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My reply to RC apologist Dave Armstrong, regarding his examination of Martin Chemnitz’s Examination.

06 Oct


 

      I got into an exchange about Martin Luther’s “Pseudo-Prophetic, Hyper-Infallible, “Super-Pope” Mode (Shocking Examples)” with Dave Armstrong, the RC apologist, and then got a whole post devoted to me (http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2011/08/brief-exchange-with-lutheran-nathan-on.html ).  This being the case, I decided to read some more of his material and challenge him.  Dave does his homework, and I admire his zeal and the respect he has for opponents.  I sent the following to him, and he will be answering it line-by-line on his blog.  When that is up, I will post again.

Sola Regula Fidei Veritas (True Rule of Faith Alone)

“The sword of God, which is the living Word of God, strikes through the things which men of their own accord, without the authority and testimonies of Scripture, invent and think up, pretending that it is apostolic tradition.”

– Jerome, as cited in Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part 1, trans. Fred Kramer (St. Louis: Concordia, 1971), pp. 228–229.

“The apostles handed down many things orally; apostolic men received many things from the apostles by oral tradition which they on their part later delivered to their own disciples.  But Irenaeus says that all these things were “in agreement with the Scriptures”. 

– Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part 1, trans. Fred Kramer (St. Louis: Concordia, 1971), p 226.

“Holy Scripture is in such sort the rule of the Christian faith that we are obliged by every kind of obligation to believe most exactly all that it contains, and not to believe anything which may be ever so little contrary to it: for if Our Lord himself has sent the Jews to it to strengthen their faith, it must be a safe standard. The Sadducees erred because they did not understand the Scriptures . . .”

- St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy. (1596), p. 88

Dave,

First of all, it is a pleasure to engage in discussion with you.  Let me confess up front that I am a very ignorant man.  I will try to not make assertions where I ought not, but I know I will fail.  I pray that God would guide us in this venture, and that I would not be too proud to learn what I ought to learn from you in this discussion.  As Chemnitz says: “no one should rely on his own wisdom in the interpretation of Scripture, not even in the clear passages, for it is clearly written in 2 Peter 1:20: ‘The Scripture is not a matter of one’s private interpretation.’  And whoever twists the Holy Scripture so that it is understood according to his preconceived opinions does this to his own destruction (2 Peter 3:16)”.  Please know that in the lengthy reply to your posts on Chemnitz (Martin Chemnitz is “The Man” for Lutherans; It’s Time to Address His Arguments Directly   /   Critique of Martin Chemnitz’ Examination of Trent: Scripture I (Poisoning the Well as to the Catholic Rule of Faith and Veneration of Holy Scripture)   /  Critique of Martin Chemnitz’ Examination of Trent: Bible, Tradition, and the Church Fathers, Part I (Preliminaries, St. Irenaeus, and Tertullian)  /   Critique of Martin Chemnitz’ Examination of Trent: Bible, Tradition, and the Church Fathers, Part II (Various Fathers and Arguments)  /  Critique of Martin Chemnitz’ Examination of Trent: Soteriology and Justification in the Church Fathers ) which follows, I have only picked out those parts that seem to me most important (and I hope my confessional Lutheran brethren would agree).  I may very well have missed some important things I should not have.  Also, before I start here, I need to admit that you have probably read more of Chemntz than I have.   I started his Examen years ago, and probably read 100-150 odd pages, and I only recently finished the sections you mentioned in your blog posts (I have read more from his Loci Theologici, and of course, the Formula of Concord, largely influenced by him).  I have, however, read and heard a lot about his views from people who I admire and trust, and so that is in large part what I will be going on here.  Again, I am an ignorant man with much to learn.

Let me begin by repeating the quote that I shared earlier from Paul Strawn, who is a fine Lutheran pastor, and I am honored to say is my pastor:

“The concept of a contemporaneous existence of the Word of God in a corrupted verbal form, and a pure written form, spawned Chemnitz’s explanation of traditiones in the second locus, De traditionibus. Here he lists the first of eight different types of traditiones as Scripture itself, i.e. the things that Christ and the Apostles preached orally and were later written down. Then follows: 2) the faithful transmission of the Scriptures; 3) the oral tradition of the Apostles (which by its very nature must agree with the contents of the New Testament canon); 4) the proper interpretation of the Scriptures received from the Apostles and “Apostolic men”; 5) dogmas that are not set forth in so many words in Scripture but are clearly apparent from a sampling of texts; 6) the consensus of true and pure antiquity; 7) rites and customs that are edifying and believed to be Apostolic, but cannot be proved from Scripture. Chemnitz rejects only the eighth kind of tradition: [8] traditions pertaining to faith and morals that cannot be proved with any testimony of Scripture; but which the Council of Trent commanded to be accepted and venerated with the same reverence and devotion as the Scripture. The important element of this last of the traitiones appears not to be the fact that such traditions of faith and morals not provable from Scripture actually existed, but that their status of equality with Scripture was foisted upon the church by the Council of Trent.” P. Strawn, Cyril of Alexandria as a Source for Martin Chemnitz, in Die Patristik in der Bibelexegese des 16. Jahrhunderts, Wolfenbu”ttleler Forschungen, Bd. 85, Hrsg. v. David C. Steinmetz, Wiesbaden 1999, p. 213-14.

I want to focus on tradition number 8, the one Chemnitz rejects.  Notice the argument of Paul Strawn: the fact that these traditions existed was not necessarily the problem.  The problem was that these traditions regarding faith and morals which were not provable from Scripture were to be regarded as equal to those clearly demonstrable from Scripture.  I take this to mean that they were to be considered central or essential teachings – i.e. as going hand in hand with the rule of faith – and that a refusal to acknowledge them at such (see p. 296 of the Examen) would result in separating one’s self from the Church, and therefore Christ.  This Chemnitz rightly rejects (see p. 269 and 306 of the Examen)

I will continue returning to this theme throughout my paper, because I think this is the central point.

In a nutshell, here is my contention: The best and most faithful of the Apostolic Fathers (i.e. the most Apostolic among them) believed that all essential doctrines – for all practical purposes, the Rule of Faith – could be proven with Scripture, even if they did hold to other (non-binding) teachings as well.  For example, Irenaeus essentially says that the Rule of Faith is “in agreement with the Scriptures”.   We must take very seriously these own men’s words about the primacy and centrality of Scripture for those legitimately ordained men holding to the true Rule of Faith.  Forgiveness, life, and salvation are at stake.    In other words, if these men had been challenged by heresies that took teachings they had never questioned as being non-essential too far (in a way that endangered the proper teaching of Christ, grace, and faith), they would have gone back to the Scriptures, and begin the process of righting their wrongs.  

Here is how I will conclude:

The fullness of the Rule of Faith is often only known tacitly (and will, of course, be confirmable in Scripture – when one finally looks with the right questions and problems in mind: “[the Rule of Faith’s] contents coincided with those of the Bible [for Origin]” [-J.N.D. Kelley]).  It takes the circumstances of history to “draw out” further explicit content, that is, essential doctrine, starting with the ecumenical creeds and including also the doctrine of justification.  We have begun to really understand, even as we long to understand more (for example, objectively speaking, passages like Isaiah 53 really are clearly about Jesus Christ, even if that knowledge has not become clear or fully dawned in the faithful).  As regards this drawing out of essential doctrine, the matter of interpretation is involved (note also: “[for Origin, the Rule of Faith] was formally independent of the Bible, and also included the principles of Biblical interpretation ” [-J.N.D. Kelley]).  Here you will recall what I said earlier about *how* the Berean’s treatment of the Scriptures in Acts 17 plays out on the ground: a) their gut impulse is to go to those formal Scriptures held to by believers and test…. and b) things they may not have seen before they clearly are able to locate after Paul has preached and taught.  Lactanius said: “For the contest [over who is the true Catholic Church] is respecting life and salvation, which, unless it is carefully and diligently kept in view, will be lost and extinguished.” (as you quoted him)  So again, where is the Church?  I like how Douglas Johnson puts it:  “Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is at the heart of all the great controversies that shook the Early church as it tried to work out its own self-understanding”.  Indeed, and in the Reformation, we simply see the continuing of this process. 

With that said, let me begin:

First, I understand your frustration about Chemnitz questioning the sincerity of RCs, especially as regards their love for the Scriptures and their concern to interpret it properly.  He does seem rather harsh, even if in his day he was not, and it is hard for me, as a modern 21st century Christian, to understand how he could have that kind of attitude.  Of course, perhaps with more knowledge about his context, I might feel differently.  For example, regarding the opponents he savages in the first several pages of volume 1 (primarily Andrada, for example, who was at the Council of Trent), I would guess that he used them as his typical example of RCC belief because he really believed that they were the only people who had attempted to address the writings of the Lutherans in a substantial way (I wonder if any individuals comparable to the one you held up as a model, namely Francis de Sales, existed during Chemnitz’s time – I’m guessing not).  Further, you must know that from the Lutheran perspective, matters as put forth in the Scriptures are very clear – even if Augustine, for example, did not believe quite the way that we do (this will be addressed later on… still, we would continue to argue that on some critical points – on original sin, for example – he is closer to us than you) – and when others won’t acknowledge the essential truths that we see clearly on display in the Scriptures, it can be highly frustrating (we must know the Scriptures more, and allow them to deeply form and shape us… Luther was not wrong that their central message and focus was clear, but that presumes seriously listening to and considering what they say – hopefully with the help of a devout Christian).  That said, I am happy to assume the best about you and your intentions: yes, David – we have an honest disagreement.

Second, I note that you do tend to think that Chemnitz selectively quotes from Irenaeus and Tertullian, for example (or from everyone really, but I’ll focus mostly on these two): “whereas Chemnitz blithely ignores the massive counter-evidence so that his readers remain utterly ignorant of it”.  Again, I am a bit sympathetic to your critique.  On the other hand…is it possible that he thought that the framework that he had established, i.e. talking about the eight different kinds of traditions – and how the Rule of Faith and the Scriptures went hand in hand (tradition #4) – and how doctrines were more clearly revealed from the Scriptures as heresy challenged and further clarified the Rule of Faith during the years (tradition #5) – could readily explain the omission of all of the quotations you offer from Irenaeus and Tertullian  (which you say overthrow his understanding and account)?  I am inclined to believe that he was assuming that many of the more learned people reading his account would be familiar with all of those things that Irenaeus and Tertullian said that you think he is simply ignoring, or denying (I will address these things specifically below) – and that they would be able to figure out what his response would be to someone like yourself quite readily.   I think that the most educated Lutherans back then were far more immersed in the early church writings than we might think….(as at this time, editions of the fathers were being printed like never before and evidently everyone in the academic world was buying them, if not reading them).  As for those who were less learned, it is probably true that Chemnitz would have wanted to write in such a way so as to give them an account that was not inaccurate (from his perspective), but also leaned heavily in the direction of Lutheran views (since he obviously felt strongly that he had the truth and the most important thing would be that these pastors be confirmed in the true doctrine, not that they be able to address every single nuance of church history [like we are : ) ]) while also being nuanced enough for the intellectuals I speak of above (again, where they would be able to see that he had not really been dishonest, seeing as how they could fill in the gaps readily – like I will below)

Third… your main argument seems to be that the Scriptures are more important than the Rule of Faith for Chemnitz, and that his belief in the authority of the Scriptures is simply another variant of the Protestant “Sola Scriptura”.  Perhaps there is some truth to what you say here.  At the same time,  as I have pointed out to you, I do not think any early Lutheran used that phrase, or thought in the way this phrase is typically thought of today.  It certainly is not in our Confessions.  To say that the Scriptures are the supreme authority does not mean they are to be – or can be set – against the true Rule of Faith.  As you say, it’s a both/and kind of thing.  Perhaps this it not so much “Sola Scriptura”, as “Scriptura sans Aristotolus” (Scripture without Aristotle). : )

Let’s look at this in more detail.  First, your words:

“For Chemnitz and those who follow his views, then (traditional, confessional Lutheranism), the huge difficulty is the impossibility of the following two statements existing together:

1.   Catholics have an incorrect, objectionable view of Scripture insofar as they elevate Tradition and Church Authority higher in the scheme of things than they ought to.

2.   Church Fathers take a correct, “Protestant” view of Scripture even though they, too (very much like Catholics then and now), elevate Tradition and Church Authority higher in the scheme of things than they ought to.

If #1 is true, #2 cannot also be true (in its first clause, granting the second clause). It is ultimately a dispute of historical fact. We say that if the Catholic view is rejected, then the Fathers must necessarily go down with it, because the two are essentially the same. The Protestant (apologist, polemicist, partisan advocate; pick your term) arguing this case denies that the Fathers take these views in the first place. One can only determine the outcome by recourse to particular historical discussion on what the Fathers actually believed.

If the Fathers indeed turn out to be far more like Catholics, then what becomes of the Lutheran “Myth” that Lutheranism (on this issue of Scripture and Tradition) is truly the “patristic” view, brought back and “reformed” and that the lowly, despised Catholics have supposedly forsaken same? Well, it falls flat. And to refute Lutheranism in the historical sense just described is simply an exercise of accumulating instances such as these, where the Fathers can be shown to be in accord with Catholic understanding, over against Lutheran. How many “dominoes” must fall before the entire “wall” collapses? Each person must determine this for himself or herself.” (bold David’s)

Dave, I appreciate your approach and your clarity with which you write, but at the same time, it seems to me that right from the get-go you have not been nuanced enough in your presentationYou have, I believe unintentionally, misrepresented Chemnitz’s true position.  The problem is not elevating “Tradition and Church Authority higher in the scheme of things than they ought to”.  The problem is the improper use of Church Authority and the concept of Tradition, in violation of the Rule of Faith.  (at one point, Chemnitz says that some “excellent men in the church” “attributed too much beside the Scripture to the unwritten traditions”, p. 278, so maybe this is where you got the idea for framing things the way you did).  Again, there is no doubt that the church with its proper Rule of Faith (and Apostolic Ministry to, by the way – this is clearly something that Jesus established and we have no reason to assume that it will not exist until his return… Jesus approves Apostles who approve pastors who approve pastors who approve pastors…) goes hand in hand with the Scriptures.  They are a whole, part and parcel of one another.  The real problem, as Chemnitz would see it, is *going beyond* that proper Rule of Faith, in the sense that this means insisting that certain traditions without sufficient Scriptural warrant (this does exist for infant baptism – it is unacceptable to deny the wealth of evidence implicit in Scripture, as well as the consensus of antiquity [save Tertullian] here) need to be adhered to with the same level of devotion as those revealed in the Scriptures (with the implication that, for those who know better, salvation is at stake if the Magisterium is refused).  Furthermore, things become especially problematic when these said traditions clearly mitigate the Gospel comfort that God means to provide.  In other words, this would, in effect, actually be mitigating the Rule of Faith itself, that central truth in the creed: that God, in His grace, promised to, and was, reconciling man to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, rescuing us from sin, death, and the devil by the confidence-creating proclamation of His forgiveness, life and salvation won by His life, death, and resurrection (the Gospel in its narrow sense, particularly comforting to Christians who are struggling against the sin that continues to best them [see Romans 7])

David:

As to Tertullian seeking to ground all doctrine in Scripture, or harmonious with Scripture (meaning that there may not always be explicit proofs, as Chemnitz himself later concedes with regard to, e.g., infant baptism) we have no disagreement.”

I don’t think Chemnitz is conceding anything here.  That there may not always be explicit proofs is a key part of Chemnitz’s point and method.  However saying that there need not always be explicit proofs does not mean that there can be *no proof* – or proof that is less than strong and insurmountable.  What is really essential about this quotation is that Tertullian really believed that all essential and binding doctrine should be grounded in Scripture.

In the introduction to the Examination of the Council of Trent, translator Fred Kramer says that Chemnitz is the source of the “formal principle of the Reformation”: “that the Scriptures, and not tradition of a combination of the Scriptures and tradition, is the source and norm of doctrine in the Christian church” (p. 22).  I think Kramer himself is not being nuanced enough!  Remember, Chemnitz lists 8 kinds of tradition, *only rejecting the eighth one*.  Please note that in most modern interpretations of the formal principle of the Reformation, types 3-7 are typically rejected as well.  Chemnitz, contra J.A.O. Preuss even (evidently) did not simply use the fathers as “witnesses” to the Reformation doctrine, but they are sometimes essential in working out tradition #5: “dogmas that are not set forth in so many words in Scripture but are clearly apparent from a sampling of texts”.  So the question here is this: *how* does Chemnitz go about using the Scriptures as the “sole source and norm”?  This can be seen in how he teaches infant baptism in his Enchidrion. First, he says that it has been practiced in the church from the time of the Apostles: the writings of the fathers provide the proof for the practice and its defense. Notice that here the writings of the church fathers function as more than witnesses.  They are pointing back to the apostolic interpretation of the applicable texts.  After one has been exposed to this patristic testimony, when the texts are read again, their true meaning becomes clear (yes, even if the Baptist continues to deny it…and no, the same cannot be said for the hierarchical distinctions between bishops and presbyters, as Jerome pointed out).  This also goes beyond issues like Baptism into things like the Trinity and Christ’s divine and human natures.  Chemnitz elsewhere states that certain fathers explain certain concepts the most clearly of all, and that the fathers taught these concepts after clearly drawing them from Scripture (more on this below). (P. Strawn, Cyril of Alexandria as a Source for Martin Chemnitz, in Die Patristik in der Bibelexegese des 16. Jahrhunderts, Wolfenbu”ttleler Forschungen, Bd. 85, Hrsg. v. David C. Steinmetz, Wiesbaden 1999213)

Now, it is true that one can label Chemnitz’s view as “Sola Scriptura” in a sense.  He believed, as the Chemnitz-infused Formula of Concord would later say, “We receive and embrace with our whole heart the Prophetic and Apostolic Scripture of the Old and New Testaments as the pure, clear fountain of Israel which is the only standard by which all teachers and doctrines are to be judged” (851, Triglot, Bente and Dau).  Paul Strawn explains Chemnitz’s view in more detail: “the Word of God, first given verbally to Adam, underwent a continuous process of corruption and restoration until the time of Moses” [which explains God doing things in Tablets of Stone: the Word committed to writing preserved the true doctrine]… and “Christ and the Apostles repeated the process with the production of the New Testament writings…. Christ and the Spirit assisted Apostles who gave the Word verbally, and after a time the Apostles or their assistants committed the Word to writing to secure it from the dangers of verbal transmission.”  In sum: “The verbal and the written Word continued to exist side by side, but the latter always corroborated the former” (P. Strawn, Cyril of Alexandria as a Source for Martin Chemnitz, in Die Patristik in der Bibelexegese des 16. Jahrhunderts, Wolfenbu”ttleler Forschungen, Bd. 85, Hrsg. v. David C. Steinmetz, Wiesbaden 1999213)

Strawn concludes: “Chemnitz’s enumeration of the Scriptures as the first of eight types of traditiones clearly reflected, and generated, an optimistic assessment of the non-apostolic writings of the church.  The basis for such a construction, the pre-biblical, co-biblical, and post-biblical verbal transmission of the Word of God [I note: tradition #4 – Scripture’s proper interpretation] assured a dynamic interaction between the verbally transmitted Word, and the Word committed to writing.  The concepts of source and norm therefore do not violently tear the Scriptures away from the fabric of the theological writings of the Church, but in fact the opposite: they assure their continual interaction and help to retain the apostolic witness in its dominant position….” (217).

Again, I would add that this looking back to the Scriptures is part and parcel of the Rule of Faith, and one we see clearly outlined in Scripture with the Bereans in Acts 17 (note also Isaiah 8:20 especially).  Strawn, again, is very helpful here:  “obviously, the Bereans went searching the Scriptures because Paul’s sermons contained ideas or concepts they had not formerly heard, understood, or realized.  Paul introduced nothing new, however, just pointed to something that before had not been properly noticed.  This interpretation of the Bereans’ actions creates the possibility that the fathers could introduce ‘new’ concepts into the sixteenth century, i.e. those concepts that the reformers had not understood before reading the fathers, that were then affirmed by a rereading of Scripture.”  (p. 215)

I agree with this assessment.  However, I want to see this challenged as well: what is there that I have not “properly noticed” I wonder?  (I can think of one that I am actually somewhat curious about, and open to hearing more about: the establishment of a head Apostolic Office by Divine rite, although in the sense of primacy of honor rather than by jurisdiction…)

David, you say:

“…what can Chemnitz offer us by way of patristic testimony for the soteriology of Lutheranism, with its novelties of imputed justification, faith alone (sola fide), assurance of one-time justification and salvation, and formal separation of justification and sanctification.”

Chemnitz:

And we confess that we are greatly confirmed by the testimonies of the ancient church . . . Nor do we approve of it if someone invents for himself a meaning which conflicts with all antiquity, and for which there are clearly no testimonies of the church. (pp. 208-209)… We confess also that we disagree with those who invent opinions which have no testimony from any period in the church . . . We also hold that no dogma [I say: note the word “dogma” – this is key] that is new in the churches and in conflict with all antiquity should be accepted. What could be more honorably said and thought concerning the consensus and the testimonies of antiquity? . . . we search out and quote the testimonies of the fathers . . . (p. 258)

Is Chemnitz right?

David, first, I agree with you that it is not right to take “grace alone” quotes and use them as if Catholics do not affirm grace alone in some sense (we must acknowledge our different definitions of grace here).  Agreed.  If, however, in any quote grace is put in opposition to works it would certainly be appropriate to use such quotes.

Second, if the Fathers did not perceive a clear challenge to the idea that a person was saved by grace alone and not “one’s own works performed in righteousness” in the early church, we would not really expect to find explicit statements talking about imputed justification, since they would have been unnecessaryAnalogously, Cyril of Alexandria’s ideas about Christ’s divine and human nature were somewhat “new” (a new way of putting things) and only implicit in the writings of other early church fathers – not to mention few and far between.    To my knowledge, in the early fathers there is no “explicit” Cyril-like talk about Christ’s divine and human nature in the centuries before him (much like the situation with Luther and his understanding of the peace and confidence-creating power of justification).  The only difference here would be that Cyril’s new way of putting old truth (and Athanasius’ to, by the way) found wide acceptance among the faithful (though we see many break-offs here at this point as well), in a relatively speedy fashion, whereas with Luther, he was taken up quickly only in some quarters, with the lion’s share of the work to still be done, as the devil fights against this doctrine of justification with everything he has.  Now, to preach justification rightly, one needs to take into account the purpose of the Word to comfort sinners and bring them real peace with God (Rom. 5:1, I John 5:12), and this brings us to the next three points….

Third, the doctrine of “Faith alone” (found in the fathers and the Scriptures, insofar as Paul places faith and works in opposition) is really useful when people do not feel like they have done enough – we do preach works, but for the purposes of pastoral comfort, we must acknowledge that the idea of “faith alone” (see Romans 4:5 and Romans 7 here especially) is a crucial tool to have in the pastor’s tool box.  Justification is a one-time event in that it begins at a point in time, but it is to be applied perpetually until we die. We need the constant reassurance and actual forgiveness of God in Christ applied to us throughout our Christian lives. We need to know that we do have, in some very real sense, peace with God, as Romans says.  Otherwise, our faith dies.  Chemnitz says this well: “God does not confer and convey grace in this life just once, so that it is at once complete and perfect, so that as long as we are in this life God would will and convey nothing more, and that a person would need to receive nothing more from God; but God is always giving and man is always receiving, in order that we may be joined more and more fully and perfectly to Christ, and may hold the forgiveness of sins or reconciliation more firmly, so that the benefits of redemption, which have been begun in us, may be preserved and strengthened and may grow and increase.”  – Examen II: 76,77.

Fourth, Lutherans believe in giving people the confidence of faith, but also talk about how you can lose your faith (we are not Calvinists) – there is nothing un-Lutheran about saying that “we walk in danger all the way”, and that we must strive *in faith* (faith has a passive and active element) to continuously cling to Christ, huddle up next to His side (where He is we will also be) as His sheep, and run to Him to repeatedly hear His life-giving words, etc.  Again, if we do not, our faith dies.

Fifth, when it comes to the life of the believer, we simply do not believe in a separation of justification and sanctification.  The simple child who lives in a relationship with God does not need to distinguish between justification and sanctification – they simply live as His child, and insofar as they are saints, they eagerly hear His voice and do what He commands (I once wrote the following: “The complicated systematic, theological / philosophical constructs that [we often depend on], though certainly able to influence the experiences of the few who think in their grooves, primarily derive from and serve to make sense of the general experiences of all believers, simple and sophisticated alike. Simple words which even children can understand shape Christian experience and are the foundation of the deeper systematic and theological / philosophical constructs, which also, certainly, serve useful purposes.”)   They happily and freely acknowledge that even though they are saved *by faith*, at the final judgment the Judge will judge them *according to works* before their neighbors.  They learn that those who are tempted to stray from His ways and do may, at some point in the future, no longer desire His forgiveness for their wanderings – and hence, no longer desire Him.  Further, there is no doubt that it is true that no one who is not sanctified will be saved, as Luther himself indicated.  We believe in *distinguishing* between justification and sanctification only because Rome’s understanding of it was so faulty and destroyed good pastoral practice (see above).

I concede that just because an early church father argues from Scripture this does not necessarily mean “that only Scripture has authority to rebuke error and bind people…”.  Not necessarily.  But – do we find the church fathers consistently *rebuking error and binding people* for not believing non-Lutheran things in the Church without using evidence from Scripture (whether this is implicit or explicit evidence)?  (Or: do the early church fathers explicitly [and consistently] say that [non-Lutheran] doctrines are inseparable from the Rule of Faith?)  In other words, we are not just talking about this or that father, for instance, simply sharing how churches in their region, for example, use this or that custom [perhaps from this or that Apostle]  – after all, while essential doctrines are not adiaphora, or “indifferent things”, how they are taught and encouraged though rites and ceremonies can be.  Further, if you can come up with examples of them rebuking error and correcting and binding people in this way (i.e. without Scriptural demonstration), what are the reasons that they give for saying that people should believe/do  these things – and what are or should be the consequences if they don’t?  Just because these Fathers also clearly uphold the authority of the Church as the ground of truth in addition to Scripture – admittedly, talking in ways that most Lutherans generally don’t talk today – does not mean that they, in actual practice, do not utilize the Rule of Faith the way Chemnitz says the Church does/should (i.e. they do not do the wrong tradition of #8)  After all, in their own words do they not  talk about how it is true that the Apostolic Faith and its Rule that was received were “in agreement with the Scriptures”?

As best I can tell, in the earliest church writings (like Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, the Didache, Justin Martyr, and Athenagoras, for example), heresy is fought via appeals to the Scriptures (yes, Ignatius does talk about being in fellowship with bishops quite a bit : )).  With Irenaeus and Tertullian, it seems they assert that all the essential, Rule-of-Faith, teachings that are given orally are rooted in the Scriptures and can be proven from them.  Irenaeus’ “ace-card” vs. the Scripture-mangling (claiming it both supported them and that parts of these were in error, that they had the true tradition of its interpretation, etc.) gnostics may have been the argument from Apostolic succession (i.e. this was the most effective argument to make against them), but as Chemnitz reminds us, he afterward spent the lion’s share of his treatise proving from the Scripture “the same thing that he had first shown from tradition” (237).  Another way of saying this is that Scripture simply must be interpreted by its guardians according to its own rule and hypothesis (and though Church may disagree on what constitutes the canon en toto, the books that all agree are Scripture – some are more clearly inspired than others – certainly contain the Rule of Faith [what essential doctrines do Esther, Nehemiah, Ezra, the deutoerocanonical books, James, Hebrews, II Peter, and Revelation have anyway that cannot be found elsewhere?]).  Tertullian says “I adore the fullness of the Scripture… If it is not written, let [Hermogenes] fear that woe which is destined for those who add or take away” (156).  Chemnitz also quotes Jerome saying “Whatever does not have authority in Holy Scripture can be rejected as easily as it can be approved.” (i.e. it is not binding, and therefore, not a part of the authentic Apostolic tradition and Rule of Faith) and then says himself “it was not a contrary, nor a different, nor another, but one and the same doctrine which Paul delivered either by word of mouth or by epistle”. (p. 109).  To this, you [and evidently the Roman Catholic Magisteriusm] say: “”of course!” and “Amen!” — “twin fonts of the same divine wellspring” . . .” (quoting the late 16th century Saint Francis de Sales, I believe)

It seems to me, that if this is true, it is important that all the essential doctrines of the faith ought to be able to be clearly established, demonstrated, and proved from the Scriptures – not just for the Lutheran but for the Roman Catholic.  I guess this is your calling card Dave… after all, you are the guy who literally writes the books about how, after being correctly informed about Roman Catholic teachings, one can then go back to the Scriptures and find Scriptural support for those teachings (e.g. the “Catholic verses”, etc.: “all Christian, Catholic doctrines can be found in Scripture, explicitly, implicitly, or deduced from same. And all Catholic doctrines are certainly harmonious with Scripture” you have said).  In any case, I think even you will admit that one can demonstrate infant baptism from the early Church Fathers and the Scriptures in ways that other non-Lutheran doctrines cannot.  Without any reasonable doubt, the evidence is definitely stronger any way you slice it (what would you say are your “strongest cases” from the “Catholic verses” you find in the Scriptures?).  It seems to me that even non-believers would be able to agree with this (external clarity), even if they do not see the Fathers and Scriptures with the eyes of faith (internal clarity).

In any case, let’s not get too far away from the point I am making here.  I just conceded that simply because an early church father argues from Scripture this does not necessarily mean “that only Scripture has authority to rebuke error and bind people…”.  But again – if it really is the case that the church father’s ability to rebuke goes beyond Scripture, my question is whether we find the church fathers consistently *rebuking error and binding people* for not believing distinctly non-Lutheran things in the Church without using evidence from Scripture (whether this is implicit or explicit evidence)?  And again, if this is the case, what are the reasons for why they are doing so – and the consequences if people do not obey? (does a refusal to acknowledge them as binding doctrines result in separating one’s self from the Church, and therefore Christ?)  Lutherans accept that there are non-essential teachings or practices (i.e. those that cannot be clearly demonstrated from the Scriptures) that can, in principle, be present, and practiced, and even upheld in the Church (how is it upheld though?).  Remember the argument of Paul Strawn: the fact that these traditions existed was not necessarily the problem.  The problem was that these traditions regarding faith and morals which were not provable from Scripture were to be regarded as equal to those clearly demonstrable from Scripture.

Now, could we have had fellowship with Augustine?: Lutherans themselves do not decry penance, venial sins, prayers for the dead, and free will it they are understood correctly – I know that the Lutheran confessions actually say we believe in the last 3 for sure.  Nor do we believe in double predestination.  Regarding things like merit, infused justification, purgatory, the sacrifice of the mass, and faith alone, I’m sure we could have had a very fruitful discussion with Augustine (or his faction at Trent) – more so than the folks at Trent, at least!  In any case, I can actually conceive of Lutherans content to be a part of a church with people who believe in purgatory, do the Corpus Christi festival, think bishops are a good practice by human rite, do the sacrifice of the mass (yes, really), do prayers for the dead (we do this by the way, in our own way), pray to the saints and Mary, do pilgrimages, think there is holy water, think of the Apocrypha as Scripture, don’t eat meat on Friday, etc.  So long as they do not contradict the doctrine of justification in the way they do these things – and do not tell us we are cutting ourselves off from the Church if we think that such opinions either ought not be held at all or not be held with the same reverence as those essential things clearly revealed in the accepted Scripture.  In other words, these could perhaps be held as “pious opinion” or “pious practices” – concepts I know are not foreign to Roman Catholics.  As early 17th c. theologian John Gerhard said, “If the confession of true doctrine and the legitimate use of the Sacraments had been left free for us, perhaps we would not have departed from the external fellowship of the Roman church”. (On the Church, p. 139)

David, you say:

“Nor is it logically required to deduce from this that absolutely everything that the Church declares has express, explicit sanction in Scripture. For Irenaeus and Catholics, such things need only be harmonious and consistent with Scripture.” (note: David had italicized “harmonious” and “consistent”)

Again, serious Lutherans like Chemnitz believe the same thing.  Note that insofar as any tradition not specifically sanctioned in Scripture does not mitigate the Gospel, it can be accepted (i.e. we are “conservative” when it comes to traditions: with Chrysostom we think that even unwritten traditions of the Church are “also worthy of credit”) – but again: only insofar as it is not insisted that these traditions be held with *the same reverence* as those which are clearly put forth there (i.e. stuff that was so important it found its way into the Scriptures in a way that cannot be denied: even baptism is like this: “the Promise if for you and your children”) in the Scriptures.  And of course, in the background here is the idea that our very salvation depends on our keeping these traditions that Rome insisted on.  Saying all this is not to say that Lutherans will never have a good, knock-down debate about what we believe among ourselves, but this is indeed our faith – which we would contend is synonymous with the Rule of Faith.  (A relevant “aside”, or point of interest here: for Lutherans we would keep traditions that cannot be proven from Scripture simply out of love for each other – in order for there to be good order, no weak brothers stumbling, and so as to not cause schism – much like what is clearly happening in Acts 15.  In the LC-MS we do the same kind of stuff that we see in Acts 15.  Congregations in the LC-MS, for example, in order to be a part of the LC-MS, are supposed to use only doctrinally-approved hymnbooks – this is upholding non-essential teachings in a sense, as congregations that do not do these kinds of things could rightly experience ongoing disapproval, rebuke, revocation of privileges, and even discipline by leadership.  Formal excommunication would probably not be in the cards, here, but a refusal to commune with such wayward congregations may occur.  What would not occur is “no salvation outside of the Church [in this place]” kind of talk.  Not because the Church is fallible, which it is [we only can say something like “it seems good to us to, and we think that we also have the Spirit of God”], but because although this is a matter of keeping an essential “faith and morals” doctrine [“keep the bond of peace”], the different ways in which that commandment might be rightly kept in Christian freedom are sometimes very difficult to realize together [how do we allow for a good and proper balance of diversity and uniformity?]  It is right to say that there really is no salvation outside of the Church, but to say this is to really say there is no salvation outside of Christ, for all believers are connected with His Church in a very real way, through true faith and repentance)

Therefore, when after quoting Tertullian you say:

This is (again) Catholicism. It is perfectly permissible to say that truth is grounded in apostolic succession and the Church grounded therein. It is also true to say that truth is grounded in Holy Scripture, The two do not contradict. But they need not always be stated together. Chemnitz will only state them together while stressing over and over again that Scripture is over Tradition and the Church.”…

I must again tell you I think that you are not being nuanced enough.  I do not see Chemnitz saying this at all.  Scripture is not over the oral, unwritten tradition, the Rule of Faith – insofar as the Rule of Faith really is the rule of faith.  As Irenaeus and other Fathers pointed out, these must always go hand and hand and say the same thing (more on how this plays out on the ground with Lutherans and Irenaeus directly below).  Further, the continuance of the Apostolic ministry is critical: necessary, but not sufficient.  We simply see this as unfolding and playing out in a different way.

Now, with all of this said, let’s examine how I think Chemnitz, if he lived today (or if you lived back then), would respond to your arguments (which again, I don’t think he was running away from, consciously or subconsicously).

David:

“….I find this fascinating and more than a little ironic, since Against Heresies, Book III, chapter 3, is perhaps the most famous of all of Irenaeus’ arguments in favor of apostolic succession, episcopacy (bishops), the primacy of Rome, and indeed, even the papacy: all of which Chemnitz would reject as unbiblical. So we see here a situation where Chemnitz tries mightily hard to “spin” Irenaeus in a Lutheran direction, but the facts of the matter simply do not support his interpretation (and rather strikingly so at that).

He claims that Irenaeus is doing “nothing else” in three entire books of this treatise than proving everything right from Scripture. And of course, the sinister Catholics are the ones who twist his words for their own nefarious (and invariably anti-biblical) ends…” (bold mine)

I think Chemnitz would say he is on firm ground here.  Irenaeus may not be consistently applying his method to everything that he assumes is true about the church (and indeed, there really was no need to, as there was no challenge).  For us the question would be whether Irenaeus, if he had been explicitly asked about it, would have believed that all of these things were clearly given in the Scriptures.  If he answers this question in the positive, we’d have a lot of questions for him, based on the Scriptures, that would no doubt get him thinking (For example: Why are there multiple bishops in one city? [Phil. 1:1] ; Why not only this, but why are they also called presbyters? [Acts 20:17-28, Titus: 1:5-7] ; Why do presbyters ordain? [I Tim. 4:14], Etc., etc.  What do the Scriptures seem to imply is the genuine Apostolic tradition here?)  If he answered this question in the negative, the question would then be how he would treat persons who respected these traditions (i.e. the place of bishops over and against pastors) but did not revere them the same way which they revered other doctrines that were *essential* (i.e. the creeds, the Rule of Faith).  In any case, I would guess that it would be unlikely that Irenaeus would have felt any compulsion to search the Scriptures for verification on this issue unless circumstances had arisen in which he would have felt he needed to.  Since having bishops was a useful arrangement at this time, there was no reason for anyone to question it.  In other words, we can agree that these things, in particular situations and times may have been useful and important – but here is the ultimate question: is Irenaeus’ case here ultimately a practical argument (whether he would have put it in these terms or not) or is it one that actually hinges on the infallibility of the church which is delivered in Apostolic Succession (after all, note that for Ireneaus, it is not only the bishops and the bishop of Rome who have received “the infallible charism of the truth”, but presbyters [“order of the priesthood”] as well [of whom Luther was one of those validly ordained] – note how Jerome, for example,  also speaks about how these distinctions were by human rite)?  Lutherans argue the first, RCs the latter.  In short, if he had been pressed, would he have said that the office of bishop was something that was by divine rite or human rite? Again, if the latter is a possibility (and I think it clearly is, given other things that Irenaeus says about the importance of proving things from the Scriptures, where in the Scriptures it is clear that presbyters and bishops are sometimes used synonymously, and there is no explicit command that an office of bishop be put in place which is over that of presbyter) how would Ireneaus respond to someone who insisted that these things were by divine rite – and that this must be held to with the same level of conviction as the essential Christian doctrines (found in things like the Rule of Faith for example)?  That is the question.

These are the kinds of questions Chemnitz would be asking, I think.  Again, reading Irenaeus’ book III, chapter 3 (which you provided), it seems clear to me that there are some likely answers to these questions, and Chemnitz, not you, would be happy with the answers.

David:

“”Nothing else” but confirming and proving articles for Scripture?!?! This entire chapter [in Irenaeus] has exactly one biblical reference, about rebuking heretics. But the father discusses many quite “Catholic” and distinctly non-Lutheran things: none with direct biblical proofs in the immediate context. Yet, if Chemnitz is right about Irenaeus, the latter must himself believe that biblical proofs can be adduced for them; otherwise, St. Irenaeus is guilty of the same heinous error that Chemnitz often accuses “papalists” of committing: coming up with doctrines without biblical support).

Martin Chemnitz claims that St. Irenaeus, in his famous work Against Heresies, only taught that which is expressly taught in Holy Scripture (a position agreeable to Lutheran and general Protestant adherence to sola Scriptura)…  Irenaeus taught in this treatise things rejected by Lutherans, such as episcopacy, apostolic succession, apostles’ choosing of bishops to succeed them, Roman primacy, the papacy, Roman authority over other local churches, as a universal doctrinal standard, and truth as determined solely by apostolic succession [yet without pitting this manifest authority against Scripture]. That is no less than seven things which are not agreeable to Lutheranism [and in just one chapter!]…

The above two propositions admit of only so many explanations; primarily (if not only) two:

A)  The notions of episcopacy, apostolic succession, apostles’ choosing of bishops to succeed them, Roman primacy, the papacy, Roman authority over other local churches, as a universal doctrinal standard, and truth as determined solely by apostolic succession are all doctrines expressly taught in Holy Scripture.

or:

B) St. Irenaeus in fact, did not hold only to doctrines expressly taught in Scripture and accepted some notion that is contrary to sola Scriptura

(end)

(bold mine ; with the exception of “sola Scriptura”, which David had originally in italics)

It seems to me there is another option.  Again, the problem, from our perspective, is if leaders in the Church assert that these things were based on essential and perpetual doctrines – and that a person who questioned or denied this (perhaps even still while appreciating the “human rite” tradition, and seeing it as valuable, but simply not to be held with the same tenacity as other things: i.e. they are not “go to the wall” kinds of things) would necessarily be cutting themselves off from the Catholic Church and Christ. Again, after all, Lutherans had no trouble accepting traditional practices not commanded in Scripture that did not explicitly mitigate the Gospel (i.e. the comfort of the forgiveness of sins – peace with God [Rom. 5:1] – for Christ’s sake) These problems simply do not come up in Irenaeus’ time….

Again, I think that Irenaeus is making a practical argument – even if he doesn’t realize it (again, if he had been pressed on this question – namely, is this an essential “Divine Rite” doctrine that is necessary to salvation – I contend that he would have come down on Chemnitz’s side, not the RC side, given what he says elsewhere about how the Scriptures are used *by those possessing the Rule of Faith*).  Therefore, even when he says “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [of Rome], on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere” it is not clear to me that Irenaeus says this because he believes they are have an Apostolically-passed-on infallible charism in a way that other pastors do not have an infallible charism (Dave A.: [Ireneaus would have stated -- like Catholics -- that the one true Church (a real, historical institution, headed by the pope in Rome) cannot, could not possibly defect from the true faith. Rejection of the Catholic Church and rejection of apostolic succession thus necessarily go hand in hand”]), or because of the powerful (and compelling) practical logic of his argument: i.e. can you imagine that the Apostles of Jesus would mess up the appointment of top leaders – especially Peter and Paul?! (when combining this with the importance of demonstrating truth from the Scriptures, which are the core “Apostolic deposit”, surely Irenaeus is right on here – this is highly compelling argumentation!)

Now, Irenaeus says: “Inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously…”  And he can speak from experience.  He knows that this has worked – that the faithful men really have held to the Apostolic teaching, and this is clearly what the Scriptures put forth, even if the heretics deny it.  There is no good reason for him to be speaking and thinking any differently at this point.  But now: what if historical circumstances, when compared vis a vis Scripture, seem to clearly imply that “the apostolic tradition has not been preserved continuously” – at least, among the majority of the top leaders of the church?  Irenaeus himself indicates that even those who have received the “infallible charism” can fall, for he says, “if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity “ (Book 3, chapter 3).  Yes, what if under the temptations of the world, the Church has gone astray, with the pastors, though rightly holding their blessed offices, have ceased to shepherd appropriately?  What happens when persons who were at one point given the infallible charism faces off against others?  Then what? The highest authority is always right?  The “consensus” is always right?  Does the consensus mean “majority” (one thinks of the sizable faction of more “radical” Augustinians voted down at Trent)?  How does the concept of remnant fit it to all of this?  What happens when presumably faithful believers in the Church can no longer convince themselves that the Scriptures and the supposed “Apostolic tradition” – which one knows really must not (can’t ever?) contradict each other – are saying the same thing?  Then, it seems to me that one must use their Spirit-inspired wisdom to choose… (note we are talking about consciences captive to the Word of God, not UCC consciences….) even if Ireneaus would have never been able to conceive of such a tragic and painful situation…  Let us remember that something similar happened in Jesus’ day.  The Assembly, or Ekklesia (Church), or that day – those who sat in Moses’ very seat – rejected the One who told the people to listen to them (obviously, insofar as they, the legitimate rulers of the Assembly [at this time], spoke the truth – elsewhere he counters them as false teachers nonetheless).   Likewise, similar things happened in the days of the prophets, when those who were supposed to be the leaders (priests and prophets) failed to speak the oracles of God, running where God had not told them to run.  The Assembly has always been unfaithful in their teachings and their practices, but God has always been faithful in spite of this, bringing the Church through via faithful remnants in this or that quarter.  Roman Catholics may think that this indicates that we do not believe that God preserves the visible Church, but in the case of Lutherans at least, nothing could be further from the truth.  Using our both our eyes and our ears, we can know with certainty where Church is being created and growing – and also where the opposite, due to Christ-denying doctrine, is happening (this place we can reserve for all non-Christian religions as well as the folks like the modern day Arians among us, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, for example).  Of course, there may be a lot that we may not know as well (in other words, a lot in between those two poles), but we are happy to be a part of the remnant that holds to the Rule of Faith in its truth and purity.

So when J.N.D. Kelley says of Irenaeus:

“In a previous chapter we noted his theory that the unbroken succession of bishops in the great sees going back to the apostles themselves provides a guarantee that this faith is identical with the message which they originally proclaimed.”

Lutherans would dispute that Irenaeus says this in an ironclad way (note his words I quoted above about falling away) – or if he was thinking this (most likely tacitly), whether he would have thought this way in different circumstances – circumstances that might drive him back to the Scriptures for answers.   On the contrary, we would see Apostolic Succession as a sign which is a good indicator that something is genuine… but stops short of offering a “guarantee”.

Irenaeus: “the faith of all is one and the same, since all receive one and the same God the Father… and preserve the same form of ecclesiastical constitution”… Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters, not taking into consideration of how much greater consequence is a religious man”.

Note here again the focus on presbyters, as opposed to bishops and Popes.

Tertullian: “For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions… no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed”

Amen.  But the faithful will also recognize them by the words they speak, for even faithful laypeople recognize the voice of their Shepherd, and even if their understanding of the Rule of Faith is not terribly firm and strong, they still know enough to be driven back to the Scriptures, which were firmly established by the fulfillment of prophecy, the workings of signs (“miracles”) and of course their continuity with the faith received by Adam and Eve from the beginning (Gen. 3:15) up until their present time…    As Tertullian says: “all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God”.   Again, the sheep hear the voice of the Shepherd …and they are always going back the sacred writings of those prophets and Apostles whom their Shepherd chose.  Tertullian asks rhetorically, “Can any one, then, be reckless enough to say that they were in error who handed on the tradition?”  Of course, the sheep do not go looking for gross falsehood among the pastors who have been validly ordained, but when they encounter it, they know something is wrong…. And when a shepherd arises among them (Luther) who gives voice to what they have been knowing deep down was wrong – they still are hearing the True Shepherd’s voice. God preserves His remnant, in the visible Church at large (as the south [Judah] falls out of fellowship with the north [Israel], within the visible Church [the wheat, not the tares], and even outside of the visible church [“I have preserved 7,000 in *Israel*”]). 

Loose ends:

Tertullian: “But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age…”

Yes –this does seem more unlikely – especially since the Apostles got their teachings in writings which their spiritual descendents could refer to again and again.  But as time rolls on, and Satan steps up his efforts more and more as the Last Day nears…  To the tragic chaos created by the Reformation, I simply say this: “Is Christ divided?” In Gods’ eyes, of course not (intrinsic, see Eph 4:4-5). In our eyes, yes. We are hid in Christ; the Church is hidden under the cross (extrinsic).  In spite of the fact that in this fallen world “there must be divisions among us”, let us always work towards agreeing with one another (I Cor 1:10).

Dave Armstrong (on Athanasius speaking about the Nicean council as regards those continuing in heresy):

“In other words, the proclamation was sufficient itself, but because of obstinacy and “shamelessness” of the heretics, scriptural arguments will bolster the arguments and make it better and stronger.  But they are not absolutely necessary to ascertain the truth of the matter.” (David had italicized absolutely)

Right – because the council’s determination were themselves soaked and saturated with Scriptural evidence, and any faithful believer could clearly see that the Council’s decisions should not be rejected.  Most likely, they thought that “it seemed right to the Holy Spirit and us”, and the faithful concurred.  Therefore, Chemnitz, it seems to me, is right.

J.N.D. Kelley on Athanasius (quoted by Dave Armstrong):

“Athanasius himself, after dwelling on the entire adequacy of Scripture, went on to emphasize the desirability of having sound teachers to expound it. Against the Arians he flung the charge that they would never have made shipwreck of the faith had they held fast as a sheet-anchor to the . . . Church’s peculiar and traditionally handed down grasp of the purport of revelation.”

Yes.  Chemnitz would applaud.  Tradition #4 at work.   Of course the “Church’s peculiar and traditionally handed down grasp of the purport of revelation” can also be found in the Scripture as well, although this does not thereby mean that an authoritative and interpreting church is not necessary!  As Schaff says, (whom you quoted): “Athanasius, for example, ‘the father of orthodoxy,’ always bases his conclusions upon Scripture, and appeals to the authority of tradition only in proof that he rightly understands and expounds the sacred books.” (italics mine)

Dave: The always partisan yet thoroughly fair-minded Schaff takes the position himself that Athanasius ‘ position is neither the present-day Catholic or Protestant one.”

Right.  It’s the Lutheran one, as expounded by Chemnitz.

Dave, you have said elsewhere (where you deal with the words of the 16th century Puritan William Whitaker):

“Catholics don’t think Scripture is utterly obscure, as I have reiterated again and again. But traditionally, we have thought it was far more obscure and difficult to interpret than Protestants have. For them, it is far more “plain and clear”: so much so that they have hundreds of competing denominations, all based on Scripture Alone (yes, that makes no sense to me, either). The truth obviously lies in the middle. We don’t say it is an utter mystery (the Protestant caricature of our view); nor do thoughtful, educated Protestants hold that  there are no difficulties whatever (too often the Catholic caricature of their view). The truth lies in the middle, and it is a matter of degree.”

Right.  Chemnitz is obviously in the middle, representing the serious Lutherans, who, by the way, are *always* in the middle.

More from you, as regards Whitaker:

“We can’t appeal to an infallible Church guided by the Holy Spirit, whose duty it is to guard a sacred deposit passed-down, because that is precisely what Protestantism rejected.”

But Lutheranism does not reject this.  We believe that this is indeed the case, but that we need to take more seriously than ever before the concept of remnant, and the actual histories of God’s people in the Old and New Testament.  As regards infallibility, here it is like what C.S. Lewis said about not getting the “second things” unless the “first things” are focused on.

Chemnitz:

[T]his will be the question, whether Irenaeus and Tertullian were setting forth and proving another and different doctrine than the one handed down in the Scripture, that is, whether they argued and showed that the church at that time had many teachings and mysteries of the faith from traditions which could not be proved from any testimony of Scripture. That this is the point of controversy between us and the papalists we have already said repeatedly. (p. 236)

Yes (with the further clarifications that I have added about tradition #8).

The fullness of the Rule of Faith is often only known tacitly (and will, of course, be confirmable in Scripture – when one finally looks with the right questions and problems in mind: “[the Rule of Faith’s] contents coincided with those of the Bible [for Origin]” [-J.N.D. Kelley]).  It takes the circumstances of history to “draw out” further explicit content, that is, essential doctrine, starting with the ecumenical creeds and including also the doctrine of justification.  We have begun to really understand, even as we long to understand more (for example, objectively speaking, passages like Isaiah 53 really are clearly about Jesus Christ, even if that knowledge has not become clear or fully dawned in the faithful).  As regards this drawing out of essential doctrine, the matter of interpretation is involved (note also: “[for Origin, the Rule of Faith] was formally independent of the Bible, and also included the principles of Biblical interpretation ” [-J.N.D. Kelley]).  Here you will recall what I said earlier about *how* the Berean’s treatment of the Scriptures in Acts 17 plays out on the ground: a) their gut impulse is to go to those formal Scriptures held to by believers and test…. and b) things they may not have seen before they clearly are able to locate after Paul has preached and taught.  Lactanius said: “For the contest [over who is the true Catholic Church] is respecting life and salvation, which, unless it is carefully and diligently kept in view, will be lost and extinguished.” (as you quoted him)  So again, where is the Church?  I like how Douglas Johnson puts it:  “Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is at the heart of all the great controversies that shook the Early church as it tried to work out its own self-understanding”.  Indeed, and in the Reformation, we simply see the continuing of this process. 

Your court Dave.

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