Archive for the ‘Ecclesiology’ Category

Major Innovations of Vatican II as to its New Ecclesiology

January 28, 2013

One expects to hear of Vatican II’s major innovations either from the traditionalist critics or “ordain a lady” type liberals, but it was interesting to read this report from the Vatican Information System, which described Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s discussion of the relationship between the 1983 code of canon law (which replaced the 1917 code of canon law) and the Vatican II council:

Cardinal Coccopalmerio began his address with the recollection that Blessed John XXIII, in his speech convening Vatican Council II in 1959, explained that the Council’s legal scope was to bring about the awaited revision of the 1917 Code. “In his broad perspective, the Pope saw clearly that the revision of the Code had to be guided by the new ecclesiology that emerged from an ecumenical and a global summit such as the Council.” Blessed John Paul II, under whose pontificate the Code was promulgated, also repeated that “the council’s ecclesiological structure clearly required a renewed formulation of its laws”.

“As John Paul II emphasized at the beginning of the Apostolic Constitution ‘Sacrae disciplinae leges’, the reason for the close relationship between Vatican Council II and the Code of Canon Law was that the 1983 Code was the culmination of Vatican II … in two ways: on the one hand, it embraces the Council, solemnly reproposing fundamental institutions and major innovations and, on the other, establishing positive norms for implementing the Council.”

(VIS, 22 January 2013)

Acknowledging “major innovations” and a “new ecclesiology” is remarkably more candid than the line we hear from the “Called to Communion” folks, who sometimes seem to act as though Rome’s ecclesiology is something divine.


Why Men Shouldn’t Be Ordained?

April 25, 2012

I understand the purpose of the top-ten list at this link, identifying supposed reasons that no men should be ordained.  That is, the purpose is to take some of the arguments against women’s ordination and try to turn them on their head.  Ultimately, the list ends up refocusing us on the real issue why men are to be ordained and women are not: Scripture teaches it.

So, while I doubt the post at “Christian Feminism” (think “Hindu Cannibalism” or “Muslim Alcoholism”) was intended for the purpose of recentering the debate on women’s ordination, it does serve that purpose.

While a lot of the mocked statements may be real reasons why it is imprudent for women to serve as elders, they are not ultimately the real reason: the real reason is that God has decided.


Maximus the Roman Catholic Confessor?

February 8, 2012

My friend James Swan posted a short article describing Maximus the Confessor’s view of Rome’s authority.  Matthew Bellisario at the Catholic Champion has now posted a response.

The material provided by my friend, Mr. Swan, was as follows:

7. They said to him, “And what will you do if the Romans unite with the Byzantines? For behold, yesterday there came legates of Rome and tomorrow on Sunday they will take communion with the patriarch; it will become evident to all that it was you who turned the Romans away. Doubtless with you removed, there will then be an easy union.” And he said to them, “Those who are coming cannot in any way prejudice the see of Rome, even if they should take communion because they have not brought a letter to the patriarch. And I am not at all convinced that the Romans will unite with them unless they confess that our Lord and God by nature both wills and works our salvation according to each of the natures from which he is, in which he is, as well as which he is.” And they said, “And if the Romans should come to terms with them at this time, what will you do?” He replied, “The Holy Spirit, according to the Apostle, condemns even angels who sanction anything against what has been preached”

Maximus the Confessor, Selected Writings (Paulist Press, 1985), p. 23.

Maximus, according to this material, was posed with the question about what he would do if Rome united with the Constantinople on the question of the two wills of Christ. That is to say, they asked him what he would do if Rome embraced monothelitism.

The first way that they posed the question led him to respond that if the legates of the patriarch (meaning the bishop of Rome) did not have a letter from the partriarch, even if they technically took communion with the bishop of Constantinople (as evidently was expected) that would not prove that the Partriarchite had consented to that monothelitism is either correct or acceptable.

Thus, they modified their question. As modified, Maximus could no longer escape the idea that Rome had embraced monothelitism. His response under that proposed hypothetical scenario was to maintain his current position. Even if Rome accepted monothelitism, he would not.

That position is not, in itself, Sola Scriptura. After all, Maximus does not explicitly state that the reason for his refusal to adopt Rome’s position is because Scripture is a higher authority. One might infer such a position from his reference to Galatians (Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.).

Whether or not such an inference is correct, Maximus the Confessor is plainly not a Roman Catholic – willing to accept whatever position Rome adopts.

Mr. Bellisario has attempted to provide some counterpoints. He provides three quotations with the citation, “(Saint Maximus the Confessor- The opuscula fragments).” The first quotation is as follows:

All the ends of the inhabited world, and those who anywhere on earth confess the Lord with a pure and orthodox faith, look directly to the most holy Church of the Romans and her confession and faith as to a sun of eternal light, receiving from her the radiant beam of the patristic and holy doctrines, just as the holy six synods, inspired and sacred, purely and with all devotion set them forth, uttering most clearly the symbol of faith. For, from the time of the descent to us of the incarnate Word of God, all the Churches of the Christians everywhere have held and possess this most great Church as the sole base and foundation, since, according to the very promise of the Saviour, it will never be overpowered by the gates of hell, but rather has the keys of the orthodox faith and confession in him, and to those who approach it with reverence it opens the genuine and unique piety, but shuts and stops every heretical mouth that speaks utter wickedness. For that which the creator of everything himself, our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, established and built up – together with his disciples and apostles, and the Holy Fathers and teachers and martyrs who came after – have been consecrated by their own works and words, by their sufferings and sweat, by their labours and blood, and finally by their remarkable deaths for the sake of the Catholic and Apostolic Church of us who believe in him, they, through two words, uttered without pain or death – O the long-suffering and forbearance of God! – are eager to dissolve and to set at naught the great, all-illumining and all-praised mystery of the orthodox worship of the Christians.

It appears that this is an alternative translation of the following:

For the very ends of the earth and those in every part of the world who purely and rightly confess the Lord look directly to the most holy church of the Romans and its confession and faith as though it were a sun of unfailing light, expecting from it the illuminating splendor of the fathers and the sacred dogmas, just as the divinely-inspired and sacred six synods have purely and piously decreed, declaring most expressly the symbol of faith. For ever since the incarnate word of God came down to us, all the churches of Christians everywhere have held that greatest Church there to be their sole base and foundation, since on the one hand, it is in no way overcome by the gates of Hades, according to the very promise of the Savior, but holds the keys of the orthodox confession and faith in him and opens the only true and real religion to those who approach with godliness, and on the other hand, it shuts up and locks every heretical mouth that speaks unrighteousness against the Most High. For that which was founded and built by the creator and master of the universe himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, and his disciples and apostles, and following them the holy fathers and teachers and martyrs consecrated by their own words and deeds, and by their agony and sweat, suffering and bloodshed, and finally by their violent death for the catholic and apostolic Church of us who believe in him, they strive to destroy though two words [uttered] without effort and without death – O the patience and forbearance of God! –and [so seek] to annul the great ever-radiant and ever-lauded mystery of the orthodox worship of Christians.

(Opuscula 11, translation from The body in St. Maximus the Confessor: holy flesh, wholly deified by Adam G. Cooper, pp. 181-82)

The authenticity of this text is disputed (Cooper, p. 181) a fact that Mr. Bellisario fails to mention to the reader (presumably because he doesn’t know). Moreover, what does the passage say that Bellisario can affirm? It says some nice things about Rome and the six synods – but wait. It refers to “six synods.” People assume the means the first five major councils (Nicaea 325, Constantinople 381, Ephesus 431, and Chalcedon 451), plus the 649 synod of the Lateran. But Bellisario would not consider that last one to be an ecumenical council (nor did it have the characteristics of such a council). And if it refers to the ecumenical council that addressed the monothelitism controversy, then it definitely isn’t from Maximus – he didn’t live to see that synod.

Moreover, nothing in the passage about indicates that Rome is characteristically unable ever to fall into error for a time. It does seem to suggest a thought that Rome will not be “overcome by the gates of Hades” (a misuse of that passage), but would it be “overcome” if for a time it fell into error?

But as Cooper suggests (p. 187), whether or not the passage is authentic we should consider Maximus’ mature ecclesiology, as seen in the Disputatio Bizyae discussing with Theodosius:

What kind of believer accepts a dispensation silencing the very words which God of all ordained to be spoken by the apostles and prophets and teachers? Let us investigate, reverend master, what kind of evil this summary blindly arrives at. For if ‘God appointed in the Church first apostles, then prophets, and third teachers’ (1 Cor. 12:28) ‘for the perfecting of the saints’ (Eph. 4:12), having said in the Gospel to the apostles and through them to those after them, ‘What I say to you, I say to all’ (Mark 13:38), and again, ‘He who receives you receives me, and he who rejects you rejects me’ (Luke 10:16), it is clearly manifest that whoever does not receive the apostles and prophets and teachers, but rejects their words, rejects Christ himself.

Let us also investigate the other passage. God chose to raise up apostles and prophets and teachers for the perfecting of the saints. But in order to oppose godly religion the devil chose to raise up false apostles and false prophets and false teachers, so that the old law was opposed, as was also the evangelical law. And as far as I understand it the false apostles and false prophets and false teachers are the heretics alone, whose words and train of thought are distorted. Consequently, just as the one who receives the true apostles and prophets and teachers receives God, likewise the one who receives false apostles and false prophets and false teachers receives the devil. So the one who throws out the saints along with the cursed and impure heretics — mark my word! — manifestly condemns God along with the devil.

If, in that case, in racking our brains to come up with new words in our own times we find those words to have descended to this extreme evil, watch out lest we — whilst alleging and proclaiming ‘peace’– be found to be struck ill with apostasy which the divine Apostle said beforehand would accompany the coming of the antichrist (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

I have spoken this to you, my lords, without holding back…. With these things inscribed in the tablet of my heart, are you telling me to enter into fellowship with a church in which these [other] things are proclaimed, and to have communion with those who actually expel God and, I imagine, the devil with God? May God — who for my sake was made like me — sin excepted — never let this happen to me!

Notice how in this passage he makes individual conscience effectively supreme even over the apparent “apostles, prophets, and teachers” of his day – even to the point of hinting that he may be faced with the great apostasy.

The next quotation Bellisario provided was this:

“I don’t have a teaching of my own, but the common one of the Catholic Church. I mean that I haven’t initiated any expression at all that could be called my own teaching.”

Before we continue, it’s worth pointing out that it appears that Bellisario may have gleaned this and the previous quotation from Andrew Louth’s article on Maximus’s ecclesiology (which can be found here). In that article, it is cited as “Relatio,” and is a portion of the transcript of his trial.

The point that Maximus is making here, though, is simply that he has not expounded a novel doctrine. He believes that he is just teaching what the church has universally held. His reference here to “the catholic church” is not a reference to the Roman Catholic church but to the universal church.

Likewise, Bellisario’s third quotation (also found in this article) is as follows:

“No, he (The emperor is not a priest) isn’t, because he neither stands beside the altar, and after the consecration of the bread elevates it with the words. Holy things for the holy, nor does he baptize, nor perform the rite of anointing, nor does he ordain and make bishops and presbyters and deacons; nor does he anoint churches, nor does he bear the symbols of the priesthood, the omophorion and the Gospel book, [as he bears the symbols] of imperial office, the crown and the purple.”

(Relatio 4, as cited in the article)

This has nothing really to do with Mr. Swan’s thesis. It’s not clear why Bellisario thinks it’s important to this topic (he makes a comment in his post that seems to try to tie this quotation to a point of contrast between Luther’s liturgy and Maximus’ liturgy – something rather tangential at best). Louth thought it was important because the relationship of Emperor to church was one that was going to be significant in coming centuries.

Shortly after presenting that quotation, the article from which Bellisario appears to have been drawing goes on to point out that in fact Rome did succumb to imperial pressures:

A precious document for Maximos’ doctrine of the Church is the last writing we have from his hand, a short letter written on 19 April 658 to Anastasios, his disciple and spiritual child of by then forty years’ standing, who was exiled apart from his master. (18) By then, Maximos and his few followers were on their own, Rome – in the person of Pope Vitalian – having succumbed to imperial pressure and entered into communion with the other patriarchal sees. In reply to the question – or taunt – ‘What Church do you belong to? Constantinople? Rome? Antioch? Alexandria? Jerusalem? See, all of them are united, together with the provinces subject to them’. Maximos says he had replied, ‘The God of all pronounced that the Catholic Church was the correct and saving confession of the faith in him when he called Peter blessed because of the terms in which he had made proper confession of him’. The Petrine foundation of the Church is Peter’s faith, which even his successor can abandon, as Maximos had just learnt.

(18) The letter can be found in Allen-Neil, pp. 120-3

(Louth, p. 118)

What an interesting omission from Bellisaro! You see, the hypothetical posed to Maximus turned out not to be a hypothetical. Vitalian did cave to imperial pressure, and this was communicated to Maximus. His response, in his final letter, Maximus recognized that it is the confession of faith that defines the church, not the church that defines the confession of faith. And with that, Maximus cannot be said to be Roman Catholic, no matter how high an esteem he had for Rome at certain times (especially right after the synod of the Lateran of 649, when Rome had repudiated monothelitism).

I’m sure more could be said, but we’ll leave it at that. Swan’s thesis has been adequately demonstrated, and Bellisario’s seemingly plagiarized material has been replaced into its proper context and given proper attribution.


P.S. In the comment box at Mr. Swan’s blog, I provided a short walk-through of the original quotation, which it may be useful to include here:

Walk through the quotation.

1) “And what will you do if the Romans unite with the Byzantines? For behold, yesterday there came legates of Rome and tomorrow on Sunday they will take communion with the patriarch; it will become evident to all that it was you who turned the Romans away. Doubtless with you removed, there will then be an easy union.”

They pose this as an argument that it is going to be just Maximus against all the major churches.

2) “Those who are coming cannot in any way prejudice the see of Rome, even if they should take communion because they have not brought a letter to the patriarch. And I am not at all convinced that the Romans will unite with them unless they confess that our Lord and God by nature both wills and works our salvation according to each of the natures from which he is, in which he is, as well as which he is.”

But, you see, Maximus is too clever. He points out that the mere communion of the legates is not enough to show that the Roman church is in agreement with Constantinople, because they don’t bear a letter to that effect addressed to the patriarch.

3) “And if the Romans should come to terms with them at this time, what will you do?”

They set this aside, and ask what if the church of Rome does join with the other churches?

4) “The Holy Spirit, according to the Apostle, condemns even angels who sanction anything against what has been preached”

Maximus refuses to assent, even under that circumstance.

Defining "Church"

October 17, 2011

John Bugay’s recent post, “Whatever else the “definition of the word church” contains, it must be purged of Roman conceptions of Rome ” led me to consider this question: Suppose you were to ask one of the apostles to define the term “the church.”  Would that definition have any reference to Rome or her bishop?

If not, isn’t Rome’s concept of “the church” at odds with that of the apostles?

Read the New Testament for yourself.  Learn what the apostles believed and taught about “the church.”  You won’t find any reference to the papacy, and certainly not to Roman papacy amongst those pages.


Ecclesiology: the Rule of Elders

June 9, 2011

How do Scriptures describe the role of elders? There are many aspects. One on which I’ll focus in this post relates to their role as overseers and rulers. This seems to be a challenging part of the Scriptures for those living in Western democracies, in which rule of society tends to be (at least in theory) populist.

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

1 Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.

1 Timothy 3:4-5 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

Romans 12:8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

Titus 2:15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

Cf. 1 Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

There is an important caveat:

Mark 10:42-45
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

That caveat is important. It should prevent the rulers of the church from overstepping their bounds and becoming like Rome’s hierarchy. Nevertheless, even the caveat notes that there will be leaders in the church. Christ’s leadership of the church provides a moral example for those leaders. That example is not fulfilled through a pastor ceremonially washing the feet of his sub-rulers (as Rome’s bishop does), but through rendering practical assistance, comfort, and encouragement. In understanding that his role as shepherd involves authority over the sheep, but has as its purpose the benefit of the sheep.


Steve Ray’s Response to Michael Welton Critiqued

April 22, 2011

Steve Ray has posted a response to comments made by Michael Welton in Popes and Patriarchs. There is a lot of filler in the response, but Mr. Ray aims to address essentially two issues (1) Basil’s words of dismissal of Rome and (2) Basil’s failure to appeal to the Bishop of Rome as a supreme authority.

As to the first issue, Basil himself wrote:

I accuse no one; I pray that I may have love to all, and “especially unto them who are of the household of faith;” [Galatians 6:10] and therefore I congratulate those who have received the letter from Rome. And, although it is a grand testimony in their favour, I only hope it is true and confirmed by facts. But I shall never be able to persuade myself on these grounds to ignore Meletius, or to forget the Church which is under him, or to treat as small, and of little importance to the true religion, the questions which originated the division. I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very much elated at receiving a letter from men. Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of the faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints.

Steve Ray cuts the mention of Rome out of the quotation, beginning at “And, although it is a grand testimony …” but I have provided it to you, since it is significant to the question.

Steve Ray’s response is that Basil’s words must be understood as hyperbole. “Why? Because if Basil here denounces Rome, he denounces God as well.” (p. 6) Of course, Mr. Ray’s argument is empty: Romanism (the view that denouncing Rome is denouncing God) is not Basil’s worldview. Steve Ray says we have to view Basil’s words as hyperbole because if we don’t they conflict with Romanism. The “begging the question” fallacy is aptly illustrated by his remarks.

Steve Ray goes on to complain that Basil could have been even more explicit in his denial of Rome’s authority (“He could have easily said, ‘I reject Rome’s presumed authority which they have unlawfully arrogated to themselves.'” pp. 6-7). But Mr. Ray’s example mistakenly assumes that in Basil’s day Rome claimed universal authority.

In any event, “I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very much elated at receiving a letter from men,” is clear enough of a testimony that Basil doesn’t view the letter from Rome as having supreme authority. Basil makes a direct appeal to a higher authority by stating, “Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of the faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints,” in which he seemingly alludes to Galatians 1:8 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” One is left in full agreement that while conceivably Basil could have used even stronger language than he did, the language he used is plenty strong.

It should be noted that this is not the only place where Basil criticizes the West. Basil wrote:

I am moved to say, as Diomede said,

“Would God, Atrides, thy request were yet to undertake;

…he’s proud enough.”

[Homer, Iliad ix.]

Really lofty souls, when they are courted, get haughtier than ever. If the Lord be propitious to us, what other thing do we need? If the anger of the Lord lasts on, what help can come to us from the frown of the West? Men who do not know the truth, and do not wish to learn it, but are prejudiced by false suspicions, are doing now as they did in the case of Marcellus, when they quarrelled with men who told them the truth, and by their own action strengthened the cause of heresy.

Basil of Caesarea, Letter 239 (to Eusebius of Samosata), Section 2

On the second point, the question of whether Basil never appealed to the bishop of Rome as the supreme authority, Steve Ray attempts to answer the question by quoting from Basil’s Letter 70.

Mr. Ray writes:

Also, in Letter 70 Basil addresses Pope Damasus as “right honorable father” and admits that “nearly all the East . . . is being agitated” and concedes that the pope’s authority is “the only possible solution to our difficulties.”

Remarkably, Letter 70 is without address, although it is widely believed to have been written to Damasus of Rome, the addressee is identified only by various affectionate names such as: “right honourable father” and “your mercifulness.”

Moreover, it should be noted that Basil uses this affectionate term for Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria in his letter 66 to Athanasius (the exact same Greek term: “τιμιώτατε Πάτερ”) and similarly refers to Athanasius this way in letter 90 (“ὁ τιμιώτατος ἡμῶν πατὴρ”). I say this not to argue that Athanasius is the addressee, but simply to point out that at least equal dignity is given to Athanasius: this is not a proto-papalist speaking, but simply a bishop speaking to another esteemed bishop. It should be noted that Basil mentions that the addressee is in the same see as Dionysus, and while there were notable Dionysuses (Dionysi?) of both Alexandria and Rome, a references to “the East” (defined in the text as “Illyricum to Egypt”) seems to weigh in favor of Rome as opposed to Alexandria.

But lets move along from the affectionate title to the actual request. His actual request to his addressee is this:

I have been constrained to beseech you by letter to be moved to help us, and to send some of those, who are like minded with us, either to conciliate the dissentient and bring back the Churches of God into friendly union, or at all events to make you see more plainly who are responsible for the unsettled state in which we are, that it may be obvious to you for the future with whom it befits you to be in communion.

There is not here any request for exercise of authority and power. Instead, the request is for aid and encouragement:

We are lamenting no mere overthrow of earthly buildings, but the capture of Churches; what we see before us is no mere bodily slavery, but a carrying away of souls into captivity, perpetrated day by day by the champions of heresy. Should you not, even now, be moved to succour us, ere long all will have fallen under the dominion of the heresy, and you will find none left to whom you may hold out your hand.

Without further commentary, I think it is worth pointing out the use here by Basil of “churches” (plural) as distinct from buildings. Basil may view communion as universal, but his ecclesiology is one in which there are many churches.


Carl Trueman’s "Reasons … For Moving Romeward"

April 6, 2011

No, Carl Trueman isn’t moving Romeward, but he has post listing reasons that he thinks people give for leaving (link to post). But the reasons given for leaving was not exactly the question posed to him. The question posed to him was the reasons that people leave for Rome. Trueman listed a lot of salient items, but I think he overlooked a few, and so I offer this as a supplement to his post.

1. Love of Idolatry
Men love idols. We can see this throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. It’s especially clear in the Old Testament, in which not only are idols to be found in Lot’s possession (and stolen by Rachel)[FN1], but an idol is made by the Israelites as soon as Moses seems to have disappeared [FN2]. The Israelites are repeatedly warned against the dangers of idolatry [FN3], and yet they return to it time and time again [FN4]. This is the case even despite a number of purges of idols, such as under Asa [FN5].

The New Testament likewise describes the pagan fondness for idolatry [FN6]. John’s last words in his first catholic epistle are to warn his readers to avoid idolatry [FN7]. Likewise, arguing from the evil example of Israel, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to avoid idolatry [FN8].

It’s a huge temptation, and the religion of Rome is rife with it. For example, the bread and wine are worshiped as though they are God [FN9]. The practice of praying before images and presenting gifts during such worship is also viewed as normal [FN10]. Moreover, Rome has endorsed the so-called Seventh Ecumenical Council, which mandated the use of images of Jesus Christ, Mary, angels, and the saints in churches [FN11].

It seems reasonable to conclude that people who join Rome, join it because they love its idolatry. They are not filled with a righteous indignation at this abominable practice, but instead find it alluring.

2. Love of Certainty
I cannot document or prove this item as thoroughly as the first. One thing that I have noticed, however, is that a number of Roman converts point to the issue of certainty. They seem to think that the only way one can have certainty about doctrine is if one has an infallible church. Their typical rationale is that there are thousands of different opinions about Scripture, and consequently they conclude that one cannot be certain about one’s conclusions from Scripture, since there are so many who disagree. Two obvious flaws in their thinking are that there is no good reason to suppose that any infallible church exists and that although there may be thousands of opinions about what Scripture teaches, remarkably none of the groups that hold to Scripture alone as their authority arrive at something approximating Roman doctrines.

3. Escondido Movement
Under the topic of flawed ecclesiologies, Trueman rightly points a finger at “Emergent Christianity” and the “Federal Vision” but Trueman omits to address the Escondido movement. This movement reacts strongly to the Emergent phenomenon and to the Federal Vision, but often on quite weak terms (such as an over-reliance on the amended Westminster Confession). It tries to set itself forth as the official voice of “Reformed” even while departing from the Reformers on a number of significant points. There needs to be a response to Rome’s flawed ecclesiology, but that response cannot take the form of trying to provide a Reformed “Rome lite” where excommunication is viewed as being an exercise of power rather than a recognition of apostasy, where our amended (!) confessions become a rule of faith, and where Scriptural exegesis in debates over issues that the confession addresses are rare or secondary to the issue.

We need to recover the grammatical-historical hermeneutic more than we need to recover the Reformed confessions. We need to understand the importance of church discipline, and make sure it is properly applied. We need to make sure that the fundamentals of the faith are defended, Scripture is explained from the pulpit, and charity is extended in as many of the non-essentials as we can.

Of course, none of the failures of the Escondido movement would justify a departure to Rome. Rome’s ecclesiological problems dwarf anything one can find in any other church. An earthly head of the church who claims to be Christ’s vicar? Come on! A church that claims to have the gift of infallibility, and yet can’t tell itself which (if either!) of Molinism or Thomism is correct. A move from an Escondido-style church to Rome is not a jump from the frying pan into the fire, it’s a move from a cat with slight halitosis to a rabid lion.

Do I echo many of Trueman’s concerns? Absolutely. I haven’t spent this post repeating his points or patting him on the back. I hope he gets plenty of that already. I’m simply writing to emphasize a few points that he may have overlooked.



1) Genesis 31:19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s.

2) Exodus 32:23-24 For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.

3) Leviticus 19:4 Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God. | Leviticus 26:1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.

4) Isaiah 57:5 Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?

5) 1 Kings 15:11-13 And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father. And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron.

6) Acts 17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.

7) 1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

8) 1 Corinthians 10:1-14
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play [Exodus 32:6]. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear i Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

9) CCC 1378 “Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. ‘The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.'”

10) “I am pleased to have the opportunity to pray before her image, br here specially from Gozo for this occasion. I am also delighted to present a Golden Rose to her, as a sign of our shared filial affection for the Mother of God.” (source)

11) “We define the rule with all accuracy and diligence, in a manner not unlike that befitting the shape of the precious and vivifying Cross, that the venerable and holy icons, painted or mosaic, or made of any other suitable material, be placed in the holy churches of God upon sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, houses and streets, both of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, and of our intemerate Lady the holy Theotoke, and also of the precious Angels, and of all Saints.” (source)

The Church Christ Founded

December 11, 2010

One of Rome’s frequently asserted claims is to be “the church Christ founded.” There are a lot of ways to handle that claim. One way to handle it is to ask, “Would the church Christ founded do what Rome did in Ireland?” (see the Wikileak-enhanced story here).

I realize some will simply say, “Yes – there’s no promise that the Church will be morally perfect.” But then again, there’s no promise that the Church will always get its doctrines right – or even that it will always be politically one.

In fact the use of “churches” to describe Christianity was already prevalent in the apostolic period. The visible church is the sum of all those churches, but the apostles founded churches, and wrote to them (see Paul’s letters or the book of Revelation for examples).

Does the systematic abuse of children, the coordinated coverup, and the protection and support of the abusers in and of itself prove that Rome is a false church? Of course not – it’s just evidence that is hard to reconcile with Rome’s grandiose claims for itself.

– TurretinFan

Rejecting the Truth with Clement XI

November 21, 2010

Some of Rome’s rejections of Scriptural truth are more clear than others. One particularly clear set of examples comes from the dogmatic Constitution, “Unigenitus,”dated Sept. 8, 1713, and authorized by Clement XI. I’ve previously posted a full list of the 101 “errors” condemned (link to full list).

There many alleged errors identified. I’ve taken the liberty to highlight a few of them. Remember, these are what the Roman church has officially proclaimed to be errors.


  • 79. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.
  • 80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.
  • 81. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.
  • 82. The Lord’s Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.
  • 83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures, and have heresies been born.
  • 84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.
  • 85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.

The Power of God in Salvation

  • 30. All whom God wishes to save through Christ, are infallibly saved.
  • 31. The desires of Christ always have their effect; He brings peace to the depth of hearts when He desires it for them.

Particular Redemption

  • 32. Jesus Christ surrendered Himself to death to free forever from the hand of the exterminating angel, by His blood, the first born, that is, the elect.

Justification by Faith that Works through Love

  • 51. Faith justifies when it operates, but it does not operate except through charity.

Faith as the Gift of God

  • 69. Faith, practice of it, increase, and reward of faith, all are a gift of the pure liberality of God.

The Church

  • 72. A mark of the Christian Church is that it is catholic, embracing all the angels of heaven, all the elect and the just on earth, and of all times.
  • 73. What is the Church except an assembly of the sons of God abiding in His bosom, adopted in Christ, subsisting in His person, redeemed by His blood, living in His spirit, acting through His grace, and awaiting the grace of the future life?
  • 74. The Church or the whole Christ has the Incarnate Word as head, but all the saints as members.
  • 75. The Church is one single man composed of many members, of which Christ is the head, the life, the subsistence and the person; it is one single Christ composed of many saints, of whom He is the sanctifier.

Total Depravity

  • 38. Without the grace of the Liberator, the sinner is not free except to do evil.
  • 39. The will, which grace does not anticipate, has no light except for straying, no eagerness except to put itself in danger, no strength except to wound itself, and is capable of all evil and incapable of all good.
  • 40. Without grace we can love nothing except to our own condemnation.
  • 41. All knowledge of God, even natural knowledge, even in the pagan philosophers, cannot come except from God; and without grace knowledge produces nothing but presumption, vanity, and opposition to God Himself, instead of the affections of adoration, gratitude, and love.
  • 42. The grace of Christ alone renders a man fit for the sacrifice of faith; without this there is nothing but impurity, nothing but unworthiness.
  • 48. What else can we be except darkness, except aberration, and except sin, without the light of faith, without Christ, and without charity?

The Absolute Necessity of Grace

  • 1. What else remains for the soul that has lost God and His grace except sin and the consequences of sin, a proud poverty and a slothful indigence, that is, a general impotence for labor, for prayer, and for every good work?
  • 2. The grace of Jesus Christ, which is the efficacious principle of every kind of good, is necessary for every good work; without it, not only is nothing done, but nothing can be done.
  • 5. When God does not soften a heart by the interior unction of His grace, exterior exhortations and graces are of no service except to harden it the more.
  • 9. The grace of Christ is a supreme grace, without which we can never confess Christ, and with which we never deny Him.

The Irresistibility of Grace

  • 10. Grace is the working of the omnipotent hand of God, which nothing can hinder or retard.
  • 11. Grace is nothing else than the omnipotent Will of God, ordering and doing what He orders.
  • 12. When God wishes to save a soul, at whatever time and at whatever place, the undoubted effect follows the Will of God.
  • 13. When God wishes to save a soul and touches it with the interior hand of His grace, no human will resists Him.
  • 14. Howsoever remote from salvation an obstinate sinner is, when Jesus presents Himself to be seen by him in the salutary light of His grace, the sinner is forced to surrender himself, to have recourse to Him, and to humble himself, and to adore his Savior.
  • 15. When God accompanies His commandment and His eternal exhortation by the unction of His Spirit and by the interior force of His grace, He works that obedience in the heart that He is seeking.
  • 16. There are no attractions which do not yield to the attractions of grace, because nothing resists the Almighty.
  • 17. Grace is that voice of the Father which teaches men interiorly and makes them come to Jesus Christ; whoever does not come to Him, after he has heard the exterior voice of the Son, is in no wise taught by the Father.

Unjust Excommunication

  • 91. The fear of an unjust excommunication should never hinder us from fulfilling our duty; never are we separated from the Church, even when by the wickedness of men we seem to be expelled from it, as long as we are attached to God, to Jesus Christ, and to the Church herself by charity.
  • 92. To suffer in peace an excommunication and an unjust anathema rather than betray truth, is to imitate St. Paul; far be it from rebelling against authority or of destroying unity.

Yes, folks, those are things that Rome has officially taught are errors – yet many of these teachings are the truth, as I think will be obvious to most of those reading.

– TurretinFan

Augustine on the "We Gave You the Scriptures" Argument

October 12, 2009

One argument that we sometimes hear from Roman Catholic apologists is an argument that Roman Catholicism gave us the Scriptures, in the sense of preserving them for us over the centuries. This claim is, of course, anachronistic (the folks who preserved the Scriptures from the 4th decade to the 4th century, for example, could hardly be called “Roman Catholic” in their doctrines and practices). Nevertheless, for some folks the argument seems to have some bite.

Like so many arguments, though, it is not a new argument. In the times of persecution there were times when the government attempted to destroy the Scriptures and commanded Christians to hand over the sacred writings for destruction. Christians, viewing the Scripture as inspired by God and absolutely necessary, did not willingly cooperate with these commands.

In fact, many were persecuted and even martyred for failing to turn over their Bibles to the government. Not everyone was equally willing to suffer and die for the Word of God. Some folks turned over the Scriptures to the government, and these were known as traditores (meaning someone who hands over), from which we get our word “traitor.”

Later, in theological disputes, some folks attempted to use the faithfulness of their spiritual forebearers against the spiritual unfaithfulness of their oponenents’ spiritual forebearers with respect to the preservation of Scripture. They essentially would say that theirs preserved Scripture, while their opponents’ turned it over. Augustine addresses this argument in a powerful way in the following quotation that Pastor King brought to my attention.

Augustine (354-430) commenting on Psalm 58:3:

But they [i.e., the Donatists] grow too deaf to hear the gospel, and will not allow us to read them the words of God. How ironic: they boast of having saved those words from the fire, but try to delete them with their tongues! Instead they speak words that are their own, and therefore empty. “That fellow handed over the books,” they say, “and that other one too.” Yes, all right; I will say the same: “That fellow handed them over, and so did that other,” and I am speaking the truth. But what has that to do with me? You can’t find the names of those you accuse in the gospel, can you? Nor can I read out to you from the gospel the names of those I mentioned. Let our documents be moved out of the way and God’s book take center stage. Listen to what Christ says, listen to truth speaking: And for repentance and forgiveness of sins to be preached in his name throughout all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. “No,” they reply, “listen to what we have to say. We don’t want to hear what the gospel says.” Sinners have been alienated even from the womb, they have gone astray even from the belly, they have spoken falsehoods. Let us speak the truth, because we have heard the truth, the truth that the Lord speaks, not what humans tell us. A human being can lie, but it is not possible for Truth to lie. From the womb of truth I recognize Christ, who is Truth itself, and from the words of Truth I recognize the Church, which participates in the Truth. Let no one who has strayed away from that matrix in the bowels of the Church speak falsehoods to me; I would wish to find out first what he wants to teach me. I see him as alienated from the womb, astray even from the belly; so what am I likely to hear from him, except falsehoods? They have gone astray even from the belly, they have spoken falsehoods.

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., Works of Saint Augustine, Expositions of the Psalms 51-72, Part 3, Vol. 17, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2001), Exposition of Psalm 57 (58), p. 128 (editor’s footnotes omitted)(read for yourself here).

I realize that there will be many Roman Catholics who would like to focus only on the womb/church analogy. Furthermore, it should be noted that Augustine viewed himself as “Catholic” (not Roman Catholic) as distinct from the sectarian Donatists. He viewed them as having left the Catholic church and consequently as having spoken lies. That is the context for this discussion, and we realize that Rome would like to assert that the Reformed churches are in the same position as the Donatists (although there are numerous reasons to reject such a comparison).

Nevertheless, note that Augustine is quite willing to set aside the personalities (since they are not mentioned in Scripture) and to focus on the Scripture. Let Scripture take center stage, and let all the other things stand aside. Another friend of mine has stated that “I happen to agree with Warfield when, evaluating Augustine’s theology, he concluded that the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the victory of Augustine’s doctrine of grace over Augustine’s doctrine of the church.” That may be the case (I’m less convinced that Augustine’s doctrine of the church was accurately represented by the Romanists), but it should be noted that Augustine was willing to submit his doctrine of the church to the authority of Scripture: to let Scripture take precedence over history and to let the issue be “what does the Scripture say,” as opposed to “who preserved the Scriptures.”


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