Saturday, January 13, 2007

St. Paul - Pillar of the Catholic Church - II

This post is continuing my previous discussion on Saint Paul and his Catholicity. We remain interested in his epistle to the Church at Rome (the pontiff of which would later come to be understood by Christianity as the earthly authority for the body of Christ).

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
First, while this verse (and a few others like it) are often quoted in support for sola fide, I really don't need to make a defense for it. It says nothing against the Catholic position. Do Catholics not believe we are justified through faith? Well let's take a look at what one of the earliest collections of Catholic dogma has to say on that subject...
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,(1)
I even quoted from the NIV, but the Douay-Rheims version says "justified by faith" instead of through. Just remember, if it's in the Bible, the Church teaches it. Thats why the Church included it in the Bible because she believed and taught it already.

Now the issue one might have is, does this verse teach sola fide? Does it teach that faith is the only mechanism by which we are saved? The obvious answer is no. Is faith the only mechanism through which we are saved? You may choose to believe that, but you'll have to make your argument from other sources as Paul clearly does not say it. It is also clear that Paul doesnt have the intention of making an exclusive statement on the mechanics of justification here. That is to say: he is not attempting to prove that justification is through faith (and nothing else). Because later he says:
Romans 5:9-11
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
If he were trying to make an exclusive statement in verse one, how is it that he contradicts himself only a few verses later by saying we are justified by "His blood, through Him, through the death of [God's] Son and through His life"? If verse one was intended to be exclusive (which it obviously isnt) then it would have been contradicted four times in verses 9-11.

Now I feel like I've spent a lot of energy tackling an issue that was self evident. But you never know with some people... Let's move on.
Romans 5:18
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
This verse is commonly used in support of the Protestant understanding of salvation. Protestants have the view that Christ's death is the only way anyone can make it to heaven. Ok so far so good, Catholics agree. Where we differ is with what happens afterwards. Protestants typically believe that this gift is offered freely to anyone who will accept, and once they do (by faith) the righteousness of Christ is applied to their entire life before and after. This faith also leads the Christian into good works (but it is grace alone through faith alone that justified them).

Again, this is reading more into the verse than it is saying. First of all, we notice he is speaking in general terms and not being hyper-literal. Or did Christ's death bring life literally for all men? Many, indeed most, do not receive it (according to Christ's own words). Secondly, the first step to reading this verse in the passage is to understand that Paul is contrasting Christ's good work on the cross with Adam's sin in the garden. Paul is interested in the contrast presently, not in laying the foundation for the belief that once we believe, all future sins are eliminated by Christ's act of sacrifice. Again, you may still believe in that doctrine, you'll just have to make your arguments from elsewhere.

Indeed, it is Christ's sacrifice which enables all men to enter the kingdom of Heaven. This is sound Catholic doctrine. Christ Himself said at the last supper, "this is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many".
Romans 8:29-30
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Catholics and all non-Calvinists don't like this word "predestined". Some versions say merely "destined". Whatever the case, I think we all know what the meaning is intended to be for that word. The passage (among a few others) is one of the Calvinist's favorites. As Catholics, it should be one of ours too.

Jesus Himself did not say "all are called" but rather "many are called" and even still "few are chosen". So, I think it is safe to say, those growing up completely outside of the gospel and ignorant of it (not merely having not heard of it) was never 'predestined' or 'destined' to come to full communion with Christ on this earth. There have been many millions on the earth since the time of Christ who never had even the opportunity to become Christian and there are many now who still don't have a reasonable opportunity since they live completely outside of a Christian sphere of influence. Speaking in worldly terms, it is impossible for them to come to Christ. I think its reasonable to assume Paul may be speaking of this. (This would also be very harmonious with the Catholic teaching that it is possible for those outside of Christianity to be saved since they were not 'predestined' to begin with through no fault of their own).

It is important to note, however, that Catholics do not believe in pre-destination as taught by Calvin. I was a former Calvinist and now a Catholic so I understand both (always learning).

We also see in this passage that God is doing the justification. He initiated the process by a calling and we accept it by faith (as we know from other teachings) but it doesnt end there. The justification process must continue. Paul continues to say that He also glorifies us. We will find elsewhere in Paul's writings that He will continue to work in us until the work is complete and that we must be obedient to the gospel which is what Christ repeatedly taught.

From the Catechism:
1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;
(And Calvinists would also agree with that statement). Again I find nothing in Paul's writings to be in discord with Catholic teaching.
Romans 10:9-10
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Uh oh... Looks like trouble for the Church at Rome. But wait, why not keep reading?
Romans 10:13
for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Now, is Paul talking about the "sinner's prayer" here? Is he talking about the quick prayer you mention at the altar call where by faith alone you are saved? Not by a long shot. If the proponents of sola fide can say that James 2:24 is taken out of context, then I can say this is taken out of context as well.

Here Paul quotes the prophet Joel who was of course Jewish as was Paul. Although Paul is writing to a predominantly gentile audience (I assume), he understood the context of Joel's original prophecy. In the Jewish culture and throughout redemptive history, the people of God turned to God or turned away from God not by merely believing or disbelieving but by obedience or disobedience. James makes this point in his second chapter when he talks about Abraham and it is often taken for granted in Paul's .

In this light, we can see how calling on the name of the Lord entails much more than merely believing that Christ died and raised, but by living in obedience to the gospel (thereby truly making Jesus Lord of your life). The only way to truly confess Jesus as Lord is to make Him your Lord. This understanding fits very well with the rest of Paul's writings, with the teachings of the Catholic Church and with the teachings of our Lord; namely - "he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (and not "he who is saved will stand firm to the end" and "you are my friends if you do what I command you".

Thus far I think I have reasonably demonstrated that the book of Romans can be easily reconciled with Catholic dogma. Even up to this point however, I would contest that merely saying 'it can be reconciled' doesn't do the Catholic position justice. To be more specific, the Church included Paul's writings in the Bible for a reason. That reason is that his teaching was exactly in unison with the traditions of the Church handed down over the centuries by apostolic succession.

Now on the subject of obedience, let's not forget how important obedience was to Paul (as I've already shown in my previous post a couple of examples):
Romans 1:5
Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
Notice obedience and faith are not contrasted; they work hand in hand. They are not contradictory and neither are they independent. Like James said, what good is faith without works (obedience)? And Paul said (in not so many words) you cannot have obedience without faith. Remember, Paul is calling Gentiles to obedience, not to faith (alone). Faith comes first of course. Why would you obey Christ if you had no faith in Him?
Romans 1:16
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Paul cant seem to make up his mind. Is it faith or obedience?! But, we all agree that he isnt contradicting himself. We just disagree as to how he is not contradicting himself. Does everyone who believes in Christ receive salvation? It depends on what you mean by 'believes'. Does merely believing He was a real person earn your way? We all say no. How about believing in His resurrection? Now the lines start to get fuzzy and we have some splits on beliefs. Then what did Christ mean when He said 'I will spew luke-warm Christians out of My mouth'? How could they be called Christians if they didn't believe in the resurrection? (Forget so called Catholics who are denying the resurrection, calling for women's ordination and voting in politicians who are pro-abortion.. funny how its the same ones doing all three huh)

Obviously, Christ teaches that many who believed in Him (in at least some capacity) will not make it into heaven. Later on we will see some of Paul's writings that say pretty near the same thing as well. I know we are talking about Paul's writings now and not Christ's. (Because obviously if you read the gospels, Christ's words are much more explicitly anti-sola fide) But it is important as Christians to be able to read and understand what we believe to be infallible in light of what came before which we know to be infallible. In this case, it is the words of Christ preceding Paul's. Protestants have distorted Paul's writings to the point where some secular scholars have claimed that Paul founded Christianity. Indeed, many Protestant beliefs are grounded solely in Pauline teaching but not well expressed anywhere else in Scripture (which is why if you debate the subject, the proponent of sola-fide will usually quote exclusively from Paul). That is why it is extremely important to read Paul's writings in light of revealed truth (the words of Christ) and know that whatever Paul meant, he must not be contradicting Christ our Lord.
Romans 2:9-10
There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Romans 2:14
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law,
Paul goes back to the issue of obedience again in perfect harmony with Catholic teaching and the teaching of Christ (and the rest of Scripture). We must acknowledge the primacy of grace and the channel of faith, but we must not deny the necessity of obedience to our Lord. (For if we do not obey, we cannot call Him Lord).

And once more, notice the contrast between these two verses:
Romans 9:30
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith;

Romans 15:18
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—
Paul has led the gentiles to obedience by what he has said. He did this because obedience is required as is faith.
Romans 13:1-2
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
I was particularly interested in that passage as again it clearly demonstrates the need for obedience. I suppose it could be argued that the judgment Paul speaks of is earthly judgement but I dont think that fits seeing how he is interested in showing that the authorities derive their authority ultimately from God and therefore.... if you disobey them you will bring judgment (from God) on yourself. I think it follows that this judgment is the kind awarded in the afterlife and not on earth.

Though Christianity has many paradoxes (and as G. K. Chesterton put it, 'more than any Eastern religion') the paradox of our actions not having eternal consequences is not one of them. We know by observing God's creation that 'every action has an equal reaction'. Our sins must be accounted for as Christ said:
"I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."(2)
And so Paul, Christ and the Catholic Church all teach in unison, obedience is necessary. You will be held responsible for every sin you commit. Only by Christ can you be freed from these sins. That is the doctrine of the Church. This is what Paul preached and that is what the Church shall continue to preach until Christ returns. Amen

This concludes the book of Romans. The rest of his writings are a piece of cake... I think I'm going to lump them all together in my final installment of my summary on Paul's Catholicity.

18 comments:

Pilgrimsarbour said...

If he were trying to make an exclusive statement in verse one, how is it that he contradicts himself only a few verses later by saying we are justified by "His blood, through Him, through the death of [God's] Son and through His life"? If verse one was intended to be exclusive (which it obviously isnt) then it would have been contradicted four times in verses 9-11.

I see no contradiction. But what we need here is to exercise the analogia fide, the analogy of faith. This is the Reformed hermeneutic which says that Scripture must be compared with Scripture in order to understand what God would have us believe more fully. We run into problems when we put at odds words and ideas that are all intended to be connected to the same concept. Faith is not some nebulous, indeterminate abstract idea of which we can never get any grasp. It is clearly defined. It has an object. That object is the Person of Christ. Paul expands on the object of faith by giving us reasons to place our faith in Him. He lists the reasons here in Romans 5. We are justified because he shed His blood. We are saved because of his death on our behalf. We are reconciled to God through His obedience, even His obedience of the cross. The words blood, death and saved are all aspects of the same thing in view, namely, Paul's explication of why we should have faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation. In addition, Catholics and Protestants differ over the terms justification and sanctification. I won't get into that here, but I would say that both communions recognise the process of salvation, if not a process of justification. It's a long post with a lot of information. In future, I hope to garner some more time to comment on some of the other points made.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Pilgrim, your insights are always appreciated.

I agree with you, there is no contradiction. I was just making the point that IF he were intending to make an exclusive statement about faith in verse 1 (thus ratifying sola fide; ie we are saved through faith and nothing else) then he would have contradicted himself in 9-11.

Like you, I dont see the verses 9-11 as contradicting his statement in verse 1 OR the doctrine of sola fide. Im just making the point that to insist that verse 1 is evidence for sola fide is to concede contradictions in verses 9-11.

I know the post is wordy. Hopefully the callouts make it a little more readable. Thanks for the comments.

NotMyOpinion30 said...

I'm Catholic now so, naturally, I don't believe that Sola Fide is supported biblically either. Anything I say in regards to a discussion on Sola Fide is going to reflect that. Both sides are going to lob Scripture bombs at each other all day long. Both sides are going to insist that their Scripture bombs detonated in the perfect spot and both sides will deny that opposing Scripture bombs even landed in their territory. From an objective perspective, it probably resembles six year olds playing "Cops and Robbers" or "Cowboys and Indians" where both point their fingers at each other, make the sound of a gun firing with their mouths, and then start arguing over who shot who. Eventually, the one who realizes that they are not going to get anywhere goes home angry at his friend.

It is for this very reason that I see the illogical nature of Sola Scriptura, the grandparent of over 30,000 Protestant religions.

I happen to have a Protestant friend who, after much Bible study (even without the seven books that were removed by Luther), came to the conclusion that Sola Fide was not biblical. He also believes in Real Presence... oddly enough, in the Catholic and Orthodox churches only.

You may be thinking, "why the heck isn't he Catholic?"

Well, mistakingly, he will not abandon Sola Scriptura as unbiblical as well.

One of the major struggles with becoming Catholic from a Protestant denomination is the struggle of the will. As Tim, I, and every other former Protestant convert realize (I literally speak for us all on this one), one of the major stumbling blocks is giving up our own "papacy"; becoming completely obedient to a heirarchy that explains what Scripture means for you. A heirarchy that tells you when you have sinned and how to cleanse yourself of it. A heirarchy that tells you what you should and should not do, and if you do what you shouldn't you are dividing yourself from God (for eternity if you persist) and from the Church Herself. (Sounds a bit like Christ doesn't it? Could it be the Mystical Body of Christ? Could Christ be directing this heirarchy? Hmmm...)

That's not the American way! Heck, that's not the way any of us have been raised since the Freemason revolutions overthrew all of the Catholic monarchies and aristocracies in Europe! What's this business of ME having to submit to another authority? Why should I confess my sins to another sinful man? He's not Christ, I'm only supposed to confess my sins to Christ! Jesus lives in my heart. He said "it is finished". Gosh darn it, I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. I don't have to submit to any authority. The revolutionary spirit prevails!

What I'm trying to point out is that ultimately, the real struggle is humbling oneself, taking off their self-made crown, and submitting themselves to an authority they are unfamiliar with because they have been gravely misled for many years either by their own dillusions or the dillusions of others.

How can my friend see the Real Presence in Scripture AND that Sola Fide is non-biblical? Why can't he complete the chain? It is because of the authority of the Catholic Church. How do I know this? Because he went to Mass with me once. Before Mass he asked me if it was OK with me if he received Holy Communion. I told him that it has nothing to do with me. I explained that, because he believed that he would be receiving Christ, it actually made matters worse for him. I told him that it has less to do with the fact that he's Protestant. Why did I say this? The simple formula. Catholics cannot receive Holy Communion unless they have been absolved of their mortal sins through the Sacrament of Penance and they do not knowingly fall into in a state of mortal sin before receiving the Blessed Sacrament. A Protestant would obviously be in a state of mortal sin, since there is no way that he could have lived his life without mortally wounding his soul at least once. I happen to know of a few mortal sins he committed because we were "partners in crime" in High School. Well, guess what? He didn't like that explanation very much. Of course, he didn't tell me that. He decided that no man was going to tell him that he was absolved of sins that he already was forgiven for, so he went up and received Bread and Wine. I understand why he did it. As a Protestant, before I knew "why" I shouldn't be receiving Communion, I received it anyway. The difference is that I stopped when I found out why. Mainly because I didn't want to offend my wife and the other Catholics present (not because I thought Christ would be offended).

So, now that I think I've illustrated the main problem with the struggle to become Catholic from a Protestant perspective. I would like to explain some thoughts regarding why I believe that Sola Fide is an illogical contradiction to everything Protestant. I'm not going to bother hurling Scripture grenades. Sacred Scripture was never meant to be a divisive tool. Unfortunately, the devil has a way of twisting the minds of men to use Holy things as weapons. Please keep in mind what I wrote in the paragraphs above because it pertains to what I'm about to write.

I hope I don't come across as if I'm pretending to be intelligent, I know I'm not. That is why I have to break things down logically into simple language that I can understand. I may not be right, but I think I am. At least right now anyway!

Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura go hand in hand. One cannot exist without the other.

Why can't they exist mutually exclusively? Because Sola Fide could never have been invented if Luther didn't apply the rules of Sola Scriptura.

How did I come to this conclusion? Because the Christian world up until the Reformation believed that Scripture was only part of revelation and could not be validly interpreted without Tradition and Magisterium. Using that formula, the Christian world at that time would not accept Sola Fide since it could not be validated by Tradition or Magisterium. One must pluck the Scriptures out of the triune fold of revelation to supposedly make the Bible the sole authority of Christian living in order to validate Sola Fide.

Why do I use the word "supposedly"? Because, it is a deception that one can actually believe that the Scriptures can be the sole authority over one's life. The Bible does not interpret itself for the reader. Nor does the Holy Spirit provide interpretations that spur Christian disunity.

How can I prove that? Well, for one, there are more than 30,000 Protestant religions, all claiming that their interpretation of the Bible is the true interpretation given to them by the Holy Spirit. The Bible itself tells us that there is only ONE Truth and that Christ Himself told the Apostles to stay united. So many partitions are unbiblical in themselves.

Still, that doesn't prove that the Scriptures cannot be the sole authority. How can I prove that? I'll prove it by disproving that Sola Scriptura even exists. The numerous Protestant partitions alone show that the rules of Sola Scriptura are not even being followed. All of those partitions have a leader or leaders; sole interpreter(s) of the Bible. They feed their flock their interpretation of it. Therefore they have developed their own Magisterium, which is directly opposed to the notion that the Bible is the sole authority.

Lets forget about the 30,000+ Protestant partitions for a second. They can't all be right and the schisms have gotten out of hand. Nobody disputes that. What about the mainline denominations, the originals that are true to the Reformation? Let's see. How have they remained intact (arguable) since their birth in the 16th century and the centuries that followed? They've had councils, they've developed creeds, they have they're own official universal (supposedly) teachings, they have ecclesiastical leadership, they have an abundance of post-Reformation exegetes that support their beliefs.

Wait a second, are you saying... uh oh... are you saying that they logically do not believe that the Bible is the sole authority over the Christian life? Precisely! In an attempt to keep their individual belief structures from the decay that spread throughout the Reformation world almost immediately after Luther excommunicated himself, many of the mainline Protestant partitions developed their own triune ecclesiastical community, opposing the very heart of the Reformation.

Not only is Sola Fide not supported in Scripture, but it's siamese twin, Sola Scriptura, doesn't even exist today. Essentially, when the Reformers saw that Sola Scriptura was causing their new found power to be broken into bits, they decided to hack it away from its conjoined twin Sola Fide. This could not be done without the death of Sola Fide.

So, why is this two headed monster still alive? Because they took some pictures of it before the hacked it in half and still insist that this siamese twin is alive and well.

One can't exist without the other. The were born conjoined by Luther. One half of this twin doesn't even exist anymore. The surgery failed and both perished.

So, if logically, the Protestants do not actually believe in Sola Scriptura (even though they say they do), why are they still struggling to avoid entering into communion with the Church? There are a million reasons. Just like when a child doesn't do his homework, he has a new excuse every day. But the teacher and his parents know that he didn't do his homework. He isn't fooling anybody but himself. The real issue is over the papacy. They have their own Traditions, their own Teaching Authorities, hence they have abandoned their beloved Sola Scriptura. The fact is, they just do not believe in the authority of the Catholic Church's Magisterium. They simply will not, at any cost, admit that Christ annointed St. Peter as the Prince of the Apostles and commissioned him to feed His sheep. It is personal power that is at stake. It is the will of the individual. It is defiance instead of obedience. And Catholics are often called Pharisitical by Protestants. Hmmm... I wonder.

So until there is a wake up call. They'll just continue to borrow doctrines from the Catholic Church and claim them as their own. They won't go near the doctrine of the supremecy of the Successor of St. Peter though.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I have a Protestant friend who is an elder at a reformed Presbyterian Church. He is extremely knowledgeable. He is still true to (most) of the reformed doctrines, but he's just right on the bank of the Tiber.

Over a conversation we had once he said in passing you know everything I read from Catholic doctrine...I say... it's true. But, "I'm too much of a non-conformist to ever become Catholic" so I think he unwittingly admitted exactly what you're talking about.

NotMyOpinion30 said...

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

"If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."

By the way, "charity" is the best English word used to describe the "agape" form of love. Agape is self-sacrificial love. Unless you give yourself totally to God and your neighbor, your faith is worth nothing. It appears that we aren't saved by faith alone, that there is more to the equation than faith only. I'm sure there is a well thought out illogical explanation out there as to why St. Paul didn't mean what he said here. One that has had 500 years to develop. So, I'll just go home upset at my friend instead of trying to contest that I mortally shot him with my imaginary gun and won our game of "Cops and Robbers".

NotMyOpinion30 said...
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NotMyOpinion30 said...

I'm not sure if I buy the "non-conformist" argument because it is illogical as well. Funny, I also used that excuse when trying to discern whether or not to become a Catholic.

When he's driving, and the light at an intersection turns red, does he consistently drive through it? If not then he has probably conformed to the traffic laws. When he's going to a public restroom, does he go to the men's room or the women's room? There is no legal restraint in this case, but I'll bet that he goes into the men's room. He would be conforming to social norms. At his Presbyterian church, does he follow Baptist or Catholic teaching, or does he follow Presbyterian teaching? If he follows Presbyterian teaching and not the other two then he has conformed to Presbyterian teaching.

A true non-conformist would end up in prison because they would rebel against every law, political, social, and religious religious norm imposed on him.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I have enjoyed talking about these things with you, my Catholic friends, but I am under no delusion that I will persuade anyone on the issues at hand. The questions are of the ultimate authority in the church, and the "two-headed monster" of sola Scriptura and sola Fide. However, I think it's becoming increasingly clear to me that little of any real value (for me) is likely to be gained in these discussions. I hope I haven't left the impression that my desire to be charitable in speech means that I will compromise what I believe. And yet, I'm amazed at the clarity of thought which coalesces in the minds of some regarding the secret motives of Protestants. That's really quite some divine insight you have into the hearts and minds of God's people. I've seen this again and again, accusations of quests for personal power through "private interpretation." Perhaps it was true in your own lives, prior to your conversions, that all you really cared about, ultimately, was your own individual autonomy. And we all lament the intrusion into the church of the American cultural icons of individual rights and consumerism. Rightly so. But to make such sweeping generalisations impugning the motives of godly men and women who sincerely believe in the Bible and what it has to teach about the Saviour whom they love, betrays an attitude to which I have no counter. Now, I will only speak from my own communion on this point. Reformed Protestants recognise authority. The fact that it isn't Rome seems to be a very bitter pill to swallow. As for myself, I am completely under the authority of the session of my church and the local Presbytery. Yet it is ultimately neither my own opinion nor my Pastor's and elders' opinions which are the rule of faith and practice in my life. Sola Scriptura doesn't mean "no authority other than the Bible." It means no infallible authority other than the Bible. It's quite easy to set up canards and then systematically tear them down. The blogosphere is full of them; it's endemic to the medium. I had hoped that these discussions could be different. If I am wrong about what I believe, I would hope that you would pray for me, and I for you. But please don't let me know about it. It comes across as condescending, given all that I've read over the past few months.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Pilgrim - I hate the remarks at end of posts "I'll be praying for you" you're right its terribly condescending. Quit stealing my thunder I was gonna post on that topic! hehe

I understand where you're coming from and I dont think you have secret motives and I dont think that notmyopinion thinks that either.

Notmyopinion also came into the Church at the same time as I did. We both at times tend to be a little over zealous I think and speaking for me personally, I have in the past had a real problem with venting my frustrations with the Protestant church that I left too much and ended up coming across very hostile. I dont want any part of that.

So please forgive me if I came across that way or condescending. I hope we can continue to have dialogue. The dialogue is useful for me to keep me from posting anything offensive.

PS - I WONT be praying for you (at least not for your conversion). Catholics dont believe that you must be Catholic to be saved and it should not be our goal to convert anyone (as if we had the power to do that anyway).

Tiber Jumper said...

PA said:
"But to make such sweeping generalisations impugning the motives of godly men and women who sincerely believe in the Bible and what it has to teach about the Saviour whom they love, betrays an attitude to which I have no counter"

I have to agree with PA.
It's hard for any of us to know the hearts of others and thus we plod along looking through a glass darkly hoping to grow closer to God and help others as well, regardless of what side of the Tiber they remain on.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Maybe I missed something? I dont see where Notmyopinion insinuated that PA had secret motives? Im confused.

NotMyOpinion30 said...
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NotMyOpinion30 said...
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NotMyOpinion30 said...

Pilgrim,

For the record, I probably deserved such an emotional response. However, I have to tell you that I believe you let your emotions carry you away a bit. In accusing me of making sweeping accusations you ended up making some pretty exaggerated ones yourself.

I don't like defending myself, but in this case I feel like I have to. Some of the things you said, if they go unchecked, will make me appear as a really bad guy.

First, I have to tell you that my post wasn't a shot at you. It was a discussion that I intended to have with GFF. I was also, like you said, speaking in generalities... though not as exaggerated as you made them sound. I'll explain later.

I agree with many points in your post as I'm sure everyone else does. Because of that, I found your post clever. That technique is what would have really nailed my character to the wall to someone who wouldn't have picked up on it. I found you post very well put together. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but it would have been a good closing statement in a TV courtroom drama. No bother though. I just want you to know that I did feel quite the stinging pain of being unfairly attacked. However, I think I deserved it. There were some things I may not have made clear in my post.

You seemed quite concerned that I assumed that your charitable speech meant that I somehow expected you to change your beliefs. You must have missed something in my post because I think I made it clear that this is one topic that it would take a miracle for Protestants and Catholics to agree on using Scripture alone. In summary, neither you nor GFF were going to convince each other. I certainly wasn't expecting to try and change your mind on anything either. That isn't up to me.

The "generalisations" that I was making was in regards to Protestants who fully understand Catholic doctrine, who believe some or most of those doctrines, but who cannot come to grips with the doctrines or traditions of papal authority. The two examples that were discussed were that of my friend and Protestants like him. I guess I didn't make that clear enough. I take responsibility for that.

I never accused Protestants of being on "quests for personal power through 'private interpretation'". Why did you accuse me of that? I wouldn't even use that argument when I am trying to logically prove that Sola Scriptura is no longer in existence. That would be admitting that I somehow acknowledge that personal power can be derived for the Scriptures alone. I wouldn't do that. I do believe that you have run into that again and again in the blogosphere though.

One of the more hurtful comments you made was this:

"And yet, I'm amazed at the clarity of thought which coalesces in the minds of some regarding the secret motives of Protestants. That's really quite some divine insight you have into the hearts and minds of God's people."

I know who the "some" was. You didn't need to hide behind that word when you were clearly accusing me. I didn't pretend to know the "secret" motives of Protestants, the plural used to accuse me of doing this of ALL Protestants. I was only discussing the motivation of SOME Protestants whom I know well to avoid "crossing the Tiber". There was also no reason for you to point out that Protestants are God's people. I will assume you added those words for effect. However, they are superfluous. I know that Protestants are God's people. All of my family members and most of my friends are still Protestant and I love them all. It is ridiculous to think that I would accuse you or them of not being God's people.

You said: "Perhaps it was true in your own lives, prior to your conversions, that all you really cared about, ultimately, was your own individual autonomy."

I don't think that it was very charitable of you to lump GFF in with me (by using "conversions" in the plural) in your reprimand. It's his blog but it was my post that warranted your response. He agreed with my post on behalf of his experience with his friend. Also, I think I can confidently speak for all converts, humbling oneself to the authority of the Church is, inevitably, the most difficult hurdle to jump over. That's why so many people call it "crossing the Tiber". Like GFF's friend, many Protestants believe the doctrines of the Church are true, but they can't humble themselves to an authority other than their own. They haven't "crossed the Tiber".

You said: "But to make such sweeping generalisations impugning the motives of godly men and women who sincerely believe in the Bible and what it has to teach about the Saviour whom they love, betrays an attitude to which I have no counter."

Once again, I found this to be a pretty unfair and unfriendly accusation with words and emphasis that are clearly designed to paint me in a corner that I don't think I deserve based on my post. Maybe I'm wrong. As I said above, I was referring to a specific group of Protestants, not ALL of them. I admit that maybe the discussion of my friend wasn't enough to make this clear. However, the colorful language and the emphasis you put on it is completely superfluous and turns your greivance into an attack. I know that Protestants are godly people who sincerely believe in the Bible and what it has to teach about the Saviour whom they love. I never did say the opposite nor would I have said it. I also have no doubt that they believe that the Bible is infallible, so do I. The Catholic Church, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, put it together in infallible councils. They declared that the authors of the Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit, infallibly. They declared that there is nothing contradictory in the Holy Scriptures, once again, infallibly. Without those infallible Catholic councils, the Bible you're holding wouldn't even exist.

As far as your recognition of authority. I thought I covered that in my post(s). Like I said, those posts weren't meant for you, but it just so happens that you brought up one of the points I made in it. Either one follows the interpretation of the Scriptures offered by their particular denomination, or they bounce around from denomination to denomination until they find an interpretation that they agree with. If they never do they inevitably become their own authority. Either way, someone is believed to be interpreting the Scriptures infallibly, either the church leaders or the individual. I can't see how that can logically be avoided. There always has to be a standard of interpretation, even if it is through Protestant commentators alone.

You said:
"The fact that it isn't Rome seems to be a very bitter pill to swallow."

Once again, I think this is superfluous. I don't know who you are talking about here. You, me, GFF, someone else that you know. It's not a bitter pill for me to swallow anyway. I hope that you follow the Holy Spirit wherever He is guiding you. I'm not upset that you aren't dropping everything and running to a priest to get confirmed right this minute. Like I said, that totally isn't up to me.

You said:
"It's quite easy to set up canards and then systematically tear them down."

The straw man defense is old and tired. I thought I logically deduced why I believe Sola Scriptura is no longer in existence, Sola Fide must therefore be dead since the two are inseperable, and that the major issue is the authority of the Successor of St. Peter. I did so using historical events, linking them all to one man, Martin Luther. My argument was that even though Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura are unbiblical anyway, they can be proven as erroneous without even using Scripture to begin with. Martin Luther's motives were clear. It's history. He had some really nice things to say about the Pope. My argument was all in summary, but this is a blog. I'm not going to write a book on it on GFF's site(though this is turning out to be one). Once again, the post wasn't directed at you so I don't know why I would be playing straw man games with myself and GFF.

You said:
"I had hoped that these discussions could be different."

I hope we can continue to discuss things together peacefully. I suggest that we discontinue the dialogue on Sola Fide until we can both be more charitable in tone.

Nobody is telling you what to believe. We are having a discussion. I apologize for be condescending. Even though I am totally unworthy, I will pray for you that God the Holy Spirit will guide you in whichever path He wants you to follow and that you will be given the grace to follow Him. Pray for me, that I will be given the virtue of humility so that I don't offend people so much.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

notmyopinion30,

First, I wish to apologise to you, GFF and TJ, and anyone else reading along. It is entirely possible that I have completely misunderstood you. It would be wrong of me to say that I didn't intend my comments to sting you; not for the purpose of being a mean-spirited jerk but with a view to making you re-read and analyse your own comments. I guess the mean-spirited jerk part was free. I'm afraid that caustic sarcasm is a long-bourne habit of mine, and one I have to constantly fight. Just ask TJ. However, for the sake of peace, for the moment I hope you can look past the "clever technique" to the substance behind it. It's true, I was annoyed by your comments and viewed them as unfair. I was going to ask GFF to remove my comments so that we could talk privately about this in e-mail, but I was a bit too late. Besides, you may be right to talk about these things publicly. This kind of thing goes on all the time in the blogosphere. It is humiliating for me to be one of the participants in such a thing; something I decry. But, we are human after all, I guess. Maybe an airing of this kind is necessary every once in a while, like in The Godfather, "going to the mattresses" every ten years or so. I hope it will be of benefit to some, and particularly to you and me. At any rate, I think the best thing for me to do is to explain why I got upset, since you don't seem to understand why I did. I probably won't address every point from your recent post. If there is something I left out that you really want an answer to, please ask and I'll try my best to answer. For now I'll post a few paragraphs which seem to encompass the major points that made me respond the way I did. Please understand that I am not asking you to agree with my assessment of your comments. If I can get you to understand why I read your comments the way I did, that is all I ask. Also, I am not presuming to "teach" you here. But for the sake of others reading along, I think it may be necessary to expand on some things for the sake of clarification.

First, let me say that when you talk about "Protestants," I am one of them. I cannot separate myself from them. So I may not have taken your comments as a personal attack on Pilgrimsarbour, but I am part of the group in question. It was in that sense that your comments stung. It seems that I missed that you were talking of only a couple of specific cases of Protestants. One reason I missed that is because of the following paragraph. In it you talk about the pride of the individual's own "papacy," obedience to a teaching authority, and church discipline, including (I presume) excommunication.

"One of the major struggles with becoming Catholic from a Protestant denomination is the struggle of the will. As Tim, I, and every other former Protestant convert realize (I literally speak for us all on this one), one of the major stumbling blocks is giving up our own "papacy"; becoming completely obedient to a heirarchy that explains what Scripture means for you. A heirarchy that tells you when you have sinned and how to cleanse yourself of it. A heirarchy that tells you what you should and should not do, and if you do what you shouldn't you are dividing yourself from God (for eternity if you persist) and from the Church Herself."

I included GFF in the discussion since you mentioned yourself, GFF and "every other former Protestant convert." I took this to mean that Protestants in general refuse to give up their own "papacy," as you said, and responded to that. Hence my comment, "Perhaps it was true in your own lives, (meaning you, GFF and other converts) prior to your conversions, that all you really cared about, ultimately, was your own individual autonomy." The logical conclusion I deduced from your comment is that Protestants can't stand the idea of submitting to any authority, which I think is false. It certainly is true (according to Scripture) of the unbeliever before he comes to Christ, in whatever communion that takes place. But that isn't true for me, and I don't think it's true for most Protestants. Hence, my admittedly caustic comments on your supposed "divine insight" into the human heart. In addition, I got the impression that you think that Protestants don't have "A heirarchy that tells you when you have sinned and how to cleanse yourself of it." As I stated in my e-mail to you, I am under the authority of my session and my Presbytery, as are all Reformed people. Even fundamentalists have hierarchies of ministers, deacons, assemblies and such. I think most, if not all (conservative) denominations practice Scripturally-outlined church discipline. It's clear from your writings that you don't recognise Protestant authority in spiritual matters, hence my comment, "The fact that it isn't Rome seems to be a very bitter pill to swallow." All right, that does sound a little nasty. What I mean is, you believe that only Rome is that authority, and it rankles you that Protestants don't acknowledge that. If it doesn't rankle, again, I apologise. Another reason I extrapolated your comments to include all Protestants was this paragraph:

That's not the American way! Heck, that's not the way any of us have been raised since the Freemason revolutions overthrew all of the Catholic monarchies and aristocracies in Europe! What's this business of ME having to submit to another authority? Why should I confess my sins to another sinful man? He's not Christ, I'm only supposed to confess my sins to Christ! Jesus lives in my heart. He said "it is finished". Gosh darn it, I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. I don't have to submit to any authority. The revolutionary spirit prevails!What I'm trying to point out is that ultimately, the real struggle is humbling oneself, taking off their self-made crown, and submitting themselves to an authority they are unfamiliar with because they have been gravely misled for many years either by their own dillusions or the dillusions of others.

In this paragraph you are speaking specifically of American Protestant Christians. Again, I would agree with your comments if they were directed at American unbelievers. What this says to me is that what Protestants believe are "delusions," and the only thing standing in the way of Protestants coming to Catholicism is our "self-made crowns" of personal arrogance, since their theology is worthless. The word "delusions" connotes mental illness. Hence, my comment "But to make such sweeping generalisations impugning the motives of godly men and women who sincerely believe in the Bible and what it has to teach about the Saviour whom they love, betrays an attitude to which I have no counter." I admit, the "delusions" comment struck me as unnecessarily hostile.

Finally, it is my sincere belief that most Catholics do not understand both Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. I do not think that the straw man defence is old and tired because I keep coming across it. Neither Sola Scriptura nor Sola Fide are dead. They have been severely weakened by liberalism and fundamentalism. Sadly (from my viewpoint) many, if not most Protestants also do not understand the Reformed doctrines of Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide and Sola Gratia. So in one sense, you may be right that these doctrines are "dead." They are certainly on life-support, judging by the way they are consistently misrepresented by both communions. We don't need to get into detail on that now, but we can at another time, if you wish.

I hope that this will go a long way in sealing the breach between us. I have tried to state as clearly as I could, without rancour, why I wrote what I did in response to your comments. In so doing, I hope I didn't make more caustic comments. It is not my intention to exacerbate the situation. Please be well and we'll talk some more if you wish. Again, if I have left anything out that you think should be addressed, just let me know.

All God's Best,

Pilgrimsarbour

NotMyOpinion30 said...

Hello pilgrim,

I'll comment once more on this and then I'll put this baby to rest on my side. Consider this my closing arguments.

I understand why you got upset. Your most recent post shows me that you still do not completely understand what I was talking about. I don't know if I can really make myself clear, so I'm kind of inclined to drop it and just bury the hatchet out of sight out of mind. But I'll try to clarify just a few important things.

"First, let me say that when you talk about "Protestants," I am one of them."

I agree with you there. If you considered my post about all Protestants, then of course you would include yourself in that group. However, once again, I wasn't talking about all Protestants. That may have been where I didn't make myself entirely clear. I'll explain in a minute.

"I included GFF in the discussion since you mentioned yourself, GFF and "every other former Protestant convert." I took this to mean that Protestants in general refuse to give up their own "papacy," as you said, and responded to that."

When I say Protestant convert, I mean Protestant convert to Catholicism. In this sentence I thought the context of myself and GFF would substantiate that, but I can see where it might be confusing. Ask "tiber jumper" how easy it was for him to do submit to the authority of the Successor of St. Peter. I think I can confidently speak for Protestant converts on this topic as I have yet to come across one that did not have this difficulty.

"In addition, I got the impression that you think that Protestants don't have "A heirarchy that tells you when you have sinned and how to cleanse yourself of it." As I stated in my e-mail to you, I am under the authority of my session and my Presbytery, as are all Reformed people. Even fundamentalists have hierarchies of ministers, deacons, assemblies and such. I think most, if not all (conservative) denominations practice Scripturally-outlined church discipline. It's clear from your writings that you don't recognise Protestant authority in spiritual matters..."

Once again, I apologize if my post wasn't clear. I did agree that Protestants follow I heirarchy, in my first post, second post, and third post. That was actually part of my point.

The paragraph that starts out "That's not the American way! Heck..." in my first post was placed immediately following my discussion about my friend who definitely struggles with submitting to the authority of St. Peter and the struggles that I, GFF, and all other Protestant converts have or had. The "pride" and individualism that is propogated into our characters starting from birth in this country definitely plays a role in our struggle to accept authority in general. I'm using this argument to illustrate that. Again, I am not talking about all American Protestant Christians.

To clarify once again, my post was in regards to Protestants who know Catholic doctrine well, who believe that most or all of it is true, but who cannot bring themselves to submit to the authority of the Successor of St. Peter. That is something that I, GFF, tiber jumper, and all Protestant converts can attest to.

You, however, are very firm in your belief. You do not completely understand Catholic doctrines and you definitely aren't in a position of subscribing to enough of them that your own spiritual direction is in question. Therefore, my post was not directed at you or all Protestants in general.

Also, I hope you know that I am in my 30s. I understand Protestant doctrine pretty well. It definitely isn't lack of understanding that was the catalyst for my conversion.

I hope that cleared things up. Please forgive me for grieving you and I hope that we can get past this.

God bless you and all of our Protestant brothers and sisters. This week the Holy Father has asked for prayers for Christian unity. I hope that we can all unify as Christ commanded us to one day. I also hope that you come to a deeper understanding of Catholic doctrine.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Pilgrim - no apology necessary for me.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Thank you, notmyopinion30 and GFF, for giving me the opportunity to express some concerns. I hope we don't stop speaking until we all speak completely charitably at all times. If that's the criteria, we won't be communicating much. And I want to talk to youz guyz.