Sunday, January 16, 2011

“TheDen” and Ratzinger vs Louis Berkhof on Union with Christ

In comments on my previous post, “The Den” said,
I think the misconceptions that you and John have with Ratzinger’s writings really delineates the chasm between Protestant and Catholic thought. I “think” (Ratzinger's thinking is above mine) I can explain it but it would take A LOT of time and it would require you to understand it from a Catholic mindset.
I have to confess, I’ve been fascinated with what “TheDen” has to say, because he is what I’d call a real, genuine Roman Catholic, as opposed to the epistemologically metastasized variation of Roman Catholic, known generically as a “Catholic apologist” that we frequently encounter here.

I responded by saying, “‘TheDen’, I would be interested in knowing what you know about ‘the Catholic mindset’ that I didn’t grow up with. And he graciously followed up with a brief explanation, which has given us an opportunity not to pick on “TheDen,” but to begin to systematically think about the many differences between Roman Catholicism and Reformed doctrine and theology.

“TheDen” said:
Alright...here goes.

In Catholic thought, we are united to Christ. We become one with Him per John 15. How does this happen? It happens through our obedience to Him. We no longer follow our will but rather we follow Christ. It’s no longer I--it’s now Christ. And then, per Galatians, it’s “no longer I who live but rather Christ who lives inside me.” In essence, we become Christ but only in obedience to Him. We are united to Him and He nourishes us and in doing His will, we spread forth His message. (emphasis added).
I just want to focus on this one point for now. (I’ll refer you to the discussion thread for “TheDen”’s further explication of “the Catholic mindset.” I’d like to give “TheDen” (or any other Roman Catholic) an opportunity to defend this particular item from the CCC or Denzinger or the Bible (if they can find it), but I wanted to point this out. This is exactly the mindset I grew up with. And it is illustrative of one reason why I came to the conclusion that I could not remain as a Roman Catholic.

The Reformed doctrine of “Union with Christ” was prevalent in Calvin’s Institutes, and it has undergirded Reformed thinking on salvation ever since. In the traditional order of “systematic theology,” Soteriology, or the doctrine of Salvation, is not the first thing to be discussed. Prior to Soteriology, it is most important to discuss Revelation, the Doctrine of God, the Works of God, Anthropology (that is, the Doctrine of Man in relation to God), the Doctrine of Christ, and the person and work of Christ. And I don’t want to criticize TheDen for a knowledge or lack of knowledge of systematic theology. But what I do want to point out is that his thinking is fairly characteristic of “a good Catholic”. It is, I think, a result of faulty Roman Catholic understandings of things like Revelation, the doctrine of God (Pseudo-Dionysius, for example), the Doctrine of Man (the donum superadditum, for example, and on and on).
At this point, “TheDen” was complaining that the song “Good Morning Starshine” had gotten stuck in his head. So as a public service to “TheDen”, I’ll provide another song that will stick inside his head, with the hope of moving that one out. A warning to my Reformed brethren: this is a point at which “the Catholic mindset” – very bad Roman Catholic theology -- has reached into popular culture, in the popular song “Last Kiss,” written by Wayne Cochran in 1962, and performed a number of times over the last 50 years, most recently here by Pearl Jam.

Oh where oh were could my baby be
The lord took her away from me
She's gone to heaven so I've got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world
Not to spend too much time on that sort of thing, but it’s just to say, I guess, that is why theology matters and precisely why it matters on so many fronts.

We’ve had so many Roman Catholics come here and talk about “the Church” (meaning “the Roman Catholic Church, founded by Christ, constituted and organized in the world as a society, [which] subsists in the [Roman] Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him”), as “the ongoing Incarnation of Christ” or for short, “The Church = Christ”, that I thought it would be best to provide a Reformed and thoroughly biblical explanation of what “Union with Christ” actually means.

It seems as if Roman Catholics like to throw this out to Protestants as if to say, “our Church is better than your church.” But this is not at all the case. We do not have to work for “Union with Christ”; it is a gift of God, established (as in Ephesians 1:4, for example) “from before the foundation of the world”. In “the Catholic mindset,” this union “happens through our obedience to Him.” In Reformed theology, “those who will be saved were not even contemplated [apart from union with Christ] by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his predestinating love … —they were chosen in Christ. As far back as we can go in tracing salvation to its fountain, we find ‘union with Christ’; it is not something tacked on; it is there from the outset.” (Robert Reymond, “Systematic Theology,” Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, ©1998, pgs 736-737, citing John Murray, “Redemption—Accomplished and Applied, 162).

Here is Berkhof’s exposition:
Calvin repeatedly expresses the idea that the sinner cannot share in the saving benefits of Christ’s redemptive work, unless he be in union with Him, and thus emphasizes a very important truth. As Adam was the representative head of the old humanity, so Christ is the representative head of the new humanity. All blessings of the covenant of grace flow from Him who is the Mediator of the covenant. Even the very first blessing of the saving grace of God which we receive already presupposes a union with the Person of the Mediator…. Every spiritual blessing which believers receive flows to them out of Christ. Hence Jesus in speaking of the coming Paraklete could say unto his disciples: “He shall glorify me; for He shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you,” (John 16:14). Subjectively, the union between Christ and believers is effected by the Holy Spirit in a mysterious and supernatural way, and for that reason is generally designated as the unio mystica or mystical union.
(The Ford Lewis Battles translation of The Institutes notes that “Calvin nowhere teaches “the absorption of the pious mystic into the sphere of the divine being,” (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, ©1960, Vol 1, pg 737, 3.11.20, n.20) as we’ve seen Ratzinger do, on multiple occasions.)
Reformed theology … deals with the union of believers with Christ theologically, and as such … employs the term “mystical union” in a broad sense as a designation not only of the subjective union of Christ and believers, but also of the union that lies back of it, that is basic to it, and of which it is only the culminating expression, namely, the federal union of Christ and those who are His in the counsel of redemption, the mystical union ideally established in that eternal counsel [within the Trinity, in eternity past], and the union as it is objectively effected in the incarnation and the redemptive work of Christ.

1. The Federal Union of Christ with Those Whom the Father has Given Him, in the Counsel of Redemption.
In the counsel of [redemption], Christ voluntarily took upon Himself to be the Head and Surety of the elect, destined to constitute the new humanity, and as such to establish their righteousness before God by paying the penalty for their sin and by rendering perfect obedience to the law and thus securing their everlasting life. In that eternal covenant the sin of His people was imputed to Christ, and His righteousness was imputed to them. This imputation of the righteousness of Christ to His people is sometimes represented as a justification from eternity. It is certainly the eternal basis of our justification by faith, and is the ground on which we receive all spiritual blessings and the gift of life eternal. And this being so, it is basic to the whole of soteriology, and even to the first states in the aplicationof the work of redemption, such as regeneration and internal calling.

2. The union of life ideally established in the Counsel of Redemption.
In the case of the first Adam there was not only a federal, but also a natural and organic union between him and his descendants. There was the tie of a common life between him and all his progeny, and this made it possible that the blessings of the covenant of works, if these had eventuated, could have been passed on to the whole organism of mankind in an organic way. A somewhat similar situation obtained in the case of the last Adam as the representative Head of the covenant of redemption. Like the first Adam, He did not represent a conglomeration of disjointed individuals, but a body of men and women who were to derive their life from Him, to be united by spiritual ties, and thus to form a spiritual organism. Ideally this body, which is the Church, was already formed in the covenant of redemption, and formed in union with Christ, and this union made it possible that all the blessings merited by Christ could be passed on to those whom He represented in an organic way. They were conceived of as a glorious body, a new humanity, sharing the life of Jesus Christ. It was in virtue of that union, as it was realized in the course of history, that Christ could say: “Behold, I and the children whom God hath given me,” (Heb. 2:13).

3. The union of life objectively realized in Christ.
In virtue of the legal or representative union [“forensic” union, through “imputation”] established in the covenant of redemption Christ became incarnate as the substitute for His people, to merit all the blessings of salvation for them. Since His children were sharers in flesh and blood, “He also in like manner partook of the same; that through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” (Heb 2:1-15). He could merit salvation for them just because He already stood in relation to them as their Surety and Mediator, their Head and Substitute. The whole Church was included in Him as her Head. In an objective sense she was crudified with Christ, she died with Him, she arose in Him from the dead, and was made to sit with Him in the heavenly places. All the blessings of saving grace lie ready for the Church in Christ; man can add nothing to them; and they now only await their subjective application by the operation of the Holy Spirit, which is also merited by Christ and is sure of progressive realization [sanctification] in the course of history.

4. The union of life subjectively realized by the operation of the Holy Spirit.
The work of Christ was not finished when He has merited salvation for His people and had obtained actual possession of the blessings of salvation. In the Counsel of Redemption He took it upon Himself to put all His people in possession of all these blessings, and He does this through the operation of the Holy Spirit, who takes all things out of Christ, and gives them unto us. [Note that Christ does not further empower “the Church” to hand “possession of blessings” to people. This is a direct mediation by the Holy Spirit, and in fact, Tertullian, in Prescription against Heresies, 28, refers specifically to the Holy Spirit as “The Vicar of Christ”.] We should not conceive of the subjective realization of the mystical union in the Church atomistically, as if it were effected by bringing now this and then that individual sinner to Christ. It should be seen from the point of view of Christ. Objectively, the whole Church is in Him, and is born out of Him as the Head. It is not a mechanism, in which the parts precede the whole, but an organism, in which the whole is prior to the parts. The parts come forth out of Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and then continue in living relationship with Him. Jesus calls attention to this organic relationship when he says: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing,” (John 15:5). In view of what was said, it is quite evident that it is not correct to say that the mystical union is the fruit of man’s believing acceptance of Christ, as if faith were not one of the blessings of the covenant which flow unto us from the fullness of Christ, but a condition which man must meet partly or wholly in his own strength, in order to enter into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith is first of all a gift of God, and as such a part of the treasures that are hidden in Christ. It enables us to appropriate on our part what is given unto us in Christ, and it enter ever increasingly into conscious enjoyment of the blessed union with Christ, which is the source of all our spiritual riches. (Berkhof, “Systematic Theology,” pg 447-449).
So Ratzinger and “TheDen” get it precisely backwards.

57 comments:

steelikat said...

Falling off the left side of the train is no better than falling off the right side of the train. In either case you are no longer on the train.

John, you and Cardinal Ratzinger have just now in this blog demonstrated why I can be neither Romanist nor Calvinist. While Cardinal Ratzinger strayed into seeming pantheism (That is what it reads like to me and I'm not seeing how he and TheDen are saying the same thing), You created a false dichotomy: "I either have to embrace both justification by works, by being 'good enough' and the profound eschatological union variously labeled 'theosis,' 'divination,' 'the beatific vision"--or I have to reject both, embrace sola fide and limit the mystical union to various immanent things, stripping post-Resurrection glorification of its glory.

In brief, you're seemingly happy to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat, I thought you might say something like this. Berkhof provides the difference here with Lutheran theology as well:

Lutherans generally treat the doctrine of the mystical union anthropologically, and therefore conceive of it as established by faith. Hence they naturally take it up at a later point in their soteriology. But this method fails to do full justice to the idea of our union with Christ, since it loses sight of the eternal basis of the union and of its objective realization in Christ, and deals exclusively with the subjective realization of it in our lives, even so only with our personal conscious entrance into this union.

Ratzinger and "TheDen" both have humans absorbed up into God -- it is by our own effort (with some help from God).

You seem to want to try to "thread the needle," but God is not someone who does things half-heartedly. I accept the Reformed teaching on this because it does greater honor to God's sovereign decree.

However, this board is not the place for Protestants to argue differences among themselves. Our purpose is rather to distinguish the Roman church from the Reformation.

I am glad you are a Lutheran; we have our differences, but they are relatively minor compared to some of the major flaws that Rome had absorbed into itself and allowed to shape its theology. This is why Rome rejected the attempted reforms of the Reformers; they are truly the ones who threw out the Gospel while trying to hold onto their own flawed sense of their own authority.

steelikat said...

John,

I dont see how Gods marvelous works (in this case a relatively high understanding on what the glorification of the resurrected saints will entail) can detract from his own glory. I agree with you wholeheartedly that our own works can have nothing to do with any of that, though, and that believing we can save ourselves by being "good" is absurd and leads to despair. Of course I understand that the Reformation Churches were right and essentially agreed on one fundamentally important thing and the dire need for various reforms of the medieval church based on that simple yet profound truth, and that the Papal church erred profoundly and almost fatally in defensively rejecting that truth and that need for reformation. But as important as that is, it doesn't rationally justify pretending there aren't many differences among the churches of the reformation. Indeed there are many ways that a particular Protestant tradition might be closer to it's RC sister than to it's other Protestant siblings. In that point in history (the time of the reformation) what was most vitally important were the things the Protestant churches have in common, and to a lesser extent that may still be the case today, but that doesnt mean those other distinctions aren't important too.


I keep reminding myself that the theme of the blog is the quotation alluded to in its title and I've tried very hard never to get away from that. I honestly didn't realize that vigorously presenting and defending various points of view (there aren't always only two) is something to be discouraged here. It seems unwise, as there are a lot of people who need to know that you don't have to be RC to be catholic.

TheDen said...

John,

Thank you. MUCH better song.

JB: “I’d like to give “TheDen” (or any other Roman Catholic) an opportunity to defend this particular item from the CCC “


“We are united to Christ”

CCC 628 explains that in our baptism, we are buried with Christ per Romans 6:4, Col 2:12 and Ephesians 5:26. Per CCC 790, It’s in our baptism, that we become members of the Body of Christ. We become “intimately united with him” in His Passion and glorification and in the Eucharist “by which really sharing in the body o the Lord, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another.

“It happens through our obedience to Him. “

CCC 142 explains that God invites us to receive Him into His own company and that the adequate response to the invitation is faith.

What is faith?

CCC 143 continues to explain that faith is the COMPLETE SUBMISSION OF OUR INTELLECT AND WILL TO GOD.. With our whole being, we give our assent to God. Faith is our complete submission of our intellect and will to God. “By grace, we have been saved through faith” meaning through our complete submission to God, we are saved through God’s grace. CCC150 continues to explain that “faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God.” It is “a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.”


“In essence, we become Christ but only in obedience to Him”

CCC 520 explains that in”all of His life Jesus presents Himself as our model. He is ‘the perfect man,’ who invites us to become His disciples and follow Him.” CCC 521 continues that “Christ enables us to live in Him all that He himself lived, and he lives it in us. It then references Gaudum et Spes and says, “By His Incarnation, He, the Son of God, has in a certain way, united Himself with each man.”

Moreover, John explains it:

John 6:56, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
John 15:4, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”
John 15:10, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.”
1John 3:24, “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,”


Regarding your views, as you pointed out, I’m not an apologist (btw...I’m thankful that you’re not classifying me with some of the other Catholics I see comment on your site) and I’m not here to argue with you about your views. I’m really okay if you disagree with me although I will defend my viewpoints and will answer questions if asked.

I only ask that we all follow Christ daily which is what’s most important. I’ll let Him lead you to where you’re supposed to be.

Brigitte said...

I think we Lutherans are not "needle-threading" and the distinct position needs to be fleshed out as steelikat points out. The position of Luther is different from Calvin, very essentially cross-focused, even in such a profound way that a Catholic and a Calvinist should be able to agree if they let the scriptural teaching sink in.

We are indeed united with Christ through the sacraments, as the words promise, but only on the basis of the promise of the words and reliance on them. They are gifts and with them Christ gives himself and his righteousness to us. They are "opera operans", i.e. God is working, not "ex opere operato" (man's work by performance).

To "follow" Christ is good. But what do we mean. For one thing it is done by hearing his word and receiving the sacraments, to hear him, see him, receive him, eat him, drink him, become him, little Christs to each other and all one body.

If we talk about becoming "good people" , yes, we want to do that, but we are talking about the law that is in everyone's heart already but can't be fulfilled. It always accuses. We all have consciences and we know that we only can fall into pride or despair when we look at the law.

It is Christ whom we need to see and follow, not the law. "Follow ME". The law of love will take care of itself when we are united with Christ. When we know what he means to us, we will love.--We will.

Thanks to TheDen for providing all the applicable scriptures.

Only in the definition of "faith" do we have no scripture and there is a problem because the question rears it's head: when can I know that I have done this "faith is the COMPLETE SUBMISSION OF OUR INTELLECT AND WILL TO GOD. [his capitalization]" The submission needs to be complete, yet! It is NOT possible to know you've done it.

This is another source of a kind of torture, or else pride. A kind of law of faith. Faith is not a doing or exertion or checking myself to see if I have it or enough of it. Faith is simply receiving. A looking to God, a good and merciful God, who extends his hand to all, including me. That's it. Receiving what was won on the cross and is handed out in word and sacrament.

The election from eternity as presented here, does not help me. How do I know I am elected? It may be from eternity but I am not in eternity. I am here and now. If salvation and union with Christ is removed from the historic cross and the word and sacrament (all the bridging from eternity to the present) it can't be made certain to me, individually. (My body given for YOU). The promise and the way it is delivered to ME is central, including even ME, me this ragged beggar, not "following" Christ well enough, not believing well enough, not submitting well enough, nothing, nothing, nothing well enough. But Christ unites himself to me in the ways he promises. Thanks be to God.

(I was really looking for a link to "Against the Heavenly Prophets", but now I commented instead. I have no self-control) Blessed remaining Sunday and good and safe week. We got so much snow this weekend,it's not funny.

Constantine said...

Brigitte,

If you can't know if your elected how can you know when you have (actually)received the faith?

Peace.

steelikat said...

Imagine a family of five siblings, Keith, Laurie, Tracy, Chris, and Danny. They are grown children of abusive alcoholic parents. All of them have lead obviously sinful and self-destructive lifestyles, carousing, drinking, and fornicating. Keith, Laurie, Tracy, and Chris have reformed. They don't drink anymore and they are behaving themselves as responsible adults. They are all very careful When they are together never to be "negative" or to argue and to avoid touchy subjects that might provoke controversy, they are always positive and very polite and kind to each other. The four reformed siblings always present a united front toward thei brother Danny, who still drinks and carouses, and are unified in relentless criticism toward him, vehemently attacking him and his lifestyle at every opportunity. Occassionally they remind him, sometimes immediately after a pointed put-down or outright ridicule, that they love him and it is his actions they hate, but most of the time they are unrelenting in their expressions of contempt, hatred, and distrust. They Identify Danny with their abusive parents. Curiously, Danny identifies with his parents himself and often defends them against his siblings attacks. He sometimes drunkenly slurs to his siblings "I'm Mom and Dad's real son, you guys were found on the doorstep." While the four reformed siblings know that's just the alcohol talking, they dislike thier parents so much they don't argue with Danny about that, in fact Chris Has a theory that he and Tracy were adopted. Keith and Laurie remember when Chris and Tracy were born but they let Chris believe his theory since it makes him happy and, as I said, they are careful never to criticize or even express their disagreements with each other, always keeping the conversation positive and upbeat except when they are talking to or about Danny.

John Bugay said...

Brigitte: I think we Lutherans are not "needle-threading" and the distinct position needs to be fleshed out as steelikat points out.

My objection is to Steelikat, right out of the chute, telling me that Calvinists have fallen off the train. As I have said in the past, this is not the place for that sort of thing. I am on record as having said, that I largely agree with Dr. William Witt in that, ...the last thing confessing Christians in all the churches need is once again to draw lines in the sand against one another, …

I freely admit there are differences between the Protestant confessions, and that in some cases, those differences are important. Steelikat: there is a place for those discussions. If you want to have those discussions, find that place and go have those discussions there.

But in every case, on a blog on which the focus is to say that the Reformation was not only much needed, but effected by God, those differences are minor in comparison with the larger issue at hand.

And so I refuse to be dragged into those kinds of issues on this discussion board.

steelikat said...

John,

I didn't mean to be verbally aggressive towards you (lines in the sand!?). We are a disfunctional family if we cannot talk about our differences, if we have to pretend to agree when we don't.

Brigitte said...

I haven't drawn any lines, I have only explained and tried to find the ground that should be common, i.e. God's work on the cross, is what unites him to us.

When we take our eyes of that there are inevitable psychological consequences, and many of us have experienced them, myself coming through state church and pietistic fellowship.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat, at successive points you have dismissed key, well-known facts about the Vulgate, reported not by me but by Reformation and Latin Scholars (on the strength of your own word), and now the much-cherished Reformed doctrine of Union with Christ as "off the train", with little more than your "dysfunctional family" story. I do not care to take your word for anything at this point. You have ticked-off another commenter with your badgering about baptism.

I have tried to be patient with your comments, but you do seem very much to be missing the point of what we are trying to do here. If you don't want to have your posts deleted, I'd suggest you stick to the point. I am not going to talk about Protestant differences with you, much less listen to your unsubstantiated criticisms of Reformed doctrines.

steelikat said...

The five siblings probably don't understand, since they cannot see themselves objectively the way someone looking at it from the outside might be able to, that one of the things that lead to the situation the family is in is that when Keith, Laurie, Tracy, and Chris renounced drinking and carousing Danny saw this as a betrayal, as a wholesale rejection of all of their parents values. In reality, however, Keith and Laurie in particular valued their patrimony and their family, upbringing, and family history and did not intend to reject their parents the way Danny thought they were doing (their lifestyle was out of control and they needed to change for their own good, but while they stopped carousing and drinking they did not reject everything their parents gave and taught them).

When Danny's siblings reformed their lifestyle and Danny thought they were betraying the family, his reaction was to embrace the very aspects of their lifestyle that the siblings were rejecting. Danny's heart was hardened against his siblings so that he couldn't fairly listen to their arguments about the destructiveness of his lifestyle, and their hearts were hardened against him so that they couldn't fairly hear anything he had to say.Their interactions with each other soon were nothing but pointless bickering, rarely rising to the level of real dialog, real effective communication.

steelikat said...

John,

I didn't know you were bitter about that vulgate thing. It did not seem to me to be something that you would take personally or consider an attack. I'm sorry.

I don't remember badgering anybody about baptism but if I did that was wrong.

John Bugay said...

I am not bitter and nor did I take it personally. But you never did explain how you, now, have been the only person ever to have figured out this error of "anachronism" in an issue (mistranslations in the Vulgate) that was one of the main drivers of the reformation. Alister McGrath, theology chair at Cambridge, was not aware of this "anachronism", upon which you insisted And now you have got the Reformed "off the track" without even a word of discussion about it. I will find the baptism discussion if you don't believe me about that.

steelikat said...

John,

I never disputed any facts about anything.

I think I did not make myself clear to you at first but I thought that in the end, you understood the substance of my criticism, which was not about the truth or falsity of various facts but was about the internal logic of the argument you presented. It honestly did not occur to me that my pointing out a logical problem would be something you'd resent or consider off-topic, since it was not mean-spirited and it was a direct response to the substance of an article in this blog.

It is clear to me that you still do not understand what I said, because If you did you would not be reacting to it the way you are now doing. I am sorry I did not explain myself more clearly. You know that I patiently and amicably tried to do so. To be frank, it seemed really obvious to me and I thought your reaction would be something like "oh of course, the cause of something has to come before that thing--I must not have made the argument very clearly--this is what I meant..."

I have read a lot of science fiction which perhaps makes me more aware of "temporal paradoxes" than the average person.

steelikat said...

Let me briefly explain again. I wasn't being mean or uncharitable and I wasn't criticizing any renowned theologians or linguists, St. Jerome, Alistair McGrath, or that other theologian you mentioned.

1. If it is true that the practice of "doing penance" RC style, already existed at Jerome's time, it cannot be true that Jerome created that practice with his translation. He may have promoted the already existing practice with his translation but that's not quite the same thing. Do you see why that's necessarily true and pointing that out is not mean-spirited and is not an attack on any famous theologians or linguists?

2. If it is NOT true that the practice of "doing penance" RC style already existed at Jerome's time, it cannot be the case that the Latin phrase he used already connoted that practice, at the time he wrote his translation. Do you see why that's necessarily true and pointing that out is not mean-spirited and is not an attack on famous theologians or linguists?

1 and 2 exhaust a logical dichotomy and together show that it cannot logically be the case that Jerome created the RC practice of "doing penance" by using a phrase in his translation that, at the time he wrote it, connoted that practice.

That was all that I was saying and I am honestly dismayed and puzzled that you seem to want to read more into it, especially that you would want to read something negative into it. I was simply looking at what you said and reading it critically and carefully. Isn't that something you would want your readers to do? would you really be happier if your readers just skimmed your articles without rationally engaging them? I hope not because I would find an attitude like that unfathomable.

steelikat said...

John,

I understand that you cherish the Calvinist doctrine of Union with Christ. Can you understand that other Protestants have similar but different doctrines of Union with Christ that they cherish as much as you cherish yours? And that orthodox RCs (let's leave the Teilhardian pantheists out of this for now!) have a similar but somewhat different doctrine of Union with Christ that they also cherish?

I think you misunderstand the Train analogy. I wasn't saying that you, or Presbyterians, are "off the track," I was saying that I have a certain understanding of the scriptural doctrine of Union with Christ, which understanding I analogously compared to being on a particular "train," and that just as the RC doctrine of union is so substantially different than mine it could be considered a different "train" the Calvinist conception is ALSO that substantially different from mine. It was an unfortunate metaphor, in retrospect. Really what I'm getting at is that there are not two understandings of Union with Christ--RC and Protestant, rather there are at least four substantially different understandings.

John Lollard said...

Since someone mentioned songs... I heard this one called "Beggars" by Thrice a few months ago that I think the authors an commenters will like. I've been meaning to point it out since, but haven't had occasion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz5vjB-Xk6s&feature=related

(I think this is fair use - if not, then you may delete this comment)

Edward Reiss said...

Constantine,

"Brigitte,

If you can't know if your elected how can you know when you have (actually)received the faith?"

While Calvin seems to grant more assurance, he is inconsistent on this point and for those with a sensitive conscience, he may actually offer less assurance.

"There will be no ambiguity in it [Mt. 22:14], if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear--viz. that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts. Sometimes, however, he communicates it also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness. (Calvin Institutes III 24.8)"

As he states here, one can have the illumination of the Spirit for a time, and then it goes out. Within the "double predestination" paradigm, it means one was not predestined at all. So even a holy, believing Calvinist who believes he has assurance can never really be sure he has assurance. Needless to say, this is not too assuring.

Thus, for Luther, we focus on the cross and not on the quality of our own faith, because the quality of our faith can be rather lumpy, as opposed to the anchor of the cross and what Christ has done for us there.

steelikat said...

John Lollard,

Fantastic! Thanks for the tip.

aztexan said...

Excellent post, John. To the interested reader I would commend Owen's Communion with God (R. J. K. Law, ed. Rpt. 2008. Banner of Truth.).

John Bugay said...

Steelikat -- You should give it a rest. Stop posting here for a while.

I don't want to be insulting, and I don't want to say anything I'll regret. I haven't responded because I had a rough day at work yesterday, and I just wanted to "sleep on this."

But it seems as if you think you're smarter or more clever than you really are. You are a kind of legend in your own mind. Maybe you do read too much science fiction, or you have lived alone too long or something. But I don't want to speculate.

Yes, here, in this thread, you right off-the-bat had insulting (not "unfortunate," as you claim, but insulting) things to say about a much beloved Reformed doctrine, as I've presented it from a mainstream, and absolutely uncontroversial systematic theology I can find, and you have it "falling off the train."

I presented this not for the purpose of engaging you in an argument of Reformed vs Lutheran (or your own peculiar) theology. I wanted to contrast it with the "we are absorbed into God" point that the others were making. I realize others think differently about this. If you want to talk about the differences between Lutheran and Reformed doctrines, go to www.yuku.com and set up "Steelikat's 'why-can't-we-all-just-get-along" Discussion Board" and have at it.

I've checked my past emails; other writers are asking me who you are and what you are about. I really don't know. They have at various times described you as "clueless," "bizarre," and "utterly confused," among some of the descriptions I feel as if I may repeat.

In another recent thread, you pursued a distinction between faith and baptism in which your interlocutor, trying to respond kindly to you, explained things to you in several different ways, and then ultimately said, "Dude, I have totally lost interest in this conversation. If anyone else would like to take this up, feel free. I think I've been clear enough on what I was trying to say."

Here, your "dysfunctional family" metaphor is really off-base, as we do not have dysfunctional parents; we have God.

I am not, as you say, "pretending there aren't differences" among the churches of the Reformation. I just don't want to talk about them in this context. I have, as I have mentioned before, an understanding much like Reagan's "11th commandment for Republicans: thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican." I have very strong sensibilities about that, and I do not speak ill of fellow Protestants.

more

John Bugay said...

You mentioned that you are "vigorously presenting and defending various points of view." But you are, and have been, inventing points of view that no one has ever thought of before.

Your "temporal anachronism" about Jerome, your "logical problem involving cause and effect" really had no impact upon scholars for centuries. And now you bring this up and you wonder why I don't respond by saying "Gee Steelikat, this is a great objection; it should have changed the course of history if they had thought of it back in the sixteenth century."

I am all for interaction on these threads. I write because I enjoy interaction, and I sometimes write provocatively because I enjoy provoking discussions.

But you come from far off in left field. You said, and I am quoting you, "what I am arguing with is the excerpts you quoted [from these experts]. They [the expert sources I have quoted] betray a confusion of historical cause and effect in regards to time, and do not address the evolution of Latin, particularly technical theological terms and how the evolution of theology influences the meaning of those terms, seeming to treat Latin as an absolutely dead language."

You said this of an Oxford scholar of the Reformation, a Cambridge scholar of church history, and a writer of a well-respected Latin dictionary.

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2011/01/words-mean-things-1.html#comments

I refuse to let you set the terms of the discussion. Don't post here for a while. If you continue to post on my threads with stuff like this, I'm going to delete your comments.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"We’ve had so many Roman Catholics come here and talk about “the Church” (meaning “the Roman Catholic Church, founded by Christ, constituted and organized in the world as a society, [which] subsists in the [Roman] Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him”), as “the ongoing Incarnation of Christ” or for short, “The Church = Christ”"

On an ecumenical blog I was being satirically whimsical and I had the following "dialogue" with several other commenters:

Me: "Microsoft Founder Bill Gates initially pooh-poohed internet browsers. However, looking at the Facts on the ground caused him to change his mind and he got Microsoft into the browser market. (In fact, I use Internet Explorer.)"

Commenter 1: "Maybe you need to look at the facts on the ground. Firefox is a better browser."

Me: “Firefox is a better browser.”

"Anathema.

Internet Explorer is true doctrine from the One True Church of Software: Microsoft. You cannot know doctrine and truth without knowing the Authority. And the One True Authority is Microsoft. You must be in communion with the One True Authority.

Further, you only get the Real Presence when using the Microsoft Operating System. The Real Presence can only be received if there is a valid apostolic succession all the way back to MS-DOS, Microsoft Disk Operating System.

Firefox? Pffffffft! Begone, heretic, begone!

Are you trying to start a Reformation against the One True Church of Microsoft? You schismatic britch."

Commenter 2: "People still using IE are also PC people, not having yet seen the Apple light. The IE dinosaur is off Mac’s horizon entirely. Firefox. It’s free. It’s better."

Me: “People still using IE are also PC people, not having yet seen the Apple light.”

"The Bishops of Bellevue are not happy. Another schismatic reformer. Prayers now ascending to the Mother of our Lord: Mary.

Mary Gates.

Repent, all you schismatic “reformers”! You’ve bitten from the forbidden Apple and now you’re all in free-for-all anarchy. Now look at all those software denominations that have been violently hatched because you have dared leave the One True Authority of Microsoft.

Anathema! Extra ecclesiam nulla salus!!!"

Commenter 3: "Two words:

Google Chrome"

Me: "Dammit all. Apostates from Mother Church."

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

(continued)

Commenter 1: "Here’s the response from my computer genius son to my question about the nature of OpenBSD.
OpenBSD is an open source operating system, based on UNIX. It is apparently a LINUX alternative (LINUX is the original open source, free, UNIX alternative, started in the 1990s). Version 4.8 is the most recent openBSD release.

“You should probably stick to Windows (not a criticism, as I would give myself the same advice). Neither of us does anything that warrants the hassle of working with that kind of operating system.”

I have both a MAC (for my wife) and a PC. I find Windows 7 to be as trouble free as MAC OS X."

Me: “You should probably stick to Windows (not a criticism, as I would give myself the same advice).”

Ah yes. Listen to your son.

Okay, let’s do this. The One True Church of Microsoft will set up Ordinariates for wayward Apple and Google and Firefox people. You can keep your liturgies, but you will go through Catechism of the One True Church. Come home to Bellevue-Rome.

“OpenBSD is an open source operating system, based on UNIX.”

Open Source? WTF is this? This sounds like the Protestant Canon garbage all over again. This is the sin of private fallible judgment all over again. Everyone has their own fallible private interpretation of “Open Source”.

And don’t you know that fallible private judgment leads people to become schismatics, apostates, and heretics?!! Idiots! Souls need an Infallible Magisterium with the True Authority to infallibly interpret revelation. That Infallible Magisterium resides in the One True Church of Microsoft.

Internet Explorer from the One True, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Universal Church of Microsoft!!

Commenter 4: "The OpenBSD developers treat poor or missing documentation as a bug in its own right, and this shows."

Me: “The OpenBSD developers treat poor or missing documentation as a bug in its own right, and this shows.”

We call this Oral Tradition in the One True Church of Microsoft.

Constantine said...

Hi Edward,

Thanks for the response. This election business is tricky stuff, to be sure.

Let me address a few points of yours. You wrote,

As he states here, one can have the illumination of the Spirit for a time, and then it goes out. Within the "double predestination" paradigm, it means one was not predestined at all.


No, it doesn't mean that at all. Remember that God not only “knows” the end result but He creates it. (Isaiah 46:10). So if God creates “the” end He, by definition, predestines it. So whatever the end is, is predestined by God. So if one has illumination for a while and then not, he never was predestined to eternal life, only to temporary illumination. The Doctrines of Grace have an amazing inter-connectedness and this is where election runs into the perseverance of the saints. See 1 John 2:19, too.

Edward writes, again:

So even a holy, believing Calvinist who believes he has assurance can never really be sure he has assurance. Needless to say, this is not too assuring.

I think you misunderstand Calvinism, Edward. A believing Calvinist would never base belief in his assurance on his own certainty. (This is where another Doctrine of Grace – the depravity of man comes into play.) A believing Calvinist would, by definition, look to the Scripture. Having clearly established his election therein, even if he didn't “feel” secure, he would have to acknowledge that God's thoughts are higher than his and he would submit to God's Word. (See Mark 9:24).

Calvin would say what you are experiencing, Edward, is a confusion of the primary and secondary purposes of election. The primary purpose is to give glory to God; the secondary to save His elect for His glory. Therefore, it is almost immaterial what an elect or non-elect believes about their election because God's purpose in election will stand (Romans 9) regardless.

Which is what I was trying to get at with my question to Brigitte.

More will have to wait.

Peace.

Brigitte said...

Sorry Constantine, I missed your question, but I'm not sure after the censure of steelikat how much one really is allowed to say here, honestly.

How can I be sure that I have received the faith?

Faith is not a work. Faith is created by the assurance God provides by the proclamation of the gospel in word and sacrament such as "shed for you." It is all God's work, opera operans and the content of the promises. He cannot lie. !!!!!! :)

Constantine said...

Thank you, Brigitte!

Amen!

I knew you were a Calvinist!

Peace.

Brigitte said...

Constantine, I believe with Calvin I would have to question whether the blood was shed for me because the atonement is not for everyone, therefore the promise is not for everyone. Is this not so?

John Bugay said...

Brigitte, please feel free to say anything you want. Steelikat has been making a pain of himself for some time.

Brigitte said...

Somehow, John, that is not very comforting.

Ikonophile said...

If I may (and perhaps I may not) say it but I do enjoy the conversation that Steelikat sparks here whether I agree with him, you (John) or neither. I can't say that everything he's said here is right on target, as I've not read all of his comments, nor do we share a theological tradition.

But I do find it telling that you want to smack Rome in the face and when someone smacks back you seem to take it a bit personally, at least if it's from a Protestant. As if everyone must share your creedal "I won't talk bad of other Protestants (no matter how wrong they are in their theology).

Of course fellow Calvinists are going to think his comments are "odd" or "bizarre". It's because they are Calvinists! and not Lutheran or wherever his denominational loyalties lie. I personally think most comments by Calvinists are bizarre and odd, but I wouldn't reprimand you for making them.

This is your soap box, you can do with it what you want, of course. But the more you suppress the comments of others, the less interesting this blog becomes. I'm not Reformed (obviously) but I do enjoy what I read here, sometimes contributing in minor ways myself. This isn't a threat to leave, but it is an opinion that I think is shared to some degree by others, whether they participate in the comments or just come by to browse.

Thank you Steelikat for making this an interesting read. I actually understood your comments on Jerome and the Vulgate as well as the comments from the other end, the scholars and such. It would be interesting to see these scholars interact with your view. And even if they never do, that doesn't make it in error, no matter how many letters, periods and other symbols appear after their name.

John

steelikat said...

John,

" and you have it "falling off the train."

I think you are reading more into the analogy than was intended. I was referring to the fact that there are more than two understandings of the scriptural doctrine of Union with Christ, and that there is a very important theological stream that agrees with you that Romanist theology is fatally flawed in a way that encourages its followers to think they can save themselves and must try to be good enough to deserve heaven, yet still does not reject the traditional Christian ideas of an eschatological Union with Christ beyond the immanent Union you've outlined. See? I was just pointing out that it isn't an either/or, there are multiple perspectives on the question.

"In another recent thread, you pursued a distinction between faith and baptism in which your interlocutor, trying to respond kindly to you, explained things to you in several different ways, and then ultimately said, "Dude, I have totally lost interest in this conversation. If anyone else would like to take this up, feel free. I think I've been clear enough on what I was trying to say."

What you are referring to was a polite, civil, brief conversation, a back-and-forth where each of us clarified for the other where we were coming from and in the end, we were both understood what the other was saying. What is wrong with that?

"Here, your "dysfunctional family" metaphor is really off-base, as we do not have dysfunctional parents; we have God."

You and I may not have dysfunctional parents, but some people do. There are people very close to me who do.

Anyway, I think you'll agree the late-medieval western church was dysfunctional. That was the "parents" of the metaphor. The rest was intended to be as much cautionary as descriptive.

steelikat said...

John, I haven't been talking about myself, and up until now you haven't been talking about me, either. The subject didn't seem to me to be worth talking about, since it hasn't been the topic of any of your articles. To clear up some misconceptions:

1. I do not think I am particularly smart or clever. I think I am average. So maybe my self-estimation isn't quite as inflated as you've guessed.

2. I am not a legend of any kind. I am quite ordinary.

3. I don't read science fiction (although I did as a teenager and a young man).

4. I don't live alone, I have a family.

I don't understand why people have been emailing you seeking personal information about me. I guess I am unusual in that I don't crave to know things about the people who comment in this blog other than what they have to say in their comments.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat, in your second comment in this thread, you said:

Of course I understand that the Reformation Churches were right and essentially agreed on one fundamentally important thing and the dire need for various reforms of the medieval church based on that simple yet profound truth, and that the Papal church erred profoundly and almost fatally in defensively rejecting that truth and that need for reformation. But as important as that is, it doesn't rationally justify pretending there aren't many differences among the churches of the reformation. Indeed there are many ways that a particular Protestant tradition might be closer to it's RC sister than to it's other Protestant siblings.

This is where I draw the line -- right in between your sentences here.

First, I do not "rationally pretend that there aren't many differences between churches of the Reformation. Of course there are. And in fact it is insulting for you to suggest I am pretending they are not. This is following your suggestion that, however you later tried to qualify it, you explicitly suggest that Reformed theology is not only "off the train," which I find to be insulting, but that I have also somehow been "happy to throw out the baby with the bathwater." Which I also find insulting.


Let's grant that I have got all your motivations wrong. You don't think you're smart or clever. I've over-inflated your sense of proportion. You consider yourself quite ordinary. You only USED TO read Science fiction, and you live with a normal family.

Nevertheless, you have presented objections here which are only marginally related to the topics at hand, if at all. And I don't care to discuss them again.

You said: Indeed there are many ways that a particular Protestant tradition might be closer to it's RC sister than to it's other Protestant siblings.

In case you haven't noticed, I don't care to point out the similarities, and I care even less to dwell upon them. A broken (analog) clock shows the correct time twice a day. That doesn't mean that clock has any use at all.

On the other hand, there are all kinds of "ecumenical" statements out there that do dwell on just how close we are to our "Roman Catholic brother and sisters."

We are emphatic here: Roman Catholicism has not only anathematized the Gospel (yes, the one true Gospel), but it has done so authoritatively, with an irrevocable, "infallible" anathema from which it, by its own claims, cannot get out of except by trying to say stupid things such as "They really didn't understand what the Reformers were saying" (I've cited Neuhaus as having said that in the book following "Evangelicals and Catholics Together).

Such things are totally disingenuous, if not outright dishonest.

John Bugay said...

The Roman Catholic Church can only support its own supposed authority by tearing down the authority of Scripture. They may say "we are its servant," but they "serve" by treating it like a wax nose out of which they can draw any "authoritative interpretation" that they want.

Such efforts never clarify; they only muddy the waters. And you tend to give comfort to the enemy in precisely that way.

And face it, Rome was the great enemy of the Reformation. Of all branches of the Reformation. Yes, I know that Luther disagreed with Zwingli and that Calvin cursed the anabaptists. Much as I love and appreciate many of their efforts, and learn from them. I am not beholden to any of them.


Right now I'm working on a blog post that talks about why I don't care to compare Protestant theologies and doctrines here. So you can look for that one. But Steelikat, you have proved to me that however I may have imagined you behind your pseudonym, I dislike you as you appear here, and I dislike arguing with you even less.

One more thing. You said: I don't understand why people have been emailing you seeking personal information about me.

It's because they find you annoying to various degrees.

John Bugay said...

Ikonophile said: If I may (and perhaps I may not) say it but I do enjoy the conversation that Steelikat sparks here

See my comments above.

But I do find it telling that you want to smack Rome in the face and when someone smacks back you seem to take it a bit personally, at least if it's from a Protestant. … This is your soap box, you can do with it what you want, of course. But the more you suppress the comments of others, the less interesting this blog becomes.

You read me the wrong way. I do not take things personally. You are right, I do have an agenda here. 2000 years of history is a long time, and it takes a lot of looking, a lot of focus, just to make a couple of points. Steelikat's marginal and tangential and even irrelevant comments don't make for an "interesting" blog.

I don't know if you've read a lot of James Swan's posts about the many and various ways that Roman Catholics have lied about Martin Luther. We are not interested in putting out an interesting blog. If you want "interesting" discussion, watch Oprah. She'll give you all kinds of weirdness, all with the blessings of a warm maternal nod. You'll find all kinds of different and interesting points of view.

My purpose here is to uncover genuine truths within the frequently complicated world of church history -- where Roman Catholics of the past have openly lied in order to cover over certain inconvenient truths about themselves, making it ever more complicated. You may heard of Jesuitical casuistry. I've written about such things as "mental reservation," and Ratzinger's twisting of many things. I am not here for the purpose of having you finding me interesting.

On the personal things, I've got a far thicker skin than you can imagine. But what I don't have is an infinite amount of patience for nonsense of the kind that Steelikat frequently dispenses.

You find his comments on the Vulgate "interesting," but there is a reason why scholars don't interact with them. Because they're irrelevant.

I bring up "TheDen" because I want to interact with the things he is saying. I want to focus on issues of how Roman Catholics, officially and unofficially, think about things.

Yet I haven't been able to get to his response because I'm dealing with Steelikat's "interesting yet irrelevant" opinions. I don't have time for that.

John Bugay said...

Brigitte, what would bring you comfort?

steelikat said...

John,

"We are emphatic here: Roman Catholicism has not only anathematized the Gospel (yes, the one true Gospel), but it has done so authoritatively,"

Indeed we are emphatic on that point. More positively, we both emphatically cling to the Gospel as our only hope. We are brothers in Christ and brothers in temperment and we have always been on amiable terms. I don't understand why, therefore, you are suddenly acting this way. You know very well that I have always liked you and wouldn't dream of insulting you.

It is clear that something is going on in private email exchanges I am not privy to. Is it fair of you to hold me responsible for that?

Brigitte said...

John, what would really comfort me, make me really happy, be the biggest goal here (I know it's a lot to ask) would be that all the Calivinists and all the Roman Catholics would read the Book of Concord and realize that we can all subscribe to it. I guess that would be it. Pointing out the "third" way, as steelikat is trying and I believe also, could be the place of unity we desire.

John Bugay said...

You have been argumentative, in your dismissive and yet off-the-mark way, since you first began posting here. You are full of opinions, but short on providing documentation for those opinions. When challenged, you often seem to back-off and re-state things, and even sometimes come around to agreeing with something you initially disagreed with.

And you have gone over the line with me here. I have tried to continually be kind to you. I really do try to be kind to everyone, and continually so. And it worked, as you have the impression that we have been on amiable terms!

But between dismissing McGrath and MacCulloch for no reason but your own, (go back and re-read that thread to see just how all-over-the-place you were) and having Reformed theology fall off a train, I've just decided that you've gone beyond what I am willing to be kind about.

And so, yes, we are brothers in Christ, you a Lutheran, and me a Reformed believer. Now, please, give it a rest.

John Bugay said...

John, what would really comfort me, make me really happy, be the biggest goal here (I know it's a lot to ask) would be that all the Calivinists and all the Roman Catholics would read the Book of Concord and realize that we can all subscribe to it.

Brigitte, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Luther, although I do believe that some of the qualities that enabled him to be able to stand up against the Rome of his day, also maybe caused some intra-Protestant disagreements that didn't really need to be caused.

I have read portions of the Book of Concord. I've not read all of it. When you say "subscribe," we'll have to define that more fully.

Roman Catholics, I can assure you, if they are in good stead with Roman doctrine, will not come anywhere near to subscribing to the Book of Concord. The differences are too great. There is a tremendous gulf between Roman and any Protestant doctrine. And Rome officially is too "dug in" ever to budge. My hope is to write about this at some length, Lord willing.

As for Reformed and Lutherans subscribing (or close) to each other's doctrinal statements, I can see us getting closer. One of the reasons why I don't want to discuss these sorts of things is because I'm far less able to do so. I love what I know about Reformed doctrine -- I take my children to church and I NEVER have to cringe about what's being taught there. I wholeheartedly agree with everything I hear, almost without exception. And I know how Calvin relied on Scripture, and how the later "Reformed Orthodox" searched the Scriptures. I have nothing anywhere near to as much knowledge about these things as I would like, but I can enthusiastically support what I know.

One of my favorite books is Lohse's "Martin Luther's Theology." Not because I agree with everything that Luther's theology espoused, but it is an excellent study of his thought. And he was (as I've noted here many times), according to Ozment, "the most brilliant theologian of his age."

I get in trouble for saying that the disagreements between Lutherans and the Reformed are "relatively minor". See this thread:

http://posttenebraslux.yuku.com/sreply/9621/Re-John-Bugay-Makes-The-Continuum

I would never come out and say "You Lutherans have fallen off the train ... This [whatever] demonstrates why I could never be a Lutheran."

I respect Luther and Lutherans far too much to ever say something like that.

steelikat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
steelikat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James Swan said...

John, what would really comfort me, make me really happy, be the biggest goal here (I know it's a lot to ask) would be that all the Calivinists and all the Roman Catholics would read the Book of Concord and realize that we can all subscribe to it..

I'm actually not well-versed in the Book of Concord. I know a lot about Martin Luther, but not as much about subsequent Lutheranism. I've skimmed section of Concord, but never studied it with any depth.

I'm a Heidelberg Catechism guy. I know that confession even better than the Westminster. I love the Heidelberg. It's friendly and not written for a theologian. It's a for a simple guy like me. Tell you what, I'll read Concord if you read Heidelberg!

From reading Luther, I see the sacraments as the biggest divide between Lutherans and the Reformed.

John Bugay said...

The entire Book of Concord is online, here:

http://www.bookofconcord.org/

Brigitte said...

If you can, buy the new Reader's Edition from Concordia Publishing House. It's beautiful including pictures and summaries. And you can mark it up and the price is reasonable.

Edward Reiss said...

Constantine,

"No, it doesn't mean that at all. Remember that God not only “knows” the end result but He creates it. (Isaiah 46:10). So if God creates “the” end He, by definition, predestines it. So whatever the end is, is predestined by God. So if one has illumination for a while and then not, he never was predestined to eternal life, only to temporary illumination. The Doctrines of Grace have an amazing inter-connectedness and this is where election runs into the perseverance of the saints. See 1 John 2:19, too."

No one is questioning what God knows. But "temporary illumination" is ruinous to assurance, because since we cannot know what God knows in this case, we never know if we are elect. Nor can we be assured that we actually receive the body of Christ--because for Calvin that is only for believers. (I accept arguendo Calvins doctrine of the RP). This is the unavoidable side effect of "temporary illumination".

"I think you misunderstand Calvinism, Edward. A believing Calvinist would never base belief in his assurance on his own certainty. (This is where another Doctrine of Grace – the depravity of man comes into play.) A believing Calvinist would, by definition, look to the Scripture. Having clearly established his election therein, even if he didn't “feel” secure, he would have to acknowledge that God's thoughts are higher than his and he would submit to God's Word. (See Mark 9:24)."

All I, and Calvin say, is that a believer [b]may[/b] find assurance by looking within for evidence.

But I will ask you, how can you be assured you are elect? (Assuming you are Calvinist, of course....) If you cannot know then there simply is no assurance that anything done by Christ is for you because his saving grace is not universal. If you can I submit you will have to look at your life to see evidence of election--which is my point.

Now, in neither case if the [b]fact[/b] of your salvation called into question--you either are or are not based upon God's decree. What I am dealing with is what can a Christian grasp onto for faith? It cannot be election because that is not knowable--indeed Calvin himself states that it is possible to have temporary illumination. I also think it is consistent with Calvinism for one to believe he is not elect and still be elect--as before it is based upon God's decree and not one's knowledge.

But since election is what determines salvation doesn't it become an existential question whether or ot one is elect? (At least for a sensitive conscience it would....)

John Bugay said...

I will ask you, how can you be assured you are elect? … since election is what determines salvation doesn't it become an existential question whether or not one is elect? (At least for a sensitive conscience it would....)

Hi Edward -- I don't know that I'll be able to answer your question to your satisfaction, but my understanding is that Calvin even noted the difficulty of the doctrine of election and recommended that it not be the first, but rather the last thing talked about (he talked about it last in the Institutes, among the other doctrines of soteriology, including justification by faith, sanctification, etc). I know that a number of systematic theology lectures I've heard from Reformed institutions, the recommendation always is that election (predestination) be talked about in the context of a pastoral, not a polemical setting.

That is, Calvinists look to the Scriptures for an ordo salutis, based on such Scriptures as Ephesians 1:4 ("He chose us in him before the creation of the world"), Romans 8: "those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified," and also this promise from Christ himself (John 6): "All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day."

Things are going on here that are far beyond our ability to make anything happen. And part of "assurance" derives from the knowledge of the Doctrine of God, who is "sovereign" enough to accomplish his purposes.

steelikat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Constantine said...

My friend, Edward wrote:

But "temporary illumination" is ruinous to assurance…

Of course “temporary illumination” is ruinous to assurance. We are agreed. But temporary illumination operates without perseverance and is therefore not of the elect.

…, because since we cannot know what God knows in this case, we never know if we are elect.,

That’s not what Jesus said. He said, “My sheep know me….” (John 10:14). So our assurance is not based on our fallen human nature but on God’s sure Word.

Nor can we be assured that we actually receive the body of Christ--because for Calvin that is only for believers.

Do you think unbelievers can receive the body of Christ?

All I, and Calvin say, is that a believer [b]may[/b] find assurance by looking within for evidence.

Well, maybe. But there are times when the believer may be so shaken spiritually that, looking within, he fails to find such evidence. (See WCF Ch. XVIII) Or it may be that God, for His own purposes, withholds confidence in election until such time as He deems fit. Again, a member of the elect may look within at that time and find nothing.

But I will ask you, how can you be assured you are elect?

And that is a great question. Let me just borrow from the Westminster Confession:
“This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.” (WCF, Chapter XVIII, II)
“…yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.” (WCF, Ch. XVIII, I)

If you can I submit you will have to look at your life to see evidence of election--which is my point.

Edward, I assure you, there were times in my life which I confess to you, I could have looked and not found that evidence. Rather than continually quoting the WCF, please read Chapter XVIII, Section 3 for this. The elect may waiver, their assurance may be delayed but that in no way diminishes their election which is sealed from eternity. The place to look, therefore, is in the unwavering Word of God and take our confidence there.

One more comment. Calvin makes a distinction that I think is critical for our discussion – I may have mentioned it before. And that is, the primary purpose of election is God’s glory. Therefore, whether we have an absolute, rock-solid feeling of assurance is almost immaterial. God knows – it’s for His glory.

cont'd.....

Constantine said...

continued from above....

I also think it is consistent with Calvinism for one to believe he is not elect and still be elect--as before it is based upon God's decree and not one's knowledge.

Bingo! Well said. See my comment just above.

But since election is what determines salvation doesn't it become an existential question whether or ot [sic] one is elect?

Yes, but because the primary purpose is God’s glory and He knows the rest is secondary.
I think Calvin was so strong on predestination/election, etc. for one simple reason. And that is that he wanted the members of his flock to stop looking inward and focus on Christ, instead. He really wanted the Christian life to be a God-glorifying thing and he realized that if, as Arminians and Roman Catholics must, they were worried about whether or not they were saved, they would subtract the time and energy they could use praising God. Just like Paul tells the Philippians: “Work out your salvation, for it is God at work in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure.” We acknowledge our election even if we don’t feel it so we can get to work!

Thanks so much, Edward, for your thoughtfulness. I enjoy our interactions. I pray that the Holy Spirit is at work in both of our hearts.

Blessings to you, and peace.

John Bugay said...

Brigitte said, Thanks to TheDen for providing all the applicable scriptures.

Only in the definition of "faith" do we have no scripture and there is a problem because the question rears it's head: when can I know that I have done this "faith is the COMPLETE SUBMISSION OF OUR INTELLECT AND WILL TO GOD. [his capitalization]" The submission needs to be complete, yet! It is NOT possible to know you've done it.


Here is, I think, where there is an issue between Roman Catholics and Protestants. And the issue can be summed up in a small question: "Faith in what?

Roman Catholic theology distinguishes between fides quae, what Aiden Nichols called "the faith of the Church, and fides qua, which is sort of the individual's act of having faith.

It is in the insidious nature of fides quae where the difficulty lies. Because this is, in sum, "the faith which the Church believes, the articles of faith which, as a member of the CHurch, I regard as true, since they form that objective content of truth that is Catholic Christianity."

In Roman Catholicism and in Protestantism, we not only have two different "objects of faith," -- but also the scope of these things are very similar among Protestants -- between Lutheran confessions and the Reformed confessions, for example. (And it seems to me, the Anglican 39 articles, too, is very similar to the Lutheran and Reformed confessions.

In Roman Catholicsim, there is the entire body of doctrine, which they call "the fullness of the faith" which is what ought to be at issue. Rome presents its body of doctrine as "a seamless garment," and when you "have faith," that is, when you have "fides qua," it is that entire body of doctrine that you must believe as a Roman Catholic.

Does that make sense?

John Bugay said...

If you were to become a Roman Catholic, for example, you would be required to believe and accept the total, sum teaching of Roman doctrine, whether you believed it or not. Whether you understood it or not. You are required to accept Roman Church's authority to have defined it, whether or not there is any Scriptural warrant to it. This is the nub of it.

Protestants are not similarly bound; rather, we are to a large degree permitted

What the Roman Catholic fails to acknowledge is that there is a large overlap of "orthodoxy" in and among the Protestant confessions. At the edges, there may be some disagreement -- even a great deal of disagreement, as with Luther and Zwingli over the Lord's Supper, or Presbyterian vs Episcopal forms of government.

But as Protestants, we can all affirm the Apostles Creed, and say with one another, I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.

We believe the individual tenets of that creed because we see the truth of the various components of it in Scripture.

The Roman Catholic is not free to believe the Apostles Creed.

The individual Roman Catholic must believe in "The Church", must "have faith" in "The Church," and only if "The Church" certifies the Apostles Creed as dogma, is it to be believed in.

In this case, yes, the Roman Church does believe the Apostles Creed as dogma. But to their mind, the individual components of that Creed are not the individual things that save you. It is "The Church" which mediates salvation. It is "The Church" which (in our context) mediates "Union with Christ".

So whatever the Roman Catholic believes about "Union with Christ," it is not the same thing as what you or I may believe and discuss about what "Union with Christ" really is.

Edward Reiss said...

Constantine,

"Do you think unbelievers can receive the body of Christ?"

Yes, and that fact underlies the chief theological difference between reformed and Lutheran Christianity. In Lutheran Christianity, what is offered--baptism, communion, absolution, blessings etc.--is always "for me", within Calvinism it is given *if* one is elect.

The corollary to this is, can you be sure you receive the body of Christ? If so, how?

If you cannot, I do not see where there is assurance apart from "internal evidence", which we both agree is problematical.

Now, I would like to reiterate that I am discussing subjective knowledge of assurance. I do not call into question anyone's objective standing.

Turretinfan said...

"We are not interested in putting out an interesting blog."

:D


(for the less discerning readers, I have taken my friend out of context here)

John Bugay said...

T-fan, that's funny :-)

I loved your piece on transubstantiation. Roman Catholics do see that as a "central" doctrine -- something unique to them -- only they have the valid succession, (except for EOs), and so everyone else is just play-acting when they celebrate the Lord's Supper. It is a point of pride.