Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Evangelical critique of R.C. Sproul’s "Faith Alone"


I have to come clean; it is always a pleasure to find a scholar of another denomination who agrees with my personal musings. While engaging in some online research, I stumbled upon the following ESSAY. Lo and behold, Matthew Heckel has deduced many of the difficulties I had discerned in R.C. Sproul’s, Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification. (For some of my concerns, see HERE.) The following snippet from Heckel’s essay should pique most readers interest:

Sproul's thesis asserts that justification sola fide, or "by faith alone," is the essence or heart of the gospel. He writes, "I am convinced, as were the Reformers, that justification by faith alone is essential to the gospel and that Rome clearly rejects it." Sproul claims that when Rome rejected the Reformers' doctrine of justification sola fide at the Council of Trent (1545-63), the Roman church rejected the gospel itself and officially became an apostate body. he continues, "The flap over ECT is over this very point: the recognition of Rome as a true church despite its view of justification." Sproul seems to be arguing that a church body must subscribe to justification by faith alone as an article of faith, in order to be, in fact, justified by faith alone, since the context of his statements is the salvation status of those who do not believe the doctrine. Sproul claims support for his position from the Reformers…

Sproul supports his thesis from Reformation sources, but his conclusions are not informed by an engagement with patristic and medieval treatments of justification; this is one of the major weaknesses of the book. he does introduce Augustine and Aquinas into the conversation to establish that they believed justification to be exclusively by grace, and he uses their theology to accuse the Council of Trent of semi-Pelagianism. Beyond this, Sproul does not substantially treat the views of Augustine or Aquinas on justification. If he had, his thesis would surely have led him, as it did the Reformers, to deal with the question of the Christian status of the pre-Reformation church, since Augustine and the rest of its theologians did not teach that we are justified sola fide in the Reformation sense. In fact, unless Sproul's thesis is qualified, it would lead to the unintended consequence of consigning to perdition the entire Church from the patristic period up to the dawn of the Reformation, something the Reformers did not do. This is because the Reformation understanding of justification sola fide was unheard of in the pre-Reformation church and thus not believed until Luther. Alister McGrath points out that "there are no 'Forerunners of the Reformation doctrines of justification.'"

To put it another way, Luther's doctrine of justification sola fide was not a recovery but an innovation within the Western theological tradition. What is provocative about Sproul's thesis is that the equation of the construct of sola fide with the gospel itself would mean that the Roman Catholic Church not only rejected the gospel at Trent, but the Church never possessed it at all from the post-apostolic period up to the time of Luther. In this unqualified form, Sproul's thesis would also mean that since no one knew the gospel in the pre-Reformation church, no one experienced justification, and thus there was no Church. (Matthew C. Heckel, “IS R. C. SPROUL WRONG ABOUT MARTIN LUTHER? AN ANALYSIS OF R. C. SPROUL'S FAITH ALONE: THE EVANGELICAL DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION WITH RESPECT TO AUGUSTINE, LUTHER, CALVIN, AND CATHOLIC LUTHER SCHOLARSHIP”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 2004 – see above link.)

That was/is precisely my take…

Grace and peace,

David

31 comments:

Interlocutor said...

Hello David,
Well, are we able to see the RC gospel of justification/salvation (not just "saved by faith formed by love/charity/works through grace alone") with its associated doctrines of the various scholastic distinctions of merit, confessional practice/penance, indulgences, treasury of merit of the saints, the mortal sins established by the 5 precepts of the church/revisable canon law, etc. consistently echoed throughout history either? Of course not (does that mean "since no one knew the gospel in the 'pre-medieval' church, no one experienced justification"); the EO might have the better edge here I think.

I have not read Sproul's work but it would be rather silly if he fails to make the argument that the Protestant view of salvation was a development, but the author you cite writes as if he doesn't so I'm guessing he didn't for some reason. Nor have I read Michael Horton's "Putting the Amazing Back into Grace" but have read excerpts where he quotes fathers supporting calvinist doctrines, but I certainly hope he is qualifying those citations since it would be ridiculous and anachronistic to claim they were Calvinists. David King gave a reasoned approach I think in 2004 - http://www.puritanboard.com/f18/there-no-evidence-sola-fide-church-clo-828/ - saying, "I do not think you find the present day Reformed understanding of 'sola fide' expressed in the ECFs or in the medieval period." and "I think what we find in the ECFs, in view of what I provided above (a litany of citations, many of which seem to simply be against Pelagianism/Semi-Pelagianism, not really promoting sola fide; faith through sola gratia, yes, but some are certainly interesting), are inconsistent expressions of 'sola fide' when understood in the overall context of their extant writings to the contrary, where they also affirmed that we are not justified by faith alone. This is what my studies have provided for me in the past 7/8 years of research."

An interesting notion I saw from one Reformed person was that a person could be considered orthodox if they didn't write explicitly condemning something. So, because Trent wrote explicitly against sola fide, it became apostate, but fathers and medievals who were inconsistent or silent on it could still be considered orthodox. Not sure that's very persuasive for me though. But anyways, even if it is claimed that sola fide couldn't be a development 1500 years later and still be foundational to the gospel, I would simply point to doctrines such as the Trinity/Christology which were certainly developments and not perfectly/fully held by many in the centuries leading up to the conciliar definitions.

In your view, what is the Gospel? And does your definition not fall prey to the same criticism put forth against sola fide here?

David Waltz said...

Hello Interlocutor,

Before I start commenting on your response, I just wanted to say that I truly feel privileged to have you drop by and post on my little blog. Your posts are always thought provoking, and are written with charity that is quite rare on the internet. Now to your post, you wrote:

>>Well, are we able to see the RC gospel of justification/salvation (not just "saved by faith formed by love/charity/works through grace alone") with its associated doctrines of the various scholastic distinctions of merit, confessional practice/penance, indulgences, treasury of merit of the saints, the mortal sins established by the 5 precepts of the church/revisable canon law, etc. consistently echoed throughout history either? Of course not (does that mean "since no one knew the gospel in the 'pre-medieval' church, no one experienced justification"); the EO might have the better edge here I think.>>

Me: You are going to address some of this later, but for now I would like to say that when it comes to the issue of development as a whole, I believe Catholics have an “edge”, and this for the simple reason of the doctrine of perspicuity (which, as you know, we have discussed recently here at AF). Catholics believe that even doctrines “necessary” for salvation are not “clear” apart from the teaching ministry of the Church, via development, guided by the Holy Spirit.

>>I have not read Sproul's work but it would be rather silly if he fails to make the argument that the Protestant view of salvation was a development, but the author you cite writes as if he doesn't so I'm guessing he didn't for some reason.>>

Me: Dr. Sproul does not deal with the issue of development at all in the book (nor in other books of his of the same genre—e.g., Getting the Gospel Right).

>>Nor have I read Michael Horton's "Putting the Amazing Back into Grace" but have read excerpts where he quotes fathers supporting calvinist doctrines, but I certainly hope he is qualifying those citations since it would be ridiculous and anachronistic to claim they were Calvinists. David King gave a reasoned approach I think in 2004 - http://www.puritanboard.com/f18/there-no-evidence-sola-fide-church-clo-828/ - saying, "I do not think you find the present day Reformed understanding of 'sola fide' expressed in the ECFs or in the medieval period." and "I think what we find in the ECFs, in view of what I provided above (a litany of citations, many of which seem to simply be against Pelagianism/Semi-Pelagianism, not really promoting sola fide; faith through sola gratia, yes, but some are certainly interesting), are inconsistent expressions of 'sola fide' when understood in the overall context of their extant writings to the contrary, where they also affirmed that we are not justified by faith alone. This is what my studies have provided for me in the past 7/8 years of research." >>

Me: I concur with David King’s above assessment.

>>An interesting notion I saw from one Reformed person was that a person could be considered orthodox if they didn't write explicitly condemning something. So, because Trent wrote explicitly against sola fide, it became apostate, but fathers and medievals who were inconsistent or silent on it could still be considered orthodox. Not sure that's very persuasive for me though. But anyways, even if it is claimed that sola fide couldn't be a development 1500 years later and still be foundational to the gospel, I would simply point to doctrines such as the Trinity/Christology which were certainly developments and not perfectly/fully held by many in the centuries leading up to the conciliar definitions.>>

Me: If you have not as yet, I hope you get a chance to read Heckel’s entire essay. This following portion is quite interesting in light of the above:

“In summary, Luther and Calvin differed from Augustine primarily over three issues: (1) the formal basis or cause of justification-the Reformers maintained that the most immediate cause of justification is faith (fides), or faith righteousness, not love (caritas); (2) the nature of justifying righteousness-the Reformers held that righteousness is in Christ outside of us (extra nos), and is not gracious merit produced in us (in nobis); it is imputed from the outside, not imparted from within; and (3) how righteousness is appropriated-the Reformers contended that justifying righteousness is appropriated by faith alone (sola fide), not also by faith working love (fides quae per caritatem operatur or the later Medieval formula fides caritate formata). These lead to different conceptions of how we are found acceptable to God and worthy of eternal life. The Reformers tended to speak of justification as an instantaneous declaration of a righteous status (pronuntiari iustos) before God (coram Deo), not as being made righteous (iustum facere) by an inpouring of love. But these differences with Augustine did not move Luther and Calvin to renounce him, though they do renounce the medieval papacy and its theologians for holding the same set of beliefs.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

And just a bit later he writes:

“Before I proceed to the best explanations for the Reformers' differing attitudes to Augustine and the medieval tradition, I will attempt to dispel one unhelpful explanation. It might be contended that the Reformers' differing attitudes lie in the fact that Augustine lived before the Reformers and thus could not explicitly reject their doctrine. In fact, a person, like Augustine, might possess the essence of the gospel (sola fide) as long as that person has not rejected its essence. There are two historical-theological problems with this view. First, the chronological distance did not make a difference to Luther and Calvin when dealing with the medieval popes and theologians that preceded them. They believed that works had obscured Christ, and they renounced the practitioners of such theology with hardly any hesitation. second, Augustine's non-explicit denial of the Reformers' sola fide doctrine does not deal with the fact that Augustine conceived of the essence of the gospel differently. For Augustine, the essence of the gospel is grace and love, not grace and faith. Even if Augustine did not formally deny the Reformers' doctrine, since no true equivalent existed in his day, he did negate it, de facto, by asserting the truth of his doctrine.”

As for part V. of Heckel’s essay (THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTRIBUTION), I am still digesting the data, and tracking down the sources he cited that I do not already possess, so I shall reserve judgment for later.

>>In your view, what is the Gospel? And does your definition not fall prey to the same criticism put forth against sola fide here?>>

Me: Personally, I lean towards the theology delineated in the Joint Declaration and Gift of Salvation documents.

Looking forward (as always) to your comments.

Grace and peace,

David


P.S. If it meets with your approval, could you send me an email, so that I can have your address; I would like to be able to send you some documents.

interlocutor said...

Hi David,
Email sent.
Glad you enjoy having me on your blog :) You're one of the more articulate RC bloggers I've found on the net so it's interesting to chat with you. Case in point - I just read Heckel's entire article and it was excellent (should've done so earlier as he anticipated some of my remarks as you pointed out heh) so I appreciate you pointing your readers to it. Interesting that not many people on the net seem to have written about it - Tim Enloe referenced it in one of his blog articles which isn't surprising given his interests, but not too much noise elsewhere. Bit of a shame as there is quite a lot to reflect upon.

I may have some comments on the joint declaration/GOS you mentioned later on (mainly in terms of does it really reflect the entirety of the RC gospel). I also commented on the perspicuity post again.

Anonymous said...

interlocutor asks:
"In your view, what is the Gospel? And does your definition not fall prey to the same criticism put forth against sola fide here?"

David replies:
Personally, I lean towards the theology delineated in the Joint Declaration and Gift of Salvation documents.

Rory asks:
Dave, that seems like it avoids the crucial part of interlocutor's question which I repeat, "And does your definition not fall prey to the same criticism put forth against sola fide here?"

Rory continues:
I needed to search a little bit to see what criticism you put forth against sola fide. Since you mentioned that you agree with this Haekel who is lengthily quoted, the following seemed to be some very serious, I would say, fatal criticism put forth by him:

"To put it another way, Luther's doctrine of justification sola fide was not a recovery but an innovation within the Western theological tradition. What is provocative about Sproul's thesis is that the equation of the construct of sola fide with the gospel itself would mean that the Roman Catholic Church not only rejected the gospel at Trent, but the Church never possessed it at all from the post-apostolic period up to the time of Luther. In this unqualified form, Sproul's thesis would also mean that since no one knew the gospel in the pre-Reformation church, no one experienced justification, and thus there was no Church."

Rory continues:
Ouch. Leaning toward the Joint Declaration and Gift of Salvation documents, do we still have a church? What about for those Catholics who simply accept Trent, and the scholastic underpinnings that interlocutor mentioned? If the Gospel disappeared until liberal Catholics and Lutherans tried to kiss and make up, do we have a visible church, or do we need to go get a Book of Mormon?

It seems to me, that the Protestants need to back away from Sproul, and the Catholics need to back away from the Lutherans, if either of them would propose that the visible church has survived to our own day. If Trent's doctrine of justification is equally novel as Luther's, as has been implied by interlocutor, and not denied by you or Haekel, is reformation the right medicine?

Rory

Interlocutor said...

Hi David,
Rory makes some fine points and seems to have beat me to the punch with the main point I was mulling over with your view of JDDJ/GOS documents as encapsulating your view of the gospel. He wrote "What about for those Catholics who simply accept Trent, and the scholastic underpinnings that interlocutor mentioned?" This is exactly what I was thinking as I read from GOS - "...we recognize that there are necessarily interrelated questions that require further and urgent exploration. Among such questions are these: the meaning of baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist, and sacramental grace; the historic uses of the language of justification as it relates to imputed and transformative righteousness; the normative status of justification in relation to all Christian doctrine; the assertion that while justification is by faith alone, the faith that receives salvation is never alone; diverse understandings of merit, reward, purgatory, and indulgences; Marian devotion and the assistance of the saints in the life of salvation; and the possibility of salvation for those who have not been evangelized." (the JDDJ doesn't even get this specific, just saying vague things about ecclesiology and sacraments).

All these doctrines and ones I mentioned in my initial post I would venture are indeed part of the RC gospel are they not? To be fair, the GOS does classify them as "necessarily interrelated questions" and the groups aren't going to reconcile overnight, but these issues all directly touch upon soteriology in RCism. The JDDJ/GOS is decent in talking about general faith, grace, works concepts - but when it gets down to brass tacks, that's where the real issues come into play and was the cause of many of the Reformers' objections.

Basically I think those docs might have been useful at maybe getting a very preliminary blueprint for reconciliation going, but I don't think either RCs or Lutherans (LCMS has pretty much disowned JDDJ anyways as rory indicated - the liberal ELCA being the main party behind it) would claim it fully summarizes the gospel for them.

jprapp said...

To all - thanks for the high level of discussion. Very helpful for me.

I'm not nearly as competent (nor quite as interested) as the rest of you in the etiology and history of the component parts of justification by faith (formal basis, nature, appropriation) - though I have very strong feelings about the central theme.

I hope it's not too much a distraction to ask a few partly auxiliary questions launching off of Augustine and caritas.

Please know that I judge that some of your own discussions here plus the linked essays probably do address my questions. But, I'm not always sure whether I'm doing eisegesis on these sources rather than a good exegesis. So, please bear with my questions.

I confess that I tend to hold (conceptually) and sense (subjectively) justification as enfolded into a larger incubation cradle of love. A visualization would have justification as a nested concept in the larger concept of love. This concept owes to my preoccupation with Johanine stuff at some expense (though not to conscious discounts) to Paul, except that I profoundly love Galatians ("For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love," Gal 5:6). I'm neither Calvinist nor Arminian for reasons I won't get into here; so, my focus on "love" does not imply an Arminian bent; nor a bias discounting God from a Calvinist concept of doing and acting in ways that seem radically unloving depending on one's a priori lens (say Arminianism as that lens).

Enough for this context.

To the questions.

For reasons I can't get into here, I experience a nearly daily and lifelong wonder in my work in concrete practical cases with both un-churched and churched clients - that is, a lifelong wonder about God's parsimony versus generosity standards in "crediting" a person's faith/heart/love as righteousness (as a free credit by grace) despite one's otherwise confused verbal formulas for how this mechanism of crediting works.

On a professional and sociometric level, I'm constantly engaged in a daily professional praxis requiring discernment and interpretation of "hidden beliefs" (see my profile -- http://www.blogger.com/profile/07674489078935633842) cutting across the disciplines of biology, law, and religious convictions. No little part of this work involves teasing out extremely complex clusters of thoughts which outwardly compete as virtual antagonists in terms of outward verbal formulation, but which upon further inspection are finally equivalent or very-near equivalent in terms of actual content, working function, and desired telos. If that makes any sense. I could give concrete examples if necessary. Again, see my profile The heart of my question emerges in my tendency to believe that God has some degree of generosity based in love for justifying ("crediting") the faith of people whose verbal formulas are really messed up and not formally precise; but, I want to stay humble about this conviction because I could be quite wrong. On the extreme end of this basic question, I often wonder whether there comes a time when a highly reified and highly compartmentalized Reformed statement of faith makes a transit between really trusting God verses trusting the verbal formulation itself, that is, a transit to having faith in faith, or a transit to having faith in one's formally precise ontology of faith (not that these cannot coincide)?

Would anyone care to pick up these questions according to a few basic levels of difficulty? -- say, as a lower level question (lower level: whether you feel Augustine on caritas is within justifying faith - a simple "yes," or "no"?) -- and say, as a mid level question (mid level: questions of God's parsimony/generosity in "crediting" sloppy or wrong formulas about faith as still "good enough" for justification)? - and say, as a harder question (hard question: defining a transit between faith in God versus faith in one's formally precise statements about justification by faith)?

If these question are too weird or too distracting to merit response here, I'll understand.

Otherwise, I'd very much love to hear your responses.


Cheers,


Jim

David Waltz said...

Hello Intercoluter, Jim and Rory,

Some excellent dialogue going on that I want to continue with, but probably will have very little time to make any meaningful contribution until Wednesday.

One of my daughters showed up Friday for the weekend (came for our annual crab and seafood festival), and yesterday morning, a good friend of Rory and mine had a heart-attack (his second now…arrgh). Heading for Portland tomorrow to visit him and will not get back until late Tuesday.

Anyway, have so much to say, so hope everyone can check back in later this week.

Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Roars, I was referring to our boxing buddy Larry…

David Waltz said...

Hello Intercoluter,

I am finally back home…

You posted:


>>Email sent.>>

Me: I did not receive it; my address: AugustineH354@aol.com.


>>I just read Heckel's entire article and it was excellent (should've done so earlier as he anticipated some of my remarks as you pointed out heh) so I appreciate you pointing your readers to it. Interesting that not many people on the net seem to have written about it - Tim Enloe referenced it in one of his blog articles which isn't surprising given his interests, but not too much noise elsewhere. Bit of a shame as there is quite a lot to reflect upon.>>

Me: I Googled Tim Enloe and Heckel and found the blog post (HERE) which was produced shortly after the essay appeared in the Journal of the Evangelical Society—it seems that you correct about further comments on the essay until my post—and yes, it is a bit “of a shame as there is quite a lot to reflect upon.”

>>I may have some comments on the joint declaration/GOS you mentioned later on (mainly in terms of does it really reflect the entirety of the RC gospel). I also commented on the perspicuity post again.>>

Me: Will comment on the above it subsequent posts today—Lord willing.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Larry is going to be OK, and will be back at the beach this evening…

You wrote:

>>Dave, that seems like it avoids the crucial part of interlocutor's question which I repeat, "And does your definition not fall prey to the same criticism put forth against sola fide here?"

I needed to search a little bit to see what criticism you put forth against sola fide. Since you mentioned that you agree with this Haekel who is lengthily quoted, the following seemed to be some very serious, I would say, fatal criticism put forth by him:

"To put it another way, Luther's doctrine of justification sola fide was not a recovery but an innovation within the Western theological tradition. What is provocative about Sproul's thesis is that the equation of the construct of sola fide with the gospel itself would mean that the Roman Catholic Church not only rejected the gospel at Trent, but the Church never possessed it at all from the post-apostolic period up to the time of Luther. In this unqualified form, Sproul's thesis would also mean that since no one knew the gospel in the pre-Reformation church, no one experienced justification, and thus there was no Church." >>

Me: The real question is not innovation, but rather, is the innovation in question a legitimate development. If you read Heckel's essay carefully you will find that he believes (with other Protestant and Catholic scholars) that the doctrinal assertions and condemnations concerning justification/soteriology which were formulated at Trent are not mutually exclusive with sola fide when properly understood. Note the following from Heckel’s essay:

“In the pursuit of greater accuracy, Lane argues that it is not always necessary to insist on identical terminology. It is more important for dialogue partners to define their terms in order to distinguish actual contradiction from compatibility, while recognizing that different paradigms can do the same work.”


>>Ouch. Leaning toward the Joint Declaration and Gift of Salvation documents, do we still have a church? What about for those Catholics who simply accept Trent, and the scholastic underpinnings that interlocutor mentioned? If the Gospel disappeared until liberal Catholics and Lutherans tried to kiss and make up, do we have a visible church, or do we need to go get a Book of Mormon?>>

Me: A careful reading of the above documents does not yield any contradiction with Trent. It just is not there…

>>It seems to me, that the Protestants need to back away from Sproul, and the Catholics need to back away from the Lutherans, if either of them would propose that the visible church has survived to our own day. If Trent's doctrine of justification is equally novel as Luther's, as has been implied by interlocutor, and not denied by you or Haekel, is reformation the right medicine?>>

Me: The Reformation compelled Catholics to address justification in a formal sense. Perhaps the greatest contribution of Trent was the clear rejection of any Pelagian tendencies (which had become quite prevalent during the Middle Ages), and the affirmation of sola gratia. It’s condemnation of sola fide should be understood as a condemnation of a skewed understanding of sola fide, not a wholesale rejection.

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello againInterlocutor,


>>Rory makes some fine points and seems to have beat me to the punch with the main point I was mulling over with your view of JDDJ/GOS documents as encapsulating your view of the gospel. He wrote "What about for those Catholics who simply accept Trent, and the scholastic underpinnings that interlocutor mentioned?" This is exactly what I was thinking as I read from GOS - "...we recognize that there are necessarily interrelated questions that require further and urgent exploration. Among such questions are these: the meaning of baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist, and sacramental grace…>>

Me: Sacramental grace is not at odds with a proper understanding of sola fide; keep in mind that Lutheran’s embrace both concepts (HERE), as well as at least one Reformed theologian (HERE).


>>…the historic uses of the language of justification as it relates to imputed and transformative righteousness; the normative status of justification in relation to all Christian doctrine; the assertion that while justification is by faith alone, the faith that receives salvation is never alone; diverse understandings of merit, reward, purgatory, and indulgences; Marian devotion and the assistance of the saints in the life of salvation; and the possibility of salvation for those who have not been evangelized." (the JDDJ doesn't even get this specific, just saying vague things about ecclesiology and sacraments).>>

Me: My main concern it whether or not the Catholic Church has been, and is, teaching the Gospel. IMHO, though I believe justification includes transformation, such a belief is not the essence of the Gospel. Nor is a precise understanding of the means of grace (and so many other issues). Once again, did Trent teach a false Gospel? That is the all important question, historically and theologically speaking.

>>All these doctrines and ones I mentioned in my initial post I would venture are indeed part of the RC gospel are they not?>>

Me: They are part of the Catholic Faith; defined dogmas that every Catholic must believe to be a faithful Catholic. However, defined dogmas are not the Gospel.

>>To be fair, the GOS does classify them as "necessarily interrelated questions" and the groups aren't going to reconcile overnight, but these issues all directly touch upon soteriology in RCism. The JDDJ/GOS is decent in talking about general faith, grace, works concepts - but when it gets down to brass tacks, that's where the real issues come into play and was the cause of many of the Reformers' objections.>>

Me: I sincerely doubt that any modern Catholic theologian would argue that the apostles taught that the bodily assumption of Mary was part of the Gospel they were preaching to the world. I also seriously doubt that they were teaching a formal doctrine of the Trinity as they preached the Gospel. Prior to the first four Ecumenical Councils, doctrinal imprecision concerning the Godhead and Christology was rampant and tolerated; but after those important Councils, we see the Church becoming dogmatic. Such a pattern seems to be an important aspect of development…

>>Basically I think those docs might have been useful at maybe getting a very preliminary blueprint for reconciliation going, but I don't think either RCs or Lutherans (LCMS has pretty much disowned JDDJ anyways as rory indicated - the liberal ELCA being the main party behind it) would claim it fully summarizes the gospel for them.>>

Me: There is no question that a considerably amount of ‘work’ still needs to be done, but, IMHO, very important steps have been made; bridges have been built; and I am optimistic about what the future holds…


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Jim,

Now that I finally how some time, I would like to welcome you to AF. As for your post, you wrote:

>>I confess that I tend to hold (conceptually) and sense (subjectively) justification as enfolded into a larger incubation cradle of love. A visualization would have justification as a nested concept in the larger concept of love. This concept owes to my preoccupation with Johanine stuff at some expense (though not to conscious discounts) to Paul, except that I profoundly love Galatians ("For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love," Gal 5:6). I'm neither Calvinist nor Arminian for reasons I won't get into here; so, my focus on "love" does not imply an Arminian bent; nor a bias discounting God from a Calvinist concept of doing and acting in ways that seem radically unloving depending on one's a priori lens (say Arminianism as that lens).>>

Me: I sincerely appreciate your above comments; it will certainly assist my (and others) ability to ‘wrap-my-brain’ around the rest of your thoughtful post.

>>For reasons I can't get into here, I experience a nearly daily and lifelong wonder in my work in concrete practical cases with both un-churched and churched clients - that is, a lifelong wonder about God's parsimony versus generosity standards in "crediting" a person's faith/heart/love as righteousness (as a free credit by grace) despite one's otherwise confused verbal formulas for how this mechanism of crediting works.

On a professional and sociometric level, I'm constantly engaged in a daily professional praxis requiring discernment and interpretation of "hidden beliefs" (see my profile -- http://www.blogger.com/profile/07674489078935633842) cutting across the disciplines of biology, law, and religious convictions. No little part of this work involves teasing out extremely complex clusters of thoughts which outwardly compete as virtual antagonists in terms of outward verbal formulation, but which upon further inspection are finally equivalent or very-near equivalent in terms of actual content, working function, and desired telos. If that makes any sense. I could give concrete examples if necessary. Again, see my profile The heart of my question emerges in my tendency to believe that God has some degree of generosity based in love for justifying ("crediting") the faith of people whose verbal formulas are really messed up and not formally precise; but, I want to stay humble about this conviction because I could be quite wrong. On the extreme end of this basic question, I often wonder whether there comes a time when a highly reified and highly compartmentalized Reformed statement of faith makes a transit between really trusting God verses trusting the verbal formulation itself, that is, a transit to having faith in faith, or a transit to having faith in one's formally precise ontology of faith (not that these cannot coincide)?>>

Me: Wow, a very interesting question. Being Catholic, I would not limit such a question to just a Reformed paradigm. As such, one could ask if dogma as a whole truly assists ones salvific faith, or if at times, it instead hinders. I think some of us need precision, but perhaps, many do not.

>>Would anyone care to pick up these questions according to a few basic levels of difficulty? -- say, as a lower level question (lower level: whether you feel Augustine on caritas is within justifying faith - a simple "yes," or "no"?)>>

Me: Yes.

>> -- and say, as a mid level question (mid level: questions of God's parsimony/generosity in "crediting" sloppy or wrong formulas about faith as still "good enough" for justification)? - >>

Me: I embrace the concept that what God “declares righteous”, is “righteous”. This is one of the reasons why I believe that one cannot exclude the transformational nature of justification. Part of Augustine’s teaching was that God actually pours love (caritas) into ones heart (Catholics would include this an aspect of “sanctifying grace”). With this in mind, I would say God is a very generous God, who often overlooks his children’s ignorance.

>>and say, as a harder question (hard question: defining a transit between faith in God versus faith in one's formally precise statements about justification by faith)?>>

Me: Forgive me if I answer your last question with a verse from Scripture –

Luke 12:48 But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

>>If these question are too weird or too distracting to merit response here, I'll understand.

Otherwise, I'd very much love to hear your responses.>>

Me: Very interesting questions Jim. Don’t know if I am fully up to the task to give you competent enough answers; but I sincerely hope my attempt to do so was of some assistance.

Hope to see your continued presence here at AF.


Grace and peace,

David

Anonymous said...

I have a few obvious comments. First, I am glad to hear that Larry is doing better. Secondly, I enjoyed Jim's queries and Dave's comments.

For you Dave, I thought that you would go in the direction you did. I thought it needed clarified that you disagreed that Trent was a corruption of the original gospel.

I would be interested in seeing how this discussion might affect someone's ecclesiology. I would be interested in your thoughts as well as those of our Protestant friends on how they view the break made with the Catholic Church by Luther and the other Reformers.

Finally for our Protestant friends, do you continue to believe in any one visible church whose ordinations retain apostolic succession? Presumably not, because if there were, I think I would have heard of it saying that it is the one true church. As far as I can tell, most conservative (the only ones who would be naturally disposed to be good Catholics) Protestants nowadays do not believe affiliation with any particular one visible church to be critical.

Assuming permission for affiliation with a wide variety of churches, it seems like it might be permissible for even conservative Protestants to reevaluate the original break with Rome. I think that the early Reformers thought that they were continuing the one true visible catholic church. For that reason, Rome, presenting another set of sometimes false beliefs, could not be true too, and the faithful had to come out of Rome. But it is always going to be the case that a visible church that recognizes itself to be the only true one, must be as intolerant as Moses was to the possibility of a competitor. This was probably the way it was first perceived by the early followers of Luther, Calvin, and others.

But now, when there doesn't seem from a Protestant perspective to be any one true visible church on the face of the earth, is there any justification for antagonism toward affiliation with the visble Roman Catholic Church? This would seem to be even more of an important question, if it can be reasonably maintained by Catholics like David that the Council of Trent in no way requires him to reject sola fide.

Obviously then, Rome has to permit what Protestants to perceive to be the Gospel before any openings to Rome could become inviting. But I wonder if there are any Protestants who have grappled with issues of ordination and church discipline which seem so prevalent in the apostolic age, which seem to almost have lost their practical value when Protestantism is so divided.

For me, (and for those who have not figured it out, I am a Catholic convert)coming to Rome was made more inviting by knowing that there was better historical probability of retaining ordinations reaching back to the apostles, and knowing that church discipline is much more effective when there is not believed to be a multiplicity of "one true churches" that can't cooperate with each other doctrinally (different beliefs about marriage and divorce/ nature of sacraments). When you don't share the same doctrines, even if they are strictly speaking non-essential soteriologically, it is very hard for independent churches to cooperate regarding discipline. That modern Protestants seem to have no mechanism for church discipline and a credible apostolic succession was an aid for me in helping me to WANT to discover that Catholics had the Gospel. I sensed the need for one visible church before I came to be comfortable with Trent.

Dave, I appreciate your pacific efforts to build bridges to non-Catholics using their own scholarship. I do not have the time if I had the inclination to keep as abreast of current Reformed/Lutheran thought as you seem to do.

But then, you're the beach bum! I have to go back to work in a week. But now I've had a taste of your world, I wouldn't regret an extension, although I hope it won't require back surgery next time. Heh.

Broadband is now supposed to be in by Wednesday.

Rory

Interlocutor said...

Hi David,
Email sent again heh. I am using a hotmail account, so maybe it's filtering it as spam?

Onto the fun:
"Sacramental grace is not at odds with a proper understanding of sola fide"

True, as I mentioned in the perspicuity thread - many of the Reformers and their heirs held to sacramentologies that have been discarded or ignored by many congregations.

"My main concern it whether or not the Catholic Church has been, and is, teaching the Gospel. IMHO, though I believe justification includes transformation, such a belief is not the essence of the Gospel. Nor is a precise understanding of the means of grace (and so many other issues). Once again, did Trent teach a false Gospel? That is the all important question, historically and theologically speaking."

>>All these doctrines and ones I mentioned in my initial post I would venture are indeed part of the RC gospel are they not?>>

"They are part of the Catholic Faith; defined dogmas that every Catholic must believe to be a faithful Catholic. However, defined dogmas are not the Gospel."

You're right, this was sloppy on my part. I guess what I'm driving at is how would you separate what teachings/dogma constitute and are essential to the gospel in contrast to dogma that the faithful/orthodox believe, but are not part of the gospel (wouldn't you have to know this to determine if Trent is teaching a fals gospel)? For example, in Acts 2, was Peter preaching the gospel (Christ being Lord and Son of God and the Resurrection; repent and be baptized) - I of course do not think Trent nor the JDDJ/GOS deny this. But, given the RC view of ecclesiology, it almost seems as if faith in the church as an institution that binds and loose would be part of the gospel. I'm referring here to dogmas that specifically affect salvation - confession/priestly absolution (not counting penance/purgatory/indulgences as those deal with temporal punishment and are secondary to salvation - although they could be considered putting undue burden on the soul and perhaps can lead to a dangerous legalism), mortal/venial sin distinction in terms of the church being able to define what acts are of grave matter (not referring to the 10 commandments here, but mainly the precepts of the church, in which the faithful are bound to obey teachings that are of their very nature revisable (either within time or geography) under pain of grave sin), perhaps some others I'm missing :)

You know how this differs from a Protestant view - in which the main thrust of the gospel would still be what Peter and the Apostles preached. Does this mean sola fide as defined 2000 years later is the gospel - since Peter didn't reference it, how could it? Not absolutely - as I said it developed, but Protestants would view it as currently the best articulation/expression of the gospel (And as was referenced in this thread, most Protestants I hope would not say you must have faith in the doctrine of sola fide to be saved - unfortunately many internet polemics devolve into that, but such is the nature of theological disputes I suppose). Just as an aside that I would need to mull over, if one denies the fruit of development, are they then implicitly denying the seed as well, and vice versa? Anyways, the better question might be is sola fide or JDDJ/GOS antithetical to the Apostles message/preaching of the gospel? Presumably not. Is Pelagianism - presumably yes; tangent-as you mentioned, a big part of Trent was to curb the Pelagianism growing in certain circles, what do you think that means - because it hadn't been defined yet (Orange being a regional council and lost for much of the time leading up to Trent according to McGrath), were those harboring Pelagian tendencies fine, but afterwards not? To be fair, I have read from Dennis Martin, who researched and published on the Carthusians, that many of the medieval monastic theologians stressed a sola gratia, extrinsic righteousness soteriology so not trying to perpetuate the myth that all of RCism leading up to Trent was saturated in Pelagianism (and it's not like Trent came up with its definitions out of thin air with no subscribers). Are Trent's teachings concerning soteriology antithetical to his message? Maybe?


>>To be fair, the GOS does classify them as "necessarily interrelated questions" and the groups aren't going to reconcile overnight, but these issues all directly touch upon soteriology in RCism. The JDDJ/GOS is decent in talking about general faith, grace, works concepts - but when it gets down to brass tacks, that's where the real issues come into play and was the cause of many of the Reformers' objections.>>

"I sincerely doubt that any modern Catholic theologian would argue that the apostles taught that the bodily assumption of Mary was part of the Gospel they were preaching to the world. I also seriously doubt that they were teaching a formal doctrine of the Trinity as they preached the Gospel. Prior to the first four Ecumenical Councils, doctrinal imprecision concerning the Godhead and Christology was rampant and tolerated; but after those important Councils, we see the Church becoming dogmatic. Such a pattern seems to be an important aspect of development…"

You're absolutely correct. By "brass tacks", I was referring mainly to doctrines directly affecting soteriology, not necessarily other dogmas (such as Marian ones) that are more peripheral to that. Although, again, if you are tied to the church's authority in the manner you are for RCism, faithfully submitting to one (precepts of the church/confession) that affects soteriology based on authority, while denying another (Assumption) defined on that same authority, seems problematic - it's a house of cards in that if just one goes, all the rest fall, since they are all built on the same principle. I think we had this convo before where I asked you if once a dogma is defined, then the definition of orthodoxy grows to include that definition (whereas right before that it was still up for grabs) and you seemed to affirm - so I guess this goes to my previous question of how do you determine what dogmas are part of the gospel, and what are not. If the gospel is concerned with salvation, it seems all soteriological dogmas are tied to it directly.
I admit this is a complicated question - "what is necessary for a believer to subscribe to?" Or to what extent can the fullness of the gospel be obscured, yet enough remain for it not to be completely destroyed? We know the one taught by the Judaizers seems to have been unredeemable. Perhaps a way of viewing it is asking what is essential that one must believe, and what is essential that one must not deny? Paul says "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day" - so being of "first importance", this I think would certainly be essential (and of course in line with RCism/JDDJ/GOS). Since you referred to the JDDJ/GOS - would you say all the teachings outlined there are therefore essential to the gospel? Exhaustively so (anything outside of JDDJ/GOS is not essential)?

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Want to apologize for not getting back to you earlier. We had a power-outage, and the P.U.D. “repair” team, while fixing the power problem, accidentally cut the phone line!!! Anyway, the beachbum is back online again…

Just wanted to say that I truly enjoyed your last post, and sincerely hope that others reading it, will take some time to reflect on your musings.

And BTW, welcome to the 21st century (i.e. broadband)!!! [GRIN] You now can access thousands of free books via Google and the Internet Archive (I have been filling up my harddrive like a crazy man over the last few months.)

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Interlocutor,

Thanks for responding. You posted:

>>Email sent again heh. I am using a hotmail account, so maybe it's filtering it as spam?>>

Me: Got it; I sent you 3 documents…hope you enjoy them.

>>I guess what I'm driving at is how would you separate what teachings/dogma constitute and are essential to the gospel in contrast to dogma that the faithful/orthodox believe, but are not part of the gospel (wouldn't you have to know this to determine if Trent is teaching a fals gospel)? For example, in Acts 2, was Peter preaching the gospel (Christ being Lord and Son of God and the Resurrection; repent and be baptized) - I of course do not think Trent nor the JDDJ/GOS deny this. But, given the RC view of ecclesiology, it almost seems as if faith in the church as an institution that binds and loose would be part of the gospel. I'm referring here to dogmas that specifically affect salvation - confession/priestly absolution (not counting penance/purgatory/indulgences as those deal with temporal punishment and are secondary to salvation - although they could be considered putting undue burden on the soul and perhaps can lead to a dangerous legalism), mortal/venial sin distinction in terms of the church being able to define what acts are of grave matter (not referring to the 10 commandments here, but mainly the precepts of the church, in which the faithful are bound to obey teachings that are of their very nature revisable (either within time or geography) under pain of grave sin), perhaps some others I'm missing :)>>

Me: I think you are on the right track here. Upon reflection, I suppose any doctrinal/moral issue that would affect one’s salvation could/should be construed in some sense as part of the “gospel”. You have certainly given me some serious food-for-thought…

>>You know how this differs from a Protestant view - in which the main thrust of the gospel would still be what Peter and the Apostles preached. Does this mean sola fide as defined 2000 years later is the gospel - since Peter didn't reference it, how could it? Not absolutely - as I said it developed, but Protestants would view it as currently the best articulation/expression of the gospel (And as was referenced in this thread, most Protestants I hope would not say you must have faith in the doctrine of sola fide to be saved - unfortunately many internet polemics devolve into that, but such is the nature of theological disputes I suppose).>>

Me: Jim in his post raised some very interesting questions. My attempt to address them was anything but exhaustive—please feel free to jump into the fray, for his questions seem to have some bearing on our discussion as well.

>>Just as an aside that I would need to mull over, if one denies the fruit of development, are they then implicitly denying the seed as well, and vice versa? Anyways, the better question might be is sola fide or JDDJ/GOS antithetical to the Apostles message/preaching of the gospel? Presumably not. Is Pelagianism - presumably yes; tangent-as you mentioned, a big part of Trent was to curb the Pelagianism growing in certain circles, what do you think that means - because it hadn't been defined yet (Orange being a regional council and lost for much of the time leading up to Trent according to McGrath), were those harboring Pelagian tendencies fine, but afterwards not? To be fair, I have read from Dennis Martin, who researched and published on the Carthusians, that many of the medieval monastic theologians stressed a sola gratia, extrinsic righteousness soteriology so not trying to perpetuate the myth that all of RCism leading up to Trent was saturated in Pelagianism (and it's not like Trent came up with its definitions out of thin air with no subscribers). Are Trent's teachings concerning soteriology antithetical to his message? Maybe?>>

Me: Could you link me (and/or give greater reference) to Dennis Martin’s work/s on “the Carthusians”? Sounds very interesting!

>>You're absolutely correct. By "brass tacks", I was referring mainly to doctrines directly affecting soteriology, not necessarily other dogmas (such as Marian ones) that are more peripheral to that. Although, again, if you are tied to the church's authority in the manner you are for RCism, faithfully submitting to one (precepts of the church/confession) that affects soteriology based on authority, while denying another (Assumption) defined on that same authority, seems problematic - it's a house of cards in that if just one goes, all the rest fall, since they are all built on the same principle. I think we had this convo before where I asked you if once a dogma is defined, then the definition of orthodoxy grows to include that definition (whereas right before that it was still up for grabs) and you seemed to affirm - so I guess this goes to my previous question of how do you determine what dogmas are part of the gospel, and what are not. If the gospel is concerned with salvation, it seems all soteriological dogmas are tied to it directly.>>

Me: Once again, I think you are probably correct on this.

>>I admit this is a complicated question - "what is necessary for a believer to subscribe to?" Or to what extent can the fullness of the gospel be obscured, yet enough remain for it not to be completely destroyed? We know the one taught by the Judaizers seems to have been unredeemable. Perhaps a way of viewing it is asking what is essential that one must believe, and what is essential that one must not deny? Paul says "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day" - so being of "first importance", this I think would certainly be essential (and of course in line with RCism/JDDJ/GOS). Since you referred to the JDDJ/GOS - would you say all the teachings outlined there are therefore essential to the gospel? Exhaustively so (anything outside of JDDJ/GOS is not essential)?>>

Me: I would say with a high degree of certainty that the points of agreement would be “essential to the gospel”. Just how exhaustive those said points are, well, that I am not so sure about—especially after your reflecting upon your above remarks concerning dogma/morals that could/should be construed as essential components of/for a person’s salvation.

While I continue to ponder over your last post, perhaps you could reflect a bit more on the whole issue of development and authority, with what you would consider the ‘bare essentials’ of the gospel—in other words, what does one have to believe/embrace to be “saved”. (Perhaps a ‘test case’ would be the pre-Nicene Church Fathers—would they have to had made significant changes in their doctrinal views if they were suddenly transported to a post-Reformation time period?)


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Do you have a working ‘grand-theory’ for the first 2,000 years of the Christian Church? (E.g. remnant model, post-millennial, apostasy/restoration, etc.)

jprapp said...

Thanks for the welcome to AF and for your response. Sorry I’m late in responding. Very nice distinction between different levels of need for dogma for different individuals. I think I agree. And thanks too for the short and sweet, “yes,” to my question about crediting faith in an Augustinian context. I do agree with You on the generosity of God (grace, really) in overlooking our ignorance.

And a very good quote to scripture (Luke 12:48 - on the spankings we get) about God’s response to our putting more trust in our formal statements than trusting in God (hard to distinguish, sometimes). The daily character of discipline, I'd say. Ouch. And yet, "thanks!"

I take it as a point not contrary to Catholic theology that we all experience a robust operation of chance (chance: anything contrary to our theological benchmarks) in our lives. I sometimes feel that Catholics far better incorporate “chance” (as an element in catholicity) than some of their rigid Reformed antagonists: see e.g., Teilhard, and John Haught. Although I suspect my own bias gets me into the spankings (of John 12:48) more because I reduce God to a Singularity (with no, or, with ubiquitous orders) for which I need to be corrected, I still find something in Catholicism amazingly alluring for its adaptive powers. Again, Teilhard and Haught: though I suspect that properly to place these thinkers, I need to remember they’re speculative. And wouldn’t it be amazing if those corrections (again, John 12:48) happen for failure to speculate as do these fellows?


Cheers,

Jim

David Waltz said...

Hey Jim,

No problem with your slightly “late” response. Personally, I must admit that I am guilty of the same at times, and it is my blog [grin].

Now, would you mind elaborating a bit more on what you termed “my own bias”, and how John 12:48 fits in.

Thanks much,

David

Interlocutor said...

Hi David,
"Could you link me (and/or give greater reference) to Dennis Martin’s work/s on “the Carthusians”? Sounds very interesting!"

This is where I first ran across his work - he posted quite a few comments at http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=896, comment 55 has the most meat concerning this. He's published 2 books - Fifteenth-Century Carthusian Reform and Carthusian Spirituality (neither of which I've read), the former it seems being more rare to find online but I think that one might be more focused on this issue (CS might touch on it as well) - of course if you were really interested you could email him - http://www.luc.edu/theology/facultystaff/martin.shtml - and get it straight from the source :) (who knows, maybe he could supply you with other citations he left out and you could blog on them heh - he apparently did quite a bit of research and translations). He also recommends Eamon Duffy's work and some other sources in that same comment/thread.


"perhaps you could reflect a bit more on the whole issue of development and authority, with what you would consider the ‘bare essentials’ of the gospel—in other words, what does one have to believe/embrace to be “saved”."

Fair enough :) As I said, this is a difficult question because given development, you're often forced between
1. Most everyone before the articulation of the doctrine was a heretic.
2. Once developed, then people are responsible to believe from that day forward.
both of which have problems. And this also can lead to a view that intellectual knowledge saves, or salvation is a theology exam, which is of course absurd, and the demons likely have a very well-developed understanding of theology. But I do think some common base things can be put forward:
One true God, the Incarnation - Christ’s Lordship (“son of God” - more than a man), man's sinfulness/need for forgiveness, His death/atonement, salvation by faith and grace, repentance/sanctification, baptism (in some sense), the Resurrection and Judgment/Second Coming.
Might be overlooking some things, but I think these summarize the main message of the Apostles as they preached.
Notice I didn't say sola fide - again, Protestants believe that is *currently* (subject to development of course, as we can see currently with the New Perspective and FV debates) the best articulation of salvation by faith and grace, but I don't think one must have faith in sola fide. Nor did I mention the Trinity or hypostatic union or original sin or other hallmarks of orthodoxy (well EO excepted for OS) - I don't think one needs a full-orbed understanding of those, which should be even more evident by the filioque controversy. Those (and many others) would all fit into the broader category of "orthodoxy". However, as you said, which should give all the web theology geeks some pause, to whom much is given, much is expected. RCs certainly would believe these items, but the Protestant objection is that many RC dogmas encroach upon salvation by faith and grace, to what degree is a matter of debate of course, and then the other objection is the one I raised about those other dogmas essentially becoming part of the gospel as they affect soteriology (so I do not think your list would match mine at all then, mine would just be a subset).



"Perhaps a ‘test case’ would be the pre-Nicene Church Fathers—would they have to had made significant changes in their doctrinal views if they were suddenly transported to a post-Reformation time period?"

With all doctrines within orthodoxy, absolutely they would, just as they would in a post-Trent and Vatican2 time period. And I think if someone went back in time to the Apostles after Nicea and Chalcedon, they might be a bit confused at first and have to think about it (John probably less so than others) - even Peter said Paul might be difficult to understand, given the way he was developing doctrine. Development will continue until the eschaton I believe, as reflections and insights on Scripture can never be exhausted by mortal minds given its source. However, I do think the doctrines I listed above would be more readily accepted, as Scripture speaks to those issues quite frequently and explicitly.

"Do you have a working ‘grand-theory’ for the first 2,000 years of the Christian Church? (E.g. remnant model, post-millennial, apostasy/restoration, etc.)"

No :) This is something I mull over quite a bit. It seems in my view that the RC perspective often completely ignores the OT pattern/precedent, presumably due of course to the Incarnation and Pentecost changing things. This may be valid, obviously, but the OT people still survived outside the RC paradigm of authority and ecclesiology and I don't think that can be completely put aside - divine precedent carries some weight (and needs to be considered when making arguments against sola scriptura). Now you might assume if I'm thinking about the OT, I'd lean towards the remnant model, but I don't find that position very persuasive - we have plenty of records from the 1st century onwards of the Christian movement, it's not very plausible that no writings supporting your (meaning some random remnant advocate) position are found (or were lost or suppressed or whatever), especially given the view that God providentially guided the discovery of the canon (but then let the record of his faithful just get lost to history). But the records we do have of the ECF's does show quite a bit of diversity and conflict/quarrels, there wasn't some monolithic wave of conformity that just continued to surge throughout the centuries.

Anonymous said...

Interlocutor, speaking of his "grand working theory for the first 2,000 years of the Christian Church" says:

"This is something I mull over quite a bit. It seems in my view that the RC perspective often completely ignores the OT pattern/precedent, presumably due of course to the Incarnation and Pentecost changing things. This may be valid, obviously, but the OT people still survived outside the RC paradigm of authority and ecclesiology and I don't think that can be completely put aside - divine precedent carries some weight (and needs to be considered when making arguments against sola scriptura). Now you might assume if I'm thinking about the OT, I'd lean towards the remnant model, but I don't find that position very persuasive - we have plenty of records from the 1st century onwards of the Christian movement, it's not very plausible that no writings supporting your (meaning some random remnant advocate) position are found (or were lost or suppressed or whatever), especially given the view that God providentially guided the discovery of the canon (but then let the record of his faithful just get lost to history). But the records we do have of the ECF's does show quite a bit of diversity and conflict/quarrels, there wasn't some monolithic wave of conformity that just continued to surge throughout the centuries."

Rory says:

Hmmm. If it ain't remnant, and it ain't apostasy/restoration, it sounds like good 'ol post-mil thinking. That's my take at this time. I favor hope for God's will to be done on earth. Of all the prayers for which Jesus provided the words, He tells us among only a few other priorities, to pray for His will to be done "on earth".

A lot of my fellow American Christians, Catholics included, seem to think that this prayer was answered in 1776. From a Catholic perspective, I don't buy it. I can't buy it. Many monarchs, whose reigns disregarded Jeffersonian democracy as true, offered government where church and state distinctions were blurred, were canonized. Not one person who has campaigned for office has ever even has his cause promoted to my knowledge. I think the Old Testament is critical to my Catholic view of the final stages of Christ's Church on earth.

I tend to think that just as the Jews missed the boat expecting a politcal Messiah, and made way for the Gentiles and a spiritual Messiah, the day is approaching when Christians, expecting a spiritual Messiah will reject a politcial Messiah, the same King of David who they "pierced" and the Jews will be grafted in again. But before I spill all the beans, I am very curious, interlocutor, about in what way you think Catholics ignore the Old Testament pattern. Maybe you are confusing modern Catholics with just plain Catholics? If so, I agree that those whose worldviews are steeped in post-Vatican II Catholicism with a religious liberty that takes its cues from the French Revolution, would reject the Messiah at His Second Coming.

For Dave, when are you going to read that book about this and tell me I am wrong??????

Thanks.

Rory

Anonymous said...

Edit:

Although there are elements of the French Revolution which the modern European Catholics favor, the French Revolution was too obviously and openly anti-religion.

I should have said above regarding Vatican II, something about taking their cues from the Americans. It was the Jesuit American, John Courtney Murray, and most of the American bishops whose nationalistic pride was stroked, while Catholic tradition was put aside with Dignitatis Humanae, the document affirming an untenable wall of separation of church and state at the Council.

Anonymous said...

It would take some time to defend my view that a faithful Catholic has the liberty to question Dignitatis Humanae. I am also aware that there are many Catholics who assume that traditional Catholic view of good government were not and cannot be overturned by the Council. They interpret Dignitatis Humanae in the light of tradition. Fr. Brian Harrison (just google) is among the best of these. I could maintain a post-mil theocratic eschatology in that way as well.

Even with Scripture, where we have to remember that the author is both divine and human, the divine surpasses but does not contradict the human. Council documents are not verbally inspired. I simply think it is more tenable, especially considering the minds of the human authors, to interpret the words of Dignitatis Humanae as opposing traditional Catholic views of good government.

In my opinion, the efforts to reconcile Dignitatis Humanae with Tradition, while noble, are not necessary. The Holy Spirit having informed us in other ways that this valid Council is unique in history. Never before have popes specifically and repeatedly denied that an ecumenical council offered binding doctrinal definitions. Both Pope John XXIII and Paul VI offered disclaimers regarding any doctrinal definitions for this Council.

I know that was more than any Protestant wanted, and less than my Catholic anatagonists want, if they should show up. I won't add any more unless it is asked. I could be wrong, but I thought I detected a hint of theocratic thought in a Protestant that I feared could be scandalized if they thought Dignitatis Humanae was absolutely normative in Catholic Tradition.

Dave, you read a book a day. We can't speak on this together until you pick a day for that book I gave you. It is very pacific, like you. It is painstakingly analytic like you. I think you'll be persuaded, but if not, I welcome you persuading me. For now, we can't even talk very well about this subject.

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hello Intercoluter,

Forgive my late response, but the Beachbum has been unusually busy of late…

Thanks for the link to Dennis Martin’s comments on the “Jesus Creed” blog (HERE). There are 116 comments, and most are worth the time it would take to read (#’s 46, 48, 53, 55, and 58 are among my personal favorites).

Given the title of the thread, I am a bit surprised that Mark Noll’s and Carolyn Nystrom’s book, Is the Reformation Over?, was not commented on (at least I did not see it come up during my reading of the thread). As with the ECT project itself, the book certainly had mixed reviews; yet with that said, I would recommend the book to all.

As for your expanded reflections on development and authority (at my request), I sincerely appreciate your efforts, and will continue to mull them over.

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Rory,

OK, you can stop reminding me to read Michael Davies, The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty (it is done as of yesterday).

To be brutally honest, I don’t know what to think after reading the book. It certainly opens up a huge can-of-worms for whatever side one takes (as a Catholic Christian). I take it that you side with Davies/Fenton/Lefebvre’s stance on Dignitatis Humanae (full text - HERE).

As you have probably deduced, I lean towards Brian Harrison’s assessment…

Now, a couple of comments: first, I hesitated in reading the book for the simple reason that I feared in advance, for me to give a competent/informed assessment of the book, it would require me to jump into a field of study that I have little knowledge of (my ‘fear’ was certainly substantiated); and second, with my previous comments in mind, I would still like to point out that Newman’s theory of development, when first published, was met with many similar criticisms that Davies/Fenton put forward concerning Dignitatis Humanae (e.g. novelty, at odds with previous tradition); and yet, as you well know, Newman’s theory went on to become the dominant position among Catholics.


Ball is now in your court…


Grace and peace,

David

Anonymous said...

David:
I don’t know what to think after reading the book. It certainly opens up a huge can-of-worms for whatever side one takes (as a Catholic Christian).

Rory:
I see three sides.

1) Holds that Dignitatis Humane is authoritative and reconciles with previous church teaching. (Fr. Harrison)

2) Holds that Dignitatis Humanae is authoritative and conflicts with previous church teaching. (Fr. Congar)

3) Holds that Dignitatis Humanae is authoritative only insofar as it is reconciled with previous teaching. (My position)

Dave:
I take it that you side with Davies/Fenton/Lefebvre’s stance on Dignitatis Humanae

Rory:
I side with Rome, both eternal Rome, and modern Rome, if you will. Neither Msgr. Lefebvre nor Michael Davies were the sources for the following observations about Vatican II:

"Differing from other councils, this one was not directly dogmatic, but disciplinary and pastoral."

or this...

"Today we are concluding the Second Vatican Council...But one thing must be noted here, namely, that the teaching authority of the Church, even though not wishing to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements...it has not merely concentrated on intellectual understanding but has also sought to express itself in simple, up-to-date, conversational style, derived from actual experience and a cordial approach which make it more vital, attractive and persuasive; it has spoken to modern man as he is."

or this...

"Taking into account conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of this present council, the sacred synod defined as binding on the Church only those matters of faith which it has expressly put forward as such."

or this...

"There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification, the council intended to give its teachings, knowing that it avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the Church's infallible teaching authority. The answer is known by those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on Nov. 16, 1964. In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in any extraordinary manner any dogmas carrying the mark of infallibility."

or this:

"The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest."

Some Council Fathers objected to the lack of concise clarity that characterized the great Councils they had admired in history. Nebulous long-windedness was to be excused at Vatican II because there was no doctrine to be defined and they were trying to speak to modern man in a way he would understand. Without any explanation for how with modern man, vagueness is an aid to understanding, they gave up, with the assurance that at least no one would ever suggest that any of the questionable texts could be thought to be infallible.

How wrong they were. A typical conservative named John LaMont, writing for the New Oxford Review, recently commented on the controversy over Dignitatis Humanae, assures us that there is no way that you Dave, could be correct about any can-of-worms for "...the short and sufficient answer is that it (DH) was not incompatible with tradition because it was promoted by an ecumenical council."

And it is supposed that it is the Lefebvrite schismatics who won't listen to the popes?

David:
I hesitated in reading the book for the simple reason that I feared in advance, for me to give a competent/informed assessment of the book, it would require me to jump into a field of study that I have little knowledge of (my ‘fear’ was certainly substantiated);

Rory:
There are a number of fascinating trails you can take from here. One had been touched upon here at your blog. Like the Protestant Reconstructionists, I accept theocratic principles derived from the Old Testament. I was wondering how Jehu's relations with the priests of Baal and God's reward for it would resound in connection with Dignitatis Humanae.

David:
second, with my previous comments in mind, I would still like to point out that Newman’s theory of development, when first published, was met with many similar criticisms that Davies/Fenton put forward concerning Dignitatis Humanae (e.g. novelty, at odds with previous tradition); and yet, as you well know, Newman’s theory went on to become the dominant position among Catholics.

Rory:
And how did Newman's theory come to be accepted as the dominant theory? Did he succeed in convincing his opponents that for some reason his theory, though allegedly novel, rises above evaluation? I don't think that was the way. It underwent scrutiny, and it held up because it is true.

There will never be a proper ecclesiastical evaluation of the texts of Vatican II until it becomes safe for prelates to admit that they understand why some of us have questions. Right now, 43 years after the Council, the subject is just too hot to handle.

Today I only quoted post-Vatican II popes to justify speculating about the veracity of Dignitatis Humanae. I am not certain that I am right. But what can a poor boy do? Pastors and bishops don't exactly welcome this conversation. Archbishop Lefebvre could not get a hearing either. He was told to submit. Obey. You tend to get treated like a pariah for having these questions.

So, I submit my meager findings to you Dave. Why do we get called Protestants for questioning Vatican II? Its funny. The Conciliarists never bad mouth the Protestants for being Protestants. Protestants are "separated brothers", but we who quote the popes from "here to breakfast" are somehow Protestants. Go figure.

Next time, I intend to quote the pre-Vatican II popes to show why I think my position reconciles perfectly with what popes from Gregory XVI to Benedict XVI have said. No theological worm cans, just enormous resistance from the modern princes of the Church.

Rory

Anonymous said...

Popes Pius VI and VII were both banished from Rome and held prisoner by the French during the period of the Republic and then of the Empire. Although the French Revolution was not successful in terms of establishing itself in France, its godless and anti-clerical ideas spread throughout the length and breadth of Europe.

It is in response to these ideas that subsequent popes faithfully outlined the incompatibility of the ideals of the Revolution with Catholic Tradition. If necessary, we can review earlier Catholic and Biblical history to establish the conflict that appears if one accepts the most obvious interpretations of Dignitatis Humanae.

Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) is very important to recall in understanding from whence the call for religious neutrality in the civil state derives. He identifies indifferentism, the notion that no particular religion stands out among others as pre-eminently true.

"This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone." Encyclical Letter of August 15, 1832, Mirari Vos #13

and...

"Nor can We predict happier times for religion and government from the plans of those who desire vehemtnly to separate the Church from the State...It is certain that that concord which always was favorable and beneficial for the sacred and the civil order is feared by the shameless lovers of liberty." ---Mirari Vos #20

"May Our dear sons in Christ, the princes, support these our desires for the welfare of Church and State with their resources and authority. May they understand that they received their authority not only for the government of the world, but especially for the defense of the Church." ---Mirari Vos #23

It seems clear to me that Pope Gregory disagreed with Dignitatis Humanae if it implies that the State should has no business favoring one religion over another. Would you agree?

I personally have a hard time believing the very first sentence in Dignitatis Humanae: Contemporary man is becoming increasingly conscious of the dignity of the human person." (DH #1)

Is that an infallible historical observation? Its okay. You don't have to answer. The entire council is one big lovefest smooching up to modern man. It continues:

"...more and more people are demanding that men should exercise fully their own judgment and a responsible freedom in their actions and should not be subject to the pressure of coercion but be inspired by a sense of duty." (DH #1)

The kind of society that results from this view of human dignity is at a loss as to how to shut down the pornographer, lest he lose his dignity through coercion.

At the same time they are demanding constitutional limitation of the powers of government to prevent excessive restriction of the rightful freedom of individuals and associations. This demand for freedom in human society is concerned chiefly with man's spiritual values, and especially with what concerns the free practice of religion in society." (DH #1)

It is important to note the source the Council repeatedly cites for its enlargement of religious liberty. The same contemporary man that they cite as the moving force behind this document will be kept constantly before us as we determine if modernity takes us nearer or further from the apostolic deposit of faith.

It becomes critical at this point to understand the difference between the individual conscience and the duty of the State to offer allegiance to the the true faith. The Church denies the right to the state to force a conversion. What Gregory XVI taught was the duty of states to recognize and offer assistance to the true faith. If time and your patience permits, I would hope to eventually show exactly what he meant with recent and past models of the Catholic State. The problem I see is that they violate the precepts of Dignitatis Humanae as it teaches the duty of States to religious indifferentism and neutrality. I am certainl that they cannot be made to conform to contemporary man's idea of human dignity.

Dave, you said the ball was in my court. But this is your blog. With your permission, I'll continue for a few more posts. Silence is permission, eh? I want a Catholic faith that has a foundation to defend itself in every era and every place. I would be deeply troubled about Catholic history if Dignitatis Humanae is true.

Of course you are right. This is a can of worms. It can be a bigger hurdle than our Lord's Blessed Mother for potential converts to come to Rome if they must also accept what that modern civil rights are thrown into question. I believe that we have a choice. We can follow the aspirations of modern man, or we can follow the perennial teaching and practice of the Catholic Church. If modern man is right, 1965 was too late for the one true Church to figure it out.

Next would be Pius IX. It is of his Syllabus of Errors that Fr. Congar frankly conceded that Dignitatis Humanae is in conflict.

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hello Rory,

I sincerely appreciate the time you have taken to type up your last two posts; towards the end of your second post you said:

>>Dave, you said the ball was in my court. But this is your blog. With your permission, I'll continue for a few more posts. Silence is permission, eh? I want a Catholic faith that has a foundation to defend itself in every era and every place. I would be deeply troubled about Catholic history if Dignitatis Humanae is true.>>

Me: You certainly have my permission to proceed along any lines/tangents you feel are appropriate. And I shall diligently read anything you put up…


As for possible ramifications that may arise if one accepts Dignitatis Humanae as authoritative/true/infallible, if one takes a minimalist position concerning Papal promulgations, most (all?) difficulties become marginalized (and I would argue that such has been the case with other developments that seem to have had little previous support).


BTW, 99.5F degrees here yesterday according to my digital, outdoor thermometer!!!


Grace and peace,

David

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,

Thank you for reading my book.

For my part, I am now prepared to read any book that you should designate at a similar pace (approximately one page per day, heh). I have broadband now so it is anything you want from Darby to Maravich.

Choose wisely. Let me know.

Your Friend,

Rory

Anonymous said...

Well...anything that has never made the Index. Heh.

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Since you mentioned Darby, how about starting with his Analysis of Dr. Newman's Apologia pro vita sua (HERE). [I recommend the PDF version.]


Grace and peace,

David

Hughuenot said...

Saving faith is not tripartite:
http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/The%20Trinity%20Review%2000238%20Review265RCSproulonFaith.pdf

Hughuenot said...

Ex-Anglican Darby on ex-Anglican Newman's poping:

"The secret of the course of Dr. Newman's mind is this — it is sensuous; and so is Romanism.

"He never possessed the truth, nor, in the process he describes, sought it: he had never found rest or peace in his own soul, nor sought it where it is to be found, according to the holiness of God.

"He sank into that system where the mind often finds quiet from restless search after repose, when wearied in judging for itself, but never peace with God."