about 95% of Christianity. However the 5% includes what it takes to save us from our sins, so it’s important for me to stand up for the truth here.

        And, of course, those who disagree are free to stand up for what they believe.

      • “the emotional state dominates the rationalisations of the mind.”

        Plato, man, horse, reason. This *is* the traditional understanding of man.

    • If two people make different interpretations of the same text in the bible, well Protestantism doesn’t have a problem with that.

      It Depends. For example, the Bible teaches that women are to refrain from speaking in church, that they shall not teach or have authority over men. Therefore any church that ordains women has ceased to be biblical. Traditionalist Protestant churches do not ordain women, and do not recognize as Bible-believing those churches that do. We might even say that such churches are no longer Christian, even if they teach some of God’s truth otherwise.

      The Bible also teaches that we are to observe the Lord’s Supper, but it does not say how frequently. So this is something where we, as you put it, don’t “have a problem” with different interpretations. As long as a church does observe the Lord’s Supper, it doesn’t really matter if it’s weekly, biweekly, monthly, or whatever.

  18. I agree with both Mark Citadel and Wm. Lewis on this point: When the “church” ignores the clear instructions from Scripture, as Paul writes to Timothy on this issue, then that “church” has adopted the latest vogue within its culture and has ceased “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” said obedience being the whole council of God as presented in Holy Scripture.

      • What’s to interpret? James is denying the position that one can have faith without producing good works. “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20) shows exactly what James is talking about: faith produces (good) works. First faith (Paul’s emphasis), then the works follow as a natural consequence (James’ emphasis).

        “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
        —Romans 3:28
        “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”
        —Galatians 3:24
        “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
        —Ephesians 2:8–9

        There! I’ve resolved the central issue of the Reformation for you: sola fide it is.

        You’re welcome.

      • Let’s see now. Imagine for a moment that I confess that I am a Christian, and to all my neighbors, colleagues, friends and family, that confession goes out as a mark of my belief that Jesus has taken the punishment for my sin. (Perhaps I ere here in that Catholics — from what I hear — think that Christ’s sacrifice was INSUFFICIENT and that their own puny works will count in God’s sight as worthy. Read Isaiah: Your works are as FILTHY RAGS. (Catholics who trust their Bibles and not their Popes are least susceptible to being led down the devils’ path.)
        Now suppose that instead of being thankful and “running the race that is set before me,” and seeking like Joseph in Pharaoh’s prison to honor God no matter the personal cost, I choose rather to sleep with Pharaoh’s wife, not only for the feel-good carnal pleasure, but as a thumb in the nose to Pharaoh whose authority I despise and hold in contempt???? And these are the minor transgressions. The first transgression, and the one that counts the most heavily, is the one that originates in the First Commandment: You shall have no other Gods before me.
        So, Joseph has set (in this scenario false to the written record) himself (he is God) as the final authority, his desires, his appetites, his ego are what matters. God’s law? Lost in the battle of self-will versus God’s will.
        So we observers are apt to ask: Is Joseph’s confession true? or is it an expedient word-game that in his foolish sinfulness he hopes to absolve himself before the world of his Unbelief and appear the self-righteousness one?

        King David, as you know, slept with Bethsheba. But what happened when Nathan confronted him? David was horrified and repented. His work was his repentance. His work was a RESULT — a fruit — of his faith, not a cause of it.
        Until Catholics get over the idea that they cooperate with God in their REDEMPTION, they will never understand that works are a RESULT of faith, not a cause of it.

        So to say you have faith and then to live as if God’s forgiveness means nothing to you, then your professed faith is evident to NO ONE. And why would you do that? Why would you live as a pagan, observing all its rights of self-indulgence, or even live as a Pharisee — perfectly respectable in your social circle but with a heart full of unrepentant sin and glorying in it?

        That is the faith that without works is dead.

      • How does one reconcile the idea that man doesn’t cooperate with his redemption (specifically, with grace) with what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 9:27? Am I misunderstanding that verse?

      • We have to distinguish between the cause of salvation and the evidence of salvation.

        The ultimate cause of salvation is God’s choosing of us in eternity past. It continues when God makes us spiritually alive so that we can hear the gospel message and respond with repentance and faith in Christ.

        Some people appear to be Christians for a while and then reject Christ. But Scripture says that the saved will never be lost, and therefore those who reject Christ were never his in the first place. See, e.g., I John 2:19.

  19. I just have to say this to our Catholic friends (and to others here who are following along with this discussion): We Lutherans believe that God’s Word is powerful and that it alone is the means that God has chosen to breathe new life into spiritually dead hearts, to wit: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the POWER of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
    So when the Pope or any other ecclesiastical authority adds to or detracts from Holy Scripture, they are preaching another gospel, a gospel that does not bring with it the power of the Holy Spirit, who speaks through the Word — and in no other way — to impart faith.
    Man, however, has no freedom of the will to “choose” God. A dead man can choose nothing. Only when God’s Word — in law and gospel: the law convicting, the gospel, comforting — pierces the stubborn rebellious heart of man and quickens man, can man believe the promises of God.
    That is the “Real Christianity.” God covers our sin with Christ’s righteousness and we believe the gospel: Your sins are forgiven. The Lutheran paradox is that man can reject God but man cannot choose God. Your belief is given to you when you hear the gospel and through it the Holy Spirit works faith in your heart. If you reject the gift, it is your fault, not God’s. If you receive the gift, you are merely opening your hands to accept what God has already given you.
    It has nothing to do with your works, good, bad, or indifferent.
    The entire world, every person of all time and in every age, has been declared not guilty — Jesus has taken your well-deserved punishment. But if you choose not to believe this fact, you will not reap the benefit, any more than if I tell you I have placed a million dollars in your bank account as a gift and you choose to continue living as a pauper.

    I just had to get that off my chest.

      • Yes, Mr. Roebuck, I know — re: your parenthetical sentence; you are a Calvinist, I take it, and perhaps of the five-point variety, TULIP.

        If you’re curious at all as to why this former “five-pointer” has left that behind (and that, more than 20 years ago) and adopted Lutheran theology — or as my pastors state, “the pure Gospel,” — I offer this link for your consideration, a recent paper on this very topic: http://azcadistrict.com/sites/default/files/papers/Buchholz_2012-10.pdf
        “Jesus Cancelled Your Debt,” by Jon Buchholz, pastor of a Lutheran church in Phoenix.

        Do not feel obligated in the least to read it, dear brother.

  20. @ Bruce B
    “How does one reconcile the idea that man doesn’t cooperate with his redemption (specifically, with grace) with what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 9:27? Am I misunderstanding that verse?”

    The new man in Christ is both saint and sinner; the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans in Chapter 7 most notably underscores this fact.

    The old man in us, the sinner, will always balk at rising early to go to church every Sunday to be fed by God’s Word; the new man in us, the saint, will always rejoice — and loves nothing better than to be with God’s people, hear the Word, and seek to please God in thought, word, and deed.

    But like our bodies, if the new man is deprived of nourishment, it will shrivel and die; our vine needs to be nourished by the tree — the Holy Spirit in Word and Sacrament. For, the evil one, the world, and our sinful flesh fight against our new man and seek to destroy him. But the new man loves to be in God’s Word, study it, memorize portions of it, live by it — in preparation for the day when we join our God in heaven.

    The law tells the saint who is struggling with the unholy trinity (world, flesh, and devil) to put away sin (in daily repentance) and cling to the forgiveness which is his in Christ; the new man rejoices in that forgiveness and drinks in God’s Word and partakes of the Sacraments which alone have the power to strengthen his faith.

    To the comfortable sinner, the law is preached: “For the wages of sin is death.”
    To the contrite sinner, in agony over his sin, the gospel is preached: “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    Failure to properly distinguish between law and gospel causes an ocean of confusion among both the laity and Christ’s under shepherds, the ministers of the Gospel.

    CFW Walther’s, _The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel_, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, is perhaps considered the definitive treatment on the topic, for those among you curious enough to know more.

    Any “cooperation” believers do is Spirit wrought and is Christ living in you and through you.
    “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2:20
    All glory goes to God.

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