Monday, November 15, 2010

“Good Morning Starshine, the Pope says hello”; or, the continuing saga of the Development of Roman Doctrine




C.S. Lewis said that he could never become a Roman Catholic, not because of what they believe today, but because the “viva vox” setup means that you can never quite know what you’ll get to “receive with docility” in the future.

You might have guessed from my rather lighthearted title, that this is going to be a kind of silly post. But before we get into the thicket of Ratzinger’s writings, I'd like to establish the mood for you.

Good morning starshine
The earth says hello
You twinkle above us
We twinkle below


David Waltz has noted that my comment that Pope Benedict XVI is functionally a pantheist is somehow “silliness”. Maybe David is right. Maybe I was just being too kind, and that was silly. Some further reading gives me the sense that Ratzinger is pretty much a full-blown pantheist.

Good morning starshine
You lead us along
My love and me as we sing
Our early morning singing song


One of the first places to look regarding Ratzinger’s beliefs [that is, his own personal beliefs, which may vary from “official” Church teaching, and yet which he seems to hold in some other non-official compartment of his brain] is in his first book, “Introduction to Christianity”. By the time he wrote this in 1969, at about age 42, he was already a world-leading theologian [and I would say that by age 42, your life and worldview are pretty well firmly established]; having been the “chief theological advisor [at Vatican II] for the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings”. This work itself is advertised as Ratzinger’s “remarkable elucidation of the Apostle’s Creed” and “an excellent, modern interpretation of the foundations of Christianity” (from the back cover).

In the section “Christology and the Doctrine of Redemption,” Ratzinger outlines Anselm’s “Cur Deus Homo” but then says that “the perfectly logical divine-cum-human legal system erected by Anselm distorts the perspectives and with its rigid logic can make the image of God appear in a sinister light….For the time being it will suffice to say that things immediately look different when, in place of the division of Jesus into work and person, it becomes clear that with Jesus Christ it is not a question of a piece of work separate from himself, of a feat which God must demand because he himself is under an obligation to the concept of order; that with him it is not a question … of having humanity, but of being human. And how different things look further on when one picks up the Pauline key, which teaches us to understand Christ as the “last man” – the final man, who takes man into his future, which consists of his being not just man but one with God.”

Well, that’s one way of looking at Anselm’s theology. And one might have some hope that if this pope is quoting and explicating Paul’s theology, there may be some good hope indeed.

Gliddy gloop gloopy
Nibby nobby nooby
La la la lo lo
Sabba sibby sabba
Nooby abba dabba
Le le lo lo
dooby ooby walla
dooby abba dabba
Early morning singing song


But rather than turning to Paul, Ratzinger turns to the writings of (at the time, under official condemnation) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin [pronounced “shar-dan”].
We have now reached the point at which we can try to summarize what we mean when we confess, “I believe in Jesus Christ, only begotten son our Lord”. After all that has gone before we shall dare to say first: Christian faith believes in Jesus as the exemplary man (this is probably the best way to translate accurately the above-mentioned Pauline concept of the “Last Adam”).(175)

...If Jesus is the exemplary man, in whom the true figure of man, God’s intention for him, comes fully to light, then he cannot be destined to be merely an absolute exception, a curiosity, in which God demonstrates to us just what is possible. His existence concerns all mankind. The New Testament makes this perceptible by calling him an “Adam”; in the Bible this word expresses the unity of the whole creature “man”, so that one can speak of the biblical idea of a “corporate personality” [emphasis added]. So if Jesus is called “Adam” this implies that he is intended to gather the whole creature “Adam” in himself. But this means that the reality which Paul calls, in a way that is largely incomprehensible to us today, the “body of Christ” is an intrinsic postulate of this existence, which cannot remain an exception but must “draw to itself” the whole of mankind (cf John 12:32).(176)

It must be regarded as an important service of Teilhard de Chardin’s that he re-thought these ideas from the angle of the modern view of the world and, in spite of a not entirely unobjectionable tendency towards the biological approach, nevertheless on the whole grasped them correctly and in any case made them accessible once again. Let us listen to his own words: the human monad [monad being Ratzinger’s word; Teilhard de Chardin’s words are in “quotes”] “can only be absolutely itself by ceasing to be alone”. In the background is the idea that in the cosmos, alongside the two orders or classes of the infinitely small and the infinitely big, there is a third order, which determines the real drift of evolution, namely the order of the infinitely complex. It is the real goal of the ascending powers of growth or becoming; it reaches a first peak in the genesis of living things and then continues to advance to those highly complex creations which give the cosmos a new centre: [emphasis added] “Imperceptible and accidental as the position which they hold may be in the history of the heavenly bodies, in the last analysis the planets are nothing less than the vital points of the universe. It is through them that the axis now runs, on them henceforth concentrated the main effort of an evolution aiming principally at the production of large molecules.”

The examination of the world by the dynamic criterion of complexity thus signifies “a complete inversion of values. A reversal of the perspective.”

But let us return to man. He is so far the maximum in complexity. But even he as a mere man-monad cannot represent an end; his growth itself demands a further advance in complexity: “At the same time as he represents an individual centred on himself (that is, a ‘person’), does not Man also represent an element in relation to some new and higher synthesis?” That is to say, man is indeed on the one hand already an end that can no longer be reversed, no longer be melted down again; yet in the juxtaposition of individual men he is not yet at the goal but shows himself to be an element, as it were, that longs for a whole which will embrace it without destroying it. Let us look at a further text, in order to see in what direction such ideas lead: “Contrary to the appearances still accepted by Physics, the Great Stability is not below – in the infra-elemental – but above – in the ultra-synthetic.”

So it must be discovered that “If things hold and hold together, it is only by virtue of ‘complexification’, from the top”. I think we are confronted here with a crucial statement; at this point the dynamic view of the world destroys the positivistic conception, so near to all of us, that stability is located only in the “mass”, in hard material. That the world is in the last resort put together and held together “from above” here becomes evident in a way that is particularly striking because we are so little accustomed to it.

This leads to a further passage in Teilhard de Chardin which it is worth quoting in order to give at least some indication here, by means of a few fragmentary excerpts, of his general outlook. (177-178)
Now, I apologize that I am being a bit long-winded with this citation. But we are all about context here. In this selection on “Christology and Soteriology,” Ratzinger is not only giving a big introduction to Teilhard de Chardin, but he is explicating him and is in some way attributing this explication to Paul. Ratzinger does not want you to miss this point he is about to make.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to pause here because this post is already long enough. We should keep in mind two things. Even though Ratzinger wrote this in 1969, he took pains to reiterate the principle at later times, one notably in his 1991 work "Called to Communion": "Throug baptism, answers Paul, we are inserted into Christ and united with him as a single subject; no longer many alongside one another, but "only one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:16; 26-29). Only Christ's self-identification with us, onlyour fusion into unity with him, makes us bearers of the promise." (33)

In my next installment, I’ll get into the really “pantheistic” stuff.

39 comments:

steelikat said...

We wait with bated breath.

I'll have to admit I could make neither head nor tail of that quote, though. Was that English?

louis said...

Seriously, is that what passes for theology in Rome? Please tell me they have something better than this.

Seems like there is no covenantal perspective, so he fills it up with this metaphysical stuff.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat -- just to sort of let you breathe a little bit, Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit and a scientist who posited such things as that rocks have life in them and that mankind is destined to reach an "omega point" that is sort of a great pantheistic event.

Ratzinger, in this 1969 work, is not only citing Chardin, but expanding upon his work (yes, I believe it's English). And not only is he expanding upon it, but he's tying it back to Paul and John's images of "unity" and "the body of Christ".

Louis, it's one thing for a theologian to be saying this -- in Rome, theologians can posit all sorts of things. But for a pope, well...

As it turns out, Ratzinger has just recently cited Teilhard de Chardin, not in a doctrinal sense, but almost in the form of a prayer. That's where I'm going with this in the next installment.

lesli said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Bugay said...

Hi Lesli, it seems to me that your comment is more of an advertisement than a genuine comment on my post, and so I deleted it. If you're genuinely interested in commenting here, you are welcome to do so, but this isn't the place for advertising.

Jennie said...

I couldn't follow the Pope's quote either. I don't like it when people write in such an impersonal and clinical way about Christ and man as if it's all some sort of science experiment, or just an interesting philosophical idea. That's my impression of Ratzinger's writing from what I've seen.

John Bugay said...

Hi Jennie -- That's kind of why I put in the "glippy gloppy goo goo" stuff.

But here, in outline form, are some of the points he seems to make throughout the part that I've quoted so far:

Jesus, as the "Last Adam", is "the exemplary man"

Therefore he is not an exception; his existence concerns (affects) all mankind

"Adam" refers to the idea of a "corporate personality"

This is what Paul means when he says "the body of Christ"

Teilhard de Chardin brought a modern spin to this idea

[Part of his "evolutionary" approach was objectionable]

Neverhtless, he had a correct approach

Chardin: "humans are only fully themselves in society"

Chardin: "Physics studies the infinitely small and the infinitely big; it should also study the increasingly complex"

Chardin: "humans are complex and evolving"

Chardin: "humans are going to evolve further"

Unlike the Greeks, who thought that stability [reality] was only to be found in the elemental particles, [Chardin believed] that the "true reality" is going to be found in ultra-comples evolution that man is going through.

* * *

That's sort of my take on what we've seen so far. It's almost like Ratzinger is arguing toward this evolving synthesis which, as I've mentioned in another comment, is going to be "fused into" the one being of Christ.

Louis is right, though. This is the kind of thing that passes for "theology" in some Roman circles.

Jennie said...

Ok, thanks John, but knowing what it meant only makes it worse. It sounds like one of those science fiction movies or books where some cold-hearted alien is describing human behavior and development from the outside looking in, without any understanding or empathy, not that the Pope is a cold-hearted alien, but that is how it strikes me. Especially adding in the evolution aspect. Ugh.

John Bugay said...

Jennie: knowing what it meant only makes it worse.

Maybe I'll publish that summary at the front of the next installment.

You realize, my intention is not to make this pope, or any pope, look good in any way ;-)

John Bugay said...

Of course, he is the one who is really making himself look bad. Or, who made himself look bad so long ago.

Andrew said...

John,
Perhaps God in His mercy is going to allow the RCC to become so ridiculously heterodox that only the most obstinately blind can stay within her ranks? One might argue that she has reached that point already, but maybe not enough for the mere christianity crowd. What do you think about that?

John Bugay said...

Hi Andrew. Rome has a very pretty story, well-thought-out, and attractive in some ways. Unfortunately, I believe it is attractive in the same way an adulteress is attractive, and so it will appeal to those who feel they must do something for God. I think there will always be a market for that.

Andrew said...

John, I guess I had in mind those who are officially part of the RCC, but regenerate in spite of that fact. You had answered a question of mine on that topic recently. I suppose I should have been clearer. I meant to say that perhaps there are some elect within the ranks of the RCC and God is going to just let it keep getting more and more bizarre, and heretical as a means of calling His elect out of that church. Or driving His elect out as the case may be. I know this weirdness with B16 isn't "official teaching", but perhaps my suggestion is correct and this is just a piece of the puzzle? I think that is what Rhology had in mind when he said this:
"I'd like to see the title (co-redemptrix) adopted by the RCC. And then I'd like to see Mary taken as the 4th member of a Quadernity by the RCC."
That conversation took place here:

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2008/02/sippo-vs-madrid.html

Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to hyper-link.

John Bugay said...

Andrew: perhaps there are some elect within the ranks of the RCC and God is going to just let it keep getting more and more bizarre, and heretical as a means of calling His elect out of that church.

I think you're right -- God may well be letting them drift further and further off any Scriptural moorings they may have had. I'm a firm believer that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit can and will make folks feel more and more uncomfortable remaining RC. That certainly was the way it happened for me. I was comfortable there, then I wasn't. (For me it was the ECT statement that made me uncomfortable and prompted me to look more deeply into these issues.)

Ben m said...

"I'd like to see the title (co-redemptrix) adopted by the RCC. And then I'd like to see Mary taken as the 4th member of a Quadernity by the RCC."

You know, ya'll are just plain silly around here sometimes! ;)

Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to hyper-link.

It's easy Andrew; just use this as a template, which should produce this: Sippo vs. Madrid

Try it with different links and titles.

And if you're using Firefox, you can also just right click most anywhere in the page you're viewing and select "view page source". That will bring up a window showing the page's html, allowing you to see how all the links are marked-up.

Peace.

steelikat said...

"those who are officially a part of the RCC, but regenerate in spite of that fact.."

I'm sorry but that's just nonsense. I think you lack perspective. The ordinary believer who is a member of his local Church and receives the sacraments and God's word there are not regenerate "in spite" of that fact. Those are the very means God uses to save them.

I know Catholics and for a reason I won't get into here I attend Mass at the local RC parish most Saturday afternoons. I can attest to the fact that the sacraments are rightly administered and the word rightly proclaimed there, and that the people who are members there are Christians.

In fact, if we restrict the question to that one particular parish and its pastor, I don't even have to add "though the gospel is somewhat and sometimes obscured by false antievangelical doctrines." I imagine he's an exception but the priest there preaches the gospel better than my own pastor and I've never heard him talk about that chardin nonsense, I've never heard him talk about the assumption (I guess he probably does that on the feast of the assumption but I've never heard it), or the I.C. or what have you and he doesn't talk about purgatory except to exhort his congregation to stop hoping that God will save them "only after spending a long stint in purgatory" but rather to trust in god to save them to heaven through Christ who has already accomplished their salvation.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat: The ordinary believer who is a member of his local Church and receives the sacraments and God's word there are not regenerate "in spite" of that fact. Those are the very means God uses to save them.

I believe that you have claimed that you are a Lutheran. I'm not sure how you can suggest this, given the confessional articles of your faith:

http://www.bookofconcord.org/smalcald.php#part2.1.1

Part II, Article I: The first and chief article.

1] That Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins, and was raised again for our justification, Rom. 4:25.

2] And He alone is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world, John 1:29; and God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all, Is. 53:6.

3] Likewise: All have sinned and are justified without merit [freely, and without their own works or merits] by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood, Rom. 3:23f

4] Now, since it is necessary to believe this, and it cannot be otherwise acquired or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us as St. Paul says, Rom. 3:28: For we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law. Likewise 3:26: That He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Christ.

5] Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, Is. 53:5. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us.


http://www.bookofconcord.org/smalcald.php#part2.2.1

Part II, Article II: Of the Mass.

1] That the Mass in the Papacy must be the greatest and most horrible abomination, as it directly and powerfully conflicts with this chief article, and yet above and before all other popish idolatries it has been the chief and most specious. For it has been held that this sacrifice or work of the Mass, even though it be rendered by a wicked [and abandoned] scoundrel, frees men from sins, both in this life and also in purgatory, while only the Lamb of God shall and must do this, as has been said above. Of this article nothing is to be surrendered or conceded, because the first article does not allow it.

2] If, perchance, there were reasonable Papists we might speak moderately and in a friendly way, thus: first, why they so rigidly uphold the Mass. For it is but a pure invention of men, and has not been commanded by God; and every invention of man we may [safely] discard, as Christ declares, Matt. 15:9: In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

3] Secondly. It is an unnecessary thing, which can be omitted without sin and danger.

4] Thirdly. The Sacrament can be received in a better and more blessed way [more acceptable to God], (yea, the only blessed way), according to the institution of Christ. Why, then, do they drive the world to woe and [extreme] misery on account of a fictitious, unnecessary matter, which can be well obtained in another and more blessed way?


That's just for starters

John Bugay said...

I know Catholics and for a reason I won't get into here I attend Mass at the local RC parish most Saturday afternoons.

Dating a Catholic girl?

I can attest to the fact that the sacraments are rightly administered and the word rightly proclaimed there, and that the people who are members there are Christians.

If, per my comment above, your Lutheran confession is correct, and they celebrate "the Mass" in that church, how then can you say that "the sacraments are rightly administered"?

And if the priest is proclaiming the Roman system of justification, how can you suggest that "the word [is] rightly proclaimed"?

In fact, if we restrict the question to that one particular parish and its pastor, I don't even have to add "though the gospel is somewhat and sometimes obscured by false antievangelical doctrines."

This is what we mean by "officially a part of the RCC, but regenerate in spite of that fact."

Either this priest is preaching official Roman doctrine, or he is preaching the most un-Roman doctrine that "faith alone justifies us," or there is some equivocal "synthesis" of this.

John Bugay said...

I've never heard him talk about the assumption ... or the I.C....and he doesn't talk about purgatory except to exhort his congregation to stop hoping that God will save them "only after spending a long stint in purgatory" but rather to trust in god to save them to heaven through Christ who has already accomplished their salvation.

See, this priest is very much preaching in spite of official Roman doctrine. Good for him, I say, but if he is doing this, don't you think he's being rather hypocritical to take a paycheck from his "official" diocese and then teaching something different from what he's actually supposed to teach?

Or maybe you just aren't understanding him correctly?

Jennie said...

Steelikat,
I'm glad you shared that last comment about the RC church and pastor. It's good for us to remember that God has people everywhere, even in places we may not expect. I can't say 'even in the Catholic Church' because I know I could just as easily say 'even in the Baptist church' which is my denomination. I've been in some way-off Baptist churches unfortunately. I've been studying the whole 'what is the real church' issue off and on since my brother reverted to the RCC a few years ago, wondering how someone could do that knowing the history of persecution, and some of the beliefs, etc. In one way, its not so cut-and-dried as I thought: Catholics can be Christians, thanks to God's mercy, just like all of us, Surprise! But in another way, it is cut-and-dried that the RCC has been and is still in grave error, and many people are not getting the gospel there. But we forget, or don't see, that the Bible calls Babylon the Great 'the Mother of Harlots', so we might want to think about who her daughters are, that followed in her footsteps in many ways.

Jennie said...

John B.,
your answer to Steelikat brings out a question I've been wondering about for a while. If someone is a Catholic, and a believer, are they sinning by attending Mass if the host is basically being worshiped as God, or does God judge it by the heart of the person, who may not be worshiping the host but truly trusting in God? And based on what Steelikat said, maybe some RC pastors don't encourage that false worship.

Jennie said...

And I'm not really expecting a definitive answer on that last question, since it's really a question for God Himself, but I guess it's something we should think about and pray about for our loved ones.

John Bugay said...

Hi Jennie: If someone is a Catholic, and a believer, are they sinning by attending Mass if the host is basically being worshiped as God, or does God judge it by the heart of the person, who may not be worshiping the host but truly trusting in God?

In my own case, I came to see that the worship of the host was a gravely mistaken thing to do. I can't speak for others, and I don't want to speculate as to why God permitted the RC system to rise up as it did in the first place. But it's clear that it doesn't mesh with Scripture.

And based on what Steelikat said, maybe some RC pastors don't encourage that false worship.

Again, there was a time when I thought that I could truly worship God in the RCC, and sort of "wink and nod" about the things I didn't accept. But Rome takes its own doctrines seriously, and I came to see that, if I couldn't accept everything (it is a "whole cloth"), then rejecting some of the articles of their faith meant rejecting the whole system.

I came to the conclusion that it was better, then, just to be honest and reject the whole system, the whole authority structure, because that is the way they have it set up.

In the years since that time, I have come to see that virtually every doctrine in the RCC is tainted or mutant in some way.

This begins with the very doctrine of God, which, based on Aquinas's understanding God simply as "Being itself," which falls short of God's true biblical description of himself in many ways. He does so because, as John Frame ("The Doctrine of God") Aquinas views "the scholastic heading of natural reason" as prior to faith."

There's a lot more to be said about this, and I'm not sure I have all the answers. But Calvin said in Institutes 4.1.1 that "in the papacy, satan has polluted every good thing that God has appointed for our salvation," and that genuinely seems to be the case to me.

Viisaus said...

"See, this priest is very much preaching in spite of official Roman doctrine."

Reminds me of this post (that I had partly inspired with my combox comments):

The only good Catholic is a bad Catholic


"Good for him, I say, but if he is doing this, don't you think he's being rather hypocritical to take a paycheck from his "official" diocese and then teaching something different from what he's actually supposed to teach?"

And this reminds me of C.H. Spurgeon's hard but compassionate words about faithful Church of England priests, written back in times when infidel higher criticism and Romanizing Oxford movement were simultaneously beginning to infiltrate Anglicanism:

http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/cvc.htm

"When a genuine Christian happens to find himself settled down as a clergyman of the church of England in addition to the troublesome memories of the inconvenient declarations by which he reached his position, he must frequently be the victim of mental nausea at the sight of the motley squadron in which he is enrolled.

There is good Mr. Ryle, an indefatigable Tractarian, who hates Romish Tractarianism, and preaches the gospel thoroughly and there are many, like him the excellent of the earth, distinguished for piety, who would be an honor to any denomination of Christians: a believer in Jesus feels much comfort in such company; but who are those spirits in red, white, and blue? Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, in their dress at any rate. Their voice is Babylonian even as their apparel; they hail from Rome, and are affectionately attached to the Mother of Harlots. Can the lover of truth go with these? Can the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ's pure gospel sit in the same congress with these priests? Bow at the same altar? Unite in church fellowship with them? Surely the more gracious a man is the more irksome must such fellowship become. That searching question, "What concord hath Christ with Belial?" if it ever intrudes itself into rectories, must torture any evangelical clergyman who keeps a tender conscience.

Moreover, on the other side of the quadrangle of the Establishment one sees a Philistine regiment of skeptics, with a bishop to head them, and all sorts of dignitaries to make up the battalion. Can the spiritual mind find peace in an affinity with these? Can it be to the evangelical clergyman, who is truly converted, a fact to sleep quietly upon, that he is in full communion with these unbelievers? The apostolical inquiry, "What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" must surely at times ring through the manse, and startle the quiet of the vicarage library."

John Bugay said...

Hi Viisaus, I agree with you in large part, especially this: That searching question, "What concord hath Christ with Belial?" if it ever intrudes itself into rectories, must torture any evangelical clergyman who keeps a tender conscience.

But still, I think, regarding this statement, Can it be to the evangelical clergyman, who is truly converted, a fact to sleep quietly upon, that he is in full communion with these unbelievers? , that it may be possible for individuals such as this to view themselves as not "in full communion" with unbelievers, but rather, missionaries to them.

Either way, it's got to be a hard road.

steelikat said...

John, I meant what I said. Your link to "the Roman system of Justification" is nothing but a parody.

As for the article on "the Mass"

1. It contains polemics. Justifiably, as those who published were outraged at the directions the theology of the Mass had taken. But the important question, if we are going to use it to answer a concrete question, is what does it positively assert, what is its doctrinal content?

I couldn't disagree with what it asserts, and again I cannot be faulted for asserting that the church is found where the sacraments are rightfully administered, as they are at RC parishes.

2. The new RC Mass doesn't contain the defects that the 16 th century reformers (at least the Lutheran party) found fatal. Perhaps the theology of the Mass still does but that's another question.

"Or maybe you just aren't understanding him correctly?"

There's no doubt he's making himself understood. He's a very good preacher.

steelikat said...

Jennie,

I'm a believer and no RC, and I have no doubt that the adorable Christ is in the sacrament.

I'm not saying that I agree with processions and that sort of thing, but within the context of the Lord's Supper we should recognize that Christ is truly present and truly worthy of adoration.

If I thought that was "sinning" I would be excluded from attending all celebrations of the Lord's Supper, not just the RC mass.

John Bugay said...

Your link to "the Roman system of Justification" is nothing but a parody.

It is a parody, but it also accurately illustrates the process. And it's a process that is not funny.

As for the article on "the Mass" ... 1. It contains polemics.

You say this as if it were a bad thing. In truth, (this is from the Smaldcald articles), written at the height of the Reformation.

Justifiably, as those who published were outraged at the directions the theology of the Mass had taken.

We are not simply talking about "a direction". These are defined dogmas. Luther fairly soundly rejected the notion of "transubstantiation" and the Aristotelian categories of "substance" and "accidents"; as well, the whole idea that it is a "re-presentation" of Calvary.

Aside from what you think it "positively asserts," it is mixed with a number of errors that your Lutheran predecessors rightly rejected.

For you to say that it is a "sacrament rightly administered" just is to give sanction to a whole bunch of stuff that all Protestants rightly rejected.

The new RC Mass doesn't contain the defects that the 16 the century reformers (at least the Lutheran party) found fatal. Perhaps the theology of the Mass still does but that's another question.

Externally, the "new RC Mass" is still, doctrinally, exactly the same as it was in 1215. They only thing they did was (a) change to the vernacular and (b) admit communion in both kinds. For Roman Catholics, "theology" is not at issue here. The "re-presentation" and "unbloody sacrifice" elements of the Mass are "dogmas of the faith." They have not been changed since the early Lutherans rejected those things.

There's no doubt he's making himself understood. He's a very good preacher.

Then you should be able to discern whether he is preaching the Protestant doctrine of "justification by faith alone, in which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer, who from thence forward is legally righteous before God", or else he is adding something to that. Rome, of course, still anathematizes and excludes what I just said here. You are aware of that, correct?

steelikat said...

John,

"You say this as if it were a bad thing."

I didn't mean to say it as if it were a bad thing. That's why I used the word "justifiably."

"Luther fairly soundly rejected the notion of 'transubstantiation' and the Aristotelian categories of 'substance' and 'accidents'"

That's not flaw that made the RC mass fatally objectionable to the Lutheran reformers.

"as well, the whole idea that it is a "re-presentation" of Calvary."

That's closer to the matter. The new Mass is different than the pre-Vatican II mass, that makes things less problematic. Again, remember that we are not talking about whether RC doctrine has serious fundamental and even profoundly anti-evangelical flaws, we are talking about whether local churches are truly local churches, and whether Roman Catholics are really Christians. In reasoning carefully we must make careful distinctions and remember what the question we are answering is.

"Externally, the "new RC Mass" is still, doctrinally, exactly the same as it was in 1215. They only thing they did was (a) change to the vernacular and (b) admit communion in both kinds."

You are definitely wrong about that. You obviously have not studied the question carefully. You submitted an authoritative pronouncement to me in an authoritative way. Doing so morally obliges you to know what you are talking about and be able to defend your allegation about me. Remember what the question is and speak to that specifically. You can talk about what the current R.C. teaching is about the mass and what not and whether those doctrines have changed or have been understood correctly but that does not answer the question and you are rhetorically obliged now to use the very words of the new reformed R.C. mass to prove your assertion that it per se is still fatally flawed in a way that makes it something other than a valid celebration of the Christian Lord's Supper.

"Rome, of course, still anathematizes and excludes what I just said here."

What specifically are you talking about that you just said, and where specifially are those anathemas? If you are talking about Trent I have made a careful study of it and I know very well what it strictly, logically, and grammatically asserts and what it does not strictly assert. Wishy washy vague "well you know what it is implying and what theologies it is referring to" are not the point. Insofar as they purport to be anathemas the only relevant sense is the strict logical literal grammatical sense. Something like that is true of the Smalcald articles as well, though we would have to frame the question in somewhat different terms than "anathema."

John Bugay said...

You are definitely wrong about that. You obviously have not studied the question carefully. You submitted an authoritative pronouncement to me in an authoritative way. Doing so morally obliges you to know what you are talking about and be able to defend your allegation about me. Remember what the question is and speak to that specifically. You can talk about what the current R.C. teaching is about the mass and what not and whether those doctrines have changed or have been understood correctly but that does not answer the question and you are rhetorically obliged now to use the very words of the new reformed R.C. mass to prove your assertion that it per se is still fatally flawed in a way that makes it something other than a valid celebration of the Christian Lord's Supper.

I've not "submitted an authoritative pronouncement". I've stated what I thought to be a pretty self-evident fact (that Rome has not changed its doctrine of the Eucharist, except for cosmetic changes).

I'm sure you'll have to tell me what it is that's changed to have changed "the Mass" from the abomination it was during the Reformation, to make it now a "rightly-administered sacrament."

Because I have no idea what you're talking about.

John Bugay said...

And as for "justification by faith alone" being "not strictly anathematized," you'll have to say, too, why you think this is the case.

And even if you were, somehow, to show that Trent didn't really anathematize the Gospel of the Reformers, the positive version of "justification" put forward in the text is really pretty far away from the Scriptural account of justification.

steelikat said...

John,

I'm sorry, I misunderstood your intent.

"that Rome has not changed its doctrine of the Eucharist, except for cosmetic changes"

Since Rome has backed itself into a dogmatic corner and cannot admit to changing any doctrine that's true, yet it's not so simple as that. I was talking about the questions: "when ordinary R.C. laymen think they are receiving the sacraments at their local parish, are they really receiving the sacraments?" and "is the Word of God proclaimed to ordinary R.C. laymen when they go to Catholic mass?"

I say the answer is "yes," which is why we can say the catholic church is really present within Roman Catholic churches, even though RCism adds extra-scriptural doctrines and dogmatizes things that shouldn't be dogmatized. The RC church is essentially different than non-Christian churches like Mormonism or the Jehovah's Witnesses or Islam.

"I'm sure you'll have to tell me what it is that's changed to have changed "the Mass" from the abomination it was during the Reformation, to make it now a 'rightly-administered sacrament.'"

The language in the Mass that definitely asserted that the Mass is a sacrifice in the sense of repeating or substituting for Christ's one sufficient sacrifice was eliminated, as was the sacerdotal language and ritual. Language was added, furthermore, explicitly affirming the priesthood of all believers.

"And even if you were, somehow, to show that Trent didn't really anathematize the Gospel of the Reformers..."

It would take a long essay or a short book to do it justice. I cannot do that in a combox but if you will carefully and patiently re-read the Joint declaration on justification, paying close attention to what it is trying to do you might see in part what I'm getting at, although the joint declaration does not per se logically analyze the anathemas of Trent. To put it briefly, I could find nothing erroneous in the paragraphs of the joint declaration that begin "we believe together..." or "we agree that..." I could agree wholeheartedly with the paragraphs that begin "Lutherans believe," and I did not agree with the paragraphs that begin "Catholics believe." If it is true that faithful Roman Catholics and especially Catholic theologians have the complementary reaction, and if it is true that faithful Catholic theologians agree with the document that there is nothing in the Lutheran distinctives listed that would subject Lutherans to Trent's anathemas, that is practically sufficient to demonstrate my case.

"...the positive version of 'justification' put forward in the text is really pretty far away from the Scriptural account of justification."

That is certainly true. One of the main purposes of Trent was to assert the Roman version of Justification over the Protestant version. I wouldn't praise Trent, that would be crazy. I would say that it was written in a way that allowed for many understandings of Justification--probably because they wanted to avoid alienating Roman Catholics along with the Protestants, but whatever the reason--it's much more open than people generally know.

Whether I'm right or wrong about all that, however, does not specifically address the point you challenged me on: Ordinary Roman Catholic laymen hear the Word and receive the sacraments at RC. churches and the Gospel is read and preached to them--often not as well as we should like but if they can receive the gospel at all they are in Christian churches rather than non-Christian cults.

steelikat said...

I do want to say that these are excellent and revealing articles. It says a lot about what direction the "development" is going that the Pope himself takes Teilhardism seriously.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat -- Take a look at this Michael Horton video:

http://www.whitehorseinn.org/justified.html

In the space of about 5 minutes, he gives a very good overview of all the different challenges that the Reformation doctrine of Sola Fide is facing.

He discusses the 1999 "Joint Declaration" that you bring up, as well as others.

I want to answer your points about the sacraments here; it's just such a broad-ranging topic, and I'm busy enough right now that I need to focus on some other things.

But it's on my radar screen, and I do think it's worth talking about.

steelikat said...

As far as I can tell, the Joint Declaration does faithfully present the Refoemation doctrine of justification. It also presents a doctrine of justification different than the Refoemed doctrine (whether it does so faithfully is a question for RCs to answer).

In the paragraphs that begin "Catholics believe..." it presents a view of justification different than the Reformation doctrine. That's the whole point, nobody expects Protestants to agree with those paragraphs, just as nobody expects Roman Catholics to agree with the the paragraphs that begin "Lutherans believe..."

steelikat said...

John,

I watched the video. Michael Horton appears not to have read the Joint declaration, or perhaps to have just skimmed it without comprehension.

It is not intended to be nor does it end up being a "challenge" to Justification. It presents TWO views, the Reformation doctrine, and the (erroneous) Roman doctrine. It also presents the various things the two views have in common. It does not assert that both views are true, in fact they logically cannot both be true in the ways in which they differ since at times they contradict each other.

It is basically a "compare and contrast" essay, though one that aims to be comprehensive. If you take things out of the paragraphs that describe Roman doctrine, you will find them objectionable. You are supposed to. that's the point. Those paragraphs are intended to describe the Roman distinctives, the aspects of Roman doctrine that we object to and take issue with.

steelikat said...

There's more to the document, though. At the end of the process of working out how we differ and what we agree on in regards to Justification, the two groups asked the question, "Are our differences on justification something 'church dividing,' was the Roman party warranted in arrogantly kicking the Lutherans out of official communion?" The RC members of the commission concluded that it was wrong to do that, and the Lutheran members concluded the same thing, that it was wrong for Rome to do that. Which is exactly what Lutherans have been saying for the last half of a millennium.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat, I'm not sure if you've seen these comments from leading theologians in both the (conservative) Lutheran and Reformed traditions:

Paul McCain, a LCMS pastor who blogs a lot, commented on that document 10 years after the fact, in an article entitled "Betrayal".

Here's what McCain said:

Ten years after it appeared, we still continue to hear that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was a “breakthrough” between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. The media loves to perpetuate this myth. In fact, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a fraud. It was a sell-out by revisionist Lutherans to Rome.

What follows is a fairly thorough analysis (and several comments from "Truth Unites ... and Divides").

John Fesko, a Reformed writer and WSCal professor writes in his work on "Justification":

The Declaration suffers from the same maladies as other similar ecumenical documents--a lack of theological precision. Apart from precise formulations, one can easily house a number of views on justification. ... It is probably safer to say that the Lutheran World Federation has abandoned its theological heritage and is no longer concerned with the theology of its historic confessions and catechisms (365-367).

"Fuzzy language" is the bane of theological studies. There is a reason why theological language needs to be precise. The language of creeds and confessions has always been precise.

Of course, it's easy for "Lutherans" who had no stake in the historical struggle to give away "the doctrine on which the church stands or falls." Not so sure Luther or the early Lutherans would have sanctioned this.

I'm grateful for Reformed writers like Horton and Fesko who aren't giving this away.

John Bugay said...

From a little bit further down in the McCain article:

It is not possible to accurately evaluate what the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church is on the basis of private opinions by certain Roman Catholics. Thank God for those Roman Catholics who do fully embrace the pure Gospel! We must evaluate the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church on the basis of official and normative doctrinal statements by the Roman Magisterium.

So, no matter how "evangelical" your Saturday priest may sound in his sermons, (and the nearer he gets, the better), if he is not preaching the official Roman Catholic line on justification, he is a "bad priest" and he is fundamentally dishonest about being a priest.