Perhaps I went on for too long; there is that saying about casting pearls before swine after all, and shaking the dust from your shoes. But it's my hope that someone might benefit from what is written here, and hopefully, I can eventually make this into an essay or two after doing some modifying. In any case, posting this dialogue will in the very least show people how stubborn Calvinists can be when they are backed into a wall, i.e., perfectly valid arguments not being addressed but instead deemed "invalid" and then with a wave of the hand, seemingly dismissed.
Below is the very long conversation we had. Unfortunately, the original conversation is deleted from Catholic365 as the pastor has been banned. I saved our conversations, but at certain points I did not save the entirety of my interlocutor's posts, and instead only included the relevant quotes I was replying to. I apologize for any confusion that may result in reading this, but I will try to make this as streamlined as possible for easy reading. My words will be in blue, and the pastor's in red. I begin by replying to relevant parts of the pastor's first comment on the above article. After my initial reply, I will include his full replies. My words will be in blue and "Tom's" in red:
|Gérard de Lairesse- The Institution of the Eucharist|
You've quoted this list I've given before, and this time you say:
"Listing things such as this omits a very important detail - the relationship between the various items on the list. How do you see that relationship?"
[note: the list I gave, from the original article above, is this from the good folks at Three Minute Apologetics:
We are saved by declaring with our mouths: (Lk 12:8; Rom 10:9);
We are saved by keeping the commandments (Matt 19:17);
We are saved by our words (Matt 12:37);
We are saved by the work of the Spirit (Jn 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6);
We are saved by baptism (Jn 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21; Titus 3:5);
We are saved by repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Pet 3:9);
We are saved by grace (Acts 15:11; Eph 2:8);
We are saved by coming to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4; Heb 10:26);
We are saved by works (Rom 2:6-7; James 2:24);
We are saved by Christ's blood (Rom 5:9; Heb 9:22);
We are saved by Christ's righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Pet 1:1).]
Well I think that relationship between the various items is fairly obvious, but I will point it out nonetheless. All these utterances come from Scripture and all these utterances tell us how we can be saved. This is the nature of the relationship of what was listed. As for being saved, remember, Jesus told us "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22: 37-40). Right here, Jesus sums up everything that was listed above, and that includes the one item I didn't list, John 3:16 ("whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life"). So everything listed goes into more detail. It answers the question "How does one love the Lord" and that list (in part, of course) answers the question "How does one love their neighbor?"
One obviously shows love to their neighbor by doing charitable works for them, as we are exhorted in Rom. 2:6-7 and James 2:24. As for loving God, let's look at a specific example from the list you quoted, Matt.19:17. It says "If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” The rich young man is confused when Jesus says this, as he asks Him, "Which?" And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother..." Obviously, He's listing the Decalogue, that is, the Ten Commandments. We know that one of these Commandments is to "worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve"; this is a specific way that we love the Lord, as well as keeping holy the Sabbath. But sticking to Christ's short list, He says "You shall not kill". It's apparent that killing someone who is in the image of God is not a way to show love towards our Lord. Therefore, respecting life and not extinguishing the life of others is but one way that we show "love [to] the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] mind.
Can you understand this Tom? Your Calvinist blinders are on once again because you're trying to make your theology of "Once Saved, Always Saved" (OSAS) read into the Bible when it is simply. not. there.
[Tom said:] "Must all of these be true before someone is saved? Must most of them be true before someone is saved? Must just one of them be true before someone is saved? What do you think?"
It doesn't matter what I think Tom, it matters what Jesus thinks. Therefore, to answer your question, I think what Jesus thinks. It's obvious what you think: only one must be true before someone is saved, and that's what's said in John 3:16. "All you have to do is believe in Jesus and that he died for you, and you're good", is the basic premise you seem to adhere too. You make it seem that Jesus is asking too much of us when He and His Apostles throughout Holy Scripture make demands of us on leading a holy life. So you go ahead and ignore Christ's blunt words which say "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). You think that it's too much that Jesus asks of us when He Himself proclaims "on the day of judgment [you] will render account for every careless word [you] utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12: 36-37).
It's like saying, "Whoa, Jesus. WHOA. That's a lot to keep track of. I really have to do all this in order to enter your Kingdom and have eternal life? You really want me to repent? (Acts 2:38) Because this is supposed to show love for you, my Lord? You really want me to do good works? (James 2:24) Because this is supposed to show love for my neighbor? You really want me to actually acknowledge You before men? (Luke 12:8). That is way to difficult! Look at all those different things You're commanding me to do! I like that other approach, that easy approach from that John Calvin guy. Yea, that one that says once I believe in you I'm saved, and then I'm always saved. It's so easy! I just have to read that prayer on the back of that card they gave me at the megachurch! Sorry Jesus, you're just asking too much. I'll stick with that un-biblical idea that I just have to declare You as my savior. It's a lot less work and I can feel good about myself while not being required to cooperate in Your grace by declaring my faith and helping my fellow man through my actions. Later!"
If you want to ignore Jesus, that's your decision, Tom. I'll stick with what He said. If He said I need to be baptized to be saved, and need to keep the Commandments to be saved and enter His Kingdom, I’m going to listen to him instead of those proponents of the "OSAS" camp.
[Tom said]: "As to the word, "church," it literally means an assembly of people. For example, in Matthew 18: 17 impenitence is to be reported to the church, to the assembled believers. That is the literal meaning. It is the usus loquendi."
Tom, you're either skimming what I'm writing or just, misunderstanding what I'm saying, or just outright ignoring what I said so you can prop up your own strawmen and put words in my mouth. I honestly don't know which of the three you're doing. Here's a reminder of what I said:
"Thus, the name 'church' which belongs to the whole is also applied to a part."
The Church includes the assembly of people as a whole, and the leaders (deacons, presbyters, bishops) which are a part of that whole assembly.
[Tom said:] "If Christ had meant that impenitence was only to be reported to the leadership of the church, it is reasonable to think He would have explicitly stated that."
You can take your complaints to whoever you want. Take it to your brother so you're both in agreement and strengthen your cause. But who's going to make an action on it? The leaders. The chief priests and rabbis did under the Old Law, and with that Law being fulfilled (and not abolished) by the New Law, those who now sit on Moses' Seat today (i.e., the bishops in communion with the Pope) are the ones who will take action on those impenitent people. In the very next verse He says "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Who's doing the binding? Every single individual person in the assembly? That'd be ridiculous, because anyone could declare someone a "Gentile or tax collector" just because they don't like them. No, just as Jesus told Peter he was given the power to "bind and loose" so do the other Apostles and their successors, who are today the bishops in communion with the Pope, i.e. the hierarchy. Jesus is very clear here.
[Tom said:]"And according to Acts 20: 28, Paul is speaking to the overseers as distinct from the church, not as though the overseers are the church. Your use of proof passages needs a lot of work."
Wow. Are you serious? My proof passages need work? Did you happen to look in context to see who Paul is exactly talking to in this verse? Or are you reading your own theology into this again since your church doesn't have presbyters, bishops and deacons as the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have since the 1st century? In verse 18, it specifically states that Paul is talking to the "elders of the church." He's not talking to overseers that are "distinct from the church". He's talking to men who are in and of the Church and who also happen to be elders, i.e. leaders of the Church. Are you honestly saying that the overseers/elders are not the Church? They absolutely are, but they are a part of that whole, and that specific part they belong to is the hierarchy.
[Tom said:]"Do you think Paul meant there that Christ only loved the hierarchy and only gave Himself up for the hierarchy, the magisterium? Or do you think Christ loved and gave Himself up for the entire assembly of people?"
No, of course I don't think this. Where would you get such a notion that I did?! Again, you're putting words in my mouth. I never said or even remotely suggested that Christ gave Himself up only for the hierarchy. I of course agree with you that Christ gave Himself up for the entire assembly, the whole Church.
[Tom said:]"In fact, it is pretty obvious that when the Scripture is speaking of the leadership of the church it speaks of apostles, elders, pastors and teachers, prophets, evangelists. Such people are not the "church" but are God's gift to the church, to the assembly of God's people."
This is utterly preposterous. "Such people [i.e., the apostles, evangelists, etc.] are not the 'church'"? The Apostles aren't the Church? I am (a part of) the Church. You, Tom, are by virtue of our common baptism (a part of) the Church. Of course the people you listed are the Church! Why would we have leaders that are not somehow a part of Christ's Church?! One can certainly be a gift and a part or a piece of the whole Church, no? I'll say it again:
"The Church is a body of men united together by the profession of the same Christian Faith, and by participation in the same sacraments, under the governance of lawful pastors..." not just the people that happen to not be elders and pastors. Those "lawful pastors" profess that same Christian faith... they aren't outside it! This claim you've made blows me away and couldn't be any further from the Truth.
Any baptized person, be they a pastor, a bishop, an elder or one of the assembly who isn't ordained or in some capacity a teacher absolutely is the Church.
Nicholas wrote, "Wow. Are you serious? My proof passages need work?"
Yes, but it is not your proof passages that need work. It is the way you use them that needs the work.
For example, let's look at Acts 20: 28, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which He obtained with His own blood."
Paul is speaking to "yourselves," who in this context are the elders of the church according to Acts 20: 17. The elders are to pay attention to themselves and to all the flock. Who or what is the flock? The flock is those in which the Holy Spirit made the elders overseers. It is interesting to note that the presbuteroi are the episkopoi. The elders are to care for the church of God. It is reasonable to think the flock and the church of God are two ways of describing the same thing. What church is this? It is the church Christ obtained with His own blood.
You cited this passage to prove that "church" can sometimes refer to a part of the church, such as the hierarchy, and does not always mean all the people assembled together. In order for that interpretation to be correct, "yourselves" in verse 28 would have to refer to the flock and the church. In that case, Paul would be saying, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all of yourselves in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for yourselves whom Christ obtained with His own blood." Is that what Paul is saying? Or is Paul saying that elders should pay attention to themselves as well as to the believers over whom the Holy Spirit has made them overseers so that they care for the assembled believers, the people Christ obtained with His own blood?" For whom did Christ die? For the elders or overseers as your interpretation alleges? Or for every believer as my interpretation alleges? Did Christ only shed His blood for a part of the church? Of course not. That would be ridiculous.
The only argument you give for your interpretation appears to be that when Paul mentioned elders, he was talking to a part of the church. That is correct. But he did not refer to the elders as the church, now did he? No, he said that the church or flock was that over which the Holy Spirit made the elders bishops and that the church is what Christ obtained with His blood. Or do you think Paul was saying here that Christ only obtained the elders with His blood? When Paul meant the "elders of the church." But you are ignoring the simple fact that while all the elders are included in the church, not everyone included in the church is an elder. Basically, when Paul mentions "elders," he is speaking of part of the church. When he mentions "church," he is speaking of every believer, including the elders.
I wrote, "Do you think Paul meant there that Christ only loved the hierarchy and only gave Himself up for the hierarchy, the magisterium? Or do you think Christ loved and gave Himself up for the entire assembly of people?"
Nick replied, "No, of course I don't think this. Where would you get such a notion that I did?! Again, you're putting words in my mouth. I never said or even remotely suggested that Christ gave Himself up only for the hierarchy. I of course agree with you that Christ gave Himself up for the entire assembly, the whole Church."
I know you never intended to say that, but you seem to be getting your logic all messed up.
I wrote, "Such people [i.e., the apostles, evangelists, etc.] are not the 'church'"?"
Nick, that is a true and correct statement. The apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, bishops, elders, and popes are not the church. The reason they are not the church is that not everyone who is in the church is an apostle, prophet, and so on. Pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so on are parts or offices within the church, but church includes a lot more than just them. Doesn't it?
You even wrote that you are a part of the church. Are you claiming to be an apostle, prophet, or pope? Of course not. But if the apostles are the church, and you are part of the church, then you must be an apostle. That is simple logic.
To say it another way, the reason the apostles are not the church is that apostle and church are not synonymous, but one is a part of the other.
Tom, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding going on here. We need to define terms here clearly, and perhaps we both haven't been doing a great job of it. What it boils down to, is that the word "church" has different meanings. When we talk of the Church founded by Christ, there are different parts, different members which make up this Church (by which I mean both bodily members like an arm or a leg, and individual human beings as members, as of a society which the Church is): and those different members do specific things through the vocation they were called to by Christ Himself.
[Tom said:]"Who or what is the flock? The flock is those in which the Holy Spirit made the elders overseers."
Yes of course. In this verse, the flock Paul speaks of is obviously the flocks which these elders oversee. But let's widen the context. "[Jesus] is the Head of the Body, the church" as Paul says in Col 1:18, right? The men Paul is speaking to are baptized into Christ, right? They are subject to Jesus, who is the Head. While they have their own flocks to pastor over, just as the Apostles did, they are also of the same flock. They are also of the same Body. They are also of the same Church as Christ is the head of that Church. You seem to agree, Tom, when you say "It is reasonable to think the flock and the church of God are two ways of describing the same thing."
You go on to say "What church is this? It is the church Christ obtained with His own blood." I couldn't agree more.
I think, Tom, you are looking at "Church" in too narrow of a sense. Perhaps you can give me your definition of the word, and I'll supply you with mine, which also happens to be the same definition that has been understood since Christ's Church was founded in the 1st century. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears your definition of the Church is conflating "flock" and "Church". I would refer to one's flock, such as the specific flocks of the elders Paul speaks to in Acts 10, (or even the flocks of say, Peter the Apostle in Antioch or Rome, or Thomas the Apostle in India) as the laity (that is, those who aren't sacramentally ordained) in and of the local Churches. A local Church being a local assembly of the Christian faithful, such as the Church at Corinth or the Church at Galatia. But we can widen that definition of the Church, which is what I've been talking about all this time. All the baptized faithful in each of these local assemblies are part of that mystical Body of Christ by their baptism and profession of faith. Since these elders and overseers are also baptized and have also made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, they are also members of that mystical Body of Christ. And what is the Body of Christ? The Church. To quote Paul again from earlier in my post: "[Jesus] is the head of the body, the church" (Col. 1:18).
Allow me to explain in more detail what this Body of Christ is and what it is composed of. In addition, let's look at the different ways in which "church" can be used again. You said, “For whom did Christ die? For the elders or overseers as your interpretation alleges?” My interpretation does not allege this; it doesn’t even follow from what I’ve said and you’ve obviously misunderstood me. You then said, “Or for every believer as my interpretation alleges?” This isn’t just your interpretation, as I fully understand it in this way and never said anything remotely to the contrary. Again, you have misunderstood what I’ve said. So who did Christ die for then, Tom? Everybody. He died for the entire Church, which can be described as:
-the specific liturgical assembly in one place (1 Cor. 11:18; 1 Cor. 14: 34-35)You seem to think that “church” just applies to the liturgical assembly, or perhaps you might include the local community, that is, the local Church headed by one elder or bishop in a single region. So which of these three meanings is Paul using in Acts 20:17 and 20:28? I would say the third, the universal community of believers. Paul is most assuredly talking to a part of that universal Church, the part that is ordained and are overseers. The men at this meeting, all of them brother bishops/elders/overseers, surely they must feed each other as well through encouragement, lest one of them is in danger of losing the faith that was passed on to them. The leaders are asked by Paul to feed not only their individual flocks, but the entire flock as well. Paul says “all the flock”. As I stated, the leaders being baptized themselves are in that universal flock, that universal Church. Just because they are leaders does not mean they don’t need to be fed.
-the local community of believers, otherwise known as the local Churches (1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Cor. 16:1)
-the whole universal community of believers, manifested in Apostles, deacons, elders, laity… everyone (1 Cor. 15:9, Phil 3:6)
In addition, the “Church” is, and can also refer to, the following:
-a society structured with hierarchical organs (or members) and the mystical body of Christ as its headIt all depends what connotation you are using. The Church, in its fullest sense, is the Body of Christ. This is truly a divine mystery, much like the Holy Trinity is. Only with faith can one see the Church in its visible reality and its spiritual reality as the bearer of divine life. Paul saw it this way, as he doesn’t use the word “church” to only apply to the assembly of those Christians without referring to himself or the other elders. You seem to understand this when you say the following:
-the visible society which includes the laity and hierarchy and the spiritual community
-the earthly Church (us) and the Church Triumphant (those who have passed on to new life in Christ which possesses the heavenly riches)
“But you are ignoring the simple fact that while all the elders are included in the church, not everyone included in the church is an elder.” That’s obvious, and I’m not ignoring that fact.
[Tom said:] “Basically, when Paul mentions 'elders,' he is speaking of part of the church. When he mentions "church," he is speaking of every believer, including the elders.” Yes again. That’s the point I’ve been making, and it sounds like we’re on the same page, but then you do a 180 and say this, which makes no sense:
“The apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, bishops, elders, and popes are not the church.” You just got done saying the apostles, etc. were part of the Church… and now you say they are NOT the Church. This is why we really need to define terms here because you appear to be contradicting yourself. Your words get even more confusing when you say: "But if the apostles are the church, and you are part of the church, then you must be an apostle. That is simple logic.”
No, Tom. That does not follow. I am a part of the Church in a universal sense, just as the Apostle Philip or Bartholomew is a part of the universal Church. But I am not an apostle, I belong to the common priesthood of the laity. The three of us, as believers who have responded to the Word and become members of Christ’s Body through our baptism and profession of faith, have become intimately united with Christ, who is the head of the Church. We play different roles, but are one in Christ. Here’s an analogy using you formulation above on me being an apostle.
If the Holy Spirit is God, and Jesus is God, then Jesus must be the Holy Spirit. You as a Trinitarian Christian obviously would say that does not follow. The Son is not the Holy Spirit and the Son is not the Father. But all three Persons are God. The same is true with me allegedly being an apostle. I belong to that common priesthood of the laity, while the apostles and I are still a part of the same Church. Now obviously there is no perfect analogy; note that I am not in any way promoting Modalism. But I think you see my point on why I reject your thought process.
We, the Church, are all one in Christ together, we make up the “Christus totus”, that is, the whole Christ. St. Augustine describes it well:
“Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does “head and members” mean? Christ and the Church.”This is why the union between Christ and the Church can also lead the Church to be called the Bride of Christ, as St. Augustine eloquently puts it again, quoting Scripture itself:
“This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many . . . whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? 'The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.' (Eph. 5:31-32) And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: 'So they are no longer two, but one flesh." (Matt. 19:6) They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union,…as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself 'bride.'It doesn’t matter if we’re apostles, leaders, deacons, or the assembly of people sitting in the churches as we hear the Word proclaimed; we’re all members and a part of that one Church and are in a mystical union with Christ. Paul’s words in the first chapter of Ephesians ties in perfectly with what both Augustine and he said quoted above in 5:31-32:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you… God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be Head over everything for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph. 1:16-18, 22-23).That totally fits in with this idea of the "Christus Totus". As Paul said in chapter 5, “this is a great mystery”, but we can be assured that we have all become one in Christ, and He is the Head over the Body of believers which are manifest in all of the assemblies the world over, leaders and the assembled believers both.
Nicholas wrote, "Tom, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding going on here."
Nicholas wrote, "We need to define terms here clearly, and perhaps we both haven't been doing a great job of it."
Nicholas wrote, "When we talk of the Church founded by Christ, there are different parts, different members which make up this Church (by which I mean both bodily members like an arm or a leg, and individual human beings as members, as of a society which the Church is): and those different members do specific things through the vocation they were called to by Christ Himself."
Let's stay with the metaphor of a body and its parts for a few minutes. When Christ said He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it, did He mean the body or just some parts? When Paul writes that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, is he speaking of the body or a few parts? Did Christ promise to build the arms but not the legs of the church? Did Paul say the eyes were the pillar and ground of the truth but not the ears?
This is profoundly important. If a bishop is one of the eyes that is the pillar and ground of the truth, then we need to go to him to find out the proper interpretation of Scripture. But if the whole body is the pillar and ground of the truth, we do not need to go to the bishop any more than we need to go to anyone else in the church to discover the proper interpretation of Scripture. If Christ only means He is going to build the arms and legs, then you and I cannot use this passage to teach that He is building us as His church.
Don't you see that? So what is the proper definition of "church?"
Maybe we can cut to the chase a bit here. "Church" can be defined as the universal assembly of God's people without regard to time or place. It can also mean a local congregation, which is a part of the universal assembly. And it can mean a group of local congregations, such as all the churches within a certain city. Church can also mean a group of believers who gather for worship and prayer and Bible study.
But is "church" ever used of a category of people within either the universal or the local church? Is this term used of the apostles or of bishops to the exclusion of others within a local congregation? For example, does Scripture give an ordained priest an authority to forgive sins that is not shared by every individual within the church? Does a bishop by his office have authority to interpret Scripture that an individual Catholic does not have, even though he is also part of the pillar and ground of truth?
Nicholas wrote, "Allow me to explain in more detail what this Body of Christ is and what it is composed of. In addition, let's look at the different ways in which "church" can be used again. You said, 'For whom did Christ die? For the elders or overseers as your interpretation alleges?' My interpretation does not allege this; it doesn’t even follow from what I’ve said and you’ve obviously misunderstood me. You then said, 'Or for every believer as my interpretation alleges?' This isn’t just your interpretation as I fully understand it in this way and never said anything remotely to the contrary. Again, you have misunderstood what I’ve said. So who did Christ die for then, Tom? Everybody. He died for the entire Church..."
And that is exactly the point I have been trying to make. When Christ said He would build His church, He meant the universal community of believers. When Paul wrote that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, he meant the universal community of believers.
Nicholas wrote, "That totally fits in with this idea of the Christus Totus. As Paul said in chapter 5, 'this is a great mystery', but we can be assured that we have all become one in Christ, and He is the Head over the Body of believers which are manifest in all of the assemblies the world over, leaders and the assembled believers both."
Then, it is obvious that when Jesus said He would build His church, that church is both the leaders and the assembled believers. And when Paul wrote that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, both the leaders and the assembled believers are the pillar and ground of the truth.
Therefore, if the church is infallible, in whatever way or to whatever extent it is infallible, both the leaders and the assembled believers are infallible.
Tom, it's good to know we can at least agree on one point: "When Christ said He would build His church, He meant the universal community of believers." Where we disagree is in how the Church comes to understand certain truths; as you would have it that every individual person can discern what a particular Scripture passage means, while I hold we need an unfailing guide so that we are ensured we do not fall into error. You wrote: "When Paul wrote that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, he meant the universal community of believers."
This is true. Perhaps you've heard of the "sensus fidelium", or "the sense of the faithful". If the whole Body of Christ is anointed by Him (1 John 2:20), they cannot be mistaken in what they believe to be true. For as Augustine says, this characteristic of the Church is manifested in the "sensus fidei" when "from the bishops to the last of the faithful" that universal consent in faith and morals is apparent. The key word here is "faithful". The faithful are in accord with the bishops who exercise the teaching authority, or Magisterium, of the Church. The "sensum fidelium" is not just a majority opinion. If that were the case, then Arianism would've been true, because many Christians, both leaders and those in the congregations, bought into the heresy, and for a time, orthodox Christians were the minority. That's why Catholics must reflect on teachings that have been passed down from the Apostolic age, and make every effort to understand and accept them To resist those teachings of the Magisterium is in no way compatible with the authentic "sensus fidei.”
Which segues nicely into your questions. You said: "When Christ said He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it, did He mean the body or just some parts? When Paul writes that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, is he speaking of the body or a few parts?"
Well in the first place, Christ says He will build His Church "on this rock", the rock being Peter. We'll get more into that in a little bit. As for Paul, I've explained above he is speaking of everyone. But as I mentioned in my previous post, the members in the Body of Christ exercise different functions. The Holy Spirit gives each of us different gifts and we each exercise those in different ways. These diverse offices don't take away from the unity of the Body; in Christ there is a true equality where we all cooperate in the building up of that same Body of Christ, all in accord with each person's own function.
You said, "Did Christ promise to build the arms but not the legs of the church? Did Paul say the eyes were the pillar and ground of the truth but not the ears?"
This is misunderstanding the mystical Body of Christ. There is a diversity of ministry, but in the mission we are united. So no, Christ is not going to only "build the arms and legs", meaning the passage used in my previous post can be used to teach that we are the Church.
You said: "If a bishop is one of the eyes that is the pillar and ground of the truth, then we need to go to him to find out the proper interpretation of Scripture. But if the whole body is the pillar and ground of the truth, we do not need to go to the bishop any more than we need to go to anyone else in the church to discover the proper interpretation of Scripture."
You're still misunderstanding what the Magisterium is in relation to the bishops in your first sentence. As for the second sentence, you are completely wrong. This is the main problem with Protestantism. You have made yourself the authority, not the Church. Because if you had the "sensus fidelium", you would not be at odds with Church teaching. Jesus didn't just say "Hey guys, here's a collection of books. I'm not going to tell you how to interpret it, even though it specifically says some things are hard to understand (2 Pt. 3:16) and leave it to all of you to figure it out. It's clear enough." Yea, clear in a material sense. But in a formal sense? No. It's like having all the pieces and material to build a house in front of us, but with no blueprint. The Church, through the guidance and assurance of the Holy Spirit, gives us the blueprint; it's where we get the formal sufficiency of the Scriptures. And that denial of the blueprint in favor of just building the house in whatever way any one person wants is why we have hundreds of contradictory denominations. One built a hut, another a townhouse, another a studio apartment... all different because they didn't want the help of the one who drew up the blueprint. Even the Ethiopian eunuch acknowledged that he needed help from Philip the Evangelist to understand what the Scriptures meant.
So that begs the question: What is the Magisterium in relation to the bishops? First we must acknowledge that Christ is the source of ministry in the Church since He instituted it. Bishops are included in the ecclesial ministry, and by its nature it has a collegial character. Jesus instituted the twelve Apostles as the new Israel, and since they were chosen together, they were sent out together, and that fraternal unity between them would service all of the faithful. The communion the Twelve shared with each other would reflect and witness to the communion of the three Persons in the Trinity, that they would be one as the Father and Son are one (John 17:21).
Now Jesus made Peter the "rock" of His Church, the head of the college of bishops, and when He gave him the keys, this office of binding and loosing was also given to the college of apostles united to its head. This office is continued today by the successor of Peter in the Pope and the successors of the Apostles in the modern day bishops. That college of bishops has no authority unless it’s united with the Vicar of Christ. This is the office of the Magisterium: the bishops in communion with the Pope teach the faithful the truth with the charism of infallibility that Christ promised the Church. It's the Magisterium's task to guarantee the people of God that the true faith will be professed without error.
So yes, to answer your question, the bishop by his office does have authority to interpret Scripture that an individual Catholic does not, because the function of teaching does not fall to the non-ordained person. You also said: "But is "church" ever used of a category of people within either the universal or the local church?"
In a sense, yes. We often hear “the Church teaches ‘x’ on this subject”. Who exercises the office of teaching in the Church? The teaching authority, the Magisterium. What is the Magisterium? The bishops in communion with the Pope which teach the faithful. The Apostles were teachers. They, and their successors are indispensable. Ignatius of Antioch certainly agreed with me:
"In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a church... He that is within the sanctuary is pure; but he that is outside the sanctuary is not pure. In other words, anyone who acts without the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons does not have a clear conscience." (Letter to the Trallians 3:1; 7:2)Again, we are all one in the Body of Christ, and the Church is the universal community of believers, but we each have our duties. The duties of the bishops are too teach through the Magisterium. Without them, as a distinct office, we are not a Church. Do I take Ignatius' word for it, or yours? I think I'll side with Ignatius, the rest of the Church Fathers, and the Apostles.
You wrote: "Therefore, if the church is infallible, in whatever way or to whatever extent it is infallible, both the leaders and the assembled believers are infallible."
The Church's shepherds possess the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The faithful adhere to these teachings. And again, the faithful are the ones in accord with the bishops who exercise the teaching authority of the Church. The lay faithful do not make pronouncements of faith since that is not their office. One Body, different functions. This is how Christ set up His Church.
Nicholas wrote, "So that begs the question: What is the Magisterium in relation to the bishops? First we must acknowledge that Christ is the source of ministry in the Church since He instituted it. Bishops are included in the ecclesial ministry, and by its nature it has a collegial character. Jesus instituted the twelve Apostles as the new Israel, "
So the bishops are the new Israel? Isn't the universal church including every individual member the new Israel?
Nicholas wrote, "So yes, to answer your question, the bishop by his office DOES have authority to interpret Scripture that an individual Catholic does not, because the function of teaching does not fall to the non-ordained person. The laity have other functions within the mystical Body of Christ. You also said: "But is "church" ever used of a category of people within either the universal or the local church?"
On the contrary, the function of teaching does fall to the non-ordained person. Fathers are commanded to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Given that the teaching function does fall to non-ordained persons, if the authority to interpret Scripture is given to those who have the teaching function, then fathers have that authority.
Nicholas wrote, "Again, we are all one in the Body of Christ, and the Church is the universal community of believers, but we each have our duties. The duties of the bishops are to teach through the Magisterium. Without them, as a distinct office, we are not a Church. Do I take Ignatius' word for it, or yours? I think I'll side with Ignatius, the rest of the Church Fathers, and the Apostles."
That's great, Nick, but you are arguing by allegation. You say that without the bishopric as a distinct office, we are not the church. Prove it. When did the church Christ is building come into existence? Was it on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Ascension or Pentecost? And when was the first bishop put into that office? You are saying there was no church during the time of the apostles when there were no bishops. Is that really what you want to say?
And, yes, I do realize you never in so many words said there was no church during the time of the apostles when there were no bishops. At the same time, that is the conclusion which logically follows from your statement that without bishops, as a distinct office, we are not a church.
Nicholas wrote, "The Church's shepherds possess the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The faithful adhere to these teachings. And again, the faithful are the ones in accord with the bishops who exercise the teaching authority of the Church. The lay faithful do not make pronouncements of faith since that is not their office. One Body, different functions. This is how Christ set up His Church."
To use a good, Catholic argument against you, let's look at what you just wrote. Nicholas wrote, "The Church's shepherds possess the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals."
Okay, but why "shepherds?" Why not "priests" or "bishops?" Does "shepherd" include more than them so that a lay person who teaches a catechism class has the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals?
Nicholas wrote, "The faithful adhere to these teachings." How do you know that? Some on this website have mentioned that a substantial percentage of Catholics do not believe in the real presences. So how can you say the faithful adherre to these teachings?
Nicholas wrote, "And again, the faithful are the ones in accord with the bishops who exercise the teaching authority of the Church." Do you mean the faithful exercise the teaching authority of the Church in accord with the bishops? Or do you mean the bishops exercise the teaching authority of the Church? Nicholas wrote, "The lay faithful do not make pronouncements of faith since that is not their office." How do you know that? Are you in the classrooms where lay people are teaching so that you know what they are saying? More to the point here, just as a bishop or priest must interpret a pronouncement of the pope in order to apply it to the people under his authority, so every lay teacher must interpret a pronouncement of the bishop in authority over him to apply it to his students. Thus, from your words, it is clear that fallible lay teachers are fallibly communicating infallible doctrine from infallible priests and bishops. Isn't the result of this that what the lay Catholic receives is fallible teaching?
Tom, many of the questions and statements you've [just] posted... show that you are looking at all this much too one-dimensionally. The concept of the mystical Body of Christ in Catholic and Orthodox Christian theology appears to be very foreign to you; the concept has been forgotten by the various denominations that have splintered off from the Church over the past 500 years. The Body of Christ, the Church, is not a collective of individuals, it's an organism. And it's truly sad this concept has been forgotten by many Christians because what Christ has done for us is absolutely beautiful, making us "one flesh" with Himself.
You asked: "So the bishops are the new Israel? Isn't the universal church including every individual member the new Israel?"
Well, as a matter of fact, the Church itself is the New Israel. So yes, every member. But we're talking about Biblical types here, Tom, when referring to the Apostles specifically as the new Israel. And notice I said "the Apostles", not "the bishops" as you stated in your question. Remember, the bishops are the successors of the Apostles. Now, the Apostles themselves, can rightfully be called in a very specific sense the new Israel; just look at the words of Jesus in the Gospel:
"Then Peter said in reply, 'Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?' Jesus said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'" (Matt. 19:27-28)In the old Israel, each tribe had a judge; Christ says the Apostles will judge. Peter, being the head of the Apostles, represents the tribe of Judah. Why? Jesus was descended from the royal line of Judah. And who is Christ's vicar on earth? Peter and his successors. And even in this day the bishops (as the successors of the Apostles) carry on that office.
You said: "On the contrary, the function of teaching does fall to the non-ordained person. Fathers are commanded to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Given that the teaching function does fall to non-ordained persons, if the authority to interpret Scripture is given to those who have the teaching function, then fathers have that authority."
You're misunderstanding what the teaching office is in contrast with teaching our own children. Of course the Catholic Church exhorts all, parents included, to teach the faith! It's one of the spiritual works of mercy, i.e., to instruct the ignorant. But where do we get those teachings from? And how do we know without a doubt that those teachings are true?
We trust in the teaching authority of the Church which is guided by the Holy Spirit on all issues of faith and morals. I'm a father and I don't have the teaching authority to interpret Scripture, as you've said. If that were true, then I could, for instance, teach my children Monophysitism thinking that I'm right to do so since I have come to the conclusion through my own "infallible" interpretation. Of course, the Monophysites were heretical; they interpreted Scripture wrong. Jesus has both a human and a divine nature. Who can declare with 100% verification that the belief that Christ has one nature is wrong? The Church, i.e., the Magisterium.
You said: "You say that without the bishopric as a distinct office, we are not the church. Prove it. When did the church Christ is building come into existence? Was it on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Ascension or Pentecost? And when was the first bishop put into that office? You are saying there was no church during the time of the apostles when there were no bishops. Is that really what you want to say?... the conclusion which logically follows from your statement that without bishops, as a distinct office, we are not a church."
First off, the proof is evident in the myriad of churches that have splintered off from the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. Some still have bishops (i.e., the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, the Polish National Church, etc.), and have always been recognized as true Churches by the Catholic Church, but are in schism. Then we have groups of Christians such as yours that do not have a hierarchy; no presbyterate, no diaconate, no bishopric. Ignatius is pretty clear on the matter. So it does not logically follow from what I've said that the Church was non-existent during the time of the Apostles. I was quoting Ignatius.
There's a reason why Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church; it's when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles as Christ promised. They were given the charisms to carry out their ministry. Of course, they wouldn't live on this earth forever. When Ignatius wrote that letter, the Apostles were already deceased at the time. The Church is a visible institution with visible authority. That visible authority was there when the Apostles were alive; the Church was surely in existence. Now that the Apostles are gone, who is left in their stead? The bishops. Therefore it is correct to say, following Ignatius' lead, that "Without these [i.e. bishops, priests, deacons], it cannot be called a church." Your church and others similar to it do not possess these. Much like in the parable of the vine, and Paul's exposition of it in Romans, these people and congregations are "cut off" and "thrown into the fire" (John 15:1-11; Rom. 11:11-24). Thankfully, as Paul writes, we can always be grafted back in again after being broken off.
The other Church Fathers are in agreement with Ignatius, and even more forcefully; take Irenaeus for instance. Even in the early days of the Church, it's clear that people will have different ideas of what specific Scripture passages should be interpreted as. It's only reasonable, as Irenaeus says, that we should have recourse to an authority to accurately proclaim those truths:
"Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth, so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. . . . For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant conversation, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question?
"[I]t is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the infallible charism of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth" (Against Heresies 3:4:1; 4:26:2).Look at those words again, written by a man who was taught by the disciple of the Apostle John, those "who depart from the primitive succession... have fallen from the truth." Which Churches possess the succession of the apostles, those that we must obey and respect as we would Jesus Christ? Which have departed from this succession, those we should hold in suspicion? The answer is obvious.
You said: "Okay, but why 'shepherds?' Why not 'priests' or 'bishops?' Does 'shepherd' include more than them so that a lay person who teaches a catechism class has the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals?"
I already explained this above regarding lay people teaching the faith. A lay person who functions as a catechist does not have the charism of infallibility. And I use the word "shepherd" here because the Church uses it in her documents; "shepherd" is synonymous with "bishop" and even "priest". Priests are also called pastors because they are "pastors of souls" watching over those entrusted to them, just as a shepherd is entrusted to its flock. This is why Jesus told Peter to "feed [and] tend My sheep". Jesus called the Apostles and their successors to be shepherds of the One Flock (John 21:15-18).
You said: "How do you know that? Are you in the classrooms where lay people are teaching so that you know what they are saying?"
Yup. I am in the classrooms, because I'm a catechist for the grade school students at my parish. I see how the other catechists teach their classes as well, all of them lay people. We don't go "off script" and decide to teach whatever we want because we can supposedly interpret Scripture infallibly. We simply pass the faith down to our children that has been safeguarded by the Church for nearly 2,000 years. We use that three-legged stool of the Scriptures, Tradition, and the Magisterium every day and we do not deviate from it because we believe the Truth resides in the Church.
Now, I obviously can't speak for all catechists. We're all human, all imperfect sinners, and some people have agendas, and we know that some people like to twist the Scriptures in a way so that it fits with their ideology. I'm sure you've seen this yourself throughout the years. And if someone does that, they are not acting in communion with the Church. The Arians and Nestorians surely taught their heretical doctrines, citing Scripture in a distorted way, but did that make them right, or even worse, infallible? Of course not! They deviated from the deposit of faith that is safeguarded by the Church! If a catechist deviates from that and is found guilty of doing so, the shepherds (be it the pastor of the parish or the bishop of the diocese) will come to the aid of the rest of the flock and dismiss the person who is teaching the error, while also trying to restore the lost sheep who professed the error back into the flock. A teacher does not "interpret a pronouncement of the bishop" as you say, nor does the bishop "interpret" what the Pope says, if the Pope happens speak ex cathedra (which is very rare); they deliver that message, pure and unadulterated, since that message comes from the deposit of faith handed down from the Apostolic age, guided by the Holy Spirit.
You said: "Thus, from your words, it is clear that fallible lay teachers are fallibly communicating infallible doctrine from infallible priests and bishops. Isn't the result of this that what the lay Catholic receives is fallible teaching?"
Close. The priests and bishops are not infallible in their person, and neither is the Pope. What is infallible are the teachings made either in the extraordinary magisterium (i.e., ex cathedra statements) or the ordinary magisterium (i.e., papal bulls or encyclicals, ecumenical councils, etc.). So the lay Catholic could receive a "fallible teaching" from a confused lay catechist (either deliberately or by mistake with no ill intent), much in the same way many catechumens and young Christians in the 4th and 5th centuries received an erroneous teaching from the mouths of Arians and Nestorians. Or perhaps somewhere a teacher is unknowingly described the Holy Trinity in a way that's consistent with Modalism. That doesn't affect the true understanding of the nature of the Trinity. And it doesn't affect the deposit of faith nor does it affect any statements that have been infallibly defined or taught by the Magisterium; all that happened is that an imperfect human didn't pass down the teaching pure and unadulterated. Here it is straight from the horse's mouth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), so you can better understand what Catholics truly believe, instead of speculating that an ordained man is infallible, or lay catechists interpret authoritative teachings in the classroom, instead of simply passing said teachings down:
"'The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed,' and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions 'must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.' This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself."(CCC 891)In layman's terms, from the late Father Francis Ripley, who puts it very nicely:
"Infallibility is not sinlessness. It is not divine inspiration. It is not a special message from God. It is not an illumination of the mind. It is not a special source of information. It does not mean that individual bishops or groups of bishops or one pope or all popes can never make mistakes or teach error. It does not give divine power to the pope. It does not even mean that the pope cannot be condemned as a heretic!
"The infallibility of the Church is seen best in the infallibility of the bishops. They are, in the fullest sense, the successors of the apostles. When they teach a truth so widely that it can be called the teaching of the episcopate of the Catholic Church, that teaching is true. God's power [the Holy Spirit] keeps it from being wrong."Nicholas, let me if I have this straight. Popes, bishops, priests, and lay teachers are not infallible in themselves. Their teachings are infallible when those teachings come from the extraordinary magisterium or the ordinary magisterium. Consequently, the Roman Catholic Church has fallible people teaching an infallible doctrine that they may or may not fully understand or be teaching correctly. So when I listen to a sermon by a priest or bishop or the pope, for that matter, I have no reason to believe that what he is saying is infallible. Thus, the Church is unable to teach or preach infallibly.
I have to wonder what benefits proceed from an infallible doctrine that cannot be effectively communicated to lay people, because those teaching it are not infallibly teaching.
Tom, from the end of your first paragraph, your understanding seems to be:
A. People can teach a doctrine that has been defined as infallible by the extraordinary magisterium or that has been consistently taught by the ordinary magisterium.
B. These people are fallible.
C. Therefore, the Church cannot and is unable to teach or preach infallibly.
First, no one preaches infallibly. One preaches the doctrines of the Church which happen to be infallible. Furthermore, members of the Church (lay catechists, even pastors) may teach in a way that is contrary to the doctrine we've received through Divine Revelation. But the teaching of this error is entirely different from the Teaching Authority of the Church. The Magisterium is able to teach infallibly since this charism has been given by the Holy Spirit.
"A" is correct, but there's no way to jump from "B" to "C". You have faith in Christ's promises throughout the Gospel, right? So do I, especially when He says the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. I also have faith that what I hear from our shepherds will be correct. But I also must remain vigilant since Satan prowls around like a ravenous lion, and he may tempt some of our leaders (like Judas Iscariot was) to deviate from the path to Christ. This is why it's important all Christians must have a well-formed conscience. Who do you think Paul was talking about when he said this in his letter to the Galatians:
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1: 6-8)He's probably talking about rogue priests, disobedient deacons, maybe even a bishop who has become confused. This is why he qualifies it and says "even if ..we. should preach...contrary" to the Gospel, curse them! Don't listen to them! Does this mean Paul wasn't transmitting infallible doctrine and teaching during his preaching since some other shepherds were spreading a false gospel? Of course not!
[Tom wrote:] "I have to wonder what benefits proceed from an infallible doctrine that cannot be effectively communicated to lay people, because those teaching it are not infallibly teaching."
That’s where you’re mistaken; the infallible doctrine can be effectively communicated to the laity, and it often is. People misinterpret things all the time, either out of malice or innocent confusion. Have you ever had to gently correct someone who was teaching their students or their children something that was not in line with the Gospel? If so, their erroneous understanding and transmission of that error to their students or children didn’t take away from the truth of the matter, did it? The Church is made up of human members, and we all know there is only one perfect man, Jesus Christ. We even see Peter mess up in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles! Even through his faults, did this stop Jesus from commanding him and the other faulty Apostles (i.e. Thomas, Philip, James, etc.) to “tend to and feed His sheep”? Of course not! He told them the Holy Spirit would be with them, and would guide them until his return. The Paraclete couldn’t come until Jesus’s Ascension, and it is He that inspires these men (the Apostles and their successors) to teach the Truth of Christ and to do so through their office infallibly.
We are all sinners because of our human nature, Tom. You know this, and since we have free will we can sin in a multitude of possible ways. One of those ways we sin is by ignoring the Truth we’ve learned and heard Christ and His Church proclaim, and then turn and preach and teach in opposition to that. One good example would be what the Westboro Baptist Church does, in saying that “God hates ‘x’ group”. But we know that contradicts the Gospel; God is love. Does their error invalidate the truth of God’s loving nature? No. Just because there may be a multitude of erroneous teachings flying around, it doesn’t follow that somewhere there isn’t a “pillar of truth” which safeguards it in a way that is accessible to all peoples. Let’s look at your issue from a wider scale…
Most atheists and agnostics feel that there’s no way to be absolutely certain that God exists because of the multitude of religions, much less the God of Abraham that Christians profess. “There are so many different religions with so many different gods; how can I or anyone possibly know which one is right?! I reject them all because there are too many voices claiming they possess the truth!” Obviously the atheist is wrong in this logic. Just because the various world religions contradict and are different from each other, does not exclude one of them from being true. One needs to have faith when seeking God, because you and I both know the true answer to their questions is out there: God has revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ.
So not only can infallible doctrine be communicated effectively to people everywhere, but knowing such a thing is possible (by the grace of God) is beneficial to all Christians. We know that God didn't leave us hanging and that we can have recourse to absolute certitude in matters of faith and morals. We should be glad this is so. To quote Irenaeus again:
"Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant conversation, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question?"Nicholas wrote, "First, no one preaches infallibly."
Correct, but Catholics on this site have argued that Protestants are wrong when they insist that the Bible is infallible but admit that their teachers and preachers are fallible. Catholics seem to think that an infallible Scripture requires an infallible church which is capable of communicating infallible doctrine infallibly, instead of the Protestant system which allows for infallible doctrine to be taught fallibly.
Yet, here you acknowledge that the priests and bishops of the Catholic Church are fallibly teaching and preaching infallible doctrine, the only difference between the Catholic system and the Protestant one is that Catholics take their doctrine from the church and Protestants take it from the Bible.
Basically what this means is that the Catholic in the pew is being taught by fallible men which are subject to error. That does not mean to denigrate the character of the Catholic priest. He may very well be teaching false doctrine on the basis of ignorance or misunderstanding, even though his desire is to teach true doctrine.
Nicholas wrote, "Tom, from the end of your first paragraph, your understanding seems to be:
A. People can teach a doctrine that has been defined as infallible by the extraordinary magisterium or that has been consistently taught by the ordinary magisterium.
B. These people are fallible.
C. Therefore, the Church cannot and is unable to teach or preach infallibly."
To see the connection between "B" and "C," ask yourself if fallible people are able to teach and preach infallibly. Obviously, they are not. Therefore, what the Catholic receives in the pew is fallible preaching, just like what the Protestant in the pew receives.
I think Paul's words in II Corinthians 4: 7 really apply here, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God, and not to us." The treasure of which Paul is writing here is found in verse 5 of the same chapter, "For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." We hold the treasure of the Gospel of Christ in cheap, fragile clay pots. So that when God's people are being saved and growing in holiness, it is clear to see that the power which accomplishes all this belongs to God, not to us. Paul planted. Apollos watered. God gave the increase. I would rather be a crack pot preacher, not even a clay pot, who can do no more than praise God for whatever good comes from my preaching and teaching than be someone who talks about the wonders of an infallible church.
Tom, despite everything I've provided, you are still misunderstanding this fundamental aspect of Christ's Church. And I can't necessarily blame you since you have come from a tradition that can't comprehend the mystical Body of Christ, and can't comprehend the need of leadership to safeguard the truth that has been passed down throughout two millennia. Despite that, we're called to have faith in the Church, but not a wholly blind faith, because I've shown the charism of infallibility to be Biblical, as well as it being an essential tenet of the early Church Fathers.
[Tom wrote:] "…but Catholics on this site have argued that Protestants are wrong when they insist that the Bible is infallible but admit that their teachers and preachers are fallible."
So what? The truth that the Church safeguards within the deposit of faith is not affected by teachers and preachers being fallible men. Catholics are right to insist that Scripture and Sacred Tradition must be interpreted infallibly, since many men twist the words of the Scriptures. The difference between some Catholic preachers (the bishops) and all Protestant "ministers" or pastors, is that the former possess the charism of infallibility by virtue of their office, while the latter does not, as they have broken with Apostolic tradition. So while those shepherds of the Church (the bishops) can teach in a fallible and erroneous manner and muck up a definitively declared teaching, they can also teach infallibly when the charism of infallibility (given by the Holy Spirit) is exercised. I give it straight from the horse's mouth again so that it is clear:
"...the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:
"'The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,' above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine 'for belief as being divinely revealed,' and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions 'must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.' This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself." (CCC 890-891)Those pastors within the hundreds of Protestant churches can't exercise any kind of infallibility on their own, because they don't possess that charism that Christ promised to the Apostles and their successors.
[Tom wrote:] "...the only difference between the Catholic system and the Protestant one is that Catholics take their doctrine from the church and Protestants take it from the Bible."
And this really proves the point I've been wanting to make. Protestants have literally gone off the deep end in regards to where there doctrine comes from, effectively breaking from the Apostolic traditions which are safeguarded in the Church that Christ founded. Protestants only take the word of the Bible, but that's ridiculous in itself, seeing as the Bible wasn't compiled until the 4th century. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches, on the other hand, do not only take their doctrine from the teaching authority of the Church, but from Scripture and oral (and written) Sacred Tradition as well. It's worth noting that all of the Christians who lived during the time of Paul and the other Apostles did not have the New Testament books at their disposal. Some weren't even written yet, especially for those who were living in the mid-1st century! Where did those Christians get their doctrine from Tom? The Letter to the Ephesians wasn't written until 62 A.D. Where was the Church in the years 40-61 A.D. to find the doctrinal truths that we now benefit from? From oral Sacred Tradition and the authoritative teachings of the Apostles and bishops which were safeguarded from error due to the charism of infallibility provided by the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, you give me no reason why I should trust Protestants and their various pastors. Each of them interprets the Bible in their own way, and as infallible men who don't even remotely claim to have a charism of infallibility, have no recourse to anyone outside themselves to confirm the "truth" that they have reached. How can you assure me that Jesus is God? Because some interpret the Bible (JW's) to say Christ is a mere creature. How can you assure me that what I'm reading is inspired Scripture and that the Deuterocanon is not? Because the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have more books than Protestant churches, and some such as the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, have more books in their canon than either group. What source outside themselves could they refer me to definitively settle this matter?
In addition, various Protestant groups have come up with beliefs and doctrines that wildly break from Apostolic tradition and are not supported by Scripture, unless they are twisted. These doctrines include the metaphor of the Eucharist, that baptism is not salvific and only a symbol, Once Saved Always Saved, Total Depravity, Premillennialism and Postmillennialism, among others. On what basis should I trust these? These "doctrines" were thought up by men centuries after the promulgation of the Gospel. What recourse do you have outside of yourself to say that these are true? And mind you, Scripture is not self-attesting, so that's a non-starter.
The fact is, one such person has no recourse outside of themselves. There is no outside authority that can define something as infallibly true. [Cardinal] James Gibbons put it well in the beginning of the 20th century, emphases mine:
"You will tell me that infallibility is too great a prerogative to be conferred on man. I answer: Has not God, in former times, clothed His Apostles with powers far more exalted? They were endowed with the gifts of working miracles, of prophecy and inspiration; they were the mouthpiece communicating God's revelation, of which the Popes are merely the custodians. If God could make man the organ of His revealed Word, is it impossible for Him to make man its infallible guardian and interpreter? For, surely, greater is the Apostle who gives us the inspired Word than the Pope who preserves it from error . . .
"Let us see, sir, whether an infallible Bible is sufficient for you. Either you are infallibly certain that your interpretation of the Bible is correct or you are not. If you are infallibly certain, then you assert for yourself, and of course for every reader of the Scripture, a personal infallibility which you deny to the Pope, and which we claim only for him. You make every man his own Pope. If you are not infallibly certain that you understand the true meaning of the whole Bible . . . then, I ask, of what use to you is the objective infallibility of the Bible without an infallible interpreter?"You said: "Basically what this means is that the Catholic in the pew is being taught by fallible men which are subject to error. That does not mean to denigrate the character of the Catholic priest. He may very well be teaching false doctrine on the basis of ignorance or misunderstanding, even though his desire is to teach true doctrine."
I agree with you on this. However, if you are using this statement to say that it is impossible for infallible teaching to be communicated, or even defined, that is wrong and does not follow from what you've written: "To see the connection between "B" and "C," ask yourself if fallible people are able to teach and preach infallibly. Obviously, they are not."
Your connection is still a false one. As I mentioned in a previous comment, each individual person in the Body of Christ has a duty, a function. All people are fallible, but not all people are incapable of making an infallible statement with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and His charism of infallibility. This is not an exhaustive list, but people can be:
-a lay husband of wifeOnly one of those groups can contain fallible people which have the ability to teach and preach infallibly... the bishop. And he can only do so when he is in communion with the bishop of Rome, the Pope. Straight from the source so you might better understand the Catholic understanding of how infallibility works:
-a lay teacher of the Catholic faith
- an acolyte or lector
- a priest
-a bishop (including the Bishop of Rome)
"The college or body of bishops has for all that no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s Successor, as its head, whose primatial authority, let it be added, over all, whether pastors or faithful, remains in its integrity.
"The order of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, and in it the apostolic college is perpetuated. Together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him, they have supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.
"Although the bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter’s successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teaching concerning matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely. This is still more clearly the case when, assembled in an ecumenical council, they are, for the universal Church, teachers and judges in matters of faith and morals, whose decisions must be adhered to with the loyal and obedient assent of faith." (Lumen gentium, Chapter III)The third paragraph is especially important for understanding how the execution of infallibility comes about. It should also be noted again that these men, these sinful men as all men are imperfect and sinners because of our fallen nature, do nothing in their teaching office without the assistance of the Holy Spirit. This has been apparent since Apostolic times, It's clear in Acts 15, when the Council of Jerusalem, led by Peter, writes up a letter, making it clear that the decision reached there comes from them and the Holy Spirit, emphasis mine:
"The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cili′cia, greeting... For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things..."(Acts 15: 23, 28).
You said: "I think Paul's words in II Corinthians 4: 7 really apply here, 'But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God, and not to us.' The treasure of which Paul is writing here is found in verse 5 of the same chapter, 'For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.'"
I agree, they do apply here, especially in light of what I have just written. The power of infallibility belongs to God, but as Gibbons said above, why can't that power be gifted to the bishops who teach in the stead of the Apostles here on Earth? The bishops on their own can't do anything without the guidance and charisms of the Holy Spirit, otherwise they'd be just as powerless to resolve conflicts like the various pastors of the hundreds of denominations of Christianity are. What the Pope and the other bishops proclaim truly is not of themselves, but like Paul said, are of God. When exercising the authority of the Magisterium, the Pope and the other bishops are like God's press secretary. Someone asks a question and they say, "Well, God said this... so you better do this, and not do such and such."
The shepherds of the Church are truly servants, just as the rest of the Body of Christ is; this is why the Pope is often called "The Servant of the Servants of God".
[Tom said:] "...it is clear to see that the power which accomplishes all this belongs to God, not to us."
Exactly my point, which is why I reject the various Protestant denominations' various un-Biblical teachings (which I previously listed), since those denominations don't possess the deacons, presbyters, and bishops which hold the power of the Holy Spirit to communicate to us to the Truth of salvation and the way to holiness. God does this, not the men in and of themselves.
[Tom said:] "I would rather... praise God for whatever good comes from my preaching and teaching than be someone who talks about the wonders of an infallible church."
I don't see why the two are mutually exclusive. I praise God every day for the gift of His Church and the Sacraments that He dispenses to us through it. It is truly wondrous and awesome that God can give us the satisfaction of knowing that we are not in error in our beliefs, because they've been passed down from the Apostles to the current day completely unchanged through the charism and protection of the Holy Spirit. As Augustine said, "I would not believe in the Gospels were it not for the authority of the Catholic Church". The only way he, and all of us, could have such trust in the Church, is if it were indeed infallible. (Against the Letter of Mani Called "The Foundation" 5:6)
I think it's fitting that today in the liturgical calendar (something you have for the most part given up in your Protestant tradition, sadly), we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. He doubted that Christ's Body was truly before him, until Christ told him to place his hands in His wounds. Thomas of course realized his error, but Christ's words should ring true to those that doubt the reality of His Mystical Body which possesses divine authority. You can't "see" why it's true, but Christ's Body is truly before us today. That goes for the Eucharist and the Church itself. But I have faith in the Church, and I have faith in Christ's promises given to the Church. I can give all the reasons in the world on why this claim is well-founded, but unless one can take that leap of faith and take the testimony given in the New Testament as true, they'll remain in the dark. I will not call Christ a liar. I have faith in Him that He told the truth when He said "the gates of hell will not prevail" against the Church.
[Tom said:]"Once again, Nick, the infallibility of the church is being alleged, not proven."
An absurd assertion. Absolutely laughable. Tom, you only hear what you want to hear; you only listen to the sources (or should I say, source in the singular sense, even though it contradicts the practices of the earliest Christians [Apostles included] and Church Fathers) you deem worthy, and ignore everything else. Replies no better than a wave of the hand come from you regarding the words of those who lived only mere decades after Christ, such as Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons. No, instead your source (although you'd like to deny it) comes from men who lived 14 centuries (not decades) after Christ and His Apostles. Men who came up with ideas 500 years ago, ideas that never existed prior (i.e., total depravity, the denial of the salvific nature of baptism, etc.) to their own era. You're like the atheist, for who no evidence will ever be good enough, as he has no faith. You obviously have no faith in the early Church, outside of some random quotes from Augustine or Jerome and make them into some kind of proto-Protestants, which they surely never were. By your words throughout this discussion, you have no faith in the promise Christ made regarding His Church which will not fall, and instead hide behind your "Bible, me and the Holy Spirit" authority, creating the Church of Tom instead of subsisting in the Church of Christ. I wonder if you've ever studied theology, or taken a theology course at a college. If so, I'd want to know why, as it would be oh so ironic. What can you learn about the Bible from a teacher in a school that you can’t learn from “God’s Spirit illuminating and giving understanding” to you while reading the Bible on your own? Why take classes in certain Biblical subjects if you’re being guided by the Holy Spirit? Why read books by commentators on Scripture if it's perspicuous enough to determine sound doctrine sufficiently on your own? You'd be using another book besides Scripture in that case to understand said Scripture, even though you've made the assertion that Scripture is formally sufficient. In any event, I've proven more than enough on the infallibility of Christ's Church, and anyone reading our discussion can see that clear as day, you just choose to ignore it.
Case in point of your streak of ignoring things: "You quote Acts 15 but do not deal with proving apostolic succession which would give bishops the same infallibility as was given by God to the apostles. In fact, none of your proof for apostolic succession prove more than the simple fact that pastors and elders and bishops, three names for the same office in the church as shown in Acts 20, come after them. It is never said that any of these have apostolic authority or infallibility."
You can't use you argument from silence here, Tom. It cuts both ways. So I call bull on what you've written above. It says plain as day in Acts 15:23 "The brethren, both the Apostles and the Elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cili′cia..." We know the Apostles ordained men in their stead, and they are obviously there at the Council of Jerusalem. The Elders weren't limited to the Twelve, as seen with Paul's inclusion, as well as others. And the Catholic and Orthodox Church more than readily admit that the terms "deacon" "presbyter" and "bishop" were somewhat fluid in the Apostolic age. By the very early 2nd century, these terms were fixed, as we can see in the writings of the Early Church Fathers, who were not far removed from the time of Christ at all. But then, you choose to ignore these sources since it's not in the Bible, and throughout all of oral Tradition yet take the twisted doctrines of men during the 1500's at face value, making your own contorted version of "Sacred Tradition" from "saints" Calvin and Luther. (And obviously, you're not Lutheran, but your theology stems from him and not the Early Church Fathers and Apostles whether you admit it in writing or not.)
Anyways, Paul refers to himself as a "diakonos" which translates directly to "servant"; but clearly he was of a much higher rank than that. He was an Apostle, wasn't he? And for that matter, he wasn't even one of the Twelve, yet held this position! Did he not have the same charisms as Peter and the other Twelve? You really think Peter and the other Twelve did not confer this ordination on men other than Paul? And that Paul himself didn't? It's clear Paul is speaking of three generations of "overseers", i.e. bishops: "you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Tim. 2:2) Despite your rejection, I let the first Christians speak for themselves, the men I'd trust much more than you or anyone else who has cut themselves off from the fullness of the Truth:
"[I]t is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the infallible charism of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. - Irenaeus of Lyons
"[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom... Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here."- Augustine of Hippo[Tom wrote:] "Given that the infallibility of the church has not been proven, the real presence has not yet been proven either."
If you reject the clear proofs of the Church's infallibility, then obviously you won't believe in the Real Presence, despite how painfully clear it is from the text in John's Gospels and in Paul's letters.
[Tom wrote:] “You are missing the point. So let me break it down for you.” No, I understand your point just fine. I agree with everything you say in your breakdown. It doesn’t hurt the Church’s claim of infallibility a single lick.
[Tom wrote]: “In short, the Catholic hierarchical system has never been proven more effective at preserving doctrinal purity at the local level than has the Protestant system.”
Even if that was the case (I argue, it’s not), what bearing does it have on the Church being infallible in matters of faith and morals? A lot of people still think Pluto is a full-fledged planet, but the authorities that be have deemed it a “dwarf planet”. Just because a lot of people don’t want to believe that classification, doesn’t make it so. Now the astronomical community is a completely man-made judiciary authority; how much more perfect is the authority that was created by God Himself?! People in the Church have disagreed about theological matters since the Judaizers. Someone has to settle disputes; God didn’t leave it up to each individual person, as I’ve demonstrated throughout our discussion. Otherwise we’d have hundreds, perhaps thousands of distinct churches teaching contradicting things, and… oh, wait…
[Tom wrote:] "A fascinating reply."
I'm glad you find it fascinating; you should re-read it and let it soak in a little more.
[Tom wrote:] "The major problem... is that in saying that apostolic traditions are safeguarded in the church, you fail to notice that many of your distinctive doctrines cannot be traced to Christ or the apostles. Whatever it is that you are safeguarding, there is no reason to believe it is apostolic traditions."
Wrong. There are plenty of reasons, many of which I've given in our vaious discussions. Once again, you're presupposing that Scripture is the only rule of faith instead of Scripture going hand-in-hand with Sacred Tradition. The Church Fathers attest to these traditions coming from the Apostles themselves in several instances.
[Tom wrote:] "If you doubt that, then provide evidence from one of the apostles that he taught transubstantiation, purgatory, immaculate conception, and so on. I have been on this list for quite some time now and have yet to find a Catholic who can even quote a passage of Scripture in proof of his distinctive doctrines without taking it out of context and redefining terms."
I've already provided enough evidence on the Real Presence (we've been over the difference between transubstantiation and the Real Presence already, Tom. Re-read some of our conversations if you've somehow forgotten already), and I can give you evidence for whatever else you want to list, but you're next sentence says it all; you won't accept anything outside of Scripture, and the copious proofs that are given from Scripture, you dismiss it outright because "they're taken out of context".
I’ll turn the tables on you and ask you to provide evidence from one of the Apostles that they taught the metaphor of the Eucharist, that baptism is not salvific and only a symbol, Once Saved Always Saved, Total Depravity, Limited Atonement, Premillennialism and Postmillennialism. Especially OSAS, Total Depravity, and the non-salvific understanding of baptism. I’ll even go one farther and ask you to provide me evidence from any Christian source on those three “doctrines prior to the 15th century. At this point it’s not even a matter of taking the Scriptures out of context; it’s the fact that none of these things were ever taught by the earliest Christians, period.
[Tom said:] "But did they [early Christians] have the Scripture?"
Whoa, hold on there, Tom. That's not what we're talking about. It's obvious there was Scripture present in the year 40 A.D., but this has no bearing on our discussion. You said, and I quote again: "...the only difference between the Catholic system and the Protestant one is that Catholics take their doctrine from the church and Protestants take it from the Bible."
The Bible that includes all those letters of Paul that weren't written before 60 A.D., and other books like Revelation, correct? Well we have a problem, don't we? You take your doctrine from the Bible which includes those books. These books weren't read in the Church until the late 1st century/early 2nd century. The Protestant model couldn't have existed for the earliest Christians because they didn't get their doctrine from those Pauline letters like you (and I) do. Looks like they weren't using the "Bible and me" approach. Protestants take their doctrine from the Bible, but the early Church didn't since there was no Bible yet. "Bible" and "Scripture" may be interchangeable in most cases, but not here Tom, and it was a bit disingenuous of you to try and do that instead of addressing my original point. Their model sounds a lot closer to the Catholic system, Scripture (what was present in the years 40-61 A.D.) going hand in hand with Sacred Tradition through the authoritative instruction of the Apostles and their direct successors (in this case), whom they had appointed. It's obvious people like Timothy were taught with the Scripture that was written at the time and oral Sacred Tradition. You know, that same model that Jesus Christ used, Him being a faithful adherent of rabbinical Judaism.
[Tom wrote:] “There is a very simple test you can use to determine whether or not a Protestant pastor is correctly interpreting the Bible…”
Yes, I’ve heard this before Tom, and it’s bunk. Scripture is not self-attesting.
“…you obviously have the ability and authority to interpret Scripture for yourself.”
And if that’s the case, it’s really quite clear to me (and 19 centuries of other faithful Christians) from Scripture that salvation is an ongoing process, man is saved by being born of water and the Spirit in baptism, works in addition to faith through God’s grace is necessary for justification, and the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord. You and I believe we both have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we both pray to Him that he may enlighten us when we read the Scriptures, yet we disagree on the meaning of a particular verse from the Bible. How then does one decide which meaning, if either meaning, is the correct meaning? Are you the authentic interpreter? By what authority do you claim your interpretation to be the interpretation? Because you get a warm feeling inside you that you believe is the Holy Spirit? Moreover, and the bigger issue, you’re going to tell me that I’ll “notice that God's power and glory are missing from the books of the Apocrypha.” What does that even mean? That’s the most nebulous thing I’ve ever heard regarding Scripture, and shows how these “warm feelings” you get don’t mean anything. Don’t even get me started on the Deuterocanon, as this has been a favorite topic of mine to study, which you so despairingly call “Apocrypha, putting it on the same level as the “Gospel of Thomas”. You trust the word of Jerome (who ended up submitting to Rome anyways) who bought into the Hebrew Verity theory which ended up being disproved when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Every book of the Deuterocanon (save two) have been proven to be written originally in Hebrew, disproving Jerome’s theory.
Anyways, I’m guessing you’re following Calvin’s lead, and I remember reading him saying:
“Let it therefore be held as fixed that those who are inwardly taught by the Holy Spirit acquiesce implicitly in Scripture; that Scripture carrying its own evidence along with it, deigns not to submit to proofs and arguments, but owes the full conviction with which we ought to receive it to the testimony of the Spirit. Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own judgment or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human judgment, feel perfectly assured – as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it – that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God.” (Institutes, 1.7.5)So you have a “feeling”; you “feel perfectly assured” you can correctly interpret Scripture and that what you’re reading IS Scripture. Do you really feel “God’s power and glory” whenever you read Philemon, yet nothing when you break open the rich Book of Wisdom? Luther didn’t “feel it” in Revelation: “I say what I feel. I miss more than one thing in this book, and it makes me consider it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic.”
What’s up with him? How come he wasn’t “feeling God’s power and glory?”
This scripture passage sounds pretty powerful though:
“And when you shall receive these things, I would exhort you that you would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if you shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And by the power of the Holy Spirit you may know the truth of all things.”I think a lot of people in today’s world “feel” that glory and power of God in that selection. This is the equivalent to what you and Calvin are asking people to do. Read the above text, and if they subjectively get the feeling that the Spirit wants them to believe it, then believe it, no matter what “history” or “the Church” says about it, since the Holy Spirit is above those things. Notice I didn’t capitalize the “S” in scripture when prefacing it. The problem here, is that this is from Moroni 10:4-5, from the Book of Mormon, who consider that selection to be “scripture”. And a whole slew of people get that vague “warm fuzzy feeling” when reading this. So on what basis can you, Tom, who gets a “feeling from the Spirit” when reading the Protestant canon of the Bible, dispute Luther’s early rejection of the Apocalypse, a Mormon’s acceptance of Moroni, or my acceptance of the Book of Wisdom? Your subjective feeling, a million people’s subjective feelings, have no bearing on the objective truth. This is why we need someone to not only interpret certain parts of Scripture for us, but we need an authority to tell us what actually is inspired. The world doesn’t need a “Church of Nick” which caters to my subjective opinion. The world needs the Church that Christ founded, that pillar of objective truth.
Nicholas wrote, "An absurd assertion. Absolutely laughable. Tom, you only hear what you want to hear; you only listen to the sources (or should I say, source in the singular sense, even though it contradicts the practices of the earliest Christians [Apostles included] and Church Fathers) you deem worthy, and ignore everything else. Replies no better than a wave of the hand come from you regarding the words of those who lived only mere decades after Christ, such as Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons."
You missed what I said. I said, "Once again, Nick, the infallibility of the church is being alleged, not proven." My point here has not been whether or not the church is infallible. Instead, it is whether or not its infallibility has been proven. Well, has it? Have you ever looked at the evidence you present as proof of the infallibility of the church? Does it really proven anything?
For example, you quote Bible passages such as Matthew 16 and John 20. None of the verses you quote explicitly state that the church is infallible. The evidence you are drawing from them is what you think these verses require, such as that since Christ has said the gates of hell will not prevail against the church He is building, the church must be infallible. Okay. Prove it. Prove that the infallibility of the church is necessary in order for Christ to prevent the gates of hell from prevailing against His church. You can't prove that.
Or look at the way you quote from apostolic and early church fathers. You simply quote from them. But you never provide an argument showing that something written by one of these fathers is true and accurate. Were these fathers inspired so that their teachings should be included in the Bible? If not, then their traditions and doctrines require proof. Can you show that they taught what Christ and the apostles taught? Of course not.
I have never denied that the church Christ is building will definitely be built and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I just believe Christ is the One Who will accomplish these tasks in other ways than by working through the Roman Catholic Church. That is, I believe He works through every church or denomination where His word is preached and taught. I believe His authority is in the Bible, not in extra-Biblical traditions or magisterium.
Here is another example of your failure to prove anything. Nicholas wrote, "You can't use you argument from silence here, Tom. It cuts both ways. So I call bull on what you've written above. It says plain as day in Acts 15:23 "The brethren, both the Apostles and the Elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cili′cia..." We know the Apostles ordained men in their stead, and they are obviously there at the Council of Jerusalem."
The reason this proof does not work is that the most you are proving is that the leadership of the New Testament Church had grown beyond just the apostles. No one doubts that. But merely saying that there were elders in the church in addition to the apostles does not speak to the issue of whether or not those elders had full apostolic authority. Can you prove the elders were inspired just as the apostles were to write down the word of God? That is the proof you need to provide.
It seems to me that the Catholic Church should easily be able to prove what I challenge it to prove. All it has to do is show that the seed of a doctrine found in the Bible, such as I Corinthians 11 concerning the eucharist, grows in accord with the rest of Scripture and sound reason into the full fruit of a doctrine, such as transubstantiation. I do not understand why it is so difficult for you to do this.
Nicholas, I will be more than happy to accept the clear proof of the church's infallibility once they are presented to me. The problem is that no one has yet given me any substantial proof. Instead, Catholics seem to quote church fathers from various ages who believed and taught that the church is infallible. But you Catholics never present an argument showing that these fathers were truthful and accurate in what they were saying. You do not even show that the teachings of Jesus and His apostles lead necessarily to the infallibility of the church.
I know you are going to say that the evidence I demand has already been supplied to me many times over, but that is simply not true. The problem is that you have no explicit statements to use as evidence for your distinctive doctrines. There is no passage in Scripture declaring transubstantiation to be true. So what you do have is arguments based on what you, the fathers, the councils, and the popes see as being implied in Scripture. But you never prove the implication you see.
Given that Paul in Acts 20 warned about bishops arising in the church and twisting the truth, isn't that evidence the church is not infallible? If it were infallible, how could bishops twist the truth. The Jerusalem council was called to deal with false teachers from the church in Jerusalem. How could there be false teachers there, if the church were infallible? How could John warn about those who go out from us and teach lies, if the church is infallible? If nothing else, these passages strongly imply that the church is fallible.
Or let's think about transubstantiation. Did you ever consider that the reason Jesus did not fully explain His words, "This is My body," is that He wanted to leave this as a mystery without explanation? What is there in Scripture that indicates He wanted this explained? And what is there in Scripture that proves transubstantiation is the correct explanation?
So you see, Nick, the problem is not that I am rejecting the proofs you have supplied. It is instead that you have yet to prove anything.
Nicholas wrote, "Their model sounds a lot closer to the Catholic system, Scripture (what was present in the years 40-61 A.D.) going hand in hand with Sacred Tradition through the authoritative instruction of the Apostles and their direct successors (in this case), whom they had appointed."
Certainly, believers who lived between 40-61 A. D. were following the Scripture of the Old Testament and whatever apostolic writing they might have had. Certainly, they were also following the oral tradition of what was being preached and taught to them by the apostles. But what you left out above is any kind of statement or proof that when the direct successors of the apostles preached and taught, their words possessed the same authority, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as was found in the apostles. Yes, the elders were appointed by the apostles, but did that appointment carry with it full apostolic authority? Why do you not prove this?
Nicholas, "It's obvious people like Timothy were taught with the Scripture that was written at the time and oral Sacred Tradition. You know, that same model that Jesus Christ used, Him being a faithful adherent of rabbinical Judaism."
Wouldn't it be correct to say that oral sacred tradition has changed since the time of the early church? After all, back then, if you heard a preacher say something, you could go to an apostle and ask, "Is that true?" We cannot do that. All we can do is go to the Bible which is the only authoritative source of apostolic teaching.
Nicholas wrote, "This scripture passage sounds pretty powerful though: 'And when you shall receive these things, I would exhort you that you would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if you shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And by the power of the Holy Spirit you may know the truth of all things.'
That does not sound powerful to me at all. It seems to me to be saying that I am supposed to pray for an experience and, based on that experience, consider things from God to be true. That is not a Biblical teaching at all.
Nicholas wrote, "I think a lot of people in today’s world “feel” that glory and power of God in that selection."
There are many people whose eyes have not been opened by the Holy Spirit so as to enable them to accept the things of the Spirit of God.
Nicholas wrote, "This is the equivalent to what you and Calvin are asking people to do."
No, it's not. It is the exact opposite. Neither Calvin nor I am speaking of subjective, emotional experiences. Instead, we are referring to being born again, being made new creatures in Christ, having our minds opened, and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit so as to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
[Tom wrote:] "Have you ever looked at the evidence you present as proof of the infallibility of the church? Does it really proven anything?"
You obviously don't think so, as you just dismiss it as "allegations". Which of course, goes back to your wrongheaded theory that Scripture is the only way to confirm any truths of Christianity.
"Okay. Prove it. Prove that the infallibility of the church is necessary in order for Christ to prevent the gates of hell from prevailing against His church. You can't prove that."
Countless theologians and saints have before me. I merely reiterated what they've taught. You choose to believe what you want to believe, and if it doesn't fit in with your model of Scripture being sufficient as the sole rule of faith for Christians, you toss it out out of hand, no matter how much consensus there is on the issue from the earliest of Christians.
"But you never provide an argument showing that something written by one of these fathers is true and accurate. " The atheist could say the same thing about Jesus, Tom. "You Christians never provide an argument showing that something said by Christ regarding His divinity is true and accurate!" And how do we answer these people? We tell them we believe in the testimony of these people. We believe, we put our faith into, the testimony of the Gospel writers to have accurately recorded what Christ said. Then, since we believe those recorded words are accurate, we have to decide of Christ is a liar or not. I don't believe He is. So no Tom, no one on this Earth can provide that kind of argument for Christ's words being accurate and true the same way I can't give you the "evidence" you need to trust the Church Fathers. Until you stop being so hung up on Scripture being the sole rule of faith, you'll never trust anything else. Which of course, boggles my mind since you follow in Calvin's footsteps. But whatever. You obviously think you know more than the Christians who lived just a few decades after Christ.
"Can you show that they taught what Christ and the apostles taught? Of course not."
Bull. Of course I can, has have several other Catholics you've debated, I'm sure. Irenaeus' "Against Heresies" is a historical document. If you don't want to believe him, that's on you. Again, I trust him ever more than I'd trust you Tom. Here it is, once again, in black and white, that the Church Fathers taught what the Apostles did. Is it Scripture? No. And so what? If you call Irenaeus a liar here, it's because you don't trust him. Just like the atheist thinks Christ was a liar when he said "I AM":
"Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true." (Against Heresies 3:3:4)[Tom said:] "All it has to do is show that the seed of a doctrine found in the Bible, such as I Corinthians 11 concerning the Eucharist, grows in accord with the rest of Scripture and sound reason into the full fruit of a doctrine, such as transubstantiation. I do not understand why it is so difficult for you to do this."
The funny part is, it's not difficult. You've obviously not understood anything. Transubstantiation and the Real Presence aren't the same thing. Several "seeds" of the Real Presence are in Scripture, but you take the word of men who lived 500 years ago over the Early Christians.
This is where I shake the dust off my sandals and depart. Anyone with an unbiased mind, steeped in Scripture can see from our conversation I've given enough evidence to back up the Church's claims for infallibility and other doctrines. The Church has done so throughout the entire Patristic age alone. It's funny how the church you are a member of now, doesn't resemble the true Church at all. Christians overwhelmingly believed in the Real Presence, justification as an ongoing process, the infallible transmission of truth, etc. One example I'll give is the salvific nature of baptism. I'd like for you to read this entire article, look at what the consensus of the early Church was on baptism, and after that, try and find even one or two proofs that any Christian before the 14th century believed in baptism being a symbol.
I wrote, "But you never provide an argument showing that something written by one of these fathers is true and accurate."
Nicholas replied, "The atheist could say the same thing about Jesus, Tom. "You Christians never provide an argument showing that something said by Christ regarding His divinity is true and accurate!"
See the problem? I challenge Nick to furnish evidence that something written by the apostolic and early church fathers is true and accurate. He replies by merely saying that an atheist could extend the same challenge to me concerning the divinity of Jesus.
Really? That is what is called a false dilemma. It is one thing to say that something supernatural cannot be proven, at least not by physical means. It is something entirely different to prove something physical, namely that the teachings of one group, the fathers, are consistent with and derived from the teachings of another group, Jesus and the apostles. That should be as simple as comparing the writings of the first group with the writings of the second group. For example, the apostles wrote some things about Mary. The fathers wrote some things about Mary. Just compare the writings. Jesus said, "teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you." Compare the Gospel accounts to the writings of the fathers. Paul said to keep the traditions you have received from the apostles.
Compare the writings of the apostles with church tradition. Why is that so hard? Why is it so complicated? This is really nothing more than comparing something genuinely written by Shakespeare with something purported to have been written by Shakespeare or something painted by Picasso to something being promoted as a genuine Picasso. This is really no different from Jesus and the apostles quoting extensively from the Old Testament. They proved their message by showing it consistent with and derived from the Law, Prophets, and Writings. If Jesus and His apostles proved their words this way, it seems reasonable to ask the church Christ founded to do the same if it is indeed the church Christ founded.
It would also be possible to do this with oral tradition. Compare what was written by an apostle with what it is alleged he said. Simple. But what if there was something an apostle said but did not write down? You can still test its consistency and derivation relative to what that apostle did write.
What about the development of doctrine over time? Just show consistency with, derivation from, and necessity of the doctrine being developed. Simple. I look forward to your evidence.
[Tom wrote:] "I challenge Nick to furnish evidence that something written by the apostolic and early church fathers is true and accurate. He replies by merely saying that an atheist could extend the same challenge to me concerning the divinity of Jesus. That is what is called a false dilemma."
So that's how you want to play it? This is unfair and disingenuous Tom. I was "merely saying" this? No, you cut off the rest of that paragraph as if you didn't even read the rest. It's not a false dilemma at all; we call this an analogy: "...no one on this Earth can provide that kind of argument for Christ's words being accurate and true the same way I can't give you the 'evidence' you need to trust the Church Fathers."
And you say this after I have repeatedly asked you to no avail why you don't trust the testimony of the earliest Christians, just as you trust the testimony of the Apostles in the Gospels.
You ask about things being hard and complicated. I don't know why you are [asking], because it's not hard and complicated. You just hear what you want to hear, despite the myriad proofs given for the doctrine of the Real Presence and the teaching authority of the Church. You ask for consistency with the development of doctrine. It's there, but you don't take the word of the Church Fathers (even the Apostolic Fathers like Polycarp) as being worth anything. Despite that, I'll still post the clear words of Tertullian regarding Apostolic succession and why their successors are worthy to pass on doctrine:
"From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed . . . Now, what that was which they preached — in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them — can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles founded in person." (Prescription against Heretics, 21).But, for you it means nothing because it's not from the Bible. You seem to believe that the only legitimate basis for identifying and passing on “apostolic tradition” is from Scripture and/or what is deducible from the Scriptures. Whereas the Catholic believes:
"For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence." (Dei verbum, 9)In closing, I think you'll find the following link informative as it pertains directly to the questions you're asking. I'm not going to be dragged into a conversation that goes in a million different directions. If you want to focus on one specific point, send me a message. As for the main topic of this discussion (the infallibility of the Church), it has led us to debating how the Catholic can formulate a doctrine that is not found explicitly in Scripture, even though it is implicitly there (i.e., the doctrine of the Holy Trinity). My answer is Sacred Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church. Check out the conversation between Dr. Bryan Cross and a few other people, starting at comment 34. Read it thoroughly, and follow some of the links that Dr. Cross provides in his answers to these Protestants. In addition, read the actual article on the Immaculate Conception itself for more on this doctrine.