Sunday, July 30, 2006

Catholic Opinions On Protestant "Heretics"

I’ve encountered various responses to the Catholic position on Protestant “heretics.” Are Protestants who deny key dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church their “brothers in Christ”? Or, are they “separated brethren”? Are they “outside the church and in need of salvation”? Below I’d like to outline three positions I’ve come across from Roman Catholics. Now, each of these positions differs, and they’ve all been given to me by Roman Catholics.


1. The Presuppositional/ fideism Answer: Blissful Ignorance Of The “Truth”

Some have simply told me the only way I could be deemed a “lost”heretic doomed to eternal hell was if I knew the Roman Catholic Church was the true church- and still I denied her truth. But since I remain convinced the Roman Catholic Church does not teach the truth and is a false church, i'm not a doomed heretic, but rather, “seperated brethren.” Since I don’t believe the Roman Catholic Church is the true church, my ignorance saves me.

I admit, it is a “clever” response, and has always facinated me because it is an example of Roman Catholic presuppositional apologetics. In presupositional apologetics, one admits upfront that all arguments begin with unproven truth claims. At some point way back in every argument, something is stated that is “faith” claim, but is presented as a “fact” claim.

The argument above assumes beforehand that the Roman Catholic Church is the true church. In other words, it is a beginning faith in an unproven truth claim, rather than the result of reason and evidence proving it as a truth claim. I doubt Catholics who have used this line of reasoning with me have ever realized they’re doing Presuppositional Catholic apologetics! There really is only one way to respond: by presenting evidence and reason that the faith placed in this presuppositional claim is faulty. One has to argue that the evidence of history and reason do not best fit the inital presupositonal claim. Of course, the Catholic laymen using this argument may simply resort to fideism. That is, evidence and facts don’t really matter: “I’m going to believe what I want to believe…don’t confuse me with the facts.”

Perhaps this approach is simply the uniformed opinion of Catholic laymen. Or, perhaps this is the next phase of development in the understanding of the salvation of those who are not in fellowship with Rome.

2. There Really Is “No Salvation Outside The Church”- A Classical Apologetics Approach (Traditionalist)

I don’t think the presuppositional approach has always been the Catholic position, and most Catholics champion the “facts” that their church is steeped in the “facts of history”. For instance, I picked up a 1938 copy of Fathers Rumble and Carty’s “Radio Replies” (vol. 1): 1538 Questions and Answers on Catholicism And Protestantism [St. Paul: Radio Replies Press]. The book claims to be “Invaluable for the uninformed Catholic- the educated and uneducated lapsed Catholic and prospective Convert.” Lets take a look at question #536.

536. Do you maintain that one is obliged to join your infallible, one, holy, catholic, apostolic, end indefectible Church, if he wishes to be saved?

If a man realizes that the Catholic Church is the true Church, he must join it if he wishes to save his soul. That is the normal law. But if he does not realize this obligation, is true to his conscience, even though it be erroneous, and dies repenting of any violations of his conscience, he will get to Heaven. In such a case, it would not have been his fault that he was a non-Catholic and God makes every allowance for good faith.


Elsewhere Rumble and Carty point out, “…[R]emember the conditions of salvation for a Protestant. If he has never suspected his obligation to join the Catholic Church, it is possible for him to be saved. But it is necessary to become a Catholic or be lost if one has the claims of the Catholic Church sufficiently put before him.” Now Carty and Rumble are saying that if one has been presented with the “claims of the Catholic Church” and rejects them, one may be lost. Rumble and Carty want one to look at the evidence for Roman Catholicism and then make a decision on whether or not to believe it. If one rejects it, one is probably doomed to hell.


3. Hybrid Presuppositionalism: Modern Ecumenical Catholicism:

Apolonio Latar commented on this blog recently, “Why do we call Protestants separated brothers? Because they are baptized and hence, in Christ in some way. Are they heretics? Materially, yes. Formally, I don't know--it depends on the person.”

Latar notes that I need to be baptized, and echoes the Catholic Catechism: “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter." Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.”

In this third position, denial of Catholic dogma is an “imperfect communion with the Catholic Church”. Similar to the presuppositional/fideistic position, it begins with the presupposition that the Catholic Church teaches the “truth,” and denials of any of its dogmas is simply “imperfection.” So, my good fortune from this perspective is that I’m probably not doomed to hell, as long as I don’t in some way, become a formal heretic, and of course, I need to be baptized.

If Latar is right, the possibility exists that I, as a Protestant, could become a “formal” heretic. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes though “…a born Catholic may allow himself to drift into whirls of anti-Catholic thought from which no doctrinal authority can rescue him, and where his mind becomes incrusted with convictions, or considerations sufficiently powerful to overlay his Catholic conscience. It is not for man, but for Him who searcheth the reins and heart, to sit in judgment on the guilt which attaches to an heretical conscience.” For Latar’s position to have coherence, Protestants must be defined as “born Catholics”.

57 comments:

FM483 said...

James,

This was a very constructive post. In my case, since I was born and raised Roman Catholic and knowledge of the teachings of the RCC in their catechism and having outright rejected their claims to be the "true church", I must be damned to hell! If Roman Catholics were not serious on this attitude it would be laughable. Where can one find the "true" church of Jesus Christ? The answer is that God looks at the hearts of men and knows His sheep. Whoever has heard the Law of God and is repentant over their sins and cleaves to the Righteousness of Christ as his own through Grace, this person is saved(John 3:16). He is reckoned as Righteous for the sake of Christ(Romans 4). He is legally declared Not Guilty! and is given the Robe of Righteousness. Salvation is by Grace through Faith in Christ alone. It is that simple. All such believers constitute the Church of Jesus Christ. This Church is largely hidden from the world but will be revealed on the Last Day(Col 3:1-4). However, physically there are "marks" of the true Church: wherever the Word of God is proclaimed in both Law and Gospel, and where the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper administered rightly according to the Word - there is the Church militant on earth. Salvation has nothing to do with a particular denomination alaffiliation, but it has everything to do with the Grace of God and whether or not a person has received his inheritance as an adopted child of God(Eph 1:4-5). As the Scripture makes clear, the atonement of Christ has reconciled God to the entire human race(2Cor 5:18-21), but only those who receive this precious gift of the Grace of God are credited with Righteousness and salvation(John 3:16). Thus, as Matthew 28:18-20) states,the Church is to go into all the world announcing the Grace of God in Christ, baptizing in the Name of the Triune God, teaching everything that Jesus has commanded. This is the ultimate missionary directive for every Christian. If a person could be saved in any other manner, such as keeping the Law as understood in their imperfect conscience as the catechism of the RCC says, there would be no need for such a missionary endeavor. In fact, if salvation could be achieved in any other way other than through Grace and by apprehending the forgiveness of sins through the vehicle of Faith, we would be doing a disservice to pagans by providing them the opportunity to reject Christ and thereby condemning them!

Frank Marron

Gavin said...

I have a copy of the Radio Apologetics books also. My mother gave them to me for Christmas, for some reason. I must say, out of all the Catholic apologetic material I've read, those are pretty good both in terms of content and honesty. I think a good question would be which of those approaches you listed is the real "Roman Catholic" approach? The way I kind of see it is that if Rome is right, it's not the mainstream Vatican II'ers, but the SSPX type and such. And if that's the case, we're all screwed anyway.

Iohannes said...

Things were much simpler and more straightforward in 1547 when the Council of Trent, immediately before pronouncing its anathemas, infallibly declared that whosoever does not "faithfully and firmly" accept its doctrine on justification, cannot be justified. Since that statement has never officially been repudiated, things should be just as simple now.

Apolonio said...

James,

It was more of presenting what the Catholic Church teaches or believes rather than presupposing that it is true. It seems to me that your post on Matatics was questioning what the position the Church has on these issues and that is why I responded the way I did.

I also don't see any contradiction between Rumble/Carty's explanation as well as mine (see comment #35 below).

Now, to whether I am a presuppositionalist, no I am not. Dr. Art Sippo has made presuppositionalist arguments for Catholic teachings on many things, but I don't know if he is a presuppostionalist. What I think of presuppostionalism, I am not sure yet but I lean against it. As a philosophy, intuitively, I may have some agreements and disagreements. As for *apologetics*, I am against it, and I am a classical one. But that does not make me an evidentialist when it comes to epistemology. I am an externalist foundationalist who believes that there are basic beliefs. Does that make me a fideist? No because I don't hold that one should hold to a certain position if it is defeated. Nor does that mean that I am against reason or that I don't think there are good arguments for the Church's teachings on things.

You said,

For Latar’s position to have coherence, Protestants must be defined as “born Catholics”.

I don't see how that follows. The Encyclopedia was simply giving an *example* where a person can turn away but it is God who judges him. That does not mean that all must fit that example. It's just an example and not an absolute. There may be other examples. For example, a certain religious man in the Americas in the first century who does not know Christ but follows truth the best he can. Does this mean that his ignorance saves him? No. It just means that he is not held accountable for his ignorance. The judgment of this man is God's. *Can* he be saved? Of course, that is certainly a possibility. He may very well have implicit faith (Aquinas).


Gavin,

You said, "The way I kind of see it is that if Rome is right, it's not the mainstream Vatican II'ers, but the SSPX type and such. And if that's the case, we're all screwed anyway."

I have encountered SSPXers. I am in fact a member of the Lidless Inquisition Blog which deals with radical traditionalist arguments. Your statement above is wrong. First, not all SSPXers are feeneyites. Second, as I have argued below and elsewhere, there is no contradiction between magisterial statements when it comes to EENS as it is said in Vatican 2 and JP the Great in Redemptoris Missio. A study of ecclesiology in the Fathers as well as statements from Aquinas and others show that the Church is not limited to the visible structure and therefore water baptism is not the only way one can be united to the Church. Trent teaches this, Aquinas teaches this, Augustine teaches this, Pius XII teaches this, and so does Pius IX. Again, see:

http://catholica.pontifications.net/?p=1100#comments

Iohannes said...

Greetings Apolonio,

For the sake of mutual edification, would you care to interact with my comment above? Specifically, it concerns the implications of the following statement from Trent:

Post hanc catholicam de justificatione doctrinam, quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque receperit, justificari non poterit, placuit sanctæ synodo hos canones subjungere, ut omnes sciant, non solum quid tenere et sequi, sed etiam quid vitare et fugere debeant. (Decret. de Justif., Cap. XVI; Denz. 810)

In H. J. Schroeder's translation, it reads:

After this Catholic doctrine on justification, which whosoever does not faithfully and firmly accept cannot be justified, it seemed good to the holy council to add these canons, that all may know not only what they must hold and follow, but also what to avoid and shun.

There is in the Latin an echo of the last line of the Athanasian Creed. But Trent went beyond that venerable symbol, boldly asserting that the reception of its doctrine on justification is requisite for a man's justification, and therefore for the attainment of eternal life.

As I read the Council's words, there is little room for equivocation. The phrase fideliter firmiterque significantly intensifies the claim, and there is nothing contextually in the decree that might mitigate the statement's force. It may be debatable to what extent one must consciously hold to the Council's detailed exposition of the doctrine in order to be saved. Nevertheless, as my concern is specifically with the consequences of Trent's statement for the status of traditional Protestants as (putative) heretics, that debate is irrelevant. The Council's historical setting and purpose; its strong, explicit, and precise condemnation of core Protestant teachings; and even grammatically, its use of the demonstrative hanc, all make it impossible that Trent's exposition could be so far separated from the doctrine which must be believed, that the differences between Rome and Geneva would be sufficiently minimized and true Protestants be left implicitly believing the catholic doctrine.

To make distinctions clear, we might restrict our focus not to traditional Protestants in general, but only to those who, in spite of a reasonable familiarity with the Roman doctrine, still adamantly reject it. Ignorance, at least by any ordinary definition of the word, is not then an issue.

The question then is, What opinion should the faithful Roman Catholic have concerning such people?

I find it hard to see how he could escape the conclusion that such men cannot be, unless they repent, his fellow heirs of eternal life. To answer otherwise would, as I see it, make nonsense of Trent.

I am aware that some modern Roman apologists will soften the Tridentine anathemas, often by appealing to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, or perhaps by holding that they are fully binding only upon those formally affiliated with the Roman Church. Whatever the merit of such analysis, the statement here under consideration is not an anathema, and to my knowledge, it has never been repudiated.

Indeed, it looks to me that it would be impossible to abandon or change the statement's plain meaning without altogether undermining the Roman understanding of the Church's authority. For, according to the CCC:

§88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.

§889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a "supernatural sense of faith" the People of God, under the guidance of the Church's living Magisterium, "unfailingly adheres to this faith."

§890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

§891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.... The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith." This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

I apologize for the length of this comment and know that in a way I must look very silly quoting the Catechism to you. However, this whole matter is very important to me. It is not something I treat of with the comfort of approaching from a distance. I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, being both baptized and confirmed within it. Yet now I am certainly in the category of those who do not faithfully and firmly accept istam catholicam de justificatione doctrinam.

I personally take no comfort from seeing the way that, from my perspective, modern Roman Catholics dance around the question of the status of Protestants. As I see it, if Trent is really infallible, then unless black is white, I will be damned. I will be damned despite resting only in my faith in Christ, despite professing the Nicene Creed, and despite even possibly being in closer agreement with Anselm than the current Pope himself is (see his Introduction to Christianity).

Please do not misunderstand my purpose in asking for your response. It is hard, when writing online, to convey the tone that would be in one's voice. I have no bitterness toward you, no disrespect for you. I sincerely would appreciate your reply. However, please know that I do not approach this question from your perspective, with your presuppositions. I do not assume that since the modern church acts mildly toward Protestants, and since Trent was the formal product of an ecumenical council, there must be some way to resolve the contradiction in a way that leaves the Magisterium infallible and true Protestants within Christ's kingdom. If you wish to persuade me that I am mistaken, you must show me that what I perceive as obscurantism, the exploitation of supposed ambiguities, and creative reinterpretation, is actually not what it appears to be.

I began by speaking of mutual edification, and with that I will end. I ask a response from you as much for your own benefit as for my own. My position may and probably does have flaws. But if I am basically right, then speaking not from pride but from honesty and faithfulness to Christ, I must beg you to reconsider your own theological position.

In prayer I await your answer,

J.

FM483 said...

In response to the recent post by J.(James, I assume):

I too was born and raised Roman Catholic. Consequently,the heart of the concerns expressed in this post by J. are mine as well. Every party cannot all be correct. Logically, everyone can be incorrect,but if one is correct,the others cannot be. There are major camps within Christemdom: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and within the Reformed Churches a variety, such as Calvinistism, Baptist,Methodist,Evangelical,and so on. All these groups are Christian to the extent they confess the same God as revealed to us in Scripture - Christ. I set Lutheranism apart from all camps because theologically it is both similar to the Reformed churches and yet radically different. As a Lutheran I believe all the Reformed churches have theological problems. However, as far as salvation goes, having imperfect theological positions does not deter me from recognizing such believers as fellow heirs of the Kingdom of God. As J. points out, the Roman Catholic denomination does just this by their various councils and treatises which have anathemized non-RCs over the centuries. I find this RC attitude as condescending and insulting. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to read God's Word without quickly discovering blatant inconsistencies with what is taught in RC. Consequently, the RCC has had to appeal to another source which always agrees with RC doctrine. This other source is what is referred to as "Magesterium" and "papacy". As I have stated in other posts on this blog site, other nonChristian cults have done similar things, such as the Mormon church with their own scripture "The Book of Mormon" and their "prophet and 70 elders". The Lutheran position is that only God's Word is infallible and is the norm of norms, not a "Magesterium". Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. Lutherans do not pretend that they have any special "charisma" conveyed from God other than the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who is received by every believer through Faith. RCs often cite the disagreements among nonRCs as proof of the RCC's authority. However, the unity over the most critical doctrines concerning the atonement of Christ is amazing amoung Lutherans and all other groups: they all consistently preach salvation by Grace through Faith on account of the atonement of Christ ALONE. Closer inspection willshow the many disagreements within Roman Catholicism, similar to those within Protestanism. If I read the catechism of the RCC I see that paragraph 847 states that nonbelievers can inherit eternal life by obeying their consciences. This is strange sine the post by J. showed that Protestants are anathemized for rejecting Rome, even if they profess repentance over sins and faith in Christ! It is inconsistent and absurd thinking such as this which illustrates why the RCC cannot be the correct group.

In earlier posts on this blog site(see Frank Marron) I have explained that there are two categories of believers: "those who live under the Law" and those who "live under the Gospel". Roman Catholic theology and most of Protestanism are still under Law and are similar in this regard. They believe that they must do something in order to please God. They do not properly distinguish between Law and Gospel in God's Word. Even key verses such as John 3:16 are viewed as Law to a certain extent: a man must "believe". The other category of folks who "live under the Gospel" have the correct viewpoint based on Scripture that believers are adopted children of God, inheritors of the promises of God on account of the Grace of God in Christ alone. The same verse John 3:16 is read as an INDICATIVE statement of the status of believes, not as a directive or IMPERATIVE. The Law category is illustrated nicely by Rick Warren's popular book "The Purpose Driven Life".Warren is similar to RC in that he transfers the way the world operates to the Kingdom of God, which is absolutely wrong. The world operates on merit and works,while God's Kingdom is based on Grace and Faith. Most Evangelicals do not even recognize that they have gone full circle back to Rome, theologically speaking.

Frank Marron

Apolonio said...

J.,

Thanks for your inquiry. I hope I answer all your questions and if I don't, tell me which ones I missed.

For the quote, "After this Catholic doctrine on justification, which whosoever does not faithfully and firmly accept cannot be justified," that is entirely true. And that is true with any dogma. That is what is called "explicit faith in Christ," that is, faith in Him and His teachings. Trent must be read in its historical context which is that its intent is for Catholics (even those who called themselves Protestants or reformers were Catholics). This does not weaken the statement above, only that it must seen in its context. Now, as I have noted, that there are some cases where people have implicit faith. And one cannot enter heaven until that implicit faith becomes explicit. Augustine and Aquinas, for example, speaks of an angel or a missionary coming to that person before he dies. And that is perfectly fine. It may be that an angel reveals the dying material heretic of the truth and the material heretic denies what he has held which is contrary to the Catholic faith and accepts the fullness of truth. This way, he is justified and saved. We must keep in mind that just because it is possible that a person outside the visible structure of the Church can be saved, it does not mean that we can sit around. The person can very well be damned and that's why evangelization is needed. At the same time, we cannot judge that person to be damned, only that he may be damned. That is why the quote by the Catholic Encyclopedia that Mr. Swan quoted is neat. It reflects also the teaching of Trent:

And since in many things we all offend,[106] each one ought to have before his eyes not only the mercy and goodness but also the severity and judgment [of God]; neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be not conscious to himself of anything;[107] ***because the whole life of man is to be examined and judged not by the judgment of man but of God***, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God,[108] who, as it is written, will render to every man according to his works.[109] (ch. xvi)

This quote from Garrigou-Lagrange might help:

“An infidel dwelling among Mohammedans, for instance, and habitually doing what his conscience judges to be right, may have no better help than an interior inspiration to keep good. He may have no knowledge whatever of revelation so called, nor of an immediate intervention bordering on the miraculous. He simply follows along the traces of a lost revelaton that still survive, and trusts in a God ‘who is, and who rewards.’ Implicitly the infidel would be making room for faith in Christ…We may join with the Salmanticeness (De Fide, n. 79) and Suarzes in maintaining that…under the New law, it is only per accidens, that is, pure contingency, that an individual adult may attain to justification without having an explicit faith in Christ.” (The Theological Virtues: On Faith. A Commentary on St. Thomas’ Theological Summa I-II qq. 62, 65, 68; II-II qq.1-16. Trans. Thomas a Kempis Reilly, O.P. B. Herder Book Co. 1965, pg. 236)

This leads me to your comment:
"To make distinctions clear, we might restrict our focus not to traditional Protestants in general, but only to those who, in spite of a reasonable familiarity with the Roman doctrine, still adamantly reject it."

The problem with this is you are asking me whether you are damned and that is contrary to what Trent teaches. I do not know your heart and only God does. I would say, though, that you need to come to the fullness of faith, and that includes the Catholic doctrine of justification and your salvation is at stake. Everyone is called to have explicit faith including you. Whether you are damned, I don't know.

Again, thanks for your question and I hope I answered your question sufficiently. Pray for me and my family as I will pray for you and yours.

Apolonio said...

Frank,

You said

"As J. points out, the Roman Catholic denomination does just this by their various councils and treatises which have anathemized non-RCs over the centuries. I find this RC attitude as condescending and insulting. "

Response:
The Catholic Church proposes what she believes is true. It may be condescending, but if it is true, should it not be proclaimed? If someone believes something contrary to her teachings and her teachings are true, then should she not condemn those beliefs? If she believes that contraception and homosexual unions are wrong, should she not condemn those beliefs? It may be condescending to some, but only in truth can we find joy. If Christ and His teachings is the joy of your life, that there is something in Christ, the joy of the Christian, that the world cannot give you, that only Christ can give, should we not proclaim it to others? As for Protestants, since when did the Church say that Protestants do not adore Christ? Or the one true God? True, they may have false doctrines, but that does not mean that they do not adore Christ. It's just that they do not adore Christ *perfectly*. And that is what we believe.

As for Roman Catholic living under the law, it depends. Paul says we are not under the Torah (Old Law), but the a New Law, the Law of the Spirit. So yes, the Catholic is living under the Law of the Spirit. That is why in her sacraments, she asks the Holy Spirit to transform the "matter" at hand (by the Holy Spirit, the priest becomes in persona Christi to change the bread and wine). Now you may not agree with this, but to say she is under the old law is either just polemics if not entirely wrong.

EA said...

Trent must be read in its historical context which is that its intent is for Catholics (even those who called themselves Protestants or reformers were Catholics).

This is standard boiler-plate Catholic Apologetics: the pronouncements of infallible councils do not mean what they appear to say. So what is the value of appealing to an infallible council in the first place? If I cannot directly refer to the rulings of Councils then I am dependent on another layer of fallible spokesman for correction and instruction as the laity does not in the above scenario have access to the very Magesterium that is supposed to be the advantage to the Catholic Rule of Faith.

This is an appeal to have faith in the rulings of Councils and Popes without any expectation that as a layman you can even access the intent and "proper" understanding of said council. Is simple belief that a council has infallibly declared a dogma sufficient or do I also have to understand "correctly"? How can I tell if I have correctly understood what a council has proclaimed?

Apolonio said...

This is standard boiler-plate Catholic Apologetics: the pronouncements of infallible councils do not mean what they appear to say. So what is the value of appealing to an infallible council in the first place?

Response:
Appealing to an infallible council tells us which is dogma and which is not. The question of the status of Protestants *today* is different. Those who were anathematized then were formal heretics, those who were excommunicated and the such. Protestants today still do not have full communion because they have false teachings but that doesn't make them *formal* heretics. The fact is, if people are going to make claims of "contradictions," then you must show there is a contradiction within the worldview of Roman Catholicism. I have shown here in the comment boxes as well as the other one and elsewhere that there is no contradiction (to say there is a contradiction is actually a big burden since it means that there is no possible way to reconcile them, at least, that is what a logical contradiction is).

Finally, you said,

"If I cannot directly refer to the rulings of Councils then I am dependent on another layer of fallible spokesman for correction and instruction as the laity does not in the above scenario have access to the very Magesterium that is supposed to be the advantage to the Catholic Rule of Faith."

Response:
Yes, a layman can have direct reference to Councils and he must also be guided by the Magisterium. The Magisterium is a living office and obedience is necessary. A Catholic does not have the luxury of an individualistic mentality of being "independent." A Catholic must be obedient to Christ unconditionally and that includes His Church and His Magisterium.

EA said...

Appealing to an infallible council tells us which is dogma and which is not. The question of the status of Protestants *today* is different. Those who were anathematized then were formal heretics, those who were excommunicated and the such.

Really?

What of circumcision? The Council of Florence is an Ecumenical (read infallible) Council, yes? Ecumenical Councils decisions are irreformable, yes?

EWTN - Council of Florence

Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation.

All those who call themselves Christians are not to practice circumcision. This results in a loss of salvation WHETHER OR NOT it is done religiously.

Is this Councilar Pronouncement still in effect today? If it has been rescinded, could you please tell me when, by whom, and by what method it was ended, please and thank you.

Apolonio said...

The pronouncement is still in effect but it has been developed. Pius XII in 1952 said that it is permitted for medical reasons and the Catechism says that it is permitted for medical reasons as well. Today, people see circumcised their children for medical reasons.

By the way, just because it is an ecumenical council it does not mean that every statement is infallible. This does not mean that non-infallible pronouncements are not authoritative, only that the degree of assent is different.

Iohannes said...

Greetings Apolonio,

I am grateful for your reply, and, in particular, for the spirit of charity in which you took my remarks. As I said, I have nothing against you personally; and it pleases me that you did not take that comment as mere rhetoric. Before turning to the basic question, I should mention, to prevent confusion, that my proper name is John, hence my signature and also the name Iohannes (Latinized, as in the manner of the old theological polemics). You may address me however you please.

Your response was not insubstantial, and I do not question your candor. Nevertheless, I do not think you have proved your point, which point, to me, seems impossible to establish, since it runs aground on the facts of history.

The kernel of your contention, if I have read your words correctly, is that my understanding of Trent's words does not correspond with the context in which they were promulgated. In other words, if the statement were rightly understood, then it may yet be possible for true and informed Protestants to be justified.

Now, my basic response to this claim is buried in my previous comment: "The Council's historical setting and purpose; its strong, explicit, and precise condemnation of core Protestant teachings; and even grammatically, its use of the demonstrative hanc, all make it impossible that Trent's exposition could be so far separated from the doctrine which must be believed, that the differences between Rome and Geneva would be sufficiently minimized and true Protestants be left implicitly believing the catholic doctrine."

My position, in summary, is that it is untenable historically to claim that true Protestants, by any stretch of the imagination, believe what Trent says is the catholic doctrine that must be believed for salvation. This is not simply a matter of differing interpretations; it is ultimately an issue of honesty in handling the intractable historical data. As things stand thus, I will elaborate my three main points, starting with Trent's historical setting and purpose.

It is manifest that the Council's primary goal was the restoration of peace and order in Christendom. To achieve this end, a twofold approach was adopted: the Council would formally expound the catholic doctrine on controverted issues, and would also undertake the reformation of those matters of ecclesiastical discipline which required improvement. We are concerned only with the former aspect of the Council's work.

In their exposition of the catholic doctrine, the Tridentine Fathers followed a very rational method. They carefully stated the catholic doctrine in positive form, and then, as needed, they used the anathema to specify negatively what was not the catholic doctrine. Therefore, if the fathers did their work competently, it should not be difficult to discern what is and what is not the catholic doctrine on justification, those who deny which cannot be saved.

My contention is that it is clear that, by the standards of Trent, true Protestants do not faithfully and firmly receive the catholic doctrine on justification. Protestants reject outright and unabashedly a great measure of the Council's positive statement of doctrine, and their professed beliefs fall squarely under the condemnation of multiple anathemas.

Moreover, given the historical situation, it is clear that the Protestant Reformers' beliefs were (at least the chief of) the "so many and most destructive heresies" that the Council of Trent, per Pope Pius IV's bull of confirmation, was intended "to extirpate." And being guilty of actual heresy on justification, as on other matters, Protestants did not merely deviate somewhat from a catholic doctrine that they still in some sense held: they steadfastly denied it (cf. the definition of heresy in CCC §2089). Still today, Protestants do not merely not believe the catholic doctrine; they believe something contrary to it, and their beliefs to that effect have been formally condemned.

Candidly, to me this evidence is overwhelming. Trent's definition of justification was directed specifically against the Protestant teaching. Knowing this, to read Trent's words about the denial of the catholic doctrine on justification in such a way that would leave the possibility of true Protestants being justified, would require an impossibly wide separation of the Council's definition from the catholic doctrine in abstract.

Passing to my second point, it should be noted that the council could have issued something closer to a general, blanket condemnation of Lutheran or Protestant soteriology. Were that done, there might be more uncertainty today about what specifically was incompatible with the faithful and firm reception of the necessary catholic doctrine. But the Council's decree was quite trenchant in distinguishing the catholic doctrine from heresy. I might grant that the interpretation of certain of the canons is complicated by the lumping together of disparate teachings. However, having read the decree on justification in full three times, it looks very plain to me that whatever the Tridentine fathers may have exactly meant by the catholic doctrine, they understood it as fundamentally different from its Protestant counterpart.

Finally, I noted that when the decree speaks of the catholic doctrine on justification which must be believed, it qualifies that doctrine with the demonstrative hanc or this. Although in itself this is by no means decisive, it does render it more difficult to contemplate the catholic doctrine on justification as something separable (to a relevant degree) from the particular definition made by Trent. Along the same lines, the final canon on justification speaks of hanc doctrinam catholicam de justificatione, a sancta synodo hoc præsenti decreto expressam, or this catholic doctrine on justification, expressed by the holy council in this present decree. The doctrine and Trent's particular expression of it are here, too, closely joined.

As I wrote previously, I again admit there may be weaknesses in my argument. I am far from perfect, and so also is my knowledge. If I am in error on any point, I earnestly desire correction. Yet when the case is taken as a whole, it looks credible to me, and I truly find it hard to imagine that it could be totally mistaken. I also find it hard not to perceive alternative, less offensive understandings of Trent's statement, as being in fact subtle, even anachronistic reinterpretations. I do not say that out of any pride or spite; I only mean to be honest. And this is a matter where honesty is of great importance.

For the sake of clarity and brevity, I will only ask you to reply by answering these two questions. The simpler the answers, the better; a mere yes or no to each would be best. If you wish to respond to the other parts of the argument, please do. But this should serve to distill the whole matter:

1) Can a professed Christian who sincerely and with understanding believes the following, honestly and with Christian simplicity be said faithfully and firmly to believe the catholic doctrine on justification?

Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

2) Is it possible that such a Christian is justified?

I thank you for your prayers; you and your family are in mine.

J.

James Swan said...

Fm483 said:

if salvation could be achieved in any other way other than through Grace and by apprehending the forgiveness of sins through the vehicle of Faith, we would be doing a disservice to pagans by providing them the opportunity to reject Christ and thereby condemning them!

Frank, you may find this link interesting: http://aomin.org/YouTell.html


Gavin said:

I have a copy of the Radio Apologetics books also. My mother gave them to me for Christmas, for some reason. I must say, out of all the Catholic apologetic material I've read, those are pretty good both in terms of content and honesty. I think a good question would be which of those approaches you listed is the real "Roman Catholic" approach? The way I kind of see it is that if Rome is right, it's not the mainstream Vatican II'ers, but the SSPX type and such. And if that's the case, we're all screwed anyway.

I found my copy in a used bookstore a few months ago, and I bought it for a few dollars. I find it interesting that the on-line version is hosted by a “traditional” Catholic apologetics site: http://www.catholicapologetics.net/index.php .

I think these folks see a glimpse of the same problem we do: Rome changes and denies it changes.


Iohannes said:
Things were much simpler and more straightforward in 1547 when the Council of Trent, immediately before pronouncing its anathemas, infallibly declared that whosoever does not "faithfully and firmly" accept its doctrine on justification, cannot be justified. Since that statement has never officially been repudiated, things should be just as simple now.

The people during the Counter-reformation certainly would agree with you as well. Rome’s position on Protestants and salvation is an excellent example of inconsistency within their belief system. In terms of argumentum ad absurdum, Catholic “apologetics” is reduced to a superfluous endeavor. The only real target of Catholic apologetics should be those who “realize” Rome is the true church, but have somehow deviated from this. Catholic apologists should spend their time saving them from “formal” heresy.

Apolonio:

I don’t think Catholics consider themselves “presuppositionalists”, but in evaluating arguments, I frequently begin with looking at the core of a belief. I find it interesting that Catholics use presupositional arguments without realizing it. I'm also worried that eventually a savy Roman Catholic will start using presuppositionalism and realize how devestating it is as an apologetic tool.

Art Sippo is not a presuppositionalist- he’s really beyond description, and that’s putting it nicely. I have found that most people who deny the tactic of evaluating presuppositions in an argument really don’t understand Presuppositionalism.

In regard to you and the Catholic Encyclopedia, my point was that in order for a Protestant to be considered a “heretic” he has to first be assumed to be a “born Catholic”. In other words, A Protestant must first be thought of as a member of the (alleged) “true church”. Protestants are said to hold to truth “imperfectly”- the beginning assumption is that Rome is the truth, hence an unproven presupposition. The question is, who says Rome is the truth? Rome does. Who says who is a member of the RCC? Rome does? Your church begins with these points as truth- it does not validate its truth by appealing to a higher authority- it is the highest authority (in its own mind).

EA said...

Pius XII in 1952 said that it is permitted for medical reasons and the Catechism says that it is permitted for medical reasons as well. Today, people see circumcised their children for medical reasons.

This is simply not true.

Very few circumsicions are performed for medical reasons.
There are three main medical reasons for circumcision;
1)Phimosis - In babies, the foreskin and the glans develop as one, only separating during childhood. As a result the infant foreskin is frequently tight and inelastic. Phymiosis, affects fewer than 1% of boys, and is very rare before the age of five.

2) Balanitis - In Balanitis the glans and/or the foreskin become inflamed. It can affect men of all ages including boys (most commonly around the age of three or four).

3) In adults, it may be offered as a treatment if a tight foreskin is making sex painful.

The oft-cited reason that circumsicion is more hygenic than leaving the foreskin intact is a myth left over from the Victorian era and has no demonstrable support from medical research. There is no justifiable medical reason for 80-90% of Catholic males to be circumcised. And there is certainly no medical diagnosis offered to any but a handful of Catholic parents within 1-3 days of delivery that meets Pius XII's guidance. Therefore, the vast majority of Catholic males are circumcised without medical justification.

So even with Pius XII's re-definition, millions of Catholics must be eternally lost according to the formulation contained within Cantate Domino as they have had, or have had performed on others at their direction, that which has been defined as being a means to losing one's salvation.

This may seem like a trifling issue, however at one point it was deemed serious enough for a pope to include in a Papal Bull and at another point for another pope to include in an Encyclical and serious enough for it to be included in the Catechism. And yet after all that "teaching" millions of Catholics are still having a "condemned" procedure performed on themselves and others that falls outside the boundries of the "one true faith" And with all those souls lost or in danger, amazingly no one in the RCC says anything about it.

if it is true, should it not be proclaimed?

Indeed. Either the RCC no longer considers this a grave issue, is engaged in willful self-deception as to the medical issues, is ignorant of the current medical research, has a firm belief that the laity has valid medical justification for circumsicion (is deceived), has medical knowledge not available to secular science (perhaps handed down orally from the Apostles), or has erred.

FM483 said...

James,

I read the article you refernced from Apha & Omega Ministries entitled "You Tell Us: Does Rome Provide Infallible Certainty About The Gospel?"(http://aomin.org/YouTell.html). The answer to this question is obviously NO! The RCC has flipflopped many times on the issue of whether pagans can be saved, to the point of absurdity. This isa good illustration of why the best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself, not a "magesterium" that is inconsistent and often contradicts it's own previous rulings.

Frank Marron

Patch said...

ea,

Are you suggesting circumcision is done out of sheer ignorance and/or cosmetic purposes?

As for its medical benefits, a recent Reuters report suggested that circumcision could prevent millions of deaths to AIDS in Africa. I guess old myths just die hard?

EA said...

patch,

I'm suggesting that circumcision is NOT done for medical reasons, which is the one exception that is provided for that procedure. It is surely NOT done by Catholic parents to protect their infant sons from AIDS.

Lack of a foreskin is not protecting anyone against AIDS. The leading cause of AIDS is unrotected sex with multiple partners, how on earth does lack of a foreskin prevent that?

If Catholic parents want to protect their sons from AIDS, they should start by teaching abstinence and monogamy within marriage, not by cutting off their sons' foreskins.

Apolonio said...

So even with Pius XII's re-definition, millions of Catholics must be eternally lost according to the formulation contained within Cantate Domino as they have had, or have had performed on others at their direction, that which has been defined as being a means to losing one's salvation.

Response:
There are many reasons for circumcision and there are many doctors who say that there are medical advantages for them (ex. urinary tract infections). So it is perfectly valid for Catholics to have them if they believe this. In other words, if this is their reason, even though it may be mistaken, then he is not held accountable for it because of his ignorance. One cannot be formally condemned for something you didn't know. But even if I grant you of your arguments, it just shows that it is an *open* question whether there are medical reasons for it or not. And since the passage you quoted is only disciplinary and not irreformable, and it has been developed, then Catholics can have it. And I know of nothing in the canon law which prohibits this. So your argument that Catholic must be damned is just ignorance of Catholic theology especially Catholic moral theology. Florence must be understood within its moral theology which it seems to show, you don't know much about. Or else, you wouldn't say that Catholics are eternally damned for it. How can a Catholic who does not have full knowledge of a particular act commit mortal sin? It just doesn't make sense. So if you're going to judge the Catholic Church within its system then I would suggest you do it within her theological traditions.

Frank,

The RCC has flipflopped many times on the issue of whether pagans can be saved, to the point of absurdity.

Response:
That's funny. You have not refuted or interacted with any of what I said in this comment box or below. I have shown that there are no contradictions between those magisterial texts and Mr. White's argument doesn't work to those who are familiar with Catholic theology (by the way, Dominus Iesus was not a papal encyclical, but a document from the CDF. It doesn't mean it's not authoritative, only that it's not an encyclical).

James S

The only real target of Catholic apologetics should be those who “realize” Rome is the true church, but have somehow deviated from this.

Response:
Catholic apologetics means giving reasons or defense for the doctrines of the Church. If Protestants give objections to them, then apologetics can respond to those arguments even if protestants do not realize Rome is true.

As for presuppositional apologetics and the question of how do you know Rome is true. Are you asking a theological/metaphysical question or an epistemological one? I'm asking so I can answer it sufficiently.


John,

I have to go to work now and I would not want to hurry up my response to your comments because they deserve more than a quick response, that it deserves more ofa substantial response. So I will try to respond to it after I get out of work tonight or tomorrow. Sorry for the delay.

Iohannes said...

Greetings James,

The presuppositional approach in analyzing the Roman position applies interestingly in the debate over the canon, too.

Many Roman apologists will scoff at the notion that the Scriptures are, when all is said and done, self-authenticating. It seems hopelessly naive to them to say that they teach with their own authority and no more need the validation of an external ecclesiastical authority than Christ did when giving the sermon on the mount (cf. Matt. 7:29).

But however useful the guidance of the church may be, if it and not the Spirit's direct testimony is made decisive, then the problem is only moved back one step. For even if the Magisterium were infallible, there is no super-Magisterium the can externally validate the Magisterium's authority. The Magisterium and its teaching on the canon must therefore be received with the same elemental faith that Protestants exhibit in their reception of Scripture. It is only when one begins with the assumption that the Magisterium is infallible and is known to be such that the RC argument can be persuasive.

J.

Iohannes said...

Apolonio,

Thanks for your note. I appreciate the time your are taking to respond to my comments, and look forward to your answer when it comes.

J.

Patch said...

ea,

I mentioned the report on circumcision and AIDS simply to point out that belief in medical benefits for circumcision is hardly some "Victorian myth", and is at least an area of considerable debate and controversy in the medical field.

The report mentioned that the foreskin contains cells that are especially prone to infection (and other infections as Apolonio mentioned) and thus the increased risk of AIDS. The mere fact that this kind of research goes on, whether or not it is faulty, already disproves your assertion that the supposed medical advantages to circumcision is so demonstrably false and unfounded.

EA said...

patch,

Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58) decreed that
...the amputation of any part of the human body is never legal, except when the entire body cannot be saved from destruction by any other method.
De Synodo dioecesana

"From a moral point of view, circumcision is permissible if, in accordance with therapeutic principles, it prevents a disease that cannot be countered in any other way."
Pius XII, Discorsi e messaggi radiodiffusi, t. XIV, Rome 1952

Considering we are speaking of infant circumcision, your defense fails just where it needs to hold these infants are in no danger of contracting AIDS by the method that circumcision would ostensibly be protecting them; viz. sexual intercourse.

The other "methods" that would be "saving the body" in these cases are abstinence and sexual incapacity. Further, there is NO demonstrable NEED for this procedure in infancy as an HIV/AIDS test prior to the sacrament of marriage could be used to determine whether or not this solution is even applicable to the individual. Considering the lengths to which the RCC goes in proscribing conjugal acts, this hardly seems like an unreasonable solution given the "gravity" of mutilating perfectly good organs (skin & genitals).

FM483 said...

Apolonia,

In your post regarding circumcision you stated: “then he is not held accountable for it because of his ignorance. One cannot be formally condemned for something you didn't know.” In the same post you also stated:” How can a Catholic who does not have full knowledge of a particular act commit mortal sin?”

My remarks have less to do with circumcision in particular, than with the underlying theological reasoning your statements indicate. Your statements seem to indicate that only what a person does, or commits, can be considered as sin. This is a prevalent understanding also in much or Christianity. However, the Scriptures repeatedly affirm the fact that all men sin because they are sinners! Men simply cannot help themselves – they are naturally slaves to sin, the Devil, and their flesh. Matthew chapter 5 provides great insight on this topic, where Jesus exegetes the Law of God, showing that even our thoughts and deeds are sin, along with our actions. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus concludes by stating that all men are commanded to be perfect, even as God the Father is perfect. So we see that there are allkinds of sin, each one equally damning a man to hell. There are sins of commission, sins of thought, and even sins of ommission. James 4:17 mentions the last one. Christ tells us that if we are perfect from conception we can inherit eternal life. However, this is impossible for men, and sowe must rely on the perfection of Christ, which becomes ours by Grace through Faith.

Frank Marron

FM483 said...

Apolonia responded to a statement I made: "The RCC has flipflopped many times on the issue of whether pagans can be saved, to the point of absurdity."

The Response was:
That's funny. You have not refuted or interacted with any of what I said in this comment box or below. I have shown that there are no contradictions between those magisterial texts and Mr. White's argument doesn't work to those who are familiar with Catholic theology (by the way, Dominus Iesus was not a papal encyclical, but a document from the CDF. It doesn't mean it's not authoritative, only that it's not an encyclical).

My Response:

Both James and myself have continually responded to the RC belief that a pagan can inherit eternal through obedience to the conscience. It is you who have not shown where the Holy Spirit confirms such a viewpoint. This is the RC methodology: whenever something cannot be proven fromthe Scriptures, resort to other authorities, such as "magesterium" or "unwritten traditions". This is asrediculous as what the Mormons do with their "prophet" and "council of 70". Or when the JWs resort to their "Watchtower Society". It is acultic technique to refernce nonbiblical sources to substantiate unbiblical positions.

Frank Marron

Patch said...

ea,

You have confused the issue perhaps due in part to the mixing of our discussion with Apolonio's. My only concern was to point out that your assertion that circumcision is neither hygenic nor has any real medical reasons is false especially in light of the fact that you labeled the reasons in support of circumcision as mythical.

I am not defending infant circumcision on the basis that it can reduce the chance of contracting HIV, but reduced risk of infection IS a medical reason/benefit. If you want to equate medical reasons and benefits with medical and moral necessity then that requires a leap in logic, but in fact your position necessitates a difference (assuming you are in some agreement with the papal quotes) between the two.

FM483 said...

Apolonia stated:

“As for Roman Catholic living under the law, it depends. Paul says we are not under the Torah (Old Law), but the a New Law, the Law of the Spirit. So yes, the Catholic is living under the Law of the Spirit. That is why in her sacraments, she asks the Holy Spirit to transform the "matter" at hand (by the Holy Spirit, the priest becomes in persona Christi to change the bread and wine). Now you may not agree with this, but to say she is under the old law is either just polemics if not entirely wrong.”

My Response:

I would encourage you to read a short paper I authored available on this blog site:
http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2006/05/guest-blog-law-gospel.html
This should assist you in understanding the theological points I was making when I mentioned that Roman Catholics, as well as most Protestants, “live under the Law”. This is true. Every person is born in sin and is naturally a Theologian of Glory, living under the Law. The Gospel is the power of God which alone has the power to break into our bondage and liberate men to true life in Christ. Your sentence “Law of the Spirit” sounds good, but scripturally speaking Christians are no longer under Law but are instead under Grace. The problem is that we as sinful humans cannot fully mentally assimilate the Gospel. As citizens of the world, we attempt to transfer our knowledge of the way the world operates to the Kingdom of God, which is absolutely incorrect. Although saving Faith and Justification is generated immediately in the heart of a man when hearing and receiving the Gospel, his mind takes a lifetime of renewing to be reprogrammed to think theologically correct, consistent with the faith in his heart. How do people continue to live under the Law? By believing that they must do something in order to please God. The Scriptures continually use the terms “inheritance” and “aoption” to illustrate spiritual truths. Go is our Father and because of Grace alone He chooses us to be adopted children. What adopted child ever chose his parents? In fact, as adopted children we inherit the Kingdom. To ”inherit” implies that it has absolutely nothing to do with our obedience or actions. In this sense, orthodox Christianity is extremely radical and the opposite of human commonsense. All the religions of the world are based on the Law: what a man should do, etc… Christianity is the opposite, teaching that while we were yet sinners, God died for us. He chose us, not vice versa. He adopted us. We inherit all the promises of God through the vehicle of Faith in the Son of God and His atonement for our transgressions. In the world, people are rewarded based upon how well they perform. Those who live under the Law have an incorrect viewpoint of God as an employer-employee relationship, as demonstrated even in Evangelicalism in Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” and in the false notion that the commandments of God are rules that believers are to keep in order to please God. Those who live under the Law fail to understand that the commandments were given primarily to show us we cannot keep them, to bring us to despair, and to bring us to faith in Messiah/Christ. Christ is our Righteousness(Jeremiah 23:6), not our obedience.

Frank Marron

James Swan said...

As for presuppositional apologetics and the question of how do you know Rome is true. Are you asking a theological/metaphysical question or an epistemological one? I'm asking so I can answer it sufficiently.

Both.

Apolonio said...

John,

I agree with you that what Trent has taught is contrary to what Protestants believe. The Church believes that every person is called to have explicit faith, such as holding on to the Catholic teaching on justification, assumption of Mary, and any other dogmas. When Trent said that no one can be justified without holding on to her teachings of justification, that is simply the language the Church uses when she proposes and teaches a dogma, that you must believe dogmas in order to be justified. So it seems to me that there are two questions, one being whether Protestants today fully deny the doctrine on justification and the other being, whether that status make them formal heretics. The ultimate question, then, is, are those two things **necessarily** linked?

Historically, as I have said, the Protestant in those days were considered to be Catholics who were introducing new doctrines, at least from the Catholic perspective. So when Trent made those anathemas, those Protestants who rightfully reject the Church's authority and denied doctrine were considered to be formal heretics. Now, since then, Protestants have been reproducing, that is, there are people who are born Protestants. Some people today are born Protestants, that is, they are influenced by their parents and they hold on to the Protestant doctrines. When they are baptized, whenever age that is, they are in some way united to the Catholic Church (we believe) because baptism incorporates one to be part of the People of God. However, they are not in full communion because they do not hold on to the fullness of faith. Does this mean that they are not justified? Necessarily, no. As Frs. Rumble/Carty said,

"If a man realizes that the Catholic Church is the true Church, he must join it if he wishes to save his soul. That is the normal law. But if he does not realize this obligation, is true to his conscience, even though it be erroneous, and dies repenting of any violations of his conscience, he will get to Heaven. In such a case, it would not have been his fault that he was a non-Catholic and God makes every allowance for good faith."

Note how it says when a man **realizes** that the Catholic Church is the true Church. Now, if a Protestant realizes that, and has full consent that he is denying the true Church, then he is in a damned state. I don't know whether he may convert later, but at that time, he is in a damned state. But that doesn't mean that every person who denies the Church is the true Church, or who denies the doctrine on justification is in a damned state. As the example of the Catholic Encyclopedia states, if a person who is in an anti-Catholic environment left the Church, it is God who judges him. He may or may not be damned. Maybe this example will spark your intuitions.

Suppose Mary was told by her dad, "You can eat this chocolate chip cookies later when you get back from school." She went to school and then came back home. Then Billy, her brother, has a note on the table saying, "Don't eat the cookies until dad comes home." And suppose that note *is* true, that the dad told Billy to tell Mary not to eat the cookies. But suppose that Mary saw this note but told herself, "Wait. That's not what dad told me. Billy is wrong and who is Billy to tell me what to do?" She bases this on what her dad told her. And she does eat the cookies. She **is** wrong to eat it. At least, it she is materially wrong for her to do so. That is, her action is wrong in itself. But will she be held accountable for it? Maybe or maybe not. Her dad may very well understand her reasoning and maybe see that she did not understand the note fully even though she saw it clearly, and therefore not punish her.

So that is certainly possible. Another example is if Mary did not see the note itself. Here we can see how it is possible to be materially wrong but not formally so. Now to your two questions..

1) Can a professed Christian who sincerely and with understanding believes the following, honestly and with Christian simplicity be said faithfully and firmly to believe the catholic doctrine on justification?

Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

Response:
The word "can" in that statement makes the question complicated. The quote above is NOT the Catholic doctrine of justification. And that's because I know how it is meant in Protestant circles, but it does not mean that one cannot redefine the words used. For example, if by "faith alone," you mean faith formed by charity, or that good works or the production of good works, is **an essential property** of "faith," then I agree that one can be justified by faith alone. Now, if by Christ's righteousness is imputed in us because the Spirit dwells in us (ex. after baptism), then I agree. So it depends on how one defines the words. But I would say "no" because I believe that is not how it is normally understood in the Protestant circles.

2) Is it possible that such a Christian is justified?

Response:
Yes. For example, a person who is brought up in a Protestant environment and is taught by Protestant theologians who may not fully know Catholic theology, can be justified because there is something hindering him to know the fullness of truth. I think that's one example where there is a *possibility* (as you ask) that the Christian is justified.

I hope my answer helps.

You and yours are in my prayers.
In Christ,
Apolonio

Apolonio said...

It is you who have not shown where the Holy Spirit confirms such a viewpoint.

Response:
This is a different question. You were saying that the RCC has flip flopped, that she is inconsistent or contradictory when it comes to that. And I have proven that to be false. Now you are saying whether what the RCC says is true. Those are two different questions. So you have shifted your argument. Now, if you grant to me that the RCC is NOT inconsistent when it comes to EENS, then we may go into the heart of the debate, whether it is true or not. But you have not done so. So I ask you to interact with what I said in the other comment boxes. So far, you have not done so.

Apolonio said...

James S,

I asked whether your comment,

"The question is, who says Rome is the truth? Rome does. Who says who is a member of the RCC? Rome does?"

was a metaphysical or epistemological. You said, "Both." Okay, I'll answer.

Metaphysics: Who says Rome is true? God.

No circularity there except maybe if asked, "In what authority does God speak?" Here, we come to circularity. But metaphysically, who says Rome is true? God does.

Epistemology: And I think this is where you are getting at, that Rome is circular when it comes to the question, "How do you know what Rome says is true?" It seems to me, here, that we are speaking of justification, that is, how is Sally justified in her belief that Rome is true? Do we have circularity?

First, suppose that she is circular. Does this make her belief vicious and therefore not justified? No. Epistemic circularity may not be vicious (see Bill Alston's old view (I don't know whether he changed this)). Second, it may be that Sally is reading Matthew 16:18 and forms the belief the Rome is true. And suppose that her cognitive faculties functions in such a way that when it is in an environment where she is reading Matthew 16, she forms the belief that the papacy is true (the Holy Spirit moved her to believe this). So that reading is the ground which she acquired the belief that Rome is true. It may very well be a properly basic belief, that is, a non-inferential belief that is justified. So if it's basic, then she does not need to produce a belief. This may work if your epistemology is externalist and foundationalist (Alvin Plantinga). Third, suppose Sally is an atheist who is considering Christianity. She comes in to the Christian system or world view (to speak in a neo-Wittgenstein way) and sees that when she looks at it from the historical point of view, she looks at the New Testament (which she does not yet believe it is inspired), the first century documents and even gnostic texts, and the Church Fathers, she concludes that they all point to Rome. That is, when she reads history, she sees that if there is one Church, that Church is the Catholic Church. This may very well be accepted if one is a coherentist. So from a coherentist point of view, there is no circularity.

Apolonio said...

Your sentence “Law of the Spirit” sounds good, but scripturally speaking Christians are no longer under Law but are instead under Grace.

Response:
Romans 8:2, "For ***the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus*** has freed you from the law of sin and death."

Maybe it sounded good because it was scriptural? And why are you making a dichotomy between law of spirit and grace?

FM483 said...

Apolonia,

The Holy Spirit says in 2Cor chapter 5 that God is already reconciled to the entire world on account of the atonement of His Son. The question is: how do the Scriptures say that a particular individual receives the benefits of Christ's work,the forgiveness of sins? The Holy Spirit, in John 3:16, says that merely by believing that Christ died for me saves me. So, through Faith I appropriate the gift of the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on the cross 2000 years ago. How does the Holy Spirit say such Faith is created? Through hearing the Gospel(Romans 10:17). It is that simple and powerful. The Gospel message itself is the power of God for salvation(1Cor 1:18). The medieval church made this beautiful truth complicated, as you continue to do by insisting that a person must be associated with the RCC! Do you see how rediculous your entire line of thinking is to a simple man such as myself?

Frank Marron

Iohannes said...

Apolonio,

Thanks for your reply. I will post an answer as soon as I can, but that might not be until tomorrow evening (I have to work early tomorrow morning, and so must get to bed early tonight). My apologies for the delay.

J.

FM483 said...

Apolonia posted:

I wrote: “Your sentence “Law of the Spirit” sounds good, but scripturally speaking Christians are no longer under Law but are instead under Grace.”

Apolonia’s Response: Romans 8:2, "For ***the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus*** has freed you from the law of sin and death."

Apolonia wroteposted: “Maybe it sounded good because it was scriptural? And why are you making a dichotomy between law of spirit and grace?:

My Response:

Merely quoting a verse from Scripture in isolation does not necessarily prove anything. I could go to Matthew 27:5 and read about Judas hanging himself. As a Theologian of the Cross, my response is as follows. As far as Romans 8:2 is concerned, if you read Romans 8:1 through Romans 8:5, one sees that Paul is contrasting what I have been speaking about in my recent posts: “living under the Law” versus “living under the Gospel”. Romans 8:2 makes the case that a “law”, or principle, of the believer’s life through faith in Christ is contrasted with the “law”, or principle, of eternal death inherited from the fall in the Garden of Eden(Gen 2:17). Romans 8:2 states that through faith in Christ, a believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit as he awaits eternal life in Christ. This man “walks according to the Spirit”. Paul contrasts “walking by the Spirit” with “walking according to the flesh”. This is exactly what I was describing using the phrases “living under the Gospel” versus “living under the Law”. As my previous posts have stated, “walking according to the flesh” implies belief that what we do merits rewards with God in eternity, similar to our experiences in the world. On the other hand, “Walking by the Spirit” refers to those who realize that their acceptance by God is due solely to the Righteousness of Christ which is imputed to them by Grace through Faith. Hence, “walking according to the flesh” leaves a person in bondage to works(merits) and uncertainty. There is a lack of assurance regarding eternal life since spiritual rewards are considered based on merits rather than an inheritance as adopted children of God on account of Christ. The person who “walks according to the Spirit” lives a life of continual repentance, realizing that everything is a gift from God. This person thus works out his salvation with fear and trembling, appreciating the Grace of God in Jesus Christ. It is God Himself Who begins and completes his salvation, Who is always at work in him to know and to do of His good pleasure(Philippians 2:12-13).

A Theologian of Glory defines things very differently: “walking according to the flesh” refers to the sinful life of a person, and “walking by the Spirit” refers to the improved life of a believer to stop from sinning, or at least to reduce sinning. The Theologian of Glory adheres to the belief that sin was the primary obstacle between God and man and that the Holy Spirit will enable a person to keep the commandments of God,thus pleasing Him and meriting spiritual rewards. As mentioned earlier, this viewpoint ignores the fact that believers inherit,not merit, eternal life by Grace through Faith on account of Christ. It also ignores the fact that believers remain sinners and although they continue to sin,they are continually repentant over their transgressions. The differences between a Theology of Glory and Theology of the Cross is striking, as noted above.

Have you read my posts, including the one page document posted on this site?

Frank Marron

Apolonio said...

Frank,

I skimmed over your post. I don't mean to offend you, but it simply didn't interest me. I have read things better and more substantial than that.

Your rhetoric on "theologian of glory" and "theologian of the cross" is not needed. The Christian does not make a dichotomy between the Cross and glory because it is in the Cross where, paradoxically, God's glory is revealed, that is, the Trinitarian love revealed by the obedience of Jesus Christ to His Father. It's funny you make a dichotomy between the glory and walking by the Spirit when St. Paul says, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit" (1 Cor 3). I accept the title "theologian of glory" if it is meant in a proper sense, that is, Trinitarian love (see H. von Balthasar's trilogy especially theo-aesthetics where he speaks of how beauty is the glory of God perceived by the finite).

As for your interpretation of Romans, it's a bit of an eisegesis. You said,

"As my previous posts have stated, “walking according to the flesh” implies belief that what we do merits rewards with God in eternity, similar to our experiences in the world."

In Catholic theology, especially if you read the Compendium and the Catechism, we don't believe we merit anything apart from Christ. In fact, man cannot merit anything to God. Only when Christ reveals the Father and Christ perform His works through us that we are rewarded. And the notion of being rewarded of our works is nothing contrary to the Gospels as shown in the book of Revelations. We read in Luke how a scholar asks Jesus how one can inherit eternal life and Jesus applauds and confirms the scholar's answer, that we must love God and our neighbor (Lk 10). But we even see this in Romans 2

Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. 2 For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things.
2
We know that the judgment of God on those who do such things is true.
3
Do you suppose, then, you who judge those who engage in such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?
4
Or do you hold his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance?
5
By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God,
6
who will repay everyone according to his works: 3
7
eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works,
8
but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness.
9
Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, Jew first and then Greek.
10
But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, Jew first and then Greek.

Is Paul a theologian of glory because he said God will repay everyone *according to his works," "eternal life to those who seek glory [uh oh! theologian of glory alert!], honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works"?

I will not give my interpretation of Romans here. I will do that on my blog. But I'll say this as a Catholic. The basis of justification is the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The essence of Christianity is a Person, Jesus Christ. And when Christ dwells in a person, the Father and the Spirit also dwells there (this is standard Johannine theology). The Logos has united Himself to man. Man cannot ascend to God. It is God who descends to man so that man can ascend. God has become man so that man can become a god (Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Maximus the Confessor, Gregory of Nyssa, etc.). Man can now partake in the divine nature. The covenant is not simply a contract, but a communion (hence, Communio theology), koinonia, a fellowship so intimate that God is not simply infinitely above us, but infinitely near us; we can talk to God as a friend would talk to a friend. It is this partaking in the sonship of Christ, the Logos, by the Holy Spirit, that we can cry out "Abba!" It is a Trinitarian model. God is not just Infinite Beauty and Truth. We can call God "Father." This is where justification really lies in (Trent teaches this very well by the way). It is a Trinitarian "model," because it is Christocentric; only in Christ, whom the Spirit moves us to, can we know the Father.

Again, I will not give a full explanation and I left gaps for a purpose. I will speak of them in my blog.

Finally, as for the "living under the law" thing. When Paul speaks of "works of the law" or the law, he means doing those works which are particular to the Jewish people. We know in the dead sea scrolls (1 QS and 4QMMT) that that is how the term is used. So it's more probable that he used it that way, especially if we read chapters 3 and 4. The question Paul was dealing with was how a person can become part of the People of God, the Church. This does not take away the individual aspect, but it is where he was coming from. Again, I will post more on this once I get the time to. I have many things to write especially a paper here for a philosophy of religion conference in Rutgers.

In Christ,
Apolonio

pray for the middle east

FM483 said...

Apolonia,

Why have you not responded to my various posts and responses to you? Isn't that the same jargon you used when referring to my posts? I can appreciate time constraints and rather than have weak responses, take your time when responding. I enjoy your responses.

The categories of Theologian of the Cross(TC) versus Theologian of the Glory(TG) comes from Luther and my Lutheran Fathers; it is not my invention. You obviously have never been introduced to such thinking and I recognize some confusion on your part. These are categories which aptly descibe two basic ways of theological thinking. A TG is heavily influenced by his worldly experiences and transfers them to his understanding of how the Kingdom of God operates. For example, in the world if a person performs well he is rewarded, while the opposite is true for poor performance. The emphasis in this theology is on man's behavior or actions. Consequently, every verse of Scripture is viewed as a command and promise from God: "if I do this or that, then God either will reward or punish me". This thinking in Lutheran theology is referred to as "living under the Law". On the other hand, the TC sees everything through the cross of Christ, not his experiences in the world. The TC realizes that what a person does or doesn't do isn't the determining factor in how God considers him, but rather his Faith in Christ distinguishes him from all nobelievers. He sees God's relationship as Father-adopted child and inheritance, whereas the TG views this as employer-employee. The TC sees the Grace of God in Christ. "Justice" is getting what you deserve; "Mercy" is not getting what you deserve; "Grace" is getting the exact opposite of what you deserve. Grace is the unmerited, unasked for, undeserved kindness of God towards men on account of Christ. Grace is His attitude and this is how it is primarily used throughout Scripture. I know that Roman Catholicism uses Grace as a kind of power source that is given to people to enable them to be more God pleasing and commandment obedient. This is consistent with the TG, where the emphasis is on man becoming more pleasing to God as part of a Justification process. This is not the Scriptural understanding, where by Grace through Faith a man is Justified - it has absolutely nothing to do with the obedience and goodness of man. Sanctification follows Justification and is the renewing of the human mind to catch up with the Justified heart of man. Roman Catholics and most Protestants combine these two phases and there lies the confusion. Good works acceptable to God are referred to as "fruits of the Holy Spirit" which are spontaneously and automatically produced by believers(Galatians 5:22-23). Believers are not even aware of such fruits. Check out Matthew 25 to see how surprised the sheep are when on the Last Day Christ refers to their fruits.

Your comment about the scholar in Luke 10 being applauded by Christ for his good works in obeying the Law of God totally misses the point of the entire chapter! Most people make this mistake because they are TG and cannot properly distinguish between Law and Gospel in the Word. The passages you refer to are Luke:25-37. They begin with a certain lawyer asking Jesus a question: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life"? Now,a student of Scripture would understand that a TG actually believes he can achieve perfection as required by the Law(Matthew 5:48) and attain eternal life. This is definately Law-oriented thinking and is absurd because no man can keep the Law perfectly his entire life in thought, word, and deed, as Jesus stated in Matthew chapter 5. Even thinking this way is sinful. The Law was given to magnify sin- to make man aware of his transgressions and need for a Savior(Romans 4:15; Gal 3:24). The Law must first come to an unbeliever, as in Acts 2:38ff. Once the heart is stricken and repentance begins, then and only then is a man ready to receive the Gospel of the Grace of God in Christ Jesus. So, what does Jesus tell the man in response to his lie and claim that he has kept all the commandments from his youth? He certainly doesn't give him the Gospel, but rather the Law. Jesus leaves the unrepentant lawyer in bondage to his sins. The Law must first perform it's work of showing the man his sins. This is similar to people who "live under the Law" when they actually view the commandments as a challenge to please God! This is rediculous thinking and leads to self-righteousness,which really is no righteousness at all. The story of the Good Samaritan illustrates how foolish it is to think that we can really love our neighbors perfectly. If you understand the historical context of this passage, as Jesus certainly did, you would understand that Samaritans were hated and despised by Jews. In Luke 10:37 the lawyer couldn't even use the name "Samaritan" because his heart harbored such contempt for them. Instead he uses "The one...". This story is a good illustration of not giving a person the pearls of the Kingdom, the Gospel, unless the person is ready to receive it - he is REPENTANT. So, the lawyer's initial question contradicted itself: how can a man do anything to inherit something? This is the point of the Gospel: it is a free gift from God having absolutely nothing to do with merit or works. Luke 10:29 illustrates the TG best when the lawyer wishes to "justify himself".

Frank Marron

Iohannes said...

Greetings Apolonio,

Thank you again for your response. I am sorry for not answering sooner, and hope that these remarks will be sufficiently thought out to be worth your time both in waiting for and in reading them.

To help things progress, I will summarize what I understand to be your position. I think we may be talking past each other, and since that state of affairs tends to cause discussions to end in mutual frustration without anything having been accomplished, I want it at least to be sure that I have a grasp of your position as I am trying to interact with it.

You hold, if I understand correctly, that when Trent's statement is read in the right manner, then its implications for the potential salvation of Protestants are not nearly as negative as I have maintained. This is so because while all men are alike obligated faithfully and firmly to receive the church's dogmas, the guilt of many for not doing this is mitigated by circumstances that may lessen their responsibility. As a result, someone may be a material heretic, meaning that he objectively denies or fails to accept a defined catholic doctrine, without also being a formal heretic and bearing the full responsibility for his error, since, if he is not aware of the truth about the Roman Church, he may mistakenly but with good conscience believe himself to be obeying God in not obeying her.

This is the lesson of the story about Mary, Billy, and their dad. Mary does what her father has in reality forbidden her to do, but she might well not be punished since, although she objectively violated her father’s will, her intention all along was in fact to do her best to obey her father. This example is well suited to your position, at least as I have understood it, and I admire the care with which it was crafted. Nevertheless, I do not think that it does justice to the real life situation of Protestants. Please do not take offense for my doing this, but I have rewritten the scenario to make it correspond better to my perception of how things stand:

Mary thought she heard her father say, “Do not eat the cookies until you get back from school.” When she returned from school, there was a note placed somewhere where she would very likely have seen it. The note said, “Mary, Dad wants you to know that you misheard him earlier. You thought he said you could have the cookies when you get back from school, but what he really said was that you cannot have them until he gets home. He added that if you don’t do as he says, you will be grounded.–Billy”

What then is Mary to do? Suppose that Billy is an honest person and has not given her any reason to doubt his words. Further, suppose that even if Mary has doubts about whether Billy is really speaking for dad, there is substantive and accessible evidence to which she can turn. Perhaps the note was written on her father’s stationery, which Mary knows Billy could not have obtained without their dad’s permission, since only dad has the key that unlocks the desk drawer where it is kept. What will the consequences be if she doesn’t bother to consider the evidence, decides that Billy is deceiving her, and then goes ahead and eats the cookies anyway? It appears that if anything, her disrespect of Billy and her disregard of the evidence would increase her guilt, not diminish it.

Now things may not be this simple. Maybe Billy is an honest person who has never personally done anything bad to Mary. But suppose further that he is her new step-brother, and she doesn’t know him well at all yet. She has heard a lot of bad things about him, though, and in these circumstances she is predisposed to mistrust him. After she reads the note, she decides out of prejudice that dad didn’t really say what Billy claims he said. She does not bother to look into the evidence that is available, but rather eats the cookies right away. What then will the consequences be? Since Billy had never acted with malice toward her, out of basic fairness she should have given him the benefit of the doubt, and at least have considered the evidence, which should have been sufficient, had she honestly applied herself to it, to set her understanding straight. And even if she were strongly inclined to think Billy a liar, in light of the severity of the threatened consequences of disobedience, she should have recognized that it would be prudent (even if purely out of self-interest) to examine the message’s veracity. After all, if she were honest with herself, she would have recognized that there was a chance, however small, that Billy might be telling the truth. In the end, while it might be easier for us humanly to understand why she acted the way she did here, that does not excuse her from being responsible for her disobedience, nor should her presumption about Billy be written off as something beyond her control. Things might be different if she had been hypnotized or otherwise truly brainwashed, and as a result could not at all entertain the notion that Billy might be telling the truth. But that is highly unlikely, and normally it would be insulting to her to assume that she was so irrational and could not be responsible for her actions.

Finally, it may be that she missed the note. But it was placed somewhere prominent in the house, and everyone knows that nine times out of ten she would have seen it when she got home. She may also have misread the note’s meaning. Yet Mary is not stupid, and the note’s basic point was not hard to discern. It seems that in most cases, Mary was disobedient, and should have known better than to act the way she did.

My point in this revision of the story is to highlight what I find to be the underlying weakness of your argument. It looks to me that you have set the threshold for responsibility so high, that it is nearly impossible for Trent’s ominous words to have any bearing on the real lives of real men. I will turn to the Trent’s specific statement in a moment, but first I want to consider the implications of your view. You wrote: “Note how it says when a man **realizes** that the Catholic Church is the true Church.” But by this criterion, if it be applied consistently, virtually no one can be a formal heretic. The original Protestant leaders were considered guilty of formal heresy, unlike most of their spiritual descendants today; for at that time, everyone concerned in the controversy was a Catholic, and so the Reformers’ responsibility was different from that of most of today’s Protestants, since their knowledge and experience of the church was greater. But even so, it would be ludicrous historically to maintain that the Reformers somehow realized the Roman Church was the true church when they disobeyed her, any more than modern Protestants now do when they disobey her. The Reformers left Rome precisely because, as they maintained, they realized it was not the true church. It is arbitrary to say that modern Protestants are not formal heretics, since they are only following their consciences and do not realize that they are disobeying the true church, when the formal heretic Reformers, not recognizing that Rome had the true Church, in all their disobedient actions still only did their best in good conscience to obey God.

I see no legitimate reason why many or most Protestants today should be excused for their actions. Most all Protestants are acquainted with the fundamentals of what Rome claims, or they at least know that Rome teaches otherwise than they do. It demeans their maturity and capacity for judgment to assert that the bias from their circumstances of life is often so overwhelming and so perverts their rationality that their responsibility for proper obedience is removed. It is not hard to look into Rome’s claims and the evidence for them. If Protestants fail to do this, that does not remove their responsibility, since they could without too much difficulty have looked into the evidence, which, if it is there, and if they honestly considered it, should have disabused them of their errors and drawn them back across the Tiber. Ignorance is not a good excuse when there were opportunities that could and should have been taken to remove it. Gossip about a stranger does not excuse someone for treating him like a liar, especially not when he chooses to ignore the stranger’s protestations and offers of evidence to the contrary.

Here again is the statement from Trent:

Post hanc catholicam de justificatione doctrinam, quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque receperit, justificari non poterit, placuit sanctæ synodo hos canones subjungere, ut omnes sciant, non solum quid tenere et sequi, sed etiam quid vitare et fugere debeant.

After this Catholic doctrine on justification, which whosoever does not faithfully and firmly accept cannot be justified, it seemed good to the holy council to add these canons, that all may know not only what they must hold and follow, but also what to avoid and shun.

This statement is extremely forceful. On your view, “When Trent said that no one can be justified without holding on to her teachings of justification, that is simply the language the Church uses when she proposes and teaches a dogma[.]” I agree that this is language being used by the church while proposing and teaching a dogma. But I would not say that it is simply this. The Council of Trent formally proposed and taught many other dogmas, e.g. on the Eucharist, on penance, etc. Many canons were issued which backed up these teachings with the sanction of the anathema. However, to my knowledge, no where else did Trent use a similarly phrased statement about the consequences of not espousing its exposition of a catholic doctrine. All dogmas may have to be received faithfully and firmly, but the Tridentine Fathers did not use this sort of language to stress that point throughout their work. This suggests that there is something of peculiar importance about justification.

Part of the forcefulness of the statement rests in the way it is constructed. The form of conditional statement used here has its verbs in the future indicative. In the Latin this gives a vivid depiction of an outcome with a high degree of certainty. There is an alternative and parallel construction using the subjunctive, which is less vivid and implies less certitude. Trent could have said something like: “which if any should not faithfully and firmly receive, he would not then be able to be justified.” I do not mean to base my argument on this small grammatical point, which strictly speaking is little better than an argument from silence; my purpose is only to show that Trent’s statement is very definite about the relationship between condition and result, and that this fact should not be overlooked or minimized.

While in theory your position may leave this strong relationship in tact, in practice that is so far from being the case that the statement has a terribly hollow sound. For a great many men do not by any means faithfully and firmly receive the doctrine who nevertheless may be and probably are justified. The sheer number of exceptions is staggering; so much so, that it seems odd that the fathers, who were so careful as to speak not only of a baptism of desire but even a penance of desire, should not have been more explicit in their wording.

I must again ask your pardon if my tone anywhere sounds impolite. I really do not it mean to be so, and hope you do not see my reply as condescending. I am impressed with the length to which you have carried the discussion, and am grateful for your remarks. However, I also believe that you are presenting a position, which although it has an appearance of plausibility, cannot finally be reconciled the facts of what happened at Trent.

J.

Apolonio said...

John,

Thanks for your response. It makes me state my arguments better. And if they do not become better or make you understand the Catholic position, I hope to do so in future responses.

As for your summary, it was basically right.

Now to the Billy, Mary, and dad story. I made that story in such a way that it may trigger your intuitions to see that there is a *possibility* where one can be materially wrong but not formally so. You argue that it does not apply to real life, to the Protestant situation. In response to that, I would say that is there not cases or a possibility where it does apply to Protestant situation? For example, a Protestant who is not know as much theology as you do or others do. They simply try to live the life of Christ. This may very well be a minority, but even if it is so, then it shows that there is a possibility where one can be a material heretic without formally being so. There may be a Protestant who is taught by his father what Rome teaches but having being taught by his father (whom he trusts), he denies and rejects Rome. He did not research anymore of the Catholic Church's teachings. That may be his fault, but he may be saved in the end (by what means, I don't know). Again, this may only apply to a minority of cases, but it certainly shows how the statement you quoted from Trent can be reconciled with salvation outside of the visible structure of the Church.


Now to your revision:
"What then is Mary to do? Suppose that Billy is an honest person and has not given her any reason to doubt his words. Further, suppose that even if Mary has doubts about whether Billy is really speaking for dad, there is substantive and accessible evidence to which she can turn. Perhaps the note was written on her father’s stationery, which Mary knows Billy could not have obtained without their dad’s permission, since only dad has the key that unlocks the desk drawer where it is kept. What will the consequences be if she doesn’t bother to consider the evidence, decides that Billy is deceiving her, and then goes ahead and eats the cookies anyway? It appears that if anything, her disrespect of Billy and her disregard of the evidence would increase her guilt, not diminish it."

Response:
If Mary *knows* that Billy could not have written on her father's stationery without his father's permission, and there is a note written there, then that can mean that Mary may be punished. It seems to me that the situation above is laziness and with fully consent and full knowledge, she rejects the note. So it is more probable that Mary will be punished. What will the dad really do? We do not know. Maybe Mary is not capable of putting evidence together, or maybe she does not know the principle of closure. But with the situation above, it's more probable, I believe, that she will be punished.

Now to this situation:
Now things may not be this simple. Maybe Billy is an honest person who has never personally done anything bad to Mary. But suppose further that he is her new step-brother, and she doesn’t know him well at all yet. She has heard a lot of bad things about him, though, and in these circumstances she is predisposed to mistrust him. After she reads the note, she decides out of prejudice that dad didn’t really say what Billy claims he said. She does not bother to look into the evidence that is available, but rather eats the cookies right away. What then will the consequences be?

Response:
I think my intuitions here is different from yours. I don't think she will *necessarily* be punished. She is definitely wrong, but I don't see this as being formally wrong. If she heard from people that Billy is a deceiver, and since we usually act with our knowledge of things, then she may be justified in eating the cookies. She's wrong, but she may very well be justified. Does that mean that she will necessarily get away with it? No. But it does not mean she will necessarily get punished. The judgment is up to the dad.

You said,
In the end, while it might be easier for us humanly to understand why she acted the way she did here, that does not excuse her from being responsible for her disobedience, nor should her presumption about Billy be written off as something beyond her control. Things might be different if she had been hypnotized or otherwise truly brainwashed, and as a result could not at all entertain the notion that Billy might be telling the truth. But that is highly unlikely, and normally it would be insulting to her to assume that she was so irrational and could not be responsible for her actions.

Response:
It is true that she will be responsible for her disobedience, but what kind of responsibility it is, we don't know. It may be that the dad does punish her, but not as severely as he would have. Rational people do wrong things all the time. And we even have false justified beliefs. It seems that Mary might very well be justified in her actions there. Again, this does not mean she *necessarily* does not get punished, but it does not mean that she will *necessarily* get punished.

You said,
Finally, it may be that she missed the note. But it was placed somewhere prominent in the house, and everyone knows that nine times out of ten she would have seen it when she got home. She may also have misread the note’s meaning. Yet Mary is not stupid, and the note’s basic point was not hard to discern. It seems that in most cases, Mary was disobedient, and should have known better than to act the way she did.

Response:
There are two cases there. First, if she missed the note (maybe she was thinking of her boyfriend or something), then it seems that she is not formally wrong in eating the cookies. She simply did not see the note and therefore she does not know that eating the cookies was bad. If she does not know she should not do it, that may justify her act. To the second case, even if Mary is not stupid, it does not mean she will necessarily read the note correctly. If she will be punished, I don't know.

You said,
You wrote: “Note how it says when a man **realizes** that the Catholic Church is the true Church.” But by this criterion, if it be applied consistently, virtually no one can be a formal heretic. The original Protestant leaders were considered guilty of formal heresy, unlike most of their spiritual descendants today; for at that time, everyone concerned in the controversy was a Catholic, and so the Reformers’ responsibility was different from that of most of today’s Protestants, since their knowledge and experience of the church was greater.

Response:
The Protestant leaders were considered guilty of formal heresy because they were Catholics before. As for the quote about man realizing the Church is the true Church, that applies to Protestants today. That's why even women today who thinks they are ordained in the Catholic Church are excommunicated but you do not see the Vatican saying, "R.C. Sproul is excommunicated." That's because Sproul is not Catholic. Now, if Sproul was Catholic and denies papal infallibility, the Vatican may very well condemn him as a heretic.

You said,
It is arbitrary to say that modern Protestants are not formal heretics, since they are only following their consciences and do not realize that they are disobeying the true church, when the formal heretic Reformers, not recognizing that Rome had the true Church, in all their disobedient actions still only did their best in good conscience to obey God.

Response:
It's not arbitrary because formal heretics are usually those who are in the Catholic Church. The original Protestants were formal heretics because they were Catholics who left. Modern day Protestants did not grow up as Catholics. They *can* be formal heretics, but not *necessarily* so.


Now, as for the quote of Trent, I think you are reading too much into it. For example, when Pius XII defined and declared the Assumption, he said,

It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

That's pretty harsh. But you have to read it in context, within Catholic moral theology, such as what will make one a formal heretic or commit mortal sin (full knowledge which means you must know X is wrong, full consent, and grave matter). One must also read it within the context, which is, the paragraph before the quote you quoted:

And since in many things we all offend,[106] each one ought to have before his eyes not only the mercy and goodness but also the severity and judgment [of God]; neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be not conscious to himself of anything;[107] because the whole life of man is to be examined and judged not by the judgment of man but of God, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God,[108] who, as it is written, will render to every man according to his works.[109]

Now, to say that the Council Fathers just contradicted themselves doesn't really make sense. The Council Fathers, although Protestants believe they were wrong, were smart people and were coherent. So it seems to me that my explanation reconciles both the quote you love to quote and the quote above (as well as interpreting it within Catholic theology).

Hope that helps.

God bless,
A.L. III

FM483 said...

Apolonia,

After reading your exchanges with John, I think I will stay with Holy Scripture. Your analysis and thinking about Trent and the pronouncements of the Roman Catholic Church are very involved and often complicated. Perhaps that is why Martin Luther commented that his opponents were rediculous in complaining about certain passages of Scripture being unclear,when at the same time their own rationalizations were even more so! Just reading the circular reasonings and contradictions in Roman Catholicism as illustrated in your exchanges reinforces my position that all such arguments by Rome are intended to support false claims of the "true Church". I encounter similar arguments when encountering Mormons and other cults which resort to philosophies of men and extrabiblical support for their arguments. I can see why the 16th century Reformers considered themselves as a continuation of the ancient catholic apostolic faith, and that the medieval church represented a heretical branch which had embraced fales beliefs and the philosophies of men over the centuries.

Thinking back over your exchanges with John,I see the same arguments repeated over and over. The modern RCC insists that it is the bastion of truth and always looks inward at itself as the pillar and foundation of faith. This is consistent with all cults which are primarily concerned with preserving the organization, not truth. I see the same old question of "which came first the chicken or the egg"? The Scripture says "In the beginning was the Word", not an organizational structure that needs continual support. The purpose of the Church is to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments, not to be an end in itself like a modern corporation or other enterprise.

PS: as time permits, please respond tomy other posts.
Frank Marron

Apolonio said...

Frank,

To make statements saying that the Catholic Church contradicts herself without interacting with the arguments is not going to cut it. The only person here who is actually interacting with my arguments is John. John knows that the issue we are debating is whether the Catholic Church is consistent or is she contradictory. I will not get to the debate whether what she claims is *true* unless you grant to me that the Catholic Church is not inconsistent. Only then will I debate on that issue. As for the chicken and egg issue, in the beginning was the Logos. And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ died and rose again and He sent the Spirit to the world. The Spirit of the Father and the Son forms the Church; the Spirit is the soul of the Church. So when the Church looks at herself, she looks at Christ because Christ and the Church are so united that they form one mystic person (Aquinas).

Now, as I said, I will not get to justification itself because I will do that in my blog. I will, however, get into Luke 10 (and maybe Romans 2) because I brought it up.

My first intuition when reading your comment on Luke 10 is that it is pure eisegesis. The question the scholar asks is, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus asks what the law says and the scholar said, "Love God and neighbor." What does Jesus say? Does he correct him? No. He said, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." Notice he said, "DO THIS and you WILL LIVE." He is not simply allowing the scholar to live under the bondages of sin, of the law as you claim. In fact *it was Jesus* who asked, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" It was Christ who brought up the law. If he wanted to teach Protestant justification, he would have done it right here. But he does not. After telling the parable of the Good Samaritan (interesting for our discussion since the Good Samaritan was neither Jewish or Christian), he said, He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." So he is telling the scholar to treat others with mercy. To "go and *DO* likewise," that is, to be a Good Samaritan. So what must we do to inherit eternal life? To love God and to be a Good Samaritan. Is this easy? No. Can we do it ourselves? No. Can a rich man abandon everything for God? With God, everything is possible because God gives us the grace to do such works. And hence, as St. Paul said,

Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. 2 For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things.
2
We know that the judgment of God on those who do such things is true.
3
Do you suppose, then, you who judge those who engage in such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?
4
Or do you hold his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance?
5
****By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God,
6
who will repay everyone according to his works: 3
7
eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, *****
8
but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness.
9
Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, Jew first and then Greek.
10
But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, Jew first and then Greek.

Is Paul a theologian of glory?

FM483 said...

Apolonia,

Since I believe that the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is critical for any believer and makes every other topic of secondary importance, I shall concentrate my response on the Luke 10 passages.

You are a Theologian of Glory(TG) who lives under the Law. Every verse of Scripture you read is understood as a challenge to you to love God and your neighbor. Well, if you are going to attempt Justification by the Law, you must obey it perfectly in thought, word, and deed your entire life(Matthew 5:18; 48). Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the most holy person you can imagine, you shall not inherit eternal life(Matthew 5:20). Have you done this Apolonia? I have pointed out that the Scripture says the primary purpose of the Law is to show your inability to keep it as God demands, which is perfectly(Romans 4:13-15). Paul says that the TG is foolish if he expects righteousness through the Law! Everytime you read and quote back commands(Law) from God to mankind from the Scriptures you, as a TG, always understand this as a challenge that you can accomplish, perhaps with God's Holy Spirit. What you are totally missing is the primary purpose of the Law: to show a man his sin and bring him to utter despair and finally to his Savior(Galatians 3:24). The TG understands Christ as another Lawgiver, only better than Moses since He provides the Holy Spirit. The TG fails to grasp the Grace of God in Christ. If a man could be Justified by the Law, then there was no need for the atonement of Christ. The TG voids faith and nullifies the promise of God(Romans 4:13-15) by throwing himself back on the Law of God, which has absolutely no power to save but to only condemn.

The Theologian of the Cross(TC) sees that every time he reads or hears God's Law that it is holy and good, but no man is ever Justified by his works or attempts to keep the Law. Can you climb back into your mother's womb and become sinless(Psalm 51:5)? If you are going to live by the Law you must do so perfectly. Jesus says if your right eye makes you stumble, pluck it out of your head(Matthew 5:5:29)! Jesus also says if your right hand makes you stumble in keeping God's Law, then cut it off(Matthew 5:30)! Have you done anything like this Apolonia? Jesus was serious: He expects and demands absolute perfection from you under the Law! Once again, whenever you read Law in the Scripture, the primary intent is to reveal God's will. However, since it is impossible for men to keep the entire Law perfectly their entire life, what is a man to do? The TG says he must try harder. The TC understands that it is impossible to achieve righteousness under the Law. The TC understands God is concerned with the heart of man(Psalm 51:10) and that God desires repentance over sins, faith in His Son’s atonement for sins, the consequence being the forgiveness of sins. What is impossible for men(Righteousness by keeping the Law), God has already accomplished in Christ(Righteousness by Grace through Faith). All things are possible for God(Mark 10:27). The Law says "Do This!" and it is never done. Grace says "Believe This!" and it is already done.

Most people are not able to properly distinguish between Law and Gospel and, as your post indicates, they actually believe that they can stop from sinning, possibly with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, Christ died so that through Faith a man can receive the forgiveness of sins, NOT the ability to stop sinning. Should Christians live "improved" lives of holiness? Yes and no. Believers may not commit outward sinful acts as they did prior to faith, but even their thoughts condemn them(Matthew 5). Hence, a Christian man may not commit adultery, but he might break this commandment by lusting after another woman not his wife, thus breaking all the commandments(James 2:10). It is impossible to be perfect, as commanded by Christ(Matthew 5:48). The TC recognizes his sinful condition and lives a life of continual REPENTANCE. As he continues to hear the Gospel and receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, he is constantly reassured of the forgiveness of sins and strengthened in his faith. (Repentance - Gospel - Sacrament- daily life) is a continual cycle the believer lives until the new heavens and earth are instituted, wherein dwells righteousness and no sinful behavior or even thoughts or death. Until then we live under the cross of Christ and the cycle of repentance and forgiveness. If we say we have no sin the truth we deceive ouselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness(1John 1:8-9). The difference in how a TG reads the exact same verses as opposed to the TC is astounding.

Frank Marron

Free Grace said...

Hello Frank,

I hope that you are doing well. Me? I am a little on the sickly side.

Regardless, your posts here are a blessing to read.

As far as Mr. Latar goes, I think it is very evident that he, because of the dictates of the Roman Catholic church, takes Romans 2 severely out of context. It is part of Paul's argument that began in Chapter 1 and extends to chapter 3 where it is shown that no person can keep the law, as it says there is not a God seeker and that we all fall short of His perfect glory. Mr. Latar, as follower of the Roman Catholic religion, must turn all that on it's head to support the very liberal, hence humanistic, teachings of Rome.

Yes, God will judge on that day, and only those clothed in the pure righteousness of Christ will stand. Rome keeps that hid from those like Mr. Latar, who my heart goes out to.

Perhaps he and I can arrange a discussion of the early chapters of Romans.

FM483 said...

The question is: how is a man made right in the eyes of God? Is God interested in improvements in a person’s life whereby his outward actions appear to love God and his neighbor? The Scripture clearly says that God is not interested in improvements, but rather absolute perfection(Matthew 5:48). In fact, God has repeatedly stated that there is absolutely no hope for any human being. All men are born in sin(Ps 51:5) and in bondage to sin and death(Romans 7). All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23). The heart of all men is evil beyond imagination(Jeremiah 17:9) Instead of a “makeover”, God says that an entirely New Creation is needed(Gal 6:15; 2Cor 5:17): we must be “born again”(John 3:3ff).

In order to show man that he is utterly sinful and without hope, God has given His Law. The primary purpose of the Law of God is to show man his sin(Romans 3:20; 5:20). From God’s perspective the hearts of men are evil and desperately wicked(Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19). Consequently, God requires a heart transplant for all men. The Scriptures refer to such an operation as circumcision of the heart. God lamented that the entire nation of Israel had uncircumcised hearts(Jer 9:26) and through Paul the Lord defined a true Jew as one whose heart has been circumcised, who is inwardly pure in motive and thought and does not merely appear outwardly good(Romans 2:28-29). Such a man is defined as motivated by the Holy Spirit, not the Law. Such a man understands that the commandments of God are concerned about our motives, the initial ones(First Table of the Law) insisting we are to love, obey, and trust in God with our whole heart. The Second Table of the Law(commandments 4-10) are the automatic response of loving and trusting in God. A believer loves his neighbor because God first loved him(1John 4:19), and in Baptism he has received the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit(Acts 2:38).

Americans read and understand the Scriptures with a Western mindset. Consequently, the modern mind does not understand the ramifications of the life of Christ. To illustrate my point, consider the Old Testament story of David and Goliath. David was the representative of the entire nation of Israel, while Goliath was the Philistine champion. Whatever happens to David happens to the entire nation. This story illustrates God’s perspective of his entire salvific work of creation: whatever happens to His Son affects the entire human race. The reason God became Incarnate in Messiah/Christ was because he was to be a part of humanity and the Representative Man for all people. Thus, Christ was born sinless, lived a perfect life of obedience to God, kept the entire Law of God perfectly, and through his suffering, death, and resurrection He atoned for the transgressions of the entire human race of all time.

If man is born dead in transgressions(Ephesians 2:5) and the Law of God continually demonstrates this sinful condition and God demands perfection in thought, word, and deed(Matthew 5), what is our hope? This is where the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is critical. In earlier posts I have shown that there are two ways men approach their understanding of God’s revelation. The first is the Theologian of Glory(TG) who insists on living under the Law, believing that God’s demands to love Him and his neighbor are possible. The TG fails to grasp the dire spiritual condition of man. He does not understand that people sin because they are sinners, that all are born in sin, which was imputed to them from the transgression of Adam and consequently all men die temporally(Romans 5:13,18) . The TG believes that a man can actually keep the commandments of God because he is only concerned with sins of commission and fails to understand that sin also comes in various other forms, including those of omission(James 4:17) and even words(Matthew 15:18). The TG does not understand that the Law of God is good and holy, not because it presents a realistic opportunity by which a man can become righteous, but because it presents the truth of just how great our transgressions really are(Romans 5:20; 7:12-13). The TG, by concentrating on the Law, fails to appreciate the Grace of God in Christ.

As stated before, the Theologian of the Cross(TC) who lives under the Gospel, understands that God considers all men dead in sin and that an entirely New Creation is needed. However, the TC realizes that God’s method of accomplishing this new birth has nothing to do with man himself. Instead, the TC sees that such a New Creation is born not of the will of man, but of God(John 1:13). God does not operate the way man expects. Thus, although the TG looks at the outward works of men as indications of their spirituality, God is concerned about the inward man and circumcises the hearts of men through His Word and in Baptism(water + Word). This is referred to as the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit(Titus 3:5). All men have consciences and realize that they are far from the perfection that God demands(Romans 2:15). God addresses this problem by saving people through Baptism, which conveys the benefits of Christ’s work and consequently soothes troubled consciences(2Peter 3:21). This makes little sense to the TG who is fixated with the outward keeping of God’s commandments. Nicodemus was a Pharisee who was zealous for the Law and was totally baffled when Christ spoke about such things in John chapter 3. The fact men are “born again” in the waters of Baptism and hearing the Word was a confusing proposition to Nicodemus. This truth is also perplexing to the modern day TG whose thinking is similar to the ancient Pharisees. A veil masks such truths from the TG and is only removed in Christ(2Cor 3:14-16). To the TG this “veil” is the Old Covenant of Law which is removed through the New Covenant of the Finished Word of Christ, the Gospel.

In summary, the TG is confused between Law and Gospel in Scripture. Every verse in the bible is understood as an Imperative – what he must do. The TC sees Christ in all Scripture and thus the same verses are understood as Indicatives- how God views men on account of His Son. Both the TG and the TC understand that the Law is the will of God. However, while the TG considers the Law as a challenge of what he is to do in order to please God and attain eternal life, the TC rightly understands the Law as a mirror that magnifies his sins. The TC sees that the entire purpose of the Law is to drive men to Christ, not to keep it(Romans 10:4). The TC understands that the absolute perfection required by God is only obtained through faith in Christ(Romans 10:10),which comes through the Gospel(Romans 10:17). As Paul says, if righteousness could be obtained through the Law, then Christ died for nothing(Galatians 2:21). The forgiveness of sins(perfection) and Holy Spirit are received through hearing with faith, not by the Law(Galatians 3:2) The blessing of Abraham, the promise of the Spirit through faith, comes through the word of Christ(Gal 3:14),not the Law. Absolute perfection and righteousness is required for eternal life. Believers have such perfection, not by keeping the Law, but through faith in Christ. The perfection and Righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers through the vehicle of faith(Romans 4:21-25). This is the Gospel.

Frank Marron

Apolonio said...

Frank,

Sorry (again) by sounding really offensive, but you did not interact with any of the passages with Luke 10 at all. You simply assumed that your position is true and you interpreted the passage eisegetically. It simply shows that Jesus, and Christianity as a whole, is too demanding for many, even for Christians (and yes, to me too). Christ demands your whole being, mind, body, soul, and heart. Love requires a total conversion, a total self-giving of oneself to another. To love God, therefore, yes, it means to exceed the "righteousness" of the Pharisees. God is demanding because love is demanding. And He can demand this love because He has first loved us, obeying the Father all the way to the cross, the path we must follow. Anything that distracts us or takes us away from the path to Calvary is of another spirit.

You referring Matthew 5 shows that you take the words of Christ lightly. You referred to Matthew 5:18. Now, this is what the passage says:

Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.
19
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

We can see here how obeying and teaching the commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom. Why should I water it down as you have? Being simple, I simply accept this teaching. And to vs. 48: "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." Of course we should be perfect! Why should we not be like our Father above? Is this hard? Yes. Is it possible? With God, EVERYTHING is possible. In the merciful love of Christ, we become perfect. The Cross is not just an historical event that we put our assent on in its interpretation, but the Cross is eschatological, an eternal act. The Cross is re-lived by the Christ. Without actually following Christ to the Cross, without taking up our crosses as He demanded us, it is cheap grace (the great Lutheran Bonhoeffer).

You said,
Jesus says if your right eye makes you stumble, pluck it out of your head(Matthew 5:5:29)! Jesus also says if your right hand makes you stumble in keeping God's Law, then cut it off(Matthew 5:30)! Have you done anything like this Apolonia?

Response:
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. And that's why I still need a savior. Christ becomes a continuing savior to me because he helps me to "pluck" out my weaknesses. If going to parties causes me to sin, then I should avoid those. That is what it means by plucking the eye out. It's metaphorical of course.

You said,
Jesus was serious: He expects and demands absolute perfection from you under the Law!

Response:
It is not "under the Law" as you make it to be. There is a difference between what Paul condemns and what Christ requires. The new law is the law of the Spirit, that we can do these things because of the Holy Spirit. The new law is the fulfillment of the old law, the interpretation of Christ.

Finally, to Luke 10 itself. Again, it is Christ who tells the scholar to "Do this and you will live." Luke was a companion to Paul and as a Greek, he knew of Jews who were doing the "works of the law." Yet, he knows that there is a difference between the Pauline theology of "works of the law" and what Jesus says. He could have even wrote his gospel the way you spoke of (which is pure eisegesis since it did not interact with the passages at all). But no, he did not water down the Gospel, he did not water down Christ's words. Luke knew that all of us must be a neighbor, must be a Good Samaritan. And even a good Samaritan can follow Christ even though he did not possess the Torah because it is not those who hear the Torah in synagogues who are justified, but those who live them, who does them (Rom 2:15). It is of the heart, a circumcision of the heart. And this "circumcision" of the heart requires our whole heart, our whole being, because that is what love is. Because God has loved us, we can love Him.

FM483 said...

Apolonia,

Do you always accuse another person of “eisegesis” whenever they do not agree with you?

You make the mistake of all Theologians of Glory(TG): you believe Christ is our example rather than our Savior. You concentrate on the Law of God, by which no man can ever be saved, rather than on the salvific work of Christ on the cross. It is impossible to keep the entire Law perfectly your entire existence. Have you done this Apolonia? You may be perturbed with me, but believe me when I say that it is very frustrating corresponding with you. Let me say it again: believers are perfect not because they keep the Law but because the perfection and Righteousness of Christ is reckoned to them through faith. Read Romans. The exact same way Abraham was accounted Righteous applies to everyone. You seem to ignore all the passages I keep referencing that state that the purpose of the Law of God is to reveal our sin and need for the Savior(e.g. Romans 3:20). As a TG you constantly want to please God by keeping His Law. Believers naturally want to please their Father because they love Him, not in order to be called a son of God! Believers are adopted children of God, whose chosen-ness does not depend upon them but rather God. Ask any human parent if they only love their children when they obey him.

As far as the Good Samaritan passages in Luke 10 are concerned, you still don’t seem to get it. For example, you quote Christ as saying “Do this and you will live”. So what? As a theologian I do not take a single passage by itself but instead recall other passages dealing with the subject matter. So, I recall passages from Paul which state that the purpose of the Law is to accuse us and reveal our sin. Why do you think Jesus is saying this? Could it possibly be that although it is theoretically possible to become Righteous in God’s sight by keeping His Law perfectly your entire life, this is impossible for anyone, especially the self-righteous questioning lawyer? Haven’t you read any of my posts on this subject? The purpose of Jesus saying this is to let the Law do it’s work: to accuse sinners and reveal transgressions. By not referring to the Romans passages clarifying the purpose of the Law, it is you who is confused over even why Jesus makes such a statement! When the lawyer responds that he has kept the entire Law throughout his entire life, why doesn’t Jesus tell him “Go in peace, your sins have been forgiven”? Why isn’t the Gospel given to the lawyer? Other Scripture has great bearing on these Luke 10 passages, shedding light on the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. 1Cor 15:56 tells us that the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the Law. The Righteous man shall live by FAITH(Gal 3:11; Romans 1:17; Hab 2:4). If righteousness comes through the Law then Christ died needlessly(Gal 2:20). With these equally inspired texts in hand, do you think that perhaps when Jesus says “Do this and you will live” that Christ is actually providing an alternative route to eternal life? Be serious here! Based on a variety of Scriptures it is clear that although it is theoretically possible for a man to attain salvation through the perfect keeping of the Law, this is impossible and the Incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ was the solution to the dilemma from God. The entire Scripture points to the only One Who ever lived a perfect life –Jesus Christ – and makes the case that His Righteousness becomes yours through FAITH. How can you not see this?

God does not give believers the Holy Spirit merely to have them keep His Law. Unbelievers willfully break God’s all the time. Believers also break His Law, but not willfully. Believers delight in God’s will out of love since He first loved them. Believers grieve over violating God’s will and live in a continual cycle of Repentance this side of eternity. No man will ever be saved by keeping the Law of God. Only Jesus kept the entire Law perfectly. Are you suggesting that you have done this? Even such a thought is sin! Can you go back in a time capsule and relive your entire life perfectly? Lets get real and abide in The Lord Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6).

Why do you insist that Matthew chapter 5 be taken metaphorically? Is it because you cannot fathom the seriousness of God’s demands regarding plucking out your eye and cutting off your hand? It is not metaphorical language, but rather strong language than is intended to shock the self-righteous Pharisees back to reality. In view of all the correspondence I have invested with you on the subject, is it not possible that such language is intended to show the absurdity of even believing that you can keep the Law perfectly? I know this is difficult for a TG to grasp, but I implore you to think about it. Once again, why should I assume this is metaphorical language? Aren’t you putting yourself in the Reformed position when they say that the language in John 6 and those referring to the Lord'’ Supper are metaphorical? Who is really engaging in eisegesis? Your statement that Christ helps you to”pluck”out your weaknesses is really weak. For crying out loud, he is your Savior, not your good buddy! Once again you are focused on a false assumption that God is concerned about you attaining a righteousness by keeping His Law. You need to stay focused on what His Word says: you should lead a life of constant REPENTANCE and not allow Satan to take your eyes off of your Savior and back onto your improved lawkeeping.


Frank Marron

Apolonio said...

Frank,

This is my final response to you since the exchange is becoming fruitless.

I accused you of eisegesis because you didn't interact with the text at all and you did not even interact with my arguments. The fact that it was Jesus who brought up the law means that we must consider what he means by loving God and loving our neighbor, which means that living in the law of the spirit (Rom. 8) means loving God and neighbor. Your failure to distinguish between work-righteousness of Judaizers, those who think they can boast and be justified by doing the works of the law, which must be interpreted in its first century context (4QMMT and 1QS gives valuable knowledge on this) and the spirit of the law is what makes you misinterpret simple passages like Luke 10. The purpose of the Law, the Torah, is not just us being conscious of our sin, but also a promise, that is, that the old covenant is awaiting for the new. The purpose of the law is Jesus Christ: "For Christ is the end/goal [I'm sure you know the Greek here can be interpreted as both] of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith" (10:4).

You say Christ is our savior rather than our example. I say he is both. Christ is both our judge and our savior. He is also our example. "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you." Because Christ loves us, we must love one another. John 13 says:

14If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet.
15
I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.
16
Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger 7 greater than the one who sent him.
17
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

Notice how he says that he has give us a MODEL to follow (vs. 15). Christ is not speaking here abstractly, but he is telling us to be servants of one another. To water down any of his teachings is contrary to the Gospel.

Because God loves us, He moves us to love Him. And as St. Paul said, "if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13). What does it mean to love? It means to be patient, not be jealous, etc. What does it mean to love? Who are we to love? God and our neighbor. How are we to love? And that is where the parable of the Good Samaritan comes in. After telling that story, Jesus said, "Go and do likewise." In case you missed it, as I have exegetically interpreted the text:

The question the scholar asks is, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus asks what the law says and the scholar said, "Love God and neighbor." What does Jesus say? Does he correct him? No. He said, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." Notice he said, "DO THIS and you WILL LIVE." He is not simply allowing the scholar to live under the bondages of sin, of the law as you claim. In fact IT WAS JESUS who asked, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" IT WAS CHRIST WHO BROUGHT UP THE LAW. If he wanted to teach Protestant justification, he would have done it right here. But he does not. After telling the parable of the Good Samaritan (interesting for our discussion since the Good Samaritan was neither Jewish or Christian), he said, He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." So he is telling the scholar to treat others with mercy. To "go and *DO* likewise," that is, to be a Good Samaritan. So what must we do to inherit eternal life? To love God and to be a Good Samaritan. Is this easy? No. Can we do it ourselves? No. Can a rich man abandon everything for God? With God, everything is possible because God gives us the grace to do such works.

What does it mean, then, when Christ said, "Do this and you will live"? What does "live" here mean? Well, it goes back to the scholar's question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" To "live", therefore, refers to eternal life. Again, to say that Christ is simply speaking of "abstract things" or "theoretically" is to distort Christ Himself for Christ deals with the concrete, that is, all of us. I'll end this response by quoting the great Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

"For God is a God who *bears*. The Son of God bore our flesh, he bore the cross, he bore our sins, thus making atonement for us. In the same way his followers are also called upon to bear, and that is precisely what it means to be a Christian. Just as Christ maintained his communion with the Father by his endurance, so his followers are to maintain their communion with Christ by their endurance. We can of course shake off the burden which is laid upon us, but only find that we have a still heavier burden to carry--a yoke of our own choosing, the yoke of our self. But Jesus invites all who travail and are heavy laden to throw off their own yoke and take his yoke upon them--and his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. The yoke and the burden of Christ are his cross. (The Cost of Discipleship, Touchstone 1995, pgs. 92-93, emphasis his)

"The question 'What shall I do?' was the lawyer's first attempt to throw dust in his own eyes. The answer was: 'You know the commandments, do you not? Well then, put them into practice. You must not ask questions--get on with the job!' And the final question 'Who is my neighbor?' if the parting shot of despair (or else of self-confidence); the lawyer is trying to justify his disobedience. The answer is: 'You are the neighbour. Go along and try to be obedient by loving others.' Neighbourliness is not a quality in other people, it is simply their claim on ourselves. Every moment and every situation challenges us to action and to obedience. We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbour or not. We must get into action and obey--we must behave like a neighbour to him." (ibid., 78)

You have the final word.

Put me in your prayers as I will put you in mine.

Iohannes said...

Greetings Apolonio,

I read your last message with gladness, since it appears that the discussion has started to advance. How far it may advance is still uncertain, though I hope that in the end it may prove to have been profitable.

Let me state at the outset that the issue here is not whether the definitions of Trent or of other sources of Roman dogma are compatible “with salvation outside of the visible structure of the Church.” Nulla salus is a wider issue; it may be related, but it is not the focus. What we are discussing is the potential salvation of a certain class of people who are outside of the institutional church, i.e. Protestants who still adhere to the fundamental teachings of the Reformers. In my initial letter I wrote that: “It may be debatable to what extent one must consciously hold to the Council's detailed exposition of the doctrine in order to be saved.” I am willing to grant that there could be difficult or doubtful cases. These are, however, peripheral to our main concern, which is about traditional Protestants as a class. I am not contemplating a minority of instances in which there may, for a specific person, be a serious and true impediment the reception of the doctrine. The question is not, for example, about people who are mentally unsound, or those who are so isolated from the world that they have barely heard of Rome. It is not even about the young children of Protestants, whom no one would expect truly to appreciate the difference between Rome and Geneva. When I said that nine times out of ten Mary would have seen the note, I did not mean that there is a 10% chance that Protestants could be pardoned for justifiable ignorance (which would be an odd claim, since God is omniscient and does not need to speculate about probabilities). I meant that on my view, the strong majority of the people about whom we are speaking (nine of out ten Marys, or whatever the fraction may be) do not suffer from that kind of ignorance. By analogy, I do not object to the law courts occasionally acquitting someone who truly suffers from insanity. But I do not agree with the liberal expansion of the insanity defense which occurred in the latter part of the twentieth century, and I certainly would not take seriously the claim that most ‘material’ criminals should be excused of ‘formal’ guilt on account of insanity or some other cause. The reason is that I believe that most people are responsible for their actions. I likewise hold that even today most Protestants are also responsible for their decisions.

Before going further with the general argument, I will respond to some of your specific statements. I do this both for the sake of clarity, and to show what I think is problematic in your position.

If Mary *knows* that Billy could not have written on her father's stationery without his father's permission, and there is a note written there, then that can mean that Mary may be punished. My expression here was not as clear as desirable. What was meant was that Mary should have realized, if she had paused to explore the available evidence, that this evidence contradicted her position. This aspect of the issue is difficult to fit perfectly into the analogy. Usually people will not assume that when they question a note’s authority or authenticity, there is accessible and sufficient evidence to put the issue to rest, or that a case can be made (or what is still less likely, has been made) for the note’s legitimacy. Yet this assumption is entirely reasonable in most cases when the question is about the authority of the Roman Church. It would not take much effort for someone honestly to expose himself to Rome’s position, and this effort is not unreasonable to expect of most heretics. When dealing with matters as important as this one, not only does fairness require listening to opponents’ arguments, but so too does prudence, given the gravity of the potential consequences of disobedience.

If she heard from people that Billy is a deceiver, and since we usually act with our knowledge of things, then she may be justified in eating the cookies. She's wrong, but she may very well be justified. I would be more inclined to agree with you, were there no evidence available to her, or were that evidence overly difficult to obtain, or beyond her potential competence to assess. Since, however, I do not find that to be case with Protestants as a class, I do not think this method will avail in the end to allay their responsibility.

[E]ven if Mary is not stupid, it does not mean she will necessarily read the note correctly. That is true, but there is also the question of whether she should be expected to read the note correctly before repudiating it. Misreading a family member’s note is a relatively light offense. On the other hand, those who disagree with others on points of great importance surely have an obligation of some sort to strive to understand correctly what it is they are rejecting. If they nevertheless misunderstand what they dissent from, it may be that in some instances they can be excused for being sincerely mistaken, yet it seems to me that more often than not their failure to understand would due to their own inappropriate rashness and even impudence.

Now, as for the quote of Trent, I think you are reading too much into it. For example, when Pius XII defined and declared the Assumption, he said[:] It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul. This is an interesting statement but it does not overturn my point about Trent. I noted previously that Trent’s strong words about justification stand out within their context as being peculiarly emphatic, since that Council’s many other dogmatic expositions do not include similarly explicit claims. With regard to this quotation, I would observe that it came four hundred years after Trent, in a very different historical context, and so it is not an obviously pertinent guide for interpreting the historical meaning of the statements of the Counter Reformation. A much better guide would be the Athanasian Creed as it was understood in the sixteenth century, since Trent closely imitated its words in its pronouncement about justification. Now, suppose a tribe of Arians had survived in Europe until that time, and though its people were basically aware that there was a different Catholic doctrine of God, and that their own doctrine had been condemned, they nevertheless continued to reject the Trinity. Even if they had preserved the words of the Trinitarian formula in baptism, I doubt that the Roman theologians of the sixteenth century would have gone to anything like the lengths to which you now go, in order to assert the possibility of their salvation and to call them not guilty heretics but merely separated brethren.

One must also read it within the context, which is, the paragraph before the quote you quoted... Now, to say that the Council Fathers just contradicted themselves doesn't really make sense. The Council Fathers, although Protestants believe they were wrong, were smart people and were coherent. I have no where suggested that Tridentine Fathers were unintelligent or incoherent. On the contrary, I noted previously the care with which they crafted their statements as an argument against interpretations of those same statements that make their real meaning to diverge vastly from their prima facie import. As for the passage that you cite, I honestly do not understand how it supports your position over against mine. It comes immediately after a warning to the effect that, even though Scripture does in fact speak highly of the works of the saints, nevertheless Christians should not become proud because of their works. “God forbid that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself, etc.” The point the cited statement makes is related, namely, that men should not presume to think too well of themselves, as though they were as good and obedient as they ought to be. For even if they are not aware of any faults in themselves, they should remember “the severity and judgment of God,” knowing that his searching justice will penetrate farther then they can perceive, scrutinizing even the hidden things of the heart. When Trent says that “the whole life of man is to be examined and judged not by the judgment of man but of God,” it does not so much say that as something comforting, so that men can know their good intentions count for something, but rather so that they know the high standard of outward and inward personal righteousness by which God will judge them. If your position were correct, it would make more sense for the fathers to have issued a warning about charitableness toward others, rather than a caveat against so focusing on God’s “mercy and goodness” as to forget his “severity and judgment.”

You argue that it does not apply to real life, to the Protestant situation. In response to that, I would say that is there not cases or a possibility where it does apply to Protestant situation? For example, a Protestant who is not know as much theology as you do or others do. They simply try to live the life of Christ. This may very well be a minority, but even if it is so, then it shows that there is a possibility where one can be a material heretic without formally being so. Yet the question is not whether there are never mitigating circumstances in a minority of individual cases. It is whether those circumstances are really so pervasive that Protestants as a class should not still today be viewed as they once were, i.e. as culpable heretics. The modern Roman stance toward Protestants, and the concomitant promotion of ecumenical dialogue, are really at best inconsistent and at worst misleading if Rome must, when pressed, resort to the expedient that Protestants are no longer condemned as a class, because a minority of the class are not guilty. If someone were to ask me whether I agree that “people who disobey the laws should be punished by the civil magistrate,” I would give my answer as a simple yes. That would not be inappropriate, despite the presence of a minority of cases where the accused was not guilty by reason of insanity or status as a child. But I would not make that affirmation without reservation or qualification if it happened that most people who disobey the laws might have a legitimate excuse. One does not commonly make unqualified general statements about overall populations on the basis of the characteristics of minorities within those populations.

To return to my main argument, I think the standard by which you judge the responsibility of modern Protestants is much too low to be consistent with the standard by which Rome judged the early Protestants. I think that this incongruity is not ultimately grounded on the basis of soundly reasoned doctrinal analysis, but amounts to special pleading (which, though strictly fallacious, may be obscured by good motivations–I do not mean to criticize you personally). If modern Protestants are not guilty heretics for maintaining the positions they do, then neither were the early Protestants. If the early Protestants were guilty, then their spiritual descendants as a class are too. That is how I see it.

Now, it looks to me that your standard for culpable or formal heresy might be stated better not as disobedience in spite of the realization or knowledge that Rome is the true Church, but rather disobedience in spite of the fact that someone should have realized and known that Rome is the true church. The former standard would have odd implications if applied consistently, since culpability would then become dependent on the purely subjective (surely you would not say that had Saul never become Paul, he may yet have been saved, since, even though he dismissed Christ as a false messiah, and even though he had plenty of evidence available to show the truth about Christ and the Christians whom he persecuted, nevertheless he acted only to obey what he really and sincerely thought was God’s will, without realizing that what he was doing was very wrong; which conduct was in some sense understandable, since there were plenty of circumstances in his upbringing and life as a strict Pharisee that may and probably would have inhibited his ability to see the true picture).

In response to the charge of arbitrariness in distinguishing early and later Protestants, you wrote: “It's not arbitrary because formal heretics are usually those who are in the Catholic Church. The original Protestants were formal heretics because they were Catholics who left.” This implies that because they were once all in the Roman Church, the original Protestants had the realization, full knowledge, and full consent to that Church’s truth required to be guilty of formal heresy. The problem is that there is no necessary connection between this epistemological-psychological condition and membership in the institutional Roman Church. There may be a correlation between the two, but that does not prove that the Reformers realized any more than modern Protestants do, that in disobeying Rome, they were disobeying God and the true Catholic Church. The testimony of the early Protestants themselves is that they acted as they did not in spite of knowing that Rome had the true Church, but because they came to the realization and knowledge that Rome was not the true church. Moreover, given how biased you suggest modern Protestants may be by their upbringing or other factors, maybe the Reformers were so overawed by their circumstances before converting that it was understandable that despite their former outward allegiance to Rome, they never inwardly had been able to form (or it is unlikely that they would have formed) the full and decisive realization that Rome was the true church.

In light of this uncertainty about the subjective state of the early Protestants, your position, as I have maintained, really amounts to the saying that they should have known better, since they had been in the Catholic Church. But I do not see why this makes them radically different from today’s Protestants. I do not see the connection between being once within the institutional Catholic Church and having a fundamentally different capacity for culpability in heresy (or a special capacity that is shared only with a small number of people outside of the institutional church). The Reformers’ relatively greater firsthand knowledge and experience of the Roman Church may be said to increase their guilt quantitatively, but that only creates a difference in degree between them and modern Protestants, not a difference in kind. And your whole argument seems to depend on a categorical difference between the early Protestants and (most) later Protestants. To try to make it a categorical difference, it has been anchored in dispositions or intentions or other subjective states, not in the actions themselves; but since the dispositions of modern and early Protestants are not demonstrably different, the categorical difference between them needs another basis, or it needs to be abandoned. If it is abandoned, then I see no reason why things now should be treated as much more complicated than they were in 1547. Most modern Protestants may not have anything like the degree of knowledge and familiarity that Luther and Calvin had about and with the Roman Church, but neither did many of the people among the first and second generations of the Reformation, who were still probably included in “the shipwreck of many souls” that the opening of Trent’s decree said the Protestant teaching had caused. And if there is really no difference in kind between the early and later Protestants, then someone like R. C. Sproul is in trouble, whom I have seen modern Catholics repeatedly pay the compliment of granting that he is thoroughly informed about what they believe, even though he adamantly rejects it.

While I am not terribly fond of Oliver Cromwell, I will close with his good words: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

Sincerely and with Prayer,

J.

FM483 said...

Apolonia,

You last post invited me to have a “final” word to you and so here it is.

I read your “exegesis” on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Years ago I also held similar views regarding this famous passage in Luke 10:25-37. That type of viewpoint began to change as I became aware of the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.

I would urge a person to read the paragraphs of Scripture preceding Luke 10:25 in order to place the parable in the context in which it was delivered. Note that in verse 24 Jesus is commenting about how privileged his apostles were to have witnessed the earthy life of the Messiah, which earlier prophets and kings never experienced. Jesus said that many kings and prophets, although they said that they wanted to see and hear what they apostles saw and heard, they did not hear nor see clearly at all(Isaiah 6:9-10; Luke 8:10). Then in the very next verse the famous parable begins with a current example of exactly what Jesus was talking about: “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” This question is full of contradictions and misconceptions and illustrates the point of the preceding verse of Scripture: the lawyer only pretends to want to understand spiritual truth, but in actuality he is self-righteous and does not really see or hear anything outside of himself.

Now, I have read other inspired Scripture, such as Romans, and understand that the entire Law of God is primarily intended to act as a mirror and to reveal sin to mankind(Romans 3:20; 4:13-15). The first step in salvation is to be convicted of your sins so that the prepared soil of your heart can receive the Word of Christ which leads to faith and true repentance, resulting in life(Romans 10:17; Acts 11:18; 2Cor 7:10). A repentant person is ready to receive the Gospel of the atonement of sins by Jesus Christ(1Cor 15:1ff). This is the pattern throughout Scripture: first the Law of God is proclaimed(Acts 2:16-36) to convict sinners and produce repentance. Then, the Gospel is given(Acts 2:38ff). Acts 2:14-47 is a good illustration of how this works. When the people listening to Peter heard the Law, they were pierced to the heart and repentance began. Next, Peter presented the people with the PROMISES(Gospel): “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”(Acts 2:38). In verse 39 Peter says that this gift is a PROMISE from God to all who believe. Notice that Peter does not say that there is anything the people can do for salvation, since eternal life is a PROMISE, an INHERITANCE, to all who believe(Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 9:8; Romans 8:14-17). This is a direct contradiction to the lawyer’s question which insinuated that by doing something he can “inherit” eternal life (Luke 10:25).

It is true that Jesus responds to the lawyer’s question with another question: : “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” It should be noted that this is a question from Jesus to elicit the lawyer’s understanding of the Law of God. The lawyer quotes the Law which demands perfect love for both God and neighbor, and Christ approves this response. Taking this affirmation of Christ in context and in view of the entire revelation of God, I know that although it is the will of God to love Him and my neighbor, no man is ever truly able to do this from a pure heart. God has always been concerned with our hearts and motives. The Psalms are full of prayers and petitions illustrating this fact(e.g. Psalm 51:10,17). God demands perfect love from our hearts throughout our entire lives. This is impossible for man. In Matthew chapter 5 we hear Jesus expounding the true meaning of the Law: you must keep every commandment perfectly in thought, word, and deed. To be perfect as God our Father is an impossible demand(Matthew 5:48), and, like all Law is intended to convict each and every one of us. So why does Jesus respond with a question about keeping the commandments? The answer, which is consistent with the rest of Scripture, is to convict the lawyer of his sins! That is the primary intention of the Law of God(Romans 3:20).

Verse 29 is interesting and says that the lawyer responds with another question “wishing to justify himself”. This attitude is the heart of sinful, unrepentant men: they wish to “justify” themselves by their works and cannot tolerate the graciousness of God as shown in the atonement of His Son. This is referred to in Scripture as the “Old Self” or “Old Adam” and this nature permeates every human being(Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22). The Scripture contrasts this “Old Adam” with the “New Creation”, the person who has been convicted of his sins and leads a life of continual repentance. This “New Creation” has received the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the seal of his inheritance as an adopted child of God(Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Jews at the time of Christ hated and despised the Samaritans. Jesus knew this fact well and used this to make his case for demonstrating the impossibility of perfectly loving God and your neighbor as demanded by the Law. Matthew chapter 5 shows us that God demands our perfect obedience under the Law. We are to keep the entire Law perfectly in thought, word, and deed. Nothing less is acceptable. The fact that a Samaritan is the only person who comes to the aid of the man who was beaten and robbed is virtually unthinkable to a religious Jew of the first century. In fact, the last verse(37) illustrates the contempt the lawyer has for a Samaritan by responding to the question by Jesus about who was a good neighbor to the beaten man when he says “The one who showed him mercy”. The lawyer could not even bring himself to use the name “Samaritan”!

Now, what are we to make of this parable? A Theologian of Glory(TG), who lives under the Law, would see these passages as emphasizing that God wishes all men to treat each other with respect and compassion. The TG believes that if Jesus says that a man can attain salvation by keeping the Law, it must therefore be true. On the other hand, a Theologian of the Cross(TC), who lives under the Gospel, sees a radically different truth being applied in these same passages. The TG understands from other inspired Scripture that the Law cannot save anyone and is primarily intended to reveal our sins. Therefore, when Jesus uses the Law (“Do this…”), He is employing the hammer of God(the Law) towards a sinner to accuse him of sinfulness and to produce repentance. Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, certainly understands that no man can be Justified by the Law and that He Himself is the goal of the Law(Romans 10:4). It is interesting to note that even in Old Testament times the Law was inadequate. The OT nation of Israel was constantly involved in temple sacrifices, all of which pointed to Christ, the final and perfect sacrifice, the Lamb Of God Who takes away the sins of the world(John 1:29).

The question that seems to bother Theologians of Glory is this: if God requires absolute perfection throughout the entire existence of a person for salvation, how is this ever possible? The answer lies in the Grace of God in Jesus Christ. Christ is our Righteousness(Jeremiah 23:6). Salvation lies in being credited with the Righteousness of Jesus which comes through the vehicle of Faith. In other words, believers are considered perfect because through Faith in the atonement of Christ for their sins, they are considered by God as perfect saints(Romans 4:20-23).

Frank Marron

Apolonio said...

John,

Thanks for the response.

You said that the issue is "not whether the definitions of Trent" are "compatible with salvation outside of the visible structure of the Church." Then you said, "what we are discussing is the potential salvation of a certain class of people who are outside of the institutional church." I have to correct you in that in Catholic theology, the visible structure of the Church *is* the institutional Church (See A. Dulles, Models of the Church). So that is the issue. And the quote you quote from Trent seem to indicate that what you are arguing is that a class of Protestants will fall into that statement and hence, not be justified. Having said that, let me respond to what I believe are the important points.

You said, "If modern Protestants are not guilty heretics for maintaining the positions they do, then neither were the early Protestants. If the early Protestants were guilty, then their spiritual descendants as a class are too. That is how I see it."

The "if then" statement you make is an entailment one, that is, that there is no *possibility* of the contrary. You object to the fact that the Catholic Church calls Protestants merely separated brethren. First of, in Catholic theology, a formal heretic is still a separated brother, a person who is outside the Church and not in full communion with her. So there is no dichotomy here. Second, the issue with regards whether the early Protestants as a class is the same as the modern Protestant as a class, I think it is a bit presumptuous to think that we can say that 90% of Protestants do not fall into the situation where Mary has been told that Billy is a deceiver and she therefore does not regard the note she read. With that situation, you said,

"I would be more inclined to agree with you, were there no evidence available to her, or were that evidence overly difficult to obtain, or beyond her potential competence to assess. Since, however, I do not find that to be case with Protestants as a class, I do not think this method will avail in the end to allay their responsibility."

The problem is, no matter what "evidence" Protestants try to obtain, no matter how they try to understand what Trent says, if they had been told that Rome is a deceiver, then they will not convert. And I think most Protestants today are convinced that the Catholic Church has been deceived and is wrong and therefore they do not submit to her. Many times people look at the Catholic Church with the presupposition that she is already wrong and no matter what Church Fathers or what the Scripture says, they will not conform. And that's the same with the story I have showed. If Mary is totally convinced that Billy is a deceiver, no matter what notes she reads, she will not believe it because of her conviction. To say that this does not fall into the category of "the class of Protestants" is mistaken. In my experience, that is what usually happens. Now, since we usually act with our knowledge, then Mary may very well be justified in her actions. To say, however, that she needs to get the evidence or keep getting evidences, well, that seems to be contrary to even reformed epistemologists (see Warrant: The Current Debate by Alvin Plantinga, see Wolterstorff).

Now to the quote above, about if modern Protestants are the same as early Protestants. I answered that by saying that early Protestants were Catholics and modern Protestants are not Catholics. You said,

"This implies that because they were once all in the Roman Church, the original Protestants had the realization, full knowledge, and full consent to that Church’s truth required to be guilty of formal heresy."

Actually, no. Because they were once all in the Catholic Church, that they were baptized in the Catholic Church, then if they leave or say things contrary to the Catholic Church teachings, the Church simply says, "You cannot be Catholic ." In other words, if a Protestant reformer was being examined by the Church then, they would have said, "Look, you can't call yourself Catholic if you keep your false doctrines." That is pretty much what a formal heretic was then. To say that the same thing applies today simply doesn't make sense. The Church cannot say, "Look, you cannot be Catholic if you keep your doctrines" the same way she did back then because the Protestant today is not Catholic in the first place. The condition of full realization and full consent applies to the Protestants today. This does not mean that Protestants are not heretics. They are. They *may* simply not be formal heretics. This does not mean that they cannot be formal heretics, only that it is not **necessary** that they are formal heretics. So the proposition:

If the early Protestants were guilty, then their spiritual descendants as a class are too.

is false. The proposition above, in order for it to be true, means that if Protestants are guilty of formal heresy, then ***necessarily*** their spiritual descendants are too. And I have shown that it is not **necessary** that this be the case. I also don't think you have shown this to be the case either. You simply cannot cite cases where formal heresy might be applied to, but you must show that *in all cases*, this is the case. That's what an entailment proposition means and that is how you have expressed this as. Also, you say that we are not talking about a minority of Protestants. Well, how would you then interpret Trent's quote and reconcile the minority of Protestants I have talked about? You seem to make Trent's quote as an absolute. I would like to see your reconciliation with that then. Finally, the fact that there can be a minority of Protestants show that the proposition above is false.

You said,

"The Reformers’ relatively greater firsthand knowledge and experience of the Roman Church may be said to increase their guilt quantitatively, but that only creates a difference in degree between them and modern Protestants, not a difference in kind."

Response:
A difference in degree *can* mean a difference in kind. And that's how Catholic theology sees it. If you read any Catholic catechism or manual before or after Vatican 2, you will see that is the case. For example, a lesser degree of consent may not commit a person in a mortal sin. Or a person who does not have *full* knowledge, and therefore has a lesser degree of knowledge, the act may not be a mortal sin. The same analogy goes. The early Protestants were more guilty and the modern Protestants have a lesser degree of guilt because of how they were brought up. So it's not the case that they are necessarily formal heretics.

Also, since Protestants are still baptized, and even if they are formal heretics, it does not mean that the Church cannot call them separated brethren. An analogy with the Eastern Orthodox is helpful. The Catholic Church has always acknowledged the Eastern Orthodox' valid apostolic succession even though they are in schism. So even if, say, a Protestant reformer was excommunicated because of heresy, it does not mean that he is not united to the Church in some way. He is simply not in full communion.

You said,
"Now, it looks to me that your standard for culpable or formal heresy might be stated better not as disobedience in spite of the realization or knowledge that Rome is the true Church, but rather disobedience in spite of the fact that someone should have realized and known that Rome is the true church."

Response:
But that's not simply how the Church looks at it ordinarily (although the word "should" there is a bit tricky). If you are going to argue this, then you must show from Catholic theology that this is how we look at it.

I think I have covered the important points. Tell me what I have missed and I hope to clarify them.


JMJ
Apolonio

Iohannes said...

Greetings Apolonio,

Thank you again for your letter. For promptness in reply, I will mainly just respond to your individual statements. This is usually not the most effective way to communicate, and I hesitate to use it, but think it may here be appropriate.

I have to correct you in that in Catholic theology, the visible structure of the Church *is* the institutional Church.

I think you have misunderstood my usage. The shift in phrase from visible structure of the Church to institutional church was solely for linguistic variety, to avoid the static repetition that makes for dull style. I had assumed all along that it was understood that the two expressions are effectively interchangeable. It might be helpful if you re-read my comments with that in mind.

You object to the fact that the Catholic Church calls Protestants merely separated brethren. First of, in Catholic theology, a formal heretic is still a separated brother, a person who is outside the Church and not in full communion with her. So there is no dichotomy here.

I appreciate your efforts toward clarification, but here your comment seems to miss the adverb merely. Perhaps you will disagree, but I find that the modern Roman church so stresses the description of Protestants as separated brethren that it fosters an impression that that is basically all that they are. Omission can be just as misleading as outright denials of the truth, and if Protestants are additionally in a more serious condition besides being mere separated brethren, then it is improper not to admit that fact as well.

The "if then" statement you make is an entailment one, that is, that there is no *possibility* of the contrary. Also: You simply cannot cite cases where formal heresy might be applied to, but you must show that *in all cases*, this is the case. That's what an entailment proposition means and that is how you have expressed this as.

Here you are taking my statement as something much more technical than it was, and much more technical than I think the context called for (cf. the second paragraph when I explained what was meant when I spoke of Protestants). In common parlance it is normal for someone to say, "I don't like seafood," even when the person may make an exception for tuna fish sandwiches or a few other dishes. As I noted, we do not commonly judge what is true of an overall population by the minority of cases where there are overriding factors for specific individuals within that population. It looks to me that you have misunderstood what I meant when speaking of Protestants as a class, and if I was unclear, I am sorry, and hope that my meaning will be more easily understood by the end of this letter.

I think it is a bit presumptuous to think that we can say that 90% of Protestants do not fall into the situation where Mary has been told that Billy is a deceiver and she therefore does not regard the note she read.

The 90% figure was arbitrary, and I said as much with the words: or whatever the fraction may be. I also wrote that my meaning was only that the strong majority of the people about whom we are speaking... do not suffer from [the] kind of ignorance that you posit.

The problem is, no matter what "evidence" Protestants try to obtain, no matter how they try to understand what Trent says, if they had been told that Rome is a deceiver, then they will not convert. [...] To say that this does not fall into the category of "the class of Protestants" is mistaken.

First, if it was not clear, the minority of difficult or doubtful cases that I mentioned still consists of instances or individuals within the overall class or population. These differ from the norm because some further factor intervenes that affects a conclusion about the class or population as it relates to them specifically. That was the point behind the statement about the population or class of people who disobey the laws. It does not violate normal usage for someone to say that he thinks such people should be punished by the civil magistrate, even though he acknowledges that some individuals within that category may be exceptions.

Regarding the question of epistemological warrant, I of course do not think people must secure evidence ad nauseam to make a judgment. But religion is a very serious matter, and I have said that on my view, Protestants have an obligation to go farther than you believe they need to go, in order to justify their continued refusal to submit to Rome. The bias you speak of would be one thing in the case of young children. But they are not the people I am contemplating when I speak of Protestants overall as a class or population. I am talking primarily about mature people who should with a little honest effort be able to evaluate fairly Rome’s basic case. I do not like to repeat myself, but I will do so here, since I think it will be helpful: Misreading a family member’s note is a relatively light offense. On the other hand, those who disagree with others on points of great importance surely have an obligation of some sort to strive to understand correctly what it is they are rejecting. If they nevertheless misunderstand what they dissent from, it may be that in some instances they can be excused for being sincerely mistaken, yet it seems to me that more often than not their failure to understand would [be] due to their own inappropriate rashness and even impudence.

Actually, no. Because they were once all in the Catholic Church, that they were baptized in the Catholic Church, then if they leave or say things contrary to the Catholic Church teachings, the Church simply says, "You cannot be Catholic." [...] That is pretty much what a formal heretic was then.

The condition of full realization and full consent applies to the Protestants today.

A difference in degree *can* mean a difference in kind. [...] The early Protestants were more guilty and the modern Protestants have a lesser degree of guilt because of how they were brought up. So it's not the case that they are necessarily formal heretics.

But that's not simply how the Church looks at it ordinarily (although the word "should" there is a bit tricky). If you are going to argue this, then you must show from Catholic theology that this is how we look at it.

I would like to respond to these and other sections toward the end of your letter, but am honestly confused about your position, and do not want to misrepresent you. Could you please explain again what is the precise criterion for heresy to be formal heresy? Does the status of formal heresy always require a realization that one is disobeying the true Church, along with full knowledge and full consent? If you would not mind, could you please define what you have meant by realization, full knowledge, and full consent?

Also, you say that we are not talking about a minority of Protestants. Well, how would you then interpret Trent's quote and reconcile the minority of Protestants I have talked about? You seem to make Trent's quote as an absolute. I would like to see your reconciliation with that then.

I am reading Trent's words in a way similar to those of this statement: "If a man shall have taken innocent life, he shall surely be condemned." The group formally identified in the statement consists of those people who have taken innocent life. Supposing the statement appeared in the midst of an overall condemnation of murder, it would not be hard to see that there is a smaller class of people against whom the statement was especially directed, i.e. murderers as distinguishable, for example, from those who may only inadvertently have taken innocent life. The statement undeniably applies to this narrower, particular population, even if it is debatable the extent to which is applies to others. Now, there may be some difficult or doubtful cases even within this class (e.g. where the accused is mentally unsound). But although things may differ on a case by case basis when special factors intervene, such factors do not apply to the majority of the class of murderers. The statement is very definite about what is to happen to the majority, or what I might call murderers considered as a class.

Granted, this is an extreme example, but it illustrates the basics of how I read Trent's statement. Undoubtedly it could be taken apart meticulously and shown to have flaws and even some absurd implications if the analogy were carried far enough. I only hope it will be effective in conveying my fundamental meaning. It may be helpful if you now re-examine my point about the hypothetical tribe of Arians, since that looks at the Athanasian Creed, which I think the affinity of language suggests is the best document to which Trent's statement can be compared in order to examine its meaning.

In closing, I have the general impression that you may have misunderstood a portion of my last letter. There are parts of your letter that I have not understood, and I have asked for clarification. I will re-read your letter when your answer comes. I ask that you please re-examine my previous letter, so that we can avoid the frustration that comes out of talking past each other. I have enjoyed dialoguing with you thus far, and hope that you find these exchanges beneficial.

Respectfully,

J.

Iohannes said...

Apolonio,

Greetings again. If you have time, would you please look over and comment on this nineteenth century piece piece by Fr. Michael Mueller?

I will look through it more carefully tomorrow, but it appears to take a position part way between yours and mine.

Respectfully,

J.

Iohannes said...

After looking more carefully at it, I saw that Mueller's piece is much longer than initially appeared. Below is the most relevant section, and the only one concerning which I ask for your comment. Some of the other sections may, however, still be worth looking over.

Important parts are bolded, with italics in a few cases for further emphasis.

---------------

From § 6. HAVING EXPLAINED WHAT CONSCIENCE IS, AND THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF CONSCIENCE, WE CAN NOW EASILY SHOW WHO ARE NOT GUILTY OF THE SIN OF HERESY.

Not guilty of the sin of heresy are all those who, without any fault of theirs, were brought up in a sect of Protestantism, and who never had an opportunity of knowing better. This class of Protestants are called invincibly or inculpably ignorant of the true religion, or material heretics.

Now, let us see what the Rev. Alfred Young, a Paulist Father of New York, says of material heretics, in an article which he had published in the Buffalo Union and Times on March 22, 1888. He says: “He was baptized in his infancy, and was then a Catholic child as good as any other Catholic child." -- This is quite correct, and if be had died before he came to the use of reason, he would have gone straight to heaven.

But, after he had come to the years of understanding, he was brought up in heresy; but, according to his statement, he was only a material, not a formal heretic.

It can hardly be doubted that, amongst Protestants, many are only material heretics. Reiffenstuel gives this as his opinion regarding great numbers amongst the mass of heretics. The same is the opinion of Lacroix, and several other authors cited by him, with regard to the Protestants of Germany; and what is true of them is equally true of Protestants in other countries. “Some of them," he says, “are so simple, or so prejudiced by the teaching of their ministers, that they are persuaded of the truth of their own religion, and at the same time so sincere and conscientious, that, if they knew it to be false, they would at once embrace ours. Such as these are not formal, but only material heretics; and that there are many such is testified by numbers of confessors in Germany and authors of the greatest experience."

"What is most deplorable in their case," says Lacroix, “is that, should they fall into any other mortal sin, as may very easily happen to such persons, (because without special grace it is impossible to keep the commandments,) they are deprived of the grace of the principal sacraments, and are commonly lost, not on account of material heresy, but on account of other sins they have committed, and from which they are not freed by the sacrament of penance, which does not exist amongst them; nor by an act of contrition or perfect charity, which they commonly do not attend to, or think of eliciting (to say nothing of the very great difficulty such men would have in doing so, thinking they are justified by faith alone and trust in Christ; and by this accursed confidence they are miserably lost." (Lacroix, Lib. ii. n. 94.)

It is well to distinguish here between two classes of Protestants.

The first is that of those who either live among Catholics or have Catholics living in the same country with them; who know there are such persons, and often hear of them. The second regards those who have no such knowledge, and who seldom or never hear Catholics spoken of, except in a false and odious light.

We read in Holy Scripture that Almighty God, at different times, scattered the Jews among the heathen and performed great miracles in favor of his chosen people. He thus wished the Gentiles to come to the knowledge of the true God. In like manner, Almighty God has scattered the Roman Catholics, the children of his Church, among the heathens of our time and the Protestants. He has never failed to perform miracles in the Catholic Church. Who has not heard of the many great miracles performed in France, and elsewhere, by the use of the miraculous water of Lourdes? Who has not witnessed the wonderful protection of the Catholic Church? Who has not read the truths of the Catholic Church, even in Protestant newspapers? Who has not heard of the conversion of so many wealthy and learned Protestants to the Catholic Church? The Lord, who wishes that all should come to the knowledge of the true religion, makes use of these and other means to cause doubts to arise in the souls of those who are separated from his Church. Hence it is, as Bishop Hay says, next to the impossible for those Protestants who live among Catholics to be in a state of invincible ignorance.

Such doubts as to their salvation in Protestantism are, for our separated brethren, a great grace, as Almighty God, by these doubts, begins to lead them to the way of salvation, by obliging them to seek in all sincerity for light and instruction. But those who do not heed these doubts remain culpably erroneous in a matter of the greatest importance; and to die in this state is to die in the state of reprobation; it is to be lost forever through one's own fault, as we have seen above.

But let us remember here, that “it is a mistake," as Bishop Hay well says, "to suppose that a formal doubt is necessary to render one's ignorance of his duty voluntary and culpable; it is enough that there be sufficient reason for doubting, though from his unjust prejudices, obstinacy, pride, or other evil dispositions of the heart, he hinder these reasons from exciting a formal doubt in his mind. Saul had no doubt when he offered sacrifice before the prophet Samuel came; on the contrary, he was persuaded that he had the strongest reasons for doing so, yet he was condemned for that very action, and himself and his family rejected by Almighty God. The Jews believed that they were acting well when they put our Saviour to death; nay, their high priest declared in full council that it was expedient for the good and safety of the nation that they should do so. They were grossly mistaken, indeed, and sadly ignorant of their duty; but their ignorance was culpable, and they were severely condemned for what they did, though it was done in ignorance. And, indeed, all who act from a false and erroneous conscience are highly blamable for having such a conscience, though they have never entertained any formal doubt. Nay, their not having such a doubt when they have just and solid grounds for doubting, rather renders them the more guilty, because it shows greater cor­ruption of the heart, greater depravity of disposition. A person brought up in a false faith, which the Scriptures calls sects of perdition, doctrines of devils, perverse things, lies, and hypocrisy--and who has heard of the true Church of Christ, which condemns all these sects, and sees their di­visions and dissensions--has always before his eyes the strongest reason to doubt the safety of his own state. If he makes any examination with sincere dispositions of heart, he must be convinced that he is in the wrong; and the more he examines, the more clearly will he see it, --for this plain reason, that it is simply impossible that false doctrine, lies, and hypocrisy should ever be supported by solid arguments sufficient to satisfy a reasonable person, who sincerely seeks the truth and begs light from God to direct him in the search. Hence, if such a person never doubt, but go on, as is supposed, bona fide, in his own way, notwithstanding the strong grounds of doubt which he daily has before his eyes, this evidently shows either that he is supinely negligent in the concern of his soul, or that his heart is totally blinded by passion and prejudice. There were many such persons among the Jews and heathens in the time if the apostles, who, notwithstanding the splendid light of truth which these holy preachers everywhere displayed, and which was the most powerful reason for leading them to doubt of their superstitions, were so far from having such doubts, that they thought by killing the apostles they did God a service. Whence did this arise? St. Paul himself informs us. "We renounce,” says he, "the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor adulterating the Word of God, but, by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Here he describes the strange light of the truth which he preached; yet this light was hidden to great numbers, and he immediately gives the reason: “And if our Gospel be also hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine upon them." (II. Cor. iv. 2.) Behold the real cause of their incre­dulity: they are so enslaved to the things of this world by the depravity of their heart, and the devil so blinds them, that they cannot see the light; but ignorance arising from such depraved dispositions is a guilty, a voluntary ignorance, and therefore never can excuse them.

Apolonio said...

John,

I'll just comment briefly on the site you provided. Please pray that I sufficiently respond to your post, if that is what God wills, since I am intellectually and physically exhausted with so many things that I don't know if I can respond to your post.

As for the site, that site is maintained by a person I think I know. We had some exchanges before and he is very extreme (as you can tell from his other articles). I have encountered many people like him and I have stopped doing so for spiritual reasons and for the fact that they simply don't know Catholic theology.

As for the quote itself, I think Fr. Mueller is wrong, although he gets some things right. The quote from Bishop Hays is ridiculous, although it can be reconciled with the Catholic faith in the sense that those who are saved outside the visible structure of the Church is a great minority (if a few will be saved, then how fewer will be the non-visible Catholics?). Such mentality is the mentality we see in most of the time the Church has existed. But this has never been considered a dogma nor does the Church judge how many are saved and such. Rather than a theologian such as Fr. Mueller, I would go along with Pius IX (also a 19th century priest):

"We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation; that she is the only ark of safety, and whosoever is not in her perishes in the deluge; we must also, on the other hand, recognize with certainty that those who are invincible in ignorance of the true religion are not guilty for this in the eyes of the Lord. ***And who would presume to mark out the limits of this ignorance according to the character and diversity of peoples, countries, minds and the rest***?"

Iohannes said...

Apolonio,

Thanks again for your comments. I have appreciated your time and effort in this discussion, and do not by any means want to become a burden for you. If you do not have time for a response, or if you need more time between exchanges, please just do whatever is best by your judgment.

If you end up replying to my post, the only part that is really important to me is where I asked about the precise nature of formal as distinguished from merely material heresy. Focusing on that looks to me like a good way to return heart of the matter.

If you cannot continue the discussion further, then I send my gratitude for the opportunity to converse with you, as well as my best wishes for your future.

With Prayer,

J.

Apolonio said...

John,

Send me an email so that I will remember and continue to respond to you.

Iohannes said...

Apolonio,

Thanks for the note. I do not have your e-mail, but if you would like to contact me, please use lechaca1 @ netscape . net.

I will be returning to school in a little over a week, and may be occupied this week with preparation, so please pardon me if I take a little while to reply.

All the best,

J.