In the Paul Hoffer thread, I asked: How much better would it be for you to work for clarity in these matters? Doesn't your Catholicism bind you to honesty? Or does it rather bind you to blind partisanship?
Truth Unites … and Divides responded: That such questions are reasonable makes it suitable to assume the latter.
And the truth is, the whole Catholic theological structure is set up to perpetuate "the latter":
With regard to the Catholic Church, [the leading assumption] is a blatant form of revisionism. This is evidenced by Pius IX’s method articulated in his Letter, “Gravissimas inter,” to the Archbishop of Munich-Freising, Dec. 11, 1862, reiterated in Pius XII’s statement in Humani Generis, “theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition.”One can't stress this enough. For those of you who interact with Roman Catholics at any level, and you can't seem to understand why they see things as they do, you can know that, at its heart, there is a difference in the way that they look at things, and this difference has its roots deep in history, and it comes from the highest levels.
This is further explained in a variety of sources. One Roman Catholic theologian wrote, “We think first of developed forms for which we need to find historical justification. The developed forms come first and the historical justification comes second.” (“Ways of Validating Ministry,” Kilian McDonnell, Journal of Ecumenical Studies (7), pg. 213, cited in Carlos Alfredo Steger, “Apostolic Succession in the Writings of Yves Congar and Oscar Cullmann, pg. 322.) ...
Aiden Nichols, “The Shape of Catholic Theology” (253) notes that for the last several hundred years, according to these popes, “the theologian’s highest task lies in proving the present teachings of the magisterium from the evidence of the ancient sources.” One internet writer called this method “Dogma Appreciation 101” (related in a discussion of his studies in a Catholic seminary.) Nichols calls this, “the so-called regressive method,” and notes that Walter Kasper (now a Cardinal) has traced the origins of this method to the 18th century.
The earliest church did not make its decisions this way.
Earlier, Paul Hoffer had said: If one is going to assent to being a Catholic, then one must assent to its teachings or else one should not call oneself a Catholic.
This is my understanding of the way it works, and this is why I ultimately rejected the whole thing.
[The way in which one assents to its teachings leaves quite a bit of room for disunity, as is shown in the Alexander Greco thread below. It is said that "unity in the faith" is the kind of unity that Christ desires. Protestants would say that we have unity in Christ -- unity in the Gospel ("Christ died for sinners" -- and as we turn to him in faith and repentance -- yes, we are drawn to do so by grace -- we receive the new birth, adoption, union with Christ. This is the unity for which Christ prayed in John 17. This is His prayer, answered.)]
To accept unity around the pope is to have to accept a whole lot of things that were created by and are sustained by a false system. The distinctively Roman Catholic doctrines themselves have become a false system. If you recall, God's primary complaint against Israel is that they were whoring after false gods. They were seeking a kind of "fullness of the faith" that God simply did not provide.
PH: However, once one accepts by a reasoned faith the truth of the teachings of the Church, then there is no room for doubting the validity of them for doubt is the opposite of faith. Thus, "the Church as a living, dominically instituted authority that is divinely preserved from error under certain conditions” is a item of faith which allows no doubt.
Consider the doctrines it "proposes for faith, which allow no doubt" -- the Assumption of Mary, papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception of Mary. As I looked into these, they were so far-fetched and so "without basis in history" that I took them as clear evidence that the Roman church "could not be what it said it was."
PH: Interjecting the notion of Catholic theologians tends to obfuscate issues as the extent of a theologian' authority depends on their relationship to the Magisterium. Even Pope Benedict takes pains to distinguish between what his personal views as a theologian and his pronouncements in his capacity as pope.
It is true: there is a distinction between what a theologian says (it has no "binding" force") and what "the Church" pronounces as "dogma."
But there are two things to note on this:
1. I brought up "theologians" because this is what this pope actually said.
And 2., this is how the process actually works: it is not the job of the theologians to understand what the true meaning of the Scriptures was, not to understand what the earlier doctrines and theologians were saying. It is actually their job to begin with current "Catholic teaching" and, precisely as these popes articulated, "to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition.” Again, one writer, who went through this process in a Seminary, called this "Dogma Appreciation 101".
The Roman Catholic process is not one of finding truth. It is one of defending itself, by "picking and choosing" -- things out of context if necessary -- bits and pieces that it thinks support its doctrines in history.
This is one reason for the existence of the the contorted view that some things are "implicitly found" in Scripture. To counter this, the Protestants (following Irenaeus and others) say, "Scripture interprets Scripture".
Here's an example of that: the Catholic Church posits a statement like this:
And indeed it was wholly fitting that so wonderful a mother should be ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness and so completely free from all taint of original sin that she would triumph utterly over the ancient serpent.Now, is it better to believe what the Scriptures (as a whole) say about Mary? Or should we go with "the Church's" take on this? This is not rocket science.
[For some background, see first of all, Turretinfan's article on "fittingness" as a kind of standard by which "fittingness" counts as part of this "elevation to divine revelation". See also his article on some of the early sources of Marian dogma.]
It truly would be "fitting" if Scripture actually saw it as "wholly fitting" that Mary should "be ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness." But Scripture does not see Mary that way. Eric Svendsen, for example, did a thorough exegetical analysis of every single mention of Mary in the New Testament, and while Mary did end up appearing "with the disciples" in Acts 1, it was not because of some imagined "Immaculate Conception". It was because she went through the process that many of the other disciples went through, and she herself became a disciple. Eric concludes:
"Taken together, [Marian passages in the New Testament] portray Mary as someone who initially receives the word of God with great enthusiasm; who hen struggles to understand her true role vis-a-vis the conflict between her role as mother of Jesus (in which she exercises her will over him) and her new role as servant of Jesus (in which she humbly submits to his will); who at times gets it right, while other times not; who at times even opposes Jesus' mission and sides with those who deem Jesus "insane"; and who then finally becomes a full-fledged disciple."Now, a "plain reading" of the Scriptures will not tell you that the writers of the New Testament, either implicitly or explicitly, thought that "it was fitting" that God should have protect Mary from sin via an "immaculate conception." An exegetical study like Eric's simply confirms, over and over again, that the impressions one receives about the person of Mary in the New Testament, from "a plain reading of Scripture," are indeed accurate impressions.
PH: What you of hit upon here is the the reason that it would be impossible for me to be a Protestant, because your use of private judgment factors in human doubt. If there is doubt, there is faithlessness. Period. What certainity/certitude of the truth does Protestantism have there is room to doubts the tenets for which an adherent to it holds?
This is a clear instance in which I would rather read God's word, and exercise "private judgment," and believe my own eyes, and trust in my the ability to understand that God gave to me, than what the Roman church tells me to believe. And if in this one instance, one sees reason to reject the Roman teaching, then one must reject all of the authority of the Roman church.
[Note: This post is about the specific differences in the ways that Catholics and Protestants accept sources of authority. It is not intended to bring up issues within Eric Svendsen's study, which is an honest and fair treatment of Mary in the New Testament. Any derogatory comments about him or his work will be immediately deleted.]