Steve Hays, over at Triablogue, responded to my last post in the comments section of THIS THREAD, via a NEW THREAD which he posted yesterday. The comments section of this new thread is proceeding down an a different (though related) tangent, due to the first comment penned by BJ Buracker, a Presbyterian who seems to take the visible church much more seriously than the ecclesiastical anarchists who have attempted to address his questions. Though this tangent is interesting, I would like to address Steve’s remarks directly—hence my new thread. Steve posted:
DAVID WALTZ SAID:“The Bible teaches us that schism is SIN; Calvin teaches that schim is SIN; and yet, Protestantism as a whole has now for hundreds of years functionally ignored this SIN.”
i) You’re indulging in some highly anachronistic equivocations. The NT is talking about NT churches, overseen by apostles. To break with that sort of church would represent a revolt against apostolic authority and apostolic doctrine.
Steve’s comments are based on some very tenuous presuppostions: first, Steve assumes that the pattern portrayed in Scripture concerning the “NT churches overseen by apostles” is ‘descriptive’ and not ‘prescriptive’, as such, the post-apostolic church should not seek to duplicate the apostolic church; second, apostolic authority cannot/was not passed on by the apostles to successors.
It’s tendentious and anachronistic of you to simply reapply those strictures to various denominations–including your own–100s of years down the line.
Early Church history presents a record for us that is quite contrary to what Steve would have us to believe.
A denomination is not “the church.” No one denomination is “the church.” At best, various denominations exemplify the church in different times and places. The church doesn’t have just one address–unless you mean the headquarters (which are located “upstairs”).
Once again, the early Church tells a different story; organic continuity via espiscpal succession was an important ‘mark’ in determining the Catholic churches from the schismatic and heretical ones. That organic continuity has continued down to our day in both branches of the Catholic Church (Western and Eastern).
Sometimes it’s sinful to break with a preexisting denomination and start a new one. At other times, it’s morally incumbent on the faithful to break with a preexisting denomination and–if need be–form a new one.
A brief stroll down through history reveals the sects which have embraced Steve’s dictum—examples include: Gnostics, Modalists, Melitians, Donatists, Arians (after 381), Pelagians, Monophysites, Monothelites, et al. (Augustine in his, The Heresies, lists no less than 88 sects which ended up rejecting the organic Catholic unity.)
ii) However, if you wish to frame the issue in terms of schism, then I’ll happy to concede that the church of Rome committed sin when it broke faith with the pattern of the NT church and began to develop a series of unscriptural innovations. That’s why I don’t belong to a schismatic denomination like the church of Rome.
If Steve is correct on this, then one must conclude that we have no “true” Christian churches from the middle of the second century until the 16th century.
“And Calvin, like historic Chirstians before him, understood that the visible Church has real authority, authority to form creeds and confessions; authority to discipline, et al.; and if history teaches us anything, when that authority is ignored, heresy and schism abound.”
i) The church has the authority to teach revealed truth (i.e. biblical revelation). The church also has the authority to discipline members who deviate from revealed truth in faith and conduct. The church has no authority over and above the truth. Rather, the church is subject to the truth.
Amen! From the Second Vatican Council we read:
…this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that is proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith. (Dei Verbum, II.7.)
“One Evangelical scholar, who has a good grasp of history, wrote…”
i) Yes, you like to trot out that quote whenever you can. It’s part of your divide-and-conquer strategy. To drive a wedge between 16C Protestantism and 21 Protestantism.
That, however, proves nothing–except the existence of discontinuities (as well as continuities) between two different eras. Things change. The mere fact that things change does not, of itself, indicate whether the change is for the better, the worse, just as good, or just as bad.
I did not drive the “wedge”, it is merely a historical fact. And as for Dr. Lane’s essay, to date, I have not read anyone who has cogently addressed the issues he has raised.
ii) Calvin is not our rule of faith. The Protestant Reformers are not our rule of faith. Scripture is our rule of faith. We are not called to be faithful to Calvin (or the pope). We are called to be faithful to God.
Calvin is not an authority-figure. He is not a prophet or apostle.
Steve needs to say this, for Calvin wrote:
"Still, I do not deny that the Lord has sometimes at a later period raised up apostles, or at least evangelists in their place, as has happened in our own day."
iii) We need to avoid the twin dangers of idolizing the past or idolizing the present. We can’t assume that what’s newer is better, and we can’t assume that what’s older is better. We have to measure these things on a case-by-case basis, with the Bible as our yardstick.For you to accentuate a contrast between the past and the present gets you nowhere with me, for the contrast does not, of itself, point in the direction of which era was right.
And the resulting “fruit” of Steve’s dictum: ecclesiastical anarchy.
iv) I think your basic problem, David, is that you simply transferred your membership from one authoritarian cult (the Watchtower) to another authoritarian cult (the church of Rome). You changed names, but the framework is the same. You have never bothered to question the underlying framework. You’ve been using the same paradigm throughout.
My-oh-my…the Catholic Church is a cult???
Grace and peace,
ADDENDUM - Just moments ago, I came across the following in an online book:
"An especially pernicious tendency in contemporary America is the growth of independency. A multitude of churches exist which militantly proclaim their autonomy. They arrogantly boast of no connection or common government with any other ecclesiastical assembly; it is as though they believe that schism is a virtue. An outgrowth of independency is the development of an entire industry of para-church agencies and self-appointed ministers.
Membership in the church is viewed as a matter of small significance: a person may attend regularly without ever joining a church anywhere or incurring any particular obligations. Members are free to adopt virtually any belief or lifestyle, according to their own individual preferences. Even open scandals and doctrinal aberration are allowed to continue without any corrective action from the church. In the last analysis, the situation in these so-called churches is nothing short of ecclesiastical anarchy. A proper resort to church courts and scriptural confessionalism could cure churches from these maladies of independency." (Kevin Reed, Biblical Church Government - bold emphasis mine.)