I've made several long posts, including what follows below, in slightly edited form:
Bryan Cross Method Alert
I know that Bryan Cross has said that it's unkind to speak about him in the third person, and no doubt the words argumentum ad hominem will escape from his keyboard coming up here.
But for you Reformed folks who are trying to figure him out, what I'm about to say may seem unkind precisely until the moment when one of your children, or one of your church members, or even a Westminster-trained pastor that you may know, becomes enamored with and traipses off to Rome. At that point, then, ask, what is the real unkindness?
What I'm about to do is to look not at Bryan Cross the person, but rather, the method he uses.
Since I’ve written this, I see that Ron Henzel, in post #238, has provided a brilliant response to Bryan, in which he untangles all of the assumptions that Bryan throws out without an ounce of warning that he is, indeed, making assumptions. I'm convinced that Bryan's method of argumentation is inherently dishonest, and I say why below. But again, Ron Henzel in #238 has done a brilliant job of untangling Bryan's assumptions, and I’d very much encourage that everyone read that comment as an example of how really to have a discussion with Catholics.
Let me start by asking, do any of you play chess, at any serious level? If you do, and if you've come across Jeremy Silman's work, which talks about the need to look for "imbalances" in the position.
An imbalance is an opportunity within a position that one can use to create an advantage for oneself, on a particular area of the board, even though the second player may have advantages in other areas of the board. This is why a Queen sacrifice might work to enable a person to achieve a checkmate. While the opponent's Queen is off on another part of the board -- and still very powerful there -- the first player is enabled, by a sacrifice, to destroy a key defender or deflect a defensive piece away, enabling his own pieces to enjoy a temporary and in some cases, an overwhelming superiority in the more crucial part of the board, and thus, to Checkmate the King.
There are incredible imbalances in the Catholic vs. Protestant discussions, and Bryan Cross and his allies try to take advantage of this in discussions just like this one.
Francis Turretin noticed just such an imbalance in all of these discussions of Catholic vs. Protestant. Here is how he described it:
Thus this day the Romanists (although they are anything but the true church of Christ) still boast of their having alone the name of church and do not blush to display the standard of that which they oppose. In this manner, hiding themselves under the specious title of the antiquity and infallibility of the Catholic church, they think they can, as with one blow, beat down and settle the controversy waged against them concerning the various most destructive errors introduced into the heavenly doctrine. (Vol 3 pg 2)
John Henry Newman, too, gave Catholics some advice, which is easily used in conjunction that imbalance that Turretin wrote about. At its heart, Newman's "theory of development of doctrine" is itself founded on that very assumption. As Newman says:
Till positive reasons grounded on facts are adduced to the contrary, the most natural hypotheses, the most agreeable to our mode of proceeding in parallel cases, and that which takes precedence of all others, is to consider that the society of Christians, which the Apostles left on earth, were of that religion to which the Apostles had converted them; that the external continuity of name, profession, and communion, argues a real continuity of doctrine; that, as Christianity began by manifesting itself as of a certain shape and bearing to all mankind, therefore it went on so to manifest itself; and that the more, considering that prophecy had already determined that it was to be a power visible in the world and sovereign over it, characters which are accurately fulfilled in that historical Christianity to which we commonly give the name. It is not a violent assumption, then, but rather mere abstinence from the wanton admission of a principle which would necessarily lead to the most vexatious and preposterous scepticism, to take it for granted, before proof to the contrary, that the Christianity of the second, fourth, seventh, twelfth, sixteenth, and intermediate centuries is in its substance the very religion which Christ and His Apostles taught in the first, whatever may be the modifications for good or for evil which lapse of years, or the vicissitudes of human affairs, have impressed upon it.
In short, what this long couple of sentences says, is that The Roman Catholic Church itself was the promise of the Old Testament -- itself is the fulfillment of the very promises of God to provide a kingdom -- and that it has all the power and authority that one would expect. And further, "we don't have to prove this," he says. “We merely assume continuity,” and leave it to “positive reasons grounded on facts [that] are adduced to the contrary” to be able to persuade us that our assumptions are not valid.
That very thing comes up all the time in this thread. Notice the phrase, "the Church that Christ founded," first used by Bryan in comment #42 (used again in 74 and in various places by some of the others from “Called to Communion”). Several of the Protestant writers have commented on it, but they have not provided an explanation of it.
Here is a sense of its use:
So we need a way of distinguishing confessions of the Church that Christ founded, from confessions made by the equivalent of mere theological clubs …
So when Bryan Cross uses the word "church," he intends it to mean "The Roman Catholic Church and the Visible Hierarchy." Notice how this works in Bryan Cross's statement from Comment #232:
Regarding John 16:13, the unanimous tradition of the Church has been to understand that Christ’s promise (regarding the Spirit guiding into all truth) was not limited to the Apostles but also applied (through them and their successors) to the whole Church.
There is implicit in this statement that "the Church" in this statement was, and continues to be, "The Roman Catholic Church and the Visible Hierarchy." But Bryan doesn't tell you that's his definition of "the Church". He merely assumes that to be the case.
But what's worse, Bryan doesn't care if you misunderstand. He is relying on a technique known as "mental reservation," by which he may say things in such a way that his readers may draw false conclusions from them. But if they do draw false conclusions, that's not his fault.
This principle is clearly articulated by a Roman Catholic Cardinal within the context of an offical investigation document, which shows clearly how the Roman Church dealt with sexual abuse victims. I've written about it:
Mental reservation is a concept developed and much discussed over the centuries, which permits a churchman knowingly to convey a misleading impression to another person without being guilty of lying.
Now, let me give an application of this, because Jason Stellman, a participant in that discussion, and someone that I've interacted with much in the past, has fallen hook, line, and sinker for it. It is something that I’ve noticed and written about in the past, and for it, I’ve been accused of being “uncharitable.” But take a look at what he himself has written:
Often Protestants fear that unless they can poke holes in the Catholic’s claim that Benedict XVI is a literal, historical successor of Peter, then we’ve lost the argument and have to start praying to Mary and abstaining from meat on Fridays. Now I’ll probably take some heat for this concession, but I will come out and admit that I think apostolic succession is more plausible than not. I mean, whether or not the early church invested the practice with as much significance as Catholics today do, my guess is that the church in Rome was at one time led by Peter, and it has had a leader from then to now, which means that the historical claim is actually true …
This is an incredibly naïve statement, coming especially from someone who ought to understand what he is saying here. Others, in cluding Andrew McCallum, have argued against this notion in these comments, not only from the early church, but during medieval times when the worst offenders of popes were still a part of the “official succession.”
In truth, “Apostolic Succsssion” is chock full of holes, and an honest assessment of that practice will show this to be the case. This is not only my view that this view is “incredibly naïve” – note the comment in Francis Sullivan, S.J., “From Apostles to Bishops:
Admittedly the Catholic position, that bishops are the successors of the apostles by divine institution, remains far from easy to establish. It is unfortunate, I believe, that some presentations of Catholic belief in this matter have given a very different impression… (Sullivan, 13)
Referring to the ARCIC I document, (an ecumenical dialog between Rome and the Anglican church), he said,
To speak of “an unbroken line of episcopal ordination from Christ through the apostles” suggests that Christ ordained the apostles as bishops, and that the apostles in turn ordained a bishop for each of the churches they founded, so that by the time the apostles died, each Christian church was being led by a bishop s successor to an apostle. There are serious problems with such a theory of a link between apostles and bishops.” (13)
Sullivan goes on to outline some of these “serious problems.” One of these problems was articulated very succinctly by Raymond Brown in “Priest and Bishop”:
The claims of various sees to descend from particular members of the Twelve are highly dubious. It is interesting that the most serious of these is the claim of the bishops of Rom to descend from Peter, the one member of the Twelve who was almost a missionary apostle in the Pauline sense—a confirmation of our contention that whatever succession there was from apostleship to episcopate, it was primarily in reference to the Pauline type of apostleship, not the Twelve. (Fn 53, pg 72)
In the end, the Newmanesque assumption that Sullivan makes – the “unproved assumption” where he stakes his ground, is further back but still there:
Although development of the church structure reflects sociological necessity, in the Christian self-understanding the Hoy Spirit given by the risen Christ guides the church in such a way that allows basic lstructural development to be seen as embodying Jesus Christ’s will for his church.”
This is what I meant in my comment above to Andrew McCallum, that he “leaves too much money on the table.” Bryan Cross assumes far too much. But Sullivan here articulates the official Roman Catholic fallback position.
Historical study has passed Newman by. The ground of this fight IS no longer on Roman assumptions of its own “divine institution.” I’m doing a series on Joseph Ratzinger’s “Called to Communion,” and he himself can only say that the papacy was “faithfully developed” during the first five centuries of the church. He himself yields far away from what Newman intended. I believe he has been forced to do so by the sheer weight of the historical evidence.
The Protestant/Catholic discussion IS AND MUST BE, in Newman’s words, “on positive reasons grounded on [historical] facts” that absolutely fly in the face of the pure, ungrounded assumption that Bryan Cross makes and that Jason Stellman has freely conceded to them.
We cannot yield this assumption to Bryan Cross and his gang. We must force them to argue on level ground. We must make them come out from behind their unproven assumption and stand on historical ground. As Sullivan has made clear, and as Ratzinger has made clear, Rome itself is forced to kick the “assumption” can further down the road.
Since I’ve written this, I see that Ron Henzel, in post #238, has provided a brilliant response to Bryan, in which he untangles all of the assumptions that Bryan throws out without an ounce of warning that he is, indeed, making assumptions. This method of argumentation is inherently dishonest. But again, Ron Henzel in #238 has done a brilliant job of untangling these assumptions, and I’d very much encourage that everyone read that comment.