Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Quick Response to a PCA Pastor

This is a response to the PCA pastor at De Regnis Duobus H/T Ecumenicity. First I appreciate the charity. The arguments don't work and I'll show that here but at least he's not bashing the Church.
"But," the Catholic will object, "you just gave away the farm! By citing Nicaea you have effectively betrayed Sola Scriptura."
This is a misunderstanding of the issue. Catholics do not object that Protestants cite Nicaea and believe in sola scriptura. We object that you hold Nicaea to be as authoritative as Scripture whether you say so or not and then go on to reject other councils or parts of other councils because they do not align with your 16th century doctrines.

Let’s simplify the issue. Are councils authoritative or not (forget infallibility)? If so, we can reject Protestantism without a second thought since so many of their novelties have long been condemned by various councils even among the unified Church.
In other words, the ultimate reason we hold to this or that creed is because it comports with the church's reading of Scripture as it is interpreted within the apostolic regula fidei, and not simply because it is a creed written by a lawfully-called church council.
This is frustratingly circular. By “church” you mean, like Calvin, anyone who “rightly teaches the word of God” which means “anyone who agrees with my interpretation of Scripture” which means solo scriptura no matter how you dress it up.

Who defines “the church’s reading of Scripture” and the “regula fidei”?
If a Catholic holds Trent's conclusions to be important because they represent the teaching of their church, but if a further layer of importance is added when he becomes convinced of those conclusions himself, then what I want to know is: Are you really that different from us, methodologically speaking?
Yes we are. I don’t think you understand the Catholic mindset. You keep referring to it as if we think in denominational terms like you do. We believe that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. I can perfectly understand you not believing that (your job sort of depends on it) but what I can’t understand is your inability or refusal to actually ponder it for a second for the sake of the argument. If it is true that Jesus founded the institutional Catholic Church built on Christ, your questions here become irrelevant.

Replace the word and you’ll see what I mean:

“If a Catholic holds Trent's conclusions to be important because they represent the teaching of the Church which Jesus Christ Himself founded” (We can stop there). Yes we will accept whatever a council declares if that council is held by the Church which Jesus Christ founded. If we’re wrong about that, then we’re wrong about a lot of things. You don't accept the teachings of any church as if that church was founded by Christ because you think all churches are subject to the Bible (which means your interpretation of the bible). Therefore "church" becomes anyone who agrees with you. So the PCA is no different from the hyper-individualist free-church Christian. You paint the bullseye around the arrow!

What you are doing is like arguing with an atheist that abortion is immoral when the atheist has presuppositions that you’re not taking into consideration. First you need to establish that his presuppositions are false then you can start talking to him about abortion. For Catholics, we think the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ and that the Protestant reformers were heretics. That is a presupposition that we bring into every discussion. If you want to talk with us about creeds and councils, talk to us about Church first or at least show us where and at what point in history the Catholic Church became corrupted. We can tell you exactly when yours went wrong, why cant you do the same for ours?


Oso Famoso said...

Your new blog design is really nice.

This issue, like most issues, boils down to the question, "What is the church?"

Tim A. Troutman said...

Thanks. It was by Tekeme Studios. :)

I agree. The issue here is identifying the Church.

The Catholic Journeyman said...

TT said "....but what I can’t understand is your inability or refusal to actually ponder it for a second for the sake of the argument."

That has been mt experience with all Fundamentalists as well, and truly the largest obstacle in Catholic Apologetics.

Nice post TT.


Jason J. Stellman said...

Cool-looking blog, Tim (Oso's as well). You Catholics have the best (graphic) art, If I ever convert, that'll be the reason for sure.

I'm not sure how much of the discussion you've followed, but your post was a bit unfair. It painted me as one who has no idea that it all boils down to what the nature of the church and her authority is. I don't have time to interact here, but I'll post my response to Matt's comments below:

"But that is exactly the comfort the Catholic takes in the situation. As St. Peter said to Our Lord after He detailed the reality of the Eucharist in John , "Where will we go? You have the words of eternal life." It wasn't a matter of Peter's evaluating the words of Christ and finding them to be true, but rather he recognized Christ as the source of truth and followed and believed Him whether he understood it or not."

You're begging the question. First establish that my believing whatever Rome says whether I understand it or not is tantamount to Peter believing everything Jesus said, whether he understood it or not.

"Why are the decrees of Westminster more acceptable or binding on the reformed than the degrees of Trent? It seems to me this distinction says everything. They are more acceptable and more binding because the reformed Christian finds them to be more Biblical according to his own interpretation of Scripture."

Why do you keep on insisting that all Reformed people reinvent the wheel every time they open their Bibles? The things I believe came to me by means of a rich and old tradition, much of which I accepted before I understood it.

Matt, you have to understand our respective a prioris. The Catholic practice of believing everything you're told stems from your presupposition that the church is always right. The Protestant practice of searching the Sctiptures arises from his belief that the Bible carries a different kind of authority (magisterial) than that of church councils (ministerial).

My point is that statements that say "Aha!! So you admit that you think Westminster is more biblical than Trent!" have almost zero force. It would be like me saying, "Aha!! So you Catholics do accept the authority of your church unquestioningly!"

Yeah, that's kind of the whole issue.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Then I offer my apologies for an unfair rebuttal.

Do you call Mary the Mother of God or not?

If it is not your individual interpretation of Scripture which determines both "Church" and valid councils (and or valid portions of various councils) then what is?

What objective means could be used to determine that the Catholic Church now is not the same as the one founded by Christ? If we have such means, we must know an exact date and circumstance. If so what is it?

For I say one can no more dissent from Trent than from Nicaea. If you say otherwise, I think the burden of proof lays on you.

Tim A. Troutman said...

And by the way, the design was by a Protestant!

Moonshadow said...

I also love the redesign and, if not for the battery of your characteristically thoughtful posts in the sidebar, I would not have recognized the blog!

You said: We object that you hold Nicaea to be as authoritative as Scripture whether you say so or not and then go on to reject other councils

which isn't crucial to your argument but, still, regarding the Orthodox Churches, their rejection of latter ecumenical councils is after a similar kind, to a lesser degree, no?

And yet it seems the Orthodox Churches enjoy a status not afforded Protestants by the Catholic Church. What am I missing?

Tim A. Troutman said...

Moonshadow - The Eastern Orthodox share 7 ecumenical councils with us.

For the East & The West, we view these councils as authoritative and our interpretation of Scripture must be adjusted to their findings not the other way around.

The big difference is that the East retains apostolic succession and has retained the apostolic faith. Protestants have veered off that path.

Is that helpful or are you asking something else?

Moonshadow said...

If a difference can be made in favor of the Orthodox, it's that they accept those early councils fully whereas Protestants seem to pick out from them the teachings they like.

Still, the Orthodox have been away longer in time and further in distance than the Protestants have. Yet, somehow, we Catholics grant them (nowadays) greater "fellowship" (if I can use that word) than we do Protestants, at least officially, despite the latter being closer theologically.

It must really all come down to "church," as you say, even more than to theology, belief and practice. Protestants ought to take heart from the recent SSPX negotiations that suggest as much: simply recognize the pontiff as supreme and all is well.

I appreciate your reply on what I see now is an old post! Take care!