Thursday, July 24, 2008

On Private Judgment


As comments, and interest, in my series on doctrinal development appeared to be nearing an end, I thought I would devote a bit of my non-committed time to other goings on in the blog world. A thread at the Beggar’s All blog caught my eye (HERE) and I decided to respond. As with many threads at BA, the combox took on a life of its own, moving away from “faith alone” into other controversial genre, one of which was the issue concerning “private judgment”; it seems that I am the ‘guilty’ party, for it was my quote of Anthany Lane’s essay (see side bar) which referenced the following: “The Reformers feared private judgement almost as much as did the Catholics and were not slow to attack it in its Anabaptist manifestation.” This prompted a response by Jason Loh, who posts under the name of ‘Augustinian Successor’. Jason wrote:

Well, Lane's thesis is refuted by McGrath in "Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution, a history from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first".

Lane is mistaken here. The RIGHT to private judgment was one of the principles of Reformation. The issue relates to USE of private judgment: is it based on sola Scriptura? If so, how is sola Scriptura understood?

Sola Scriptura does not mean abandonment of Tradition but re-defining its use to ensure and maintain continuity. Sola Scriptura does not mean ecclesial and liturgical arrangements for the sake of good order (not by divine institution, unlike Romanism in reference to e.g. the papacy - therein lies the difference) can be opposed with impunity.
And again:

Of course Lane was mistaken. He confused the RIGHT to private judgment with the USE of private judgment. The ABUSE of private judgment could be seen in Luther's confrontation with the Schwaermer (Enthusiasts).

The LIMITS to private jugdment is set out in e.g. Article XXXIV - Of the TRADITIONS of the CHURCH:


"It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, and utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever through his private judgement, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying."
Jason’s response reveals two important details concerning “private judgment”: first, there are “LIMITS”; and second, these “LIMITS” involve the issue of Church authority.

I then responded with:

Lane is not saying that Luther, Calvin, Knox, et al. denied “the RIGHT to private judgment” IN A CERTAIN SENSE. As a Catholic, I too have “the RIGHT to private judgment” within a set of historically defined parameters (e.g. Ecumenical Councils and ex cathedra promulgations). What Lane IS saying is that in PRACTICE, there was little difference between Calvin’s “Church” and Sadolet’s “Church”. Though Calvin denied infallibility to creeds, confessions, catechisms et al., they in day-to-day church polity functioned as such.

I sincerely thought that Jason would come to the understanding that Dr. Lane was not “mistaken”, that he was actually affirming what Jason had earlier said with different terminology and emphasis. But I was wrong—Jason then posted:

"The Reformers feared private judgement almost as much as did the Catholics and were not slow to attack it in its Anabaptist manifestation."

David, as the above quotation shows you've thoroughly misread Lane, and Lane was mistaken (as he tried to equate the Reformers' fear of private judgment with the Roman), and you're absolutely wrong. Let me spell this out to you, AGAIN, since you're not listening to me.

The right to private judgment is one of the principles of the Reformation. It is grounded in the priesthood of all believers. The Roman Church denies the latter theological premise and hence private judgment. Private judgment is a dirty word in the Magisterium, remember?

Once again, Dr. Lane is not denying “private judgment”, he is merely affirming that the Reformers placed “LIMITS” on it—greater “LIMITS” than Jason seems to realize. And perhaps even more importantly, Jason seems to think that Catholics deny “private judgment”, when in fact, “private judgment” (with, of course, “LIMITS”) is affirmed. Note what the famous English Catholic convert, Ronald Knox wrote on this issue:

By an equally grotesque illusion, most Englishmen have the idea that Catholics base all their religious beliefs on the authority of the Church…Let me then avoid further ambiguity, give a list of certain leading doctrines which no Catholic, upon a moment’s reflection, could accept on the authority of the Church and on that ground alone.

1. The existence of God.

2. The fact that he has made a revelation to the world in Jesus Christ.

3. The Life (in its broad outlines), the Death, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

4. The fact that our Lord founded a Church.

5. The fact that he bequeathed to that Church his own teaching office, with the guarantee (naturally) that it should not err in teaching.

6. The consequent intellectual duty of believing what the Church believes.
(Ronald Knox, The Belief of Catholics, pp. 30, 31.)

He follows this with:

“When you have contrived to persuade him that, for Catholics, the authority of the Church in matters of faith is not a self-evident axiom, but a truth arrived at by a process of argument, the Protestant controversialist has his retort ready. ‘You admit, then after all,’ he says, ‘that a man has to use his own private judgment in order to arrive at religious truth? Why, then, what is the use of authority in religion at all? I had always supposed that there was a straight issue between us, you supporting authority and I private judgment; I had always supposed that you criticised me for my presumption in searching for God by the light of my imperfect human reason; it proves, now that you are no less guilty of such presumption than myself! Surely your reproaches are inconsistent, and your distinctions unnecessary. If you use your private judgment to establish certain cardinal points of theology, the existence of God, the authority of Christ, and so on, why may I not use my private judgment to establish not only these, but all other points of theology…” (Ibid., pp. 34, 35.)

To which Knox replies:

“I could not have imagined, if I had not heard it with my own ears, the accent of surprise with which Protestants suddenly light upon this startling discovery, that the belief we Catholics have in authority is based upon an act of private judgment. How on earth could they ever suppose we taught otherwise? I say nothing here of the grace of faith, which is the hidden work of God in our souls. But how could the conscious process by which we arrive at any form of truth begin without an act of private judgment?” (Ibid., p. 35.)

And again:

“Reject private judgment? Of course Catholics have never rejected private judgment; they only profess to delimit the spheres in which private judgment and authority have their respective parts.” (Ibid., 35 – bold emphasis mine.)

So, one can clearly see that Catholics affirm “private judgment”, placing “LIMITS” on its use, as does the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglicans cited by Jason; as does the Formula of Concord of the Lutherans, from which we read:

With reference to the schism in matters of faith which has occurred in our times, we regard, as the unanimous consensus and exposition of our Christian faith, particularly against the false worship, idolatry, and superstition of the papacy and against other sects, and as the symbol of our time, the first and unaltered Augsburg Confession, which was delivered to Emperor Charles V at Augsburg during the great Diet in the year 1530, together with the Apology thereof and the Articles drafted at Smalcald in the year 1537, which the leading theologians approved by their subscription at that time.
Since these matters also concern the laity and the salvation of their souls, we subscribe Dr. Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms as both of them are contained in his printed works. They are “the layman’s Bible” and contain everything which Holy Scripture discusses at greater length and which a Christian must know for his salvation.

All doctrines should conform to the standards set forth above. Whatever is contrary to them should be rejected and condemned as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith.
(Formula of Concord, “The Epitome”, in The Book of Concord, trans. Tappert, p. 465.)

And:

Herewith we again whole-heartedly subscribe this Christian and thoroughly scriptural Augsburg Confession, and we abide by the plain, clear, and pure meaning of its words. We consider this Confession a genuinely Christian symbol which all true Christians ought to accept next to the Word of God, just as in ancient times Christian symbols and confessions were formulated in the church of God when great controversies broke out, and orthodox teachers and hearers pledged themselves to these symbols with heart and mouth. Similarly we are determined by the grace of the Almighty to abide until our end by this repeatedly cited Christian Confession as it was delivered to Emperor Charles in 1530. And we do not intend, either in this or in subsequent doctrinal statements, to depart from the aforementioned Confession or to set up a different and new confession. (Formula of Concord, “Solid Declaration”, in The Book of Concord, trans. Tappert, p. 502.)

And so with The Genevan Confession:

The Confession of Faith which all the citizens and inhabitants of Geneva and the subjects of the country must promise to keep and hold. (1536) (Calvin: Theological Treatises, ed. J.K.S. Reid, p. 26.)

So much for my musings on “private judgment”; I sincerely hope I have shed some important light on this issue.

Grace and peace,

David

21 comments:

Kepha said...

David, dude, are you kidding us? All that reading and you only have one blog entry on it?

Chris said...

Hiya David,

I think that early in Luther's career he would have denied that there are limits to private judgment. Certainly he would have denied that the state should coerce people to believe contrary to their conscience, so long as their belief is based on scripture. Luther's attitudes changed partly due to ill-temper brought on by deteriorating health and partly die to mounting pressure in the public sphere. Muntzer's revolt was a major tunring point for Luther, because he came to believe that private judgment without limits was downright dangerous. Luther turned against the Anabaptists with terrible fury, convinced that they all were of the same stripe as Muntzer. Even the more moderate Karlstadt got lumped with Muntzer's crowd. For one thing, I think that Luther was afraid he would get blamed for opening Pandora's Box, so to speak. If Protestantism came to be seen as volatile and revolutionary, it could be the end of the movement. For another thing, he was notoriously stubborn (especially in his later years) and was absolutely convinced that he was right about everything. It was simply inconceivable to Luther that somebody who was guided by the Holy Spirit could read the Bible and, in good conscience, arrive at different conclusions than he had. As such, he felt no obligation to tolerate theological experimentation.

Not all the Reformers were as willing as Luther to limit private judgment. True, they weren't afraid to condemn groups that posed an actual military threat to the state. But there were some who recognized a distinction between Anabaptists of the militaristic Muntzerite variety and the more pacifist types. Wolfgang Capito, for example, was willing for a time to tolerate Hans Denck and his ilk. Capito turned against the pacifist Anabaptists as pressure mounted from colleagues and as the Turkish threat loomed. The pacifists' refusal of military service increasingly looked treasonous and dangerous to the state. Unlike Capito, the Reformer Matthew Zell never caved in to the cries for coercion of Anabaptists. He was unwilling to limit private judgment in any respect.

Anyway, I think the important thing to keep in mind here is that the limitation of private judgment frequently was done for political rather than religious reasons. Anabaptists were viewed as revolutionaries who wanted to destroy the state. I think that several Reformers were willing, in principle, to allow unlimited private judgment. But they feared the social dissolution that seemed sure to result from it. With the overwhelming success of the tolerant liberal state in more recent centuries, my hope is that we can agree that their fears have proven groundless (and that Luther's self-assurance has proven naive).

As to your excerpts from Knox, I think his Protestant opponents have a point. Those (like Newman) who would insulate certain doctrines from rational re-evaluation on authority of the church need to justify why, if reason and private judgment are the ground upon which the authority of the church is to be accepted, they should not be permitted to judge the church's exercise of that authority. It seems that by virtue of logical and temporal priority, they are the more ultimate authority.

Best,

-Chris

Ken Temple said...

Of course there are "limitations" to private interpretation.

We have the right to interpret the Scriptures for ourselves, based on the priesthood of believers ( I Peter 2:4-10); but we have no right to interpret them wrongly or irresponsibly.

My last post on "Presuppositions and Doctrinal Development" illustrates this. Proper exegesis and proper hermeneutics keeps us within the boundaries of what flows out from the text, context, paragraph, book, author, entire canon, and that God is able to speak, is perfect, and does not contradict Himself, nor does He, nor can He lie. ( Titus 1:2) (analogy of faith, law of non-contradiction) Mormons interpret things anyway they want; avoiding the immediate context and authors intention and then adding a new prophet and ideas and new Scriptures. See the details there. The Reformers saw the enthusiasts, and Anabaptists, and then people like Michael Severtus (wrote books against the Trinity) as leaving the boundaries (limitations) of sound exegesis. Also, there were other factors, -- the breakdown of the Medieval synthesis, the whole culture coming apart at the seams, violence, chaos, so they also reacted and over-reacted.

The Reformers feared the chaos of the irresponsible way that the enthusiasts interpreted Scripture.

Kind of like the chaos we see today in the Charismatic movement, the word of faith heresies and the suppposed claims of revivals in Toronto and Brownsville, and now Lakeland Florida. They are just the goofiest things I have heard of or seen.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

You posted:

>>We have the right to interpret the Scriptures for ourselves, based on the priesthood of believers ( I Peter 2:4-10); but we have no right to interpret them wrongly or irresponsibly.

My last post on "Presuppositions and Doctrinal Development" illustrates this. Proper exegesis and proper hermeneutics keeps us within the boundaries of what flows out from the text, context, paragraph, book, author, entire canon, and that God is able to speak, is perfect, and does not contradict Himself, nor does He, nor can He lie. ( Titus 1:2) (analogy of faith, law of non-contradiction) >>

Me: What happens when Baptists, Lutherans, the Reformed (the real ones [wink]), Mennonites, et al. disagree over “proper exegesis and proper hermeneutics”? What happens when one submits to the confessions and/or catechisms of a particular denomination? What happens when one is born into a particular denomination that has confessions and/or catechisms? Ronald Knox in his The Belief of Catholics speaks of “intellectual figments”; what he means by this phrase is that while many affirm certain doctrinal positions intellectually in actuality they have/hold virtually no meaning. (In a future post I plan to present some glaring examples of “intellectual figments”.)

>>Mormons interpret things anyway they want; avoiding the immediate context and authors intention and then adding a new prophet and ideas and new Scriptures. See the details there.>>

Me: Interestingly enough, the Jews level the same charges at Christians. For some “grammatical-historical hermeneutic” see Rabbi Singer’s SITE.

>>The Reformers saw the enthusiasts, and Anabaptists, and then people like Michael Severtus (wrote books against the Trinity) as leaving the boundaries (limitations) of sound exegesis.>>

Me: Menno Simons and Fautus Socinus (among so many others) were convinced that it was the magisterial Reformers who were guilty of the charge of “leaving the boundaries (limitations) of sound exegesis.”

>>Also, there were other factors, -- the breakdown of the Medieval synthesis, the whole culture coming apart at the seams, violence, chaos, so they also reacted and over-reacted.

The Reformers feared the chaos of the irresponsible way that the enthusiasts interpreted Scripture.>>

Me: I am sure that you are aware that the Socians, open-theists, and others accuse the magisterial Reformers of synthesis too (replacing, of course, Aristotle with Plato).

To make a very long story ‘short’ one person’s ‘clarity’ is another person’s ‘goofiness’.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

oooops...Socinians, not "Socians"...

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the informative post.

Question #1: Do you think the magisterial Reformers (and their followers) were inconsistent with their principal of “private judgment” in respect to the Anabaptists (especially the conservative ones) and Socinians?

Question #2: Do you believe that requiring submission to creeds, confessions, and/or catechisms significantly qualify “private judgment”—perhaps even to the extent that the phrase becomes empty?


Grace and peace,

David

Ken Temple said...

My last post on "Presuppositions and Doctrinal Development" illustrates this.

Should have been "my last post on "Looking for substantive alternatives to Newman's Theory of Development."

On Mormonism with Tom.

Ken Temple said...

What happens when Baptists, Lutherans, the Reformed (the real ones [wink]), Mennonites, et al. disagree over “proper exegesis and proper hermeneutics”?

What do you think? You have probably heard / or read already any kind of answer I can give; that I think is the way to deal with that problem.

What do you think the best answer that Protestants give to that issue is? (you have read some 50,000 books; you would know better than I.)

Obviously, I will say that some issues are serious enough to take that person out of the Christian faith totally; for example, since all those groups pretty much agree on the main things, that is those that believe the Scriptures are inerrant. Differences on baptism and liturgy and 5 point Calvinism are important enough to impact church membership; but they do not affect salvation.

However Socianism, open theists put themselves out of orthodox Christianity; RCC guts the gospel by rejecting justification by faith alone and adding other works and mediators to get their final salvation. Mormons are polytheists (Henotheism, Communal Monotheism, and other terms)

There are primary issues; and secondary issues. But you already knew I would write this.

I am quite sure that we will see Baptists, Lutherans, Mennonites, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, and Roman Catholics in heaven; even though many doctrines were not correct.



What happens when one submits to the confessions and/or catechisms of a particular denomination?

no problem, if it holds to the main things.

David Waltz said...

Good morning Ken,

Thanks for responding; you posted:

>>What happens when Baptists, Lutherans, the Reformed (the real ones [wink]), Mennonites, et al. disagree over “proper exegesis and proper hermeneutics”?

What do you think? You have probably heard / or read already any kind of answer I can give; that I think is the way to deal with that problem.

What do you think the best answer that Protestants give to that issue is?>>

Me: They split, and/or stay split. The typical Protestant answer to this is “sin”. But here is the quandary: if their disagreements are truly only over “non-essentials”, and they agree on the “essentials”, then to split and/or remain split amounts to nothing less than SCHISM—a grave sin in the NT and early Church Fathers.

>>There are primary issues; and secondary issues. But you already knew I would write this.>>

Me: I thought perhaps you might, and in the back of my mind, I was thinking that if you did respond as such, that the important issue of schism would probably be left out of the equation.

Ken, I do not doubt your sincerity one iota, yet as I read your posts I sense that an important ingredient is perhaps missing, namely, a consistent epistemology. Please feel free to correct me if I am all wet on this.


Grace and peace,

David

Chris said...

David,

You wrote,

>>Question #1: Do you think the magisterial Reformers (and their followers) were inconsistent with their principal of “private judgment” in respect to the Anabaptists (especially the conservative ones) and Socinians?

I don't mean to say that tolerance of conservative Anabaptists was either long-lived or widespread. Rather, I am cautioning against seeing the Reformers as a monolithic group and/or grounding their opposition to private judgment entirely in some sort of vestigial creedalism. Yes, the large majority of Reformers limited private judgment, despite some earlier principled support of it, by the late 1520's. And yes, some of their opposition was due to a felt loyalty to creedal orthodoxy. But I think the single most decisive reason the Reformers limited private judgment was that it became increasingly clear that to do otherwise threatened the very foundations of the state-church model that all Reformers embraced.
And since the state-church model is basically inherent in the definition of a magisterial "Reformer", those who ceased to be loyal to the state-church model ceased thereby to be Reformers and became, by definition, Anabaptists. In that sense, to say that the Reformers feared private judgment is almost tautological.

Ken Temple said...

Ken, I do not doubt your sincerity one iota, yet as I read your posts I sense that an important ingredient is perhaps missing, namely, a consistent epistemology. Please feel free to correct me if I am all wet on this.

Thanks. From what I understand about the whole Roman Catholic/Newman argument of DD; that is the charge that every RC levels at Evangelical Protestants. It makes no sense to me. Epistemology is the study of knowledge and how we know something. This is the same issue that BC is driving at. The key point that RC apologetics keep saying is, "how do you know?" (that the canon of Scritpure is correct) - for you know (epistnmi) it because of the historical process in the church and wrestling with heresies and persecution ( Marcion, Montanists, Gnostics, Arians) - resulting in Athanasius' list in 367 AD and the provincial councils of Carthage and Hippo in N. Africa in the 380's and 390's (basically, by 400 AD) all the catholic churches were in agreement on the 27 books we have today. Because of that history and that has been passed down over the centuries, and Luther and Calvin came out of the Roman Catholic Church, you are saying "why do you accept the church's historical understanding of the NT canon; but not other things like baptismal regeneration, penance, indulgences, Marian doctrines, apostolic office succession in bishops in the RCC?

My question is, why is that inconsistent? Since the apostles died, and there is no more revelation; the rest of history is wrestling with the text. So while there are many things we can accept from the ECF and others (Anselm, Aquinas); just because the early church got it right on the canon and the Trinity; it does not follow that they got it right on other things. no father is infallible; as even the RCC admits; and infallibility of the Pope does not even appear until the Middle Ages (1100-1300s ??) and then it is not formally defined until 1870. So, it seems to me that RCC apologetic procedure is "inconsistent" because it is actually anachronistically reading 1870 back into all of history, the Bishops of Rome and counsels and claimed "ex cathedra" statements.

Ken Temple said...

Me: They split, and/or stay split. The typical Protestant answer to this is “sin”.

The split from Rome by Luther and Calvin was not sin in Protestant understanding; because they were leaving something so corrupted in doctrine, and then Trent anathemitized itself; so that is not schism; because they don't believe it was a true church in essential elements any more.


But here is the quandary: if their disagreements are truly only over “non-essentials”, and they agree on the “essentials”, then to split and/or remain split amounts to nothing less than SCHISM—a grave sin in the NT and early Church Fathers.

Certainly Christ never wanted all the denominations in the ideal sense of John 17. But He has allowed this in His sovereignty and providence, as I Cor. 11:19 says, "It is necessary that heresies (divisions, factions) exist among you; in order that the one who is approved may be manifested."

"For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you." (NASB)

The Roman Catholic culture of Europe and Medieval Synthesis created that atmosphere of religious groups killing each other.

All I can say is that the Christian world since that time has slowly learned to disagree with each other without killing each other.

church membership is important, crucial and a person who claims to be a Christian without wanting to be in church is probably wrong, in sin, temporarily backslidden, or not truly born-again. There is no such thing as "me and Jesus with my Bible in the woods or in my den with TBN on." -- that is not church.

I think Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians have lots of unity, they only disagree on baptism and even less on church government (session/presbytery made up of several churches in an area vs. plurality of elders for one local church). They did not split; but the baptist movement came out of the Anglican church in England and spread to USA.

Any way, I think those differences are minor compared to a claim to have unity in the RCC; yet have a priest like Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete

http://hereiblog.com/2008/07/12/proper-understanding-of-roman-catholic-salvation/

explain his views on God and salvation; that Buddhists and atheists go to heaven without repentance and faith in Christ. That is much more serious problem in the RCC; than the differences that Evangelicals have over baptism and church government and spiritual gifts and Calvinism/Arminianism.

Ken Temple said...

http://hereiblog.com/

the URL is shorter now. The other I put up was too long and would not fit in the combox.

See the article and comments on Beckwith's new book; the link to James White's blog and

then
Ravi Zacharias

then, the post with video on Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete.

That, to me, is a bigger problem that disagreements over baptism and church government, etc. within Protestantism.

There is group of Evangelical Protestants with great unity around the gospel that are Baptist, Presbyterian, Bible churches, Evangelical Free, and "3rd wave".

www.t4g.org

Chris said...

Ken,

>>My question is, why is that inconsistent? Since the apostles died, and there is no more revelation; the rest of history is wrestling with the text... just because the early church got it right on the canon and the Trinity; it does not follow that they got it right on other things.

The problem, I suppose, is that you need a methodology by which to determine which things the fathers got right and which things they got wrong. If I'm not mistaken, the Westminister Confession suggests that the canon can be derived via direct supernatural revelation. Alternatively, one might derive it by the use of reason. But both of these processes are problematic in that 1) they make either personal revelation or reason temporally and logically prior to the canon of scripture, suggesting thereby that sola scriptura is incorrect, and 2) until you take a chance and allow yourself to disagree with the received tradition about which books should be in the canon, you cannot be sure that you're not just engaging in a process of after-the-fact rationalization of a traditional belief you're not willing to alter or let go of.

Best,

-Chris

Augustinian Successor said...

David,

It would seem from the Knox' quotations, unless I have misread these myself, that private judgment is limited to initial conversion only. This can readily seen from the catalogue of theological propositions which constitute the foundation of the Church's Faith. I doubt, therefore, that private judgment would under similar conditions, extend to the baptised Christian (i.e. Romanist) who would be required to submit to the judgment of the CHURCH as embodied by the Magisterium with the Pope at the apex of the hierarchy.

For the Protestant, private judgment of course, is definitive if it could be shown that the Church is in error. This element is excluded by your Church's own self-definition of its infallibility, to which no Protestant Churches dared to aspire, let alone claim ...

Ken Temple said...

Chris wrote:
If I'm not mistaken, the Westminister Confession suggests that the canon can be derived via direct supernatural revelation. Alternatively, one might derive it by the use of reason.

Hi Chris!
No, to the first part; there is no supernatural revelation; or at least it is not called by that; the WCF denies new revelations. It is the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit on the text, not new revelation.

it says,
". . . our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts. . .

". . . we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as revealed in the Word: . . ."

"the supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined . . . can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture."

Chapter 1, of Holy Scripture, selected portions of paragraphs 5-6 ; and 10.

Yes, we are to use our minds and reason and submit to the Holy Spirit's conviction and illumination. "sanctified reason" = Humility and faith and submission to the Spirit and wrestling together with the text in the local church (community, accountability) are keys.

Anonymous said...

Hi Augustinian Successor. You made some comments that prompt me to try to explain how I perceive Catholic authority in relation to my own beliefs about that authority. My comments though are not really directed to you in the sense of expecting a response. Of course, I would be glad to hear you promptly explain how you are completely persuaded of my position now. I have already written what follows. I am just trying to be forthcoming and most Protestants will find it appalling. You don't even have to read it, let alone reply. Heh.

Augustinian Successor:
For the Protestant, private judgment of course, is definitive if it could be shown that the Church is in error. This element is excluded by your Church's own self-definition of its infallibility, to which no Protestant Churches dared to aspire, let alone claim ...

Rory:
This comment prompts me to try to explain something about the way I perceive the Catholic Church. God sent Jesus, Jesus established the Church and sent the Apostles, the Apostles scattered and made converts with some of them becoming the successors of the Apostles.

It isn't because these successors suddenly proclaimed their own infallibility under certain strict conditions that I believe in the teaching authority of the Apostolic Church. It was there before any proclamation. In my opinion, it would decrease my chances of arriving at Apostolic truth, if I were to by-pass the Apostolic Church.

Of course, there is the argument that says there is no Apostolic church, and that no visible church has infallibly maintained apostolic truth. If that were correct, who could enjoin upon me any obligation to join any one of the thousands of competing voices that deny their own infallibility and apostolicity? It doesn't interest me to be preached to and disciplined by some man or woman who doesn't have any more certainty of their beliefs than I do. No thanks. Since I don't need any apostolic succession or infallibility, maybe I'll just start my own church and write my own fallible creed.

I am just thankful that there is one historical Christian body that claims to have both apostolic succession and the certainty of its own beliefs. Added to that, is that in spite of the venomous opposition heaped upon this Christian body by those who are so "humble" as to not dare to claim that they are infallible or apostolic, I admire the fruits of Catholic devotion.

I believe all the truths which the holy Catholic Church believes and teaches because I think Christ established that visible Church. Christ is the head of the Church, and just as it was our doctrines of Christ which lead to doctrines of Mary which the Protestants despise, so it is the doctrines of Christ which lead to the doctrines of the Church so despised by the Protestants. In my opinion, Christ is more glorified through a sinless Mother and infallible Church.

Most Christians believe that the Son of God is infallible. Many Christians believe that the Apostles were infallible. How did that happen? Because Christ was protecting them from error through His Spirit, right? Catholics believe that Christ continues as Head of the Church to rule through the Apostolic Succession. I know that non-Catholics don't believe that, but if they did, belief in infallibility would follow.

Knox said virtually the same thing:
"The fact that he bequeathed to that Church his own teaching office, with the guarantee (naturally) that it should not err in teaching."

It seems to Catholics to be reasonable that Christ should be able to guide His Church without error. Infallibility obviously requires supernature. But there is no lack of that in Christ! But what about this and that and the other doctrine that doesn't make sense from Scripture or doesn't follow the right hermeneutic? I couldn't care less.

That's not totally true. I care some about interpretations and hermeneutics and stuff. I happen to be very satisfied with the way the Church explains Her teachings too. For instance, I believe in purgatory and vicarious suffering of the Church Militant for the temporal punishment for sin now. Yeah. If I start that church the Protestants want me to start, purgatory'll be in the creed for sure. And how are we going to work indulgences? Hmmm...the problem is that for the doctrines and practices to work, you need a church which when it binds and looses on earth, God does it in heaven.

Hey Dave. Here's a thought. Maybe it is because they know it takes such promises from God, that the Protestants have rejected a host of fairly obvious teachings, which don't seem peculiarly Catholic. But they end up being distinctively Catholic because they can only fit an ecclesiology that proclaims itself to have the kind of authority the Catholic Church must proclaim of Herself. The Church that says it is one and true, can get away with claiming to bind and loose, making legislation that heaven ratifies. But an unfortunate humility imposed on thirty thousand not completely true, not necessarily visible churches, doesn't permit them to say a whole lot about their own authority. In the case of the churches that claim to be fallible, institutional humility does not seem to me to be a virtue, but just a lack of faith in its own mission.

Rory

Chris said...

David,

This is off-topic, but I'd be interested in hearing what you think of Pentecostalism.

Best,

-Chris

Ken Temple said...

Chris,
I know you directed your question to David about Pentecostalism; and I would like to know his opinion also; but I thought I would add my opinion here.

There are good Pentecostals and there are bad Pentecostals. (bad in the sense of sloppy theology, not in the sense of “evil”. The good kind believe and articulate their distinctives with passion and zeal on the ongoing continuation of all spiritual gifts, the necessity for power in living the Christian life by a second “baptism in the Spirit” after salvation, and say that tongues is only one evidence of receiving the baptism in the Spirit. That may not be the classic position; but thinking, balanced, and good Pentecostals like Gordon Fee, Rev. Jack Hayford, Rev. Mark Rutland and Dr. Paul Walker would probably, if pressed, agree with that. They do believe in the “Second baptism”, and they emphasize the need for it for power and victory and have tried to help balance the unbalanced Pentecostals who say that one must have this experience to be saved; and one must speak in tongues in order to prove that one has genuinely had this experience of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”

Classic Pentecostals believed that a Christian should seek and receive the baptism of the Spirit and that it must have the evidence of speaking in tongues. (Assemblies of God, Church of God, (Cleveland, TN).

They also believe that physical healing is part of the unconditional promises of God in the atonement, equal and on the same level with forgiveness of sins. If you repent and receive Christ, you are guaranteed forgiveness, according to God’s promise, therefore, they say, based on Isaiah 53:4-5, Matthew 8:17, I Peter 2:24, and Psalm 103:3.

This is one of the biggest problems of their doctrines, because when people are not healed physically, the vast majority seem to imply that it is because of a lack of faith or some secret sin in one’s life, rather than the Sovereignty of God.

They just don’t seem to grasp the many verses together that speak of God’s promises as “already” and others that are “not yet”, and they don’t seem to emphasize the Sovereignty of God very much.

The Word of Faith movement (“Name it claim it”, prosperity theology), which I and other Evangelicals consider a very serious heresy and full of false doctrines and thrives in TV preachers and churches who really do seem to be motivated and controlled by greed. The Word of Faith movement, Robert Bowman seems to argue in his book, The Word of Faith Controversy is basically an extension of the belief in the physical healing in the atonement and that it must be guaranteed, into the areas of prosperity and wealth and complete victory over sin. Some Pentecostal / holiness groups teach the annihilation of the sin nature because of that failure to see the “already” and “not yet” aspects to God’s promises.

Pentecostals and Charismatics also generally believe in ongoing personal “revelation” from the Holy Spirit, but they would not put in on par with Scripture. If pressed, they would be forced to admit that “words of knowledge”, “prophetic utterances”, “words of wisdom” are specific guidance or warnings to specific individuals in their spiritual life.

Pentecostalism also seems to spawn other really goofy aberrations of the current Lakeland Revival (Todd Bentley claims God healed an old woman by telling him to kick her in the face with his boots on! This guy, IMO is a first class nut!) and the 1980-1990s Toronto Blessing and the Brownsville Revivals, which are basically excited and immature, emotional, and over-zealous people wanting to see healing and miracles happen that they let their emotions control them and just do things like hyperventilating and breath and shake and jump and laugh (The Holy laughter movement is also a really stupid heretical practice.) This is all so subjective and so experiential and so psychological, that it is really hard to separate out what is genuine spiritual experience (Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield testified to some of the emotional experiences in repentance in crying and weeping and heaving, and shaking that came with Spirit-anointed preaching.)

One of the big problems is that good and balanced and thinking Pentecostals do not speak out enough against these abberations and false doctrines. Some have and I really appreciate

Hank Hannegraaf’s Christianity in Crisis and Counterfeit Revival and D. R. McConnel’s A Different Gospel .

For a good web-site that exposes all the greedy false TV preachers, by letting them all speak for themselves, see
www.victorstephens.com
Go to the articles section and “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” and keep scrolling down and you can click on all their own statements of heresy and greed.

Pentecostalism as a whole needs to clean up this stuff; and the good Pentecostals need to rise up and hold these false teachers accountable. Unfortunately, IMO, it seems that many of these Pentecostal and Charismatic churches and ministries are mixtures of the good and balanced with the sloppy, goofy, and heretical and the good ones would loose lots of support if they spoke out more, so it seems that they do not.

I would still disagree with even the good Pentecostals on their theology and doctrines (second baptism, tongues, healing in the atonement and loosing one's salvation) and practices; but I would embrace the balanced and thinking ones as Christian brothers.

Ken Temple said...

I left out the ending in this sentence:

therefore, they say, based on Isaiah 53:4-5, Matthew 8:17, I Peter 2:24, and Psalm 103:3; healing is also guaranteed, if one trusts and receives it.

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

Yesterday, you asked the following:

>>This is off-topic, but I'd be interested in hearing what you think of Pentecostalism.>>

Me: In all honesty, I don’t know what to think. Given my JW and then Reformed background, I have always tended towards a cessationist position (this is not to say that God cannot, and does not still work miracles). As a Catholic I am told that the gifts of the early Church have not ceased, but from my reading of the book of Acts, the gifts certainly don’t seem as prevalent from the second century forward.

As for Pentecostalism as a movement within the Protestant paradigm, they sure seem to have experienced incredible growth since the humble beginnings of its modern expression—Bethel Bible College in Topeka, and the Azusa Street Revival.

My old neighbor in Vancouver was/is a Pentecostal, and believes that all the gifts of the apostolic days are for the Church today, including full blown prophecy. He is a real prophecy buff, but many of the “prophets” he recommended to me sure seemed more like false prophets than true ones, if one takes their prophetic record seriously.

I attened a couple of revival meetings with him, trying to be very open, but must say in all honesty that the proceedings did not seem quite right to me, and I have grave doubts that any real gifts of the Holy Spirit were taking place.

Wish I could be more definitive, but I am anything but an expert on Pentecostalism.

Grace and peace,

David

P.S. If you have access to The Westminster Theological Journal, the last issue, Spring 2008 – Vol. 70.1, has a very interesting article on Faustus Socinus (pp. 49-71). I am really impressed by the objectivity of the article’s author, Alan W. Gomes (professor of historical theology at the Talbot School of Theology). Dr. Gomes puts to rest many of the misconceptions about Socinus (and Socinianism), and penned the following: “when one examines the Socinian doctrine of Scripture, and all the events of the doctrine as articulated by Faustus himself, one finds little to distinguish if from the classic Protestant position.”