On Branding Romantic Christians Enemies of Christianity

Francis Berger worries about my recent categorization of Romantic Christianity as inimical to the Church, who is the Body of Christ, and thus of Christ himself, and of the Christian revelation and religion he founded. But he doesn’t quite deny that the shoe fits.

It rather does. I’m not saying this to be mean, but rather as an act of charity in telling the truth. It was not a truth I came to happily, as I have for long read with profit and admiration the writings of several of the Romantic Christians. It was rather forced on me by an honest confrontation with what they had themselves recently written.

I should here enter two notes of caution. First, and far more importantly, I count myself an enemy of Christ and his Church. *Every sinner* is such an enemy, at least a bit. So, I hope Francis and Bruce don’t feel as though they are singled out for special derogation.

Second, I understand that not all Romantic Christians think that Church has been superseded by the development of human consciousness, or that she has been rendered illegitimate by the recent obedience of the hierarchs to the mandates of the civil authorities in respect to covid, or that direct intuition is to be credited more than the writings of all previous Christians. But Francis and Bruce Charlton have indeed recently written such things, and so far as I know they are among the more prominent Romantic Christians out there.

And whether or not the Romantic Christians meant them to do so, such statements controvert the entirety of Christianity – except the bits that live isolate in the heads of the Romantic Christians, that somehow or other arrived there from elsewhere than the Christian patrimony.

To reject “historians” in favor of direct intuition, as Bruce does, is among other things *to reject the historians who wrote the Bible,* which is the very Word of God: the Lógos himself. To reject the altar, as Francis does, is to reject the entire liturgical work of the Church, and the logic – and, indeed, the efficacious economic reality – of sacrifice, ergo of redemption, atonement, and salvation. And to propose that the sins of the hierarchs have ruined the Church in all her manifestations, as Bruce has so often done, is as much as to argue that communal Christian worship is impossible, given all the sinners necessarily involved whenever two or three are gathered together in the Name. It is to suppose that our sins are more powerful than God, so that we sinners can prevent his operations; and that is to demote God from Godhood, instead promoting ourselves above him.

I’m not inventing these conclusions. They are baked into the logic of what the Romantic Christians have themselves written. Until a day or two ago, I had never quite seen these consequences. I much doubt that they had seen them, either. But once you do see them, why there they are, and there is nothing more to be done about it.

The obsolescence of the altar *entails* that church is an utter waste of time. If it has happened, then all those hundreds of millions of Christians who still go to church are simply deluded. The repudiation of all Christian writers as merely second hand reportage *entails* the rejection of the Bible, and all other Christian writing (including that of the Romantic Christians, by the way). And if the sins of the hierarchs ruin the church, why then there cannot be, and has never been, a church to begin with; for, she was founded upon the “rock” of a thrice professed apostate and a company of disciples who ran away from the civil authorities.

I know the Romantic Christians are men of good will, and lovers of Christ. I know they don’t *want* to be enemies of the Body and Word of Christ. I wish all this were not so. But it is.

I would close by saying to the Romantic Christians: “Dude! You are *not smarter* than all the saintly sapient Christians who came before you. Don’t jump off the boat into the sea! Stay aboard with us, and help us fix the leaks in her hull and the mess in her rigging! But, if you are determined to jump ship, well then, for God’s sake, get on with it and stop preaching mutiny.”

66 thoughts on “On Branding Romantic Christians Enemies of Christianity

  1. Tradition is the sum of “Me here now” moments experienced by Christians since the time of Christ. To discount tradition in favor of my *personal* “me here now” moment is to suppose myself closer to Christ than the Apostles, which is incoherent on its face. This is not to suggest that only the apostles could be close to Christ, but only the Apostles received instructions from him regarding the first days of the Church. To discount tradition is to suppose your “me here now” moments are somehow special and better than someone elses. Who decides whose “me here now” moment counts?

    The structures of the Church are not arbitrary either. If they were arbitrary, they could be thrown away without a second thought–they don’t serve a purpose and serve to distract rather than focus the mind on God. But it is not so: everything has a purpose. Everything. Even the Bells have names (https://wdtprs.com/2021/10/just-too-cool-traditional-consecration-or-baptism-of-a-new-bell/). If one doesn’t understand why we have something or do something, there’s an answer waiting for us.

    The structure of the Church–from the hierarchical structure to the literal stonework to the rites and practices of the Mass to every word we say in public or private prayer–everything has a purpose. To look at the Church, not see or not understand that purpose, and consequently to wish to change all that is to either not understand the faith or to desire to actively subvert it. Given that we should never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity, I will assume they just don’t understand.

    But there is a purpose for everything, and an answer to every question. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you. If you see a doorway, don’t assume it’s a wall and brick it in. Knock. There’s room for all of us inside, come on in, brothers! But, please do knock first.

    • Yes! The Church is capacious, and a cornucopia. Everything the Romantics want has been present in her from the start, and has been throughout all the crises that have again and again beset her: married Popes, competing Popes, Arian Patriarchs, Arian Emperors, Arian invaders, schisms, persecutions, heretic Popes, plagues, pagan and Muslim invasions, raiders, and conquests, internal hot wars over doctrinal quibbles that look to us today … well, like quibbles; on and on. You want your direct participation, your final participation, your coinherence, your gods and angels, your deification, your mystical ascents, your private revelations, and so forth? All of it, and more, is to be found in the Church. No need to strike out into the wilderness on your own. The Desert Fathers, the Athonites, and the Trappists are already there, in well-established eremitical institutes and monasteries.

      PS: One quibble: rather than, “the Tradition is the sum of “Me here now” moments experienced by Christians since the time of Christ,” I would say that it is the integral of those moments.

  2. I’m not sure the Romantics are saying that church-goers are deluded and wasting their time. I think they are saying that they themselves find church-going unprofitable, and the arguments for mandatory church-going unpersuasive. I have not studied their writings minutely, but I don’t recall them mocking church-goers, or arguing that the evolution of human consciousness had rendered church-going an abomination.

    Romantic Christianity certainly entails spiritual risks for individuals and the body of Christ. But so does obedience to human hierarchs and antique forms. Intuitionism, or what they used to call enthusiasm, also entails spiritual risks. But so does an antiquarian dependence on inherited books and ordinances. The New Testament must be accorded primacy, but everything else is just works by men no better (on average) than ourselves. As you know, living philosophy is found in living heads and not in old books, although old books are useful as manure for living philosophy. Living faith works the same way.

    • I’m not sure the Romantics are saying that church-goers are deluded and wasting their time. … I have not studied their writings minutely, but I don’t recall them mocking church-goers, or arguing that the evolution of human consciousness had rendered church-going an abomination.

      They certainly do not say any such things as these, nor do I think for a moment that they would think them for a moment. But they do say that church is illegitimate and obsolete. It follows that church is pointless, a waste of time and resources. Indeed, if Bruce is right that our private idiosyncratic intuitions ought to trump the Christian patrimony as handed down to us in a living spiritual and theological tradition over 2,000 years, then we ought to stop wasting time and attention on the Tradition, the Magisterium, and the teaching authority of the Church, and each just … make stuff up on our own that seems right to us, ad libitum. That would entail that we jettison inherited books and ordinances altogether.

      Think about how that proposal would work out when carried into practice in any other department of human life. Take geography, for example: what would happen to it if all the geographers were to jettison all the work of all other geographers, relying only upon their own original observations and hunches? Would there then be such a thing as geography, or would there rather be only a few men who, feeling their way about the landscape like everyone else, took unusual note of this or that feature thereof as they crept along, with no idea what they might next encounter?

      For “geography,” substitute the denotation of any field of human activity whatsoever: carpentry, bicycling, physics, civil engineering, you name it. It’s nonsense! It makes the wokeist demolition of all things prior to this morning look like rank conservatism.

      It’s a false dichotomy. We don’t need to choose between the Tradition on the one hand and on the other intuition (and innovation). Indeed, we are in big trouble if we choose only one, and not the other. So, in reality, we *can’t* make that false choice. *Everyone who thinks about any advanced topic* lives by some old books. In Bruce’s case, it’s the books of Tolkien, Steiner, Arkle, Smith, & alii. And *every such an one* reads some old books *and then (even under the tutelage of some master) forms his own understanding,* which in the nature of things is wont to generate some novel insights.

      It is by living religion in living heads that a religion carries on coherently from one generation to the next, so that there is to it a Tradition. But if we toss out the Tradition, we toss out the religion, and it’s every man a priest in a religion of one, starting, all of them, from scratch, and each of them idiotically replicating all the errors of his forefathers.

      Were the books we still study that are centuries old really written by men no better on average than we? I kind of doubt it. I doubt anybody is going to be reading my stuff in ten years, let alone ten hundred. I used to think Aristotle got metaphysics all wrong, and I knew better … back when I was a sophomore.

      • The answer, so far as I can see it, is a truly catholic church that has room for mystics, seers, and other assorted religious oddballs. Maybe some of these religious oddballs only turn up from time to time. Why is there such tremendous elasticity and syncretism when it comes to making some tribe of premodern primitives comfortable, but a rigid one-size-fits all rigorism when a postmodern individualist lets down his hair? The Romantics are not proposing to take over the seminaries or rewrite the catechism.

        As it so happens, geography was taken over by a new breed that jettisoned everything written before 1970 or so. In their view, the great old geographers and explorers are objects of censure and contempt. This is a bad business, but I can very well see how many perfectly decent geographers might not share my interest in the great old geographers and explorers.

      • A truly catholic Church: yes, exactly! As I already remarked to Scoot, all that the Romantics want is already present somewhere or other in the Tradition … this being the reason that their heroes (Tolkien, Lewis, Barfield, & alii) were Christian. Like Guénon, for Pete’s sake, who ended Muslim only in virtue of his chthonic foundation in Christendom. Romantic Christianity is Christian to begin with only because it sprang from Christian roots. It could not have sprung from any others. And there is little in it (the Mormon metaphysics, say, which demote YHWH, the Holy Spirit and El Elyon from their Godhood, properly so called; but then, Mormon metaphysics are not after all essential to Romantic Christianity) that has not been long accommodated in the Magisterium or the Orders.

        The present hierarchs are doing their best to snuff out all that, of course. They want to evacuate the Church of her Tradition, and so of her oecumene, leaving behind only the nihilism and pabulum of modernity (Because why? Because gay sex, that’s why; oh, and demons: them, too.), rather than to fill her out by the ancient evangelical method of subsuming her partial instantiations and foreshadows in a more catholic and more transcendent unity. Anglicanorum Coetibus, e.g., is their worst nightmare. Full communion with the dour stringent Orthodox would spell the doom of all their modernizing ilk. God send it, and that right soon. May the Patriarchs please, o please, right now offer full communion with Rome! Rome could hardly refuse. And the Great Reunion would heal so many problems, in both lungs of the Church. Rome could adjudicate among the contentious autocephalous patriarchs with fairly pure disinterest, and so with charitable rigor toward all; meanwhile the Athonist party so active (at least sub rosa) in all the Patriarchates would deal the Jesuits and other pink fifth columnists in the Vatican a stiff blow, calling them back to their roots. If we could but reel in the Copts in the same stroke, o, what a trifecta!

        Sorry, I wax … something or other. Enthusiastic, I suppose; Gates of Hell, and all that.

        As to your remarks about the collapse of geography since you got started in it, I understand from what you have elsewhere said just how profound it is. And I sympathize. No field has been immune from such … absurdities. In my own field of finance, it is ESG that on the one hand is all the fashion, among rich liberal customers and so among those who hope to gain their business, and on the other *directly contravenes the fiduciary duty of all investment advisors to the true economic interests of their clients.* Nobody in my business wants to talk about this. But as sure as the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, we can be sure that there will be some massive court cases that will bring that chicken home to roost. Thank God.

        But now – back to geography – suppose that the wokeist geographers repudiated *even each other.* That is the reductio ad absurdum to which the intuition only camp, as lately championed by our old friend Bruce, inevitably tends. It can’t work. It forestalls work as such. It leaves us all clueless strangers wandering a strange land, each fending miserably and alone for ourselves. It spells the death of communion – which is to say, for Christians, of church – and, so, of society per se. A grim prospect, to be sure.

      • We are told that the later days will be a time of division. Matthew 24:10–“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” This is actually something the Romantics understand very well, and is the deep ground of the Covid critique. Some will see acquiescence to the lockdowns and think “no big deal.” Others will think, “a very big deal, indeed.” And what remains is a division. We are told that the later days there will be no safety in the old holy places. Matthew 24:15–“When ye therefore see the abomination of desolation . . . stand in the holy place (who so readeth, let him understand).” Perhaps the reformation you describe will occur, but if it does not occur, then is not an abomination standing in the holy place? We are instructed to “head for the hills” in the later days. Matthew 24:16–“Then let them which be in Judah flee into the mountains.” It appears that many who head for the hills in the later days will be eaten by wolves, but so will many who congregate in what they believe are true churches. Matthew 24:23–“Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe it not.”

    • JM, I’ve benefited for your writings on this blog for a number of years, but you have to see that this idea of individual believers “finding church-going unprofitable” is dangerous nonsense. Any individual believer, including the Pope, steps beyond his competency when he presumes to judge on supernatural matters (such as the necessity of the Sacraments or the Creed) by his own lights. That believer has ultimately replaced faith in Christ, his apostles, and the Church he founded upon St. Peter, with faith in himself, and his own “living philosophy.”

      Of course, it is tautological that Christ speaks with individual believers outside the formal structures of the Church. St. Paul was murdering Christians before his direct conversion. But, if circumstances do not thwart it, Jesus leads the individual believers into the common life of corporate worship. St. Paul returned to Jerusalem to learn the faith from the apostles and other disciples before venturing out to preach Christ Crucified. Just because obedience to authority doesn’t itself produce the life of grace, does not mean it is not a part of the life of grace.

      I think every Catholic who reads this blog has much sympathy with your disgust with the current hierarchs. But not so much disgust that we would reject the goodness and necessity of authority, tradition and mediation in the supernatural life.

      • Thanks for your years as a reader. Every individual judges on every matter by his own lights, although many will, by their own lights, decide to delegate decision-making to a higher authority. I am guided in all of my automobile maintenance decisions by my mechanic, but I made the initial decision to trust the mechanic, and not myself, by my own light. And were certain things to happen, I would, by my own light, decide that my mechanic was no longer trustworthy. Someone has obviously presumed to judge on the necessity of the Sacraments and the Creed, but you and I must judge the credibility of these judges. Submitting to the Church is just as much of an individual judgment as not submitting to the Church.

        I would say Jesus leads most individual believers into the common life of corporate worship, but there have always been a few whom he leads to a solitary life in the desert. St. Anthony, for instance. Some Christians are naturally gregarious and others much less so.

      • JM, I have avoided “confronting” you in the comments about your decision, and I don’t propose to begin now. You know I have tremendous respect for you and appreciation for your contributions at the Orthosphere and your engagement on my blog, even from the earliest days (literally–you commented on some of my first articles after I began writing), and your encouragement helped me to continue my writing and your discussion helped fuel my thinking and writing. Your personal influence on me has been tremendous and I don’t want to besmirch that by antagonizing you on this topic. Your decision is yours, and farbeit from me to suggest you are incapable of making your own decisions on this matter.

        However. Whatever your reasons, on behalf of the Church, in case no one has said this yet: Please come back. You said to me once on my blog that if our mind is in a rut, the best thing to do is to “brush off the chicken crumbs” (lol) and go for a walk. If our body is tired, the best thing we can do is keep our mind active. You described this as a dialectic approach or “tacking”.

        The same is true with our faith. Whatever has scandalized you, hurt you, offended you, whatever has made you feel not valued, whatever reasoning you used to objectively assess the value of the decision and cease attending Mass, whatever internal processes they were–if you give a little, you will gain back more. God gave his life for you, personally, and would have if you were the only human ever to exist. A begrudging hour of your time, even if you hate every minute of it, will do wonders–whether you feel it or not. It will do wonders for you, I guarantee it, by mere virtue of your presence. But it will also do wonders for the body of the Church, which needs you and needs your presence and the graces which God has given you to share with the body. If I was more proximate I would offer to join you for Mass, but I do promise that in a future trip to your neck of the woods (which will happen for unrelated reasons, there are friends in the area who are due a visit) I will reach out and offer.

        But I reiterate: Please come back. We need you in the Phalanx and I am sorry that you felt you weren’t needed, weren’t wanted, or weren’t in good hands.

      • I appreciate your kind words and your assurance that I have not fallen into what you might call, if you were Hillary Clinton, your “bin of deplorables.” I hope you understand that I have not left the Church, nor am I making myself a thorn in the side of my parish. I may very well resume attendance some day. One of my sons has just moved to a city with a parish that celebrates the Latin mass, and my wife and I will probably start visiting him and attending mass every month or so. In my experience, a man who “hates every minute” of a religious exercise will soon begin to hate the religion itself. If I am forced to sit in an uncomfortable chair, I will soon begin to think dark thoughts about the men who made the chair and are forcing me to sit in it. I understand the dangers of laxity, but forcing people to “eat their [religious] spinach” is a surefire way to force them out of the Church. If you were exercising and your knee began to hurt, I’d say you should lay off running and work on something else. If some facet of Christian discipline starts making you feel hollow or angry, I’d say you should leave it alone. Otherwise you run the very real risk of turning a limited and transitory distaste into a comprehensive and permanent repugnance. I was an nonbeliever for twenty years for this very reason.

        As I have mentioned in answer to many concerned queries, I do not now spend Sunday morning eating fried chicken on the couch. For the past three years I have been leading a Bible study for disillusioned Catholics who had very nearly cut their ties with the Church for good. They are all now far less inclined to cut those ties. I know the clericalists will say that I have no authority to lead such a study, to which I can only respond that the alternative to my Bible study is no Bible study at all. None of them would be at mass if they were not with me. These are all cradle Catholics who had, until now, been taught nothing at all.

        I have faithfully observed the sacrament of Christian marriage for thirty years, which is a good deal more than can be said for some regular pew-sitters I could mention. I’ve willingly suffered some mild persecution for the work I do here at the Orthosphere, and I’d like to think that my writing has helped one or two pilgrims on their way. These are some of the things I am doing, and that many others are not. I do not pester them to do exactly as I do, and I think they extend the same charity to me. When they do pester me, my own charity diminishes. When that happens, I say leave it alone. The Christianity of both parties is diminished by a quarrel.

  3. And if the sins of the hierarchs ruin the church, why then there cannot be, and has never been, a church to begin with; for, she was founded upon the “rock” of a thrice professed apostate and a company of disciples who ran away from the civil authorities.

    The sins of the hierarchs do not ruin the Church. However, I must point out that this is because the Rock upon which the Church is founded is none other than Christ Jesus Himself, at least according to the most common patristic understanding of Matthew 16:13-20. That is why the Church has endured, and will continue to endure, despite the failings of its ministers. It is also why the Donatists, and their modern equivalents, were/are wrong.

    • Christ is the chief cornerstone, to be sure; absolutely. Otherwise, the Church would not be his Body, but that of some other. Yet there is more than one stone in any foundation. He had to work with the living stones with whom he had to work.

    • The natural reading of Matthew 16:18 is–“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [the faithful one], and upon this rock [of faith] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it [shall not imprison the faithful in hell]. This is obvious from the fact that Peter has just made the first full confession of faith in 16:16. The sins of the hierarchy do may not utterly ruin this church, but the scandal of their sins most certainly diminishes it. The Roman Catholic Church is on solid ground when it insists that faith is evidenced in works (“fruits”), and that faith without works is a barren tree, but it cannot exempt itself from those same judgement. It was a gnostic trick to claim that a mystical inner sanctity was preserved while the external body wallowed in sin. If the sins of the hierarchy do not diminish the Church, may I not say that the sins of my flesh do not diminish the sins of my spirit?

      • As the holiness of holy evangels magnifies in the world the Word, and thus his power in it to save, so, certainly, the sins of the heirarchs do indeed diminish the Church, and the power of the Word. It’s just that they can’t overpower God, who is the Spirit of the Church and the life thereof. A fortiori, while they can certainly sicken and weaken her, no sins of her members can ruin the Church, or obviate her, or render her obsolescent, as the Romantic Christians have averred that the latest sins of the hierarchs definitely do.

        The Church does not depend upon us her ministers, but vice versa.

        It is indeed a gnostic trick to excuse sin by an appeal to an untouchable inward sanctity (albeit that, in the presence of unrepented sin, there can be in fact no wholly true inward sanctity, but rather only a Pharisaic show thereof and pretention thereto – an inefficacious good intention, that leads to hell); *and* it is a Pelagian and Donatist heresy to suppose that the Body of God can be ruined, obviated or obsolesced by any other body whatever. To suppose that such a thing could be possible is to elevate the creature above his Creator.

        The Church will be with us until the end of the age; until the end of man, i.e., if not of the cosmos: Matthew 28:20.

        As usual with such controversies, this latest tiff of mine with the Romantic Christians comes down to a couple fine distinctions. They argue that some sins of the hierarchs ruin the Church, which was anyway obsolesced by lots more spiritual development in man, that made her unnecessary. All I’m arguing is that the sins of the hierarchs don’t altogether ruin the Church, in any of her instantiations; and that she can’t be construed as obsolescent without construing the words of Christ as obsolescent, which is tantamount to throwing Christianity per se out the window.

        The fine distinctions I propose are two: first, that defect is not utter ruination (if it were, we’d all be dead already); second, that however much man evolves his spiritual capacities, he will ever be a sinner, whose lights are darkened by sin, so that he shall stand ever in need of some church, to correct his errors. Religious free lancers are almost always lost sheep, rather than adepts like Saint Anthony or Saint Francis, and are therefore liable to be devoured by the wolves. *Every* spiritual tradition has insisted as much.

  4. I’ve been reading the Romantic Christian blogs for some time now and I’ve not seen any indication in previous or recent writings that they view the church as illegitimate in its entirety. They are offering a critique of how recent leadership, and leadership trends, have caused many churches to stray from right teaching. They advocate that in this lack of leadership, individual faith is necessary. Christ is a living being that speaks to us, and we are to listen to Christ above a leadership that has faltered. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in being in communion with the church body, or that Christian scholars, or historians, shouldn’t be listened to, but that ultimately you should test this all within the context of your direct relationship with Christ. This is necessary for bettering the church and building up the leaders of tomorrow, and by no means is antagonistic to Christianity. I think you are in error and should slow down, take better stock of the subject matter you are speaking of, and rectify your mistaken judgments.

    • Thanks, SabaMesa. There is much in what you say, and indeed I feel sure that it reflects the feelings of the Romantic Christians. They don’t want or intend to reject Christianity per se, or the Church. They rather intend to criticise her here or there, without altogether rejecting her.

      But, that is what they do.

      They have written what they have written: the Church is illegitimate, humanity has evolved beyond her, and our private intuitions are to be preferred to anything she has in any of her evangelists ever said.

      That is pretty much that. They have written these things. They are tantamount to a rejection of the entire Christian patrimony, including the Bible. What else is there to say?

      • Where can you point me to as evidence of these claims? What I have read speaks of developing discernment to, as Charlton out it, “learn those churches, teachings, histories which are in accord with truth, and help these aims – and learn to detect and reject those which are not”. Basically, think for yourself about what the church is telling you and decide if it’s true, and help churches which speak truth.

        If you can point to where these claims are actually made by all means let me know, but I have not seen this.

        Also, Romantic Christianity as I see it is about much more than how to is being described in these criticisms. It has to do with the philosophical legacy of romanticism, the ideas of original and final participation as described by Barfield, and much more. It is a very deep topic and the characterizations of it I’ve been reading are straw men at best.

        The writings of these bloggers, and more so the lineage of authors that inspired them, has helped me intensely and is largely responsible for reinvigorating my faith in Jesus to a faith that is alive and active. I have also been reading the Orthosphere for many years, and this blog has been a blessing, but these attacks have soiled my confidence in this blog. I see it as beneath itself, and in such a time as these both “sides” hould be in cooperation. I’ll keep following this debate with an open mind, but while I mean no disrespect, as of now I am only dissapointed in the Orthosphere.

      • From Francis Berger on the previous thread here. Emphasis mine. https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2022/07/24/on-finding-the-true-way-to-life/#comments

        I must say, I find it rather fascinating and revelatory that we Romantic Christians, who regard churches as secondary considerations at most, are more appalled by the church closures and the spiritual damage this has inflicted on tradition than our traditional brethren who consider churches to be primary.

        Trads would also do well to rely less on externals — which are being subverted, inverted, and destroyed as we speak, often by the very people who claim to defend and uphold the mainstream/tradition — and internally-validate their faith within their hearts and perhaps realize that *that* — shock of all shocks — matters more than the 2,000 year-old-tradition.

        Romantic Christians are not against church-going, but we are against blind obedience to external authority — which includes blind obedience to religious authority. Christians must possess a strong inner compass in this time and place. Their Christianity must be internally-validated and internally-motivated, and this should take precedence over adhering to external considerations such as church choices, tradition, religious authority, hierarchies, etc.

        The consequence of putting the Church second to individual notions of religion is chaos. They view the Church, the hierarchy, etc, as instruments of faith, and nothing more. I can pick up my rosary just as easily as I can pick up grandmothers crucifix necklace. I can attend Mass as easily as I can read scriptures at home. The romantics view these acts as all equivalent, and they simply are not. As I point out to Francis in the previous thread–the top of the RCC Hierarchy is not the Pope, but God Himself and all authority of the Church flows from Him. To reject religious authority as Francis Berger explicitly states in the above quotes, just is to reject God.

        The articles by Francis and Dr. Charlton and others linked by the Orthosphere posts probably say more things than that, but I have confined my quote selection to comments made in these threads which are alarming enough on their own.

      • Thank you for taking the time to respond. In the quote you cited he clearly says he’s not against church attendance, just in blind obedience without thinking for yourself about whether or not the church is speaking truth. For example in my area there are churches that display pride flags outside, I disagree with them and do not submit to their authority, and I do so out of my own discernment.

        This is what you should do. Don’t blindly follow.

        This definitely isn’t rejecting God to use the gifts of discernment we are given, to suggest so is wildly misrepresenting his statement. If you are not aware that you are misrepresenting it, then ok, but if you are then it would be lying. I’ll assume you are unaware of your misrepresentation, and I am not accusing you of this and mean no disrespect, but I do see this as a blatant misrepresentation whether done innocently or not, and people will be influenced by this misrepresention which is not good.

        Branding Romantic Christianity as enemies of Christianity is extremely short sighted, inflammatory, and a demonstration of a lack of wisdom. Retractions should be issued.

        Maybe this disagreement is simply because I am more of a protestant. I value many aspects of Orthodoxy, which I reckon is the authority you believe should be submitted to, but I do not recognize any infallibility in the hierarchy. Only you can make your heart right with God, and simply following the mandates of others will not do it for you.

        Again, no disrespect intended, but I feel it necessary to strongly state the errors being made for the good of others.

      • No disrespect received, and I hope you will not take my response to you in a disrespectful spirit either.

        This is the fundamental challenge of ecumenism, and I say this more as a thinking out loud than directed specifically at you. I am a Roman Catholic. I believe the Roman Catholic Church is true, and all that that implies. If I did not believe the RCC were true I would believe something else, and probably would believe that was true.

        You are not Roman Catholic–that’s fine (for now–I pray that you join the RCC too 😉 )

        But you see, speaking for myself, the suggestion that the Church Hierarchy is invalid and is not a good steward of Truth contravenes the Roman Catholic orthodoxy, which I believe is true. That suggestion is then contra my faith, contra my understanding of God, and attacks a deeply rooted precept of the Church. You, as a non Roman Catholic, perhaps see nothing wrong with this, but to me it just is an attack on God and an attack on Christianity. It is a difficult line to walk: I am obligated, in charity, to listen thoughtfully to what you (or anyone else) have to say. I am obligated, in faith, to reject the things you (or anyone else) say that run afoul of orthodoxy.

        I hope you understand how this is a challenging line to walk.

        Speaking for myself, Francis’ suggestion that Church authority is insufficient as a means to salvation runs afoul of orthodoxy. Like I have said, it is God himself at the top of Church hierarchy–to reject the Church is to reject God, full stop.

        Perhaps it is unusual, but my discernment is not particularly good or special, and that is why in matters of faith I doff my cap to my religious authorities and accept their edicts. It simplifies my life in that I no longer have to worry about a great many things which the Church, in her wisdom, has opined on. Evidence that my discernment is not particularly good is that I was an Anglican for many years and it took a lot of convincing and heartache for me to accept the wisdom of the Church.

        Using God’s gift of discernment is indeed a good thing, but it needs a guiding measure. If you and I agree to build a house, but you use SabaMesa Metric and I use Scoot Metric and we both agree to measure this particular wall to be 2 meters, but we can’t agree on what a meter is, we cannot build a house together. Ad gustibus non est disputandum–about taste there is no disputing. There’s no comparison between your discernment of some good and my discernment of some good, and so that is why there must by necessity be some metric outside of yourself and myself to help us discern what is Good, True, and Beautiful. Otherwise it’s a matter of taste. I can’t argue your taste is wrong, but I can argue whether or not you are orthodox.

        So the discernment point is a very important pivot on Francis’ argument and perhaps Bruce’s as well, and the fact that it runs afoul of orthodoxy means that it cannot be accepted and does in fact put them at odds with the Church. It is not a small claim they are making–it is rather essential to their whole argument.

        I am open to correction and perhaps Kristor or others would point out where I have spoken incorrectly or uncharitably, but this is the challenge as I see it.

      • I guess this is a disagreement that fundamentally goes all the way back to the reformation, and perhaps this is just the same thing in a different form.

        I wouldn’t label myself as a Romantic Christian per se, but I do sympathize with many of their views and have great respect for their insight. Even if there is disagreements on which branch of Christianity we all belong to, it is very damming and incindiary to call fellow Christians whom you have doctrinal differences with enemies of Christianity. I would never say this of Roman Catholics or followers of Orthodoxy. I understand that we are all followers of Christ, and we may have intense debates about doctrine, but to take it upon ourselves to damn the other as you are doing by branding these people enemies of Christianity in error and I believe is truly a sin. You took your disagreement too in saying this. For this, you should make reconciliation. A blog post retracting some of your statements would be the right thing to do.

        I’ve examined the argument of recognizing the authority of the papacy, and I simply do not believe that it makes sense, and to follow it even though my conscious tells me it’s wrong would be dishonest. I am no enemy of Christianity for this. When time permits I’ll probably look into theological arguments some more, but my heart genuine in my convictions.

        To those who do believe in the Papacy, I assume it’s generally out of good faith unless proven otherwise. I do not think they are enemies of Christianity.

      • This perfectly illustrates the dangers of ecumenism. Protestants, whose belief includes individual discernment, feel no disturbance when comingling with other beliefs, because discernment is an individual act. “Who are we,” a hypothetical protestant may ask, “to judge the discernment of another?”

        Roman Catholics ever fall into this trap. By believing there is an objective and absolute nature of Truth, of God, and consequently being willing to say that some belief is true and some other belief is false, we are the only ones telling anyone “no”. “How could you?” a hypothetical protestant may ask, “we were getting along in fellowship just fine until you said my belief–that the Pope isn’t a valid authority–was false.”

        SabaMesa: you will note, and please note carefully, that I have condemned no one and I do not condemn anyone. Furthermore: I do not believe certain romantic christians are filled with ill will or evil intent. I have a great respect for their thought and a deep and personal understanding of the quest for truth which I believe them to be on. I believe they have, in all goodwill and with an earnest desire for truth, found themselves on the wrong side of Roman Catholic Orthodoxy. It should not offend them for me to say so–it is a simple acknowledgement of the state of things. They are not, and do not profess to be, on the right side of Roman Catholic Orthodoxy. If they desire to be both Orthodox and Romantic, it is a conflict of terms.

        You are welcome to your beliefs and I am sure you came by them honestly. They are not mine and you should not ask me to accept or express approval of your beliefs which contravene my own; nor should you ask me to apologize for or retract any comments which express my own beliefs. If you describe yourself as a protestant, you should know this already, without my saying so. If this is a surprise to you, I am sorry to be the one to tell you.

      • This idea that all Protestants are wild individualists is no more fair than the idea that Catholics pray to statues. Of course some Protestants do have idiosyncratic readings of scripture, and some Catholics do pray to statues, but there is substantial agreement across most Protestant denominations. Christians of all sorts should stop slandering each other with false myths. There is honestly very, very little disagreement between Catholic and Protestant interpretations of scripture.

      • Nothing you said is a surprise to me, I’ve simply lost respect for you. The easiest way to make enemies is to call them enemies. All you have accomplished is creating disorder and division in a place that was previously a place of spiritual refuge, and for that you should be ashamed. I see you as someone who has told a serious lie and distorted the truth, and you’re far from the first person to do this. I don’t know why you have chosen this path, but as a person in your position will be held to a higher level of accountability than most. I can read between the lines in your writing, as can others. While I initially wanted to think the best of you, but I was mistaken in doing so. Farewell, I do not wish to hear any more from you.

      • @ SabaMesa: All that you have discerned in Romantic Christianity is really there; so much have I myself discerned. There is much in it that is of tremendous value, and the Romantic Christians I read every day are brilliant, righteous, and indeed godly minds, to whom I bear the utmost respect.

        This is why I was so horrified – for their sake – when at last I reckoned the logical consequences of some of their recent statements about the church, and about her Tradition – about Christianity as she has been manifest in the world for 2,000 years. It is why I did not then refrain from stating in plain and dire terms those consequences, so that the Romantic Christians – and such of their other admirers as you – would understand exactly what they were getting themselves into.

        In short, I am not the one who is branding Romantic Christianity as inimical to Christianity properly so called. The Romantic Christians are themselves declaring their adversary relation to the whole Christian tradition (and Tradition). I am but the one who has happened to notice that this is what they have done, perhaps even before they noticed it themselves.

        I feel quite certain that the Romantic Christians are just as horrified as I am at the notion that they are at odds with Christianity as such. I think that the last thing that they would all want is to find that they have made themselves enemies of the Christian project – which, after all, is *exactly the project they most want to support!*

        But it is important for all of us to be quite clear about the consequences and meanings of our acts, especially those we take in relation to matters of what Tillich called Ultimate Concern.

        I would not have been driven to my recent crisis of confidence in, and so then to my careful attention to, the implications of Romantic Christianity, had it not been for some recent posts by the Romantic Christians I follow, whom I take to be among the palmary evangelists of the movement, if such it may be called. To wit:

        Francis Berger proposed that the altar has been superseded, and with it by extension the entire edifice of the liturgy, in all its logic and beauty; Bruce Charlton and Francis Berger both suggested that the most recent sins of the hierarchs – by no means the worst in the history of the Church – rendered her radically illegitimate; and Bruce Charlton wrote that the evolution of human consciousness had rendered all prior revelations communicated in the Church irrelevant per se, so superfluous.

        These three assertions render the Church, in all her instantiations – even the Nestorian and Arian instantiations, forsooth! – completely null, soteriologically. They make of the Church no more than a mere appurtenance, a tool, as it were a magical spell, of each individual’s untrammeled will. They therefore negate *the entire Christian project from its very beginning in First Principles.* Which is of course the radical renunciation of our own wills – and, NB, of our private intuitions, wants, hopes, suppositions, what have you – in favor of the Will of God. For Heaven’s sake, it’s right there in the first sentences of the Lord’s Prayer!

        The verymost basic … intuition … of Christianity is that we ought above all things to submit our own private … whatever … indeed everything whatever … to God.

        The consequence of the Romantic Christian rejection of all tradition in favor of private intuition (that cannot of course be given at all except under the corruption of our Original Sin) is that church is just over, done with, gone. And that is a direct contradiction of what God has said to us about her in Matthew 16:15-20, and, conjointly, Matthew 28:18-20.

        Excursus: Let’s be clear about this. The fact that the Church *cannot be anywise undone,* by any Earthly means whatever, entails that the Great Schism and the Reformation, and all other such disagreements (as with the Mormons, or the 7th Day Adventists, or the Christian Scientists, or whomsoever) as have riven her, with all their horrid noisy painful schismatic consequences, are when push comes to shove neither here nor there. It does not mean that the ardent righteous faithful 7th Day Adventists, e.g., are going to Hell. It means that they are almost certainly going to Heaven!

        Nulla salus extra ecclesiam. Yes. Who decides who is extra ecclesiam? That’s right. Not me, not you, and not the hierarchy, but the Holy Spirit. So, ergo, I doubt not that most of the Romantic Christians will end up in Heaven. My hope is that I am myself faithful enough, and true, to arrive there with them.

        I bid then the Romantic Christians to return to the fold, and present themselves at a suitable altar – the measure of that suitability being, of course, in part (but *only in part*) a function of their honest discernment, as given to them ab origino by the Holy Spirit (so that their discernment is itself in the final analysis of *and from* the Church, who is Christ himself) – to pledge their humble fealty *and obedience* to the Body of God.

        In fine: I didn’t *make* the Romantic Christians enemies of the Christian project, or just *call* them that, as if I were engaged in playground games. All I did was notice the logical consequences of what *they themselves had written.*

      • Kristor:

        Nulla salus extra ecclesiam. Yes. Who decides who is extra ecclesiam? That’s right. Not me, not you, and not the hierarchy, but the Holy Spirit. So, ergo, I doubt not that most of the Romantic Christians will end up in Heaven.

        I appreciate that this was an excursus, and not your main point; still, there is something disproportionate about how concerned you are with where the Romantics have placed their flag in relation to the Church and what you say above.

        If everyone’s going to Heaven anyways, what’s to be concerned about? And then why did the Church go to the trouble to warn people that outside of her there is no salvation if we can’t even tell what being within the Church is?

      • There is no mystery who is in Christ’s Church. Christ tells us in Matthew 7. It is those who bear fruits, not religious braggarts and drama queens. It is not for us to indict others on these charges, but to ask ourselves in all honesty, how much of my faith is just boasting and vain show.

        “(19) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (20) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

      • @ Buckyinky:

        I appreciate that this was an excursus, and not your main point; still, there is something disproportionate about how concerned you are with where the Romantics have placed their flag in relation to the Church and what you say above.

        It’s a tricky topic, that requires a careful distinction or two. The Church is an operation of God, but it is not his only operation. And because God is simple, all of him is wherever any of him is. So if God saves a man despite his rejection of Church authority, but on account of his faith, why then God has operated in him; ergo, the Church has operated in him, and he is within the Church. Again, because God is ubiquitous, there is in the final analysis no such thing as being outside the Church.

        What do these metaphysical realities imply about the significance of going to Church, the importance thereof, and so forth? Well, while God can save whomsoever he likes, regardless of their attendance at Church or a fortiori of their mindfulness and heartfulness in partaking the liturgy, he founded the Church so that, if people did properly attend and intend her sacraments, and (per JM Smith’s point about the fruits of faith) persist in holiness to the end, they would have a sure and certain Way of attaining salvation. Church is the Way to the top of the mountain that, we can be sure, will certainly lead us there, provided we stay on the path – which is narrow, and steep!

        A man who is outside the Church can get to the top of the mountain by another path, or a path of his own making. But all the other ways to the top of the mountain are at least as narrow and steep as the Way of the Church, and lots of them lead off into disastrous deeps or disgusting foetid swamps; most of them peter out in confusion, and the wayfarer ends up lost.

        So, Church is immensely valuable to the pilgrim. Not only is her Way sure, but she is replete with lots of saintly sapient guides, who know the Way intimately, and who are ready to help. Unfortunately, she is also chock full of bogus wannabe guides, who (with all the best intentions, I’m sure) strow scandals in the Way, that trip up the pilgrims and cause them to stumble, or even stray off the path, like lost sheep. Some such purported self appointed guides even lead pilgrims off the path, and to their destruction. Not all of them are human.

        The Romantic Christians argue – as have many others before them – that, as beset with false guides, and thus imperfect, the Church is fundamentally illegitimate. Now, they might not mean to argue the consequence of that proposition, but it does ineluctably follow: if the Church is *fundamentally* illegitimate, it follows that *it is no longer a Way to the top of the mountain.* It is rather a false path, *and probably ought to be avoided.*

        Given all the hazards of the mystical ascent, that threaten us always on every side no matter what we do, and no matter which path we have chosen, or are seeking, the Romantic Christian emphasis on careful discernment is absolutely correct. It is after all Christianity 101; indeed, it is Life 101. But, because the Romantic Christians have lately and altogether dispensed with the option of relying upon Church authority, and upon the many wise and holy guides thereof (who are together that authority; who as a cloud of witnesses constitute the Magisterium, and the Matter of the Tradition), the discernment left to them – and us – turns out to be discernment *about bushwhacking up the mountain,* blazing a trail of one’s own on the basis of intuitive dead reckoning.

        I’ve been a professional outdoorsman; a professional guide, forsooth. I’ve done a lot of bushwhacking over the years. Especially in company with other equally experienced outdoorsmen, it can be fun, and it can work. But the trail is better; is just *so much easier!* The trail is, after all, an artifact of many other bushwhackers, who have come before me, and by dint of bloody heartbreaking effort figured out the best way to go.

        Heck, I’ve discerned trails across miles of naked slickrock first cut by Indians a thousand years ago, and found how well they worked. Game trails and logging roads are great, too. When I am on such a trail, the question is never whether I might be about to fall off, to my death. But when bushwhacking, that is very often the question; the slightest misstep can lead to utter fatal disaster – or, at the least, massive trouble and effort and injury that could easily have been avoided, had I stayed on the trail. Why, once I plucked a branch out of my shin up whence it had been deeply driven, thus exposing the bone, and my fellow boatmen bound the wound with duct tape so that we could all keep on down the mountainside, bushwhacking … OK, OK, I shall not descend into stories of “There I was,” despite how compelling (and often gory) they all are …

        Such danger, and the ascent to extreme competence it necessitates, is I confess an aspect of the fun of bushwhacking. It is fun likewise to be a spiritual free lancer, a ronin, nowise tied by fell fealty to any Lord.

        But I was at my rite of confirmation *deeply relieved* to find myself again on the well trodden Way up the mountain. I chose for my name saints – and patronal guides – Anselm of Canterbury and Clement of Alexandria.

        OK, I’ll stop belaboring that metaphor of the steep and narrow Way, but to repeat: when traversing Mirkwood, *stay on the trail!*

        If everyone’s going to Heaven anyways, what’s to be concerned about? And then why did the Church go to the trouble to warn people that outside of her there is no salvation if we can’t even tell what being within the Church is?

        Not everyone is going to Heaven. Many will Fall off the Way, or never find it. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus is then really just a way of saying, “Dude, if you go it alone, it’s just you, you silly Pelagian; you might make it to the top, but not because you are some sort of natural religious genius (although that can certainly help … or hurt), but only by dumb luck and the Grace of God.”

        God does operate in the sacraments. And he operates everywhere else, to be sure. But, the latter fact was of no help to Lucifer, who lives, moves, and has his being in God. So, by God, let’s stick to the sacraments, and to the Tradition which has handed them down to us, along with Scripture, and the Magisterium, and the Cloud of Witnesses.

        Why throw out the baby when we find that the bathwater is filthy?

      • JMSmith, I don’t know what to say to meet you here. It’s clear that you have identified that passage and concept as very important. It’s not clear why you have done so seemingly to the detriment or even the exclusion of other passages. For that matter it’s not clear to me why I should put the same emphasis on Holy Scripture as a whole as you do. It’s a sola scriptura style approach, and I don’t know where to begin with it. Also, it appears you equate being within the Church with assurance of eternal salvation. I don’t equate the two, and I don’t believe the Church does either. One can be in the Church and not be saved in the end.

      • These words are obviously important because they were spoken by the highest authority, they directly address the question we are debating, and they are about as clear as anything in scripture. I, for one, pay attention when Jesus says, “then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me.” Who exactly are “they”? Am I, perhaps, one of “them”? Are “they” Romantic Christians? Protestants? Papists? I am open to alternative readings of this passage, but I think the answer is “none of the above.” “They” are obviously hypocritical Christians who pretend to be Christians with loud declarations (“prophesied in thy name”) and ritual displays (“in thy name have cast out devils”).

        The test of the various forms of Christianity is obviously the “fruit” that is born by the tree. Jesus says the fruit, not who planted it, or how old it is, or how beautiful it is. If it does not bear fruit, chop it down and burn it. If their is some modification of context that makes this mean something other than it appears to mean, please explain what that context is. I’m not taunting you. I’m asking.

        My second question to you is, why are you trying to change the subject with an objection to the abstract doctrine of sola scriptura? Presumably the canonical words of Christ have some weight among those who make exclusive claim to be his Church. The doctrine on your side of this debate would seem to be nolo scriptura, which I translate as “I don’t want scripture.” What I have read from your side of the debate are extremely vague appeals to “Tradition,” “Authority,” and “Church,” all of which are question-begging and none of which have any definite content.

        I am not a bigoted anti-Catholic who says the Roman Catholic Church bears no fruit, although I do say the harvest is not abundant or unique to the Roman Catholic Church. I know excellent Christians who grow on other “trees”–even on the Romantic “tree”–and I am tired of hearing them defamed. Explain to me why Christ was wrong, or why my understanding of Christ is wrong. Either that or show me Catholic “fruit,” beginning with Christian charity.

      • I know there’s somewhat of a free-for-all style in the way these discussions go (and it’s way more your blog than mine to boot), but the original “subject” that I brought up was in the form of a question to Kristor touching on his understanding of EENS. I prefaced my comment to you with something of a doubt that a discussion between us is going to work because of prior assumptions. My observation about sola scriptura flowed from that. It was not meant as an insult or red herring, or even to be provocative.

      • That’s fine. But would you care to take a stab and answering my questions? Do your “prior assumptions” place the authority of the Church or Tradition above the authority of Scripture? I’ve made some clear scriptural arguments about judging “trees” by their “fruits” and the danger of idolizing “wineskins.” What’s been thrown back at me seem like hymns to old trees and old wineskins. I harp on about these things because, if Scripture is anything to go by, any Christian Tradition has to include some chainsaws for removing dead trees, and some leatherworkers to make new wineskins. Might that be the vocation of Romantic Christians?

      • Scripture is an authoritative record of the early Tradition of the Church, and delivered to us by her in these latter days. Scripture is authoritative to begin with only inasmuch as it be the record of the early Tradition of the Church. So, none of the three – Scripture, Tradition, Church – trumps the other; they *are* each other, indeed; and their implication is mutual. In the nature of their relations, what is at odds with Scripture is at odds with the Tradition and with the Church, and vice versa. So Scripture cannot quite be interpreted with due propriety, or accurately, except under the aegis of the Tradition of the Church, and vice versa.

        It is an integral whole.

        This is not to say, NB, that your interpretation of Matthew 7 is wrong. I don’t think it is.

        I do not of course by these arguments mean to discredit those of my beloved Protestant brethren, to include especially, as an apotheotic sort thereof, those of the Romantic Christians. The Protestant critique of the Church (a critique, let it be said, that is, given her many divagations, ever warranted, and indeed ever supplied to a superfluity from within her) – and, so, a fortiori, the Romantic Christian critique – *presupposes* all that came before it. This Luther himself clearly saw, albeit through the same dark glass that bedazzles all our eyes.

        The scary thing about the Romantic Christians is that, unlike *all* the reformers before them, going all the way back to the Gnostics, they propose in principle to dispose of Church altogether, and then instead to rely, each of them quite independently, only upon their own dead reckoning.

        They propose to do without wineskins altogether. They propose to generate fruits of their own, from no tree.

        Pelagius, call your office!

        I cannot in good conscience neglect to notice the character of this motion on their part, and also to call them back to a due fealty – with all due discernment, as ever, for such is Life 101 – to the hard won authority of the Church.

        The Church is now to be sure radically diseased. Has it ever been otherwise? But, as ever, she is still alive. And she may be healed; or at any rate, parts of her, that shall in time to come constitute her again wholly.

        What: shall we array ourselves against the institution that, according to Jesus, shall conquer Hell?

      • By this account, Tradition is a corporate fiction, the dreamworld of the Church. It differs from the intuitions of the Romantics only insofar as the Holy Spirit is said to guide the imagination of the corporate Church rather than the imagination of a solitary individual.

        If Scripture is just a record of the Tradition in its infancy, and therefore no more authentic and binding than any subsequent draft of the story, then the Tradition is fiction all the way down. It is one more human myth and James Frazier got it right in the Golden Bough.

        If this Tradition (the Catholic myth) is “living,” as some people say the U.S. Constitution is living, we have no idea what it means because the Church is an artist and the Tradition is its unfinished work of art.

        If this is true, the Tradition (the Catholic myth) on a level with every other corporate fiction that men have, since the earliest times, dreamed up, shared, and improved. We can judge it only on aesthetic grounds, like a movie, a novel, or a painting. Taken as a work of art, I say the Tradition (the Catholic myth) compares poorly with other myths, but this is just a matter of my taste.

        But I certainly can see no grounds for asserting that there is a qualitative difference between this work of art and every other work of art, including those that spring from the imagination of a Romantic Christian. It is all just poetry and de gustibus non est disputandum.

      • If Scripture is just a record of the Tradition in its infancy, and therefore no more authentic and binding than any subsequent draft of the story, then the Tradition is fiction all the way down.

        From the fact that scripture is a record of the Tradition in its infancy, it simply does not follow that it is therefore no more authentic and binding than any subsequent draft of the story. Indeed, it works the other way round: from the fact that scripture is a record of the Tradition in its infancy, it follows that it is *more* authentic and binding than any subsequent draft – any heretical draft, i.e. – of the story.

        It does not however follow that the Tradition in its infancy, or in its youth of today, is *entirely captured in scripture.* As the Word in scripture himself attests: “… there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” John 21:25.

      • Although John is my favorite gospel, that is probably the verse that I like least in John. Simply from a literary point of view, it is too “oriental,” if you know what I mean. And it of course opens the door to gnostic inventions. Setting aide my literary scruples, I take it to mean that that there were more acts and events similar to those related by St. John, and but that those he does relate may be taken as representative of the complete corpus. I will grant that scripture can contain implications that were not apparent at the time it was laid down, and that hermeneutic errors can creep in from time to time. I also grant that there is an oral tradition that preserves credible historical facts about the early Christians and the early Church, but the idea of a hermetic doctrine strikes me as alien to the entire spirit of the gospels.

      • I do indeed know what you mean. I cut my doctrinal teeth on the 39 Articles, so I, too, harbor a deep suspicion of any suggestion of an hermetic or esoteric current in Christianity. I view all such as haply intended (whether or not consciously) to undermine the faith. For, once you open the door to hidden doctrine, you open the door to heresy. This is why the Tradition and the Magisterium – which, from one perspective, are no more than a hermeneutical discipline for rigorous, careful exegeses of Scripture – are so important (and doctrinal free lancers are so very hazardous, despite their valuable insights).

        Yet only 3 pages before the 39 Articles in the Book of Common Prayer, we find the Athanasian Creed. Now, that (prima facie opaque, even incoherent – but upon examination brilliant, crystalline) Creed appeared only in the 6th Century. It appears nowhere in Scripture. Yet it is entirely derived from Scripture – thanks to, and by means of, the Tradition. I’m no biblical scholar, and I can suss out the derivation myself. It is a natural and wholly logical development of the doctrine established in the Nicene Creed, which was in turn a natural and wholly logical development of the Tradition about the teaching of Christ that eventually also established the canon of Scripture.

        These two creeds – the Athanasian and the Nicene – were promulgated in response to heretical teachings of bishops – i.e., of heirs to the Apostles, and of the Apostolic Succession. Apparently the Succession involved a lot of stuff that was not explicitly nailed down in Scripture, and so could be by some of the Successors to the Apostles badly misinterpreted … so that tradents of the hermeneutical Tradition were forced to nail down dogma explicitly.

        So anyway, whether the Tradition was really hidden – I tend to think it was not – evidently it was not entirely explicated in Scripture. Not, at least, so that there could be no room for confusion about the implications of this or that passage, that opened room for heterodox exegeses of this or that passage.

        John is not the only place in the Gospels where such a private teaching to the Apostles is indicated. Cf. also Mark 4:34.

      • Am I wrong, for example, in thinking that we are too far apart to have a discussion because I think that whatever the interpretation of “bear fruit” means, you are certainly misinterpreting it if it leads you away from observing the Church’s precepts?

      • I don’t think “bear fruit” is open to many interpretations, and Jesus most certainly meant it to lead people away from observing the fruitless precepts of the church of Second Temple Judaism. Jesus tells us with all possible clarity that the test of any church is the people it produces. The same can be said of any regimen, any discipline, any culture, any civilization, any religion. If following the precepts of some dietician caused me to grow fat and weak and sickly, shouldn’t these evil “fruits” lead me away from the precepts of the dietician? If following the precepts of some method of study caused my grades to fall, shouldn’t this evil “fruit” lead me away from the precepts of the course of study? Or should I instead say, what is wrong with fatness, weakness, sickness, and poor grades, so long as I follow the precepts. I am not saying anything about the Church’s precepts here. I’m only saying that Christ (and common sense) tells us that it is proper to judge precepts by their “fruits.”

      • To say ‘everything is tradition’ is technically true, but it muddies the real question now doesn’t it? Should the tradition of a council or church come in conflict with the tradition of Christ and the Apostles as haded down to us in scripture which has precedence? Christ and the Apostles are pirmary of course, we all affirm this, including Catholics. Now much ado can be had about how we properly interpret either scripture or councils, and that is where Romantics get the point they have from, we can think with no mind but our own, and must in any case understand tradition in our own context.

        Remember sola scriptura was about soterology: Can anything above and beyond the demands of scripture, understood as the teaching of Christ and the apostles, be required for salvation. Luther said no. Some midevil Catholics said yes. My understanding is that modern Catholics dogmatically agree with Luther, just as they always did dogmatically agree with the other Solas.

        But if a Catholic wants to weigh in here is the question laid plain, can a council create a new binding requirement for salvation that was not already a part of the teaching of Christ and the apostles?

        If no, that’s all sola scriptura is about.

      • No.

        “Some medieval Catholics said yes.” Well, not quite. The Catholic argument was that the entirety of the Catholic Tradition was present in scripture, and that Luther himself was the one introducing new stuff. Luther didn’t altogether disagree with that! For, he excised some books from the canon of scripture that had been in it for hundreds of years. But, let’s not get down into the weeds about all that, for now.

      • ‘ So, none of the three – Scripture, Tradition, Church – trumps the other; they *are* each other, indeed; ‘

        Specifically as to this, we know the writings of St. Basil are different than the Lateran councils are different from the oppinion of John Paul. All of these are different than the epistle to the Romans or the Gospel of St. John. It’s nonsense to conflate all elements of tradition as if they were all one thing totally indiscreet of each other.

        Tradition also has a proper hierarchy, and the Canon of Scripture, which is the teachings of Christ and the Apostles is on top of it.

        If the teaching of any person or group who says they are a member of the church flatly contradicts the teachings of Christ and the apostles they are not Christian. That is not true of any of the myriad of lesser disputes in Christiandom. And everyone disputes some other Christians patriarch, council, or the sayings of their luminaries.

      • Sure. The Catholic and Orthodox churches both teach – with, of course, the Protestants – that saints and doctors of the Church are not immune from error. Sifting their errors out of their true insights is one of the important functions of the Church. In the absence of dogma, all limits are dispensed with, and any man may invent and lend credence to – and preach – any fantastic incoherent idea whatever. Dogma – Tradition – is among other things a way to save us from wasting our time and energy on such foolishness.

        The convergent and changeless reliance of Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic churches upon the ancient and well tested Nicene confession is one of our surest warrants of its truth. What departs from the Nicene Creed is therefore deeply suspect. It is, indeed, right up there with Ouija boards, witchcraft, necromancy, and seances.

        I should add also that the convergent reliance of Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic churches upon the Nicene confession is also one of our surest warrants of their eventual reunion. God send it, and that right soon!

  5. Kristor, Scoot, and the other defenders of the Church: you are an inspiration in your zeal for souls.

    One (like this poor sinner is tempted to do) could just declare the Romantic Christians woefully and laughably wrong (which they are) and (erroneously) conclude that it’s not even worth dialoguing with people who have such a malformed perception of reality.

    In addition to knocking, though, one must also crawl through the Eye of the Needle on his hands and knees. I have no doubt my statement may cause some to bristle, but I really doubt it’s worth ushering in these folk without their first understanding humility and obedience. They will be scandalized at the first whiff of impurity from the very smelly and human hierarchy.

    That is why our converts today have such zeal: they have taken off their pride and crawled through the little door into Holy Mother Church at one of her darkest points in history. What could possibly scandalize them?

    It is sad but unsurprising that folks, especially modern folks, think to themselves: “The Church of Christ can’t possibly be headed by X, Y, and Z, and reeking to high heaven of such manure.”

    But anyone who studies history and the gospels honestly cannot arrive at any other conclusion that the Roman Catholic Church is indeed the Church that Jesus Christ founded. The church He founded is not the Church of the IMAX Theatre of Jack’s mind, nor Kristor’s Mind, or Scoot’s mind. The three of us submit to the cult and altar of the Roman Catholic Church, I imagine, for all of the same reasons originating from our recognition of our state as poor sinners in need of the mercy and graces of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ex ecclesiam nulla salus, baby!

    • Humility is indeed a good thing. But where is the humility in “just declaring” anyone “laughably wrong?” Or in saying that “anyone who studies history and the gospels” must conclude X, when a great many who have studied history and the gospels have concluded Not X? The Romantic Christians may be wrong, but they are not fools. Protestants may be wrong, but they have certainly studied history and the gospels.

  6. It has seemed to me from the first moment I read about it that romantic Christianity is simply non-denominational Protestantism. And Protestantism defines itself by its dissent from Roman Catholicism, whose doctrine and practice are guaranteed by papal authority and, ultimately, infallibility. Protestants deny the office of the Pope and then appropriate ti for each individual believer. No popery comes down to universal, personal popery, which is what romantic Christianity appears to be. In that it rejects any kind of institutional structure as too corrupt for the purity of its praxis, it must fall back on private judgment, which it calls “intuition” – a rather non-descript thing much like the “divine consciousness” of the new agers. But the vagueness and elasticity of personal intuition as a criterion for truth allows Mormons, Stiener devotees, channelers of ascended masters and anyone else to feel they have some sort of communion so long as they overlook their differences as expressions of personal “intuition” and, therefore, valid for the individual who intuits. But like Protestantism, romantic Christians tend to focus on what they reject: all established institutions of religion. Their rationale – that such institutions and their leaders are corrupt and sinful and cooperating with the wicked civil powers – is a resurrection in some respects of the Donatist heresy, which claimed that only priests in a state of grace could offer the sacraments. If you don’t want to belong to a Church, you have that option. But why continue to denounce the failings and impurities of institutions and people you have rejected? Must everyone become a romantic Christian, as though it were the one, holy and apostolic church?

    • Yes, I think Romantic Christianity is very compatible with protestantism, which is what I follow and see as a more accurate representation of what the church should be. I disagree with some of the characterization you’re making about intuition and, but I won’t voice those disagreements right now.

      Maybe this whole argument is just a rehash of the old reformation debate in a new form.

    • Protestantism doesn’t define itself suchly. The romantics are acting like the modern caricature of Protestantism, not like the actual historic protestant movements.

      Subsidiarity is an important Christian ideal, the idea that rule should be local, personal, and invested. This isn’t individualism, liberalism, anarchism, or being ones own authority. Even Catholics are very strong promoters of this ideal. But life complicates things.

      So the question is how much local rule vs how much conformity and homogeneity do we need. And in matters of faith there is a narrow way, so no one, not even the wildest Anabaptists, declared that no conformity whatsoever was needed.

      The pope is not supposed to be a despot, not even the sternest Catholics think that. He is supposed to be the first among peers, the peers being the bishops and patriarchs. The pope is not ‘his own pope’. Even infallibalists stress this, the pope is supposed to speak what is agreed by the councils and other bishops.

      So what did the Protestants protest? By and large they protested an increased in standardization and conformity imposed as a reaction to the schism with the east and clerical corruption in the west. Probably some of that conformity was well needed because of real corruption. Probably some of that was a desperate overreach due to fear of further schism after the east broke away.

      In any case if we look at the Anabaptists, they wanted almost exactly the same religious rights Germanic Christians had a millennium, or even just a few hundred years, before.

      The Anglicans, they wanted respect for their own antiquity as a bishopric, and their own old rights and they wanted to practice their faith as Englishmen practiced it for the thousand years prior. Canterbury and Rome had tension centuries before Henry VIII.

      I could go on, but each protestant group had its own historical set of institutions that defined it.

      Modern non-denominational Christianity is a mess of Pentecostals, Baptists, and other evangelical types pretending that calling themselves non denominational will bridge gaps between different Christians without having to mess around with all that hard theological debate. They have their own problems but they don’t have much to do with romantic Christianity either. They’re virtually never as individualist or independent as advertised. Same goes for Independent Baptists, for their issues they’d never go mucking about talking as if Mormonism really had some good points or suggesting your own feelings are on par with reading St Augustine.

  7. Pingback: The Advent of Christian Mysticism | Σ Frame

  8. The witness of Christ is living. It’s not an external for a Christian, it’s internal. The first leading of the Holy Spirit is to the Church, to unity with all the faithful in Christ, to your place in the body.

    The romantics talking about tradition as external and their whim as internal is a tell it is not the Holy Ghost leading them, their flirtation with mormonism is a sign of the same and rejection of God as Christians and the Church know Him is absolute testimony that The Spirit is not in them.

    I would rather it was not so, but this is merely what is.

    When I was a child I came to some of the same conclusions as Aquinas about God following his logic almost verbatim. Is that testimony to intuition? Heaven forbid! The tradition of the church was fed to me with pablum, in nursery hymn and in grandmother’s stories. The sermons of my grandfather’s in my very blood. To read Aquinas when I was older was to find a blessed man who could articulate and explain that which was already within me better than I could. And everyone between he and me, the copyists, translators, publishers, all of them men of God and one in faith with me.

    My intuitions would not even exist if not for internalizing the tradition of faith. My connection to God is being one cell in the great tree of Christ. The romantics idea that we ultimately must decide for ourselves is as banal as someone who points out that every cell has its own mitochondria that has to make energy for it. The romantics notion of the primacy of personal intuition is as nonsensical as a cell saying it must produce all its own energy so it needs no connection to the rest of the body.

  9. JMSmith,

    The Roman Catholic Church teaches that God reveals Himself and His plan of salvation through general revelation (“For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen” Rom 1:20) and special revelation (“God, who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, In these days hath spoken to us by his Son” Heb 1:1-2). This special revelation He gave to us by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost through the written word of the Apostles (Sacred Scripture) and the unwritten words of the Apostles (Sacred Tradition). Both of these “must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (Dei Verbum). This special revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. No new revelation will ever be added to it. It is not living in the sense that it can be added or subtracted or substantially altered. It is living in the sense it will speak to man and his particular state throughout all states until the end of time. The proper interpretation of special revelation – Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition – is given by the Roman Catholic Church who has the Divine prerogative and authority to do such. Sacred Scripture – Sacred Tradition – the Magisterium of the Church make up a Trinity of sorts. This is so very beautiful to me.

    A Catholic would find it irresponsible – and possibly dangerous – to pluck out a Bible verse and scream “BUT PROVE YOUR CHURCH BY THIS VERSE!” Of course “fruits” here can need interpretation. Anything in Scripture can need interpretation, ESPECIALLY a verse that you seem by some to be the touchstone for all religious sentiment for all time. There can be good faith disputes over the interpretation of fruit. I would caution that fruits should be interpreted in the light of “If you love me, keep my commandments.” “Teaching them to obey all things whatsoever I have commanded you” “Do not be deceived”. Even the verses you gave have terrifying examples of folks misunderstanding what fruits are.

    • Does the secret Tradition teach us to worship barren trees, venerate leaky wineskins, and attend, above all else, to whitewashing our sepulchers? Because it is secret, no one knows; but I suppose anyone can say it says anything one needs it to say. You are trying to make these verses go away with arm waving because they set the terms on the Magisterium. No fruit means a false prophet who never had, or who has lost, teaching authority. This understanding is confirmed by general revelation, which is why Christ could speak in parables. Barren trees are felled and burned, leaky wineskins are cast out, and whitewashed sepulchers do contain filth and dead men’s bones. I’m not laying this as a charge against your beliefs, only affirming the principle. When you try to make the principle go away, I begin to wonder of the charge should be laid against your beliefs. Why are you so afraid of this verse?

  10. In the case of Dr. Charlton at least (I’m not sure about the other Romantics, not being familiar with their writings), it has been obvious for several years that he is opposed to Christianity. There is no need to talk about the implicit ‘logic’ of Romantic Christianity in his case, it has been quite explicit: he denies the divinity of Christ, believes that ‘God’ is a creature, and has written that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. He attacks Christianity with some regularity. Of course it is only to be expected that those who regard these teachings as inconsistent with traditional Christianity – indeed, as blasphemous – will regard the development of Dr. Charlton’s thought as alarming, and will react in a spirited manner.

    In light of this, the forbearance and deference hitherto shown to Dr. Charlton by the Orthosphere has been remarkable.

    • Bruce Charlton certainly has some peculiar notions, but he does routinely call for Christian revival and has sacrificed a real scientific reputation for doing so. His “talents” are obviously bold conjecture and creative intuition, and he naturally often falls wide of the mark. But he also shows considerable courage and has hit the bullseye more than once. Are you taking risks to use your talents? Or are you playing it safe?

      • What really, really bothers me most about B.C. is his niggardly offering of Tolkien posts. I have not elsewhere encountered his delightful insights on Middle Earth, and I charge him (j’accuse!) with meanness toward his readers for only posting one every few weeks. Sure, I’ll grant that meditations about the legions of hell, demonically possessed temporal rulers, and the end of the world might be important, but it’s all so dark and depressing. I want to hear about the elves.

      • JMSmith,

        I did not impugn Bruce Charlton’s courage, and I have nothing to criticize in that respect. And I also do not gainsay that he hits the bullseye with some frequency.

        I remarked that he has publicly made statements that are irreconcilable with Christianity and indeed, anti-Christian. It is hard to see how this could be denied if one holds to some form of traditional Christianity, whether it be Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. Your way of putting it (“bold conjecture… naturally often falls wide of the mark”) soft-pedals the reality of it, as though there are no significant consequences to such actions, as though denying the divinity of Christ, say, is a mere error. I believe such statements are dangerous because they have the potential to lead people astray, particularly given Charlton’s influence within the wider ‘orthosphere’.

      • I’m not a close student of Bruce’s ideas, but I’ve been reading some of what he writes for many years. My sense is that much that he writes is speculative, and that his blog a true blog and not a collection of actual or even quasi-essays. What I mean is that it is really a private notebook of what he states are “notions,” and that this just happens to be publicly accessible. From the sheer number of his posts, I presume that Bruce writes down whatever comes into his head, and readers should always read Bruce with this in mind. I will grant that this might mislead a reader who takes Bruce’s notions as if they were logical demonstrations in the Suma Theologica, but I doubt Bruce has the reach to kindle a heresy.

        I honestly have not read one of Bruce’s Christological posts because, as I said, I read him selectively. I don’t doubt that he has written what you say he has written, but will say the speculative Socinianism/Unitarianism may do less harm than practical Socinianism/Unitarianism. Don’t ask me to detail the symptoms of practical Socinianism/Unitarianism, but I do know many people who seem to talk Trinitarian and walk Unitarian.

      • “[Bruce Charlton] (1) denies the divinity of Christ, (2) believes that ‘God’ is a creature, and (3) has written that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene”

        (1) No I don’t, (2) No I don’t… (3) Yes I do – not least because it is stated in the Fourth Gospel, which I regard as the most authoritative source of knowledge of Jesus for reasons I have stated and argued and which I find compelling.

        https://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2016/05/was-jesus-married.html

        https://lazaruswrites.blogspot.com/

        My understanding of Christianity is very simple, wholly compatible with the Fourth Gospel, and I have stated it many times.

        https://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2022/04/the-simple-message-of-christianity.html

        Such a definition is inclusive of all serious Christians across all denominations – but completely without compromise with the liberalizing and secularizing corruptions of the past centuries – since it excludes leftists and the mainstream-materialist self-identified Christians of all churches and denominations.

        I am convinced that the disagreements between denominations and churches mostly derive from the level of explaining Christianity: metaphysics again.

        One possible insight of these times, not possible to earlier ages, is therefore that (real) Christians can disagree fundamentally about metaphysics – yet all be (real) Christians.

        This is – or ought to be – great news in a world where all churches are more corrupt than ever before, all declining, and this top-down and inversionally – increasingly explicitly anti-Christian and leading their adherents away from the faith.

        The situation of the Christian churches is something unprecedented. By contrast, past Christian church corruption was merely hypocritical – a matter of a church (in a time and place) failing to live up to its own standards. *Now*, it is the asserted and imposed standards, the direction of leadership that are become the problem.

        That is the crucial difference between then and now – and why the situation Now is worse than at any point in the history of Christianity; and I find it tragic that this needs pointing-out.

      • Dear Dr. Charlton,

        I am sorry for having mischaracterized your views and for having accused you of denying Christ’s divinity and of believing that God is a creature. I had thought you took the Mormon view on these things, that God used to be a human like we.

        One possible insight of these times, not possible to earlier ages, is therefore that (real) Christians can disagree fundamentally about metaphysics – yet all be (real) Christians.

        But Christians of past ages did have different metaphysics: you had Platonist Christians and Aristotelean Christians, for example, and later Cartesian Christians. Aquinas, for example, would have disagreed with Augustine’s metaphysics, but obviously still regarded him as a real Christian. Perhaps you don’t regard such differences in metaphysics to be deep enough to be ‘fundamental’?

        From one of your linked posts, you write: “If the Fourth Gospel (named ‘John’) had been accorded the primacy of authority that it deserves…”, implying that the Gospel of John has not been given primacy. My impression throughout my life is that the Gospel of John has always been regarded as the pre-eminent book out of the entire Bible from the earliest days of the Church. (See for example, F.F. Bruce and The Canon of Scripture). What other book does Christianity esteem more than John?

  11. JMSmith – I’m not afraid of the verse or the principle or whatever. Feel feee to lay whatever charges you wish against me and my beliefs. I’ve lost a lot of Protestant family and a fiancé after converting to Catholicism so I know how futile, “show me your fruit, and I’ll show you mine” games can be. Your fruit verse is my dad’s “twinkling of the eye” verse is my sister’s “faith and grace verse” was my fiancé’s “predestination verse.” All principles as a Catholic I’m supposedly afraid of. It’s very tiresome. And I have used the fruit principle countless times discerning my parish, the Latin mass, spiritual advisers, etc. Weighing fruit though – at minimum – is far too provincial an exercise as to both place and time to throw one’s eternal fate upon it by using it exclusively to pick a religion – but even that would concede too much to what I disagree with. You see sepulchers everywhere. Ok. I’ve seen the Blessed Sacrament worshipped in Times Square and 40 hours of rosary prayer outside abortuaries. Seeking the true interpretation of a verse, disagreeing with mischaracterizations, pointing out there are other verses in the Bible material to the discussion, etc aren’t being afraid of a verse. It’s the opposite. Sacred Tradition isn’t secret; we believe It has been faithfully handed down from the apostles and their successors. It doesn’t tell me to worship barren trees. It doesn’t tell me to be afraid of Bible verses. It does “tell me “ in a manner of speaking to confess before a priest of God (this Saturday – probs around 1pm EST) my many sins, worship Jesus Christ through His sacraments, cling to Holy Mother Church. I see my millennia old church as passing through times of great fruitful harvest, and times less so. Those “less so” times can be very, very hard and confusing and long. Which was a large part of why I and others pointed out dangers of isolating prooftexts and religion of the fruit scales.

    • Then I say go on doing what you are doing. I am latitudinarian in these matters, and do not have the desire or the hubris to tell anyone how the exercise their faith. The only reason I jumped into this thread was my intense dislike for religious bigotry between Christians. I am not harping on the “fruit” passage because I think it shames Catholics, but because I think it shames bigots. As I have said more than once here, I have seen what looks to me like “fruit” hanging from the Catholic tree, the Protestant tree, and even the oddball Romantic tree. This and my own experience lead me to conclude that different formulas work for different people, and that every formula has its own spiritual dangers. I would feel the absolute opposite of holy at a pentecostal meeting, but I think shouting and clapping may be just what those folks need. Those same people would be utterly deadened by the bookish, cerebral Christianity we trade in here. This issue is intensely personal for me because the my-way-or-the-highway types once drove me out of the Church and I have no patience for their boasting.

  12. JM, thank you for your comment on my above post and thank you for being frank about your reasons for questioning the role of traditional Church discipline and doctrine in the life of grace. I have found reading your comments on this post very fruitful indeed for my own faith and understanding.

    I would like to respond to a couple of your question and points you have made regarding the claims of the Catholics in this thread, although I am far less articulate than either you or Kristor.

    First, you wrote: “What I have read from your side of the debate are extremely vague appeals to “Tradition,” “Authority,” and “Church,” all of which are question-begging and none of which have any definite content.” In another comment you stated: “The New Testament must be accorded primacy, but everything else is just works by men no better (on average) than ourselves.”

    From these (and other comments in the thread), I presume you regard the New Testament, particularly the direct sayings of Jesus, as authoritative guides to the Christian life that were not devised by man and cannot be changed by the will of man. I agree. By authority, I mean that the same seal of authority as a guide to Christian life also lies upon other acts, documents and institutions. In my post I mentioned the Sacraments and the Creed as examples of aspects of the Christian life that have this supernatural authority, even early on in the life of the Church. For example, the same men who ratified the Scripture as sacred write about the Sacraments as not “works by men no better than ourselves” by as the visible signs of the acts of God, not instituted by man, and therefore not changeable by man. I genuinely do not see how we can choose to accept that Scripture has supernatural authority, but the Sacraments do not, when the apostles and early fathers who we trust and rely on to have been a conduit of those Scriptures thought of both as the works of God?

    Secondly, you wrote: “The test of the various forms of Christianity is obviously the “fruit” that is born by the tree.” I agree, and that is one reason why I returned to the Church after attending a number of churches after being called by Christ. I have been surrounded by Protestants of various stripes my whole life (I grew up in the Midwest and then moved to the South), and I respect many of them for their faith and virtue. But the historical fruit of corporate Protestantism is obviously inferior to corporate Catholicism. Entire Protestant denominations, numerous with souls and properties, have been devoured by the Enemy, and now exist only to spread apostasy and heresy. Despite the periodic scandals among the hierarchy, and the consistent danger of lukewarm faith among the laity, the Roman Catholic Church has not strayed into destruction in 2000 years. Moreover, she is still strong enough in the life of grace to have stood against the manifold poisons of the Sexual Revolution that her younger Protestant siblings eagerly manufactured and consumed. How likely is it that any Christian will trace their heritage back to Luther and Calvin, or even the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1500 years? I do not intend to boast or brag, merely to state frankly what I have seen and come to believe as I have tried to live my faith.

    I am pretty sure you would agree with this assessment. Perhaps you would say that “corporate fruit” is a Myth, or that it is unimportant compared with individual holiness. But I think it is clear from Scripture that God is interested in his people both as individual souls and as a corporate community of believers. If the Roman Catholic Church is the only rock to stand the test of time as a community preaching Christ Crucified, that means something

    • Thanks for your sober response. I think you and I agree as much as any two humans are likely to agree, and substantial agreement is always more than enough for me. You are right that I regard the words of Jesus as supremely important, although I understand that the incarnation involves much more than talking. I do not think authenticating the canonical books is remotely comparable to writing those books, much less being the subject of those books. It is an insidious deception to say that the Church somehow “wrote” the Bible by editorial selection, since this implies that the selection was at least somewhat arbitrary. I know my reading is colored by preconceptions, but I’ve read the New Testament many times, and the non-canonical gospels more than once. The former are different than the later because they are clearly very close to eye-witness reports.

      I do not regard the sacraments as equal to scripture because they are apples and oranges. The sacraments are conduits of grace and scripture is a conduit of knowledge. I have a pretty strong bias towards scripture because I’m verbal, cerebral and was raised protestant, but I am not dead to sacramental theology. I do have a protestant suspicion of the clerical abuse of the sacraments in pursuit of worldly power. I also think sacraments can be tested by their fruit.

      I’m afraid I do not share your confidence in the visible Catholic Church as a redoubt of orthodox doctrine or sexual morality. Liberal Catholic homilies and liberal Protestant sermons are on a level, and a Catholic parish is less likely to kick back. But here I will admit that my experience of both is, in the big picture, very limited. I think it is very hard for a individual faith to survive outside a faithful corporate community, but there are many propositions about corporate salvation that I do not believe. I dislike all theories that suggest it was possible to add to the blood of Christ, but will not quarrel with peaceable souls who feel otherwise.

  13. So despite the enormous consensus of ER docs, ICU nurses, professional researchers, and hospital administrators, many of them Christians, finding the government interventions entirely reasonable and proper, you think the Church is bowing to secular authority for some cowardly or foolish motives? Still, after all that has happened? No chance you are seeing spiritual deterioration behind every bush? No chance at all? Much of your subsequent arguing is thoroughly dependent on that observation. And it’s flat wrong.

    I stopped reading you.

    • @ Assistant Village Idiot: It is not clear from your comment whom you address with it. If you send along a clarifying comment, I’ll edit the first one to make that clear.

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