Credo in Unum Deum

I Believe in One God

Religious Freedom and the Catholic Church

From the Remnant

Here is a tease…

Religious Freedom has certainly been one of those hotly debated topics in the Church before, during and after Vatican II. What are the true immutable principles involved and are these to be applied univocally or analogically according to a diversity of concrete circumstances and historical contexts?  Is the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom, “Dignitatis Humanae”, an expression of  “continuity” or “rupture” from these immutable principles?  Pope Benedict XVI wished to settle this question in his Address to the Roman Curia on the “Hermeneutic of Continuity” (December 22, 2005): “It is clear that in all these sectors, which all together form a single problem, some kind of discontinuity might emerge. Indeed, a discontinuity had been revealed but in which, after the various distinctions between concrete historical situations and their requirements had been made, the continuity of principles proved not to have been abandoned. It is easy to miss this fact at a first glance.”

This work by Bishop von Ketteler, published approximately 100 years before Vatican II, sheds much light on these burning questions and helps us to grasp more firmly what “is easy to miss…at a first glance.” Ketteler clearly establishes the unchanging principles involved and goes further by demonstrating how these are to be properly applied given the circumstances and requirements of our age while dispelling confusion and reconciling apparent contradictions in light of historical contingencies.


November 13, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion, Theology | Leave a comment

What is Faith, Part 2

Thus saith Newman- not Analytic, but also not Thomas Aquinas…

Lead on Kindly Light…


Now, in the first place, what is faith? it is assenting to a doctrine as true, which we do not see, which we cannot prove, because God says it is true, who cannot lie. And further than this, since God says it is true, not with His own voice, but by the voice of His messengers, it is assenting to what man says, not simply viewed as a man, but to what he is commissioned to declare, as a messenger, prophet, or ambassador from God. In the ordinary course of this world we account things true either because we see them, or because we can perceive that they follow and are deducible from what we do see; that is, we gain truth by sight or by reason, not by faith. You will say indeed, that we accept a number of things which we cannot prove or see, on the word of others; certainly, but then we accept what they say only as the word of man; and we have not commonly that absolute and unreserved confidence in them, which nothing can shake. We know that man is open to mistake, and we are always glad to find some confirmation of what he says, from other quarters, in any important matter; or we receive his information with negligence and unconcern, as something of little consequence, as a matter of opinion; or, if we act upon it, it is as a matter of prudence, thinking it best and safest to do so. We take his word for what it is worth, and we use it either according to our necessity, or its probability. We keep the decision in our own hands, and reserve to ourselves the right of reopening the question whenever we please. This is very different from Divine faith; he who believes that God is true, and that this is His word, which He has committed to man, has no doubt at all. He is as certain that the doctrine taught is true, as that God is true; and he is certain, because God is true, because God has spoken, not because he sees its truth or can prove its truth. That is, faith has two peculiarities;—it is most certain, decided, positive, immovable in its assent, and it gives this assent not because it sees with eye, or sees with the reason, but because it receives the tidings from one who comes from God. This is what faith was in the time of the Apostles, as no one can deny; and what it was then, it must be now, else it ceases to be the same thing. I say, it certainly was this in the Apostles’ time, for you know they preached to the world that Christ was the Son of God, that He was born of a Virgin, that He had ascended on high, that He would come again to judge all, the living and the dead. Could the world see all this? could it prove it? how then were men to receive it? why did so many embrace it? on the word of the Apostles, who were, as their powers showed, messengers from God. Men were told to submit their reason to a living authority. Moreover, whatever an Apostle said, his converts were bound to believe; when they entered the Church, they entered it in order to learn. The Church was their teacher; they did not come to argue, to examine, to pick and choose, but to accept whatever was put before them. No one doubts, no one can doubt this, of those primitive times. A Christian was bound to take without doubting all that the Apostles declared to be revealed; if the Apostles spoke, he had to yield an internal assent of his mind; it would not be enough to keep silence, it would not be enough not to oppose: it was not allowable to credit in a measure; it was not allowable to doubt. No; if a convert had his own private thoughts of what was said, and only kept them to himself, if he made some secret opposition to the teaching, if he waited for further proof before he believed it, this would be a proof that he did not think the Apostles were sent from God to reveal His will; it would be a proof that he did not in any true sense believe at all. Immediate, implicit submission of the mind was, in the lifetime of the Apostles, the only, the necessary token of faith; then there was no room whatever for what is now called private judgment. No one could say: “I will choose my religion for myself, I will believe this, I will not believe that; I will pledge myself to nothing; I will believe just as long as I please, and no longer; what I believe today I will reject tomorrow, if I choose. I will believe what the Apostles have as yet said, but I will not believe what they shall say in time to come.” No; either the Apostles were from God, or they were not; if they were, everything that they preached was to be believed by their hearers; if they were not, there was nothing for their hearers to believe. To believe a little, to believe more or less, was impossible; it contradicted the very notion of believing: if one part was to be believed, every part was to be believed; it was an absurdity to believe one thing and not another; for the word of the Apostles, which made the one true, made the other true too; they were nothing in themselves, they were all things, they were an infallible authority, as coming from God. The world had either to become Christian, or to let it alone; there was no room for private tastes and fancies, no room for private judgment.

June 27, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion, Theology | Leave a comment

What is Faith?

“Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of
things that appear not.”

Is this a good defininition?
St. Thomas thinks that it is, especially since the Apostle himself gives it. And while the definition is not like a technical definition, St. Thomas contends that it lacks none of the necessary components of a definition. What then is the “substance” of the “substance of things hoped for”? Obviously, it cannot be a substance in terms of the supreme genus as in Aristotelian logic. He says that substance may also be suitably used to indicate the “first beginning of a thing”. Thus it can be said that “the first self-evident principles are the substance of science, because, to wit, these principles are in us the first beginnings of science, the whole of which is itself contained in them virtually.” So then, faith is the first beginning of the things we hope for and do not see. The object of faith then is understood as something unseen, as the second part of the definition says. For what we hope for we do not see, “(Rom. 8:25): ‘We hope for that which we see not’: because to see the truth is to possess it.” 
St Thomas explains “evidence”; that it “is taken for the result of evidence. For evidence induces the intellect to adhere to a truth, wherefore the firm adhesion of the intellect to the non-apparent truth of faith is called ‘evidence’ here. Hence another reading has ‘conviction,’ because to wit, the intellect of the believer is convinced by Divine authority, so as to assent to what it sees not.”
He then goes on to define faith using the form of definition:

Accordingly if anyone would reduce the foregoing words to the form of a definition, he may say that “faith is a habit of the mind, whereby eternal life is begun in us, making the intellect assent to what is non-apparent.”

He further explains,

In this way faith is distinguished from all other things pertaining to the intellect. For when we describe it as “evidence,” we distinguish it from opinion, suspicion, and doubt, which do not make the intellect adhere to anything firmly; when we go on to say, “of things that appear not,” we distinguish it from science and understanding, the object of which is something apparent; and when we say that it is “the substance of things to be hoped for,” we distinguish the virtue of faith from faith commonly so called, which has no reference to the beatitude we hope for.

Therefore, we must next ask what the proper object of faith is.

(All quotes from St. Thomas are from his Summa Theologica, Treatise on Theological Virtues, Question 4, Article 1.)

June 12, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Philosophy, Protestantism, Religion | Leave a comment

How do we come to assent to “mere Christianity?”

Sorry this is so long.;

The Church against No-Church
Part I of II
Brownson’s Quarterly Review, April, 1845
Art. 1. The Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, January, 1845. Art. VI. The Church.
The Journal, the title of which we have here quoted, is the ably conducted organ of the American Unitarians. As a periodical, it is one in which we take no slight interest; for it is conducted by our personal friends, and through its pages, which were liberally opened to us, we were at one time accustomed to give circulation to our own crude speculations and pestilential heresies. We introduce it to our readers, however, not for the purpose of expressing any general opinion of its character, or the peculiar tenets of the denomination of which it is the organ ; but solely for the purpose of using the article which appeared in the January number, headed The Church, as a text for some remarks in defence of the Church against the prevalent No-Churchism of our age and community.
In our Review for October last, we refuted the pretensions of the High-Church Episcopalians ; in the last number, in the article on The British Reformers, we refuted Low-Churchism : we attempt now a refutation of No-Churchism, or the doctrine which admits the Church in name, but denies it in fact. All Protestant sects, just in proportion as they depart from Catholic unity, tend to No-Churchism ; and our Unitarians, who are the Protestants of Protestants, and who afford us a practical exemplification of what Protestantism is and must be, when and where it has the sense, the honesty, or the courage to be consequent, have already reached this important point. They cannot be said, in the legitimate sense of the word, to believe in any Church at all. They see clearly enough, that, if they once admit a Church at all, in any sense in which it is distinguishable from No-Church, they can neither justify the Reformers in seceding from the Catholic Church, nor themselves in remaining aliens from its communion. They have, therefore, the honesty and boldness to deny the Church altogether, and to admit in its place only a voluntary association of individuals for pious and religious purposes ; in which sense it is on a par with a Bible, Missionary, Temperance, or Abolition society, with scarcely any thing more holy in its objects, or more binding on its members.
The Examiner, in the article we have referred to, fully authorizes this statement; and though it by no means discards the sacred name of Church, it leaves us nothing venerable or worth contending for to be signified by it. The controversies, for the next few years, it thinks, will, not improbably, revolve around the question of the Church. ” What, then,” it asks, ” is the Church ? what is its authority ? what its importance ? what its true place among Christian ideas or influences ?” These are the questions ; and its purpose in the article under consideration is to offer a few remarks which may indicate a true answer to them, especially the last.
In answer to the question, What is the Church ? the writer replies, ” It is the whole company of believers, the uncounted and wide-spread congregation of all those who receive the Gospel as the law of life. It is coextensive with Christianity ; it is the living Christianity of the time, be that more or less, be it expressed in one mode of worship or another, in one or another variety of internal discipline. The Church of Christ comprehends and is composed of all his followers.” pp. 78, 79.
The answer to the question, What is the importance of the Church ? is not very clearly set forth. Perhaps this is a point on which the writer has not yet attained to clear and distinct views. It is, probably, one of those points on which “more light is to break forth.” The place of the Church among Christian ideas and influences is also not very definitely determined ; but it would appear, according to the Examiner, that the sacred writers had two ideas,for they were not, like our modern reformers, men of only one idea, and these two ideas were, one the Church, the other the individual soul. We do not mean to say that the writer really intends to teach that the Church is an idea, for a ” company of believers” can hardly be called an idea, nor can the individual soul; but he probably means to teach that the sacred writers had two ideas, or rather two points of view, from which they contemplated this company of believers,-the one collective, the other individual. “They loved to collect in ideathe members of Christ, as they styled them, under one idea, and present them in this relation of unity to their readers. Thus viewed, the Church became the emblem of Christian influences and Christian benefits. It expressed all Christ had lived for, or died for. He had loved it, and given himself for it. It was ‘the pillar and ground of the truth.’ It was «the body’ of which he was the head.”p. 79.This unity, however, is purely ideal. The only unity really existing consists merely in the similar sentiments, hopes, and aims of the individual members. But
” There was another idea on which the Apostles insisted still more strenously, that of the individual soul. They taught the importance of the individual soul. Around this, as the one object of interest, were gathered the revelations and commandments of the Gospel. Personal responsibleness in view of privileges, duties, sins, temptations was their great theme. They preached the Gospel to the soul in its individual exposure and want. It is the peculiarity of our religion, its vital peculiarity, that it makes the individual the object of its address, its immediate and its final action. Christianity divested of this distinction becomes powerless, and void of meaning. It contradicts and subverts itself.” Ib.

Continue reading

June 10, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion | Leave a comment

Our faith rests on Divine Authority

I suggest that you first (re)acquaint yourself with my initial post on faith–

–before reading this. This is sort of a further explanation of that post.

Since without faith we cannot be saved, and faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God, it seems to be that our faith must be in the Word of God. Now of course, the Word of God is so much more vast than the Bible and is not even primarily the Bible, but Jesus, the eternal Logos. But there are certain propositions that proceed from the mouth of God that are to be believed. These include items like the Messiahship of Jesus, the Death and Resurrection, the Atonement, that one must repent and renounce the devil and the world– basically the gospel here.

Faith then must rest on the Divine Word spoken to us. This Divine Word is given by Divine Authority, since it is given by the Blessed Trinity. This Divine Authority must speak either directly or immediately to us, or mediately via some creature. The medium hypothetically posited has no inherent Divine Authority. If I am spoken to immediately then my faith in the Word will be based on the immediate experience with the Divine Authority. If I am spoken to mediately, then my faith will be based not on Divine Authority, but whatever authority the medium has. Therefore, unless God speaks to me immediately, I cannot exercise Faith because I am not believing the Word of God based on God’s Divine Authority, but of the medium’s authority.

But this is repugnant. But if I insert that in addition to the fact that the medium possesses no inherent authority, that God bestows upon the medium His own Authority in certain matters, then I can exercise Faith since the act of Faith rests on the Authority of God delegated to the medium which I directly experience.

Since the only Church that claims to possess this kind of Authority and has so from the beginning (if you dispute this, please keep quiet until you read the early Fathers) is the Catholic Church, it follows that the only way we can exercise Faith is if we believe what the Church teaches, or if God comes to us immediately and reveals to us the Truth.

The public nature of revelation (truth) should be discussed. But not now… I am tired.

May 26, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion | Leave a comment

Faith impossible without the Catholic Church?

Some folks argue that “saving”* faith is impossible if the Catholic Church is not true. Is that the case? Here seems to be the line of reasoning.
The object of faith is God. That is not a disputed proposition among those claiming to be Christian in any supposed orthodox sense (i.e. not liberals who deny revelation or inspiration yet still call themselves Christian). Yet to have faith in God, we need to believe what He teaches us about Himself, ourselves, etc. All He has revealed to us is to be believed. Our knowledge of God, and thus our relationship with God, is dependent to a great extent on the Special Revelation He has given us. I think it will be conceded that our relationship with God determines whether we are saved or damned.

There are a couple things to say now about this. I think that all of the above is pretty evident. But in case there is anybody who doubts the above, let us repsond as follows. Any of the people addressed in this article (that is the general Christian in any supposed orthodox sense), will believe that God has revealed Himself to us both naturally and specially. Natural Revelation is of course what we can derive from Reason alone, which is quite a bit, but not really enough to have a self-conscious, personal, one-on-one relationship because we would lack certain essential bits of knowledge about the character of God in Christ. Special Revelation is defined minimally as what was delivered once for all to the saints as contained in the Bible (at least 66 Books, and more truly in all 73 inspired Books of Holy Scripture). Now unless we our going to place ourselves in the category with the heathens who have never heard the revelation from God through Christ and therefore must rely on Natural Revelation alone, the above assertions do not seem to be controversial. Therefore, we must admit that those of us who are aware of, or should be aware of (that is, ought to be aware of, but are willfully ignorant) Special Revelation then fall under the rubric above—our relationship with God is dependent on our knowledge of God. Therefore, let us concede all that has been said and move forward.

Thus far we have stated that our knowledge of God is determinative of our relationship with God, and thus determinative of our salvation or damnation.† Now in order to perform an act of Faith, there must be something that we are believing. It may be said again that we are believing a person, Jesus the Christ. I again repsond as above that we cannot have faith in something that we have no knowledge of. Our believing requires that we are believing something about that Person which is the object of our act of Faith.

Here seems to be the heart of the assertion that faith is impossible without the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church proports to be Divinely protected. She claims to have delivered to us infallibly the canon of Scripture and certain other dogmas of the Faith, including the Trinity and Hypostatic Union, to name just two. But let us just assert the necessity of what Scripture tells us about this Jesus who we believe in. It would be impious at best to base ones faith on what is not Divinely given. In fact, such faith is not faith at all, in the sense of “saving” faith.* I think that is not disputed here among us. Now if our faith is to be based on what is Divinely given, we must have certainty‡ that it is Divinely given. But that certainty is impossible without an infallible and indeed indefectible Church. Since no Church claims this at all, save the Catholic Church, it follows that Faith is impossible if the Catholic Church is not the One, True Church. But if the Catholic Church is the One, True Church, then Faith is possible.

This is also important for the concept of covenant children, implicit faith and many other interesting issues, like EENS… but that is all for another post!!

*Of course, there is no such thing as saving faith as opposed to other kinds of faith in God. But, I make the distinction in order to avoid confusion, in addition to the fact that many Protestants have invented the term to delineate between those who appear to have faith but don’t “for real”— therefore they should know what I mean.

†Just to clarify some more… Since God saves or condemns on the basis of what we do with what we know, this should not be difficult to assent to. Our knowledge of God is determinative of our relationship. This means that we can accept or reject what we know about the Truth of God. Rejection means damnation, acceptance salvation (at least initially— we are not dealing with the problem of persevering in the Faith, only getting in!).

‡I refuse to go deep into the “What kind of certainty do you mean?” question. Let the reader be thoughtful enough to know that I don’t mean mathematical certainty or any other certainty restricted to what is known by reason alone. This is to me one of the most irritating questions. Having argued this question many times I have decided that it is more of a skeptical red-herring than a real concern over super-subtle definitions. It seems that the Holy Apostles did not worry about defining-to-exclude when they spoke about having certainty about the things they preached which was revealed to them by God. When the reader reads this term in the Bible, let him apply it to my usage in this article.

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion | Leave a comment

The Papacy as seen from the Bible- briefly. Pt. 2

In Part 1, I argued briefly that in Matthew 16, Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter, Rock, and then proclaims that He will build His Church on that very rock, Peter.  I pointed out that when petra is used to mean something other than a literal rock, it is always a concrete personal thing, not an abstract idea (like faith).  God is the Rock and Jesus is the Rock.  I should further note that Christ giving this name to Simon specifically as a name change is significant.  This title, Rock, has somewhat divine overtones since it is applied mainly (maybe exclusively, but I am not certain about that) to God the Father and God the Son.  More should be said about this, but this is a “brief” overview.  Is. 22 contains the second classical text which is quoted and alluded to in the Matthew passage discussed last time.   Here is what it says, NIV again:

15. This is what the Lord, the LORD Almighty, says: “Go, say to this steward, to Shebna, who is in charge of the palace:16.What are you doing here and who gave you permission to cut out a grave for yourself here, hewing your grave on the height and chiseling your resting place in the rock?17. “Beware, the LORD is about to take firm hold of you and hurl you away, O you mighty man.18. He will roll you up tightly like a ball and throw you into a large country. There you will die and there your splendid chariots will remain– you disgrace to your master’s house!19. I will depose you from your office, and you will be ousted from your position.20. “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah.21. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.22. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.23. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father.24. All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots–all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.25.”In that day,” declares the LORD Almighty, “the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down.” The LORD has spoken.

(I suppose I have to pay some sort of royalty for quoting that much Scripture…BTW, emphasis mine.) Without going into all the political stuff involved in what a steward is, suffice it to say that the steward was a prime minister-like position in which the person who was steward possessed the power to make decisions for the king in his (the king’s) name when necessary.  It was a position that was successive; that is, when one steward died, another succeeded him.  This isn’t bio-chemical engineering of spaceship flagella, or whatever the ID physicists do.  This is simple enough stuff.  But this is already too long…

Jesus evokes this image of steward in Matthew 16; that is obvious.  Now what needs to be driven home is this:  Since the steward position was a position that had as part of its working a succession of stewards, it is utterly ridiculous to think that Peter and the rest of the disciples would’ve, without a word from our Lord, thought, “I guess he’ll be the last steward and there will no longer be anymore succession of stewards in the new Kingdom”.  That doesn’t make sense.  (I think the last steward will reign until The Return of the King, and may it please God that our last steward is not like Gondor’s last steward!) So there is built in the idea of succession. Finally, it is interesting to note that the steward specifically referred to in the Isaiah passage is also prophesied to fail just like the steward he (Eliakim) is replacing.  How fitting, then, for Christ to say to Peter, “You are to be the Steward of the Renewed People of God; you are the Rock upon which I will build this people; this load; this Holy House.  And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!”  This Steward will not fail.  This House cannot fail.  Christ Himself guarantees that Peter and his successors will not fail in holding up the Church that is built on them.

Of course, the true scholars out there have expanded on all this to a truly great degree and filled in all the holes.  This is brief after all. The next question in this brief overview is whether the rest of the Gospels contain any information that would lend support to what seems to me to be overwhelming evidence for the papacy already.  Of course, these texts do not serve to add strength to the argument per se.  What they will serve to do is substantiate the claim.  That is, if there is never any outworking of the Matthew 16 passage as it seemingly must be interpreted, that should make us pause for a moment and really look hard to see whether our reading is in fact the obvious reading we think it is.  If any passages do exist that show Jesus treating Peter as if he will be the Pope some time after His Death and Resurrection, then we can know that we have indeed interpreted the obvious correctly.  I guess that will be part 3.(I think even without any other evidence in the Gospels or Acts that it would be exegetical suicide to come to any other conclusion.  Also, I do like the ID folks.)

March 17, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion | Leave a comment

The Papacy as seen from the Bible- briefly. Pt. 1

This is merely a quick rundown of some of the Biblical evidence for the papacy, bolstered by some pertinent historical data. Matt. 16:16-19 is the classical text.  What does it say? NIV:

16. Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17. Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

I don’t like the NIV, but I guess most folks use it and the translation isn’t bad here so… a.) Simon singularly receives a revelation.  b.) Simon’s name is changed to Peter, which means “rock”.  c.) Jesus says that upon this rock He will build His Church and promises it indefectibility, that it will not fail, Satan cannot overcome it.  d.) Jesus promises to give Peter the keys to the Kingdom; his bindings and loosings shall have been bound and loosed in Heaven.Jesus says that he will build His Church upon this rock.

I hate it when some guy who doesn’t know Greek starts busting out what the Greek says in the 38th declension coupled with the 4th conjugation of the active-passive participle of the future past verb, but that being said, the Greek word for “this” can be translated, and often is because, according to the real Greek Geeks, tautee is a demonstrative adjective, as even this or this very.  (See  KJV of Acts 13:33; I Cor. 7:20; II Cor. 8:6; 9:4-5.)  This would seem to require that the petra of verse 18 is the same as the Petros of verse 18.  That is, they are identifiable.  It is out of the question that the petra is the confession or Christ Himself.  Further John 2:42 makes it clear that the changing of Peter’s name was not linked to his confession per se, since when Jesus first meets Peter in this account He just says “you’ll be called Peter”.

So with this understanding, it is more than proper to read v. 18, “You are Rock, and upon this same (or this very) rock I will build my Church.  Finally, my study in this area has pointed out that when petra is used symbolically, it is always used of something concrete.  Thus, Christ is my rock, God is my rock.  It is not used of an abstract thing, like faith or propositions.  Likewise, the symbolism or analogy of foundation is always used in terms of a really existing concrete thing.  Our foundation is Christ, the prophets and apostles are our foundation, the Church is the foundation of the truth.

I suppose all I am doing here is agreeing with most Protestant scholars and (I hope) all Catholic scholars.  The big next step is to show that after Peter died that there was a continued primacy of his successor.  I guess that is for part 2.

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion | Leave a comment

Faith Alone – feeling alone

Of course, no where does St. Paul state that we are justified by faith alone. Now, some might say that it can be inferred from many passages, just like we infer from many passages and the covenantal and cultural context that we ought to baptize our babies because they born into a believing, covenant family. The problem with that argument is that when we argue for paedo-baptism, we argue from the fact that children of covenant households were always considered as belonging to God. We argue from the fact that at the time the Bible was written, that was still the understanding. When households were baptized, it is inconceivable that the babies (if there were any there) were also baptized.
But the problem with sola fide pushers is this: they contend that Paul was castigating folks because they thought that works was needed without faith, or maybe with faith, and he was setting them straight and saying that faith alone justifies. The disconnect is in the fact that in the baptism argument, we appeal to the fact that the text doesn’t need to be clear about infants, because it would be assumed, being a part of the covenant consciousness of the people. Apparently, works righteousness was the main category in the consciousness of the people, according to the Lutheran/Reformed folks. This would call for an explicit rebuttal of works righteousness and an even clearer proclamation of sola fide. This also renders James statement, “not by faith alone”(delivered to a Jewish audience I believe) utterly ridiculous. Since the Jews had a problem with works righteousness, why is he telling them you are justified not by faith alone, but by works?

Maybe the Jews weren’t works righteousness freaks after all? Maybe they knew they were part of the covenant and were Gods people. Maybe the fact that they weren’t being faithful is what Paul was attacking… which makes sense of his Hab. 3 quote that “the just man shall live by his faithfulness…” — activity I think… Maybe the Jews were so utterly proud of their covenant identity in the fleshly marks (circumcision- another point of attack for Paul) that they had begun to trust in these works of the Law (circumcision being commanded by the Law) that they had ceased to be faithful to the covenant (work in faith, not works alone, not faith alone).


February 15, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion | 10 Comments

Abraham the Multi-Justified

Man that’s catchy!

So there seems to be a problem with the view that Justification is a once-for-all, one time, never to be repeated event.

You see, Abraham was justified about three times, according to Sacred Scriptures. Genesis 12, 15 and 22. I am not saying what that means right now, I am only pointing out that the view of Justification the Reformers innovated seems to be in trouble.

February 14, 2008 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion | Leave a comment

The Great Commission and its Concomitant Consequences

Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

“What is the Church?” and “what is faith?” are two key questions with which, it seems, any thoughtful Christian will be forced to reckon. Such questions are at the heart of the Christian revelation, and, also, sadly, at the heart of much division between those who name Christ as their master. In our small way we will try to begin to unfold the nature of the Church and of faith by seeking to show that the Church, in some recognizable way, is infallible, and we will also seek to show that faith, because of its nature, presupposes, in the ordo salutis, the Church’s infallibility with the result that its denial results in either the denial of faith itself or of its possibility outside of the bounds of the infallible Church. Taking for granted that those who do not ascribe infallibility to the Church do not thereby intend to deny faith or its possibility, we will refrain from dealing with the first of the consequences spoken of in the immediately prior sentence, and, instead, focus upon the latter—to wit, the impossibility of faith outside the infallible Church.

This presentation will come in two parts: the first being an inquiry into the nature of the great commission, and the next, an exposition of certain aspects and conditions for an act of faith.

This short offering will seek to draw out certain implications of the Great Commission that Jesus, shortly before his ascension to the right hand of the Father, entrusted to his disciples. It will presume certain historical data, and proceed to draw out such data’s logical implications. Our analysis will take for granted certain facts about the essentially necessary truthfulness of God, the personal identity of Jesus Christ with God, and the consequences that follow from this state of affairs—Jesus words and deeds always fully conform/ed with the will of God, are/were actions undertaken by a divine person, are/were infallibly truthful and efficacious. As one can see, Jesus’ resurrection within the course of history and all his actions and words as historically attested to by the Gospels, Paul, et al., will be presumed. (One could also appeal to the historical witness of church Fathers here.) Moreover, we will, on some level, take for granted the historical fact of the Great Commission itself. Next, granting Jesus’ unfailing truthfulness and divine power and authority, we will discuss the nature of the great commission as it is (at least) historically described in the Matthean account. Then, finally from the indubitable historically established facts of both Jesus’ divinity via the ratification of his message in the resurrection and the great commission, we will draw some of the logical consequences of such a commission.

Without citing chapter and verse, it is evident that the Gospels have Jesus claiming divinity for his own person: both in reference specifically to the established understanding of God and his rights and attributes and in reference to a more general, shall we say, natural theological sense. Since God is Truth itself, and because, by necessary consequence, he can only ratify, speak and act in a truthful manner, he would/could not ratify any message that is false. Because a miracle comes from a divine/supernatural cause, that it is a divine action, and that it pertains and participates in God’s truthfulness, such an event (if it be authentic) would not occur in the case of something which would contradict God’s own truthfulness—I.e., God would not vouch for a liar through a miracle. But a resurrection is manifestly a miraculous action that, since its efficient cause is divine/supernatural yet its effects natural (at least in terms of its object and its intelligibility), attests to God’s approval of the one resurrected. Moreover, a resurrection, as far as we know, only occurs within history. It is an historical event, then, that discloses God’s own message of approbation. In Christ’s case, he claimed for himself divinity, yet, neither his claims nor his miracles were sufficient in themselves to establish his divinity. But, in virtue of the historical fact of the resurrection, Christ’s claims and miracles were indubitably vindicated.

From the above we can come to a knowledge that Jesus Christ is divine, and, since divine, also always spoke truthfully with divine authority. Now, granting the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts (cf. Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:16ff.; Lk. 10:16, et al.), Jesus did historically commission certain teachers. This fact can also be established by reference to the patristic and/or pagan testimonies contemporaneous with the period under discussion.

Excursus (I.e., what follows is not essential to our argument as such): We do not have much patience for the opinion that historical witnesses do not provide for the acquiring of true knowledge, but, rather, at best, function as a basis for a fiduciary trust in the assumed good will, coupled with the adequate requisite intellectual capacity, of the witnesses. We contend, rather, that the historical record can provide a valid avenue to the attainment of indubitable knowledge. Such knowledge engendering information is conveyed through contemporary and traditional testimony, historical monuments, institutions, etc.

Moving now to the record of the commission we see that in it Jesus is addressing a group, delegating responsibilities/duties, ascribing ubiquity to the commission in its effects, and promising that said commission will perdure to the end of the age/world. When considering the commission in terms of its effects we can immediately see that such a commission could not have been given to the group whom Jesus was addressing—in this case the disciples—in terms of their individual persons. This fact is evident primarily on the basis of the terms and nature of the commission: the commission is to extend to terrestrial (at least) universality in both space and time. The former seems quite unlikely, though granting the multiplication of miraculous modes of multi-locational apparitions or superabundant instances of supernatural transportation, it might have been accomplished in both theory and fact; but the latter, without the repristination of the age of the primordial patriarchs and the antediluvian global conditions (if such a theory and interpretation is even tenable), is impossible.

On the basis of the terms of the commission that we find in the Gospels, esp. Mt. 28, we see that the commission cannot have been given to the disciples qua disciples because they could not fulfill such a commission. It is unlikely in the extreme that the disciples could literally preach to all nations, and it seems quite impossible that the disciples could literally preach until the end of the world. Moreover, as noted above, the said commission was not given to any particular disciple in virtue of his person. Rather, we find that the commission must have been given to the disciples as a society or body of teachers with its own structure and function. So, where does that leave us in terms of our understanding of the nature of Christ’s commission to the apostles?

One explanation and we believe the only sound one, sees that Christ’s commission could not have been predicated upon the personal qualities of the various disciples, nor upon the office of apostle as such. Rather, Christ’s commission to the apostles effects the instantiation of a teaching office that is distinct from the specific charism of the apostles although it operates through a body of teachers that stems back to the “college” of apostles and the commission that Christ initially charged them. I.e., the teaching office was included within the office of apostle but is not identifiable with it. Such a teaching office was to be maintained through the apostles’ successors, who, though not teaching “new revelations” as did the apostles, nevertheless taught what the apostles taught with the apostles’ own authority without, unlike the apostles, offering any new public revelation. This body of teachers must exist lest the words of Christ return void. He commissioned his disciples with a charge to teach that encompassed the entirety of space and time from that point forward, and such a commission, if divine, must come to fruition.

Another aspect of Christ’s commission is that it requires the infallibility of those whom Christ commissioned. Such an infallibility follows from the fact that Christ commissioned his apostles and their successors to teach everyone everything that he (Christ) commanded. Christ whose person is essentially truth charges a society of men to teach, giving them his own spirit, the spirit of truth. Christ gives this teaching body his own authority to teach, and in virtue of assigning such a body with the duty of teaching for him, Christ himself vouches for what it will teach. Christ who is truth can only vouch for or affirm what is true. Therefore, whatever the so commissioned body teaches will, by virtue of Christ’s truthfulness, teach truthfully. The reasoning is parallel to that of understanding the meaning of the miracle of Christ’s resurrection in relation to the assertions that Christ made about himself, God and the ordo salutis. Furthermore, the fact that the apostles were given the task to teach, on Christ’s own authority, or, in other words, as if Christ himself were there teaching is made explicitly clear in Luke 10:16 (Mk. 16:15ff. et al., also speak to this). If one denies the apostles and by implication their successors, that person denies Christ, and, in denying Christ, that person denies the Father.

In sum, the infallibility of the teaching body commissioned by Christ follows from the fact that this body teaches as if it were Christ teaching. Christ can only teach what is true; Christ commissioned teachers to teach in his place thereby vouching for the content of their teaching; therefore, the body of teachers is also infallible to the extent that their commission requires. Once this is understood the denial of the infallibility of the teaching body seems impossible.

But, if one persists in the denial of the infallibility of the teaching body, and by necessary consequence, the Church, an undesirable consequence follows: namely the inability for the one who denies the infallibility of the Church to make an act of faith. To be continued….

September 7, 2007 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion | 2 Comments

Inspired Bible Known by Us Requires Infallible Council-Revised

So if Protestants can agree with us that if Prophet A says “Thus saith the LORD” means that Prophet A must be infallible at the time Prophet A reported God’s word, then it seems that our Protestant friends must grant infallibility to the Church at least once; that is, when She declared the Canon.
Here is the reasoning:
(1) If Prophet A says “Thus saith the LORD” (and truly is declaring God’s word), then Prophet A must necessarily be infallible during the declaration.
(2) Prophet A says “Thus saith the LORD” (and truly is declaring God’s word).
(3) Therefore, Prophet A is infallible.

For “Prophet A” let us use instead “the Catholic Church”.
(4) If the Catholic Church says “Thus saith the LORD” (and truly is declaring God’s word), then the Catholic Church must necessarily be infallible during the declaration.
(5) The Catholic Church says “Thus saith the LORD” (and truly is delcaring God’s word).
(6) Therefore, the Catholic Church is infallible when she truly declares God’s word.

Let’s just refer to the Church’s declaration of the New Testament and leave the OT out of the equation (which is silly really since the OT was declared the same time the NT was, but…). If the New Testament is the inspired word of God, and we are to have certainty that it is- so much certainty that we base our religious and moral life (and of course our SALVATION!) on the content of the NT, then we sure the heck better know that it really is the Word of God.

Many Protestants do say that they know with certainty that it is inspired. OK. When the Church says “These are the books of the NT” it is effectively saying, “Thus saith the LORD.” Put that into the “If-Then” argument above and you have to grant infallibility to the Church on at least one occasion.

For “Thus saith the LORD” let us use instead “This is the New Testament”
(7) If the Catholic Church says “This is the New Testament” (and it truly is the NT), then the Catholic Church must necessarily be infallible during the declaration.
(8) The Catholic Church says “This is the New Testament” (and it truly is the NT).
(9) Therefore, the Catholic Church is infallible when she says “This is the NT (and it truly is the NT).

The old “A fallible collection of infallible books” is insanity. It is a proposition that destroys the possibility of publicly knowable revelation. Or it is a proposition that eventually refutes itself. It really depends on how you understand and work out that proposition.

Now if our Protestant friends say that the Church discovered the Canon and did not declare it, then we have to ask how reason unaided by supernatural grace could possibly reach into a realm that it is closed off to and “discover” what is supernatural in origin. Or it means that the Bible is not Supernatural if it can be “discovered” and it is merely a human book. Can’t have it both ways!

August 11, 2007 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion | 8 Comments

Divine Special Revelation Requires Infallibility of Revealer

It is interesting that many Protestants reject the notion that a “mere human” could be infallible. But they also think that Paul, Peter, Samuel, Isaiah and Moses (and the rest) were inspired writers. Now if we just think about it for a minute, with a mind to truth, then it seems that if a prophet comes to me and says “Thus saith the LORD…” he sure the heck better be right. Now being “right” means at least 2 things. 1) That God has indeed commissioned him to be a mediator of His revelation. 2) That in relaying the revelation he has made ZERO mistakes- that is, he has perfectly related what God spoke to him so we can rightly say that God is speaking through him. Of course, we may be saying more than that by “he’d better be right”, but we are saying at least that and that much is what we are concerned with here.

Now I should note that my use of “revelation” in every instance is referring to divine, special revelation which includes the unattainable by natural reason and mere human reflection; it also includes the facts of history upon which Christianity hinges which may be known by reason alone, but can not be known with certainty only if we are told by God that certain “improbable things” like certain miracles occurred. It may mean more than that (I think it does) but I believe that is sufficient for our purposes.

If our Protestant friends concede 1) and 2), which I believe most of them will with speed, then I think something follows pretty much inescapably. Since men are by nature fallible, we need some sort of guarantee that in delivering the revelation his natural propensity to err will be in some way obviated. Now if in the special instance of delivering revelation, a revelator’s propensity to be fallible would guarantee only that the chances are that he will get some of it wrong. That would means that some of the content of “Thus saith the LORD” would not be from God but from the man “revealing” God. We could not therefore refer to his prophecy as a whole as inspired by God. There would only be portions that were inspired and we could not tell with any degree of certainty which portions were mere words of men and which were in fact the authentic words of God.

This seems pretty evident. Conceding this point, it seems that the Holy Spirit must supervene to preserve His message and keep error from creeping into it. The way the Holy Spirit has done this is to cause his agent to be infallible during the transmission of the message. When a prophet was protected from error in transmission we can rightly say that “He was infallible”, meaning, “While he was speaking God’s word to us, God protected him from error in that transmission.”

I do not believe that there is a single conservative Protestant who would disagree with any of what I have said. Therefore, either they are experiencing cognitive dissonance or they are unaware of what they are saying when they assert the inspiration of Scripture and deny the possibility of mere humans being infallible.

Now how could this apply to the argument for the infallibility of the Catholic Church?

August 8, 2007 Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion | Leave a comment