Sifting Through Church Tradition


After several off-blog conversations about my post “What Evangelicals Can Learn From Francis Beckwith’s Conversion to Roman Catholicism,” the necessity of a post on identifying church tradition became expedient. Though no one (not even the Catholic commentators) raised the issue of how a protestant appropriates tradition in the previous post, it is an issue which must inevitably debouch from any sustained discussion.

concordialouisville.jpgI deliberately avoided such a hairy issue in the previous post and chose instead to emphasize how vital it is that evangelicals confess what are virtually noncontroversial creeds from church tradition. But once evangelicals go down the road of church tradition they quickly find too many forks in the road that lead to radically different places. Does this fact justify ignoring church tradition altogether (as most evangelicals have done)? No, it does not. The simple fact is that we are all influenced by church tradition whether consciously or unconsciously. How we read Scripture is shaped by the centuries of interpretation that are handed down to us. Those who are aware of this, however, will fare better in appropriating the best of tradition and casting off the worst of it.

But already I’ve made a massive assumption about how we relate to church tradition: that the individual can and should choose which parts to follow and which parts it should not. This assumption is what separates the protestant approach to tradition from the Catholic approach. On the Catholic view, the church holds authority in doctrine: it canonizes Scripture, it authoritatively interprets Scripture and thereby demarcates the bounds of orthodoxy and heterodoxy. This, of course, provides the luxury of a simple, cut-and-dry view of tradition. The Catholic church throughout the ages dictates what is and what is not the tradition to follow. But there are no free lunches and this luxury comes at a price. You must adhere to Catholic theology even when it violates what you see as a plain teaching of Scripture. You must update your doctrine in accord with the eclectic doctrines of the church. You must affirm the infallibility of a church when you cannot know what it will confess in the future. You must deny that one papal decree has ever contradicted another. You must uphold the anathematization of those whom each council anathematized. This is just some of the theological currency that Protestants cannot afford.

But how then should a Protestant decide which part of church tradition to follow? It would be simplistic to the point of inaccuracy to say “follow the part that doesn’t contradict Scripture.” The problem with such an answer is that it doesn’t account for the influence that church tradition has on our reading of Scripture by which we assess the accuracy of church tradition. Any correct approach must give a place both to judging tradition and being influenced by it.  True, the church is under the authority of the word of Christ expressed in Scripture alone, but the history of the church is the story of how it has sought to understand and live out that word. So one cannot simply think that when he reads the Bible that it is speaking to him apart from the influence of centuries of past interpretation. Nevertheless, while we are under the influence of tradition, we not under its authority. Thus, as I become more aware of the influence that tradition has on me, I am better positioned to learn from the best of tradition, rather than simply receiving passively what is handed down to me. Thus, as I am in conversation with church tradition, if I come to believe that Scripture says one thing and a particular strand of tradition says another then I must take my stand with Scripture against that particular tradition.

However, should a person, through the process of interpreting Scripture, become convinced of a doctrine never before taught by any strand of tradition, he/she is almost certainly wrong. Has every person who ever claimed the name of Christ missed this doctrine until now?

Conversely, when one comes to reject a doctrine universally considered orthodox by the entire church from beginning to end, the person is undoubtedly wrong. Does Christ not teach his church? Does he not preserve her in the truth?

The failure to recognize these two points has been the seedbed of every Christian-based cult. They all claim to either have a new revelation that has never been heard before, or claim that the entire church has apostasized until now. This is nothing short of despising Christ’s providence, protection and preservation of his truth and his church. All Christian cults must deny Christ’s promise to build his church (Matthew 16:18), or at least deny that he has been building his church for the last 2,000 years.

james.jpg“The Bible and Me” approach to biblical interpretation will continue to give birth to heterodoxy and to threaten the truth of Scripture. This is why tradition is necessary. Not as a guarantee against error in the church but as a useful guard against error. In short, we need tradition because it helps to protect the church from one another’s creativity, bad doctrine and current passion.

For this we should be thankful to Christ. Tradition is a gift to the church that should be celebrated, reiterated to each new generation, and staked as “ours” by any group who stands on it.

By way of example, Calvin and his subsequents appealed to the 6th century Second Council of Orange in defense of sola gratia and total depravity. It was a significant part of their defense against the charge that they invented these doctrines. They turned the charge around claiming that the church that once confessed these truths now denied it. The heirs of the tradition in this case was not the Catholic church but the Reformers. The Council of Trent contradicts what was previously decided at Orange. A short portion of each will bare this out.

Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed (Canon 23 of the Second Council of Orange).

If any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema (Canon 4 of the Council of Trent on Justification).

The rightful heir of tradition is not decided by who succeeds the pulpits, buildings and ecclesiastical authority of those who went before. Tradition is not handed down by ecclesiastical geneology. Rather, one inherits a tradition when one upholds the doctrine of those who went before, regardless of the group to which one may belong.

Tradition may be a helpful guide or it may be cumbersome baggage. Which one it is depends not on tradition but the way in which we appropriate it. As Jaroslav Pelikan’s famous axiom goes: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” When tradition is no longer a guide to interpreting Scripture but the ruler over Scripture then it has become traditionalism. But when what we confess drives us to the Scriptures and helps us understand them, we can be sure that what we have is a living faith. Tradition is no supplement to Scripture, rather it is Scripture’s servant. The usefulness and richness of tradition cannot be discovered through the study of tradition itself. It will only exert its proper influence on us as we consciously compare the tradition to the teaching of Scripture which we interpret under the influence of tradition. The circular nature of the interplay between tradition and Scripture should neither surprise nor trouble us. Nearly everything that Scripture helps us understand is something that simultaneously influences our reading of Scripture. Culture is certainly to be interpreted in the light of Scripture but our reading of Scripture is certainly under the influence of culture. The latter is inevitable as well as desirable; the former is only desirable. Using the Scripture to inform our understanding of culture must be intentional and conscious. And the more it is intentional and conscious the more that culture will exert the proper influence on our reading of Scripture instead of controlling it.

The goal should not be to develop our awareness of tradition and culture so as to cut of their influence on our reading of Scripture. This again shows the problem with “the Bible and me” approach. Those who would only want to be under the influence of Scripture and not culture or tradition are naive. Scripture was given to be read by those involved in culutre and under its influence. Were it even possible to disabuse ourselves of tradition and culture it would not prove beneficial, for we would not even know how to understand Scripture. In order for tradition, culture and Scripture to relate properly to the development of our theology we must be familiar with each. We must continually become aware of the effect that each one has on us so that we can reject traditionalism, cultural obsessions and faulty readings of Scripture. When it comes to tradition and culture we should avoid the pitfalls that each presents. As John Milbank writes,

I would suggest that neither a reiteration of Christian orthodoxy in identically repeated handed-down formulas nor a liberal adaptation to postmodern assumptions will serve as well. The latter response would clearly be a betrayal, but the former might well be a betrayal of a more subtle kind — allowing us the illusion of a continuation of the faith in merely formal, empty terms that have discovered no real habitation for faith in our times, either with or against them. Instead, we must allow the very critical engagements with postmodernity to force us to re-express our faith in a radically strange way, which will carry with it a sense of real new discovery of the gospel and the legacy of Christian orthodoxy (“The Gospel of Affinity,” The Strange New Word of the Gospel [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002], 8).

Milbank rightly points out the pitfalls of traditionalism and the worship of culture. Without a better understanding of the influence of tradition and culture on our reading of Scripture we have no choice but to end up in the ditch of one of these pitfalls. A proper appreciation of tradition will keep us from worshiping culture and and proper appreciation of culture will keep us from traditionalism. However, the church too often flees to one polarization or the other either by despising tradition or by despising culture. The fault of evangelicalism has been their rejection of tradition. Evangelicals are drunk with culture, and for this reason, I’ve chosen to harp on the richness and greatness of tradition, while only giving a whisper of the positive influence of culture. There is a place for both in our local churches and a place for both in each person’s reading of Scripture, but only as we become aware of the influence of each one will we be able to “eat the fish and spit out the bones.”

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About Rev. John Fraiser

Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church - LaGrange, KY htlc-lagrange.org
This entry was posted in Canon, Church History, Scripture, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Sifting Through Church Tradition

  1. Nate Collins says:

    Good word, John! Enjoyable reading…

    A couple questions…
    1. How would you relate this discussion to the related topic of contextualization? How should (or should they) evangelicals go about practicing contextualization?

    2. You say, “while we are under the influence of tradition, we not under its authority.” I’m not sure, but I wonder if one can be under the influence of a tradition without it exerting any kind of an authority over you. We may have had this discussion before, and it may be kinda nitpicky of me, but I don’t think it is safe to ignore, or even minimize, the relative power our traditions possess over us. Vanhoozer refers to the process of arbitrating between authorities as “triangulation” (he has a chapter in a new book called “Always Reforming”). It’s interesting, especially for Vanhoozer fans like myself… :)

    We still need to do coffee sometime… I’ll shoot you an email.

    -Nate

  2. Fraiser says:

    Nate,

    I thought this post might bring you out of the woodwork. On the matter of contextualization, I’m not sure I’ve developed very grand thoughts on the subject. I’m inclined to say that evangelicals (and anyone for that matter) are free to contextualize to the extent it doesn’t require them to sin and to ignore the value of church tradition expressed particularly in the creeds and confessions. I have been criticized for saying so, but I think it is actually sin to ignore confessions and creeds in the context of the local church. The sin is particularly that of the leadership and to a lesser degree that of the members.
    I came close to addressing contextualization when I discussed the dual dangers of traditionalism and culture worship. Traditionalism ignores cultural relevance and culture worship tends to ignore tradition and reinvent the church at every turn. If you have more to say on this subject I’d love to here it.

    Yes, we have discussed the authority question before. I’ll simply say that if by authority you mean “under the influence of” then suffice it to say that I acknowledge your meaning. If I say we are under the influence of tradition but not under its authority I obviously mean authority in a different sense. I don’t find that people generally understand authority to mean “under the influence of” (even though Grenz, Franke and Vanhoozer use it this way). For this reason, I find it a bit misleading to use authority in this sense (particularly because of the way in which Catholics mean that tradition is authoritative). If you mean more than simply “under the influence of” by saying that tradition is authoritative, I’d be interested to discuss it.

    I was beginning to wonder if you had perhaps retracted your coffee invitation. I’m still up for it. Hopefully we’ll be able to syncronize our schedules.

  3. OFelixCulpa says:

    John,

    I like what you have to say about developing an awareness of the influences tradition/culture to help us be better interpreters of scripture.

    There seems to be a lot of confusion about what tradition and culture are and how they function and should be approached. Though my thoughts are still a bit foggy, I’ll throw out a few to try to keep the conversation going.

    We need to emphasize that we are entirely passive with regard to the influence culture has over us. We are not deciding to be influenced or how we want to be influenced, rather we are trying to recognize the ways in which the culture that produced us has–without our knowledge or consent–either equipped or handicapped us for the task of understanding scripture. This is very different from the silly attempt of many evangelicals to discern what our culture seems to want from us and conform to that expectation. Figuring out how to speak truth to a culture in terms it finds intelligible or agreeable is a very different (and at best secondary) matter.

    Tradition is in some sense useful as a sort of anticulture. Since we are the product of our culture–we often are not even aware of the ways our culture has taught us to think or not to think–tradition can provide a wee bit of an outside perspective. When approached rightly, tradition can provide us with a look at things from the perspective of the past. Obviously, the cultures of the past may not have affirmed the right answers (or even asked the right questions). Past cultures may well be just as short-sighted and foolish as the present, but they were likely not captivated by the exact same silly ideas that characterize the present. As such, tradition is not rightly valued by hanging a few Byzantine-style pictures in the church building and responsively reading an ancient creed now and then. To benefit from tradition we must try to allow the thoughts of the past to critique our own.

    There can be a confusing sort of overlap between the two. Many of those who claim to value tradition actually give it no more thought than they do the average bumper sticker; they are really just parroting a whim of current culture against anything at all that is presumed to be modern. Such people are not seeking to be critiqued and challenged by tradition, but rather rummaging around in the past for any rhetorical devices they might find to support (legitimately or not) the fancy of present culture.

    Keep talking. Good, thoughtful conversation has a way of thinning the fog.

    KWR

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  5. Darlene says:

    Fraizer,

    I just discovered this blog recently while surfing the web. Your article speaks quite clearly to just some of the struggles I’ve encountered on my faith journey.

    While I have been an evangelical Protestant for at least 30 years now, discovery of tradition and church history have been leading me in a different direction. For over a year now, I thought that direction would take me leaping and bounding over the Tiber, embracing all that Rome has to offer. However, I arrived at an impasse, and very recently I might add.

    Just to back up a bit, while wetting my toes in that river, I began devouring all sorts of Roman Catholic apologetic material. This of course, eventually led me on the path toward church history. My eyes were opened to the beliefs of the Early Church Fathers, and my former impressions of them began to change radically. The impetus that propelled me in my quest was a desire to know the truth of my Christian heritage. I was willing to lay aside all my former prejudices and look at my faith tradition through unbiased (as much as possible) lenses.

    While attending RCIA classes and receiving personal counsel from a priest, one unavoidable fact confronted me. If one desires to embrace Roman Catholicism, they must “submit to and believe all that the Church teaches.” This idea is a radical departure from modern Evangelicalism. Yet, I accepted this challenge with the determination of a relentless bull dog.

    Thus, my quest for truth led me to dust off my old books from a college course on the Middle Ages. I began reading, actually devouring might be a more accurate description, various papal encyclicals and documents from Church councils. This quest took up most of my waking hours aside from work, which left my husband quite perplexed.

    I began to discover a Roman Catholic Church that was quite dissimilar to the one which boasts as having the “fullness of the truth.” Papal infallibility in its true light showed itself to be an erroneous doctrine, which to my surprise, had only been proclaimed “excathedra” at Vatican I, in the 1870’s. Yet, the real eye opener in exposing papal infallibility came with discovering Vatican II. How could sacred tradition, the hallmark of Rome, have gone so far off the deep end, I wondered? Most amusing was the manner in which modern Roman Catholic apologists attempted to squeeze the magesterial pronouncements from Vat. II into agreeing with the myriad of infallible pronouncements from previous centuries. It all boiled down to “sola ecclesia,” a term which finally means that the laity do not have the right nor the privilege to interpret or even decide what all that mishmash means in the postmodern R.C. Church. That’s for Benedict XVI and his ilk to decide. We know where that leaves the Reformers. But the “fruit” of that mishmash cannot be ignored. And that is a whole other story altogether!

    So here I am in “no man’s (woman’s) land,” wondering where my discoveries will lead me. I cannot deny the radical conversion which Jesus Christ brought about in my life. So I must remain a Christian. Yet, where do I go from here? From all that I have been reading about Lutheranism (Missouri Synod Lutheranism), it seems to answer this longing in my heart for something more, in which current Evangelicalism leaves a gaping hole.

    I’m glad to have found this blog and look forward to some of your comments and advice.

    In Christ,
    Darlene

  6. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Darlene,

    Take a look at this site on Papal infallibility. Maybe it will help shed some light for you.

    http://www.catholic.com/library/Papal_Infallibility.asp

    If I amy quote you

    “Papal infallibility in its true light showed itself to be an erroneous doctrine, which to my surprise, had only been proclaimed “excathedra” at Vatican I, in the 1870’s. Yet, the real eye opener in exposing papal infallibility came with discovering Vatican II.”

    If I understand you correctly; you believe that Papal Infallibility has only been proclaimed as a Doctrine since Vatican I, in the 1870’s?

    If you do some more studies you will see that the doctrine of Infallibility has its roots in the early church and even in the Old Testament. It was only brought up in Vatican I and further explained in Vatican II as a result of clarification. But if you read Jesus word’s, the Apostles’ words,and the early church fathers this has always been an accepted doctrine that was established by Jesus himself.

    Take a look at the link I gave you in this post. It may help, if not I would be glad to clarify further.

    I presume that as a result of this post I will come under much scrutiny, censorship, and disdain, as I appear to be the lone voice of the other side on this blog. And just like Luther, If I do not agree with them I get persecuted

    God Bless you on your Journey of Faith

  7. Darlene says:

    Hello Truth Be Told,

    I went to the sight you gave and already read that a while ago. I am quite familiar with the Roman Catholic understanding of Papal Infallibility. According to the Roman Catholic understanding, councils such as Vatican I, in which dogmas of the faith were proclaimed “excathedra” had already existed within the Church for centuries. In other words, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that these councils met for the purpose of formally declaring doctrine that had already been universally believed and accepted. The purpose then for excathedra pronouncements was to either combat heresy or formally proclaim established doctrine.

    As I see it, the Roman Catholic Church rises or falls on the issue of Papal Infallibility. For it is through the Magesterium (where bishops and cardinals in union with the pope) make decisions on matters of faith and morals, and bind the members of the Church to dogmas and doctrines which are not able to be altered or changed. Yet, when looking with a clearer lense into the history of the Roman Catholic Church, one can see that quite a bit of altering and changing has occurred.

    In Roman Catholic understanding, even scripture is to submit to the Magesterium, of which sacred Tradition (with a capitol “T”) is a result. Thus, the Magesterium through the “deposit of faith” has become quite very much like the Tradition of the Pharisees, which for the sake of their tradition “have made void the word of God,” as Jesus said. Thus, we have the Papal pronouncements which require the Roman Catholic faithful to believe in the bodily assumption of Mary, her perpetual virginity, and her sinlessness. Sacred scripture is twisted and ignored in order for this Tradition to be taught and believed. In saying this, I do not disrespect Mary, a most Godly woman indeed, but we need to give her the honor that scripture requires us to do so and no more. When tradition requires various “doctrines” to be believed which are necessary for salvation, (such as the above), it has crossed the line. We must recall the passage in Luke 11:27-28: “As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked.” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Jesus had the opportunity to proclaim all the the Marian doctrines at this point, but instead he points to the authority of sacred Scripture.

    You say that the doctrine of papal infallibility has its roots in scripture. Yet, even Roman Catholic theologians will say that this is a doctrine that developed “over time.” No where does Peter in his letters or in Acts point to his office as the “Vicar of Christ” on earth. No where does he act as those who have held this office in the Roman Catholic Church, who expect faithful Catholics to bow down to him. Quite the contrary as we can see in Acts 10:26, when in response to Cornelius bowing at his feet, blessed Peter says, “Stand up; I too am a man.” He had the opportunity to proclaim his primacy and his office as Vicar of Christ, but instead he responded with humility.

    I stand by my comment about Vatican II, because it was through this council that the anathemas consistently pronounced against the Reformers from Trent on, were lifted. Those who believed and followed the Reformers were considered heretics and anathamatized by the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants were proclaimed to be heretics, liable to damnation and hellfire unless they repented and returned to the Roman Catholic Church. All popes up until Vatican II believed in and supported this anathama. The post Vatican II popes lifted this anathema, which had repeatedly been proclaimed infallibly for the previous 4 centuries. In lifting the anathemas against the Protestants, they are now called “separated brethren” and not liable to the formally pronounced anathemas. But how can this be if all excathedra statements are irreversable?

    In addition, the anathemas against the Eastern Churches, which separated from Rome in 1054, were also “lifted” by the post Vatican II popes. Thus it was that Pope John Paul II was able to proudly proclaim a new ecuminism on October 27, 1986 when he allowed representatives from pagan religions, as well as Protestants and Eastern Orthodox, to join him in a day of prayer at the shrine of St. Francis. The crucifixes in the various buildings were covered or taken down to accomodate the Hindus, Buddhists and pagan religions, so that they could pray to their gods. This would have been outrageous behavior (to say the least) according to previous popes. And what about the astonishing comment by JPII that the “Muslims along with us adore the one, true God.” Previous popes would roll over in their graves at such a statement!

    Yet, if one wants to discover the fallibility of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, one only need look at Honorius, a pope who professed belief in the heresy of Arius. An acknowledgement by subsequent popes for centuries.

    The problem with the Tradition of “sola ecclesia” is that it becomes a circular arguement. The Church is right because the Church has the sole authority to make infallible pronouncements, therefore the Catholic faithful must submit. In other words, the Church is right because the Church is right. If Papal Infallibility is questioned, such as was the case by many traditionlist Roman Catholics after Vatican II, they are told to submit, regardless of how evident it was/is that Vatican II has clearly departed from traditionalist Roman Catholic teaching, dogmas and doctrine. As a result, there was a great exodus of priests, nuns, and traditional Catholic laity who departed from the Roman Catholic Church. Seminaries were closed, parishes lost multitudes of members, and many priests were excommunicated.

    Tradition that does not subject itself to sacred Scripture is a dangerous thing!

    Darlene

  8. OFelixCulpa says:

    Darlene,

    I am curious. You don’t say very much about what attracted you so strongly to Roman Catholicism (I think the only mentions is “discovery of tradition and church history” and “desire to know the truth of my Christian heritage.”)

    Protestantism doesn’t mean disregard for tradition, history, or truth, so I suspect that your attraction to RC was more complex than that.

    Again, I’m curious. Could you say more about it?
    Was it in part a reaction against corruption, excess, shallowness, hypocrisy, etc. in Evangelical Protestantism? Or was it, perhaps, that your experience of Protestantism felt empty (i.e. devoid of any real or rich heritage)? –Just guesses.

  9. Fraiser says:

    Darlene,

    Thank you for your leaving such an encouraging comment. I feel that I am talking to someone who shares my concerns for the church in all of her forms. The authority of the word takes priority above all else as you rightly acknowledge. But as you wisely point out, Protestants (some of us anyway) have no reason to be afraid of history either. A thorough study of the history of the Catholic church reveals that it is fraught with contradiction with Scripture and contradiction with its own teaching. History is on the side of the Reformation, and the insistence by the Catholic church that we have no business interpreting Scripture or the church’s teaching and history for ourselves is only a power play. It’s equivalent to the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy to pay no attention to man behind the curtain. You have to accept the authority of the Wizard to obey the command to not look behind the curtain.

    I am very encouraged to hear about your interest in Lutheranism. More and more I am convinced that the views of conservative Lutheranism is the best response to the abuses of both Catholicism and modern day Evangelicalism. Thank you for sharing your story. Feel free to contact me if I can help in any way. johnfraiser@gmail.com.

  10. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Darlene

    Do you acknowledge that the Apostles left the truth and the authority in the hands of their successors, the bishops?

    What about Sacred Scripture? Was there any indication given by Jesus or the Apostles that there would be a book? How long was it before such an idea was devised? And who decided that there should be a book and that it would be considered to be “inspired” by the Holy Spirit?

    Without the Magestrium of the Roman Catholic Church you would not have any scripture (outside the Old Testament) with which to reference. The entire New Testament is Tradition (with a capitol “T”). The council of Hippo in 393 AD, 4th council of Carthage (397 AD) and the 5th Council of Carthage (419 AD) were the first local councils that came up with a list of the New Testament books. Simply stated, Catholic Bishops over a 26 year period formulated the New Testament and this was called the African Code because it was put together in North Africa. And this African Code contained the same 27 New Testament books that we have today. The African code was ratified and the Ecumenical council of 2 Nicaea (787 AD), it was reiterated at the ecumenical council of Florence (1442 AD) and it was officially canonized at the Ecumenical Council of Trent (1546 AD).

    Now how do you suppose the Catholic Church determined which books were to be included in Sacred Scripture and which books were to be “thrown out” if you will? First and foremost, it was the Holy Spirit that entrusted Jesus’ Church, the Catholic Church, with the care and compilation of Sacred Scripture and second it was Tradition with a capital “T” that enabled the church to determine if these letters and Gospels were directly from the Apostles or by those who were taught by the Apostles. Books such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Acts of Peter were discarded because they did not agree with Tradition.

    Are you aware of the fact that the same Council of Catholic Bishops that made the determination of the New Testament Canon, also made the determinations on the initial doctrines regarding Mary. Both were to be believed.

    What must one do to obtain salvation? They must believe the word of God, which is bigger than just the Bible. I know this is true because the Bible does not make the claims for itself that have been attributed to it by the Church! Therefore, one must believe the word of God for salvation. Who determines what that word is? The Church has always taught that the Scriptures are true, that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth” and that we are to “listen to the Church”. The Scriptures themselves never substitute the book for the Church. If we fail to believe the Apostles and those who succeeded them, the Bishops, can we obtain salvation?

    In 251 AD St. Cyprian, wrote, “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven.’ And again He says to him after His resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep.’ On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?”

    We see nothing with the early Christians about finding the “truth in the Bible”, rather it was truth in the Church through the apostolic succession. One needs only read Eusebius’ History of the Church (325 ad) to see this loud and clear. The Church of today, with all its warts, is the same organic organism which Jesus told us to obey and heed.

    Remember, there was never a golden age. Peter wrote and taught the inspired word of God, yet was flawed in many ways; Paul did the same and was also flawed in many ways. Their actions did not negate their authority or their inspired words. So to look at some “bad” Popes, which I know from history that there were several, and say that it proves the doctrine of infallibility to be incorrect would be hasty. Authority is invested in an office, not a person. And the authority of the office prevails even if the office holder fails to perform as expected. On a secular level Bill Clinton is an example. When he was in office he still was Commander and Chief with more political authority than any man in the world, and yet you and I both know that he himself failed to live up to the office. Yet, his signature was still the Law of the Land.

    The fact of the matter is, since the definition of ex cathedra, there have been two official “ex cathedra” statements. There is a hierarchy of truth. A President discusses a baseball score (very low in authority); the President gives a strong professional opinion to a local official (higher on the authority sliding scale); the President tells his staff they must do something (higher still); he puts in a legislative proposal with his weight of authority (higher still); he signs a law into the books or exercises his right to Executive Order (the highest). Is there not an obvious hierarchy of truth here? Should the Pope only be given an “on-off” switch and not allowed to have such a hierarchy within his office?

    The Church has a divine and a human component to it. Just as Jesus was both divine and human, so is his Body, the Church. However, we are not without sin and infirmity as was he. The Church has been given the authority of teaching office. This authority of truth does not mean that Jesus will guard their every action. The Pope today goes to Mass weekly because he knows his sin and frailty. However, he also knows his authority to speak for God within the bounds of his office. He has the authority to bind and to lose, to forgive or to retain. Someone or thing must have this authority or we have the scandalous confusion in Christendom we see today. Luther would cringe and weep if he saw the result of his schism!

    Luther wrote to Pope Leo X, “I never approved of a schism, nor will I approve of it for all eternity, . . . That the Roman Church is more honored by God than all others is not to be doubted, . . . Though nowadays everything is in a wretched state, it is no ground for separating from the Church. On the contrary, the worse things are going, the more should we hold close to her, for it is not by separating from the Church that we can make her better. . . . There is no sin, no amount of evil, which should be permitted to dissolve the bond of charity or break the bond of unity of the body? (letter of Martin Luther to Pope Leo X, January 6, 1519, more than a year after the Ninety-Five Theses; quoted in The Facts about Luther, 356).

    Now back to the New Testament. Remember that the “doctrine” of the NT canon was not “invented” until the late fourth century. The deity of Christ wasn’t clearly defined until the fourth century and the Trinity not until the fifth century. Doctrine develops. It is not invented–it is unpacked. Read John Chapter 16 versus 12 – 15. Jesus says to the apostles that “I have much to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” He goes on to say that the Holy Spirit will “declare to you the things that are coming.” This is not a reference to new predictions about the future, but interpretation of what has already occurred or been said.

    Nothing the Church teaches is contrary to Scripture and all of it is either explicit or implicit in Scripture. We believe in the Trinity, but such is never clearly taught in the Bible. It is developed by a deep study of the book within the Tradition it is meant to thrive in. Others, the Arians, Mormons, Jesus-only Pentecostals, JW’s deny the Trinity because it is NOT clearly taught in the Bible. You believe it because the Bishops of the Catholic Church hammered it out and developed that doctrine in the middle of the first millennium. You trust the Church for the Bible, etc., yet none of those things were done by the Apostles or their immediate successors.

    Look around you at your fellow Evangelicals (not to mention all of Protestantism). They are reading the Bible, writing commentaries and the bookstores are full of their books on every topic. Do they agree on what the Bible says? Can we lose our salvation? Good men disagree, both using the Bible! Is abortion, masturbation, contraceptives, cloning, divorce and remarriage, etc. acceptable? No agreement. Mass confusion. Each Christian ends up becoming their own infallible authority, determining for themselves what is true and biblical.

    How did the Jews solve this problem in the OT? The Chair of Moses! His continuing authority successive and represented by the chair of Moses. And after the death of Moses, any Jewish rabbi will tell you, as is demonstrated in the OT, the successors of Moses’ authority carried on the “magisterium” so that the people of God always knew. And when Jesus came to His people, who did he come to? The Jews who continued to honor the teaching office of Moses as demonstrated in the “seat of Moses”.

    Let me just end with this, Jesus is the shepherd, but who did he appoint as a visible shepherd when he left for heaven? His Vicar if you will. He appointed Peter in John 21. And how would that “one flock” remain one flock? Today it is scattered to the four winds. A visible unity? Hardly. The world says, “Why should we believe you. You say you have truth but you can’t even agree among yourselves!” Jesus said the world would be able to acknowledge that the Father sent the Son based on this visible unity. Where is it outside the Catholic Church? It isn’t. And that is one of the main reasons I am a Catholic. For all the Church’s warts, she is the only visible manifestation of the teaching, unity, and witness of Christ in a visible way to a watching world. The unity must be visible or it is worthless.

    And listening to Jesus … let’s think about that. Outside the tradition in which we each function, how do we know we are interpreting the book correctly and how do we know we are hearing him correctly. Many people hear many things, and many are “led by the Lord” in divergent and contradictory ways. How do we know without a living family and shepherd to guide us? Jesus did not leave his Book and Spirit alone. He left the Church which is the pillar and foundation of the truth, with the authority to bind and loose, to excommunicate, to legislate and adjudicate. That is the meaning of “bind and loose” in the contemporary terminology of the Jewish rabbis of Jesus’ time.

    If your brother offends you (Mt 18) who do you take him to? The Bible? To the Lord in our prayer closet? If I go to the Baptist church and he goes to the Assemblies of God, which church do we take it to–his or mine? And if we decide to take it to his, what if they censure him. Can’t he just go to the local Nazarene church instead. With your “spiritual” perception of the flock and sheep, where is the Church that we must listen to or be considered excommunicated?

    Jesus promised to build his Church on Peter and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it (Matthew 18:18) and Jesus Promised to be with his Church until the end of the Age (Matthew 28:20). I cannot under good conscience simply dismiss the promises of our Lord and Savior on the account of some bad example.

  11. Darlene says:

    Dear Felix,

    It would be a challenging task for me to answer in a few sentences what attracted me to the Roman Catholic Church. Time does not permit me at the present moment to expound upon my faith journey. What I will say is that attraction to the R.C. Church began with just a miniscule seed, which then grew into a gigantic flower. Not unlike Cardinal Newman’s explanation of Catholic doctrine being unfolded and revealed over the centuries.

    I fully expected to enter into the Roman Catholic Church by Easter of 2008. In my zeal and determination, I was willing to do whatever it took to become a Roman Catholic even at the cost of my marriage and friendships. In essense, to all that was familiar to me. Not unlike my initial conversion to Christ when all my friends and family thought I was a nut case. But that’s another story.

    I will be glad to explain in further detail, the myriad of twists and turns that path encompassed, from its very beginnings to the last sorrowful end. Honestly, from time to time, I still wish that my journey had led me to the other side of the Tiber under Rome’s protection. But, I know too much at this juncture and my informed conscience will not permit me to do so, nor my heart for that matter.

    Darlene

  12. Darlene says:

    Fraziier,

    Thanks for the warm welcome. Trust me, I will have quite a few questions for you. Please don’t become impatient with me. My heart truly longs for a church home, but one that honors the Lord Jesus Christ above all things, and loves the truth of sacred Scripture above the world and all that it has to offer.

    May God bless you in all your endeavors and strenghten you for His purposes.

    Darlene

  13. Darlene says:

    Dear Truth Be Told,

    I fully expect to answer your comments in detail, when time permits. I have to leave for school shortly, so I will respond oh so very concisely [if that is possible for me :)].

    You remind me so very much of myself when I was in the thick of defending the Roman Catholic Church. Sounds like you have read Father Graham’s book, “How We Got the Bible;” from Kirk to the Catholic Church. I must have marked up almost every other page as I read that book, believing all the things that you have stated above. What you have said is not unfamiliar to me.

    In my intense desire to know the truth, I gobbled up as much reading as possible on the Roman Catholic faith. So I became quite familiar with Rome’s current apologists and some whom are no longer with us. Apologists and defenders of the Roman Catholic faith such as Tim Staples, Patrick Madrid, Jimmy Akin, Steve Ray, Paul Thigpen, Scott Hahn, Marcus Grodi, Karl Keating, David Currie, Lynn Nordhagen, Jim Anderson, Rosalind Moss, Kenneth Howell, just to mention a few, became like armchair friends to me. I even became familiar with the more “black-listed” Roman Catholics, such as Robert Sungenis, Gerry Matatics, and even the Dimond Brothers. If they were Catholic of any stripe, I wanted to read what they had to say.

    I, in my desire to know and take in all that was Roman Catholic, learned and prayed the Rosary daily, even praying for the pope. I prayed Novenas, went to Eucharistic Adoration, and attended Mass whenever I could. Roman Catholic traditions were of special interest to me. So I learned about the wearing of the brown scapular, and the Miraculous Metal. I discovered the Liturgy of the Hours, and the prayers of the Church. I learned about the prayer of Sister Faustina, which is now said by the faithful every afternoon at 3:00. “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Prayers such as “Oh My Jesus,” Hail Holy Queen, and the St. Francis prayer, comforted me daily. I longed to know more about the visions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, Fatima, Quadelupe, and Medjegore, just to mention a few. I secretly met with a Catholic friend to visit a shrine, just so I could feel the unique presence of God there. This only briefly describes my intense fixation on all that was Roman Catholic.

    Please understand, Truth Be Told, that I can fully relate to your enthusiasm to defend “Holy Mother Church.” I was compelled to do so on various occasions. Again, I will respond to your comments above, when I have a bit more time to do so.

    May Jesus bless you this day,

    Darlene

  14. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Darlene,

    Thank you for your response. I look forward to hearing from you as I have enjoyed everything you have had to say.

    With you in Christ

  15. OFelixCulpa says:

    Darlene,

    Thanks for your answer. I understand that it is difficult to summarize (or even understand) something that has had such an impact upon you.

    It does seem that you are in a way disappointed that you cannot now join the RC church…Like there is something there that you find enormously appealing and which you would love to embrace were it not for your committment to truth. For a time you hoped that you could have both (truth and that appealing thing), but you have now given that up.

    You mention “Rome’s protection.” Is that part of what appeals to you, or just way of speaking about being in the RCC?

    I ask because, though I can understand why people would become disenchanted with Evangelical Protestantism (often I wonder how anyone could not be disenchanted), I don’t really understand what people would find appealing about Rome.

    I very much agree with you that we should not let our theology be decided by what does or does not appeal to us. If only it were a simple thing to sort out what is true from what we really really want to be true!

    KWR

  16. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Felix,

    You make some very good points, namely,

    “If only it were a simple thing to sort out what is true from what we really really want to be true!”

    Can I ask what it is that you do not feel appealing about Rome? Is it something that you do not find to be true or something you really not want to be true?

    Just curious :o)

  17. Darlene says:

    Truth Be Told,

    Before I respond to you at length, I would like to know in which faith tradition you were raised. Are you a cradle Catholic, a Protestant convert (if so from which denomiation), a revert (someone raised in the R.C.C. who left and now has returned) or raised in a secular, atheist or agnostic home, and converted to the R.C.C.? Just curious. :).

    Darlene

    Whoops….I forgot to add some other categories…or were you raised in an Eastern religion (Hindu, Buddhist, Shintoism) or a cult such as the LDS Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Chrisitian Scientist, etc? After all, in this P.C. world of ours, we must try to be inclusive. Yet, I realize that I still haven’t included all belief systems. That would take quite some time. I do think you will be able to admit to having belonged to one of the many faith traditions I have already mentioned thus far. If not, I apologize for not being progressive enough. What can I say, I’m still evolving. (All said in humor!)

  18. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Darlene,

    I was raised Southern Baptist. I come from a very strong Protestant Family. If you know anything about Soiuthern Baptists then you know all about the ‘Fire & Brimestone’ preaching that takes place in the pulpit.

    Deep down I always knew that there was something missing from my faith as if it were not complete. After I left home I joined the Army and there was a period of my life that I embraced Securlarlisim. After the military I shopped religions so to say. I spent time with the Jehova’s Witnesses, I studied Calvinism, I attended services and learned about the Evengalical Lutheran’s and eventualy ended up in a non-demoniational church were I spent a great deal of time. Went to church 6 days a week, stood on street corners witnessing to the people.

    It wasn’t until I met my wife did I start learning about Catholicism. When my wife asked me to go to Mass with her I cringed. All of my upbringing screamed at the thought of entering a Catholic Church. I thought that they were a bunch of Idol worshippping, non-Bible reading, Papal Garbage. I even believed that they were the “whore of Babylon” that the book of Revelations talks about. Every Protestant that I knew (inluding family) told me that I would go straight to Hell for even entertaining the idea. But as usual I just had to find out for myself. Boy, was I wrong in my beliefs. After studying Church History, The Renissance, and the Reformation (quite extensively) I realized that I had a very biased opinion and I never really gave the other side a fair chance. This did not come overnight, but rather years of study, debate, arguement with the wife and family, and ultimately prayer that finally lef me home. And the more I read blogs such as this one, the more I am strengthened in my own faith. When you really look at it, even on a secular level, Catholicsim just makes sense. I can now confidently claim that I am Home in the Church that Jesus Christ established. Ever since converting I have been at peace with my faith, with my life, and my family has been abundantly blessed.

    Hope this helps in your response :)

  19. OFelixCulpa says:

    TBT,

    While it is difficult, it is neither impossible nor futile to sort out truth from ideas which seem good to us. Darlene sets a good example here. Though she admits that she is attracted to certain parts of RC, she does not refuse to reckon with the problems of Roman Catholicism.

    I doubt shrinking myself over why I don’t feel more attraction to Rome than I do would be an Christ-honoring use of my time. Darlene has had to sort out the attraction she feels from the errors she just cannot swallow, and I admire her for doing it well. The fact that I do not have the exact same struggle means little of importance.

    KWR

  20. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Felix,

    I do apologize if I have taken too much of your time. My purpose is not for argument sake. I am just curious as to what your persaonal road blockx are.

    The fact is that what may be true for you is not necessarily true for someone else. So If Truth is different, how can it really be Truth at all? There in lies the quandry. Who distinguishes what is true and what isn’t? To simply say that God does would bring you back into a circular argument. God is all Truth yes, but what someone percieves God is telling them is not necessarily true.

    What ‘seems’ good is not and should not be the rule in which we live our lives. The end never justifies the means.

  21. OFelixCulpa says:

    TBT

    You don’t need to apologize; I’m good at skimming.

    I can’t guess what is blocking a road that I’m not even on. I just don’t find Rome appealing.

    I can’t be sure what the second paragraph in your last comment means, but there seems to be a fallacy of composition. It is a truth that Darlene finds RC appealing, and it is also a truth that I don’t find RC appealing. That doesn’t, however, mean that Truth is different for everyone.

    I agree with what you say in your third paragraph (I said virtually the same thing above, “we should not let our theology be decided by what does or does not appeal to us”), but I am a little confused by your change of position. In your previous comment you appear to argue the exact opposite….”I can now confidently claim that I am Home in the Church that Jesus Christ established. Ever since converting I have been at peace with my faith, with my life, and my family has been abundantly blessed.” To argue that personal comfort is a good reason to feel at home in the RC, but a bad reason to not bother with the RC is just silly.

    I’m not saying, though, that my motives for ignoring RC have to do with personal comfort. I believe that the RC church is generally apostate; that is why I do not seek to be a part of it. The fact that I feel no personal desire to be a part of it is—though fortunate for me—not really important.

    KWR

  22. Darlene says:

    Dear TBT,

    I may have to write this in installments (no joke) because my faith journey cannot be explained in just a few short paragraphs. I do hope that we can all be charitable in our attitudes and responses.

    TBT, your first question to me was, “Do you acknowledge that the Apostles left the truth and the authority in the hand of their successors, the bishops?” However, you begin in the second paragraph and throughout the majority of your post to attack sola scriptura. What I have observed both from having once defended the Roman Catholic faith, in addition to reading and listening to Roman Catholic apologists is (1.) Sola scriptura is what is first and foremost always attacked, criticized, and vilified as proof that Protestants are misled. Since I did not arrive at my present conclusion through impugning sola scriptura, I do not want to debate that in this particular post. As I first stated, I made the decision not to cross the Tiber because of discovering that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was indeed fallible. It was this discovery that prevented me from becoming R.C.

    Now, back to your first question. I am aware that the Apostles laid their hands on others and commissioned others to preach the gospel and be bishops, elders, etc. in the church. What I would rather do than get into a debate mode regarding the early church, is explain to you what initially convinced me that the present Roman Catholic Church is not what she claims to be.

    I understood that becoming R.C. was a serious committment. So serious in fact, that I wanted to discover what and who this church was. What better way than to read her history? As I began reading history, it slowly dawned on me that the R.C. Church of the Middle Ages up until the mid fifties, differed quite a bit from the latter 20th C. to present R.C. Church. In reading various declarations, pronounced infallibly by popes in previous centuries, I discovered that these popes were cut from a different cloth than post Vatican II popes. You make mention in your post that since the declaration of the dogma of Papal Infallibility (declared in 1870) that “there have been two official excathedra statements.” TBT, I suspect that you are aware that all the declarations by popes throughout the centuries made in official papal documents such as encyclicals and during ecumenical councils were binding and irreversable. In other words, although the R.C. Church, only “officially” proclaimed the doctrine of Papal Infallibility in 1870, they take the stand that Papal Infallibility existed since the conception of the Roman Catholic Church.

    In reading the anathamas against Jews, Protestant heretics, schismatics, etc. proclaimed by previous popes such as Pope Eugene IV at the Council of Florence (Cantate Domino 1441), and anathamas made at the Council of Trent, to more recent anathamas such as the Syllabus of Errors, it is clear and irrefutable what these anathamas meant. These councils and popes expressed in clear, concise terms that anyone who was outside of the Roman Catholic Church was damned. The Council of Trent especially made it clear that the only way Protestants could be saved was to return to the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican II changed all that. Vat. II lifted the anathamas against the Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox. Not only did Vatican II lift anathamas officially and dogmatically pronounced by previous councils and popes, but it also changed the Mass, by introducing the Novus Ordo Mass. Over 20 prayers were stripped from the Mass, even the prayers that priests had been saying for centuries during the consecration of the host during the Eucharist.

    The result was that within a few short years, the Roman Catholic Church barely resembled the ancient church that she once had been. The fruit of that change is undeniable. There are those Catholics, old enough to remember the enormous change that occurred. Altars were ripped from their foundations in many churches and thrown into the garbage. Statues, relics, and altars were stripped from many sanctuaries. Catholics were told that they must now accept the communion host in the hand and no longer could kneel. The changes brought about were of gigantic proportions. So much so that Pope Paul VI, lamented over the condition of the post Vat. II R.C. Church saying “The smoke of Satan had entered the Church.” I cannot disagree. And why did this happen? From what I have read, one of the main architects of Vatican II is to blame, Archbishop Bognini. In fact, he had 6 Protestant advisors to assist him in the writing of the Vat. II documents, reshaping the Roman Catholic Church. His intentions are clear when he is quoted as saying, “We desire to do everything to facilitate the path of union for our separated brethren, by removing every stone that could constitute even the shadow of a risk of stumbling or of displeasure.” Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965.

    Bognini, who was the “Chief of the Litugical Revisionists,” sought to revise the liturgy in order to make it appealing to Protestants. The result of course, was that many, thousands upon thousands, of traditional Roman Catholics left the Church. One indication of the effects of Vat.II is that of annullments. (What I would call a Catholic divorce.) In 1952, there were 392 annullments worldwide. By 1997, there were 73,000 annullments in the United States alone. These statistics are from a Roman Catholic source.

    I came to the conclusion, that the present day Roman Catholic Church is not the one, true, Apostolic Church founded on the rock of St. Peter. In my next post, I will be more specific in quoting various popes and councils from previous centuries. It was in fact, what these previous popes declared that brought me to this conclusion. I will leave you with a quote from Pope Eugene IV, made in the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441. “The most Holy Roman Catholic Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches that no one of those existing outside the Catholic Church, heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal, but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.”

    All stated infallibly, by the way. Post Vat. II popes have clearly contradicted this infallible proclamation. How can this be if excathedra statements are irreversible???

    Until next time,

    Darlene

  23. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Darlene,

    Thank you for your response. I appreciate the great deal of detail in which you explain your case. It gives me a better feel for your thought process. Although I do disagree with many of your points, I must ask if you can share with me the sources by which you come to these conclusions. For the history and Council documents that I have read have painted an entirley different picture.

    Give me some time to formulate a thoughtful response, for I would like to examine your post in further detail. In my response I plan to detail the doctine of Papal Infallability, seeing how this has been a stumbling block for you. After going through all your posts, I do feel that you have not quite understood this yet. Just keep this in mind, Understanding is a complete opposite to Faith. We cannot understand everything, at some point you must take Jesus at his word. See the following passages to see where I am going with this; (Matthew 18:18, Matthew 28:20, John 14:16-17, & 1 Timothy 3:16). If you would like, you can e-mail me at true_catholic@hotmail.com

  24. Fraiser says:

    TBT,

    “understanding is a complete opposite to Faith.”

    Since when? This is not the idea of faith presented in Scripture. Faith is a form of understanding not its opposite. Hebrews 11:3 says “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

    Once again your view is defeated with Scripture. The only thing that is the opposite of understanding is misunderstanding, and faith is not a misunderstanding.

    Should you seek to play the card that I have no right to interpret Scripture for myself, you should know that Augustine and Anselm (along with the majority of Protestant and Catholic theologians since) taught that religious knowledge is defined as “faith seeking understanding.” If faith seeks understanding then how can it be opposed to it?

    I’m afraid you’ll have to do an enormous amount of explaining if you mean to defend the idea that faith opposes understanding. You’ll still come up short, I’m afraid.

  25. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Fraiser,

    Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean it in the sense that we cannot try to understand, but rather our human understanding will always fall short. It is where we fall short that Faith must take over. In that aspect Faith and Understanding are at opposite ends of the Spectrum.

    Tell me Fraiser,

    Do you (or could you) fully understand the Trinity? How can three be one?

    Do you (or could you) fully understand that God always existed and always will exist?

    Do you (or could you) fully understand how the Holy Spirit interacted with Mary to bring Jesus into her womb?

    You need not try to answer these questions, because you would not be able to. I use these questions because they are the most popular, but hopefully you get my point.

    It is for us to know God, to try and do God’s Will, but to fully understand it is beyond or Human intellect.

    Therefore Understanding and Faith are not synonymous

  26. Truth_Be_Told says:

    One last point;

    You stated

    “If faith seeks understanding then how can it be opposed to it?”

    “If”, is the key part of your statement. How is someone, for instance, with no knowledge of God going to have Faith in him? Wouldn’t that person have to have at least a basic understanding/knowledge of who/what to have faith in?

    And how would said person even know what faith is?

    I believe the two work together, Basic Understanding leads to faith, while Faith (once obtained) seeks out a deeper Understanding. Where that understand falls short, as it always will, one must take the proverbial ‘leap of Faith’

  27. Fraiser says:

    “Please don’t misunderstand me.”

    Oh, I see. If I disagree with you it’s because I misunderstood you not because you were wrong or because you weren’t clear about what you meant. If you want me to understand you, you have to help me do that.

    I want to challenge your conception of faith. You say that faith takes over where human understanding fails. That is, human understanding apart from faith can carry us so far and then we need to have faith. Faith just fills in the gaps of our ignorance. I don’t see this idea presented in Scripture at all.

    Faith is the fundamental thing that we need to understand anything. The major aim of this blog is to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ as 2 Cor 10:5 teaches. Scripture doesn’t call us to bring only those thoughts that are beyond human understanding under the captivity of Christ but to bring ALL thoughts under the capitivity of Christ. I don’t see then how you can think that human reason on its own can can understand some things but faith is necessary for others.

    Apart from reasoning according to the truth of the Christian worldview and the truth of faith a person would not know anything. Unbelievers who reject faith know all kinds of things, but they do not know this because of their human understanding but because they have taken what is true only on the truth of the Christian faith and stated it as though it was true on the self-sufficiency of human reason. If unbelievers thought and believed everything consisistently with their espoused worldview they would not arrive at a single truth. Chaos and Old Night are the only foundations of claims to knowledge without building them on the truth found in Christ.

    I agree that it is beyond our reason to fully understand the Trinity, the eternality of God, and the virgin birth of Christ. My point though is that it is beyound our reason to fully understand anything. Faith is necessary to properly interpret anything not just select theological brainteasers.

    “How is someone, for instance, with no knowledge of God going to have Faith in him? Wouldn’t that person have to have at least a basic understanding/knowledge of who/what to have faith in?”

    Here I think is where we see a very striking difference between faith according to Roman Catholicism and faith according to Protestantism and more specifically Lutheranism.

    According to you, a person has to reach a certain knowledge via their human understanding before they are prepared to exercise faith. I view faith as a supernatural work that is planted within a person. As Luther argued human reason is an obstacle of faith not an aid. By human reason we judge God not to exist and the cross as foolishness. This is Paul’s precise point in 1 Cor 1-2. The wisdom of this world considers the wisdom of God foolisness. Divine understanding or true reason is an aid to faith, but not human reason. If a person has a “basic understanding/knowledge of who/what to have faith in” then this is the supernatural work of God in the mind of this person.

    What God has prepared is not something that no eye has seen nor ear has heard and thus we do come to understand through our senses or human reason.

    The notion of a leap of faith is foolishness and Scripture rejects such a notion. If you have told people to trust in their human reason for so much why would they take such a leap later on. They will do what in fact most people do: continue to trust in the power of human reason and judge faith to be for irrational people. You can’t build up the power of human reason and then ask people to take a leap from it.

    As I have pointed out already, Augustine and Anselm don’t agree with you. Do you disagree with Augustine and Anselm here? I’m very curious to know.

    The reason of fallen human beings cannot cooperate with the knowledge that comes by faith because human reason always wants to assert itself as the final judge of all matters and faith will not let reason be the final judge in any matter. What I hear you saying is that reason is the final judge in some matters but not in a select number of other matters. Scripture clearly rejects this view.

  28. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Fraiser,

    It probably means little to you what I say because you already have your preconceived notions about anyone that disagrees with you.

    What I said earlier I still stand by. Whether I agree or disagree with Augustine and Anslem is not important.

    As you said “I view faith as a supernatural work that is planted within the person”. I will not argue this point. But here is where the real difference is between RC and Lutheranism in particular. I beleive that mankind works with/against the Will of God. Unlike what Luther teaches, Mankind does have Free Will, just read the Book of Sirach. (Never mind, you cannot read that Book of the Bible, because Luther decided to throw it out of his Bible. It did not agree with HIS understanding)

    A Man can choose to nurture this “supernatural” faith or abandon it, but he only does so by what he understands at that point in his life. If he has no knowledge of the Christian Faith, as you say, this “planted supernatural work” how then is he able to exercise his faith to further understanding? How then is my Muslim Brother (because we are all brothers & sisters under God) able to come to a realization of the Truth in the Christian Faith? Someone has to tell him, to spread the Good news. Now you might argue that it was faith in the person bringing the good news, but to the person contemplating this news it is not, in his mind faith. He must reason and attempt to understand this basic and fundamental knowledge that was just brought before him. I am not saying that God is not the invisible force, what I am saying is that God is waiting for the person to cooperate with him and by doing so enriching this “planted” faith that he knew nothing about. It is at this point that faith seeks further understanding.

    By our Human nature (with the faith we have come to know)we will try to understand everything. At some point we will fall short, and must “turn it over to God” as my Protestant friends and family say. And in turning it over to God, we must look to his church and the Authority that he has given it. This again is where RC and Protestants differ. For in my view, by interpreting the word of God for yourself, you claim to speak for God through your personal interpretation, a very dangerous thing to do given our human nature. This is why we have so many competing denominations today.

    We can set here and throw scripture quotes back and forth all day long, but at the end of the day it proves nothing other than our personal understanding of scripture. And that understanding, if I may add, can be led astray simply by the Bible Version (i.e. translation) we are reading from.

  29. Truth_Be_Told says:

    “What I hear you saying is that reason is the final judge in some matters but not in a select number of other matters.”

    Once again you hear me wrong. Basic understanding of the faith, to use your words, that is “planted” without prior knowledge of it, allows it to grow (upon accepting it).

    Reason brings faith to life, faith enriches reason, but ultimatly faith carries one through to the final destination.

  30. Darlene says:

    TBT,

    I would like to remark on some comments that you have made in your discourse with Frazier. It is not my intention to meddle in a quarrel not my own, for I heed Solomon’s wise advice. However, you have said some things which bring me back to my original post as to why I have not become a Roman Catholic. My comments are not meant to nit-pick or wrongly fault the R.C. faith. Rather, I hope you are able to comprehend my reasoning in regards to this decision.

    You refer to the Muslim as “your brother” because you say “we are all brothers and sisters under God.” Now I don’t have to ask how you came to this conclusion, for post Vatican II popes have purported this line of thinking. However, if you were to inquire of Pope Urban II, this supreme pontiff and Vicar of Christ would beg to differ with you. Urban II is best known as launching the First Crusade, typically referred to as the Popular Crusade in 1095, to reconquer the Holy Land. In his famous speech at the council of Clermont, he rallied the Christian warriors to take up the cross against the “Infidels” promising spiritual rewards to all who would do so: “Undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the kingdom of Heaven,” Urban proclaimed. And just who did Urban think these Infidels were? None other than what you claim to be your Muslim brothers. See what I mean about post Vat. II popes being cut from a different cloth? So much for the continuity of the Roman Catholic Church.

    TBT, you say, “For in my view, by interpreting the Word of God for yourself, you claim to speak for God through your personal interpretation, a very dangerous thing to do given our human nature.” I would like to ask you a few very pertinent questions. When you or any other Roman Catholic picks up a Bible to read the scriptures, where and how is this infallible teaching authority in operation? Do you have a handy guide that tells you what each and every verse means according to the infallible Catholic Magesterium? How many verses of scripture have all the Roman pontiffs “infallibly interpreted?” Honestly, it is a rhetorical question on my part. Rome has in fact, been silent on infallibly interpreting the majority of scripture. Roman Catholic theologians, professors, priests, and scholars, even disagree on what the Bible has to say about various matters of the Christian faith. Just go to any R.C. college and you will discover this for yourself. There are R.C. nuns who teach at various Roman Catholic colleges who believe that women should be priests and that the creation story is just a myth. There are Catholic theologians who teach against transubstantion, the divinity of Christ, and support abortion. So much for “that they may all be one.”

    While on my faith journey toward Roman Catholicism, I wondered why there could be so many Catholics who oppose the teachings of the Church, yet are not excommunicated or relieved from their posts. I am speaking of bishops, priests, nuns, theologians, and even well-known lay persons, who have publicly made known where they stand. Rome and the Magesterium are silent while those from within erode the faith of many ignorant Catholics.

    Again, I reiterate what I said in one of my former posts. Roman Catholic apologists must attack sola scriptura in order to defend their faith. Yet, what you claim to be far more reliable is sola ecclesia. But this “infallible ecclesia” or magesterium, has contradicted itself over the course of time. No example can be more clearly seen as evidence of this (in my opinion) than in studying the infallible claims of Vatican II. The post Vatican II Church, with her new ecuminism, seems to suffer from a type of schizophrenia.

    So you TBT, are willing to put your trust in an infallible papacy that used scripture to defend the slaughter of thousands and thousands of people, from Muslims, to Jews, to Protestants, to anyone whom the Roman Pontiff declared to be a heretic. For it was the Supreme Pontiff Urban II, who claimed that the truth of the holy scriptures was leading him to launch the first Crusade against the Infidels, to the point of promising eternal rewards for those willing to kill in the name of Christ and the Church. Pope Urban was uncompromising in his quest to exterminate all those who interfered with this Crusade in saying, “Concerning this affair, I, with supplicant prayer-not I, but the Lord-exhort you heralds of Christ, to persuade all of whatever class, both knights and footmen, both rich and poor, in numerous edicts, to strive to help expel that wicked race from our Christian lands before it is too late.” The “wicked race” being the the Muslims. So much for the traditional Roman Catholic Church viewing the Muslim as his brother. And this is but one of many examples of the Roman Papacy wrongly “interpreting” scripture for the sake of the Roman Catholic Church’s self-aggrandizement. So why, I ask, should I trust the Magesterium to interpret scripture for me? Why, when history teaches me that the papacy has wrongly interpreted scripture for the Church’s selfish purposes? Why, when the “infallible” statements of former popes stand in direct opposition to the present day “infallible” papal statements of the post-concilliar church?

    The present day R.C. Church seeks to distance herself from the past with its anathamas against heretics of all persuasions. She wishes to preach a more universal salvation where even ignorant pagans, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, anyone not confessing the Christian religion, has the opportunity to be saved, without ever converting to Christianity. She preaches a brotherhood of man in which all are children of God, although they may not confess it or believe it. She thinks to change the rubrics of the Mass so that more Protestants will be convinced to convert to Roman Catholicism. Yet, it is in this reversal, this obvious obfuscation, that she shows herself not to be what she claims, namely, the one, true, holy, apostolic Church. In this course which the Church has taken, she herself proves that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility is infallible.

    I leave you with one of those clear, “infallible” proclamations, which the present day R.C. Church would prefer to re-interpret with lofty, philosophical language, or better yet, dicard from its memory entirely. “Therefore, we declare, state, define and pronounce that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” The Decree Unam Sanctum (1302). No mincing of words there.

    Now, tell me why I should submit to the Magesterium and Papal authority again?

    Darlene

  31. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Darlene,

    You throw the idea of Infallibility around like it is common practice among Roman Catholics. You seem to think that everything a Pope says is considered infallible to Roman Catholics. If that is really your understanding, then you have truly missed the mark.

    Infallibility of the Pope does not mean that the pope cannot sin. Infallibility means that under certain rigorous conditions the teaching of the pope is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. The conditions are these:

    1. The pope must be speaking in his capacity as chief leader and shepherd of the Church.

    2. He must be clearly defining a doctrine as being a truth of faith to be accepted by the whole Church.

    3. The definition must be concerned with matters of faith or morals.

    The number of statements by popes that fulfill these conditions is very small. One example occurred in 1950 when Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary a doctrine of faith. Catholics recognize that the ordinary teachings of the pope (in sermons, speeches, encyclical letters and so on) do not fulfill these conditions and are therefore not infallible. Catholics do, nevertheless, give due respect to all the teachings of the pope, whether infallible statements or not.

    Tell me Darlene, Do you believe anyone in Christian and Jewish History ever spoke or written infallibly? If you say no, I will gladly show you otherwise, but if you say yes, then how is this possible?

    Getting to your more pressing question;

    “Now, tell me why I should submit to the Magesterium and Papal authority again?”

    I will give you 6 good reasons, backed by Scripture & Tradition.

    1. BECAUSE THE RC IS AN APOSTOLIC CHURCH

    Jn 15:16 – Jesus chose special men to be his Apostles
    Jn 20:21 – Jesus gave the Apostles his own mission
    Lk 22:29-30 – Jesus gave them a kingdom
    Mt. 16:18 – Jesus built Church on Peter, the rock
    Jn 10:16 – one shepherd to shepherd Christ’s sheep
    Lk 22:32, Jn 21:17 – Peter appointed to be chief shepherd
    Eph 4:11 – church leaders are hierarchical
    1 Tim 3:1, 8; 5:17 – identifies roles of bishops, priests, deacons
    Tit 1:5 – commission for bishops to ordain priests

    2. BECAUSE THE RC IS AN AUTHORITATIVE CHURCH

    Mt. 28:18-20 – Jesus delegates all power to Apostles
    Jn 20:23 – power to forgive sin
    1 Cor 11:23-24 – power to offer sacrifice (Eucharist)
    Lk 10:16 – power to speak with Christ’s voice
    Mt 18:18 – power to legislate
    Mt 18:17 – power to discipline
    St. Irenaeus (c. 200 AD): “…the Church, having received this preaching and this faityh, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these thibgs just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth.” Against Heresies 1, 10, 2

    Eusibius of Caesarea (4th c.): “But the brightness of the Catholic Church proceeded to increase in greatness, for it ever held to the same points in the same way, and radiated forth to allthe race of Greeks and barbarians the reverent, sincere, and free nature, and the sobriety and purity of the divine teaching as to conduct and thought.” Ecclesiastical History 4, 7, 13.

    St. Augustine (392 AD): “The Catholic Church is the work of Divine Providence, achieved through the prophecies of the prophets, through the Incarnation and the teaching of Christ, through the journeys of the Apostles, through the suffering, the crosses, the blood and death of the martyrs, through the admirable lives of the saints… When, then we see so much help on God’s part, so much progress and so much fruit, shall we hesitate to bury ourselves in the bosom of that Church? For starting from the apostolic chair down through successions of bishops, even unto the open confession of all mankind, it has possessed the crown of teaching authority.” The advantage of Believing 35.

    3. BECAUSE THE RC IS THE INFALLABILE CHURCH

    Jn 16:13 – guided by Holy Spirit into all truth
    Jn 14:26 – Holy Spirit to teach & remind them of everything
    Lk 10:16 – speak with Christ’s own voice
    1 Tim 3:15 – church called “pillar and foundation of truth”
    1 Jn 2:27 – anointing of Holy Spirit remains in you
    Acts 15:28 – Apostles speak with voice of Holy Spirit
    Mt 28:20 – I (Jesus) am with you always
    St. Irenaeus (c. 200): “For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God, there the Church and every grace. The Spirit, however, is Truth. “ Against Heresies 3, 24, 1.

    4. BECAUSE THE RC IS A PERPETUAL CHURCH

    Is 9:6-7 – of Christ’s government there will be no end
    Dan 2:44 – God’s kingdom shall stand forever
    Dan 7:14 – his kingdom shall not be destroyed
    Lk 1:32, 33 – no end to Christ’s Kingdom
    Mt 13:24-30 – let what & weeds grow together until harvest.
    Mt. 16:18 – gates of hell will never prevail against Christ’s church.
    Jn 14:16 – Holy Spirit will be with you always

    5. BECAUSE OF THE PRIMACY OF PETER (THE 1ST POPE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH)

    Mt. 16:18 – upon this rock (Peter) I will build my church
    Mt. 16:19 – give you keys of the kingdom, power to bind & loose
    Lk 22:32 – Peter’s faith will strengthen his brethren
    Jn 21:17 – given Christ’s flock as chief shepherd
    Mk 16:7 – angel sent to announce Resurrection to Peter
    Lk 24:34 – risen Jesus first appeared to Peter
    Acts 1:13-26 – headed meeting which elected Matthias
    Acts 2:14 – led Apostles in preaching on Pentecost
    Acts 2:41 – received first converts
    Acts 3:6-7 – performed first miracle after Pentecost
    Acts 5:1-11 inflicted first punishment: Ananias & Saphira
    Acts 8:21 – excommunicated first heretic, Simon Magnus
    Acts 10:44-46 – received revelation to admit Gentiles into church
    Acts 15:7 – led first council in Jerusalem
    Acts 15:19 – pronounces first dogmatic decision
    Gal 1:18 – after conversion, Paul visits chief Apostle
    Peter’s name always heads list of Apostles: Mt 10:1-4, Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13
    “Peter and his companions” – Lk 9:32; Mk 16:7
    Spoke for Apostles – Mt 18:21; Mk 8:29; Lk 8:45, 12:41; Jn 6:69
    Peter’s name occurs 195 times, more than all the rest put together.

    6. BECAUSE OF THE RC CHURCHES APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION DOWN TO THE CURRENT POPE

    2 Chr 19:11 – high priest is over you in everything of Lord’s
    Mal 2:7 – seek instruction from priest, he is God’s messenger
    Eph 2:20 – church built upon foundation of apostles & prophets
    1 Cor 12:28-29 – God designated in church; apostles, …
    Acts 1:20 – let another take his office
    Acts 1:25-26 – Matthias takes Judas’ apostolic ministry
    1 Tim 3:1, 8; 5:17 – qualifications for: bishops, priests, & deacons
    1 Tim 4:14 – gift conferred with laying on of hands
    1 Tim 5:22 – do not lay hands too readily on anyone
    Acts 14:23 – they appointed presbyters in each church
    2 Tim 2:2 – what you heard from me entrust to faithful teachers
    Titus 1:5 – appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed.

    Now since you said in an earlier post

    “I am aware that the Apostles laid their hands on others and commissioned others to preach the gospel and be bishops, elders, etc. in the church.”

    Then you must believe in Apostolic Succession. If you believe in Apostolic Succession, then you cannot deny that the Roman Catholic Church, through the Bishop of Rome (i.e. the Pope) succeeds from the Apostles. And not just any Apostle, but the Chief Apostle(as shown in my scripture references), Peter. In fact, the Catholic Church is the only Church that can trace its origins back to Peter; the same Peter in which Jesus founded His Church. What other church can claim or even attempt to claim this. And if you say that the Church founded on Peter does not exists, then you call our Lord and Savior a liar (read item 4 above)

    So this brings me to another one of your posts;

    “I came to the conclusion, that the present day Roman Catholic Church is not the one, true, Apostolic Church founded on the rock of St. Peter.”

    If Jesus says that HIS Church, founded on the rock of Peter, will prevail against the gates of Hell, that the Holy Spirit will be with it always, that he (Jesus) would be with His Church Always, and that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into all Truths, then where is HIS Church if it is not the Roman Catholic Church? If you claim it to be one of the many Protestant Denominations, then prove it.

    Please do not play the Spiritual Church, the Universal belief in Jesus Card, because Jesus also said that his church is a VISIBLE church.

    I cannot believe that Jesus would go through the trouble of building up a Church, to suddenly have it disappear in the 16th century. No matter how many bad or contradicting Popes there were, God protects his Church.

    I will leave you with one final quote. It is an interpretation on how one view’s the Catholic Church, written by John L. Murphy.

    Mr. Murphy says:

    There are two ways a man might view the Church of Christ. He might look at it from the “outside,” and see it only as an organization. He may think of it as a political body of some sort, or a social group, or even identify it with the priests and bishops and consider it the means of dominating other people. But in every instance his interest in the Church is limited to the human element alone. He sees nothing but a group of “men,” not unlike any other organization around him.

    The man of faith, on the other hand, will look at the Church from “within.” He will see it as the Church of God, the Body of Christ. It is for him a God-directed organization, sustained by the activity of its divine Soul, the Holy Spirit Himself.

    This second view gives the only adequate explanation of what the Church is. Beneath the outer appearances of humanity, beneath even the sinfulness and failure of its members, there is the sustaining power of God. God’s strength, not man’s, has preserved this Church for nearly two thousand years, linking it to the apostolic faith of the primitive community.

    The history of the Catholic Church, then, is really a spiritual history: the account of how the Holy Spirit has sustained it through the centuries; of how, in His own manner, He has enabled it to withstand persecutions from without and the errors which threatened it from within. The problems the Church has faced in the past two thousand years would have ruined any purely human organization, yet the Church remains. There has been growth, development-nonessential change. But the faith, the sacraments have remained untouched. The power of the Holy Spirit has triumphed over the trials of time.

  32. Darlene says:

    Dear TBT,

    First, I would like to make a correction to the last statement in the 7th paragraph that I made in my most recent post. I meant to say “In this course which the Church has taken she herself proves that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility is fallible.”

    Next, I want you to understand that it was very disheartening for me to come to the conclusion regarding the doctrine of Papal Infallibility in the Roman Catholic Church. I dove in hook, line and sinker in my spiritual quest of the truth. It was as though I was reborn all over again as I became deeply drawn to the Roman Catholic Church. It is difficult to express in mere words the intensity to which I was being drawn. I was consummed during most of my waking hours with the desire to learn all I could about the Church that claimed to possess the fullness of the truth. I immersed myself in Catholic doctrine, teaching, and practices. Friends and family were beginning to think of me as being quite odd. I assure you, I fully intended to become a Roman Catholic by Easter 2008, no matter what the cost.

    With that said, I realize that in your most recent reply to me, you assume that I have no knowledge of the points you have made. You think to instruct me of things which you consider me to be ignorant. What you need to know is that I am already quite familiar with the arguments you have used in defense of the R.C. Church. I’ve read all the verses in defense of all the doctrines. Please understand, I say this with all sincerity, but nothing you have said in your most recent post is new to me. I once used those same verses and the same line of thinking to defend the Catholic faith. So none of what you have said has even scratched the surface regarding my main contention with the Catholic faith. In other words, you have not dealt with the reasons I have put forth as to why I cannot, in good conscience, become a Roman Catholic.

    However, I honestly believe that you are very sincere and mean to seek my good in what you have stated. But you are missing my point entirely. Let me try to help you understand.

    What first led me to my study of the R.C. faith was my disillusionment with the church I was attending with my husband. In my studies of the Catholic faith, I encountered apologist after apologist who tore down sola scriptura. Their arguments at the time made perfect sense to me. I was thrilled with the idea that there could be a church that claimed continuity, oneness, immutability with regard to doctrine, stability, unity, confidence in proclaiming the Christian faith, a Tradition that remained unchanged in a changing world. What could be better than having the security of a church that remained faithful, steadfast, and unwavering regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ?

    What began my deeper quest into the truth was a statement that convinced me of the serious committment I would be making if I became a Roman Catholic. I was told that I would have to publicly “confess to believe all that the Church teaches and submit to all her doctrines and dogmas.” At that point, I realized the gravity of the situation. Becoming a Roman Catholic meant vowing to uphold and defend all that the Church claims to be. I took on the challenge with gusto.

    It dawned on me that the current R.C. apologists encouraged the reading of the Early Church Fathers (usually up to the 6th Century) and the writings of the recent popes such as JPII and Benedict XVI. However, they were quite silent on the teachings/proclamations of the popes from the 7th century through the early 20 Century. I seldom heard any quotes from Vatican I, or the Council of Trent, or the Council of Florence.

    I remembered that I had packed away the books from a course on the Middle Ages, which I had taken in college. My professor was a Roman Catholic who had been educated in Catholic institutions from grade school through the university level. Before taking exams, he would pray the Lord’s Prayer in Latin. Honestly, at that time, I wasn’t all that interested in learning about popes, councils, Monasticism, the Crusades and all that encompasses that period in history. I just wanted to get through the course and get my degree.

    As I broke open those texts on the Middle Ages, I read with a renewed purpose in mind. I wanted to learn about all of the Roman Catholic Church’s history, for this would be the Church I was joining. However, as I read, the scales began to fall from my eyes. How could the Church which I had thought to be so beautiful and glorious, be revealed to be something quite different? I became saddened and broken hearted. I realized that I had been looking at the R.C. Church from only one perspective – that she had to be the Church that possessed the fullness of the truth. History led me to the discovery that the Roman Catholic Church was not all that she claimed to be. There were gaping holes in her claims, of which Papal Infallibility was the most perspicuous.

    TBT, you said that I “throw the idea of Infallibility around like it is common practice among Roman Catholics.” You need to read my post more clearly. I referred to Papal Decrees which were pronounced infallibly by popes. You said “You seem to think that everything a pope says is considered infallible to Roman Catholics.” Nothing in what I have said is further from the truth. In my post to you on November 25th, I demonstrate an understanding of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. Never once have I hinted at or insinuated that everything a pope says must be infallible. I realize that a pope can write a book, and Roman Catholics are not oblidged to submit to that as infallible pronouncements on the faith. You should not assume something for which I have not given any proof in what I have written thus far.

    Now I present a challenge for you. You have not, as of yet, addressed the issues I have mentioned to you regarding the contradictions between pre-Vatican II and post Vatican II popes and councils. The proclamations made at the Fourth Lateran Council, the Council of Trent, the Council of Florence, and a myriad of other councils, were stated infallibly. The Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages was prone to making infallible pronouncements more regularly than the current R.C. Church. She did this to retain the power she possessed in the Holy Roman Empire. There was no institution in the Western world during the Middle to Latter Middle Ages that had more power than the Roman Catholic Church.

    The pronouncements made at the Fourth Lateran Council, such as the example I gave of Unam Santum, and those made at the Council of Trent and Vatican I, and the Council of Florence by Pope Eugene IV (Cantate Domino in 1441), all fulfill the requirements of excathedra statements. In these documents: 1) The pope was speaking in his capacity as chief leader and shepherd of the Church; 2) The pope was clearly defining a doctrine as being a truth of the faith to be accepted by the whole Church (in these cases, the truth of the doctrine of salvation as the Church taught it, namely, that there is no salvation outside of the R.C. Church, and all heretics and unbelievers outside the Church are damned); and 3) The pope was defining matters of faith and morals. The proclamations in these councils (as well as a myriad of others) were purposefully and clearly spoken with infallibility in order to preserve the Roman Catholic faith and to condemn heretics, and all who were outside of the Church. These were not negotiable statements. The Roman Catholic was bound by the Church to submit to these councils as the indisputable truth spoken by the Vicar of Christ on earth.

    I will, if you think it necessary, refer to more infallible pronouncements made at other councils by other popes. But furthermore, I would encourage you to investigate what these popes and councils proclaimed, especially during the Middle Ages up to the early 20th Century. You may just discover that the local parish where you worship in the Novus Ordo Mass is quite different from the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church.

    Until next time,

    Darlene

  33. Truth_Be_Told says:

    Darlene,

    It is necessary to be careful in dealing with what might on the surface appear to be contradictions between the teachings of two popes, a pope and a council, or two councils. The same is true of an apparent contradiction between Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church. These apparent contradictions must be resolved according to the “analogy of faith”. In other words, since we know that both (or several) teachings are inspired by the same Holy Spirit, it is unacceptable to reject one in favor of another. Rather, the key is to find out how they fit together.

    In one case that you mention from your 12/1/07 post (the case of salvation outside the Catholic Church), while some have charged that Vatican II changed the teaching, this is really not the case. While this is a complex topic, here are some points to consider:

    1. Vatican II did teach that all Christian religions participate in some of the “bona” (goods) of which the Catholic Church is the full and complete repository—such as Scripture, certain forms of prayer, baptism, and other goods of Christian faith and life which are retained more or less undistorted in many congregations. However, this is not the same thing as saying that these other Christian denominations constitute the true Church of Christ, or that they are in any way equal to the Church of Christ. No, Vatican II taught that the Church of Christ in fact subsists in the Catholic Church. These other churches simply possess, by historical accident so to speak, some of the goods originally entrusted by Christ to His Church. Therefore, this observation of Vatican II—so important to a just assessment of the conditions of our separated brethren—does not contradict any earlier teaching.

    2. Vatican II also taught (as had several Popes before it) that it is possible for non-Catholics (and, indeed, non-Christians) who sincerely strive to know and follow the good to be saved. This has appeared to many to contradict prior teachings to the effect that there is no salvation outside the Church. On closer examination, however, one finds that the earlier teachings don’t in fact claim that one has to be a juridical member of the Church to fulfill the requirement of not being “outside” her. Rather, one can be joined to the Church in various mysterious ways. A common example would be someone who dies for Christ without having first been received into the Church (called baptism by blood).

    3. In fact, the Church has always held (both before, during and since Vatican II) that it is possible for someone to be joined to the Church in various ways without actually being a juridical member. One of the ways that this is possible is “desiderio ac voto” (by an intense wish or desire). This is considered to be the condition of a person who tries sincerely to discover God and the good insofar as he is able to know it, and to live by what he discovers. Such a person would surely join the Church if he or she could but see clearly that this is what God wishes, presuming the opportunity to do so.

    4. There are many people who are not members of the Church through no fault of their own. They have never encountered the Church; they have been conditioned so much against her that they lack the psychological capacity to justly evaluate her claims; they are invincibly ignorant; and so on. In a largely secular and anti-Catholic world, with the Church herself in such turmoil, this is as painfully obvious to all now as it was already to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, and to many popes before that time.

    But only those who knowingly and willfully reject the Church are completely cut off from Her. Only these are in an absolute sense “outside the Church”, apart from which there is no salvation. Only God Himself can judge for certain which souls fall into this category of having known and deliberately rejected His Church.

    In other words, on close examination, the two sides of this teaching do not contradict each other. Meanwhile, the fullness of the goods offered for our salvation reside only in the Catholic Church, and salvation is far easier by availing oneself of these goods than by any other path. Given this state of affairs, it is far more important for Catholics to focus less on who may be completely cut off from the Church and focus more on the fact that, since they themselves have been given so much, much will be expected of them.

    Like I said before, I really need to have your sources on the councils and Papal decrees that you say are contradicting. For everyone that you mention (Ecuminical only that is) I see only a constant truth being taught. In otherwords, my studies show a different picture than your version.

    Furthermore, if this decision is so important to you, and I sincerely believe that it is, then why do you side step the doctrine of scripture alone? (and faith alone for that matter) Of course every Catholic Apologetic is going to attack it. It flies in the face of reason, it is no where stated in scripture, nor is it part of any of the early church’s traditions. If you are so adamant about the errors of Infallability, how do you even begin to defend these protestant doctrines? At the very least, Infallability is supported by scripture.

  34. cynthia curran says:

    Well, a studyof medieval history too stop me from going to Constatninople. A lot of evangelicals are going eastern Orthodox. The history of Byzantium is interesting but the Byzantines were no more spirtual than Roman Catholics. And everyone has heard of the sack of Constantinople in 1204 but few the massacre of the latins in 1181 where Byzantines killed thousands of Italian merchants. Also, a lot of the Orthodox like to blame the west for everything. They will blame westerners for wars but the most famous Byzantine Emperor Justinian went on a reconquest of the west and the campaign in Italy was long and after his death a lot of land end up in the hands of the Lombards.

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