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Reformation history: what would you have done?

03 Nov

Luther and the Papacy, by Scott Hendrix, 1981

Kids call things like they see them.

What would you have done during times like those in the Reformation when even the top authorities (the Roman Curia) were condemning teachings they ought not to have been condemning?  Or teaching what they ought not to have been teaching?  For example, regarding the beginnings of the Reformation, the Papacy had expanded indulgences to include the claim of granting forgiveness itself (note: full forgiveness from temporal penalties [including purgatory], not eternal ones [hell]).  Not only this, but “the extreme papal position on the authority of the unwritten tradition (controlled by the papacy) and also the extreme claims to power over Scripture and gospel [were the views held by most of Luther’s opponents].”  The highest curial theologian, a Dominican by the name of Prieras, said the following: “In its irrefragable and divine judgment the church’s authority is greater than the authority of Scripture…the authority of the Roman Pontiff…is greater than the authority of the Gospel, since because of it we believe in the Gospels.”)” (see Tavard’s Holy Writ on Holy Church)…  He was really not opposed by any prominent voices within the Church (Erasmus may have written somewhat more sensibly, but he quickly fell out of favor with Rome).  By the study of church history and historical study of Scripture, Luther called into question this whole view of tradition and authority (see Headley’s Luther’s View of Church History).” Also, in defense of Luther, one has said, “Luther’s concerns were always ecclesiological. His was not an affair of the private conscience or judgment against the social, institutional church. His was not a subjective, individualistic experience opposed to objective authority.” (Robert Goeser, from his review of “Luther and the Papacy” here: http://www.luthersem.edu/word&world/Archives/2-4_Healing/2-4_Reviews.pdf )

But there is more!  A few years ago I was thrilled to find out that one of my R. Catholic heroes Sir Thomas More (A man for all seasons, the movie, rocks! – he was certainly on the side of the angels!) had written a work in the mid-1520s versus the Lutherans (though he wrote it under a pseudonym at the time – he wrote as some Spanish monk, I believe).  I checked out the first of the big two volume books from our local library system, and had a look. More’s main argument?: Basically (crassly), since the Church owns the Bible it can interpret and do with it as it pleases (not much room for exegesis of the actual text in his view – nor the Fathers for that matter). If a great Christian man like More could be so careless in taking the extreme position that he did, its little wonder that things progressed in the Reformation as they did.

Therefore, I think intellectual honesty requires us to admit that some Popes of the 15th and early 16th century who put forth authoritative documents would surely take exception to the idea that their pronouncements were not solemn, ex cathedra exercises. When this doctrine was formally defined in the late 19th century, it was not a new doctrine, but was one (namely, the Pope’s voice is more or less God’s when he says it is) that had had some currency for a while.

So what should Luther have done when Rome rejected his efforts to turn around the Mothership?  Being the lowly friar that he was, could he have submitted without giving the impression that he could accept this kind of rhetoric?

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161 Comments

Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

161 responses to “Reformation history: what would you have done?

  1. Nathaniel

    November 11, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Hi Nathan,
    “When this doctrine was formally defined in the late 19th century, it was not a new doctrine…”
    That’s the claim of the Catholic Church for *all* formal definitions of doctrine — they’re not brand new, they’re a statement of what has always been true, though more clearly understood and expressed than before. Maybe you and your readers know that, but it’s not clear from the discussion above.

    Regarding your final question of this post:
    If I answer “No, he couldn’t have, but he should have submitted anyway,” what is the implication? That if not submitting was wrong, “giving the impression” of accepting extreme rhetoric was more wrong? I feel like I am not reaching the conclusion that you’re driving at. Are Luther’s only two options (1) to submit and not call things like he sees them, or (2) to not submit in order to freely call things like he sees them? I hope I am raising my children to follow a third way, to respectfully point out my error when I say something off-base, and still to give me the full obedience and respect that they owe their father.

    Thanks for your writings and thoughts here! Keep my family in your prayers, if you would.
    Pax Christi,
    Nathaniel

     
    • infanttheology

      November 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      Nathaniel,

      Thanks for your comments. The point I am making is simply that Popes had seen themselves speaking for God for a long time and had made many erroneous statements. But in the late 19th c. papal infallibility is carefully defined in such a way to nullify many those other statements that Popes made when they no doubt thought they were speaking for God.

      I agree with your third way. That said, I think in Luther’s situation, after he had gained prominence through the spreading of his theses, he still did try to do your option, but never got acknowledged…. he did start writing a little bit more vigorously, and I am not sure if that tone got him exommunicated or if he would have been excommunicated regardless. I’ll have to re-read the book above….

      +Nathan

       
  2. Nathaniel

    November 13, 2011 at 6:53 am

    “The point I am making is simply that Popes had seen themselves speaking for God for a long time and had made many erroneous statements.”
    OK, I didn’t pick up on that — I don’t think your post actually identified any erroneous statements as such. Also, the most specific statements/positions that you seemed to object to here are not from popes.

    “But in the late 19th c. papal infallibility is carefully defined in such a way to nullify many those other statements that Popes made…”
    I think that’s a mischaracterization: defining the narrow conditions that guarantee papal infallibility is not the same as defining that all papal statements made outside those conditions are false! I am not infallible but my statements are not therefore nullified. Catholics owe “religious submission of mind and will” to the magisterium even when the pope is not speaking ex Cathedra.

    “…[Luther] still did try to do your option, but never got acknowledged.”
    That might be true. However, just because one of my children thinks she has a valid complaint to make, and that the current time is a good time to raise it, does not entail that I have to address the question on her own terms or timetable. I am her father with authority over her; hopefully I have more wisdom and perspective than she, but regardless, it is her duty to obey, whether or not she thinks my judgment/timing/lack-of-acknowledgement is correct [as long as I do not require blatant sin of her: to lie, cheat, steal, kill, etc.]. What does authority mean? That she must honor my word, not because of its content or because of her agreement, but because of its source.

    “…I am not sure if that tone got him exommunicated or if he would have been excommunicated regardless.”
    As I understand it, it was Luther’s proclamation of, and adamant clinging to, heresy [as judged by the Catholic Church, of course] that got him excommunicated. Or is that in dispute?

    I appreciate the discussion — thanks.
    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  3. Nathan

    November 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Great talking with you to.

    “I don’t think your post actually identified any erroneous statements as such.”

    OK – there are some that are pretty clear – things that not only Lutherans would see as either errors or contradictions.

    “defining the narrow conditions that guarantee papal infallibility is not the same as defining that all papal statements made outside those conditions are false”

    No, of course not. But it is eliminating the problematic ones that in the past had been pronounced authoritatively.

    “Catholics owe “religious submission of mind and will” to the magisterium even when the pope is not speaking ex Cathedra.”

    Yes – very frightening – given the heretical tendencies of several of the Popes of the past.

    “it is her duty to obey, whether or not she thinks my judgment/timing/lack-of-acknowledgement is correct [as long as I do not require blatant sin of her: to lie, cheat, steal, kill, etc.]”

    We do honor authority because of the source. No doubt. As my parents taught me. Re: Luther, he was being required to blatantly sin, that is, by keeping silent in the midst of great evil. He should *not* have shut up. I do think that if you look at his writings and even letters and about the Pope pre 1519/1520 (2-3 years after the theses) you will see that he still was indeed “a loyal son of the Pope”.

    “s I understand it, it was Luther’s proclamation of, and adamant clinging to, heresy [as judged by the Catholic Church, of course] that got him excommunicated. Or is that in dispute?”

    Exactly. It was all about content. Luther could have been super mild-mannered and irenic to the nth and been all about the Apostle Paul’s “gentleness and respect” and still he would have been odious to Rome. Not because he taught falsely, but because they did.

    + Nathan

     
  4. Nathaniel

    November 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Hi again Nathan,
    I said,
    “defining the narrow conditions that guarantee papal infallibility is not the same as defining that all papal statements made outside those conditions are false”

    You said (I’ll call it claim B for short):
    “But it is eliminating the problematic ones that in the past had been pronounced authoritatively.”

    My note above about “submission of mind and will” is a refutation of B. Defining the narrow conditions for infallibility does not by itself do anything to make previous, non-infallible proclamations non-authoritative. A non-infallible (e.g. non ex cathedra) teaching can still be authoritative (i.e. require submission). The line between “infallible” and “not infallible” was defined more clearly in the late 18th century; that line does not have implications for the authoritativeness (or non-authoritativeness) for those teachings on the “not infallible” side of the line. So I don’t see in what sense any papal statements were “eliminated” by defining the limits.

    (Making sure we’re on the same page — all this applies to papal teachings/proclamations/documents for the Church, not just a pope’s private opinions.)

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying here to show my support for any particular papal pronouncements. I’m just trying to set the record straight on the implications of the Vatican I definition.

    Pax Christi,
    Nathaniel

     
  5. Nathaniel

    November 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Nathan,
    In your first response you said, “I am not sure if that tone got him exommunicated or if he would have been excommunicated regardless.”
    Later you said, “Exactly. It was all about content. Luther… could have been …irenic… and still he would have been odious to Rome.”

    I’m just having trouble engaging what seem to be two different, opposing ideas. Was tone important, or was it all about content?

    “Not because he taught falsely, but because they did.” Well, that’s exactly what’s in dispute between us– I am a Catholic, if it wasn’t apparent yet :).
    But I think we can agree that the Catholic Church in the 1520s accused Luther of heresy.

    Is “keeping silent in the midst of great evil” always and everywhere a blatant sin? Can you be specific about how in particular Luther was required by the Catholic Church to keep silent, and how such silence would have been sinful? It is always our duty to obey rightful authority; but it is always our duty to disobey an direct order to sin. I suppose it’s right along that line of distinction that we can draw the Lutheran-Catholic divide. (Of course, there are others.)

    Peace Nathan,
    –Nathaniel

     
  6. Nathan

    November 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “Defining the narrow conditions for infallibility does not by itself do anything to make previous, non-infallible proclamations non-authoritative. A non-infallible (e.g. non ex cathedra) teaching can still be authoritative (i.e. require submission).”

    Fine. Yes, persons are always supposed to obey the Pope as regards issues of faith and morals, regardless of whether or not a pronouncement can reasonably have been said to uttered ex cathedra. But this pronouncement does make it possible for persons to be vindicated in retrospect – and to explain why some Popes did not speak for God when they certainly thought they were.

    “I’m just having trouble engaging what seem to be two different, opposing ideas. Was tone important, or was it all about content?”

    I have not re-read the book I mentioned above, but I have read other things (from my pastor) since I said that. No, I’m quite sure now it was all about content.

    “Is “keeping silent in the midst of great evil” always and everywhere a blatant sin?”

    I would say, in general, yes. But I will not say always and everywhere without talking about concrete things.

    “Can you be specific about how in particular Luther was required by the Catholic Church to keep silent, and how such silence would have been sinful?”

    I’d say excommunication is a way of silencing someone. Obviously, they wanted him to cease and desist what he was saying, and arguably, it is only the protection of Frederick that kept him from a Hus-like experience. Knowing what he knew, as a pastor (and teacher) of the Church, it would have been wrong to keep silent. Obviously.

    “It is always our duty to obey rightful authority; but it is always our duty to disobey an direct order to sin.”

    Yes, teaching what the RCC teaches is sin. A grave sin.

    “I suppose it’s right along that line of distinction that we can draw the Lutheran-Catholic divide. (Of course, there are others.)”

    Yes, I hope by God’s grace you will come around Nathaniel.

    Love in Christ,
    Nathan

     
    • Nathaniel

      November 16, 2011 at 8:25 am

      Nathan,
      Great talking with you.

      “… I will not say always and everywhere without talking about concrete things.”
      I guess that’s my point — you said “Re: Luther, he was being required to blatantly sin, that is, by keeping silent in the midst of great evil.”
      If Luther (or one of my kids) is going to play the “I don’t have to obey you, because you are ordering me to sin” card, it had better be crystal clear what particular act or omission he is being bound to, and there had better be a principled way of showing that the particular act/omission is a sin. Speaking without precision in this department will not do. You said of Luther that “excommunication is a way of silencing someone. Obviously, they wanted him to cease and desist what he was saying” — but you have not been clear about what sinful act Luther was bound to. “Keeping silent” isn’t enough — we would have to be clear about what silence (on what topic, in what forum) was required by the Church, and also clear on the principles that make keeping silent in just those conditions blatantly sinful. Let me know if you think I’m not on target in trying to be so precise. (For example, we would probably agree that the Catholic Church [or LCMS] requiring particular members to keep silent on [or to renounce] their Pelagian or Arian views is appropriate, and not equivalent to requiring sin, even if those members feel conscience-bound and scripturally-founded in proclaiming those heretical views widely within the Church.)

      Similarly, when you make statements like
      “…some Popes did not speak for God when they certainly thought they were.”
      “…teaching what the RCC teaches is sin. A grave sin.”
      you are making generalizations, not talking about concrete things. I’m fairly sure that you don’t think that it’s a sin to teach anything the Catholic Church does, e.g. that “Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ… whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men [CCC 1992].”

      You’re right that the definition of narrow conditions for infallibility makes it possible that papal declarations made outside those confines could be in error — but vindication of any opponent would require separate demonstration that a particular papal declaration was actually in error! One’s ability to make an independent demonstration doesn’t change when the conditions for infallibility are defined.

      I hope I’m not being rude, commenting on your blog and then pushing you to be more precise. I’d like to engage some of the things you’re saying, but it’s easier and more productive to engage and defend precise statements than larger, less-clearly-defined claims. Let me know if you’re not interested in going down that path!
      Thanks for putting up with me.
      Peace,
      Nathaniel

       
  7. Nathan

    November 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I am hardly putting up with you. You are offering me a service by your questions. This is how we learn. Thank you.

    “you have not been clear about what sinful act Luther was bound to.”

    OK, I believe we can pinpoint the crux of the issue here:

    “If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake… let him be anathema.” (Trent)

    The condemning of this view had been happening for a while. In fact, all of this is related to the beginnings of the Reformation (as I’m guessing Benedict has discerned as well). As a pastor, Luther was being told that he could not do confession and absolution the way he was doing it (which was the biblical way).

    Here is something I wrote a while back that explains this:

    “I heard this objection with grief, because I had misdoubted nothing less than that this matter would be called into question”. These were Martin Luther’s words following Cardinal Cajetan’s pronouncement towards Luther’s view of confession and absolution. Luther also said that he would not become a heretic by recanting the opinion that had made him a Christian, but that he would rather die and be burned, exiled, or cursed. Exsurge Domine, the bull written against Luther shortly after this, condemned this statement of Martin Luther: “By no means can you have reassurance of being absolved because of your contrition, but because of the word of Christ: ‘Whatsoever you shall loose, etc.’ Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition.” One may make a strong case that, for Luther, the Reformation was primarily about this very matter. According to historian Scott Hendrix, after hearing Cajetan’s pronouncement on his view, Luther had determined that the question at stake was not merely the formal issue of authority in the church, but the essence of the Christian life and the heart of his own religious experience. Christians, of course, had always assumed that the ultimate reality of the universe is a rational Person who became in-fleshed among us and who communicates with people in the world using meaningful words. And for Luther, this communication in particular – the living voice of God which proclaimed, “I forgive you – be at peace my child” – was not to be silenced.

    My footnotes to this:

    “Although the controversy over Unigenitus clarified the already existing disagreement between Cajetan and Luther over papal authority and credibility, Cajetan’s second objection revealed a substantial difference which had serious consequences for Luther’s ensuing attitude towards the papacy. Luther had asserted that Christians approaching the sacrament of penance should not trust in their own contrition but in the words of Christ spoken by the priest in the absolution. If they believed in these words, then they could be certain of forgiveness, because these words were absolutely reliable, whereas the sufficiency of their contrition was never certain. In reply, Cajetan upheld the prevailing theological opinion: although it was true that contrition was never perfect, its presence still made one worthy to receive the grace conferred by the sacrament. Still, one could never be certain that one’s contrition was sufficient to effect the forgiveness one hoped to receive. To hold the contrary, said Cajetan, was to teach a new and erroneous doctrine and to “build a new church.”… “Part of the reason for Cajetan’s sharp reaction lay in the different concepts of faith which he and Luther espoused. For Cajetan, faith was one of the virtues infused with grace, and it entailed belief that the doctrine of penance itself was correct. For Luther, faith was not this general confidence in the correctness and power of the sacrament but “special faith” in the certain effect of the sacrament on the penitent Christian who trusted the word of Christ. Cajetan quickly perceived the difference but failed to appreciate Luther’s underlying concern. To him Luther’s “special faith” appeared to be a subjective human assessment which undermined the objective power of the keys at work through the pronouncement of absolution. It imposed a new condition on the efficacy of the sacrament beyond that most recently defined at the Council of Florence; therefore, Luther was again challenging an explicit decree of the church. Luther, however, was striving for just the opposite: to put the sacrament on a more objective basis. He was trying to remove the uncertain, subjective element of human contrition as a basis for the efficacy of the sacrament and to replace it with the objective, certain words of Christ pronounced in the absolution” (Hendrix, Scott, Luther and the Papacy, Minneapolis: Fortress, 1981, p. 62, italics mine).”

    and

    “What kind of church is the pope’s church? It is an uncertain, vacillating, and tottering church. Indeed, it is a deceitful, lying church, doubting and unbelieving, without God’s Word. For the pope with his keys teaches his church to doubt and to be uncertain… It is difficult enough for wretched consciences to believe. How can one believe at all if, to begin with, doubt is cast upon the object of one’s belief? Thereby doubt and despair are only strengthened and confirmed.” (Luther, 1530, quoted at the beginning of one of the chapters in Hendrix, Scott, Luther and the Papacy, Minneapolis: Fortress, 1981). This quote also from Luther: “There hasn’t been a more destructive teaching against repentance in the Church (with the exception of the Sadducees and the Epicureans) as that of Roman Catholicism. In that it never permitted the forgiveness of sins to be certain, it took away complete and true repentance. It taught that a person must be uncertain as to whether or not he stood before God in grace with his sins forgiven. Such certainty was instead to be found in the value of a person’s repentance, confession, satisfaction, and service in purgatory.” Luther, Martin. Antinomian Theses, Disputation #4, 1938 (translated by Pastor Paul Strawn) Minneapolis: Lutheran Press, Inc., 2005 (The whole book is available for free at: http://www.lutheranpress.com/

    “Let me know if you think I’m not on target in trying to be so precise.”

    No, you are right on target in trying to get to the heart of the matter. Someone else told me this was just “garden-variety (not very well-informed) contra-Catholic polemics”. Not you. I think you realize the importance of what happened here, and you want to get to the bottom of it.

    “you are making generalizations, not talking about concrete things.”

    Right. That’s because I have done so elsewhere (see my two responses to Dave Armstrong, for instance – the third coming hopefully today or tomorrow). The Lutheran confessions are also quite concrete and careful to accurately represent their opponents views – and their own views (those of the Catholic Church!)

    “but vindication of any opponent would require separate demonstration that a particular papal declaration was actually in error!”

    Well, of course. Do you need concrete instances? I have not spent much time on this, but other men I trust have – and I can get the information. Keep in mind that the fact that the papacy condemned these views of Luther above (and all the doctrines surrounding this) is sufficient evidence for me to ascertain from the Fathers and the Scriptures that the Pope is not infallible, even if he holds his office by Divine Rite. But, again, there are other problems with papal pronouncements that RC theologians themselves have been pointing out for a long time…

    “I’d like to engage some of the things you’re saying, but it’s easier and more productive to engage and defend precise statements than larger, less-clearly-defined claims. Let me know if you’re not interested in going down that path!”

    Well, we’ve started…

    + Nathan

     
    • Nathaniel

      November 29, 2011 at 2:28 pm

      Back again, Nathan! Happy Advent.

      I said, “you have not been clear about what sinful act Luther was bound to.”

      You said, “OK, I believe we can pinpoint the crux of the issue here: …”

      I’m afraid that my statement above still stands — you have not identified a sinful act that the Church was binding Luther to perform. You’ve talked about theological opinions, concepts of faith, conditions for absolution.

      What sinful act was the Church demanding of Luther?

      Peace,
      Nathaniel

       
    • Nathaniel

      November 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm

      Yes, I read those. Thanks for linking.
      –Nathaniel

       
  8. Nathaniel

    November 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Cheers, Nathan!
    I’ll be away for a few days, but I’ll chew on what you’ve said.

    –Nathaniel

     
  9. infanttheology

    November 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “You said, “OK, I believe we can pinpoint the crux of the issue here: …”

    I’m afraid that my statement above still stands — you have not identified a sinful act that the Church was binding Luther to perform. You’ve talked about theological opinions, concepts of faith, conditions for absolution.

    What sinful act was the Church demanding of Luther?”

    I guess I don’t understand you. Cajetan was telling Luther that he had to do confession and absolution the Roman way, which was the wrong way (which was sinful, wicked, contrary to the essence of the Christian life).

    By the way, I made that last comment to you a blog post:

    https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/forgiveness-free-and-true-the-crux-of-the-reformation-the-essence-of-the-christian-life/

    +Nathan

     
  10. Nathaniel

    November 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    OK, here is my best attempt at concisely restating what you’ve said. (Please restate it yourself if I get you wrong.)

    Nathan: Cajetan required Luther to go to confession and be contrite.

    My response:
    Is it sinful “to go to confession and be contrite”? My answer is no; I think your answer is also no. So this can’t be the sinful action that the Church required of Luther.

    (I am assuming for the sake of argument here that Cajetan was speaking officially for the Church in all the statements you quote above; though I don’t know the details well enough to know that at the moment.)

    Please fill in what I’m missing!
    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  11. infanttheology

    November 29, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “Exsurge Domine, the bull written against Luther shortly after this, condemned this statement of Martin Luther: “By no means can you have reassurance of being absolved because of your contrition, but because of the word of Christ: ‘Whatsoever you shall loose, etc.’ Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition.”

    Rome required Luther to teach wrongly, see above. The matter goes deeper than his own personal experience: it has to do with what, by implication (and clearly spelled out by the Bull above), he was to be doing as a pastor.

    Of course Luther was to go to confession and be contrite. This is what he had been doing during the course of his life as a Christian.

    I hope this helps.

    +Nathan

     
  12. Nathaniel

    November 29, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Nathan,
    Exsurge Domine did not command Luther to teach wrongly; it did not command Luther to teach at all. In fact, if forbade him to preach.

    What sinful act did the Church demand of Luther?

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  13. Anonymous

    November 29, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Nathaniel,

    It seems your last point is a technicality really. Luther was excommunicated, so I’ll give you that (even though I really don’t need to concede this: his excommunication came after his meeting with Cajetan, where he told Luther that by his teaching he was building a “New Church” – Cajetan’s censure is simply upheld by the Roman Curia in the Bull).

    ***But the Reformation was not just about Luther.*** Clearly, the message was that those pastors who agreed with Luther – who were not all immediately excommunicated – were to do confession and absolution the Roman way, which again, was sinful. And the root of all of this is a doctrine of penance that is simply unbiblical.

    I hope this helps.

    +Nathan

     
  14. Nathaniel

    November 29, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Nathan,
    Exsurge Domine did not excommunicate Luther, but it did give him 60 days to set things right. It did “enjoin, however, on Martin that in the meantime he cease from all preaching or the office of preacher.”

    So, before Luther was excommunicated, he was forbidden to preach.

    I’m not arguing a technicality, here. We agreed that a person must obey rightful authority unless that authority commands blatant sin. So, I am digging to find the sin commanded of Luther by the Catholic Church, which command he would therefore be duty bound to disobey.

    Hence my question, to which I cannot find a direct answer so far in this thread:
    What sinful act did the Church demand of Luther?

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  15. infanttheology

    November 29, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I really do not understand what you are getting at. Could you please help me a bit? Are you trying to get to something, to make a point? I apologize – I just don’t see it. I think my point is pretty clear really.

    Once Cajetan told Luther he was wrong, everything changed for Luther. He now knew that what he had been assuming was OK (as Staupitz had helped him pastorally in this way) was not.

    If Luther “set things right” as you say (recanted), he would have been conceding that Exsurge Domine was correct – or at the very least he would have been conceding that he would follow orders externally (and if he thought that the teaching was really as evil as I do, he could not have done this in clear conscience).

    Again, to assent to this teaching – which is antiChristian – and to teach it to others, would be a grave sin indeed. Had Luther “recanted” without changing his behavior as regards this practice, he would be deliberately defying the curia.

    “What sinful act did the Church demand of Luther?”

    That he recant of his true teaching, which is the core of the whole Christian message.

    Please help me to see how I can satisfy you. : )

    +Nathan

     
  16. Nathaniel

    November 30, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Nathan,
    Thanks for putting up with my doggedness. 🙂

    You started this post with, “Kids call things like they see them.” You ended on the same theme: Luther was a lowly Friar of his mother the Church. I think it’s a very useful analogy; hence my comments above on how my children ought to obey me in all things, even things they don’t agree with, unless I directly command sin.

    So, if Luther is an obedient, lowly Friar who is commanded to sin [according to the judgement of his conscience], then yes, he should not obey that command. If to recant would be to lie (because he doesn’t believe what he is asked to profess belief in) about matters of faith, then he should not recant at that time.

    But a lowly friar commanded not to preach should not disobey the prohibition against teaching, simply because he cannot justly obey a different command (the command to recant). That would be the child deciding not to obey any parental commands it disagrees with, on the basis that one command [according to the judgement of the child] was a command to sin.

    If Luther had only refused to obey where there was clear sin, and had obeyed in all other things, where would we be? How can a child justly do otherwise?

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  17. infanttheology

    November 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “But a lowly friar commanded not to preach should not disobey the prohibition against teaching.”

    teaching=preaching, I think.

    “That would be the child deciding not to obey any parental commands it disagrees with, on the basis that one command [according to the judgement of the child] was a command to sin.

    If Luther had only refused to obey where there was clear sin, and had obeyed in all other things, where would we be? How can a child justly do otherwise?”

    So, let’s play this out. Let’s say he is blessed to hear you (through a time machine) and he thinks that this is wise (as I do – granted, greater knowledge of circumstances on the ground might possibly change things). Do you think Rome would have no excommunicated him after 60 days?

    To me, that seems like a huge stretch.

    You do know for a fact that Luther continued to preach, huh? (perhaps he reasoned that at this critical juncture to fail to preach rightly on issues such as these so close to the heart of the Christian life and salvation, would be an even greater sin… I don’t know)

    +Nathan

     
  18. Nathaniel

    November 30, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Nathan,
    “teaching=preaching, I think.”
    Yes, thanks — I mistyped 🙂
    I think Luther continued to teach and preach for the rest of his days. (The 60 days are not of particular importance here.)

    “Do you think Rome would have no excommunicated him after 60 days?”
    No — that’s not what I’m suggesting. The Church made it clear that recanting was required, and without recanting, Luther would be excommunicated.
    But the principle at work here is:
    Obey rightful authority, except in cases where such authority commands sin. (To do otherwise would itself be sinful.)
    Do the laws of morality stop applying to the excommunicated, so that what is sinful for those in communion is morally neutral/good for those excommunicated? Nothing justifies such a turnabout of morality.

    All I’m contending is that Luther, or any humble member of the Church, must continue to obey the Church in all other matters, even when refusing obedience on some point(s) judged in conscience to be sinful. Luther made a decision to refuse all obedience to the Church. That decision was morally wrong.

    Let me know how this argument falls apart, if you think it does. I hope it’s clear what I’m arguing, now.

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  19. Anonymous

    December 1, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    “But the principle at work here is: Obey rightful authority, except in cases where such authority commands sin. (To do otherwise would itself be sinful.)
    Do the laws of morality stop applying to the excommunicated, so that what is sinful for those in communion is morally neutral/good for those excommunicated? Nothing justifies such a turnabout of morality.”

    Being a person who respects authority, I consider you seriously here. The thing is, I get the impression from everything Luther wrote early on that he was the same way.

    “Luther made a decision to refuse all obedience to the Church. That decision was morally wrong.”

    Maybe….

    Let me know how this argument falls apart, if you think it does. I hope it’s clear what I’m arguing, now.”

    It is clear. The argument may fall apart in that it seems to show itself to be impractical in the very clear example of disobedience we have been discussing. As I said above, “perhaps he reasoned that at this critical juncture to fail to preach rightly on issues such as these so close to the heart of the Christian life and salvation, would be an even greater sin… ”

    I can see myself going in that direction, had I been in Luther’s shoes.

    Still, could you tell me what other particular acts of disobedience you have in mind? I can think of one: I don’t see how burning the papal bull and canon law was justified.

     
  20. infanttheology

    December 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Sorry to any others reading all of this….in this whole post Anonymous is infanttheology which is Nathan (not Nathaniel)

     
  21. Nathaniel

    December 3, 2011 at 4:57 am

    Nathan,
    “Still, could you tell me what other particular acts of disobedience you have in mind?”
    I am referring not to particular acts of disobedience, but to Luther’s refusal to be obedient to the Catholic Church.

    “I can think of one: I don’t see how burning the papal bull and canon law was justified.”
    I don’t think that was an act of disobedience — as I expect there were no particular commands nor general laws/norms of the Catholic Church prohibiting the burning of papal documents or canon law! I think it was simply an act of defiance.

    “perhaps he reasoned that at this critical juncture to fail to preach rightly on issues such as these so close to the heart of the Christian life and salvation, would be an even greater sin”
    This puts us right back where we were on Nov. 14-15: you expressed belief that Luther’s “keeping silent in the midst of great evil” would have been sinful. When I tried to find with more precision what sin was commanded of Luther, you identified not keeping silent on a particular topic in a particular forum, but recanting articles that he still believed. So I have agreed that conscience does bind us not to recant what we currently believe. But now you return without precision to the theme of sinful silence: “perhaps he reasoned that at this critical juncture to fail to preach… would be an even greater sin.”

    I mean this with all charity: I’m not asking you to speculate about Luther’s reasoning, but to provide your own. At what point did (or would) it become sinful for Luther to hold his tongue and his pen on topics where he’s speaking in violation of the specific commands and the general laws of the Catholic Church?

    A child can do plenty of reasoning and come up with rationale for disobeying a parent’s commands; without a principled basis that can hold up to outside scrutiny, such disobedience is still wrong. So, let’s scrutinize.

    On a side note, I’ve been meditating today on Mary’s expectant waiting as she prepares for Christ’s birth. Makes me think about the experience of pregnancy in a way I never have before! What loving prayers she must have showered on and shared with that Baby in her womb.
    Come, Lord Jesus!
    –Nathaniel

     
  22. CD- Host

    December 4, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    For whatever it is worth I think was a no brainer and the way Luther handled it was precisely correct. The Catholic church had for centuries stopped trying to win arguments intellectually and was using violence as a core means of dispute resolution: individual violence (heresy trials, inquisition…) that failing state terrorism that failing genocide. In a context in which you opponent in a disagreement fully intends to use violence a lot of latitude has to be granted.

    There had been arguments about deep systematic financial corruption in the church for centuries. And that financial corruption had led to extreme abuses costing hundreds of thousands of lives over the previous few centuries. There were good faith and bad faith attempts at reform. Luther’s 95 thesis were in this tradition. The Pope’s response was essentially, “Hang the monk! I have a cathedral to build and I’m not letting that little twerps objections to how I raise money get in the way”. And that was not an unusual sort of response.

    Everything else that followed from that was happy coincidence. But the Catholic church was doing manifest evil and teaching it as good. There was no possibility of reform as long as they had access to state power to crush any kind of objection. Had the reformation achieved nothing more than ending the Catholic Church’s access to state power to crush descent it would have been fully justified.

    I don’t and have never seen this as a subtle question. Had the Catholic church not been murdering its opponents individually or en masse we could evaluate Luther’s behavior differently. But then the 11th century reformers would have achieved reform.

     
  23. CD- Host

    December 4, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Nathan —

    I started reading the thread. The purpose of the excommunication was to setup the situation of a heresy trial. They were going to silence him by killing him. The Diet of Worms was an imperial court, not a church court.

    The edict made it a civil penalty to in anyway assist Luther or spread his ideas. It was a crime not just a sin to read his writings. Johannes van Esschen and Keneth Milar were burned at the stake for refusing to recant their belief Luther was correct. Prince Frederick was saving Luther’s life from Leo X’s desires being carried out by Charles V’s soldiers.

     
  24. infanttheology

    December 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Nathaniel,

    …”At what point did (or would) it become sinful for Luther to hold his tongue and his pen on topics where he’s speaking in violation of the specific commands and the general laws of the Catholic Church?”

    I have no idea. So much in life can’t be pinned down like I think you want to. Like it or not, we make subjective judgments. It is an article of Christian faith that man must not keep silent in the midst of great evil.

    “A child can do plenty of reasoning and come up with rationale for disobeying a parent’s commands; without a principled basis that can hold up to outside scrutiny, such disobedience is still wrong. So, let’s scrutinize.”

    Right. And we may not be able to agree on these things. Even outside observers who scrutinize in an “objective” fashion will not be able to agree….

    By the way, Exsurge Domine is fascinating reading:

    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo10/l10exdom.htm

     
  25. infanttheology

    December 5, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    CD-Host,

    Thanks for your valuable perspective – good thoughts.

    +Nathan

     
  26. Nathaniel

    December 6, 2011 at 2:07 am

    “By the way, Exsurge Domine is fascinating reading…”
    Yes, I read much of Exsurge thanks to your comments about it, earlier in this thread! I thank you for your posts, the conversation, and the charitable tone of your blog.

    “It is an article of Christian faith that man must not keep silent in the midst of great evil.”
    This statement is waaaaaay too vague. (I’m also not sure of your definition of “articles of Christian Faith”.) If this is to be a defense of Luther’s action, please be more specific, and show how his disobedience (e.g. publishing pamphlets like “On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church” after being commanded in Exsurge Domine not to preach) was not unjust disobedience toward a rightful authority. What does it take for a lowly child to justified in being disobedient at will?

    Is the fact that we might not come to agreement a sufficient reason for not mustering a solid argument 🙂 ?

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  27. infanttheology

    December 6, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Nathaniel,

    You need to understand, from my perspective, your argument is utterly remarkable. I fully understand, how, in principle, it is right for a child who disagrees with his parents about something they are doing (sin) to fully obey them.

    For example, a child who disagrees with his otherwise good parents about their habit of smoking in the house offers full obedience and respect to them in other areas.

    However, it is also possible that a child may discern – through his exposure to others outside of his home who are good – that his parents are not just sinning in one area and are otherwise good. He may realize, as he gets older, that things are corrupt at the core, and hence, the evil is much more systematic.

    In this case, the child, while still desiring only that his parents would come to repentance and be restored with what is good and true and right – may, as he matures – realize that types of “civil disobedience” may be necessary in order to bring his parents to their senses.

    Especially if he has the help of the Word of God.

    And of course with God, it goes beyond mere civil disobedience into the realm of pronouncing final judgment on His people. As Chrysostom said, the road to hell is paved with the skulls of the bishops.

    As I said before, Hosea 2:2 may have not been far from Luther’s mind: “Judge *your mother*, judge her, for she is not My wife and I am not her husband; let her put away her fornications and her adulteries from between her breasts”.

    In God’s economy, there really does come a point where the patience ends (and He has been patient, waiting for repentance!), and a final reckoning occurs. As with man – even if man, as fallen, executes this imperfectly – fallen man must always “bind” with a view that repentance may still be able to happen – no matter how unlikely this seems. Our “final words” (here, one thinks of Luther’s evident pessimism vs the Pope in the Smalcald articles) can never really be final.

    I may say that Luther was right but wrong to act as he did (or, think this is right). However, I was not in his shoes. I do however, believe there are moments to act as I have described above.

    And if a moment concerning the essence of the Christian life (i.e. the *only* Word that makes and sustains Christians) is not such a time as this, I do not know what ever would be.

    +Nathan

     
  28. Nathaniel

    December 7, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Nathan, I’d like to clarify — I think we’re on the same page on this, but I want to be sure, after the first 2 paragraphs in your most recent comment:
    the rightness or wrongness of one’s disobedience to authority has nothing to do with whether one agrees or disagrees with that authority. Acts are objectively right or wrong, and personal agreement is a subjective matter. (Naturally, one is less inclined to obey when one disagrees, and more inclined when one agrees.)

    If we’re together on that, then whether or not Luther agreed or disagreed with the Church is not at issue. Or maybe it is; the subtitle of your post is “what would you have done?” which is subjective, but I am seeking to better understand your Lutheran view of the objective morality of Luther’s disobedience (and its implications for the morality of the continuation of the Lutheran/Catholic schism).

    We can say, “I’d have done the same in his shoes!” but that’s much weaker, more subjective support than saying, “He was right (not only in my view but in fact), for the following reasons.” I had assumed that you hold the second kind of support for Luther; I’ve been attempting to understand that and refute it — or be refuted in my attempt. I am surprised that you’re not sure about whether Luther acted rightly or wrongly — I had assumed that defense of his disobedience was foundational to the Lutheran project.

    “I may say that Luther was right but wrong to act as he did (or, think this is right). However, I was not in his shoes.”
    Are you not sure whether he acted rightly or wrong, or you’re sure but keeping your claim to yourself? After parsing that a few more times, I can’t tell.

    And now that I think about it more, I’m not sure what it means to be right while acting wrongly. Do you mean (morally) wrong actions done with a good end? Or right knowledge that doesn’t inform one’s actions?

    Peace to you this 2nd week of Advent!
    Nathaniel

     
  29. Anonymous

    December 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Nathaniel,

    You are going to have to be very patient with me.

    “the rightness or wrongness of one’s disobedience to authority has nothing to do with whether one agrees or disagrees with that authority. Acts are objectively right or wrong, and personal agreement is a subjective matter. (Naturally, one is less inclined to obey when one disagrees, and more inclined when one agrees.)

    If we’re together on that…”

    I’m not sure if we are. How can the rightness or wrongness of one’s disobedience to authority have nothing to with the fact that one disagrees with the authority in the first place? If there were no disagreement, there would be no question of whether it was right or wrong to disobey. And are you now insisting that we can talk about acts being objectively right or wrong apart from a context of other persons? Of course the very same act may be right or wrong depending on the context. In a marriage, there are all kinds of things I could do because they are not sinful in themselves, but I refrain from doing them because they might not be understood, enjoyed, or appreciated by my wife. That is called love. That said, of course there are certain acts that are always objectively good or bad.

    I will refrain from reading on at this point as your first paragraph tells me that we need to get clear on this first.

     
  30. Nathaniel

    December 7, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Nathan,
    Thanks for stopping to point out where I’m not clear enough, or where we need to dig deeper.

    “If there were no disagreement, there would be no question of whether it was right or wrong to disobey.”
    You mean (I think) that no one would ask the question; that’s not the same as there being no fact of the matter, whether it’s right or wrong to disobey.

    Concrete example:
    I tell my daughter to put on a hat to go outside (because it’s cold). She may
    (a) agree about wearing the hat. Then there is no resistance, no problem, no inclination to disagree. She therefore obeys without incident. Obeying in this case is the right thing to do, and disobeying would be wrong, even though the possibility of disobedience is never seriously raised.
    (b) disagree about wearing the hat (doesn’t want to mess up her hair, doesn’t like how the hat looks/feels, etc.). There may be resistance, a polite request to be permitted not to wear the hat, or a tantrum. If she disobeys me (this time due to disagreeing), she’s objectively acting wrongly; if she obeys despite her disagreement, she’s objectively acting rightly, in obeying her father. Again, obeying in this case is the right thing to do, and disobeying is wrong.
    As illustrated by this example, the morality of obedience or disobedience hinges not on agreement or disagreement between the rightful authority and the subject of that authority, but on the nature of authority itself, barring the case of a command to sin (which we have already covered).

    I certainly don’t mean to claim that the objective morality of an act is the only thing that affects the morality of an act. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lays out the 3 sources of morality in any action, in agreement with a longstanding understanding of morality, and echoing St. Thomas Aquinas in particular:
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a4.htm

    All three sources — the object/matter of the act, the end/intention, and the circumstances, must be aligned with the good in order for the act to be good. That is, no single one of the three can individually make an act good, but a single one of the three can make an otherwise good act bad.

    Disagreement with authority doesn’t change the intention of obeying authority: usual intentions would be to avoid punishment, or to do right by dutiful obedience. (My daughter can disagree with me and still seek to do right by obeying, since she understands the nature of authority and duty.) Disagreement isn’t a circumstance that can make a wrong act of disobedience right, or a right act of obedience wrong. So, disagreement with authority can’t make it right to disobey when it would otherwise be wrong to do so. Since disobedience is itself the object of an act of disobedience, it follows that agreement/disagreement cannot alter the morality of an (otherwise) wrong act of disobedience.

    Pax Christi,
    Nathaniel

     
  31. infanttheology

    December 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “As illustrated by this example, the morality of obedience or disobedience hinges not on agreement or disagreement between the rightful authority and the subject of that authority, but on the nature of authority itself, barring the case of a command to sin (which we have already covered).”

    Maybe this is the heart of the matter then. A command not to preach to a man who is preaching rightly – yea, when this man is one of the only few who is preaching rightly – is a command to sin. It is a sin of omission.

    I am not sure why Aquinas should have the last word on just what a truly moral act is (one thinks of the man in WW II who told all his employees he was about to do a very unjust act, and went on to fire all of them – because he knew one of them was a spy and had passed on information that would lead to the deaths of many – yes, hard cases make bad law, but since when was Christianity about laws? – see this short work, for example: http://www.christforus.org/AndGodBlessedThem.htm ), but in any case, I think this situation with Luther fulfills all of these requirements.

    So, yes, I do intend to obey authority, and God that also means, from time to time, I must obey God rather than men.

    “Since disobedience is itself the object of an act of disobedience, it follows that agreement/disagreement cannot alter the morality of an (otherwise) wrong act of disobedience.”

    I understand the case you’ve made now better, but when you say “disobedience is itself the object of an act of disobedience” I assume you are talking about this in Luther’s case, and as such I would have to disagree. Disobedience to one was the consequence of obedience to another. In other circumstances, he may have been able to offer compliance, but here, he believed that he was bound to serve Another first.

    Previous message: “I am seeking to better understand your Lutheran view of the objective morality of Luther’s disobedience”

    I hope this helps. This also may help: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/round-3-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-a-few-good-pharisees/

    (I will be putting some more stuff in the comments section there….)

    “I am surprised that you’re not sure about whether Luther acted rightly or wrongly.”

    Well, I don’t think you should be. Luther himself struggled with this greatly, I think (see the book that is featured above). Anytime you disobey legitimately ordained authorities in the Church – whether they are appointed by human or divine rite, you had better tremble.

    “Are you not sure whether he acted rightly or wrong, or you’re sure but keeping your claim to yourself? After parsing that a few more times, I can’t tell.”

    I think it depends. Many times I fully uphold his cause – just not what he did. Or, if I uphold what he did, I may not uphold *how* he did it (e.g. his treatment of the Pope in the Smalcald Articles)

    “And now that I think about it more, I’m not sure what it means to be right while acting wrongly. Do you mean (morally) wrong actions done with a good end? Or right knowledge that doesn’t inform one’s actions?”

    I hope what I wrote above helps. I’m not surprised that you, as someone who thinks about all this from within the confines of Aristotelian/Thomistic categories, might struggle with this (no offense here: I think for all their smarts, there is much they missed because of their devotion to systematic projects, i.e. projects that have little room for outliers, cracks which become chasms…).

     
  32. infanttheology

    December 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Regarding the “Round 3…Pharisees” post I link to, you may want to skip right down to the last comment, which summarizes the critical part of the post, and then also features some debate between myself and another kind gentleman.

    +Nathan

     
  33. Nathaniel

    December 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Nathan,
    Can you think of a case where the one’s disobedience to authority becomes right in virtue of the actor’s disagreement with the authority?

    In the example of Luther according to your view, the rightness of the disobedience would be not due to Luther’s disagreement with the Church’s or Pope’s command, but rather due to Luther’s obedience to a higher authority. So I’d like to circle back to the question of whether agreement/disagreement alters the morality of obedience/disobedience — can we agree that it does not?

    Thanks for your further notes and links. I will check out the linked material soon.
    Pax et bonum,
    Nathaniel

     
  34. infanttheology

    December 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Nathan,

    “Can you think of a case where the one’s disobedience to authority becomes right in virtue of the actor’s disagreement with the authority?”

    Not rightful authority (many will claim to have authority over us when they do not have it – or they may claim to have more authority than they actually do).

    “So I’d like to circle back to the question of whether agreement/disagreement alters the morality of obedience/disobedience — can we agree that it does not?”

    Probably not? : )

    I honestly don’t know – despite the length of our conversation, the way you put things here still seems so abstract to me I have a hard time following and making sense of it. There does come a point where we can extract and systematize things too much, I think.

    Whereas, everything I just referred you to (Matthew 23 stuff) is very, very concrete and rooted in real relationships of actual beings/persons in history… That’s where I feel like we have our feet on the ground – not so much with Thomas, for example….

    Someone recently assigned this to me: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03539b.htm (am going to read it, but how eager am I?…)

    +Nathan

     
    • Nathaniel

      December 9, 2011 at 8:01 am

      Nathan,
      you said: “…the way you put things here still seems so abstract to me I have a hard time following and making sense of it.”
      OK, point out the first part that is hard to follow and I will attempt to clarify 🙂

      I’ve worked to be concrete (as well as trying to get at underlying principles):
      – gave example of telling my kid to put on a hat
      – looked at disobediencedisagreement connection in Luther’s particular case
      – asked if you could think of a counterexample, since I cannot; you couldn’t either.
      Regarding Luther, I have repeatedly asked you to give concrete specifics: Luther’s obedient silence on what issues in what forum would have been sinful? In that case, you yourself have returned to abstract notions: “…man must not keep silent in the midst of great evil.”
      Since I have backed up my argument about disobedience&disagreement with concrete examples and with relevant moral categories, and neither of us can come up with a counterexample, and you haven’t refuted my argument, why not just agree? 🙂

      “…Matthew 23 stuff) is very, very concrete…”
      Matthew 23 stuff is a great case-in-point. But if we can’t identify the essential aspects of such a case, abstracting them from the particulars of the case, then the example can’t be used to shed light on other cases that share the same essentials. Aren’t you exactly attempting to abstract principles from the Mt 23 case in order to apply those principles to Luther and the Catholic Church?
      I will try to do better with my language and discussion, to avoid seeming too disconnected from reality.

      [Side note:
      Have you read Chesterton’s Thomas Aquinas: the Dumb Ox? It might be an eye opener, as Chesterton shows that St. Thomas is truly the champion of common sense and of sense experience as teacher. An enjoyable read, too, like most Chesterton. St. Thomas often sounds like his head is lost in the clouds, but that’s just our sense of his unfamiliar language; I only wish I could have my feet as firmly planted on the ground as he does!]

       
  35. CD- Host

    December 8, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Lets make this specific and update it for today.

    Sargent Luther is in the army core of engineers in Germany. Colonel Tetzel is conducting illegal operations in Poland in violation of standing orders from the congress, to catch people selling weapons to Al Qaeda. Sargent Luther discovers this and notifies the Pentagon. Brigadier General (1 star) Leo tells Sargent Luther to stop notifying the pentagon about these issues and refuse to answer any more questions.

     
  36. Nathaniel

    December 9, 2011 at 8:09 am

    P.S. I bring up Aquinas once — Aristotle never — and you characterize me “as someone who thinks about all this from within the confines of Aristotelian/Thomistic categories” ?
    Jumping to conclusions, aren’t you? 🙂 It’s OK, I can take it…
    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  37. infanttheology

    December 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Nathaniel,

    You are obviously a very intelligent Catholic which means that you like Aquinas. And he liked Aristotle. : )

    I don’t deny you’ve used concrete examples, its just that when you make a statement like “So I’d like to circle back to the question of whether agreement/disagreement alters the morality of obedience/disobedience — can we agree that it does not?” apart from real flesh and blood – and want me to endorse such abstractions, I balk.

    In any case, let me answer “yes” and see what happens next. : )

    “Luther’s obedient silence on what issues in what forum would have been sinful? In that case, you yourself have returned to abstract notions: “…man must not keep silent in the midst of great evil.””

    No – I was specific: to not preach about the Gospel – and the blessing of confession/absolution in particular and the real peace with God it brings – is a grave sin of omission for any Christian, particularly a pastor.

    “…Matthew 23 stuff) is very, very concrete…”
    Matthew 23 stuff is a great case-in-point. But if we can’t identify the essential aspects of such a case, abstracting them from the particulars of the case, then the example can’t be used to shed light on other cases that share the same essentials. Aren’t you exactly attempting to abstract principles from the Mt 23 case in order to apply those principles to Luther and the Catholic Church?”

    Yes, I think that’s right.

    “Have you read Chesterton’s Thomas Aquinas: the Dumb Ox? It might be an eye opener, as Chesterton shows that St. Thomas is truly the champion of common sense and of sense experience as teacher.”

    Sure. Aritstotle’s strength to. He was a biologist.

    “An enjoyable read, too, like most Chesterton. St. Thomas often sounds like his head is lost in the clouds, but that’s just our sense of his unfamiliar language; I only wish I could have my feet as firmly planted on the ground as he does!]”

    My wife has read the book. I agree Thomist is a realist, like Aristotle. As regards natural philosophy, there is a lot to like. I only claim his insatiable desire to systematize gets him in trouble theologically – claiming far more than Scripture would warrant.

    +Nathan

     
  38. infanttheology

    December 9, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Here’s another interesting problem:

    https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/sons-of-god-by-nature/

    +Nathan

     
  39. Nathan

    December 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    CD-Host,

    Sorry I did not acknowledge your last post before (not like you are looking for this I’m sure). The importance of the points that you make cannot be minimized. This is how things played out on the ground with respect to indulgences in particular.

    +Nathan

     
  40. Nathaniel

    December 13, 2011 at 5:12 am

    Nathan,
    “to not preach about the Gospel – and the blessing of confession/absolution in particular and the real peace with God it brings – is a grave sin of omission for any Christian, particularly a pastor.”

    Really? So a faithful LCMS colleague of mine is sinning gravely if she doesn’t preach about confession and absolution? This is a very specific demand that I’m not aware of. Aren’t you claiming more than Scripture warrants? : )

    Nathan, it can’t be right — and I don’t think even you can accept — that the requirement to preach is independent of forum or circumstances, and of the authority instituted by God. Certainly my child, even if preaching correctly about confession and absolution, is out of place if she does so in an inappropriate setting — e.g. when it’s time to listen to her teacher in school, or late at night when her sisters are sleeping. My judgement of the correctness or wrongness of her preaching isn’t irrelevant either, as a rightful authority placed over her; if I believe she is teaching her sisters or her friends wrongly about Christ and his Church, leading them to error, it is my duty to require her to stop. Would you not do the same?

    You want Luther to be like a child, yet like a child whose duty to Mother hinges on his own view of whether Mother is correct and should be obeyed. That’s not the definition of a good, lowly child. That’s the definition of a wayward child.

    God Bless you.
    Our lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!
    –Nathaniel

     
  41. Nathan

    December 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Nathaniel:

    “Really? So a faithful LCMS colleague of mine is sinning gravely if she doesn’t preach about confession and absolution? This is a very specific demand that I’m not aware of. Aren’t you claiming more than Scripture warrants? : )”

    No – sermons that preach the Gospel (narrow sense) can be said to be a form of absolution.

    Nathan, it can’t be right — and I don’t think even you can accept — that the requirement to preach is independent of forum or circumstances, and of the authority instituted by God. Certainly my child, even if preaching correctly about confession and absolution, is out of place if she does so in an inappropriate setting — e.g. when it’s time to listen to her teacher in school, or late at night when her sisters are sleeping.”

    Now you are being silly. Obviously, Luther would agree with you, so what is the point of this?

    “My judgement of the correctness or wrongness of her preaching isn’t irrelevant either, as a rightful authority placed over her; if I believe she is teaching her sisters or her friends wrongly about Christ and his Church, leading them to error, it is my duty to require her to stop. Would you not do the same?”

    Yes – but are you now telling me that you think Rome was right here? If so, I’m glad to have finally found this out about you. : )

    “You want Luther to be like a child, yet like a child whose duty to Mother hinges on his own view of whether Mother is correct and should be obeyed. That’s not the definition of a good, lowly child. That’s the definition of a wayward child.”

    No. As I said here (https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/babies-in-church-part-viii-judge-your-mother-o-child-the-tragic-necessity-of-the-reformation/ ):

    Therefore, I conclude: although finally and fully loyal to the Father who provided the seed [of the Word], child-like faith also presumes a desire to stay with the mother that gave them that spiritual birth, that is Holy Mother Church. Even when she abuses them tremendously, there is loyalty, for there is only One Mother, in addition to the One Lord, faith, and baptism…..

    +Nathan

     
  42. Nathaniel

    December 16, 2011 at 5:53 am

    Nathan,
    “No – sermons that preach the Gospel (narrow sense) can be said to be a form of absolution.”
    I don’t know what you mean by Gospel (narrow sense).
    I doubt that you can find scriptural warrant for every Christian being required to preach confession and absolution under pain of grave sin; nor do I see how sermons that preach the Gospel can stand in for preaching about confession and absolution, if such is required.

    “Now you are being silly. Obviously, Luther would agree with you, so what is the point of this?”
    Sorry, I’m not trying to be silly, but to demonstrate (using an extreme) that circumstances can make it appropriate not to preach. Different circumstances could make it appropriate to not preach for an hour, a day, a month, or perhaps a year or more. I’m refuting your claim that “to not preach about the Gospel … is a grave sin of omission…”; apparently that depends (at least) on the forum and the time.

    “are you now telling me that you think Rome was right here?”
    No, I’m not saying that in this case [though I think you know where I stand : ) ]. Here again is what I said:
    Nathaniel: “My judgement of the correctness or wrongness of her preaching isn’t irrelevant either, as a rightful authority placed over her; if I believe she is teaching her sisters or her friends wrongly about Christ and his Church, leading them to error, it is my duty to require her to stop. Would you not do the same?”
    In this analogy, yes, I am calling the Church “rightful authority” over her subjects (including Luther). And I am saying that such authority, when it judges that error is being taught, has a duty to command the (judged) erroneous teaching to cease, as you agreed. But I have not made any claims about whether the judgment is objectively correct.

    In the same way, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church acted correctly insofar as it commanded Luther to stop preaching, according to its judgment that he taught error. If I assume for the sake of argument that the Church made an error in battling Luther’s teaching, then it was not (directly) an error of working to stop him teaching, but solely an error in judgment about what he taught.

    How does one reconcile “Mother, I desire to stay with you, I am loyal!” with “No, Mother, I won’t submit to your teaching or your command!” ?

    Will you pray for a fruitful (remainder of) advent for my family and me? Thanks,
    Nathaniel

    p.s. I must stop misspelling “judgment”!

     
  43. infanttheology

    December 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I am cutting and pasting this from something I wrote long ago:

    “Lutherans have always treasured preaching along with the Sacraments. I think that the following quote from a Lutheran worship magazine (One Pastor Petersen writing for http://www.gottesdienst.org/) brings everything together:

    “Since the theme is always the same, the task in listening to a sermon is not so much to discern what the sermon means as to experience the sermon. It is not the sermon’s goal to explain that God loves you or even to explain how God loves you. The sermon may well do both those things.

    But the sermon’s goal is to love you. Christian sermons are the Word of God. They are not merely based upon, or thoughts about, the Word of God. They are the actual Word of God. For our Lord promises, “He who hears you hears Me.” The Word of God is performative. It does what it says. It is not unlike a judge saying to a couple, “I pronounce you man and wife.” He is not telling them that they will become man and wife, or how they can become man and wife, he is making them man and wife by what he says.

    Sermons are even more like Holy Absolution. In Holy Absolution the called and ordained preacher says, “I forgive you,” and the penitent is forgiven. Sermons are not persuasive or informative speeches, they are the Word of God to and for the people. Thus they are performative. They do what they say. Sermons are not nor are they meant to be about love; they are love. Those who hear the sermon are loved by the sermon. The sermon loves the people because in the sermon the Word of God takes on flesh and the Incarnate Lord speaks and loves. The Word becomes words and dwells among them. To believe in Jesus Christ is to be loved by Him. This believing, and his being loved, cometh by hearing. The Word of God loves the hearer by telling him the truth in order to put the hearer to death and raise him up again.” (end quote)

    Privately judging justification? Or is this how the precise way the Church has always been created and lives even today?

    This is the kind of thing that all Christians ought to be doing, even if it is not given to them to precisely to administer private confession and absolution (namely to say: “by the command and in the stead of the Lord Jesus, I forgive you” meaning that these words are God’s words). They may simply comfort people, with confidence, of the fact that Jesus does indeed forgive a person’s sins – to remove them as far as the east is from the west. To give peace with God. Like this: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/

    We are all to speak the oracles of God.

    The Gospel in the narrow sense is that Jesus Christ, the God-man, through his life, death and resurrection, forgives us all of our sins (see I Corinthians 15, where Paul defines the Gospel in precisely this way). God is reconciled to the world through Christ Jesus. We personally administer this word to penitent sinners, that they may have forgiveness, life and salvation. This word is sure and objective – it is only impenetance (i.e. no faith) that does not receive this. Hell will be full of forgiven sinners, of children of God, even (see here: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/sons-of-god-by-nature/ ). But to the desperate one who says “Amen” to what God calls sin, and says “Amen” to this word of absolution, the gates of heaven are open to them.

    “If I assume for the sake of argument that the Church made an error in battling Luther’s teaching, then it was not (directly) an error of working to stop him teaching, but solely an error in judgment about what he taught.”

    I hope after reading what I cut and pasted above you can see why I think this judgment is wrong.

    “How does one reconcile “Mother, I desire to stay with you, I am loyal!” with “No, Mother, I won’t submit to your teaching or your command!” ?”

    Because road to hell is paved with the skulls of the bishops (Chrysostom), even when they rightly hold office by legitimate Church orders.

     
  44. infanttheology

    December 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    More cutting and pasting from words said long ago (on the Pontifications blog, when that was big):

    “I again point out to you that we too believe we are made righteous when we are declared righteous (in other words, we were objectively justified [God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself], but with faith we are subjectively justified and we actually receive the benefits of justification). In my view, this happens when God declares us righteous – and we can’t separate the transformation from the Word, which is of course external to our persons and comes to us from God (hence the priority on the declarative aspect). The Catholic view, it seems to me, simply reverses this, insisting that the priority be given to the transformative aspect, with the declartive Word coming in only to pronounce what has already been done. In other words, though both positions talk about the simultaneous nature of the declaration and transformation, the Lutheran position seems less prone to separate the action of transformation from God’s powerful word than the Catholic position does.

    Again, God justifies THE WICKED and calls the things that ARE NOT as though they are. What do you do about this? Is it not only the Word that is spirit and truth, that brings life and faith?”

    +Nathan

    P.S. I think I will be doing a new post today that you might find very interesting as well.

     
  45. infanttheology

    December 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Will be posting on Monday instead

     
  46. infanttheology

    December 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Its up now: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/knowledge-first-and-foremost-baby-king-david-vs-adult-st-thomas/

    I will also be doing a post on the Roman penitential system in Luther’s day soon (I hope).

    +Nathan

     
  47. Nathaniel

    January 4, 2012 at 5:12 am

    A very merry Christmas to you, Nathan!

    Here’s where we stand:
    Luther disagreed with Catholic teaching in his day. He wanted to remain with the Church, but when he spoke out within the Church against the teaching he disagreed with, he “never got acknowledged.” He mustered a scriptural defense for his dissenting views, and continued to preach them when his mother the Church commanded him to stop preaching.

    You agree with Luther’s dissenting views and you also use the scriptures to back up his teachings. Still, you don’t always fully uphold Luther’s cause, and you’re not sure whether he acted rightly or wrongly in disobeying the Church when he defied the command by preaching & writing (at least you’re not sure in particular cases).

    So:
    How do we distinguish between a heretic who fully believes that he’s correct, on the one hand, and a person who truly speaks the “oracles of God” and works rightly to straighten out problems in the Church, on the other? The answer clearly can’t be “he uses scriptures to back up his claims!” nor “Nathan Rinne agrees with him and also makes a scriptural defense!” : )

    That’s my question for you. How do we distinguish?

    [In the context of your post, it’s the question of distinguishing which kid is truly being a humble subject of his mother, while not being afraid to call wrong things wrong; and which kid has assembled a rationale that gives him license him to submit — or stop submitting — to his mother on precisely his own terms. Other neighbor kids agreeing with this latter rationale, even nice neighbor kids, isn’t going to be sufficient to justify such license.]

    The answer also can’t be “delve prayerfully into God’s written Word, and compare what you read to what is preached.” Yes we should do this, but not to sit in judgment on the teaching of Christ’s mystical body! We quite simply have no guarantee that we’ll be individually guided into all truth by reading scripture; and we do have the empirical proof that attempting to be so guided over against the Church leads to contradictory “truths” and radical fragmentation.

    So, how do we distinguish?

    May God bring to perfection the good work he has begun in each of us, Nathan. We share so much in our understanding and proclaiming of Christ; I for one am prone to focusing on and arguing about our differences, which of course are not insignificant and which we pray the Holy Spirit will break down.
    God Bless your 2012.
    –Nathaniel

     
  48. Nathan

    January 4, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Thank you for your kind message again. I am delighted that we can rejoice in what we share in common even as we see the need to look closely at differences – though not caustically, but prayerfully and with concern for one another.

    “you’re not sure whether he acted rightly or wrongly in disobeying the Church when he defied the command by preaching & writing (at least you’re not sure in particular cases).”

    I’d say its pretty safe that I’ve come down on the side that he did act rightly when he continued to preach that which Rome was telling Him not to – especially as regards confession and absolution (and its implications for preaching and all Christian speaking), but not limited to this. This does not mean I always appreciate the way that Luther tackled every issue. I think he was rarely wrong in what he said but that he could indeed be wrong in how he said it (which he himself admitted).

    “[In the context of your post, it’s the question of distinguishing which kid is truly being a humble subject of his mother, while not being afraid to call wrong things wrong; and which kid has assembled a rationale that gives him license him to submit — or stop submitting — to his mother on precisely his own terms. Other neighbor kids agreeing with this latter rationale, even nice neighbor kids, isn’t going to be sufficient to justify such license.]”

    You are missing an element here. Are you willing to consider whether the mother is trying to make the Father submit to her own terms?

    “The answer also can’t be “delve prayerfully into God’s written Word, and compare what you read to what is preached.” Yes we should do this, but not to sit in judgment on the teaching of Christ’s mystical body! We quite simply have no guarantee that we’ll be individually guided into all truth by reading scripture; and we do have the empirical proof that attempting to be so guided over against the Church leads to contradictory “truths” and radical fragmentation.”

    “Yes we should do this, but not to sit in judgment on the teaching of Christ’s mystical body!” First of all, you are assuming the RC Church is in some sense truly Church. I am not sure if this is truly the case any longer but concede the point. In which case I say: Why not – if she errs? In these last days I have come to expect just this. Love of many growing cold. Schism and heresy abound. No love for the truth. A remnant of remnants (thank God I can find a few who also hold to the Word in truth and purity! – I am not “guided individually” but can find others who confirm that they to believe that the true rule of faith is being adhered to in this or that place….). When Paul rejoiced that the Bereans *tested* what he said vs. the Scriptures I believe Paul thought that he himself could be liable to correction, not that he was securely infallible in what he spoke.

    Yes, I firmly believe that all of those other “denominations” are wrong. Really.

     
  49. Nathaniel

    January 5, 2012 at 2:26 am

    Nathan,
    “You are missing an element here. Are you willing to consider whether the mother is trying to make the Father submit to her own terms?”
    Certainly I’m willing to consider it for the sake of argument. And my question is the same: how do we distinguish between a heretic falsely accusing the Church (of trying to make God submit to her own terms), and one who works rightly to correct the Church?

    “In which case I say: Why not – if she errs?”
    I already answered that objection:
    We quite simply have no guarantee that we’ll be individually guided into all truth by reading scripture; and we do have the empirical proof that attempting to be so guided over against the Church leads to contradictory “truths” and radical fragmentation.

    “Yes, I firmly believe that all of those other “denominations” are wrong. Really.”
    I am not surprised by your Lutheran triumphalism. If you clung to Lutheranism without believing that it is right, and that other denominations and the Catholic Church are wrong, that would be hard to understand! What I do find surprising is that your method for distinguishing heresy from God’s truth is the same as most every other denominations’: do your best to “hold the Word in truth and purity” and find others who agree with you doctrinally. Anyone can find “others who confirm that they too believe that the true rule of faith is being adhered to in this or that place…” Catholics can confirm this, so can a Mormon colleague of mine! Yet one’s assertions about the “true rule of faith” don’t make it so.

    Your response leaves us with rival camps: those who believe that God’s Word speaks against the one they therefore find to be a heretic, and those who believe that the same one is upheld by God’s Word. It leaves us with the current fractured-by-our-very-attempts-to-be-true-to-the-Word state of Christianity.

    Your answer to “how do we distinguish” can be used against you — and is, by huge numbers of non-Lutherans — just as well as you use it.

    Oh how I pray that God will break down some of our barriers to unity! What an obstacle to faith our divisions are for those currently outside the Christian fold.
    Pax Christi,
    Nathaniel

     
  50. Nathan

    January 5, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Nathaniel,

    It may be a while again before I can comment.

    +Nathan

     
  51. Nathan

    January 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    OK, I had a minute to read and one to respond.

    “Your answer to “how do we distinguish” can be used against you — and is, by huge numbers of non-Lutherans — just as well as you use it.”

    Right – and that is tragic. Absolutely tragic. For in God’s eyes, the Church is one. Others really should get in line with the Augsburg Confession!

    Nathaniel, the position that you are taking implies, it seems to me, that there is no external clarity to the words of the Scripture at all. And I fundamentally disagree with that.

    What do you think about this:

    Do you think that Christopher Hitchens, if he had been asked to objectively determine whether Mormans or Lutherans (that’s the binary choice here) were closer to understanding the whole content of the Bible, would think that the Mormans were closer? (or what if the person doing this reporting was a more sensible atheist who does not assert that religion poisons everything but actually thinks it has some pragmatic value and that there are some really good things about it – would that make a difference to how you answer?). If you *had* to answer the question, what really would be your opinion? Now, if you say “Lutheran”, I would say two things. First of all, of course this question does not necessarily imply that our atheist would have been able to so readily determine who was closer to the Bible if it was not a question of Lutherans vs. Mormons, but Lutherans vs. Catholics (for example, perhaps this could only be readily determined by a person that both you and I would be persuaded is a Christian in spite of serious differences in beliefs – and of course, we are assuming here, as above, a good deal of study and research that would be necessary). Second, [if you said “Lutheran” to the question] I would suggest that this would *seem* to be incompatible with what you write above, when you essentially insist that my private conscience (influenced by Scripture) that determines who has infallibly taught (a posteriori), is no different from any other Protestant group that judges their particular theological position to be grounded in the “Sola Regula Fidei Veritas” (true rule of faith) of Scripture. In other words, you imply that there could really be no way of determining whether or not any particular group of Protestants is closer to the truth *with help from the Scriptures* (i.e. it all becomes a matter of interpretation and the particular version of the “Rule of Faith” they have, and whatever the “words” seem to imply objectively makes no difference). Now, I’m sure that you do believe you can tell whether particular groups of Protestants are closer to the truth than others, but I am trying to get you to consider this question differently from the way you usually do. This is what I see myself doing.

    (note – I just talked with someone else about this and so some copying, pasting, and editing just took place).

    Our response if really quite a bit more nuanced than your typical Protestant. See here: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/my-reply-to-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-regarding-his-examination-of-martin-chemnitzs-examination/

     
  52. Nathaniel

    January 6, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Happy Friday Nathan,

    “Nathaniel, the position that you are taking implies, it seems to me, that there is no external clarity to the words of the Scripture at all. And I fundamentally disagree with that.”

    I fundamentally disagree with it as well, so I am happy to dispel the notion that it’s part of my position. I reject the claim that the Scriptures alone are sufficient to settle every doctrinal dispute (even disputes about which doctrines are central to Christianity and which are not).

    You seem to be asking a question suggested by Saint Vincent of Lérins: “But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation?” St. Vincent answers the question himself: “For this reason—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.” (Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith Against the Profane Novelties of All Heresies, Ch. 2 [A.D. 434])

    “What do you think about this:
    Do you think that Christopher Hitchens…”
    This thought experiment doesn’t make your case, even if I agree with the answer “Lutheran”. The claim [A] that some important doctrinal disputes cannot be settled by recourse to scripture alone is not the same as the claim [B] that no doctrinal disputes can be so resolved. You’re posing a counterexample to claim B, but I claim A not B. (As an aside, you’ve chosen in your example to pit Lutheranism against a group that does not agree with the sufficiency of the Bible; Mormons have additional scriptures, and they believe in the interpretive authority of, and new revelations via, their president and [present-day] apostles. That is, Mormons don’t believe the Bible to be the “Sola Regula Fidei Veritas.”)

    “Our response if really quite a bit more nuanced than your typical Protestant. See here:…”
    I have skimmed the linked post before, but it’s really quite long, and obviously addresses other topics than just my short question. Could you encapsulate your nuanced confessional Lutheran response in a more digestible fashion:
    How do we distinguish between a heretic falsely accusing the Church, and one who works rightly to correct the Church?

    This gets to the heart of your post, since by answering it we can determine which of these two roles Luther played.

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

    P.S. For a detailed Catholic understanding of Divine revelation and Sacred Scripture, I recommend the document Dei Verbum from Vatican II, if you haven’t read it — less than half as long as your Dave Armstrong/Martin Chemnitz post!

     
    • infanttheology

      January 6, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      Nathaniel,

      In short, in order that we do not go beyond what is written and hence deceive ourselves, the Scriptures alone are “sufficient to settle every doctrinal dispute (even disputes about which doctrines are central to Christianity and which are not)” – so long as it is coupled with the true Rule of Faith, and so long as we are talking about all *important doctrinal disputes*.

      Part and parcel of the true rule of faith is that it depends on written Scriptures which safeguard the true teachings. What the immediately post-Apostolic church universally recognized as being the true Scriptures are the deposit, which goes hand in hand with the true rule of faith.

      Crucial bits:

      “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)

      ….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)

      (end quotes)

      Other key quotes:

      “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.”

      “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])” (bold not in original)

      In your response I note that though you had criticism for me (about how you can’t dispute “these summary statements [since] the charge has to be argued with regard to particular individual instances”), you did not criticize my particular formulation of the Rule of Faith here (though of course this is the Rule in a nutshell: with it is also the oral tradition of the Apostles, the proper interpretation of the Scriptures, and the reflexive impulse to go to the Scriptures to test all things [since the voice of the past must be one with the voice of the present]: I suggest all of these aspects of the Rule of Faith exist in order to support the Rule of Faith as summarized above). I found that heartening.”

      In sum, in my view, strictly speaking, as God develops the Rule of Faith in history, the Scriptures also must be understood with the true rule of faith and the testimony of the Apostolic Fathers.

      “How do we distinguish between a heretic falsely accusing the Church, and one who works rightly to correct the Church?”

      I think that’s it (above) – there is nowhere else to go.

      +Nathan

       
  53. Nathan

    January 6, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Re: the Mormans, thanks -change it to JWs.

    I’m glad you at least think that *some* doctrinal disputes “can be so resolved”…

    You’re on the way. : )

    +Nathan

     
  54. Nathan

    January 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Nathaniel,

    You said:

    “I reject the claim that the Scriptures alone are sufficient to settle every doctrinal dispute (even disputes about which doctrines are central to Christianity and which are not).”

    So they are sufficient to settle every important doctrinal dispute – which means every doctrine that is essential/central to Christianity.

    Determining what is essential and non-essential doctrine can not be done satisfactorily without the true rule of faith (which is present in persons)

    More on essential and non-essential doctrines (from another debate with David):

    VII. Lastly, essential and non-essential doctrines

    Dave you said:

    Catholics don’t believe that anything deemed to be part of the apostolic deposit is up for grabs or merely optional (as you guys think) because it is regarded as of less importance….” (bolded parts originally italicized)

    And

    “there has to be some method to determine how many dogmas ought to be binding. We go by the judgment of the historic Church, which has decided things, just as the Jerusalem Council did, with Peter, Paul, and James present.” (bold mine)

    First of all, we in no way are saying that we think that any part of “the apostolic deposit is up for grabs or merely optional “)… because it is regarded as of less importance” (so we don’t, in fact, think this – see below). Second, the fact that you go on to talk about the Church recognizing/realizing/determining “how many dogmas out to be binding” essentially nullifies all of the following exchanges:

    Me: ….(Or: do the early church fathers explicitly [and consistently] say that [non-Lutheran] doctrines are inseparable from the Rule of Faith?)

    You: Church fathers (like the Bible and the Catholic Church) generally think all doctrines and practices are important, and don’t as readily draw fine-point distinctions along these lines that Protestants are prone to make. (note the bold, which are mine)

    Comment: So fine-point distinctions are made nonetheless…

    Me: It seems to me… 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).

    You: Indeed. We can provide such corroboration. Protestants cannot when it comes to key distinctives that they invented in the 16th century.

    Comment: Inevitable implicit take-away for me: there are essential doctrines of the faith. : )

    Me: 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?).

    You: Well, then it is the game of “essential” vs. “non-essential” that is another arbitrary Protestant tradition of men, and very difficult (if not impossible) to prove from the Bible itself. …

    Comment: If this is a tradition of men, its one we all share. I submit that at the very least it is a legitimate development of doctrine in the church.

    All of that said, let us look at this exchange:

    Me: … 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.

    You: Again, I would contend that the Bible itself doesn’t seem to make these distinctions of primary or essential and secondary (or optional) doctrines. About all that can be found along these lines is Romans 14; but note what Paul is discussing there: what to eat and drink and what holy days to observe. That is not even doctrine; it is practice. I devoted 20 pages in my book, 501 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura, to this question of so-called essential and secondary doctrines. There I provided dozens of Bible passages that don’t seem to differentiate; they merely assume a “truth” that is known and binding upon all believers:

    Comment: A) again, we are not saying that secondary doctrines are optional. B) For the RC, would it not be right to say that binding doctrine and essential doctrine are synonymous phrases? If not, why not?

    Dave, Gerhard’s main opponent, the great sainted Cardinal Bellarmine himself believed that there were essential and non-essential doctrines (Gerhard, On the Church, 224). I am guessing that we would find that most all RC theologians have believed this – I think that the challenge would be to find one who does not believe it. Does not the RC Church today not draw rather sharp lines between dogmas, disciplines, and pious opinions, for example?

    Next, I agree with you (our statements are in harmony! : ) ) that it is good, right and salutary for a person, generally speaking, to simply assent to all the commands of the church (although as Augustine pointed out, in the Creed we are talking about believing that there is a Church: faith, or trust, in the Church, while not unimportant, is not in view here at least). There are things that I tell my children to do that are really important, and there are things I tell them to do that are less so. In any case, I expect them to obey – and preferably without always asking me “Why?” (even politely) – in both cases. The reasons that I would give for each command vary, but in general, it is good to obey with those that God has placed over you for your own good and the good of your neighbor.

    Here I cite this exchange:

    Me: 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?

    You: Because the Church says so, in turn because it had always been believed in some fashion. If we want to move forward, we’ll have to get specific and discuss one doctrine or one father at a time.

    I don’t deny that there is much truth to your first sentence above. And regarding the second sentence, we now have. Again, the point is that the Church has always recognized/realized/determined that some teachings are binding and others aren’t, i.e., that there are primary and secondary doctrines, (let’s put it this way right now, as perhaps we can be more clear about what we mean in this way). The fine Lutheran Pastor Will Weedon, always helpful in these matters, tells us to think concretely about the history of the church here: “The distinction as Lutherans practice it is based on the living experience of the Church…. The Lutherans thought out from 1 Cor. 3. There are doctrines that are part of the ‘foundation’ – other than which none can lay, which is Christ. To err in these is to ‘overthrow the foundation.’ But if one holds the foundation, it is still possible to build on it with ‘wood, hay and stubble’ rather than with ‘gold and precious stones.’ When a father erred in teaching something the Church judged to be an error on the basis of Scripture, then that father erred in a secondary doctrine [one thinks of Irenaeus and his chiliasm, for example]. These are not optional – not in the sense that they are harmless – they are still false, but they do not overthrow the foundation.”

    Think about it: councils were called, in part, because different churches had declared certain things to be of importance and others had not (think about the debates between Alexandria and Antioch for example: a monolith the early church was not). When councils finally do decide things as well, note that it is often significant how they do so: even if they decide that all should celebrate Easter at the same time (Nicea I), note that they do not “anathematize” those who would resist such a command. This can be seen as a logical extension of the principle Irenaeus had expressed long before: “Disagreement in fasting does not destroy unity in faith.” On the other hand, Arius, Pelagius and Nestorius are condemned as heretics and anathematized. Why? Although the difference with the Easter declaration may not be said in so many words (i.e. it is tacit or implicit, not explicit), it really is rather obvious, isn’t it? Because they are no longer building on the foundation, but setting up another one (I think that many times what teachings were important only became obvious in light of error). Therefore, I conclude that it is very clear that there have always been distinctions between primary and secondary doctrines (think of Hebr. 1:1, Mark 16:16, Matt. 22:34-46: the great commandment and a second that is like it, “upon whom all the law and the prophets depend.”)

    Does this mean that all “secondary doctrines” are exactly the same? Not necessarily. First of all, a distinction between primary and secondary doctrines is never intended to teach us that some of the things that God has revealed to us are unimportant (although some things that are done by human rite for the sake of love and order in the church may be, and hence we call them adiaphora, or “indifferent things”, a term that even Roman Catholics appreciate, I think: here is where we can really talk about “essentials” and “non-essentials” with no qualifications at all). On the contrary, while we would say that there is error that occurs among churches that does not overthrow the foundation of salvation (perhaps things like chialism, insisting that martyrs should not flee, denying the Scriptures are inerrant in their original manuscripts, or, to give an example Luther gave, denying that Balaam’s ass spoke), meaning that we can be confident people can still be saved in churches where such teaching occurs. Still, on matters such as these we would still insist that doctrine be entirely pure, because though we judge that these things may not immediately undermine someone’s salvation (i.e. they don’t affect the Creeds, for example), there is still the danger as some of the real or imagined implications of these teachings spread, therefore pastors denying these things should experience rebuke and possibly forms of discipline…. For the true Rule of Faith always runs back to the recognized Scriptures and treasures each precious sentence they contain – from the least of these and the greatest. We rejoice that Balaam’s ass spoke.

    At this point, let us examine the following quotation from you:

    “… 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.

    But Tertullian, Irenaeus, and other Fathers saw no need to dichotomize and categorize like that. They simply didn’t think in those terms (as historians of doctrine have stressed). It requires revisionism and historical anachronism to make out that they thought like 16th century Lutherans on these issues.”

    We don’t need to think they thought just like us, but if the idea of essential and non-essential doctrines is at the very least a legitimate development of doctrine, than it is perfectly legitimate to go back and explore whether, according to Scripture, doctrines such as these are either essential or practical doctrines (for certain times) – when the Church is being told that they are, and that a denial of such results in excommunication, it must do this. Perhaps if Rome would have listened to the voice in the wilderness calling out to them, we to would have seen no need to “dichotomize and categorize” as you say.

    We need to look at this situation with our eyes wide open. The distinction between essential and non-essential doctrines is hardly a Protestant invention. It is not that the Roman Catholic church does not have essential and non-essential doctrines. Interestingly, to a certain extent, the plurality which exists within the Roman Catholic church is that their unity is not so much doctrinal, but based upon a submission to authority (well, I suppose that is the doctrine: submit to the infallible heir of Peter, the visible head of the Church!) In any case, because this is so, it is no big deal at all (I will not insist that it should be, even as I disagree with many aspects of RC monasticism) that a group of nuns in France can follow a certain set of rules, and monks and New Mexico and follow another, even as they all must submit to the authority of the church. Still, I wonder if there is an even more essential doctrine than submission to the Pope. Did not John Paul II make clear that it was love, so even if you were outside of the church – even if you did not know Christ by faith – you had a chance of entering heaven?

    After all, in Lu-men Gentium from in Vatican II we read:

    “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience— those, too, may achieve eternal salvation” (24).

    Of course, this does not nullify what Trent said which was that free will actively cooperates with grace to begin salvation. These agree with one another (related aside: they are not just in “harmony” with each other, but can really be tested against one another as stand-alone statements, and seen to agree)

    So David, this is why, when I think about these things, I grow concerned for you. Embracing an unwarranted use of the words agreement and harmony, I submit you have embraced a concept of tradition which undermines the true Rule of Faith, which always flees to the original Scriptures, and tests all things against them: for it is only responsible to conclude that everything the Apostles passed on orally will be in agreement with the Scriptures, in the sense that it will be readily found there. The RC Rule of Faith is not the true one. By insisting that all Christians adopt what are, in all honesty, doctrines that on the face of it seem less than Biblical (i.e. using any definition of “proof” it is hard to see how they are really contained in the Scriptures), the Roman Catholic Church is binding consciences in a way they ought not. They are insisting on a foundation which many devout and simple Christians, in their consciences, cannot readily embrace. When Jesus says, “it is written”, and when Paul says “do not go beyond what is written…. Test all things”, they are going to take this very, very seriously. Many so much so that they will never even consider your arguments that you present – they know their Bibles well (granted this is not the majority of those in some sense claiming the name “Evangelical” today), and they see that what you’re saying is at the very least a stretch. Now: if these doctrines were not insisted on, matters might be quite different. Again, as 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.” (139)

    But as it stands now, this believer can only conclude that great deception is involved. One foundation is being swapped for another, even if remnants of the truth which save continue to preserve some within the Roman Church. I will not insist that there is nothing of the visible church in Rome, but I will say that it is like riding a roller coaster at an amusement park that has failed to abide by regulations: do you really want to take that risk? If I had grown up Roman Catholic, it was just me, and my priest upheld God’s Law and preached free grace in Christ (i.e. they did not make absolution contingent on my remembering all my sins, doing my penance exactly right, etc.), I might remain a RC-Lutheran in the Tiber, looking to learn as well as teach. But definitely not with my children. My children will hear that they are sinners and that when they call their sin sin and receive grace that they have peace with God. Period.

    Period. As Chemnitz says in one place: “Let us therefore be content with those things which were written briefly and simply because of our slowness and infirmity” (130)

    Lord have mercy.

     
  55. Nathaniel

    January 9, 2012 at 5:04 am

    Nathan,
    Thanks for the blog post excerpts. In order to address the question I posed, these excerpts still need to be heavily distilled. I think you’re essentially saying that “all doctrines are to be tested using the Scriptures coupled with the Rule of Faith,” but that doesn’t get me all the way there, since I don’t know what the Lutheran Rule of Faith is, and you haven’t made it clear. I combed around through a few more of your posts, and here’s what I’ve understood you to say [leaving out reference to Rule of Faith since that would just require an additional definition]:

    All doctrines are to be tested against the Scriptures *rightly interpreted*. The right interpretations of the Scriptures are those in line with the unwritten Apostolic teachings that are known from the writings of the early Church fathers. The writings of the Church fathers must themselves be tested against the Scriptures if they are to be held as authoritative.

    What I’ve written here is a circular test for heresy vs. orthodoxy; Can you clarify what I’ve gotten wrong in it?

    Happy Epiphany of the Lord!
    –Nathaniel

     
  56. Nathan

    January 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “All doctrines are to be tested against the Scriptures *rightly interpreted*. The right interpretations of the Scriptures are those in line with the unwritten Apostolic teachings that are known from the writings of the early Church fathers. The writings of the Church fathers must themselves be tested against the Scriptures if they are to be held as authoritative.

    What I’ve written here is a circular test for heresy vs. orthodoxy; Can you clarify what I’ve gotten wrong in it?”

    To the first part I’d add this:

    “All doctrines are to be tested against the Scriptures, and while this may be able to be done to a certain degree by unbelievers, or even simple believers, one should never forget that God has also provided an authoritative church to *rightly interpret* the Scriptures. The right interpretations of the Scriptures are those in line with the unwritten Apostolic teachings that are known from the writings of the early Church fathers and are also contained in the Scriptures themselves, since Scripture interprets Scripture. Although Scripture interprets Scripture, it should not be assumed that the early Church Fathers are unnecessary, nor an authoritative interpreter. Of course, since the Apostolic Fathers themselves insisted that their teachings be tested against the those writings in the Church that were known to be the Scriptures in their times, the writings of the Church fathers must themselves be considered in reference to the received corpus of the Apostolic Fathers, since this corpus was composed precisely to preserve and safeguard the Apostolic teaching, and the Church received it as the very Word of God.

    Then you say:

    “What I’ve written here is a circular test for heresy vs. orthodoxy; Can you clarify what I’ve gotten wrong in it?”

    I hope I have. History is what is at issue here, not primarily logic, although logic certainly plays a role as we deal with history.

    +Nathan

     
  57. Nathaniel

    January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Praise God Nathan! There is so much here that we agree on. Both of our traditions know that God wishes to pass on the teachings of his Apostles to all people; that he does so through the Scriptures as authoritatively interpreted by the Church, the mystical body of Christ; that the early Church fathers are helpful in understanding the Scriptures; that God’s revelation flows to us through history.

    Now that we have your “test of true doctrine” — is it fair to call your paragraph above your summary of the Rule of Faith? — how do we make it work in practice? When Johnny-come-lately shows up teaching an unfamiliar doctrine, particularly if Johnny challenges doctrine currently taught by the Church, how do believers put the test into practice? At that point, the above test pushes back the question to this one:

    1) Who is the authoritative Church, that receives and proclaims the Scriptures with authority, and whose interpretations of Scripture are authoritative? What is its claim or pedigree against our Johnny-come-lately when he disagrees, and says, “You’re not the Church!” or “You’re not the *real* Church!” or even “Aha! By opposing this doctrine, you show that you’re not the real Church anymore!” St. Vincent points out (and history makes clear) that heretics use Scripture to defend heresy, so identifying *rightful* interpretation — the purview of the Church — is important here, even if the Church herself seems somehow to be on trial.

    Given the Church’s authority in Scriptural interpretation, another question:

    2) Does the Church’s *authority* to rightly interpret the Scriptures have any implications for (or inherent relationship to) the *truth* of the Church’s interpretations? Or is the Church potentially wrong in each of its interpretations, in spite of its authorization?

    in His peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  58. Nathan

    January 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I did not consider that paragraph a summary of the rule of faith. It is more like how the Rule of Faith plays out. But the rule of faith also contains core content, the Apostolic deposit. Further, our understanding of the rule of faith is often implicit or tacit to some degree.

    “When Johnny-come-lately shows up teaching an unfamiliar doctrine, particularly if Johnny challenges doctrine currently taught by the Church, how do believers put the test into practice?”

    It may be unfamiliar because the church has forgotten what it once knew, however tacitly or implicitly. Or, yes, it may be new not in the sense that it makes what is true and was once implicit explicit, but new in the sense of “if its new it isn’t true”. The test is put into practice by going to the Scriptures which safeguard the Apostolic deposit. The Scriptures themselves say that this is one of their functions. This is not to be done apart from the testimony of the early church fathers as well.

    “Who is the authoritative Church, that receives and proclaims the Scriptures with authority, and whose interpretations of Scripture are authoritative?”

    The one who does the above.

    “What is its claim or pedigree against our Johnny-come-lately when he disagrees, and says, “You’re not the Church!” or “You’re not the *real* Church!” or even “Aha! By opposing this doctrine, you show that you’re not the real Church anymore!”

    Luther gives mixed messages here… On the one hand, Rome is the whore and the Pope the Antichrist. On the other hand, the Church is one, so note this quote:

    The Reformer [Luther] never permitted his impassioned protest against the Rome of his day to blind him to the ongoing presence of Christendom within that jurisdiction: “We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy; indeed everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from this source. For instance we confess that in the papal church there are the true Holy Scriptures, true Baptism, the true Sacrament of the Altar, the true Keys for the forgiveness of sins, the true Office of the Ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Articles of the Creed” (Luther AE 36:16) — Dr. John R. Stephenson, *Eschatology* p. 8.

    “St. Vincent points out (and history makes clear) that heretics use Scripture to defend heresy, so identifying *rightful* interpretation — the purview of the Church — is important here, even if the Church herself seems somehow to be on trial.”

    Heretics do do this. Throughout church history, there has often been the need to emphasize one or the other as the source and fountain of truth, depending on the arguments of the opposition: Scripture and the Church, the pillar of truth. Interestingly though, identifying rightful interpretation presumes a right use of the rule of faith. What makes this clear is the question of the canon. Luther, while accepting that James, Revelation, Hebrews (and another – I don’t recall which) where a part of the Bible, also attributed to them less weight, as had teachers of the Church before him. I think he was right, given that some parts of the New Testament we know were accepted universally from the beginning by the Church. Again, I would argue that though Christopher Hitchens would pick the Lutherans over the JW’s in the scenario above, this is not to necessarily say that he is able to do this with the RCs and the Lutherans, for example – one cannot discount the importance of the Rule of Faith – a properly formed understanding of the core message of Jesus and the Apostles – for proper interpretation.

    “Does the Church’s *authority* to rightly interpret the Scriptures have any implications for (or inherent relationship to) the *truth* of the Church’s interpretations? Or is the Church potentially wrong in each of its interpretations, in spite of its authorization?”

    The Church can err. But God has promised that it will not error in such a way that the foundation will be overthrown. It is indefectible, and in a sense, infallible.

    My second and third response to Dave Armstrong goes into much depth on these issues. You might be able to get by reading part 3: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/round-3-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-a-few-good-pharisees/ (in part 2, I think section IV and V deal with indefectibility and infallibility)

    +Nathan

     
    • Nathaniel

      January 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      Hi Nathan,
      If Johnny-come-lately goes to the Scriptures and the early church fathers to uphold his unfamiliar doctrine, then he can demonstrate that he is the Church (as you’ve identified it: “The one who does the above”). By going to the Scriptures, he’s applying your practical test of doctrinal truth. But heretics can do the same, so Johnny’s doctrine might still be heresy! What good is your test? (It was supposed to be a way for the believer to distinguish true doctrine from heresy.)

      “Luther gives mixed messages here… On the one hand, Rome is the whore and the Pope the Antichrist. On the other hand, the Church is one…”

      I wasn’t asking about Luther’s view, but yours. And I wasn’t attempting to insert my identification of Church (which you call Rome or RCC) into your response. I’d honestly like to know your understanding of your Church’s claim or pedigree against Johnny-come-lately when he disagrees with the doctrine and identity of your Church. (Please imagine that he does so using Scripture, the Early Church Fathers, scholars, and a throng of members–including some pastors–of your Church to back himself up.)

      In Christ,
      Nathaniel

       
  59. Nathan

    January 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    On the content of the Rule of Faith (to David):

    “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])” (bold not in original)

    In your response I note that though you had criticism for me (about how you can’t dispute “these summary statements [since] the charge has to be argued with regard to particular individual instances”), you did not criticize my particular formulation of the Rule of Faith here (though of course this is the Rule in a nutshell: with it is also the oral tradition of the Apostles, the proper interpretation of the Scriptures, and the reflexive impulse to go to the Scriptures to test all things [since the voice of the past must be one with the voice of the present]: I suggest all of these aspects of the Rule of Faith exist in order to support the Rule of Faith as summarized above). I found that heartening.”

    This relates to what I said here:

    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.

     
  60. Nathaniel

    January 11, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Nathan,
    A comment on your discussion of the Fathers of the Church from Jan 9:
    It seems inconsistent to imply that they’re not authoritative, but that we must obey their insistence.
    – If the early Church fathers are authoritative, and they insist that we do something like test their words against scripture, then their insistence is a good reason to act. (Do it because they said so.)
    – If the early Church fathers do NOT speak with authority, but are valuable only through agreeing with some other standard (Scripture), then *the fact that they insist* is not in itself a good reason.
    Nitpicky, I know; but we should avoid making anyone authoritative when convenient or authoritative when we agree, since that’s sham authority.

    –Nathaniel

     
  61. Nathan

    January 11, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “It seems inconsistent to imply that they’re not authoritative, but that we must obey their insistence.”

    The default is that they are authoritative – those in the Church always assume the best about our leaders, much like children believe what their parents tell them. It is when we hear things that seem a bit strange or unfamiliar to us that we run back to the Scriptures, in order to better understand. The true fathers and pastors of the Church invite such examining of the Scriptures vis a vis their own teachings, and when they do this, they are echoing Scripture itself, where it is recorded that Paul did the same thing. This is part of the true rule of faith.

    +Nathan

     
    • Nathaniel

      January 12, 2012 at 4:57 am

      Nathan,
      No one can be an authority by default, nor by an assumption, so I’m not following you. A child’s trust in her parents is not the source of their authority.

      Why do you think the Early Church Fathers are your leaders (in more than time : ) ), i.e. have authority over you?

      –Nathaniel

       
  62. Nathan

    January 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Yes they can – I said things badly, making it subjective when it should be objective. I am my children’s authority by virtue of my being their father. A child’s parents are their authority by default. Likewise, whoever are my teachers are my authorities by default. Whoever are my rulers – mayors, governors, presidents – are my authority by default. My pastor is my authority by default. My fathers in the faith – those who have objectively shaped the world that I find myself in – that is, the world where my earthly fathers and grandfathers have been willing and able to pass on the true faith to me – are my authorities by default. Authorities rule in the world – exercise their strength and power – such that love flows, creates, nourishes and all flourishes – by deeds we can objectively call desirable (even if they are not truly “good” since these deeds are not always done with the purity of heart and motivation God demands). God gives authority in the world to serve us. What do I have that I have not received? And that through authorities, God’s masks. All I have is a gift objectively, and this is why our default should be to live with free and flowing trust in those over us. For as human beings we all must trust others, especially those who by their authority serve, protect, love, and treasure us.

    But sometimes – especially as we become more familiar with the Scriptures – we realize that all the authority that has been established (Rom. 13) is not only a bit off, but far off (even if having someone in power is far better and more desirable than what happens when a void is created) as regards God’s purposes. Even as we must respect and revere their offices and not seek to overthrow them (yes, the American Revolution was wrong). In the Church, when false teachers are found out, of course this does not necessarily mean that we question whether or not someone was validly ordained by God – it certainly does mean that they should be removed as authorities (even as, until they are removed, they really are authorities). That said, insofar as we are talking about keeping peace and order in the world, many false or heterodox teachers are still used by God (who uses evil for good) to guide and influence those who in their outward behavior make good neighbors (think Mormans). These exercise more influence in creating “external good” than do many political leaders, even as much of what they say about faith in God is spiritually poisonous. Also, historically, throne and altar, so to speak, have been more intertwined, part and parcel of one another….

    I hope this makes things a bit more clear.

    +Nathan

     
  63. Nathan

    January 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Testing….

    Nathaniel, I’m not sure why your latest comment is not up here….

    +Nathan

     
  64. Nathan

    January 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Not sure what’s up here. The clock is all off on the posts, and your most recent posts went above for some reason.

    I’ll reproduce it here (but I lose your bold):

    Hi Nathan,
    If Johnny-come-lately goes to the Scriptures and the early church fathers to uphold his unfamiliar doctrine, then he can demonstrate that he is the Church (as you’ve identified it: “The one who does the above”). By going to the Scriptures, he’s applying your practical test of doctrinal truth. But heretics can do the same, so Johnny’s doctrine might still be heresy! What good is your test? (It was supposed to be a way for the believer to distinguish true doctrine from heresy.)

    “Luther gives mixed messages here… On the one hand, Rome is the whore and the Pope the Antichrist. On the other hand, the Church is one…”

    I wasn’t asking about Luther’s view, but yours. And I wasn’t attempting to insert my identification of Church (which you call Rome or RCC) into your response. I’d honestly like to know your understanding of your Church’s claim or pedigree against Johnny-come-lately when he disagrees with the doctrine and identity of your Church. (Please imagine that he does so using Scripture, the Early Church Fathers, scholars, and a throng of members–including some pastors–of your Church to back himself up.)

    In Christ,
    Nathaniel

     
  65. Nathan

    January 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Here’s my answer now:

    “I’d honestly like to know your understanding of your Church’s claim or pedigree against Johnny-come-lately when he disagrees with the doctrine and identity of your Church. (Please imagine that he does so using Scripture, the Early Church Fathers, scholars, and a throng of members–including some pastors–of your Church to back himself up.)”

    Well, he could be right. But he is not going to overturn basic truths that have been firmly established in the Church’s history.

    +Nathan

     
  66. Nathan

    January 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    One more thing:

    Luther’s view is Chemnitz’s view is Gerhad’s view is mine:

    http://cyberbrethren.com/2011/11/15/why-was-the-lutheran-reformation-a-tragedy/

    (see the last post in this thread)

    Looks like I might be trying to “overturn” my Church’s understanding if what Pastor McCain represents what it currently believes.

    +Nathan

     
  67. Nathan

    January 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Did you see my most recent post?:

    https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/god-incarnate-balaams-ass-the-book-of-genesis-and-faith-like-a-child/

    …it kind of dealt with these issues of “new doctrines”….

    Do you have a blog to Nathaniel. If so, I’d love to read it – it has been delightful talking with you.

    +Nathan

     
  68. Nathan

    January 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    You may also find comment #36 here to be related to this discussion:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/08/st-thomas-aquinas-on-assurance-of-salvation/

    +Nathan

     
    • Nathaniel

      January 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Sorry, I put my most recent comment above in logical order, after your comment that it responds to; but that puts it out of chronological order. Maybe I should just avoid splitting into 2 parallel streams of discussion : )

      –Nathaniel

       
  69. Nathaniel

    January 13, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Nathan,
    A few responses:

    “Well, he could be right. But he is not going to overturn basic truths that have been firmly established in the Church’s history.”

    First of all, every heresy clings to plenty of firmly-established truth, as part of its enticement to sincere believers.

    Johnny could agree with firmly established truth; or he could just question one or two bits by pointing out that the church can err. Regardless, if Johnny could be right about the unfamiliar doctrine, then your church’s doctrines could be wrong; and as you both use the same test of true doctrine vs. heresy,
    – your test doesn’t work;
    – you have no principled basis on which to choose or reject either side of this disagreement; and therefore
    – your doctrinal test does not support doctrinal unity over doctrinal splintering, and
    – you might currently or in the future cling to doctrines that are not, in fact, part of God’s revelation to man.
    Or can you lay out a more complete test of doctrine to rule out these problems?

    “My fathers in the faith – those who have objectively shaped the world that I find myself in… are my authorities by default.”
    I think the word “default” isn’t very useful here; “by default” doesn’t explain why your pastor is your authority, and the LCMS pastor at some church in Independence, MO is not, nor why the man and woman who beget a child (and they alone) are that child’s parent. (I think what you mean “by default” is something like “until demonstrated otherwise” or “unless that authority is subsequently lost.”) I still don’t see why the Early Church Fathers have authority over you — where would it come from? Every person’s actions objectively shape the world, but that doesn’t mean that every person who came before you had/has some claim to authority over you. But I’ll drop it for now, unless you believe it’s central to the question we’ve been chasing, about how to distinguish true doctrines (i.e. those that are part of God’s revelation to us) from those which are not part of that revelation (and perhaps even contrary to it).

    “The Church can err. But God has promised that it will not error in such a way that the foundation will be overthrown. It is indefectible, and in a sense, infallible.”
    I will have to think more about this. I can understand a belief that the Church is always there, protected and vaguely steered by God, without him micromanaging the individual teachings of the Church. But it makes it impossible to plant a flag on any particular doctrine.

    This is the second time that you’ve posted in this thread the paragraph about Chemnitz and going beyond the rule of faith, and the paragraph about Dave’s lack of criticism, and the one with quotes from J.N.D Kelley. I appreciate you posting those excerpts to try to help flesh out the rule of faith as you understand it. But I’m afraid they’re too indirect in describing the rule of faith, and they have too many loose and unrelated ends (being excerpts from other threads) to help me out. (About Chemnitz, I only know what 3 minutes’ reading on Wikipedia can tell; and I don’t know who J.N.D. Kelley or some of the other named folks are.)

    Sorry, I have no blog. I appreciate yours!
    –Nathaniel

     
  70. Nathan

    January 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Will try to talk about this more on Monday.

    -Nathan

     
  71. infanttheology

    January 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Very busy and sick. Wait a while longer.

    +Nathan

     
    • Nathaniel

      January 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      No rush. Get better, Nathan.
      God bless you,
      Nathaniel

       
  72. infanttheology

    January 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I said: “Well, he could be right. But he is not going to overturn basic truths that have been firmly established in the Church’s history.”

    You said: First of all, every heresy clings to plenty of firmly-established truth, as part of its enticement to sincere believers.

    Fair enough. And I am assuming that you think this is what Luther did. In any case, I stand by what I said as regards your original question.

    You said: “… if Johnny could be right about the unfamiliar doctrine, then your church’s doctrines could be wrong; and as you both use the same test of true doctrine vs. heresy,
    – your test doesn’t work;
    – you have no principled basis on which to choose or reject either side of this disagreement; and therefore
    – your doctrinal test does not support doctrinal unity over doctrinal splintering, and
    – you might currently or in the future cling to doctrines that are not, in fact, part of God’s revelation to man.
    Or can you lay out a more complete test of doctrine to rule out these problems?”

    Probably not. Providence. Clarity of Scripture which safeguard what’s important. Promises of a remnant always. Nathaniel, as your situation is totally generalized I am not sure how much this helps your argument. Am well aware that there are “1000s of denominations”. So what – they are all clearly wrong. Further, just because so many of them seem uninterested in learning more about Lutheranism means nothing (McCain, Lonely Way). Jesus told us to expect as much. Many faithful people in many of those Protestant churches no doubt believe that baptism is something more special than its leaders let on, that Jesus meant the bread was his body and the blood his wine, and that he really did give his leaders the ability to forgive sins – all things that are clearly biblical and have a long history in the Church. We can’t argue over abstractions. Give me something concrete we can talk about. Or perhaps at this time you might want to just tell me how the office of the papacy gives you an a priori key to knowing what is clearly the truth – an idea, that, by the way, we see nowhere throughout the Old or New Testaments.

    I said: “My fathers in the faith – those who have objectively shaped the world that I find myself in… are my authorities by default.”

    You said: “I think the word “default” isn’t very useful here; “by default” doesn’t explain why your pastor is your authority, and the LCMS pastor at some church in Independence, MO is not….”

    …because all authority is established by God and *no one* would argue what you are saying here.

    “, nor why the man and woman who beget a child (and they alone) are that child’s parent.”

    Not sure what you are saying here….clearly a persons’ parents are someone’s authority.

    “(I think what you mean “by default” is something like “until demonstrated otherwise” or “unless that authority is subsequently lost.”)”

    No, I mean they really are my authority, even if they don’t deserve it. If no higher authority removes their authority, their authority is not lost.

    “I still don’t see why the Early Church Fathers have authority over you — where would it come from?”

    I don’t really know how to answer this. They are my spiritual fathers. They gave us Christ and fought against the devil. They loved Him and loved to pass on His Word. They gave birth (spiritually) to others, who gave birth to, who gave birth to…. I don’t know why this is so hard to understand. How can I not honor them and revere them?

    “Every person’s actions objectively shape the world, but that doesn’t mean that every person who came before you had/has some claim to authority over you.”

    No, but those who were given charge over my ancestors, physically and spiritually, do have some claim to authority over me – but remember, authority understood rightly is authority to serve, to wash feet, to sacrifice… not to be served.

    “ But I’ll drop it for now, unless you believe it’s central to the question we’ve been chasing, about how to distinguish true doctrines (i.e. those that are part of God’s revelation to us) from those which are not part of that revelation (and perhaps even contrary to it).”

    I don’t know – maybe it is. The fact that all of this would sound so strange to you baffles me utterly. I must say that from my perspective, Rome has not shown proper regard for the Apostolic deposit.

    I said: “The Church can err. But God has promised that it will not error in such a way that the foundation will be overthrown. It is indefectible, and in a sense, infallible.”

    You said: I will have to think more about this. I can understand a belief that the Church is always there, protected and vaguely steered by God, without him micromanaging the individual teachings of the Church. But it makes it impossible to plant a flag on any particular doctrine.

    I say: Oh, I don’t think that is true at all. His sheep hear His voice. That’s how we get the Church after all, not by counting sheep, but hearing the voice of the Shepherd.

    “This is the second time that you’ve posted in this thread the paragraph about Chemnitz and going beyond the rule of faith, and the paragraph about Dave’s lack of criticism, and the one with quotes from J.N.D Kelley. I appreciate you posting those excerpts to try to help flesh out the rule of faith as you understand it. But I’m afraid they’re too indirect in describing the rule of faith, and they have too many loose and unrelated ends (being excerpts from other threads) to help me out. (About Chemnitz, I only know what 3 minutes’ reading on Wikipedia can tell; and I don’t know who J.N.D. Kelley or some of the other named folks are.)”

    Sorry about that. J.N.D. Kelley is a highly respected Anglican historian. Martin Chemnitz is the second greatest teacher of our Church. I’m glad you’re beginning the process of learning about the Lutheran Church.

     
  73. infanttheology

    January 19, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    whoops:

    “Further, just because so many of them seem uninterested in learning more about Lutheranism means nothing (McCain, Lonely Way).”

    here:

    see http://cyberbrethren.com/2011/12/28/whats-up-with-the-evangelicals-and-reformed/ and http://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Way-Selected-Letters-1941-1976/dp/0758600046)

     
  74. Nathaniel

    January 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Nathan,
    Thanks for your responses; I hope you’re feeling better. I am glad to learn more about the Lutheran Church, and I thank you for sharing your deeply committed insider’s view.

    I realize that it’s frustrating for you that I’m dealing in generalizations and hypotheticals; I don’t do so (I hope) just because I like to take a systematic, philosophical approach to things. I do it for two reasons:

    1) For any particular doctrinal question that’s already addressed by a church, there is the risk of justifying the settled answer in an ad hoc way. Abstract or not-yet-settled issues have to be addressed with principles, so I think they can bring much more light to the question of “How do we distinguish doctrinal truth from heresy?” I want to abstract away from the actual correctness or error in Luther’s decision to defy the Church doctrinally, because you and I already know our commitments in that regard, so it’s a very loaded issue and difficult to pierce to the underlying principles.

    2) The question of how to address new doctrinal questions that haven’t yet arisen is itself very practical; such questions have never ceased to arise throughout the history of the Church, no more since the reformation than before. We *know* our churches have ways of handling these things, and our churches are also committed to teaching only those doctrines that express the content of God’s revelation. If a church can’t articulate how this process will work in principle to provide certainty about future issues, then its claims to have found certainty on *past* issues is rightfully called into question.

    I’m trying to understand how your church will have certainty about the next doctrinal “reformer”, to shed light on the rightness or wrongness of your understanding of the historical Luther. If I ask about doctrines already settled, it will be hard to see if you’re defending them from principles, or simply from an insufficiently critical commitment to them (not something I’m accusing you of).

    Does that give you any more inclination to chase down generic questions to the bitter end? You’ve already admitted that a doctrinal innovator opposing your church might be right… doesn’t that make you uneasy about your church, and make you want to investigate/articulate its truth-distinguishing principles more clearly?

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
    • infanttheology

      January 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      Nathaniel,

      “1) For any particular doctrinal question that’s already addressed by a church, there is the risk of justifying the settled answer in an ad hoc way. Abstract or not-yet-settled issues have to be addressed with principles, so I think they can bring much more light to the question of “How do we distinguish doctrinal truth from heresy?” I want to abstract away from the actual correctness or error in Luther’s decision to defy the Church doctrinally, because you and I already know our commitments in that regard, so it’s a very loaded issue and difficult to pierce to the underlying principles.”

      ad hoc = “for the particular end or case at hand without consideration of wider application…” Sure. We don’t want that. Here’s the problem though. What if logic, systematization, and consistent methodologies come to rule the day – to rule everything in fact. The scientist and logician in each one of us wants this – but why should we expect that we can have it? I agree that there might be underlying principles, but even here, are these “hard and fast” always or are they “rules of thumb”? Is this ultimately about really understanding principals and processes or is it about understanding persons and their purposes? I vote the latter. This is about persons, their purposes, real history and real trust. And it involves knowledge not just opinion. Can’t avoid it.

      I wonder if our different views of epistemology/pedagogy are related to our different views of theology. I’m guessing yes – they are all part and parcel of one another I think. From the conversation with Andrew:

      A: “Moral certainty pertains to matters that have not been revealed, and are not rationally inescapable or proved by demonstrative argument, but for which I have sufficient reason to be confident. As we have seen, this confidence can pertain to personal relationships, both human to human relationships (e.g., loving and being loved) and human to divine relationships (e.g., being in a state of grace).”

      N: I understand what you are saying here. Still, it seems strange, that strictly speaking, we cannot call this knowledge. Judging from the Catholic Encyclopedia article on “certitude”, this would also seem to be the matter about even the most general statements about what has occurred in the past. With the categories inherited from Aristotle here (of which, I will admit, seem to be quite justifiable on the face of it), things such as these are relegated to the category of “opinion”. I would think the reason this seems wrong to me (“wrongheaded”, I said in my post) would be clear. Just because I cannot prove something to be rationally inescapable to another person by means of a demonstrative argument – does this mean that I, at least, cannot be said to know (i.e. to have knowledge) something? To say the least, this seems to go counter to all of our regular human experience I think (there really are historical events that we can be sure of – we might have less confidence of this if we are a North Korean, but nevertheless….) Here, the personal element of inter-human trust seems thrust out of the equation, and the only knowledge is that which everyone can and should share and be convinced of…. But even here, we run into issues I think: who is to determine when the label “contingency” obtains and when it does not? (all of this should give you more of a sense about why “the distinctions made by Catholics regarding kinds of certitude seem wrongheaded to [me]” – you talk about the “kind of understanding that can come from careful reasoning”, but I carefully reason about ( : ) ) and go on to talk about the sure knowledge we can have that comes in part as a result of trust which is indeed warranted – i.e. many do indeed prove themselves to be trustworthy, and further, many of these are careful observers of the world and its evidences, even if they do not always have explicit methodologies, by which they justify their knowledge… indeed using reason itself is not the problem….)

      “2) The question of how to address new doctrinal questions that haven’t yet arisen is itself very practical; such questions have never ceased to arise throughout the history of the Church, no more since the reformation than before. We *know* our churches have ways of handling these things, and our churches are also committed to teaching only those doctrines that express the content of God’s revelation. If a church can’t articulate how this process will work in principle to provide certainty about future issues, then its claims to have found certainty on *past* issues is rightfully called into question.”

      Well, sure. But I’ve already told you that we don’t even consider the Book of Concord to be infallible. Our church is, in principle, open to correction from the Word of God. I don’t think that is just pious talk. That’s a real belief we have. That said, we also aren’t sitting around worrying that we are wrong. What a person knows is what they have yet to be shown is false.

      “I’m trying to understand how your church will have certainty about the next doctrinal “reformer”, to shed light on the rightness or wrongness of your understanding of the historical Luther. If I ask about doctrines already settled, it will be hard to see if you’re defending them from principles, or simply from an insufficiently critical commitment to them (not something I’m accusing you of).”

      Well, you already know that all of this would not be decided in a vacuum, of course (assuming good people are working on this decision)- but it seems to me you are kind of asking a question like: how will I know that I have fallen in love?

      “Does that give you any more inclination to chase down generic questions to the bitter end? You’ve already admitted that a doctrinal innovator opposing your church might be right… doesn’t that make you uneasy about your church, and make you want to investigate/articulate its truth-distinguishing principles more clearly?”

      What do you mean by “generic questions”? The reason any question would ever be pursued is because teaching is a matter of life and death. His Words are Spirit and life. Without His words there is only spiritual death and darkness….

      Nathaniel, I recently read something that may sum things up:

      “Dr. Korcok [in this book, Lutheran Education] shows how the theological conflicts of the Refomation were also pedagogical conflicts. Whereas the medieveal version of the liberal arts emphasized logic – resulting in the systematic rationalism of the scholastics – the Lutherans followed the Renaissance educators who emphasized rhetoric, which included not only the art of persuasion but the study of literature in primary texts, such as the Bible. The Lutherans eventually broke with the Renaissance humanists, who believed that liberal education is enough to instill morals and virtue in young people…” (xi)

      On the other hand, we have St. Ignatius of Loyola:

      “To arrive at the truth in all things, we ought always to be ready to believe that what seems to us white is black, if the hierarchical Church so defines it.”

      Again, it seems to me that this is about persons, their purposes, real history and real trust… if I think there may be good reasons not to trust, the answer is found in looking more closely at persons and what they say… and the details of real history (methodologies here about how best to do this might vary and depend on circumstances… tight systematization and strict syllogism-style logic take a back seat here….). Obviously, the amount of “histories” out there are endless and vary in scope, but some we will find worth exploring and considering more than others….

      And God has made this easier for us of course in the holy books that He has provided…. safeguarding that which he truly wants us to know

      +Nathan

       
  75. infanttheology

    January 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm

     
  76. Nathaniel

    January 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    “ad hoc = “for the particular end or case at hand without consideration of wider application…” Sure. We don’t want that. Here’s the problem though. What if logic, systematization, and consistent methodologies come to rule the day – to rule everything in fact.”

    I don’t understand the question. We always want logic to rule the day contra illogic and reason contra unreason. I haven’t suggested that we systematize God or persons, or even Truth as a whole. Faith cannot be bundled up into propositions, but that doesn’t mean we should allow uncertainty to remain when doctrinal propositions are challenged.

    “The scientist and logician in each one of us wants this – but why should we expect that we can have it? I agree that there might be underlying principles, but even here, are these “hard and fast” always or are they “rules of thumb”?”

    If all we have are rules of thumb for distinguishing revealed truth from heresy, then we’ll never really be sure we’re right, since identifications of either will ultimately be individual human judgments. And any two individuals may judge differently; a rule of thumb means, “it’s ultimately up to you.” That’s exactly why we want a “court of higher appeal” that is better than every individual’s judgement.

    “Is this ultimately about really understanding principals and processes or is it about understanding persons and their purposes? I vote the latter. This is about persons, their purposes, real history and real trust. And it involves knowledge not just opinion. Can’t avoid it.”

    Rats. I am trying to have a conversation about what your church believes, and about how we can know when doctrines align with revealed truth. (Let’s talk knowledge, not opinion, I agree!) But instead, you’re telling me about your personal vote.

    “I wonder if our different views of epistemology/pedagogy are related to our different views of theology. I’m guessing yes – they are all part and parcel of one another I think.”

    I’m sure you’re right; it’s impossible (and undesirable) to do theology in a vacuum.

    “Well, sure. But I’ve already told you that we don’t even consider the Book of Concord to be infallible. Our church is, in principle, open to correction from the Word of God. I don’t think that is just pious talk. That’s a real belief we have.”

    OK; this is consistent with your implication above that we have (only) “rules of thumb” for distinguishing revealed truth from heresy.

    “That said, we also aren’t sitting around worrying that we are wrong.”

    Perhaps you should be. We are talking about God’s revealed truth. As you said, “teaching is a matter of life and death.” Why also claim that the possibility of having some teachings wrong isn’t a cause for discomfort?

    “What a person knows is what they have yet to be shown is false.”

    An odd view, I think — it allows us to classify believed falsehoods and mistakes as “knowledge”. But whatever you call it, I’ve been trying to discuss the distinction between truth and that which is opposed to truth. That’s not the same as the distinction between the known-to-be-false and the not-yet-known-to-be-false.

    “Well, you already know that all of this would not be decided in a vacuum, of course (assuming good people are working on this decision)- but it seems to me you are kind of asking a question like: how will I know that I have fallen in love?”

    Certainly not. The answer about love will depend only on the state of things within you; it will depend on things that only you can know. The answer about doctrine is precisely a question that a group can recognize a unified answer to–and the Church does have an answer to–because God’s revelation in Jesus Christ is complete and public.

    “What do you mean by “generic questions”?”

    I mean a question about a hypothetical, unspecified doctrine; the sort of question I’ve been asking about Johnny-come-lately.

    “Nathaniel, I recently read something that may sum things up:
    [quote about Dr. Korcok…]”

    I don’t think this gets to the heart of our discussion. We’re talking about how to distinguish true doctrine from heresy, not about different emphases in pedagogy. Over the 2000 year life of the Church, there have been plenty of different ways of thinking, learning, and teaching; but that doesn’t change what is revealed truth and what is heresy. Truth is truth, even when approached or taught in different ways by different individuals.

    “On the other hand, we have St. Ignatius of Loyola:
    “To arrive at the truth in all things, we ought always to be ready to believe that what seems to us white is black, if the hierarchical Church so defines it.” ”

    I don’t see how this stands in counterpoint to the quote above about emphases in education. But is St. Ignatius’s quote really so hard to swallow? If (for the sake of argument) the hierarchical Church is authorized by Christ to proclaim his truth on earth, and is protected from error when doing so (as St. Ignatius certainly believes!) then it makes excellent sense for anyone committed to Christ to do as St. Ignatius says. You may take him to task for believing these principles about the Church, or even see his conclusion (the quote itself) as a reason to reject these principles about the Church’s authority and protection. But you can’t argue with the strength of the connection between the principles and the conclusion (unless you mistake him to be speaking literally about color perception).
    I claim: Any teaching guaranteed by Christ to be error-free commands our assent, even over against our own personal thoughts on the issue. Do you have any problems with this claim?

    “Again, it seems to me that this is about persons, their purposes, real history and real trust… if I think there may be good reasons not to trust, the answer is found in looking more closely at persons and what they say… and the details of real history (methodologies here about how best to do this might vary and depend on circumstances… tight systematization and strict syllogism-style logic take a back seat here….). Obviously, the amount of “histories” out there are endless and vary in scope, but some we will find worth exploring and considering more than others….”

    I agree that truth is passed on and learned through persons in real history; that’s the notion of Sacred Tradition outside the written Scriptures. But that doesn’t take away the possibility of doctrines that are irreformable. Given your Church’s approach, it is only consistent to claim that (as you stated above) all doctrines are reformable. And that’s consistent with your answer about Johnny-come-lately who challenges church doctrine: “He may be right.” Isn’t that therefore the conclusion about Luther: He *may* be right — but you and your Church can’t really be certain? Is that enough to go on to choose schism or to remain in schism?

    I offer you the exciting truth that God has given His Church even more: clear, certain boundaries of true doctrine, and an ongoing, living means for providing new distinctions when new questions arise. I recognize that the *desire* for certainty does not itself prove the existence of a means to such certainty; but I invite you, Nathan, to remain open to the truth of the Church’s living magisterium!

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

    Saint Paul, Saint Timothy, and Saint Titus, pray for us!

     
  77. Nathan

    January 30, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I am thrilled to see that you are still continuing the discussion. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss and debate with you.

    That said – I haven’t read your post yet – and it may be a while before I get back to you again. Just know I’m happy you’re taking the time to help me out (from your perspective at least : ) )

    +Nathan

     
  78. Nathan

    February 2, 2012 at 1:50 pm

     
  79. Nathaniel

    February 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    From the Dreher piece (thanks for pointing it out):
    “This is a temptation intellectually-oriented people have: an urge to interpret the world as an expression of syllogism, theory, idealism, rationality.”

    Yes, that’s me! As I told a friend last night, “I am a better thinker than a prayer.” But the solution is not to reduce thinking, but rather to grow and improve in praying. I will join Dreher in saying that when emphasizing non-rational (not irrational!) elements, we do thereby make the rational unimportant. Propositions have their place, even if they are not everything!

    –Nathaniel

     
  80. Nathaniel

    February 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Ahem.
    … we do not thereby make the rational unimportant.

     
  81. Nathan

    February 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    “Propositions have their place, even if they are not everything!”

    With you there. Its just the systems we build with those propositions that can be problematic….

     
  82. Nathan

    February 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Nathaniel,

    First of all, it does seem quite plain to me that your desire to have certainty about being in the proper Church (and one that you are guaranteed through the papal office will never err!) is a “second thing”, not a “first thing”. First and foremost, our whole being is to be given over to Christ, who creates the Church. Granted, he does this through the Church – the persons in it. Nevertheless, our true confidence is to be gained by the simple knowledge that we are Jesus’ little lamb, resting securely in his arms, with the rest of His flock. This is our forgiveness, life, and salvation.

    Second, I am not against reason, as should be clear to you. We can’t not use reason, and certainly, for example, the proposition that God exists cannot coexist with the statement that He does not. I just don’t think we too easily reduce reason to logic (as happens much I think in these sematic-web-and-the-like-obsessed-days) and am very skeptical about our ability to build grand systematic superstructures (including even humble systematic enterprises such as those imagined via syllogistic logic…) via our “consistent methodologies”. You say: “That doesn’t mean we should allow uncertainty to remain when doctrinal propositions are challenged”. I agree 100%

    You say: “If all we have are rules of thumb for distinguishing revealed truth from heresy, then we’ll never really be sure we’re right, since identifications of either will ultimately be individual human judgments. And any two individuals may judge differently; a rule of thumb means, “it’s ultimately up to you.” That’s exactly why we want a “court of higher appeal” that is better than every individual’s judgement.”

    First of all, my inclination is to submit my judgment to that of my Holy Mother, who holds to the Book of Concord and all its articles, as the true explanation of the Holy Scriptures. Second, in my mind, you are talking about impersonal and science and philosophy and mathematical kinds of things, not persons and theology and history and wisdom kinds of things (later on Chemnitz can analyze and explain what happened during the Reformation a bit better – talking about how God worked as He did and how what happened with Luther and those who followed him fits into the story of the rest of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, but other than a stubborn clinging to the belief that God makes the Word clear to those in the Church who pursue the truth with the help of the Scriptures themselves [interpreting other Scriptures] and the Fathers of old, I just don’t know what else you can expect – these sound like some pretty dog-gone excellent “rules of thumb” that the Spirit uses…). I just think that the Holy Spirit, by the grace of God, revealed the truth to Martin Luther, who was a faithful son of the Church and knew the Holy Scriptures and the Church fathers better than anyone in his day. Based on my knowledge of the Bible, the Fathers, and Luther, I just cannot justify not trusting what the brothers Martin (L and C) say. The Spirit revealed the truth of history to Luther and those who followed in his train – and God was preserving His Church through the Gospel (see out earlier exchanges about absolution) that Luther clearly encountered in the Bible and in certain Fathers of the Church. God enabled Luther to hear the voices that he needed to hear in order to see the truth.

    I said: “Is this ultimately about really understanding principals and processes or is it about understanding persons and their purposes? I vote the latter. This is about persons, their purposes, real history and real trust. And it involves knowledge not just opinion. Can’t avoid it.”

    You replied: “Rats. I am trying to have a conversation about what your church believes, and about how we can know when doctrines align with revealed truth. (Let’s talk knowledge, not opinion, I agree!) But instead, you’re telling me about your personal vote.”

    No, I am talking knowledge. Did you not read the paragraph I shared with you where I had responded to Bryan Cross about how a man can indeed be confident that he is in a totally secure relationship with his wife – even if he can’t logically or philosophically or scientifically or methodologically prove it to anyone – and even if there are other men who make the same claim who really should not have such confidence? The Catholic Church, following Aristotle, ends ups saying that some of the most seemingly basic and known facts of history are not knowledge. Your insistence that this is all my personal vote puzzles me. No, let me be blunt: you are wrong, and because you have come this far with me, your level of culpability has increased all the more. I know that sounds all dogmatic and totalitarian and audacious, but I believe that the Word is clear and Rome is clearly in the wrong – and the confessional Lutherans are clearly in the right. I love discussing things with you because I want to be challenged – I want to know what the best arguments are against the position I hold. But I don’t see much here that I even find remotely convincing, quite honestly.

    I’m not mad by the way. : )

    Let me be totally clear what I think this all comes down to: a person may very well be confident that what He knows is true. Now, that confidence may be challenged when evidence is presented that *on the face of it* causes him to doubt the veracity of what he has believed and causes him to doubt and to deeply consider the claims others make. So, when I say “we also aren’t sitting around worrying that we are wrong”, and you quip, “Perhaps you should be. We are talking about God’s revealed truth”, I think I do concede you have a point, and I am addressing it. Really though, part of this comes down to the basic question: who should I trust? And of course here, whether or not we keep the (current) faith (that we believe has been given to us by God’s grace and we are charged to keep, defend, and promulgate) will have something to do with issues not only of the knowledge and competence we perceive others to have (how one speaks about a subject), but also ethos, or character. And here, Luther seems like the better man. After looking at the book another hero of mine, Sir Thomas Moore wrote (referenced in the original post), I lost a lot of respect for him. The more I get to know everything about Luther and Chemnitz and Gerhard, my trust grows. As it does when I speak with my pastor, who studied for his PhD in Germany.

    And so, when Ignatius says:

    “To arrive at the truth in all things, we ought always to be ready to believe that what seems to us white is black, if the hierarchical Church so defines it.”

    ….I simply point out the original content of my post that kicked off this discussion (with all this stuff that I just consider “beyond the pale”) and other things I have heard from scholars I trust (Gerhard, for example, with his list of the errors of the Popes….)

    “Why also claim that the possibility of having some teachings wrong isn’t a cause for discomfort?”….”

    Well, it might seem that this would be the case, since we don’t have the same living “infallible” source that you are confident you have (on what basis I ask? Where in the Bible or in Church history do you find any guarantee that any particular person will have infallibility, due to their office [in certain solemn situations!] – I see this nowhere in the Scripture… I see promises of indefectibility – perhaps even somehow connected with an ongoing “chair of Peter” – but no promise of papal infallibility or even the infallibility of any prophet or apostle for that matter, so when you ask “so when you ask “Any teaching guaranteed by Christ to be error-free commands our assent, even over against our own personal thoughts on the issue. Do you have any problems with this claim?” I say that I would not have a problem with that if it ever had been claimed, but I do not see where it ever was claimed….and as I mention above, I hear of much historical evidence to the contrary re: papal infallibility from persons whose judgment I have grown to trust…). In any case, when you say, quoting me and commenting, “[Luther] may be right.” Isn’t that therefore the conclusion about Luther: He *may* be right — but you and your Church can’t really be certain? Is that enough to go on to choose schism or to remain in schism?”, I can only respond by saying that every time my Lutheran convictions are challenged and I am driven to the Scriptures time and again, I continue to come away with even more confidence than before…

    “I’ve been trying to discuss the distinction between truth and that which is opposed to truth. That’s not the same as the distinction between the known-to-be-false and the not-yet-known-to-be-false.”

    All well and good. The point is, you can’t do what you want to do without embedding the issue in the personal, in the person. Everything I am trying to do here is to help you see that. When I talked to Bryan Cross here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/10/reformation-sunday-2011-how-would-protestants-know-when-to-return/ (read comment 274) he really did not seem to get it what I am saying (contending that he and Exsurge Domine had shamelessly misquoted Luther…and that he was wrongly persisting in defending the bull and himself I said to him: “I still don’t understand how we can have a conversation then. This has become about the words without the persons speaking them. This is the shell without the nut. This is the markings without the flesh and blood. I do not see how there is spirit and life – humanity – in this strange philosophy that I hear from you.”). There is objective truth and knowledge, and a person may rightly be confident that they have it, and another may not. How to know the difference? Simply put: you can’t avoid trust. You can’t avoid that this, like all other issues, is a deeply personal, pastoral, and practical question/issue.

    You go on to say: “The answer about love will depend only on the state of things within you; it will depend on things that only you can know. The answer about doctrine is precisely a question that a group can recognize a unified answer to–and the Church does have an answer to–because God’s revelation in Jesus Christ is complete and public.”

    Again, these issues can’t be so neatly separated. Second, the revelation is complete and public – and it is found in the Book of Concord and those who confess it. You can recognize the Church’s unified answer there.

    By the way, I am reading “You are Peter” by Oliver Clement, which I find quite fascinating and interesting. So, there may be some hope for me. Doubtful though – even Holmes seems pretty convinced that he should remain E.O.

    +Nathan

     
  83. Nathaniel

    February 17, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Nathan — thanks for your thoughtful answer. I will respond when I have time to read it all, and more time to think and reply. In the meantime, pray for me!
    –Nathaniel

     
  84. Nathan

    February 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Sounds good – please take your time… : )

    I really appreciate you and will try to pray for you.

    +Nathan

     
  85. Nathaniel

    May 8, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Nathan,
    Happy Easter, Brother! Christ is risen! The world is His and we have reason to rejoice. Thank you for your prayers leading up to and during this season of joy.

    I’m not going to respond paragraph-by-paragraph, since our back-and-forth is getting rather lengthy that way, and we are loading in multiple issues without ever resolving the fundamentals. So, I’ll boil it down to three short points.

    1) You continue to trust Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, your pastor, and the Lutheran Church, because you trust them, and your trust & confidence in them grow when you read the Scriptures.

    So, are you making the claim that we properly access the the deposit of faith, and its proper interpretation, by following whomever we trust — perhaps with the requirement that we first make sure our trust and confidence are reinforced when we read Scripture? You are of course correct that following Christ is very personal and interpersonal, and usually bound up with our interactions with those whom we trust. But I don’t think the claim I’ve just outlined is supportable, so I invite you to make a case for what you do believe is the proper way to access the deposit of faith and its Christ-authorized interpretation.

    2) You’re living and speaking a contradiction. All at once,
    A. You believe that the judgments of the Church are true, and that God’s revelation is in the Book of Concord.
    B. You don’t believe the Book of Concord or your Church to be without error.
    C. You are willing to make unqualified statements about the rightness of the Lutheran Church and the wrongness of the Catholic Church.
    This position is not coherent; either qualifications need to be added to “true” in (A) and to the claims of type (C); or you could reject (B), and hold that your Church is without error.
    Can you correct me if I’ve mischaracterized your position?

    3) Finally, a point more broadly about the approach of this post: You’ve identified certain “beyond-the-pale” Catholic quotes and statements about popes’/theologians’ proclamations or views. You have then gathered these beyond-the-pale statements (although not one is both specific and official Catholic teaching) and treated them as reasons that the Catholic Church obviously can’t be correct.

    This approach may be persuasive to some readers, but ultimately it fails
    – to engage official Catholic teaching,
    and (in most cases)
    – to understand these statements according to the meanings their own authors intended (a criticism similar to one you have leveled against Exsurge Domine).
    Perhaps I’ll make time at some point to tackle more substantive challenges you have raised against the Catholic Church.

    I hope you don’t mind my attempt to tighten the focus on a long sequence of comments! Feel free to tackle just one of the above at a time, and we can exchange until we decide to move on to point #2. God bless you and keep you and yours during this blessed season of grace.
    Pax Christi,
    Nathaniel

     
  86. infanttheology

    May 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Good to hear from you.

    “so I invite you to make a case for what you do believe is the proper way to access the deposit of faith and its Christ-authorized interpretation.”

    I don’t think it can be “boiled down” to set of “fundamental principles”. In short, when you ask if it is “So, are you making the claim that we properly access the the deposit of faith, and its proper interpretation, by following whomever we trust…?” the answer is clearly “no”. I should trust God’s messengers, period. This means those legitimately ordained pastors today whose voices jive with the legitimately ordained pastors of the past whose voices jive with the prophets and Apostles, whose voices are contained in the Scriptures, which is the sum and substance of the Apostolic deposit.

    “A. You believe that the judgments of the Church are true, and that God’s revelation is in the Book of Concord.”

    Yes. I have no reason to believe it is not true, i.e. no one has shown me a factual or Scriptural error, etc. That said, I would say the Book of Concord contains God’s revelation, not that it is it. I would say the Bible is God’s revelation, period.

    “B. You don’t believe the Book of Concord or your Church to be without error.”

    Never said this. I simply said we have no need to assert that the book is infallible – the Church can error. Only prove to us by the Scriptures…

    By the way, have you read the Book of Concord? If not, you should.

    “C. You are willing to make unqualified statements about the rightness of the Lutheran Church and the wrongness of the Catholic Church.”

    Example of this? I just said that the Church could error.

    “This position is not coherent; either qualifications need to be added to “true” in (A) and to the claims of type (C); or you could reject (B), and hold that your Church is without error.
    Can you correct me if I’ve mischaracterized your position?”

    Guess I am puzzled why this is incoherent. All of this comes down to real evidence, not insisting my/our theology is perfect.

    “Finally, a point more broadly about the approach of this post: You’ve identified certain “beyond-the-pale” Catholic quotes and statements about popes’/theologians’ proclamations or views. You have then gathered these beyond-the-pale statements (although not one is both specific and official Catholic teaching) and treated them as reasons that the Catholic Church obviously can’t be correct.”

    Simple questions for you. Are the statements “beyond-the-pale”? Or are they correct? I have already addressed your argument here about them not being both “specific and official Catholic teaching” in the original post:

    “Therefore, I think intellectual honesty requires us to admit that some Popes of the 15th and early 16th century who put forth authoritative documents would surely take exception to the idea that their pronouncements were not solemn, ex cathedra exercises. When this doctrine was formally defined in the late 19th century, it was not a new doctrine, but was one (namely, the Pope’s voice is more or less God’s when he says it is) that had had some currency for a while.”

    Why should I not stand by that?

    Nathaniel, with all due respect, I have lost a lot of respect for the RCC over the past few years. The more I look at real history, the more I see how Rome has persistently gotten things wrong in the past and has been eager to cover up what they did and said. Seems to be a persistent virus in the Church. My two most recent posts about “Joan of Arc faith” vs “infant faith”, born from my almost surreal conversation with Andrew at Called to Communion, has thusfar confirmed me in this appraisal – that is, that Rome is incapable of dealing with real history.

    “his approach may be persuasive to some readers, but ultimately it fails… to understand these statements according to the meanings their own authors intended (a criticism similar to one you have leveled against Exsurge Domine).”

    Nathaniel – I’m just being honest – it is very hard for me to take you seriously. I don’t see much intellectual credibility in Rome and its adherents. Rome is really going to have to earn that back from me. Still, I am always listening, but I don’t see much of reality reflected in the comments I hear from them (again especially as it relates to history). I can’t say I am too impressed with your latest contribution either.

    Even though you have been a most kind and wonderful interlocuter. It has been a delight.

     
  87. infanttheology

    May 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Sorry – just realized a misread part 2B of your arguement above…rebooting…

     
  88. infanttheology

    May 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    OK, I guess the key is here:

    “C. You are willing to make unqualified statements about the rightness of the Lutheran Church and the wrongness of the Catholic Church.”

    Sure. But this does not mean that I am not open to having God destroy this view, if it is an illusion, if it needs to be destroyed. In order to do this, I think it is safe to say the Spirit will use evidence (which, God willing, I will not suppress)

    You can see more about how I view the importance of evidence by seeing how I react to this argument:

    http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/05/opinion/peer-to-peer-review/libraries-as-indoctrination-mills/

    (remember, I am a librarian : ) )

    +Nathan

     
  89. nattyj

    May 9, 2012 at 5:23 am

    Nathan,
    You asked, “Are the statements ‘beyond-the-pale’? Or are they correct?”

    Dominican theologian Prieras: “In its irrefragable and divine judgment the church’s authority is greater than the authority of Scripture… the authority of the Roman Pontiff… is greater than the authority of the Gospel, since because of it we believe in the Gospels.”
    That’s beyond the pale of Catholic doctrine as expressed by the Magisterium at Vatican Council II:
    “This teaching office [the living teaching office of the Church, i.e. Magisterium] is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on…” Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

    The other statements you refer to in the post (by “the Papacy”, “the extreme papal position”, St. Thomas More) aren’t directly quoted, so we your readers can’t directly engage them.

    Regarding authority:
    “I should trust… those legitimately ordained pastors today whose voices jive with the legitimately ordained pastors of the past…”
    I’ll be glad to better understand your church, which I know little about. What does “legitimate ordination” in the LCMS consist of? How are candidate for ordination chosen, etc.?

    “… whose voices jive with the prophets and Apostles…”
    Is there a process for pastors whose voices don’t so jive? Who settles the question of whether their voices jive or not?

    Whether we adapt our beliefs through this dialogue, it is valuable to me as I learn more about your church — so thanks!

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  90. nathaniel

    May 9, 2012 at 5:27 am

    Nathan,
    You asked, “Are the statements “beyond-the-pale”? Or are they correct?”

    Dominican theologian Prieras: “In its irrefragable and divine judgment the church’s authority is greater than the authority of Scripture… the authority of the Roman Pontiff… is greater than the authority of the Gospel, since because of it we believe in the Gospels.”
    That’s beyond the pale of Catholic doctrine as expressed by the Magisterium at Vatican Council II:
    “This teaching office [the living teaching office of the Church, i.e. Magisterium] is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on…” Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

    The other statements you refer to in the post (by “the Papacy”, “the extreme papal position”, St. Thomas More) aren’t directly quoted, so we your readers can’t directly engage them.

    Regarding authority:
    “I should trust… those legitimately ordained pastors today whose voices jive with the legitimately ordained pastors of the past…”
    I’ll be glad to better understand your church, which I know little about. What does “legitimate ordination” in the LCMS consist of? How are candidate for ordination chosen, etc.?

    “… whose voices jive with the prophets and Apostles…”
    Is there a process for handling legitimately ordained pastors whose voices don’t so jive? Who settles the question of whether their voices jive or not?

    Whether or not either of us alters our beliefs through this dialogue, it continues to be valuable to me as I learn more about your church — so thanks!

    Pax et bonum Christi,
    Nathaniel

     
  91. nathaniel

    May 9, 2012 at 5:42 am

    Nathan,
    I have not read the Book of Concord, which as I understand is a collection of writings by Luther and others.
    Actually, I have been meaning to ask you for recommended reading by Luther. Are there some things he wrote that you would recommend, that I could highly value even as a Catholic? Perhaps some spiritual writing that doesn’t get into polemical or anti-“Romanist” territory?
    I look forward to your suggestions.
    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  92. infanttheology

    May 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    nathaniel,

    “Dominican theologian Prieras: “In its irrefragable and divine judgment the church’s authority is greater than the authority of Scripture… the authority of the Roman Pontiff… is greater than the authority of the Gospel, since because of it we believe in the Gospels.”
    That’s beyond the pale of Catholic doctrine as expressed by the Magisterium at Vatican Council II:
    “This teaching office [the living teaching office of the Church, i.e. Magisterium] is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on…” Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

    That is Vatican II. No one in Rome – at least who made public pronouncements about what the Church believed – thought what Vatican II said in the 1520s. Prieras was a right-hand man of the Pope and no one dared rebuke him (to my knowledge). Your response simply illustrates the refusal to deal with real history that I talk about.

    As for the rest, more detail will have to wait until later. I would simply submit for now that more doctrinal discipline happens in the LC-MS than in Rome (at the district level [district Presidents – kind of like bishops] and at the Synodical President level). As regards Chuch governance, we see that is an adiaphora – what matters is that there are pastors whose authority is recognized/approved by other pastors – that the Apostilic office – but more imporatantly – Apostolic teaching, is passed down.

    At this time, given my exposure to the Fathers, I am firm in my belief that what they believed is much more in line with what we teach than with what Rome teaches.

    +Nathan

     
  93. infanttheology

    May 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I hear Pope Benedict has recommended some of the early Luther writings – telling priests it would be good to read them (for awareness, and to my understanding – edification even). He may have said somewhere specifically which ones, but I don’t have time to look right now.

    In any case, probably the 1515? commentary on Romans might be a good place to start – although perhaps not, since that one has always been popular with evangelical Protestants (his theology got more “Lutheran” after 1517, and probably changed little after 1522, I would say.

    +Nathan

     
  94. Nathaniel

    May 10, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Nathan,

    “That is Vatican II.” Correct. I’ve used official Church teaching to answer your question about whether a given statement is “beyond the pale,” since you asked if I (an orthodox Catholic believer) consider the statement “beyond the pale,” and the pale I use is the bounds of orthodox Catholic teaching.

    “No one in Rome – at least who made public pronouncements about what the Church believed – thought what Vatican II said in the 1520s.”
    This makes me think you had a different “pale” in mind. Were you asking whether Pieras’s statement was beyond the pale of prevailing opinions of high-level Catholics of his day? I’ll tackle your question again, if you want to restate it more clearly (without my imprecise choice of words).

    I haven’t glossed over or defended anyone’s errors, so it’s unclear what the basis is for your charge of my “refusal to deal with real history.” If I’ve said anything that’s wrong, or I’ve failed to answer your simple question, please show that and I’ll take my lumps.

    Thanks for the suggestion about commentary on Romans; and I look forward to the detail to come about legitimate ordination and unity of teaching in the LCMS.
    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  95. infanttheology

    May 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Nathaniel,

    My point would simply be that the RCC chuch today says that pronouncements uttered ex cathedra cannot be in error. Likewise the RCC church today has a historic connection with the RCC church then. When Leo said what he said in his bull, for example, the basic understanding was that he spoke for God – and that his pronouncements were binding on all men to their salvation or damnation. The same would be true about the belief the Pope had about his ability to forgive all temporal punishment in purgatory, or to make changes in the sacraments (one kind), or the idea that the Church, especially him (all laws are in the shrine of his heart – Corpus juris canonici, Liber Sextus I,2, c. I), could interpret the Scriptures the way it saw fit. To say, after the fact, that those Popes who made such statements did not think that they were speaking solemnly for God (i.e. ex cathedra) is ridiculous. They did think they were – and they were in error about what they said. Likewise with many other Popes who made false statements, as Gerhard catalogs.

    But “ex cathedra”, I think, is a wax nose. Which is why there is debate over what is and isn’t this.

    +Nathan

     
  96. nattyj

    May 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Nathan,
    I believe I understand what you’re saying about Exsurge Domine. (We could talk about that more directly sometime.) But I’m trying to directly engage your post, in which you quoted Prieras as evidence that the Church is wrong.

    I contend that
    1) Prieras held and wrote a mistaken opinion (the statement you quoted) that was not official Catholic teaching.
    2) A mistaken opinion proclaimed by a prominent Catholic (even a curial theologian) does not demonstrate that the Catholic Church is in error.
    Therefore,
    3) The (quoted) statement of Prieras does not demonstrate that the Catholic Church is in error.

    That’s my challenge to your post.

    I’ll readily admit, as a tweaked paraphrase of Chesterton’s broader statement about Christians, that:
    The most formidable objection to the Catholic Church is Catholics.
    May we all (blog commenters and curial theologians included!) be truer and holier witnesses to the faith that Christ has given us through his apostles and their successors! Mea culpa. Kyrie eleison.

    Christ our Lord, lead us to the perfection of the Father!
    Nathaniel

     
  97. infanttheology

    May 23, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I hope to respond to you again soon. Have been very busy though.

    Blessings,
    Nathan

     
  98. infanttheology

    June 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Are there some things he wrote that you would recommend, that I could highly value even as a Catholic? Perhaps some spiritual writing that doesn’t get into polemical or anti-”Romanist” territory?

    http://www.amazon.com/Meditations-Divine-Mercy-Treasury-Devotional/dp/0758603878/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338555930&sr=1-2-fkmr1

     
  99. infanttheology

    June 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Thanks for the ongoing dialogue. It truly is a great gift to me to be in conversation with a Roman Catholic man such as yourself. You have been too kind and patient!

    “I believe I understand what you’re saying about Exsurge Domine. (We could talk about that more directly sometime.) But I’m trying to directly engage your post, in which you quoted Prieras as evidence that the Church is wrong.”

    First of all, when I used Prieras’ statement, that was simply an example (“for example”) – its not as if I’m basing my case on just this. There is plenty more to talk about, and I did so in the post itself (indulgences and forgiveness for purgatorial fire by Popes) and in my comment right before your last comment. That said, I still think we need to be realistic here: can you imagine if one of the Pope’s highest deputes were to say something like this today? (imagine the play it would get on the web : ) ) If a clarification were not offered, why in the world would anyone have reason to believe that the stated opinion was not the Pope’s as well? (here I also think of the Donation of Constantine as well – even if there were no “official pronouncements” upholding it [I have no idea if there were or weren’t] there is still a tacit acceptance of course). After all, it seems like it could easily be compatible with Pope Innocent III’s statement that he was “*the* spiritual man who judges all things”. I believe in these tense days of the Reformation there was no backing down, but only people standing their ground (hence *Saint* Thomas More’s utterly ridiculous stand and argumentation I also mentioned)

    Innocent III also called himself the “Lord of the world”. Why was this official pronouncement not a solemn ex cathedra kind-of-thing? And if it, like the “*the* spiritual man” pronouncement, was indeed an infallible statement (why would it not be? – also Boniface VIII, in Unam Sanctam, said something similar) and if “all laws are in the shrine of [the Pope’s] heart” (Corpus juris canonici, Liber Sextus I,2, c. I), why in the world should there have been any objections when those in the office insisted that they alone could forgive the punishments of purgatory (I know the guilt of sin is taken care of)? Or when full plenary indulgences were offered during the Crusades? Or when “works of supererogation” were introduced (see Luke 17:11) and, later, masses for the dead? Or when the first indulgences for the dead were issued in 1470? Or when pastors of Christ were forced to divorce their wives and new pastors not allowed to marry? Or when the cup was withheld from the laity, in direct contradiction with Christ’s institution? How do all of these things not clearly contradict or go far beyond what Scripture says? I have listened to countless devoted Roman Catholic apologists (Scott Hahn, Tim Staples, Steve Ray, Patrick Madrid, Carl Keating, John Neuhause, etc. etc.), and I am still asking all of these questions.

    I suppose you may ask me for direct quotations on all of these things. In which case, my question would be, “is there really something wrong with my thumb-nail summaries here”?

    And I’ve already explained in great detail above why the Pope’s statement in Exsurge Domine about Luther’s view of absolution is also not biblical – for Luther, this was the straw that shattered the camel’s back. Something had to be done.

    Shall I go on? How about this quote from John Gerhardt? I’m sure there are some capable Roman apologists who could effectively challenge many of his claims here, but all of them?:

    “As far as the decrees of the popes are concerned, we assert the same thing, that they often are contrary both to the Scripture and the decrees of other popes. Zephyrinus was a Montanist; Marcellinus, an idolater; Liberius and Felix, Arians. Anastasius was in fellowship with Photinus and wanted to call back the heretic Acacius secretly. Vigilus was a Eutychian; Honorius, a Monothelite. John XXIII denied eternal life, believed that man’s soul died and was extinguished with the body just like those of brute animals, and said that once a soul had died, it would not rise up again even on the Last Day. Therefore either all of the popes were infected with those heresies, or they did not all agree in their dogmas and decrees. Gregory says of four councils, one of which was the Council of Chalcedon, that he “embraces them as the four Gospels.” But Leo (Letter 59) says about the Council of Chalcedon that he “always found fault with what was decreed in this council.” Martin claimed: “Anyone who falls away after his ordination cannot attain any level of the priesthood” ([Ius canonicum,] dist. 50, c. qui semel). Siricius decreed the opposite (dist. 82, c. quia): “Those who are ordered to be deposed because of their sins can be put back in their rank after worthy penance.” In a Letter ad Bonifacium, Gregory claimed: “If a woman is seized by an infirmity and cannot render her [marital] obligation to her husband, her husband can marry another if he cannot contain himself.” Other popes stated the opposite ([Ius canonicum,] decretal., bk. 4, title 9, de conjugio leprosorum, c. quoniam). Nicholas I taught: “Baptism carried out in the name of Christ without express mention of the three persons is valid” ([Ius canonicum,] de consecret, dist. 4, c. a quodam). Zacharias, also a pope, taught the opposite: “It cannot be a true Baptism if one person of the Trinity is not named” ([Ius canonicum,] de consecrate., same dist., c. in synodo). Sabinianus ordered the books of his predecessor, Gregory I, to be burned. Stephan VI abrogated the decrees of Formosus. Romanus I abrogated the decrees and acts of Stephan. John abrogated the acts of Romanus. The Roman popes Julius, Innocent, and Celestine decreed that “husbands should be separated from their wives who, even unaware, have received their children from the washing of Baptism” ([Ius canonicum,] 30, q. 1, c. pervenit). This however, is contrary to Christ’s command (Matt. 19:6) and to that of the apostle (I Cor. 7:10). Alexander says ([Ius canonicum,] c. licet, de spnsa duorum) that some of his predecessors judged that marriage contracted with words in the present tense [per verba de praesenti] but not consummated could be voiced by another marriage, but that he thought the opposite. Therefore either he or his predecessors erred” (pp. 498-499, On the Church, Concordia Pub. House, 2010)

    Now I know distinctions will be made here by Roman Catholic apologists: private letters, matters of discipline not hard and fast dogma, etc. Still, was this distinction between discipline and dogma made at the time – and do such distinctions always make sense even today when they are carefully defined and delineated? And even if there were some things that appeared in letters only, were there not also formal decrees rulings that are in error (again, see 2 and 3 paragraphs ago – this seems to me to quite clearly be the case) – and were there not book burnings (see above paragraph) of some very serious and solemn words, leaving us to wonder about official pronouncements that were lost to history? When you throw in all the immorality and the clear power politics as well, who can you trust here?

    And should I trust John Gerhard? Well, he strikes me as a man of character and a very careful scholar. On the other hand, how much did he really check all this stuff himself? Maybe he was just eager to believe the careless “findings” of others, letting his own biases accidently fall into slander. Here I must make a decision between trust and turning over every stone myself. Here’s where you, perhaps, might help me to at least see a little bit more light, depending on how familiar you yourself are with these things.

    I guess, in sum, it comes down to this: what does it mean to speak solemnly ex cathedra? How is this approach not hopelessly subjective? How can it engender confidence about what the Church teaches? I know some contend that this means the Pope must speak in communion with the whole Church, but does this mean that solemn pronouncements can be wrong? What are the criteria? How many ex cathedra remarks have their been and why do no others qualify? (again, don’t you think that Popes of the past would take exception to this?). Also, when it seems like many of the Western RCC world today who are in “communion with” the chair of Peter are anything but (with no discipline forthcoming) it all of this hardly seems reassuring (I think there are many “dead members”, to use your church’s language, in the Roman Church – I see myself as closer to the current Pope than many of them!). It seems Rome needs its own ecumenical movement, the problems within tracking closely with the problems seen throughout Protestantism as a whole. Statements about how Rome is united in teaching and “one” seem to me more wishful thinking than reality.

    So, no, this is not about Prieras. He is only an example of what happens when there are much larger issues.

    +Nathan

     
  100. infanttheology

    June 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Nathaniel,

    What do you think of this:

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2008/04/dead-letter-of-scripture.html

    Maybe Prieras is wrong and always was wrong (no matter how many people in the Curia of his day believed he was right), but this analysis is right?

    If true, might it make our having a conversation even more difficult (as much as I want to do that)?

    +Nathan

     
  101. Nathaniel

    June 8, 2012 at 3:43 am

    Nathan,
    You’re welcome for my end of the dialogue; thanks for your blog and for being a gracious host.
    You’ve detailed a (long!) list of additional evidence that the Catholic Church teaches/has taught falsely. I don’t mind engaging those things. But it’s not clear to me that we have made sufficient progress on the item under discussion (the statement of Prieras), to walk away from it.

    Since you’re basing your case partly on this Prieras thing, and I’ve attempted to refute that the Prieras thing supports you, I think it’s important for you to respond directly before we move on. We can’t meaningfully engage even one piece of evidence, if your response, when a piece is challenged, is something like “Don’t worry about that one, there are 39 other marks against you!” (If you don’t think it’s substantial evidence of anything, I guess you could clarify that and then we could move on.)

    Christus regnat,
    Nathaniel

     
    • infanttheology

      June 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      Nathaniel,

      You are a careful dialogue partner – I appreciate that you have the word “partly” up here – “partly indeed” – it is not my strongest point, but additional evidence to consider that garners my stronger points.

      So you don’t think this is worth interacting with then as a rebuttal?:

      “That said, I still think we need to be realistic here: can you imagine if one of the Pope’s highest deputes were to say something like this today? (imagine the play it would get on the web : ) ) If a clarification were not offered, why in the world would anyone have reason to believe that the stated opinion was not the Pope’s as well? (here I also think of the Donation of Constantine as well – even if there were no “official pronouncements” upholding it [I have no idea if there were or weren’t] there is still a tacit acceptance of course). After all, it seems like it could easily be compatible with Pope Innocent III’s statement that he was “*the* spiritual man who judges all things”. I believe in these tense days of the Reformation there was no backing down, but only people standing their ground (hence *Saint* Thomas More’s utterly ridiculous stand and argumentation I also mentioned)”

      I’m not sure, regarding this part of my case, that I can do better than that.

      “I contend that
      1) Prieras held and wrote a mistaken opinion (the statement you quoted) that was not official Catholic teaching.
      2) A mistaken opinion proclaimed by a prominent Catholic (even a curial theologian) does not demonstrate that the Catholic Church is in error.
      Therefore,
      3) The (quoted) statement of Prieras does not demonstrate that the Catholic Church is in error.

      That’s my challenge to your post.”

      Hmmm. I would agree, but again, I’d say that you need to take into account what I wrote above and deal with it in a satisfactory way. I understand if you do not think that should be necessary and that my insubordination should be tolerated! Still, what I wrote above seems rather clear. I suppose you might say that “The most formidable objection to the Catholic Church is Catholics” and therefore, their unwillingness to speak boldly against false teachers is also in this category, which, I admit, I would have to mull over a bit, but would seem to be a statement I should be convinced applies here and hence nullifies this objection. Anything else you would add?

      +Nathan

       
  102. Nathaniel

    June 9, 2012 at 5:31 am

    Nathan,
    Thanks for your reply.
    Your prior response that you reiterated (“…imagine if one of the Pope’s highest deputies…”) is certainly of concern; I agree with you that silence on the Pope’s part in the face of a wrong teaching by Prieras is potentially scandalous, and could lead many to believe that the Pope held the same wrong opinion. (I don’t know anything about the details of this particular situation, except what I’ve learned from your post and subsequent interaction.) But I don’t see in your response a rebuttal of, or objection to, my challenge itself; looking back a day or two, I think that’s why I didn’t address your response. You could raise the concern you do, about silence being interpretable as tacit approval, while still agreeing with my challenge. Which may be the case with you: you said, “I would agree,” which I first read as meaning you *do* agree; but on re-reading, the subjunctive “would” suggests possibility not yet realized or even a counterfactual. I hope that makes clear that I didn’t set aside your response in order to ignore it, but temporarily, in order to zero in on the challenge. Maybe you could clarify your direct response to that, since I’m confusing myself about “would”.

    Given your concern Re: the implications of the Pope’s opinions, I am interested in the upshot of your argument. Your post, and my challenge to it, concern what Luther should have done, and “what would you do”: submit to the Catholic Church, or refuse submission? In this context, I read in your response the implication that /a wrong opinion on matters of faith, held tacitly by the Pope, is a just basis on which to refuse to submit to the Catholic Church./ But that seems like a really low threshold for schism, in addition to being inherently impossible to verify (since the opinion in question, being unspoken, has to be assumed). Can you flesh that out some, so I can understand what the Prieras matter entails or implies for Luther?

    Thanks for the long-running discussion!
    Come Lord Jesus.
    –Nathaniel

     
  103. Nathan

    June 11, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Nathaniel,

    Thanks again. I hope to comment again next Monday morning. I am now limiting my time on this blog to Monday mornings only (other than short notes letting commenters know this).

    Thanks again for the continuing discussion.

    +Nathan

     
  104. Nathaniel

    June 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Nathan,
    Just a brief aside with a recent blog post you may enjoy:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2012/06/how-to-have-a-religious-experience.html
    In Christ,
    Nathaniel

     
  105. Nathan

    June 19, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Good post – thanks. Hope to write more on Monday… I know I missed this last week.

    +Nathan

     
  106. Nathan

    June 19, 2012 at 5:51 pm

     
  107. infanttheology

    June 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Realized I’ll be out on Monday and probably won’t have much internet access for a while, so let me answer real quickly today.

    At first I was just going to concede the point about Prieras. But I’ve been re-reading the book that is pictured in this post, and this brought many things to mind that I just can’t ignore.

    Prieras was the theological advisor to the Pope. His first treatise against Luther was issued from the Papal court itself. Here, in this document which the Pope obviously looked over, he talked about how indulgences were not made known by the authority of Scripture but by the greater authority of the Roman Church and of the pope.

    OK, so here he puts Scripture under the Pope and Church as a whole (again, in an officially sanctioned document coming from the papal court itself). Doesn’t it seem like this is a big deal? Doesn’t specifically defining and delineating papal infallibility 350 years after things like this happen so that events like this could never “count” seem a bit off? Somehow, we are supposed to believe the Church was remaining infallible here?

    A bit from my conversation with Dave Armstrong here: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/round-3-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-a-few-good-pharisees/

    I said: Irenaeus… believed that all the things that the Apostles orally passed on to their successors (i.e. the “Apostolic deposit”, the “Rule of Faith”) were in “agreement with the Scriptures” (his actual words).

    Dave replied: “Yes, so do I; so do all orthodox Catholics. That proves nothing with regard to our dispute about sola Scriptura. Protestants have the most extraordinarily difficult time grasping this. You seem to think it is some big “score” for your side, when the fact of the matter is that we are entirely in agreement, so that it is useless for you to point this out at all. It’s like saying, “we believe that the sun goes up!” There is no need to state the obvious that all agree upon. All this shows is that, apparently, you think for some reason that Catholics would deny that our doctrines are in complete harmony with Holy Scripture. Else, why bring it up at all?”

    I replied: “Dave, here’s why. You say “we [Catholics] are entirely in agreement”. So what do you mean when elsewhere you say that “most Catholics” hold to the “material sufficiency of Scripture”? The words of Prieras seem opposed to this and ***those of the highly respected Andrada (Chemnitz’s opponent) surely are***. Again, are both opinions allowed in Rome? Does the Catholic Church reserve the right to teach things that are not found in the Scriptures, as Pieras seems to imply and Andrada explicitly said? Have Andrada’s view been condemned, or is what he said true but “unhelpful”? Second, as regards I suppose your personal opinion [?] (“material sufficiency”), you claim that the Rule of Faith will not only be found in the Scriptures explicitly or implicitly, but in other ways… for example,“[the Assumption] is directly deduced from a doctrine that has much implicit indication in Scripture, which is completely in accord with material sufficiency.” I dealt with what I see to be the immense problems with this in my last response as regards this issue of “harmony” (it is part VI there)

    I also asked: “… if these things Irenaeus mentions cannot be found in the Scriptures, either explicitly or implicitly, how should we react to such beliefs (given his other stated beliefs)?”

    Dave: “You should reject them (so should I). I strongly deny that they are not found there.”

    I replied: “Dave, in the past you have said that “all Christian, Catholic doctrines can be found in Scripture, explicitly, implicitly, or deduced from same. And all Catholic doctrines are certainly harmonious with Scripture”. The key word in this sentence is “or”, i.e. here you are at the very least tacitly admitting that you are doing more than insisting that the Rule of Faith will be found in the Scriptures explicitly or implicitly.”

    Nathaniel – I know you aren’t Dave, but I consider Dave a good RC apologist. What do you do with this? Where do you direct me to show me that Prieras and Andrada were actually wrong in what they said?

    And again, do not forget that once we deal with this issue, we still have the whole other laundry list of issues (i.e. teachings that contradict the Scriptures) to address…

    +Nathan

     
  108. Nathaniel

    July 2, 2012 at 6:32 am

    Nathan,
    You asked: What do you do with this [material from conversation with Dave A.]?
    I reply: I defer that branch of discussion until we’ve finished with the current thread of discussion! If we don’t go one thing at a time, we’ll never make progress.

    You asked: Where do you direct me to show me that Prieras and Andrada were actually wrong in what they said?
    I reply:
    First, I don’t know what Andrada said; it’s not in your comment above, nor at the linked conversation with Dave. I don’t even know who Andrada is, apart from what a quick Google search can tell. But all that isn’t important at the moment, because discussing Andrada needs to be postponed until we’re done with the Prieras statement.

    Second, we’re not really (at this point) discussing Prieras in general, just (per my challenge to your post) one particular statement of Prieras. But I have already shown you that Prieras was wrong, if what he meant by “greater authority” is that the “teaching ofice is above the word of God,” since that contradicts the Church’s solemn teaching at Vatican Council II. Prieras’s words themselves can be (are most naturally?) construed in opposition to the words of Dei Verbum. But we can also dig deeper and consider meaning.

    I can think of four wrong claims that might be underlie a claim that the Catholic magisterium has “greater authority than Scripture” or even “equal authority to Scripture”:
    1) Scripture is not really God’s word, i.e. God is not its primary author.
    2) God’s own Word isn’t supremely authoritative, i.e. doesn’t carry weight above (or overrule) all non-inspired words.
    3) Teachings from the magisterium are inspired by God, such that God is the primary author of these teachings.
    4) The magisterium carries authority different from, and greater than, God’s, i.e. the source of magisterial authority is distinct from God, and more authoritative than Him.

    All four statements are false. Which of these wrong claims do you think Prieras is making?

    I don’t think he’s making any of them. If you think he’s making a different, more specific claim, then please spell it out. I’m asking this, because in both Prieras statments, he explains/gives an example of why he says the Church has “greater authority”. If “greater authority” is simply a poor or potentially misleading choice of words, then it’s possible that his intended meaning(s) are not false and insulting to Scripture. So I’m asking you to be specific about what you think Prieras means and why that intended meaning is false.

    I’m still not sure where all this leads, though; so I’ll repeat my final question from last time:
    I read in your response the implication that a wrong opinion on matters of faith, held tacitly by the Pope, is a just basis on which to refuse to submit to the Catholic Church. But that seems like a really low threshold for schism, in addition to being inherently impossible to verify (since the opinion in question, being unspoken, has to be assumed). Can you flesh that out some, so I can understand what the Prieras matter entails or implies for Luther?

    Peace, (separated) brother.
    Nathaniel

     
  109. Nathan

    July 2, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Nathaniel,

    Great to hear from you again. Will read, reflect, and reply in time (a week?).

    God bless,
    Nathan

     
  110. infanttheology

    July 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Probably not for a while… : (

    One question though:

    “I read in your response the implication that a wrong opinion on matters of faith, held tacitly by the Pope, is a just basis on which to refuse to submit to the Catholic Church. But that seems like a really low threshold for schism, in addition to being inherently impossible to verify (since the opinion in question, being unspoken, has to be assumed). Can you flesh that out some, so I can understand what the Prieras matter entails or implies for Luther?”

    Why are you assuming opinions are held tacitly by the Pope? I said:

    “Prieras was the theological advisor to the Pope. His first treatise against Luther was issued from the Papal court itself. Here, in this document which the Pope obviously looked over, he talked about how indulgences were not made known by the authority of Scripture but by the greater authority of the Roman Church and of the pope.”

    This first treatise came with the Pope’s explicit approval and endorsement (I do not know if the statement in this blog post blog post, where he spoke not of the Church *and* Pope *together* being a greater authority than the Scriptures, but of them being these things separately [“In its irrefragable and divine judgment the church’s authority is greater than the authority of Scripture…the authority of the Roman Pontiff…is greater than the authority of the Gospel, since because of it we believe in the Gospels.”] had Papal approval). How can that reasonably be construed as tacit knowledge?

    If I have a person who speaks on my behalf and I look at what they say and approve of it, it seems to me that is explicit approval of the opinion, and I make it synonymous with my own.

    +Nathan

     
  111. Nathaniel

    July 7, 2012 at 6:13 am

    Nathan,
    “Pope’s explicit approval and endorsement” is a new piece of information for me; all you had said when you brought it up was that it was a “document which the Pope obviously looked over.”
    (Is this document linked someplace, so I can read Prieras verbatim, instead of commenting only on your summary?)

    My question still stands for the Prieras quote from your post, since that was part of your argument toward a specific answer to “what should Luther have done…?”
    –Nathaniel

     
  112. Nathan

    July 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I will look over the specific quote I mentioned when I get the time (and how the Pope treated the document).

    Thank you for the patience and ongoing dialogue.

    +Nathan

     
  113. Nathaniel

    July 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Nathan,
    The second quote is interesting, but I’m still primarily interested in engaging the implied argument in your post.

    Your post implies that (to repeat myself) a wrong opinion on matters of faith, held tacitly by the Pope, is a just basis on which to refuse to submit to the Catholic Church.

    Did you intend to say as much?

    If you didn’t intend to say as much, could you clarify what you believe this first Prieras matter entails or implies for Luther?

    If the implication (italicized above) was intentional, then I respond that
    (1) the papal opinion in question, being unspoken, has to be assumed. Or, if there is evidence that the opinion in question is held by the pope, you haven’t presented it in your post, but are inviting your readers to make the unwarranted assumption. I think you’re bringing in another Prieras statement as such evidence, correct?
    (2) you need another standard, outside yourself [or your interpretation of Scripture], against which to assess whether the opinion in question is right or wrong.

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

     
  114. Nathan

    July 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Thank you for not forgetting me. Nor have I forgotten you. My time has just been very short lately. I hope that you will continue to be interested in talking about these things, even if it does take me a while to respond….

    +Nathan

     
  115. Nathan

    July 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Nathaniel,

    OK, I had a minute and looked at this a bit more…

    I think we are going in circles. There is nothing wrong with my post. The key argument is this: “the Papacy had expanded indulgences to include the claim of granting forgiveness itself. (note: full forgiveness from temporal penalties [including purgatory], not eternal ones [hell]).”

    I then go on to simply point out, (saying “Not only this…”) the Prieras statement, which I admit did not have explicit approval and endorsement from the Pope, whereas the other similar statement that I brought up did (more on this below)

    Therefore, as to whether or not this statement was definitely a ***part of my argument*** is debatable/ambiguous. I rather think it simply lends support to the first point about indulgences and forgiveness. That is the true argument here. Again, I think my post is fine.

    In any case, let me nevertheless continue to deal with the Prieras issue. I had said: “Here, in this document which the Pope obviously looked over, [Prieras] talked about how indulgences were not made known by the authority of Scripture but by the greater authority of the Roman Church and of the pope.”

    My points here are that 1) this is more than the Pope holding to a position tacitly. This is explicit approval as the Pope is responsible for what he approves and endorses, and if the position is wrong, this means that the Church is not infallible in the sense Rome understood itself to be at the time, regardless of definitions that limit infallibility to ex cathedra pronouncements after the fact 350 years later (a cynic asks: “hmmm, why did they define it just the way they did…?) and 2) ***the case for indulgences must be made known by the authority of Scripture, either explicitly or implicitly. Of course the teachers of the Church do this, but that is besides the point. They demonstrate from Scripture. That is what the true rule of faith does.***

    “I can think of four wrong claims that might be underlie a claim that the Catholic magisterium has “greater authority than Scripture” or even “equal authority to Scripture”:
    1) Scripture is not really God’s word, i.e. God is not its primary author.
    2) God’s own Word isn’t supremely authoritative, i.e. doesn’t carry weight above (or overrule) all non-inspired words.
    3) Teachings from the magisterium are inspired by God, such that God is the primary author of these teachings.
    4) The magisterium carries authority different from, and greater than, God’s, i.e. the source of magisterial authority is distinct from God, and more authoritative than Him.

    All four statements are false. Which of these wrong claims do you think Prieras is making?”

    1) not saying this ; 2) not saying this ; 3) not saying this ; 4) not saying this.

    Again, I am saying this:

    the case for indulgences must be made known by the authority of Scripture, either explicitly or implicitly. Of course the teachers of the Church do this, but that is besides the point. They demonstrate from Scripture, as did Paul (Acts 17). That is what the true rule of faith does.

    That’s it. The real rule of faith demonstrates and proves from Scripture, otherwise, we are talking counterfeit rule of faith.

    That is my claim. Of course, you can argue against it if you want. I’d like to see that!

    “you need another standard, outside yourself [or your interpretation of Scripture], against which to assess whether the opinion in question is right or wrong”

    This is precisely what the debate is about. Of course we need another standard, and that is what I demonstrated in my first paper vs. Dave that we discussed above (true rule of faith alone, where the rule operates in conjunction with the Scriptures and fathers) I did not demonstrate is to your satisfaction, but I believe many others would find it most satisfactory.

    Nathaniel, if I am wrong, I want to be shown that I am wrong. Perhaps you are God’s man to do the job…. but it seems to me you have an impossible task… I cannot even begin to conceive how your position can be defended.

    May the Lord utterly defeat among us the one who blinds men, so that we may see His truth clearly.

    +Nathan

     
  116. Nathan

    July 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “(Is this document linked someplace, so I can read Prieras verbatim, instead of commenting only on your summary?)”

    I’m not sure. If you find it let me know…

    Thanks,
    Nathan

     
  117. Nathaniel

    July 24, 2012 at 4:56 am

    Nathan,

    I haven’t forgotten you! I was on vacation for almost 2 weeks. Passed through your neck of the woods: my family and I spent a couple of nights with friends in White Bear Lake, then headed off to a lake in WI. Only spent as much time online as needed to purchase a couple of fishing licenses! A much-needed break.
    ——-

    Thanks for boiling down some of your main points; I don’t want to talk past you by misunderstanding.

    You said:
    “The real rule of faith demonstrates and proves from Scripture, otherwise, we are talking counterfeit rule of faith.”

    You’ve just re-stated Sola Scriptura, as one of the premises in your argument. So, people who agree with you on Sola Scriptura will surely agree that the Catholic Church taught wrongly, and that Luther was therefore right to rebel against the papacy on this score. (Was the focus on authority and indulgences only to illustrate this divide over Sola Scriptura?)

    But I (and the Catholic Church) disagree with you about Sola Scriptura. I don’t know how you know the following:
    “The real rule of faith demonstrates and proves from Scripture, otherwise, we are talking counterfeit rule of faith.”
    “The case for indulgences must be made known by the authority of Scripture, either explicitly or implicitly.”

    I know Sola Scriptura is taught by the LCMS, but was it ever taught by Jesus or the apostles? Is it laid out in the Scriptures? I can’t find it.

    ————
    To let you know where I was up to now:
    I had understood your post to be casting a wider net: focusing on the wide agreement that Christians of most stripes have concerning the unique authority of the God-breathed Scriptures, you were pointing out that a top Catholic theologian and a saint both diminished the authority of the Scriptures relative to the Church. Since we agree that the Scriptures are inspired and the Church’s pronouncements are not, we might therefore agree that these 16th century statements were wrong, and in the case of Prieras so was the Vatican, and therefore the Church was demonstrably wrong on this score, and therefore Luther was justified in not submitting to the Church.
    That is the summary version I’d taken away before, and was arguing against.

    Another time, perhaps, I can respond about this anachronistic application of a 19th-century definition of infallibility as way of “weaseling out,” as your cynic might say.

    Thanks for the ongoing discussion! I do check back every monday, in hopes that we can keep up the conversation.

    In Christ, toward unity,
    Nathaniel

     
  118. Nathan

    July 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Glad you made it to Minnesota. I have two colleagues who grew up in White Bear Lake.

    “I don’t know how you know the following:
    “The real rule of faith demonstrates and proves from Scripture, otherwise, we are talking counterfeit rule of faith.”
    “The case for indulgences must be made known by the authority of Scripture, either explicitly or implicitly.”

    This is what I attempt to show in the Dave Armstrong debate. In round 2 I go into much detail about this: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/reply-to-dave-armstrong-too-long-for-blogreaders-software/ (the last two sections would be the ones you should read).

    “I had understood your post to be casting a wider net: focusing on the wide agreement that Christians of most stripes have concerning the unique authority of the God-breathed Scriptures, you were pointing out that a top Catholic theologian and a saint both diminished the authority of the Scriptures relative to the Church. Since we agree that the Scriptures are inspired and the Church’s pronouncements are not, we might therefore agree that these 16th century statements were wrong, and in the case of Prieras so was the Vatican, and therefore the Church was demonstrably wrong on this score, and therefore Luther was justified in not submitting to the Church.

    That is the summary version I’d taken away before, and was arguing against.”

    Well, other than the fact that I was primarily pointing out that the Papacy had made a novel and bsolutely breathtaking pronouncement on its power regarding indulgences (without demonstrating how this was either implicit or explicit in Scripture by the way – I assumed that I did not need to mention that this was the main problem, which I thought might cause some Roman Catholics to wonder about it… surely the stuff that follows about Prieras and Moore should demonstrate that it was easy to see how such unexplained [by Scripture] pronouncements could be happening!), this sounds like a good summary! As I pointed out to you above, the indulgence issue led Luther right into the salvation issues (i.e. absolution) which pushed Luther over the edge, and eventually (it took a while!) convinced him that he was indeed dealing with the Antichrist himself (in the seat of the Papacy).

    As to your saying this is only Sola Scriptura, I said as much a long time ago elsewhere in many conversations (though evidently not to you!), although with many a caveat and nuance: this is not the version of Sola Scriptura you will hear from even some of the most erudite Reformed (and Lutheran) apologists (see here: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/06/13/whos-in-charge-here-the-illusions-of-church-infallibility/ – note my comment here is currently the second to last one, and I mention our conversation). This is Chemnitz’s version (where he accepts 7 forms of tradition, only rejecting the eighth one he mentions: “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”), which has been largely forgotten amidst the misleading simplifications that often arise when people state their objections in terse forms. In other words, this is a Sola Scriptura tha, put simply (read on!), also requires explicit mention of the true rule of faith embodied in teachers of the Church, *absolutely depends* on the Church Fathers, and can accept much that is extra-biblical, so long as it is not insisted that following these extra-biblical practices are necessary for salvation, but only unity among the saved.

    Did you ever read the whole thing? It is here: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/my-reply-to-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-regarding-his-examination-of-martin-chemnitzs-examination/

    Here is a part that touches on what you just said:

    “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)…

    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)”

    Hope this helps. Maybe you’d like to read the whole thing?

    Again, as I said to Dave A: “you claim that the Rule of Faith will not only be found in the Scriptures explicitly or implicitly, but in other ways… for example,“[the Assumption] is directly deduced from a doctrine that has much implicit indication in Scripture, which is completely in accord with material sufficiency.” and ““Dave, in the past you have said that “all Christian, Catholic doctrines can be found in Scripture, explicitly, implicitly, or deduced from same. And all Catholic doctrines are certainly harmonious with Scripture”. The key word in this sentence is “or”, i.e. here you are at the very least tacitly admitting that you are doing more than insisting that the Rule of Faith will be found in the Scriptures explicitly or implicitly.”

    It sounds to me like you probably agree with Dave. Which means you need to read those last two parts of the debate round I linked you to above. Well, if we are to continue having a fruitful conversation that is!

    All this said, since we seem capable of continuing this conversation at a very slow pace, I’ll say now I’ll stop writing more so you can read the stuff I’ve already written. : )

    Blessings Nathaniel. I hope the fishing trip was good!

    +Nathan

     
  119. Nathan

    July 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “Another time, perhaps, I can respond about this anachronistic application of a 19th-century definition of infallibility as way of “weaseling out,” as your cynic might say.”

    That would be good.

    Please read this post: http://upstatelutheran.blogspot.com/2007/12/vengeance-is-mine-but-i-will-not-repay.html

    …and then read the last two comments.

    I said:

    “this is more than the Pope holding to a position tacitly. This is explicit approval as the Pope is responsible for what he approves and endorses, and if the position is wrong, this means that the Church is not infallible in the sense Rome understood itself to be at the time, regardless of definitions that limit infallibility to ex cathedra pronouncements after the fact 350 years later (a cynic asks: “hmmm, why did they define it just the way they did…?)”

    Did I really just say a “cynic” asks this? Maybe I should say a person who is utterly reasonable asks this…. and then says, how naive am I?

    Perhaps God will give you the words to break me out of this blind and perhaps culpable ignorance. I do want to listen to you. Just know that it does all seem rather far-fetched from me.

    Never trying to end the conversation… just being brutally honest in as friendly a fashion as I can muster (and I think I to have the Holy Spirit…)

    +Nathan

     
  120. infanttheology

    July 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I apologize – I had commented to you a few days ago, but evidently, I never got it posted! Its up now.

    +Nathan

     
  121. Nathaniel

    July 30, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Nathan,
    I’m glad you pointed out your earlier response. About the fishing: the fish weren’t big, but I caught plenty; it was fun.

    Your comments on my summary are good; you’ve helped me understand your post better, and better see how many of your comments in this thread tie closely in with it.

    To my questions:
    “was [Sola Scriptura, SS] ever taught by Jesus or the apostles? Is it laid out in the Scriptures? I can’t find it.”
    You respond by
    (1) pointing out that the Lutheran understanding of SS is more nuanced than many modern understandings of it, with reference again to Chemnitz’s 8 traditiones and 1-7 as legitimate (i.e. 1-7 constitute the true rule of faith). And
    (2) linking to your prior interaction with Dave Armstrong.

    By now I’m quite familiar with your 8 Traditiones understanding from Chemnitz, in this particular extended quote from Strawn that you’ve posted and commented a number of times in different forums. The clarity is appreciated. (In my understanding of your view, SS is Trad. 1 and the true Rule of Faith is Trad 1-7. But all of 1-7 can be called SS in a sense.)

    I can’t find anything in your response or your Round 2 conversation, that answers my questions. I found the most closely related material in section IV of the Round 2 post, but certainly nothing from which I can synthesize answers the questions.

    In your post you take issue with a papal pronouncement, one that is not demonstrated (either explicitly or implicitly) from Scripture.
    You (in comments) assert the principle that “The real rule of faith demonstrates and proves from Scripture, otherwise, we are talking counterfeit rule of faith.”
    Taking these together, you conclude that (1) the Papacy was teaching according to a counterfeit rule of faith, and therefore (2) Luther was thus right not to submit to the Church headed by this Papacy.

    Since your asserted principle is central to the argument, I’m asking about your basis for believing and asserting that principle. Was it
    …taught be Jesus?
    …taught by the Apostles?
    …laid out in Scripture?

    If that principle isn’t justified, then neither are your conclusions.

    Christ’s rich blessings to you and your family,
    Nathaniel

     
  122. infanttheology

    July 30, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “In your post you take issue with a papal pronouncement, one that is not demonstrated (either explicitly or implicitly) from Scripture.
    You (in comments) assert the principle that “The real rule of faith demonstrates and proves from Scripture, otherwise, we are talking counterfeit rule of faith.”
    Taking these together, you conclude that (1) the Papacy was teaching according to a counterfeit rule of faith, and therefore (2) Luther was thus right not to submit to the Church headed by this Papacy.

    Since your asserted principle is central to the argument, I’m asking about your basis for believing and asserting that principle. Was it
    …taught be Jesus?
    …taught by the Apostles?
    …laid out in Scripture?”

    It is never said in so many words. There is reverence for the written word. It itself is implicit thoughout the Bible, and when made explicit, one can go back to the Bible and clearly see it there (a little “meta-action” going on there). It was not necessary for this to be made explicit until trad. 8 rears its ugly head (and here, what I said in this recent post and comments becomes the key: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/rc-convert-jason-stellmans-perception-of-lutheranism/ )

    That’s why the last two sections of my round 2 debate with Armstrong are so critical (am disappointed that these sections evidently did not provoke more soul-searching in you)

    Further, note that Luther never broke with the Church but was excommunicated. He gradually became more and more aware that what was happening with indulgences was wrong and had no Scriptural backing, but even then, tried to work within the Church to fix things. Also – he only came to the conclusion that the papacy had the spirit of Antichrist when the indulgence controversy led him to consider the issue of the penitential system, which led him to realize how Rome anathematized his understanding of the Gospel in the narrow sense (i.e. free grace that gave the confidence of faith / peace with God).

    That, again, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Of course, in retrospect, it was then easy to see how the Magisterium had been false not only regarding indulgences, but in many other important issues before that…

    The papacy understood itself to be speaking for God, and in a sense that was clearly contrary to the one expressed in Vatican II. Luther also was confident that God was on his side, as he had not only spiritual fathers to bolster him (Staupitz, Bernard, Gerson, Augustine), but the Word of God itself. He did not mean to disregard other authorities (popes, councils, etc), but as all else was taken away from him he had nothing left.

    +Nathan

     
  123. Nathan

    July 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Vatican II, for reference (you quoted earlier):

    “That’s beyond the pale of Catholic doctrine as expressed by the Magisterium at Vatican Council II:
    “This teaching office [the living teaching office of the Church, i.e. Magisterium] is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on…” Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

    “teaching only what has been handed on” presumably meaning what has been handed on in the Scriptures (this would be Armstrong’s view, and he would say that everything the RCC teaches can be found in the Scriptures, explicitly, implicitly, or by deduction from clear passages)… Do you think it needs to mean this?

    If you do, how would you biblically defend (did not mention this above – Acts 17:11 does not explicitly command persons to “search the Scriptures”, but again, ***presumably we should imitate their behavior, as Paul commends them for putting his teaching to the test***) the issue of indulgences mentioned in the quote?

    Again, our position is that all kinds of extra-biblical things can be taught and practiced in the Church, but that there is a distinction that the Church has always made between essential and non-essential doctrines. Some of the latter can be used for bodily discipline, good order, etc. Rome teaches the same thing, I would argue, though they have not been as explicit about this distinction. As such, all of this gets tied up with salvation. Any time someone is not doing something Rome says they should be doing, salvation is thrown into question.

    +Nathan

     
  124. Nathan

    July 30, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Nathaniel,

    By the way, glad you caught lots of fish. By God’s grace maybe one of us will catch the other. : )

    +Nathan

     
  125. Nathan

    July 30, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Just came across this thing I hadn’t written earlier (in Dave Armstrong debate). Perhaps an explicit “proof text”! : ) :

    The RC Rule of Faith is not the true one. By insisting that all Christians adopt what are, in all honesty, doctrines that on the face of it seem less than Biblical (i.e. using any definition of “proof” it is hard to see how they are really contained in the Scriptures), the Roman Catholic Church is binding consciences in a way they ought not. They are insisting on a foundation which many devout and simple Christians, in their consciences, cannot readily embrace. When Jesus says, “it is written”, and when ****Paul says “do not go beyond what is written…. Test all things”****, they are going to take this very, very seriously. Many so much so that they will never even consider your arguments that you present – they know their Bibles well (granted this is not the majority of those in some sense claiming the name “Evangelical” today), and they see that what you’re saying is at the very least a stretch. Now: if these doctrines were not insisted on, matters might be quite different. Again, as 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.” (139)

    (the passage quoted: http://biblebrowser.com/1_corinthians/4-1.htm)

     
  126. Nathan

    July 30, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    sorry, this one to: http://bible.cc/1_thessalonians/5-21.htm

    (its kind of like how Paul combines passages from the Old Testament… : ) )

     
  127. Nathaniel

    July 31, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Nathan,
    You said,
    “‘teaching only what has been handed on’ presumably meaning what has been handed on in the Scriptures. Do you think [Dei Verbum] needs to mean this?”
    No, more than this. See Chapter II, “Handing on Divine Revelation,” of Dei Verbum; the document is clear that the Apostles handed on via more than just writings. Dei Verbum doesn’t support your asserted principle.

    You said,
    [That the true rule of faith demonstrates and proves from Scripture, or else is a false rule of faith] “…is never said in so many words [in Scripture]… It itself is implicit thoughout the Bible, and when made explicit, one can go back to the Bible and clearly see it there…
    (emphasis mine)

    I partly agree with you, in that I think Sola Scriptura (and a great many other things, true and false) can be “seen clearly” in the Bible when one first loads them in as presuppositions. But that’s eisegesis. According to your explanation, it’s not Scripture that makes this principle explicit, but Scripture has new things to say about it, apparently in support, if the external agent brings the explicit principle to Scripture.

    *Since Scripture doesn’t make the principle explicit, what’s the alternate norm by which we judge whether it’s really there implicitly, or we’re wrongly reading it in?

    The same goes for the quotes from Paul: together, they could mean “Test all things[, and if anyone teaches you something important,] do not go beyond [i.e. reject the teaching if you don’t find it contained in] what is written [in the Old Testament together with the now-existing and eventual writings of me & the other Apostles and our followers, limiting the set to those ultimately deemed by [?] to be God-breathed.]”
    Yes, I’m being a little bit silly, but it’s true that the words you’ve quoted from Paul aren’t equivalent to the principle you asserted–not without a lot of front-loading–and we haven’t even started arguing about context or traditional interpretations of the same. So I have the same question as above* about how to adjudicate disagreements about what is implicit in Scripture.

    Arguments about what’s implicit in Scripture are tricky, because, well, they’re about stuff that’s implicit… if it’s there at all.

    Ultimately, your argument from Scripture doesn’t make progress, because it can only yield your asserted principle as a conclusion when the same principle is loaded in as a premise. You’re begging the question.

    Pax,
    Nathaniel

     
  128. Nathan

    July 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “No, more than this. See Chapter II, “Handing on Divine Revelation,” of Dei Verbum; the document is clear that the Apostles handed on via more than just writings. Dei Verbum doesn’t support your asserted principle.”

    OK, so your position is not Dave’s.

    “I partly agree with you, in that I think Sola Scriptura (and a great many other things, true and false) can be “seen clearly” in the Bible when one first loads them in as presuppositions. But that’s eisegesis. According to your explanation, it’s not Scripture that makes this principle explicit, but Scripture has new things to say about it, apparently in support, if the external agent brings the explicit principle to Scripture.”

    Here is your problem. To say that there is a rule of faith, is to, by definition, know (tacitly or explicitly) certain teachings which first principles or presuppositions. Further, to have these presuppositions, and to read the text in accordance with these presuppositions, is not necessarily to “do eisegesis” (though this can happen). We may, in fact, be reading the text as we ought to. We all view the rule of faith this way, no?

    Also, consider this: what is the “canon”, strictly speaking, is not an essential question for us – the N.T. books can be of varying levels of authority – there are some that we know were accepted by absolutely everyone without question, and here we focus. This seems to be doing something far worse than eisegesis even – that is, downplaying the authority of certain books right from the beginning – but it is not necessarily so, if our presuppositions (rule of faith) is correct.

    My further claim is that the rule of faith, or oral teaching, not only has particular content (i.e. presuppositions), but that it also presupposes operating in a certain way as regards right teaching (i.e. it knows there are practices which safeguard right teaching, namely, prophets and apostles writing the main things down, and continually going back to those writings) This may not initially be clear in the first 3 centuries of the Church, but when heresies like Arianism or Pelagianism come to the fore full boar, this has the potential of becoming clear to those with eyes to see, as clearly those in these circumstances were driven back to the Apostolic Scriptures (in the case of Irenaeus, vs those gnostics with the secret, i.e. unknown oral tradition). At this point, it is possible for one to then notice (if they had not already!) the passage that Chemnitz notices in Luke, for example, about the necessity of safeguarding the teaching via writing. Also how Jesus does nothing but explain his mission in Luke 24 from the Scriptures. Also how Paul commends the Bereans for challenging him by making sure what he says in accordance with the Scriptures. Also how Jesus upheld the written Old Testament strongly. And how Paul talks about not going “beyond what was written” and “testing all things”. Etc, etc….

     
  129. Nathan

    July 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Nathaniel,

    “*Since Scripture doesn’t make the principle explicit, what’s the alternate norm by which we judge whether it’s really there implicitly, or we’re wrongly reading it in?”

    First of all, the case is clearly implicit (like infant baptism) in Acts 17 and Isaiah 20. One can even argue its explicit in Paul “do not go beyond what is written” and “test all things”. Second, I think I’ve laid out a pretty strong case above, using even more examples. That said, I’m eager to hear from you why you do not find these convincing.

    “The same goes for the quotes from Paul: together, they could mean “Test all things[, and if anyone teaches you something important,] do not go beyond [i.e. reject the teaching if you don’t find it contained in] what is written [in the Old Testament together with the now-existing and eventual writings of me & the other Apostles and our followers, limiting the set to those ultimately deemed by [?] to be God-breathed.]””

    I’m having a bit of a hard time understanding this. Could you reword or unpack? I apologize for not being able to get its meaning, which I’m sure is clear to you.

    “Yes, I’m being a little bit silly, but it’s true that the words you’ve quoted from Paul aren’t equivalent to the principle you asserted–not without a lot of front-loading–and we haven’t even started arguing about context or traditional interpretations of the same. So I have the same question as above* about how to adjudicate disagreements about what is implicit in Scripture.”

    First, we all front-load. Period. Only God’s word can break us and heal us from our sinful front-loading, and He does this with His Law and also by using real evidence (public events and eyewitness testimony to the same, as He did all throughout the Old Testament). Second, I would be interested in knowing about your interpretations of Paul’s words in their proper context, as it seems clear to me that (some things in language are rendered hopelessly ambiguous due to difficulties in language and determining context, but other things are unmistakably clear) Paul is commending people for their testing received teaching vs previously received teaching that has been safeguarded in writings accepted by God’s people in the past – evidently trusting that their judgment will be guided by the Holy Spirit, who adjudicates for and between us…. Further, Paul says that there *must be* disagreements between us, that is, those in the Church, in order to determine who has the Holy Spirit. We may all say “we need know one to teach us” (I John 1) – at least in particular circumstances – but that is evidently not true for all persons who are in the visible Church (i.e. where the Word and sacraments are faithfully administered).

    “Arguments about what’s implicit in Scripture are tricky, because, well, they’re about stuff that’s implicit… if it’s there at all.”

    Not always. Infant baptism is implicit, but you have to be spiritually blinded to miss it.

    “Ultimately, your argument from Scripture doesn’t make progress, because it can only yield your asserted principle as a conclusion when the same principle is loaded in as a premise. You’re begging the question.”

    Again, we all operate with presuppositions. That said, I think my case is far more robust than you make it out to be. I’m not sure why you don’t agree.

    +Nathan

     
  130. Nathan

    July 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Nathaniel,

    What I said to Dave Armstrong before can be said to you as well (regarding presuppositions):

    Dave,

    I know we are both praying the Holy Spirit would use our words to convict the other person. This is certainly my prayer. And it is my prayer that simple followers of Christ who know His word – no matter who they identify with externally – would find truth in my words. That may mean I need to work on popularizing my arguments (but somehow without losing nuance… [and] misrepresenting persons).

    Let me briefly say this: like so many things in life, it really comes down to how someone frames the question/problem. And ultimately, we want to be in line with Christ’s concerns about how this should be done, thinking God’s thoughts after Him. And I submit that He is not indifferent to “methodology”, which is hardly a neutral topic! (yes, there is some latitude here, but not full latitude!)

    It seems to me my approach is all about content, just as yours is. Just different content from yours…. (note that there are very few, if any, facts that I do not take account of and offer an explanation for).

    Certainly, we all have a worldview, and this impacts what we see as important, and what we pay attention to.

    That’s not to say that there is not Truth, or that it is not discoverable. It is indeed! And there are all kinds of facts that you and I can agree on.

    It seems to me that God often uses little truths (facts) to influence our view of Truth (big t) – showing the cracks [in our worldview] so to speak, as you say. I agree: “‘little chunks’ at a time.”

    My “holistic approach” might be just that, but I submit that we all have these, although we are simply more or less aware of it, and some “mental maps” are more and less developed. I simply I think my view is more compatible with the available data (and better explains it) than your system (which I must say, is quite all-encompassing and holistic as well!) The “crack” that I initially focus on is your view of Matthew 23:2,3… as I see it, it all unravels from there…

    And if I’m wrong, my apologetic is not good for Lutheran readers or any readers. They need the truth, for only this will set them free. Therefore, be vigorous in finding and exposing the cracks Dave – and feel free to “reframe” anyway you like to do it.

    Of course, I will probably object here and there that you are not really accurately representing me if you do that. But that’s unavoidable, I think. Hopefully, I just won’t feel like that too much. : )“

    (end of email)

    Nathaniel,

    You may feel like I am not really fully understanding you, fairly representing you, etc. Or maybe I am just not intelligent enough to see what you are driving at (seriously, I am not above considering this). Or maybe it is invincible ignorance (and very culpable sin indeed, given how much you have tried to enlighten me), but I don’t think so.

    May God guide us as we continue to wrestle.

    In Him who brings unity,
    Nathan

     
  131. Nathaniel

    August 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Nathan,
    Christ’s peace to you!

    “OK, so your position is not Dave’s.”
    I’ll leave you to make that determination as you will, and I’m content to let Dave and his writings speak for him. It’s the teaching of the Catholic Church that I aim to argue for, and these same teachings to which I am committed. (That said, I’d be surprised if Dave disagrees with Dei Verbum. You might ask him.) Have you read Dei Verbum? If you think I’ve mischaracterized it, I am open to correction.

    Before responding to your other comments: I can see we’re using some of the same terms a bit differently, and I propose that we come to an agreement on what we mean by them in this discussion. “Rule of Faith” according to your usage here does not include Scripture; you are using it to mean Chemnitz’s Trads. 2-7, I believe. You also appear to equate the rule of faith with oral teaching, i.e. exclusive of what is written.

    Can we agree to use “rule of faith” to mean “the standard by which doctrines are to be normed and tested” or equivalently “the norm that enables the faithful to know what to believe”? This is a common meaning, see e.g. Catholic Encylopedia, Wikipedia and other online resources for their definitions. I suppose the qualified version true rule of faith would simply mean the norm which God intends for His church to use. Does that work for you? I recognize that at times and in some groups, “rule of faith” has been used more to mean a summary or creed; but “symbol of faith” (a term that sounds odd to my ears!) is commonly used to mean the same, and adopting these distinct meanings for these distinct terms will help us to avoid misunderstanding one another.

    By that definition, I think you should include Scripture in the rule. I can give evidence that many LCMS congregations do not exclude Scripture from the rule of faith — in fact they identify Scripture as the sole rule — according to their constitutions. A sampling:
    http://www.stpaulsfallschurch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=51&Itemid=124
    http://www.faithlutheraneldersburg.com/FLCConstitution.html
    http://www.bethlehemlutheranravenna.com/about.html
    http://oslc-md.org.snapshotweb.org/Whoweare/WeBelieve/tabid/70/Default.aspx
    Is this LCMS usage consistent with what you mean by “rule of faith” (even if nuanced by Trads. 2-7)? Does it work with definition I proposed above?

    Secondly, I think the things which often get lumped into “unwritten tradition” and “oral tradition” need not be oral, i.e. unwritten. Rather than “unwritten” I submit that we mean (and say) “not contained in the canon of Scripture” or “extra-scriptural”. Or is there some reason why Chemnitz’s Trad. 3 intentionally excludes e.g. teachings contained any lost apostolic writings that are not part of the NT canon?

    If we agree on all this, then your “rule of faith” should probably include *all* of Chemnitz’s Trads. 1-7.

    Please fine-tune and offer alternate definitions if needed.
    –Nathaniel

     
  132. Nathan

    August 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Will address your post more later.

    For now… here’s stg I cut and pasted from an email exhange I had with another Lutheran theologian:

    “…I was trying to express the idea that perhaps the Church may recognize a given book from an Apostle as being inspired, even if the process of deeper (and even proper understanding) would be an ongoing one (when it comes to *really* understanding justification by faith, for example)… just because something would come from the pen of an Apostle, that did not mean that it was infallible, or would be recognized by the whole church as such (for example, a hypothetical III Corinthians). However, the Church recognized the Apostolic writings that we have in the Scripture as being infallible, correlating as they did with the Rule of Faith. Furthermore, I agree regarding the objective nature of the Rule of Faith, but it seems to me that the Church’s ongoing deeper realization of that Rule of Faith in history and experience certainly can’t be avoided.”

    Rule of faith in the wide sense would certainly include Scripture. Even in the narrow sense (2-7, as you say), it would still need to include Scripture insofar as it would be driven back to the books that had already been accepted (the Old Testament, prior to the NT canon being recognized) – i.e. so long as there were authoritative Scriptures (this was not always the case of course, prior to them being written) it would not operate apart from Scripture.

    +Nathan

     
  133. Nathan

    August 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    maybe all of that answers your question, but again, I’ll re-read and digest more later…

    +Nathan

     
  134. Nathaniel

    August 3, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Nathan, a small revision on my part:
    I should be referring to Traditiones 1-6 and 2-6 above, since #7 is about “rites and customs,” i.e. practices, and not about doctrines.
    –Nathaniel

     
  135. Nathaniel

    August 3, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Nathan,

    [I am realizing that where I used “presupposition” in recent days, perhaps I should have used the words “interpretive paradigm” or “hermeneutic” to be more precise, to avoid confusion with notions of presuppositional philosophy or apologetics. But I think we’re using the term the same way!]

    You said:
    “To say that there is a rule of faith, is to, by definition, know (tacitly or explicitly) certain teachings which [are] first principles or presuppositions. Further, to have these presuppositions, and to read the text in accordance with these presuppositions, is not necessarily to “do eisegesis” (though this can happen). We may, in fact, be reading the text as we ought to… we all front-load. Period.”

    If you mean that “we read the text not as a blank slate but as ourselves, with our prior commitments and worldview and some interpretive paradigm or hermeneutic already in play (whether we recognize the fact or not),” then I’m on board. But this fact doesn’t justify the particular worldview, principles, and paradigm we bring. (Different folks bring different things to scripture, and not all these things are compatible, so at least some of them must be wrong. Certainly the different approaches to scripture result in different groups finding mutually exclusive doctrines from the same source.) So, I’m asking: if scripture is the “sole rule and norm of all doctrine” (per the Book of Concord), exactly how do we norm the principles and interpretive paradigms that shape how we interpret scripture and derive doctrine from it? It’s true that we all bring something to scripture; but I’m asking how you check or justify what you bring, to see if it is appropriate.

    The answer can’t be Scripture, because what we derive from Scripture depends on those prior principles and paradigms. This would be circular and would leave us with varying doctrines as a necessary consequence.

    If you aim to answer using any or all of Chemnitz’s Traditiones 2-6, that won’t fly; those all contain qualifiers: “faithful,” “agree with the… New Testament,” “proper interpretation,” not explicit but “clearly apparent” from Scripture, “true and pure.” I am asking, how do you check whether your approach, or St. Augustine’s approach, or Luther’s, is faithful, in agreement with the NT, uses or results in proper interpretation, makes clearly apparent what God intended from the implicit material, and is true and pure?

    In summary: how does on properly norm one’s hermeneutic for Scripture, without using Traditiones 2-6; or if those Trads. are used, how does one norm them, without circularly using any of 1-6?
    (If circularity cannot be avoided, how is this not a man rationalizing his own principles by assuming they are also God’s?)

    In Christ,
    Nathaniel

     
  136. Nathan

    August 3, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Will try to answer on Monday (double meaning? : ) )

    +Nathan

     
  137. Nathan

    August 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Wrote this up this weekend and am posting now. Won’t be engaging with you again this week (must try to limit self here).

    “Different folks bring different things to scripture, and not all these things are compatible, so at least some of them must be wrong. Certainly the different approaches to scripture result in different groups finding mutually exclusive doctrines from the same source.”

    Yes, but we aren’t talking about them. : ) Again, any serious student of history can see that they are wrong. If one is not sure where to start as regards the 1000s of denominations, I’d simply say: Why not start with the first breakoff from Rome, which everyone acknowledges was conservative (“obedient rebels”), and see what they have to say. Come and see. Also, read the BOC and compare it with Scripture. It makes sense to start at the beginning of the break – to look at the middle, so to speak.

    “So, I’m asking: if scripture is the “sole rule and norm of all doctrine” (per the Book of Concord), exactly how do we norm the principles and interpretive paradigms that shape how we interpret scripture and derive doctrine from it? It’s true that we all bring something to scripture; but I’m asking how you check or justify what you bring, to see if it is appropriate.”

    I’ll try. The New Testament Scriptures conform to the rule of faith in those faithful (not just those with weak, but strong faith) who have been since Adam and Seth (think Melchizedek outside of Abraham as well), who previously had recognized and confirmed the Old Testament Scriptures as being the truth (miracles and prophecy at times, but not always, accompanied true teaching ; some faithful sat in Moses’ seat, and others were laypersons, but all of these recognized the true teachers and teaching [reading at least the first part of my round 3 debate with Dave “A few good Pharisees”, would be most helpful here] ; the Apostolic deposit was written down to secure the truth and ended with the death of the Apostles). Whatever did not conform to the Rule of faith was not Scripture (miracles and prophecy alone could not establish the authenticity of the prophet: again, the people needed to recognize the *voice*) and could not be used in conjunction with the rule of faith to norm doctrine in the future (here is where Luther, following many of the early church, relegates James, Hebrews, and Rev. for example, to Apocrypha-like status). The Rule of faith is also tacit itself, and so can become further refined (more specific) through the interactions with heresies which are tested vs. the Apostolic deposit.

    “If you aim to answer using any or all of Chemnitz’s Traditiones 2-6, that won’t fly; those all contain qualifiers: “faithful,” “agree with the… New Testament,” “proper interpretation,” not explicit but “clearly apparent” from Scripture, “true and pure.” I am asking, how do you check whether your approach, or St. Augustine’s approach, or Luther’s, is faithful, in agreement with the NT, uses or results in proper interpretation, makes clearly apparent what God intended from the implicit material, and is true and pure?”

    Chemnitz’s list: 1) 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.

    I think the answer would have to be tradition number 3. I see no good reason to assume that this would not agree with the New Testament canon, and here I see support from the Fathers as well as all those verses I mentioned in my previous posts. I am confident of the voice I hear because of all of this, which I have been forced to re-evaluate in my conversations with folks of other traditions. I would consider this the true Lutheran/Christian “confirmation class”. Now, I know you will no doubt consider this hopelessly subjective, so let me offer you the way that I see for you who do not immediately recognize the voice I do: think about which “interpretive paradigm” (this is not how I would put “recognizing the voice” really – we are not talking about systematic theology here, but recognizing simple and fundamental truths even a child can grasp) best takes into consideration and explains all the evidence we consider important. For me, this is clearly Chemnitz’s 8 traditions view, as expounded in detail by him.

    When I look at Rome, I don’t see anything even close to this kind of reverence and respect for the written Word of God. I am really having a hard time even getting the RCC view on the radar screen now. It was there 7-9 years ago, but I’ve listened to enough RC apologists and programs to get an idea of what their best arguments are. I still see a ton of evidence unexplained. So, I am guessing I would know if I was wrong if persons started showing me passages that really could not be explained with my paradigm, or seemed to be a very uncomfortable or awkward fit with my paradigm (I really don’t think I have trouble explaining any passage of Scripture ultimately). This is what I tried doing with Dave Armstrong with Matthew 23:2. He admitted my case was really strong, and he didn’t have time (at the moment) to deal with it. I think working this way is pleasing to God, because all throughout the Scriptures I see a God who places a lot of emphasis on the importance of evidence, as He works in history and as He preserves truth written in His Word. A caveat: again, we can say all this we have above in a human manner of speaking (so that you can understand a bit better how I don’t see all of this as hopelessly subjective). But ultimately, I believe, none of this is about hypothetical or theoretical or scientific kinds of knowledge (particularly “systematic theologies” like those of Thomas), but about the actual, concrete reality of human beings knowing God, His works, and His will in the past and in the present. What I really and truly know is what I have yet to be shown is false. Of this I am, by the grace of God, supremely confident.

    “In summary: how does on properly norm one’s hermeneutic for Scripture, without using Traditiones 2-6; or if those Trads. are used, how does one norm them, without circularly using any of 1-6?
    (If circularity cannot be avoided, how is this not a man rationalizing his own principles by assuming they are also God’s?)”

    I don’t think its circular, but perhaps you will attempt to show why it is. It is more about there being infallible speakers of the Word throughout history whom God had tapped and inspired and who passed the right teaching on to those who heard it and did likewise. Those hearing the word rightly would not only be in the train of those whom God had simply converted (bringing them to darkness to light, with an immature faith), but those whom God had converted and in whose hearts the Word had been deeply hid (there were always a few of these – think Elijah in his day). As anyone who is deeply familiar with the Bible can tell you, the faithful never trusted prophets, priests and Apostles *because they claimed to be infallible* – rather, I submit, it is obvious that they recognized them as faithfully proclaiming the Word of truth that brought life. It is not only in the New Testament that the sheep hear their Shepherd’s voice.

    Obviously, none of this can be proven with logical proofs. This is ultimately about evidence in history and particular views of how God has worked in the world. For us, it is all about Genesis 3:15 and the Promise made to Abraham – the inheritance that is fulfilled in Christ, and it is by faith from first to last. Each man must come and see. Each one must hear the Shepherd’s voice. Each one must realize that it is not we who “work the works of God”, but He who works faith in our heart, that we may believe in His Son and all He brings: the Foundation that must not be overthrown.

    If I am wrong – and I am confident I am not – it will obviously take a miracle to change me (not that conversion is not always a miracle).

     
  138. Nathaniel

    August 7, 2012 at 3:39 am

    “it will obviously take a miracle to change me (not that conversion is not always a miracle).”
    Any such changes are the province of the Holy Spirit, and way above my pay grade. And He’s not only in the miracle business, He invented it! 🙂
    –Nathaniel

     
  139. Nathaniel

    August 7, 2012 at 3:50 am

    Nathan,
    We’ve gotten a little bogged down, here, and I know I haven’t answered some of your direct questions. I think we have to work on making these back-and-forth comments short and succinct, because otherwise the conversation becomes a sprawling thing that doesn’t advance anywhere on the whole.

    I know we went around a few times far up the comment list about “rule of faith,” but I’d still like to agree on a definition (not on the content, right now) of that term. See again my 1st comment of 3 August. If that’s not a good definition, please suggest a revised one; and it would even be useful if you could suggest a different term for what I’ve called “rule of faith,” so we can include that concept in the discussion as well.

    I will reread your most recent posts and respond about those, but “rule of faith” comes up there again and we don’t yet have a definition in common.

    If you have specific questions I haven’t answered, please post them again when you see fit — just not all at once.:)
    God bless you in your busy week,
    Nathaniel

     
  140. Nathan

    August 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Nathaniel,

    “…but I’d still like to agree on a definition (not on the content, right now) of that term.”

    Before you said:

    “Can we agree to use “rule of faith” to mean “the standard by which doctrines are to be normed and tested” or equivalently “the norm that enables the faithful to know what to believe”?”

    I can provide a brief answer now: Sure, so long as we realize that there is all kinds of nuanced content we pack into that definition. I’m not sure, therefore, how agreeing to a definition will help us in the least, really. As far as I’m concerned, in all of my expanding and explaining the rule of faith, there is nothing that would necessarily contradict the meanings of your definitions above.

    +Nathan

     
  141. Nathan

    August 7, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Some thoughts from an ex-catholic who we probably both respect:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-narrative-fallacy/

    Good stuff!

    +Nathan

     
  142. Nathan

    August 8, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Dreher left Rome maybe 7-10 years ago for Eastern Orthodoxy….

    +Nathan

     
  143. infanttheology

    October 31, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Ready to go?: http://wp.me/psYq5-pR

    Hope you are well.

    In Christ!

    Nathan

     
  144. infanttheology

    November 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm

     
  145. Nathaniel

    December 12, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Nathan, Picking up the thread : ) —

    I asked a few comments back:
    “…if scripture is the “sole rule and norm of all doctrine” … how do we norm the principles and interpretive paradigms that shape how we interpret scripture and derive doctrine from it?” (quote abbreviated here)

    You responded:
    “The New Testament Scriptures conform to the rule of faith in those faithful… who have been since Adam and Seth… who previously had recognized and confirmed the Old Testament Scriptures as being the truth… Whatever did not conform to the Rule of faith was not Scripture… and could not be used in conjunction with the rule of faith to norm doctrine in the future…”

    You’re saying that we use the Old Testament Scriptures to norm the principles and paradigms with which we approach Scripture, and to determine which non-Scriptural things can also be used to norm doctrine. I’m not sure that gets us anywhere; it leaves us vulnerable to finding precisely what we brought to Scripture in the first place (regardless of its truth).

    Also — I’m thinking out loud here — isn’t it a little backwards for Christians to treat the Old Testament as the primary lens from which to approach the New Testament? This seems to carry the underlying notion that Christ’s new dispensation isn’t anything more than a continuation of the old, rather than a new, complete revelation of the Father in the person of the Son.

    I think that (arguendo) if the Lutheran approach was simply one of starting with some improper principles from which to approach Scripture, and building the whole edifice from there, nothing would be different than we find it today.

    Your post takes unsubstantiated Lutheran principles for granted, and faults the Catholic Church on the basis that it did not follow those principles. But that’s only as damaging as saying that the Catholic Church does not share particularly Lutheran principles (like Sola Scriptura) — a fact that, I think we can agree, is thoroughly uncontroversial.

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

    p.s. I am reading about Confession/Absolution, and re-visiting your most recent links in this thread. Catching up!

     
  146. infanttheology

    December 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Very busy – might be a while before can chat again. Will do so eventually, God willing.

    +Nathan

     
  147. infanttheology

    January 9, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Nathaniel,

    Need to get back into this discussion. I’ve been here, as I think you know: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/

    “You’re saying that we use the Old Testament Scriptures to norm the principles and paradigms with which we approach Scripture, and to determine which non-Scriptural things can also be used to norm doctrine.”

    Sorry, I am having a hard time following this – I am saying that faithful persons from *that time period* used the OT to test teachers. We use both the Old and New Testaments now. Which non-Scriptural things are you talking about?

    “I’m not sure that gets us anywhere; it leaves us vulnerable to finding precisely what we brought to Scripture in the first place (regardless of its truth).”

    The true Rule of Faith inculcated in the faithful goes hand in hand with the Scriptures that God has given us to safeguard the truth, going hand in hand with it.

    “Also — I’m thinking out loud here — isn’t it a little backwards for Christians to treat the Old Testament as the primary lens from which to approach the New Testament? This seems to carry the underlying notion that Christ’s new dispensation isn’t anything more than a continuation of the old, rather than a new, complete revelation of the Father in the person of the Son.”

    Yes, it is basically continuous – I would want to know why we should think otherwise. The New Testament is more or less an unveiling of what was already contained and “not yet” in the Old Testament.

    “I think that (arguendo) if the Lutheran approach was simply one of starting with some improper principles from which to approach Scripture, and building the whole edifice from there, nothing would be different than we find it today.”

    I am not sure what you are saying here. I apologize that I am not able to discern what you are saying.

    “Your post takes unsubstantiated Lutheran principles for granted, and faults the Catholic Church on the basis that it did not follow those principles. But that’s only as damaging as saying that the Catholic Church does not share particularly Lutheran principles (like Sola Scriptura) — a fact that, I think we can agree, is thoroughly uncontroversial.”

    Well, I am a Lutheran, so of course I argue from “Lutheran principles” even as I try to “walk in other persons shoes” (i.e. their “interpretive paradigms”) and try to look at what we know about history with their eyes. I am saying that the past that God has given us to know shows these “principles” to be right and confirms them – for those with eyes to see.

    +Nathan

     

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