Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Disrespecting Rome, but respecting all others

I've seen this letter in a couple of places. It is reproduced below in its entirety, (I've added some emphasis), because I believe it summarizes well [though not entirely] my own position vis-a-vis Rome and indeed, "all men."
The text of a letter written by Charles Hodge of Princeton Theological Seminary on behalf of the two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, explaining why the Pope's invitation to Protestants to send delegates to the first Vatican Council of 1869-70 was being declined.


To Pius the Ninth, Bishop of Rome,



By your encyclical letter dated 1869 you invite Protestants to send delegates to the Council called to meet at Rome during the month of December of the current year. That letter has been brought to the attention of the two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Those Assemblies represent about five thousand ministers and a still larger number of Christian congregations.



Believing as we do, that it is the will of Christ that his Church on earth should be united, and recognizing the duty of doing all we consistently can to promote Christian charity and fellowship, we deem it right briefly to present the reasons which forbid our participation in the deliberations of the approaching Council.



It is not because we have renounced any article of the catholic faith. We are not heretics. We cordially receive all the doctrines contained in that Symbol which is known as the Apostles' Creed. We regard all doctrinal decisions of the first six ecumenical councils to be consistent with the Word of God, and because of that consistency, we receive them as expressing our faith. We therefore believe the doctrine of the Trinity and of the person of Christ as those doctrines are expressed in the symbols adopted by the Council of Nicea AD321, that of the Council of Constantinople AD381 and more fully that of the Council of Chalcedon AD451. We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are the same in substance and equal in power and glory. We believe that the Eternal Son of God became man by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, and so was, and continues to be, both God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever. We believe that our adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the prophet who should come into the world, whose teachings we are bound to believe and on whose promises we rely. He is the High Priest whose infinitely meritorious satisfaction to divine justice, and whose ever prevalent intercession, is the sole ground of the sinner's justification and acceptance before God. We acknowledge him to be our Lord not only because we are his creatures but also because we are the purchase of his blood. To his authority we are bound to submit, in his care we confide, and to his service all creatures in heaven and earth should be devoted.



We receive all those doctrines concerning sin, grace and predestination, known as Augustinian, which doctrines received the sanction not only of the Council of Carthage and of other provincial Synods, but of the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus AD431, and of Zosimus, bishop of Rome.



We therefore cannot be pronounced heretics without involving in the same condemnation the whole ancient church.



Neither are we schismatics. We cordially recognize as members of Christ's visible Church on earth, all those who profess the true religion together with their children. We are not only willing but earnest to hold Christian communion with them, provided they do not require, as conditions of such communion, that we profess doctrines which the Word of God condemns, or that we should do what the Word forbids. If in any case any Church prescribes such unscriptural terms of fellowship, the error and the fault is with that church and not with us.



But although we do not decline your invitation because we are either heretics or schismatics, we are nevertheless debarred from accepting it, because we still hold with ever increasing confidence those principles for which our fathers were excommunicated and pronounced accursed by the Council of Trent, which represented, and still represents, the Church over which you preside.



The most important of those principles are: First, that the Word of God, contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice.
The Council of Trent, however, pronounces Anathema on all who do not receive the teachings of tradition pari pietatis affectu (with equal pious affection) as the Scriptures themselves. This we cannot do without incurring the condemnation which our Lord pronounced on the Pharisees, who made void the Word of God by their traditions (Matt. 15:6).



Secondly, the right of private judgement. When we open the Scriptures, we find that they are addressed to the people. They speak to us. We are commanded to search them (John 5:39), to believe what they teach. We are held personally responsible for our faith. The apostle commands us to pronounce accursed an apostle or an angel from heaven who should teach anything contrary to the divinely authenticated Word of God (Gal. 1:8). He made us the judges, and has placed the rule of judgement into our hands, and holds us responsible for our judgements.



Moreover, we find that the teaching of the Holy Spirit was promised by Christ not to the clergy only, much less to any one order of the clergy exclusively, but to all believers. It is written, 'Ye shall all be taught of God.' The Apostle John says to believers: 'Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things . . . but the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him' (1 John 2:20,27). This teaching of the Spirit authenticates itself, as this same apostle teaches us, when he says, 'He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself (1 John 5:10). 'I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth' (1 John 2:21). Private judgement, therefore, is not only a right, but a duty, from which no man can absolve himself, or be absolved by others.



Thirdly, we believe in the universal priesthood of all believers, that is, that all believers have through Christ access by one Spirit unto the Father (Eph. 2:18); that we may come with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16); 'Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water' (Heb. 10:19-22). To admit, therefore, the priesthood of the clergy, whose intervention is necessary to secure for us the remission of sin and other benefits of the redemption of Christ, is to renounce the priesthood of our Lord, or its sufficiency to secure reconciliation with God.



Fourthly, we deny the perpetuity of apostleship. As no man can be an apostle without the Spirit of prophecy, so no man can be an apostle without the gifts of an apostle. Those gifts, as we learn from Scripture, were plenary knowledge of the truth derived from Christ by immediate revelation (Gal.s 1:12), and personal infallibility as teachers and rulers. What the seals of apostleship were Paul teaches us, when he says to the Corinthians, 'Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds' (2 Cor. 12:12). As for prelates who claim to be apostles, and who demand the same confidence in their teaching, and the same submission to their authority, as that which is due to the inspired messengers of Christ, without pretending to possess either the gifts or signs of the apostleship, we cannot submit to their claims. This would be rendering to erring men the subjection due to God alone or to his divinely authenticated and infallible messengers.



Much less can we recognize the Bishop of Rome as the vicar of Christ on earth, clothed with the authority over the Church and the world which was exercised by our Lord while here in the flesh. It is plain that no one can be the vicar of Christ who has not the attributes of Christ. To recognize the Bishop of Rome as Christ's vicar is therefore virtually to recognize him as divine.



We must stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. We cannot forfeit our salvation by putting man in the place of God, giving one of like passions with ourselves the control of our inward and outward life which is due only to him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead.



Other and equally cogent reasons might be assigned why we cannot with a good conscience be represented in the proposed Council. But as the Council of Trent, whose canons are still in force, pronounces all accursed who hold the principles above enumerated, nothing further is necessary to show that our declining your invitation is a matter of necessity.



Nevertheless, although we cannot return to the fellowship of the Church of Rome, we desire to live in charity with all men. We love all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. We regard as Christian brethren all who worship, love and obey him as their God and Saviour, and we hope to be united in heaven with all who unite with us on earth in saying, 'Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen' (Rev. 1:6).



Signed on behalf of the two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in the US of America



Charles Hodge

55 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Disrespecting Rome, but respecting all others"

Do some folks think that Hodge's RSVP letter to the Pope was disrespectful?

John Bugay said...

I was going to say "Dissing" but I wasn't sure how if everyone would understand what I was saying, and I do know it's short for "disrespecting".

So I don't believe Hodge was "disrespectful" in any way, he still "dissed" the pope. (In a dignified, Presbyterian sort of way.)

Jennie said...

John,
Where does the 'respecting all others' part come in? I'm feeling like that title is not conveying what Hodge was saying, and that 'all others' may not necessarily deserve respect either. Or maybe 'respect' and 'disrespect' are not the most accurate words. I guess I feel like the title will be unhelpfully offensive. I like what the letter says, but not quite sure what you are saying.

John Bugay said...

Hi Jennie -- With the second part of that title, I was thinking of the great respect that Hodge had for Christian history generally, and was also looking at this line:

we desire to live in charity with all men. We love all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. We regard as Christian brethren all who worship, love and obey him as their God and Saviour,

Given the comments from you and earlier TUAD, I can see that my attempt to be poetic in the title didn't quite live up to the hopes that I had for it :-)

Jennie said...

I think I see what you mean, John, but to me it's coming across as 'Roman Catholics are the only ones who don't deserve respect.' I don't think that's what you meant to say. I was going to link it, but knew it would cause offense to my readers.

John Bugay said...

When I say "Rome," I typically mean "official Rome" -- the official Roman church (Pope, cardinals, bishops, etc.), as opposed to day to day Catholics. (Many in my family, as well as co-workers and friends, are "day to day Catholics." But I would not put these folks into the same category as "Rome". I'm sorry if that came off in such a way that people would find it offensive.

You could still link to the "Banner of Truth" article -- it's the very first link in the article -- if you want to get directly to Hodge's article.

Jennie said...

Thanks John,
I figured that was probably your intent. Maybe I'll link directly to the letter, as you suggest.

John Bugay said...

Just trying to be dramatic. Too dramatic, I guess. (You try to be provocative in the titles...)

Ikonophile said...

Having read all that I have about the lack of "freedom" at the Vatican council (which can be read in many places, including Micheal Wheaton's book, Two Paths) I think that Protestants would only have solidified there position against Rome (and I'm assuming have done so since then).

From my understanding, Pope Pius IX used force in many respects in order to get his council to declare him infallible. Anyway, as a Protestant or Orthodox, I would certainly have declined the invitation as well.

John

Ikonophile said...

Sorry for the grammatical errors in the above.

"there" should be "their"

John

John Bugay said...

Schaff's account (from his "Creeds") is very good. Pius IX twisted a lot of arms to get things to go his way.

john said...

JohnB you might want to read a book called "How The Pope Became Infallible: Pius IX and the Politics Of Persuasion" by August Bernhard Hasler. It goes into details on how the dogma of Papal Infallibility was declared, also a case is made that at the time of Vatican I Pius IX was literally (clinically) insane, if this is the case then the dogma of Papal Infallibility is worthless and invalid as according to the laws of most western nations the cecisions of the insane are not binding, valid, or legitimate legally and morally.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hasler's book sounds interesting. Would Hasler be a Catholic by any chance?

--------

In addition to the bolded sections of Hodge's letter, I also liked this part:


We therefore cannot be pronounced heretics without involving in the same condemnation the whole ancient church.



Neither are we schismatics.


Translation: "If Catholics condemn Protestants, then they condemn the whole ancient church." LOL!

Translation: "And Protestants are not schismatics since we are doing what the whole ancient church was doing. Hence, you Catholics are the schismatics." LOL again!

natamllc said...

Being ignorant, I ask, has the Council of Trent been rescinded?

And, if not, talk about cutting one's nose off to spite their face:

" But as the Council of Trent, whose canons are still in force, pronounces all accursed who hold the principles above enumerated, nothing further is necessary to show that our declining your invitation is a matter of necessity."

Very straightforward cause for not attending the First Vatican Council!

john said...

Yes Hasler was an RC Priest and was also a professor who taught in Rome itself, he also was an Archivest at the Vatican Library

Andrew said...

I was unaware that the RCC invited Protestants to be part of Vatican I. You have to wonder what might have become of a strong reformed and/or Confessional Lutheran presence at such a conclave. I suppose in a way it's too bad that it didn't happen. Does anybody know whether the same invitation was extended in regard to Vatican II?

Ikonophile said...

john,

If I remember my history correctly (correct me if I haven't), I believe Pius IX, before his ascension to the papal throne, suffered from some sort of disease that attacked the nervous system (epilepsy, I think). Not much is recorded about this illness after becoming Pope, but beforehand it was well known. He wasn't allowed to serve a liturgy without the presence of another priest or deacon. This certainly could have contributed to his lack of mental stability.

Andrew,

I'm not sure myself, but knowing how much Pius IX was using fear tactics and force to direct the will of the council I doubt the Protestant (or even Orthodox, had they been invited) presence would have made any difference. Many of the Bishops made arguments from tradition, history and the early Church Fathers against the idea of infallibility. Willing to reject even that much, I can't imagine the Protestant presence contributing anything substantial or changing anything at all.

John

louis said...

Protestants were invited to observe, not participate. Some protestant churches did attend.

Ikonophile said...

louis,

Indeed. I did not mean to sound as if they could participate. I was merely referring to their literal presence, not a presence that would include any sort of participation in the proceedings. I apologize for the giving the wrong idea.

John

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Yes Hasler was an RC Priest and was also a professor who taught in Rome itself, he also was an Archivest at the Vatican Library."

Wow.

That piece of news led me to find this article titled Is the Pope Infallible In Matters of Doctrine and Morals?.

Excerpt:

"A thorough discussion of the Vatican I Council can be found in August Bernard Hasler’s How
the Pope Became Infallible. Hasler served for five years in the Vatican Secretariat for Christian
Unity where he was given access to the Vatican Archives. There he uncovered crucial documents
relating to the Council that had never been studied before. As a result of his research,
this learned Catholic scholar concluded:

It is becoming increasingly obvious, in fact, that the dogma of papal infallibility has no basis either in the Bible or the history of the Church during the first millennium. If, however, the First Vatican Council was not
free, then neither was it ecumenical. And in that case its decrees have no claim to validity. So the way is clear to revise this Council and, at the same time, to escape from a situation which both history and theology find more and more indefensible. Is this asking too much of the Church? Can it ever admit that a Council erred, that an 1870 Vatican I made the wrong decision?"

steelikat said...

That's fascinating. #1 is sola scripture, surely that belongs at the top of the list, but I would have had a diifferernt other three reasons. I'm surprised.

John Bugay said...

Hi "John" (Ikonophile). Welcome to Beggars All. I have "Two Paths" but haven't read it for a while. Seems like it would be worthwhile to reproduce some sections from that and Schaff here. I appreciate the reminder.

John Bugay said...

"john" (small-"J") -- thanks for the recommendation on the Hasler book. I haven't looked at the Pius IX story lately, but again, that seems like something to bring up and talk about.

Viisaus said...

This is how George Salmon commented on the proceedings of the Vatican I council:

http://www.archive.org/details/infallibilitych00salmgoog

pp. 323-327

"But, really, investigation into the history of bygone Councils is needless to one who can remember, as I can, the Council of 1870.
...

The unfairness of the proceedings at the Vatican Council was such that the defeated party, in disgust, playing on the old name, ‘Latrocinium Ephesinum,’ called it ‘Ludibrium Vaticanum.’

There was no fair representation of bishops. In the first place, the assembly included some three hundred titular bishops—bishops not presiding over any real sees, but holding mere titles of honour given them by the Pope, or else missionary bishops deriving their titles from places where there were few or no Christian congregations. In addition, the German bishops, who constituted the main strength of the minority, complained that they were swamped by the multitude of Italian and Sicilian bishops. The twelve millions of Roman Catholics in Germany proper were represented at the Council by fourteen bishops; the seven hundred thousand inhabitants of the Papal States by sixty-two; three bishops of the minority—Cologne, Paris, and Cambray—represented five million; and these might be outvoted by any four of the seventy Neapolitan and Sicilian bishops. The German theologians compared their learning with that of the bishops of these highly favoured localities, amongst whom a clean sweep would have been made if it had been a condition of admission to the Council that the bishop should be able to read the New Testament in its original language, or have Greek enough to be able to consult the writings of Greek Fathers or the acts of Greek Councils—a qualification without which, north of the Alps, one does not rank as a theologian.
...

But there were more powerful influences at work than arguments, good or bad. About three hundred of the bishops were the Pope’s pensioners, all their expenses being paid by him, and therefore could not be unbiased judges on a question concerning his prerogatives. The Pope himself had his good-humoured jokes on the numbers who had accepted his hospitality, and declared that, in trying to make him ‘infallible,’ they would make him ‘fallire,’ that is to say, make him bankrupt. There was no danger of that, however; for, in order to enable him to meet such expenses, a well-timed collection was made, nominally with the object of making him a present in celebration of the jubilee of his first Mass. Fifteen Cardinals’ hats were vacant to reward the obedient; and no doubt, as always happens, more were influenced by the hope of Papal favours than actually obtained them. The Pope made no secret how much he had his heart set on obtaining a declaration of his infallibility. This alone would weigh very innocently with many bishops who would shrink from displeasing a venerated superior. Two or three bishops, who unexpectedly spoke on the wrong side, received from the Pope the severest of wiggings. ‘ Lovest thou me?’ was his salutation to another waverer.

Now, what would you think of the merits of the British Parliament as a representative assembly if, in addition to inequalities of representation more gross than any in our unreformed Parliament, the Crown was free to make as many rotten boroughs as it pleased, and to name representatives for them; if it had three hundred members receiving daily pay at its discretion, besides a number of members candidates for promotion; and if the smiles or frowns of the monarch were freely applied to reward or punish?"

Pilgrimsarbour said...

John,

Thanks so much for this article. What do you think Hodge meant by this:

We love all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. We regard as Christian brethren all who worship, love and obey him as their God and Saviour...

I read that as meaning Hodge regarded Roman Catholics as brethren in Christ. Do you read it that way?

Blessings in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

John Bugay said...

Hi Pilgrim: I read that as meaning Hodge regarded Roman Catholics as brethren in Christ. Do you read it that way?

Hodge believed (with the early church) that baptism by heretics, if done according to the Trinitarian formula, was still valid, and so he also believed that Roman Catholics had been validly baptized.

Now, I'm not sure what the ramifications of that are, given that they and we mean different things by baptism.

So I can't say whether he'd call them "brethren in Christ". But it seems that he could say that of some Roman Catholics.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

If that's the case then that seems like a pretty low bar to set in the name of unity compared with what the other Reformed brethren whose blogs I regularly read have stated. I'd love to hear from them regarding all this.

Tim Enloe said...

Pilgrim,

There are more options to interpreting calling Catholics "Christians" than a desire for unity. It's fallacious to assume that anyone who does this wants "unity," let alone unity without truth.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Okay, Tim. Can you go into some detail please? And slowly. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. Besides a desire to think of Roman Catholics as brothers in Christ for the purpose of unity of the Church, what other reason would we call a Roman Catholic "brother?"

Tim Enloe said...

I'd rather not go into it here, Pilgrim. Suffice it to say that I know lots of people who call Catholics "Christian brothers" but NOT for the purpose of seeking reunification with Rome or of compromising the Gospel.

It touches on an issue of great controversy in the Reformed world, and I have found that it is almost never ultimately profitable to get into it publicly with those who disagree. However, if you'd like to know what I mean, you can e-mail me - tgenloe@gmail.com.

John Bugay said...

FWIW, Tim and Pilgrim, I take seriously those verses that say "all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved."

Where I understand the real culpability to be is with those teachers who teach wrong and false doctrines.

The very hairs on their heads are counted. God is not going to miss anything.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I have touched on this topic on my blog in a previous short article in August. Anyone here is welcome to read it and I would appreciate your input.

Tim Enloe said...

John, yes, the real culpability for the "false gospel" is with the official teachers of Rome, not with the average laymen. This is what the Reformers themselves believed - the term "papist" was not a universal denunciation of all people within the orbit of Rome, but a denunciation of the Teaching Hierarchy.

We often say that these converts are deficient in much basic knowledge, and if that's true, it's not just to treat them universally as if they are willfully malicious false brothers. People aren't just brains, and there are many, many reasons why someone might convert that can be chalked up to simple immaturity rather than malicious hatred of the Gospel. It has to be taken on a case-by-case basis, not according to a universal generalization.

Orthodox Reformed theology posits that saving faith is made up of three elements: notitia (intellectual), assensus (agreement that the content of the notitia is true) and fiducia (personal trust in the object of faith, or that the notitia and assensus are true in my personal case). Given this schema, the question of no small controversy these days is what exactly belongs in the intellectual component of saving faith.

Reformed apologists tend to be very brainy people, and they focus on the brain aspects of the faith, but that isn't the totality of the faith. Many speak as if the explicit articulation of sola fide belongs there. Others, like Hodge and Berkhof, are not sure of that, believing that the intellectual content of saving faith is less than a full and explicit Reformation confession, and can't be spelled out with any detail because it's a very individual thing.

Personally, though I believe that being in Rome is spiritually quite dangerous for a person, I'm with Hodge and Berkhof, and I can't pretend that all of them are Judaizers with whom I can't even eat because they are "false brothers."

Viisaus said...

"Personally, though I believe that being in Rome is spiritually quite dangerous for a person, I'm with Hodge and Berkhof, and I can't pretend that all of them are Judaizers with whom I can't even eat because they are "false brothers.""

I believe that belonging to the RCC is a SIN, a sin we should pray for (1 John 5:16), but being an RC is not a "sin unto death" IN ITSELF.

Nevertheless we must make clear to RCs that they are living in sin and only aggravating their condition if they continue in it after being made aware of the sinful nature of their communion. A person who persistently keeps living in sin - and denying that it actually IS a sin, thus not asking for forgiveness of it (1 John 1:10) - is in grave danger of damnation, whether it be a case of carnal adultery or spiritual adultery.

Like the prophetical church of Thyatira (Rev. 3), RCs are allowing the harlot Jezebel - the Vatican - to live and teach in their midst, even if some of them do it with grumbling and un-enthusiastic attitude. They must "come out of Babylon", that is to say, to stop being obedient captives of a false system and return to their spiritual homeland of grace.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Of course, only the Holy Spirit can convict a person of sin. The kind of "living in sin" that you refer to is different, in my view. Only if Roman Catholics are convicted, that is, convinced and know for certain that they are living in sin by remaining in the Roman system, would that apply. While ignorance of the law is not an excuse, willful ignorance and rebellion carries with it a much harsher judgement.

Besides, as I said in my article, we must consider the idea that God might have someone remain in a faulty system, even for a long period of time, that His grace might be used to bless someone else close at hand in a unique and special way. Or it could be for some other reason. It may be a plan of which we're not privy--as I said, we are on a need-to-know basis, and let's face it--there's a lot more we don't know about the brethren than we do know, and that by His design.

On the other hand, I would never suggest that we not continue to share the gospel with all in the most charitable and cogent manner possible, being controlled by the Spirit in all endeavours. And that includes making a clear doctrinal presentation to Roman Catholics and why we think they should abandon that system. As Calvinists, we understand that what these individuals do with the (when it's correct) information we offer is always, forever and ultimately in God's capable hands.

Bless His Mighty Name forever!

Tim Enloe said...

Only if Roman Catholics are convicted, that is, convinced and know for certain that they are living in sin by remaining in the Roman system, would that apply.

Exactly, and what I'd want to ask is who knows this for sure about any given Catholic? Likewise, who knows for sure that any given Protestant isn't really trusting in his correct doctrinal formulations about justification, and not in Christ Himself?

The answer is, NO ONE except God. We may think we're getting "warning signs" from this or that person - if we have enough experience with them, which is very difficult to do if we only know them on the Internet - but all we are entitled to do is to proclaim the truth, not pretend we can see inside their souls and make definitive judgments about their salvific state based solely on words they've written about the doctrines they say they believe.

I've been an ignorant Evangelical before, and so it is not difficult for me to grasp the fact that "sound doctrine" is very hard to get hold of - it is nowhere near as easy as a lot of Reformed people (especially converts to "the doctrines of grace") act like it is, and there are a ton of personal things that have nothing to do with hating Truth that can get in the way of one actually perceiving the Truth. Only God knows what these are for any given person, and the best we can do, if we think we see some of those things in another person, is to graciously try to say things that will help them see what they presently don't. Polemics are sometimes necessary, but they shouldn't be our first, middle, and last recourse.

Having the correct doctrines about justification rattling around in one's head is no automatic guarantee that one really believes in Christ. It is possible for the whole thing to be a giant intellectual game of self-deception. Damning self-righteousness can feed even on the doctrines of grace themselves. It's a lifetime of uphill work to examine one's own heart. Who has the time - or the competence - to examine someone else's?

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Exactly, and what I'd want to ask is who knows this for sure about any given Catholic? Likewise, who knows for sure that any given Protestant isn't really trusting in his correct doctrinal formulations about justification, and not in Christ Himself?

All true. But I don't ask that question of others. Rather, I would ask him to examine himself and see if may be self-deceived. Whether or not a Catholic knows he's doctrinally deceived is a matter ultimately between him and God. Same for a Protestant. We can't know that of another human being one way or another, but it is in our mutual interest to ask the question all the same.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

What I mean is doctrinally self-deceived.

Viisaus said...

"Whether or not a Catholic knows he's doctrinally deceived is a matter ultimately between him and God."

The reason Holy Spirit added the small 2nd epistle of John to the Biblical canon was to remind us of the unpleasant truth that people can be spiritually contaminated by the company they keep, or vouch for:


"If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (2 John 1:11)


As long as RCs remain in communion with (let alone in humble subjection to) the blasphemous fraud-usurper of the Vatican and all the rotten historical legacy that comes along as a "package deal" with the papal authority, they are spiritually in very precarious position.

Ben m said...

Hi Tim,

Exactly, and what I'd want to ask is who knows this for sure about any given Catholic? Likewise, who knows for sure that any given Protestant isn't really trusting in his correct doctrinal formulations about justification, and not in Christ Himself?

My friend, how can a Protestant ever know God’s truth until he stops trusting in the teachings of men rather than those of Christ and his Church? Consider this invention of man:

“He made us the judges, and has placed the rule of judgement into our hands, and holds us responsible for our judgements.”

A more false teaching would be difficult to find! Sure, such a teaching undoubtedly appeals to those with “itching ears”, but it is certainly not not the teaching of Scripture nor of the Church. Nowhere has God ever taught or intended that men should instruct themselves in matters faith and morals, or that the sheep should be their own shepherds! Why such a notion is absurd on it's face! Beyond absurd! Why do you think God himself appointed shepherds?

And what does the holy apostle say?

“What do you have that you did not receive? 1 Cor. 4:7

but all we are entitled to do is to proclaim the truth

Would that "truth" be the same as that which has been received from the ONE Church (as per the Biblical pattern), or merely the private and ever-changing opinions of men?

I've been an ignorant Evangelical before, and so it is not difficult for me to grasp the fact that "sound doctrine" is very hard to get hold of - it is nowhere near as easy as a lot of Reformed people (especially converts to "the doctrines of grace") act like it is ...

Interesting thing to say, Tim, but on the contrary, “sound doctrine” is not in the least “very hard to get hold of” - except perhaps to those who insist on deciding for themselves what they will or will not believe, and who forever refuse to “listen even to the Church.”

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18: 15-17

My dear friends, what heavy burdens you find yourselves carrying, discourtesy of the Reformers! How can you not see that this “works righteous” approach to the Christian faith, such that each individual fitfully works and struggles to arrive at what he conceives to be “sound doctrine,” has been and ever will be a dismal failure?

If you would but learn from the early Church, from the early Christians, those who suffered none of your internal conflicts and concerns about “correct doctrinal formulations” regarding this or that teaching, but who rather simply and HUMBLY received the correct teaching from the apostles and / or those whom the apostle appointed.

“What have you that you have not received?”

God has indeed provided a way to know “the truth” so that none of us ever need suffer the interminable uncertainties of sectarianism. One has only accept it!

Try following this way out of your unfortunate spiritual wilderness:

a. Humble yourselves - become like little children - as Christ commanded. Be willing to be fed with milk (of the word) until you are perhaps one day stronger.

b. Believe the Scriptures, which speak on nearly every page of Christ and his Church - not proud men like Luther and Calvin - men themselves barely ready for milk!

c. “listen to the Church” which the Scriptures speak of so frequently.

God’s Truth can indeed be known, and with a certitude which brings great peace!

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32

God bless.

James Swan said...

listen to the Church” which the Scriptures speak of so frequently.

Ben, you left out all the suff about an infallible magisterium and Papacy. You know... that very entity that anthematized the Gospel back at Trent. Perhaps delete your comment and revise it to reflect truth. Thx.

Ben m said...

Greetings James,

Ben, you left out all the suff about an infallible magisterium and Papacy. You know... that very entity that anthematized the Gospel back at Trent.

James, would you then kindly and infallible define "the Gospel" for us?

But really, who ultimately can say what "the Gospel" is, since, “He made US the judges, and has placed the rule of judgement into OUR HANDS, and holds US responsible for our judgements.”

Peace.

John Bugay said...

would you then kindly and infallible define "the Gospel" for us?

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

John Bugay said...

But really, who ultimately can say what "the Gospel" is

This is the verse to which Hodge was referring:

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!"

You, yourself have the responsibility to decide whether what is preached to them, whether from Paul himself or an angel, is different from what he originally preached to them.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

Signed.

Ben m said...

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

A fair answer, John - really – but only up to a (very limited) point.

For an obvious question remains: just what is meant here by “believe”?

And I'm certain you would agree that, taken at face value, this passage could be interpreted to mean that one doesn’t need the bible, nor the Church, nor reform, nor morality, nor the bishops, nor “sound doctrine,” nor anything really to be saved, other than just belief!

Indeed, one need not have a that favorite “personal relationship with Jesus,” nor so much as even heard or read a single utterance Christ, or be aware that he died on a cross, or that he spent three years carefully instruction his apostles in what they must teach and do etc. No, none of these things could be considered necessary for salvation according to this isolated formula. So I can’t really say that you’ve "defined" the Gospel - fallibly or infallibly - not in the strictest sense anyway.

But I fully grant that this kind of truncated "gospel" is valid for say, death-bed conversions, but beyond that, it is very inadequate.

And not to be a stickler here, but for someone who claims to believe in “Christ alone” (in the Protestant sense), it seems odd that you would completely omitted any mention of what Christ himself might have had to say on this great and weighty matter of eternal salvation! Surely what he has to say ought to be foremost in any discussion of this topic! And would not Christ's words alone be sufficient to answer this great question of salvation?

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!"

You, yourself have the responsibility to decide whether what is preached to them, whether from Paul himself or an angel, is different from what he originally preached to them.


Even if each Christian did have such a responsibility, his understanding would still be subordinate to that of the Church, for again, Christ commanded that men “hear the Church” or “listen to the Church.”

Peace.

Tim Enloe said...

Ben m.

Thanks for your kind remarks. Unfortunately, I am suffering from an incurable case of invincible ignorance when it comes to the claims of your Church. I say that tongue in cheek, for I am not actually ignorant of the claims of Rome or what they mean.

While I do not go beyond Scripture itself and limit salvation to those who have their "sound doctrine about justification i's dotted and t's crossed, I also have no compunction of saying that Rome is simply wrong, and in fact, puts a great many obstacles in the way of the soul finding Christ. Christ can overcome those obstacles, to be sure, but the Church of Rome is culpable for putting those obstacles in people's way.

In light of what Rome teaches about the priesthood and the rituals and the "de fide" doctrinal claims, I like the way a friend of mine puts this: "We have Christ Himself, apprehended directly by faith. We cannot be blamed for preferring Christ to substitutes for Christ."

I do not know you and make no judgments about the state of your soul, but as a matter of sheer Christian charity, I urge you to examine yourself so as to make sure that you are found in Him on the last day, and not merely in the Church.

John Bugay said...

Ben M: A fair answer, John - really – but only up to a (very limited) point. For an obvious question remains: just what is meant here by “believe”?

Let's continue on in Acts 16:

 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

This was not a "deathbed conversion". It was the entire process. You can see this again in Acts 28:26-27, which is one of a number of NT citations (in both the Gospels and Acts) of Isaiah 6:9-10:

 “‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
   you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

For this people’s heart has become calloused;
   they hardly hear with their ears,
   and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
   hear with their ears,
   understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.'


So the process is "turn and be healed".

And we know this from John 3:16 also:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

You asked, And I'm certain you would agree that, taken at face value, this passage could be interpreted to mean that one doesn’t need the bible, nor the Church, nor reform, nor morality, nor the bishops, nor “sound doctrine,” nor anything really to be saved, other than just belief!

Now, don't change the goal posts on me. While the heart of the Gospel, "whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life," is not all there is to it. Go back to Acts 16 above. Paul and Silas "spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."

And of course, I never said, "there is no role for the church". The WCF 14.1 is very clear and helpful in noting that "The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word: by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened."

As well, WCF 25 describes the invisible and the visible church, and notes that "Unto this catholic and visible Church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto."

So your criticisms in your previous post are quite unfounded.

John Bugay said...

I should have said, Now, don't change the goal posts on me. You asked me to define "the Gospel." While the heart of the Gospel is "whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life," [even using the words of Jesus, as you asked!] that is not all there is to it. Go back to Acts 16 above. Paul and Silas "spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."

Ben m said...

Tim:

Thanks for your kind remarks.

Tim, I apologize if I sounded a bit strong here and there; whatever I said was only for emphasis. It's just my way. But charity is always my intention.

While I do not go beyond Scripture itself and limit salvation to those who have their "sound doctrine about justification i's dotted and t's crossed, I also have no compunction of saying that Rome is simply wrong, and in fact, puts a great many obstacles in the way of the soul finding Christ.

I must say that’s some compunction! ;) I mean, I’m all for criticism when it’s valid, but just saying “Rome is simply wrong” is far too sweeping a statement!

Just think, Tim, think of the countless saints, the many martyrs, the great doctors etc, all of whom would disagree with you! Think what the greatest Father and Doctor, St. Augustine, who always only spoke well of the Roman Church, would say to your assertion!

In light of what Rome teaches about the priesthood and the rituals and the "de fide" doctrinal claims, I like the way a friend of mine puts this: "We have Christ Himself, apprehended directly by faith. We cannot be blamed for preferring Christ to substitutes for Christ."

Specifically, how does priesthood, how do rituals equate with “substitutes for Christ”??? It makes no sense.

I do not know you and make no judgments about the state of your soul, but as a matter of sheer Christian charity, I urge you to examine yourself so as to make sure that you are found in Him on the last day, and not merely in the Church.

If one is truly in the Church, loves the Church, and is truly a partaker of the life of the Church, one is most certainly "in Christ"! Christ loves his bride, and the bride loves the Bridegroom. And they are one!

Surely one cannot be “found in Him” who, at least knowingly, rejects His Church and his servants (bishops, priests), whose sacred function it is to dispense, through the word and the sacraments, eternal salvation?

John,

Now, don't change the goal posts on me. You asked me to define "the Gospel." While the heart of the Gospel is "whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life," [even using the words of Jesus, as you asked!] that is not all there is to it. Go back to Acts 16 above. Paul and Silas "spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."

Not changing anything, John. But you still omitted any reference Jesus’ ALL IMPORTANT response to the question of what one must do to inherit eternal life.

Look at Luke ch.18:

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

So if the “heart” of the Gospel is, as you say, "whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life," why then does Jesus’ explicitly say that we must keep the commandments and follow him? Why does he explicitly say it is hard (for some) to enter the kingdom of God?

Are not these words of Christ the real "heart" of the Gospel?

Tim Enloe said...

Ben,

What you said didn't bother me, don't worry. I am in no way attracted to Rome, and I always find it amusing when Roman Catholics deploy superficial, mostly rhetorical, notations about "what the Fathers believed" and ask completely off-base questions like "How can you set your own private little self up against the wisdom of the ages?", and so on.

I've been 'round the block that is described by your once again kindly-stated remarks, and I have neither the time nor the desire to go 'round that block again. Besides, I've spent far more time here this past month or so than I could reasonably spare, and some important projects of mine have suffered because of it. I have to get back to work, so this will be my last post here for some time.

But thank you again for your charitable tone.

James Swan said...

Ben is one of Rome's foremost Google-Luther experts. If you're interested in his comments here, you should save a copy, because he'll probably delete them at some point, as he's done in the past.

Ben m said...

Tim,

I've spent far more time here this past month or so than I could reasonably spare, and some important projects of mine have suffered because of it. I have to get back to work, so this will be my last post here for some time.

I completely understand, Tim. Perhaps we’ll talk another time. Take care and God bless.

James,

Ben is one of Rome's foremost Google-Luther experts.

Now this is big! Someone really ought to clue Rome in about this! ;)

If you're interested in his comments here, you should save a copy, because he'll probably delete them at some point, as he's done in the past.

Well there you have it folks! You see, ya gotta get up pretty early in the morn to get anything past ol' James here, the ever vigilant one! ;) ;)

(But seriously, James, if it’s any consolation, I’ve also deleted a number of posts elsewhere, like over a Dave’s blog. So it’s by no means anything personal toward anyone. Perhaps in retrospect though, I shouldn’t have, but at the time I had my reasons.)

Later friends. God's blessing!

John Bugay said...

Ben M: So if the “heart” of the Gospel is, as you say, "whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life," why then does Jesus’ explicitly say that we must keep the commandments and follow him? Why does he explicitly say it is hard (for some) to enter the kingdom of God?

Are not these words of Christ the real "heart" of the Gospel?


Based on James's description of you as a "Google Luther Scholar," I've been hesitant to try to address you here, but on the odd chance that you are inquiring in an honest way about this, why just bring up Luke 18? Why not the whole Sermon on the Mount as a more systematic explication of "the Gospel"?

But let me ask you this. Have you kept "all these" commandments all of your life?

And if so, have you then sold everything and given the money to the poor? If so, then you are correct, you have treasure in heaven. There's nothing else for you to do then.

Or can you imagine that Jesus is not speaking "the Gospel" to this young man, out of some other concern that he has for him?