Friday, January 14, 2011

Green Baggins in discussion with Roman Catholics

There are some good discussions at Green Baggins; they have begun a review of the Robert Sungenis work, Not By Scripture Alone.

Subsequent posts include:

Sungenis's Preface
A Blueprint for Order
Some Presuppositions and Rules for Protestant/Catholic discussions on GB

Key to these discussions is the way that Rome understands the word "church," and the subtle way it defines itself as "church" while it simultaneously excludes Protestants from being "church".

The key document is the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, and section 8, which contains this definition:
Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy [Roman] Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element. For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body.

This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". [Note the abuse of 1 Tim 3:15 as a proof-text here]. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the [Roman] Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure.
The key word from that selection is the word subsists in, which is a change from prior documents, which expressed that "this [Roman Catholic] Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, is the Roman Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him ..." It actually went further than that. The language surrounding "the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him" is a scale-back of the language of Vatican I.

But what Rome seems to give, in terms of "good will towards Protestants" with one hand, it takes back with the other. While some theologians understood the word "subsists" as allowing for other Ratzinger, it has been noted that Ratzinger sees the word "subsists in" as meaning "integral existence as a complete, self-contained subject."

See the Avery Dulles article in the February 2006 issue of "First Things," From Ratzinger to Benedict.

It is Ratzinger who is behind the documents that prohibits addressing Protestant churches as "churches," but rather, calls them "ecclesial communities."

Please note this well:
Catholic ecumenism might seem, at first sight, somewhat paradoxical. The Second Vatican Council used the phrase “subsistit in” in order to try to harmonise two doctrinal affirmations: on the one hand, that despite all the divisions between Christians the Church of Christ continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, and on the other hand that numerous elements of sanctification and truth do exist outwith the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church whether in the particular Churches or in the ecclesial Communities that are not fully in communion with the Catholic Church. For this reason, the same Decree of Vatican II on ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio introduced the term fullness (unitatis/catholicitatis) specifically to help better understand this somewhat paradoxical situation. Although the Catholic Church has the fullness of the means of salvation, “nevertheless, the divisions among Christians prevent the Church from effecting the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her children who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her.”
From the document: "COMMENTARY ON THE DOCUMENT 'RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH'"

This is the attitude that we are dealing with when you speak with the more informed Roman Catholics here. Some of the luddites merely echo these sentiments in their own bad way.

16 comments:

steelikat said...

A misconception needs to be cleared up here. "Subsists in" is definitely not a "scaling back" from "is." If anything, it is a stronger term, emphasizing the continuation in time of that "is."

I know ecumenicists would like to think that the Vatican II terminology in that passage signaled a softening of the Roman position, but I think they need to look elsewhere for support for their hopes.

Constantine said...

I think Steelikat has got it. A little later in that document we find this:

What it does mean is that if the expression “subsistit in” is considered in its true context, namely in reference to the Church of Christ “constituted and organised in this world as a society… governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him”, then the change from est to subsistit in takes on no particular theological significance of discontinuity with previously held Catholic doctrine.

What's very interesting is that the document continually references two different entities - "the Church of Christ" and "the Catholic Church" - as though there was a distinction all the while seeking to eliminate that same distinction.

Curious.


Peace.

James Swan said...

I skimmed through some of the GB stuff a few days ago. I think whoever wrote the post "Blueprint for Order" should re-evaluate the following sentence:

What we mean by material sufficiency is that every important doctrine of Scripture can be found in Scripture, whether in seed form, or in scattered form, or in full glory.

Just my 2 cents.

John Bugay said...

James, I would agree with you on that. What Reformed doctrines might he be thinking of that would be found in "seed" form?

Tim Enloe said...

I haven't read the thread and can't give any time to it, but just a question that I take to be entirely proper to ask from within a Reformed theological perspective: what is wrong with "in seed form"?

It might just be taken as a reference to the use of logic to unfold ideas that are not explicitly stated in a text - a perfectly reasonable and normal thing to do, as, e.g., the Westminster Confession's notation at I.6 that "The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture:"

James Swan said...

I have no idea- but that no Romanist caught it is interesting.

The GB folks might as well go ahead and revise the entry with the words "acorn and oak tree."

John Bugay said...

Tim, I would think the difference would be along the lines of "development 1" and "development 2". The Trinity could be (and was) deduced from Scripture; but the papacy and Marian doctrines could not.

James Swan said...

what is wrong with "in seed form"?

My objection would be that GB didn't define terms precisely.

If I were a Romanist, I would say, "Hey, I believe that as well... for instance, the 'seeds' of the assumption of Mary are in sacred scripture."

Again, just my 2 cents- but if you're going to go after Romanism and promote sola scriptura, it's best to use words carefully.

James Swan said...

By the way "you're" above refers to Green Baggins.

John Bugay said...

James, I am just very glad they are bringing these issues up for a Confessional Presbyerian audience. There are lots of well-educated pastors who read that blog; I am sure they did not miss that distinction.

Tim Enloe said...

Right, John - I would agree with the "Development 1" and "Development 2" notion. Glad to see this distinction made, because as you know, most RCs have no clue what "sola" Scriptura really means - they think it literally means nothing except what is explicitly stated on the pages of Scripture can ever be believed (hence the incessant futile arguments about where Scripture states what books are in it, and where it contains a "list" of all "necessary" doctrines). That is not what "sola" Scriptura means, as WCF I.6 well shows.

Rev. Lane Keister said...

Just to be clear, I was thinking of the Trinity when I used the word "seed-form." I view it as another way of saying "good and necessary consequence," as well as being a way of emphasizing that doctrine progresses and becomes clearer throughout the pages of the Bible.

John Bugay said...

Lane, welcome to Beggars All. I do very much appreciate your willingness to dive into discussions with Roman Catholics, and for allowing those discussions to run their full course (frequently at very informed and in-depth levels).

We've talked about "Development" (I've cited a source who calls Newman's theory "incoherent") -- and there are some pretty good discussions of that concept here and a follow-up article here.

James Swan said...

Just to be clear, I was thinking of the Trinity when I used the word "seed-form." I view it as another way of saying "good and necessary consequence," as well as being a way of emphasizing that doctrine progresses and becomes clearer throughout the pages of the Bible.

Hi Lane,

Thanks for the clarification.

If you've got Dr. White's book Scripture Alone, take a look at his discussion on pages 181-189. Dr. White points out a favorite Romanist argument for development of doctrine is the Trinity (p. 184). If you don't have this book, I'd gladly scan in the pages and send them to you. I would certainly agree with your explanation of "seed" but I personally wouldn't use the word in dialog with Romanists.

I appreciate your project of going through the Sungenis book.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Tim Enloe writes:

That is not what "sola" Scriptura means, as WCF I.6 well shows.

Thank you, Tim. This is a point that needs to be reiterated time and time again. A deductive case for sola Scriptura is a completely appropriate apologetic move.

Northwest SD Lutheran said...

What we mean by material sufficiency is that every important doctrine of Scripture can be found in Scripture, whether in seed form, or in scattered form, or in full glory.

So I take it that they still feel Scripture isn't the standard of truth to judge doctrines by. This is where they are still wrong and actually contradicting themselves. If we remember the ecumenical councils and various synods did not always agree either. For example, not all of the popes were hardcore Marionists.