Monday, June 20, 2011

How the "Robber Council" Establishes the Papacy

At least three groups of Christians - Eastern Orthodox, traditional Protestants, and liberal Catholics - assail the papacy by arguing that the Church Councils should be our highest authority, an idea called "concilarism."  It's a good argument - after all, Councils can be infallible, they're part of the Magisterium, and so forth, so don't Catholics go too far in declaring that only those Councils accepted by the pope are Magisterial?  Doesn't that eliminate the entire rationale behind a Council?  On Friday night, a Calvinist raised this argument to one of my friends, who responded with one of the best arguments I've ever heard on the subject.

He pointed to the existence of the so-called "Robber Council," the Second Council of Ephesus, to show that this is what the Church (both East and West) historically understood. The Eastern Orthodox, along with many traditional Protestants, accept the so-called Seven Ecumenical Councils:

  1. First Council of Nicaea, 325 A.D. 
  2. First Council of Constantinople, 381 A.D.
  3. Council of Ephesus, 431 A.D.
  4. Council of Chalcedon, 451 A.D.
  5. Second Council of Constantinople, 553 A.D. 
  6. Third Council of Constantinople, 680-81 A.D.
  7. Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.

But in between # 3 and # 4, in 449 A.D., was the Second Council of Ephesus.  It's remarkable, in that it attempted to declare the Monophysite heresy to be the truth, on behalf of the Church.  In the original Council of Ephesus, a Monophysite priest named Eutyches was condemned for refusing to acknowledge the dual natures of Christ.  But in the Second Council of Ephesus, the Robber Council declared that Eutyches was the orthodox one, condemning his opponents, and declaring that Christ only has one nature.  Now, if both the Council of Ephesus and the Second Council of Ephesus are valid Councils, we'd have a serious problem: the Church would have just proclaimed heresy, contradicting both Herself and Scripture.

But that's not the case: we know the Second Council of Ephesus is invalid, and have known it from the start.  As the council was closing, the papal legate (the pope's representative to the Council), Hilarius, expressed the judgment of Rome: "Contradicitur!"  With a single word, he declared the Council invalid in the name of the pope. Leo himself confirmed this, and it's from him that we have the name "Robber Council."

There are a few things remarkable about this:

First, it's only on the basis of the papacy that we can reject the Second Council as an invalid Robber Council.  That is, it's on this basis alone that we can coherently say why  this isn't a Council at all.  After all, the Robber Council was attended by about 130 Bishops, just a little less than the First Council of Constantinople, which is considered an Ecumenical Council.  And the Robber Council was drawn from a wider swath of Christendom than First Constantinople. So by all appearances, it was an Ecumenical Council.  And you can't say it wasn't an Ecumenical Council just because it was heretical, or later condemned.  That's circular logic -- a Council isn't a Council if you happen to think it's right.  So the only reason we can say that the Robber Council wasn't a true Council, rather than a true Council that decreed error, is by recognizing that the Council.

Second, the Eastern Orthodox accepted the Pope's authority in declaring the Second Council of Ephesus to be invalid.  They also deny the Second Council of Ephesus, and refer to it in Pope Leo's terms: as the Robber Council.  Historically, the reason the Eastern Orthodox rejected it as a Council wasn't that it was wrong, but because it had been condemned by the papal legate, and then the pope.

Third, those condemned by the Council looked to the Pope to find out the Council's Validity.  Bishop Theodoret of Cyprus, one of the men condemned by the Robber Council, appealed to the Pope, and said, "I await your sentence, and if you command me to abide by my condemnation, I will abide by it."  This is an Eastern Bishop acknowledging that the Pope, and not an unapproved Council, has the final say.


So in the end, concilarism is certainly false. If Councils don't need papal approval to be valid, then we have to recognize and accept all the Councils.  And that's impossible, since the Robber Council explicitly contradicts the Council of Ephesus, and it was explicitly condemned by the Council of Chalcedon.  You'd have to declare the Holy Spirit contradictory to cling to this notion.


Instead, the truth is that the pope has the ability to declare which Councils are and are not valid, and led by the Holy Spirit, just as he can declares which Books are and are not Scripture.  To simply declare that anything purporting to be a Council is one is as absurd as believing anything which purports to be Scripture.


Post-Script: The Councils of Chalcedon and Quinisext

Two subsequent Councils make these points even clearer. First, the Council of Chalcedon was convened precisely to establish that Christ has two natures.  This Council is recognized by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, and many Protestants; and all orthodox Christians would say its Christology is correct.  After reading into the record St. Leo's "tome," his defense of the dual natures of Christ, the bishops cried out, "Peter has spoken thus through Leo. So taught the Apostles."  It's an affirmation of the Petrine ministry, and the headship of the pope, and it was recorded in the proceedings of the Council.  And Pope Hadrian (Leo's successor, who had  served as the papal legate at the Robber Council) sent a letter discussing the authority of the pope over the Church, which the Council accepted. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Tarasius, then declares the pope's letter to be true and accurate.  So in the Ecumenical Council refuting the Robber Council, accepted by Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants alike, the papacy is established quite plainly.

The second Council worth mentioning is another false Council, the Quinisext Council. It was held in the East, and accepted by the Eastern Orthodox, but rejected by the papacy. The East is careful to recognize it, not as an additional Council, but as additional canons to be added to existing Councils (this way, they can say that they affirm just the first Seven Ecumenical Councils). Two things make it remarkable.  First, Basil of Gortyna presented himself as the "papal legate," although he was not.  The fact that it was viewed as necessary that there be a papal legate speaks volumes.  Second, the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian II, was outraged that the pope refused to accept the council, and actually sent an officer to Rome to kidnap him. Italian troops came down from Ravenna (then the capital of the Western Roman Empire) and stopped him.  That the pope, and he alone, was viewed as a significant enough figure to send troops to kidnap him a thousand miles away is telling.  If papal approval of the Council was unnecessary, why bother trying to arrest him?

106 comments:

  1. We always look to the Word, alone for answers in matters of faith and life.

    Since Councils and Popes are fallible men, or made up of fallibel men, we believe that the source Itself, the Word, is a better choice that we remain faithful to that Word.

    Of course I know that you certainly disagree with that, but that is the reason that we Lutherans(some of us anyway), look to the Word alone for our guidence.

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  2. Old Adam,

    (1) When you say "the Word," do you mean Jesus, or Scripture, or the Gospel?
    (2) Assuming you mean Scripture, on what guidance do you follow Scripture alone?
    (3) And on what guidance do you know which Books comprise Scripture?

    In Christ,

    Joe

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  3. Joe, I think you'll be shocked to know I'm on your side after my last post and this current post, but I feel a duty to answer questions you ask or at least raise a few of my own.

    You said, "If papal approval of the Council was unnecessary, why bother trying to arrest him?" There is at least one basic reason that I could personally conceive: His political influence was jeopardized by disapproval of the papacy? I'm sure there are several other conceivable questions.

    I think your articles are wonderful. I'm just afraid that sometimes your socratic rhetoric will deceive readers that are uneducated on particular subjects.

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  4. Also, I'm an Evangelical Protestant currently on the conversion path to the RCC. I've converted doctrinally, but I'm not in full communion yet. What's interesting to me is that I'm currently in law school and that I have lived in Kansas City for 17 years and happen to be a huge Royals fan myself.

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  5. When we say, "The Word" we mean Jesus 1st. Then the preaching and teaching of the pure gospel and the administering of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, 2nd...and the lastly the Scriptures.

    For us, we accpt the Bible as our guide to Scripture (any Bible will do)but defer to the books of the Bible and the passages of the Bible which most clearly drive Christ forward.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, well, when you put it that way, obviously Catholics would say that they follow Jesus 1st, via the Apostolic Tradition (comprising Scripture, Tradition, Councils, etc.). No Christian imagines that he follows something instead of Jesus, and it is insulting and boorish to imply that a Catholic would accept your premise. The Catholic, like you, regards his confession as following Jesus 1st, and sees all the particulars of that, as being given directly by Jesus.

      The purpose of Joe's questions, was to highlight the obvious truth that Christianity doesn't exist in a vacuum. The fact, is that we all have an interpretive hermeneutic that determines what we mean by following Jesus, and that you are just as dependent upon a traditional set of assumptions that precede your view of Jesus, as anyone else. The question, is: whose set of doctrinal assumptions is the authentic way to truly follow Christ? For, if Christ left us the Apostolic Tradition, the light of the Spirit in the Church, and the Apostolic governance of the Church under Pope and Bishops, then we follow Jesus more truly in this way, than you do with your (rather irrational) assumption that there is a direct pipeline to Jesus that could be free from error, without some authoritative and protected interpretive authority (like the Magisterium). Even what good things you have, come to you from the Catholic Church. How do you even know what belongs in Scripture? This is the point of Joe's question: your first premises are naught but irrational assumptions. This is from a former Protestant, myself.

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  6. Brock,

    No worries! Obviously, I don't insist everyone find my arguments or rhetoric convincing.

    As to your point, though, that the emperor's "political influence was jeopardized by disapproval of the papacy," I agree. But why would a Byzantine Emperor, living solidly in the East, and with the support of the Patriarch of Constantinople, be worried about the clout of the Bishop of Rome?

    If he was worried about this particular Pope, perhaps because he was likable or holy or charismatic, the single worst approach would be to kidnap him. It'd outrage those loyal to him, and turn them against the Emperor. Killing him I could see (since he could no longer rally opposition), but kidnapping would be self-defeating.

    But kidnapping makes a LOT of sense if the Emperor knows that he needs the pope's approval, and thinks he can get it by kidnapping and probably torturing him.

    My point isn't that the Emperor personally believed in the authority of the pope, but that he acknowledged it as a political reality he had to deal with. If the pope didn't approve the Council, then the validity of the Council was (at best) an open question. As far as I can see, this is the only reason to kidnap him, instead of killing him or ignoring him. In Christ,

    Joe

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  7. Brock,

    Just saw your second comment. That's like twenty kinds of awesome. You should get in touch with Fr. Andrew. He's out in Olathe at Prince of Peace, but probably loves the Royals more than both of us, and is who convinced me on the truth-claims of the Catholic Church many moons ago.


    Old Adam,

    What do you mean when you say, " we accept the Bible as our guide to Scripture (any Bible will do)"? My question is about how you know which Books are in the Bible, and about how you know the Bible is to be your sole source of doctrine.


    In Christ,

    Joe

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  8. Whatever drives Christ. We accept the Bible, but we concentrate on the books that drive Christ and what He has done, is doing, and will yet do, and not the books that promote man and what he does.

    A famous quote from Luther (to help illustrate) is this:

    "If they use the Bible against Christ, we will use Christ against the Bible."

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  9. Bravo! In my book, I include an argument for the Catholic Church based on ecumenical councils, though not using this particular facet as the fulcrum.

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  10. I don't disagree with this, but bear in mind that it isn't that simple. The Pope didn't even attend the first few councils and his approval wasn't required for Nicaea or Constantinople. Also, the quote "Peter has spoken trhough Leo", in the context of the council was in relation to his statements that Christ was the Son of God (similar to the statements Peter made). In addition, the same statement is made about Cyril.

    Later on, the Avignon Papacy and the Western Schism were finally settled by the Council of Constance (Basel). The council deposed John XXIII and elected Martin V. The Council demonstrated full power over the pope at that time which later popes would reject even though it is recognized that Martin V was valid. If, in fact, the Council acted outside their scope, Martin V’s election was invalid. If they acted within their jurisdiction, it proves the primacy of a council over the pope.

    Just saying...it's not always so cut and dried.

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  11. "...and not the books that promote man and what he does"

    Yikes! Are you suggesting that the Holy Spirit did a poor job with some of the writers of Scripture?

    I guess this approach is, at least, historically Lutheran (Luther's issue with Revelation, James etc).

    What this approach achieves is that it allows certain Scriptures to obscure others since, in the individual's opinion, some "drive" Christ more than others.

    However, this then begs the question as to the basis on which you approach the Bible in this way and even what qualifies as "driving" Christ.

    But even that's putting the cart before the horse. Even asking what makes you think you should follow Scripture alone can't even be addressed until the fundamental question is answered: how do you know what's Scripture and what isn't?

    For example, why should James be regarded as Scripture and 1st Clement not? What's to stop me from ripping out Revelation from my Bible and sticking in the Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch instead (they're significantly easier to understand!)

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  12. "Since Councils and Popes are fallible men, or made up of fallibel men, we believe that the source Itself, the Word, is a better choice that we remain faithful to that Word"

    I wonder how you view the Council of Jerusalem. If that was infallible, on what basis?

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  13. Restless Pilgrim,

    I do believe that the whole basis for Holy Scripture is to put Christ Jesus forward as the Savior of mankind.

    That which speaks to this fact is apostolic and is worthy to be Holy Scripture.

    Here's another quote that I like from Luther regarding Scripture:

    “All upright sacred books agree on one thing, that they all collectively preach and promote Christ. Likewise, the true criterion for criticizing all books is to see whether they promote Christ or not, since all scripture manifests Christ. Whatever does not teach Christ is not apostolic, even if Peter and Paul should teach it. On the other hand, whatever preaches Christ is apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod should do it!” (LW 35:396)

    The Scriptures that promote man and what he does, or should be doing, we regard as law, the purpose of which is to expose our sinfulness and drive us to the Savior.

    Anywho, it's a radical take, but I happen t agree with it.

    Thanks.

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  14. Restless Pilgrim,

    I do believe that the whole basis for Holy Scripture is to put Christ Jesus forward as the Savior of mankind.

    That which speaks to this fact is apostolic and is worthy to be Holy Scripture.

    Here's another quote that I like from Luther regarding Scripture:

    “All upright sacred books agree on one thing, that they all collectively preach and promote Christ. Likewise, the true criterion for criticizing all books is to see whether they promote Christ or not, since all scripture manifests Christ. Whatever does not teach Christ is not apostolic, even if Peter and Paul should teach it. On the other hand, whatever preaches Christ is apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod should do it!” (LW 35:396)

    The Scriptures that promote man and what he does, or should be doing, we regard as law, the purpose of which is to expose our sinfulness and drive us to the Savior.

    Anywho, it's a radical take, but I happen t agree with it.

    Thanks.

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  15. 100,000th visitor! http://flic.kr/p/9VftqH What do I win?

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  16. Old Adam,

    I think Restless Pilgrim summarizes the crux of what I would say. On what basis do you know what is Gospel, and what is Scripture? How do you know what is of Christ, and what of the enemy?


    Matt,

    The Calvinist my friend was talking to raised the same objection: it's false.

    There was a Council which tried to depose the Pope and install a new Pope. It was the Council of Pisa, which declared Antipope Alexander V the "true" pope. This robber Council was never accepted by the actual pope, Gregory XII. The result of the Council of Pisa was that, rather than two men claiming to be pope, there were now three.

    Thus, ten years later, the Council of Constance was called. This time, Pope Gregory XII offered to resign in order to heal the wound to the Church. He sent his papal legate, Prince Charles of Malatesta with an offer of resignation. The Council accepted it, deposed the two antipopes, and elected a new pope, Martin V.

    So not only does the Council of Constance not prove the authority of a Council over the Pope, it undid the conciliar damage wrought by the ineffective and invalid robber Council of Pisa. They deposed John XXIII, as you said. What you don't appear to realize is that John XXIII wasn't recognized by the Church as a valid pope, but claimed the Council of Pisa as his basis for the papacy. That's why, when Catholics refer to "Pope John XXIII," we mean "Good Pope John," who was pope from 1958-1963, not that impostor.

    Devin,

    What's your book?

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  17. What promotes Christ and His gospel is Holy and right.

    Whatever promotes ourselves and what we should, ought, or must be doing to be acceptable in God's eyes for righteousness sake is of the enemy. For that would make the cross of no avail.

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  18. Old Adam, based on your response to Restless Pilgrim, would you say that Mere Christianity is Scripture? I think we'd agree that it promotes Christ, right? And by the way, who gets to decide if it promotes Scripture? Again, Luther didn't think James did, thinking he taught a 'Gospel of works.'

    Robert Ritchie,

    Couldn't have happened to a better guy! Wish I had a cool prize, and I'm impressed that you happened to notice what number visitor you were.

    Joe

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  19. Joe, I think my problem is that I find your rhetoric SO convincing haha!

    "My point isn't that the Emperor personally believed in the authority of the pope, but that he acknowledged it as a political reality he had to deal with. If the pope didn't approve the Council, then the validity of the Council was (at best) an open question. As far as I can see, this is the only reason to kidnap him, instead of killing him or ignoring him."

    I think that's exactly what I was saying, but just because an emperor recognizes a political reality, it does not establish the canon. Recognition that the Pope weilds political influence with people established over several centuries does not necessarily mean it is right that he holds the influence.

    And I will search out Fr. Andrew at some point when I am in KC! I currently live in Lincoln, Nebraska where I attend law school.

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  20. Joe,

    I thought we were speaking about the Bible and what is contained therein.

    Whenever someone speaks of the pure gospel of the forgiveness of sins for Jesus' sake, it is the Word of God (He is in that speaking or writing).

    The Book of James has it's purpose. As do other books in the Bible. But as far the promoting the gospel, there are other books and verses which are far superior.

    We Lutherans (not all of us, anyway) do not ascribe the same value to every book in the Bible, or to each verse in the BIble as do many Evangekicals who read the Bible literally and take it in a monochrome fashion.

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  21. Brock,

    I appreciate it. You're lucky being in Lincoln, too. Bp. Bruskewitz is solid -- he's probably my favorite American Catholic bishop.

    To your main point, I think we actually agree. The emperor's actions don't prove he believed the pope should have that authority, but it does show that the papal authority existed -- even in the East. After the Great Schism, this fact would be denied or downplayed, but the fact is, after a seemingly Ecumenical Council, all eyes were on Rome to see what the pope would do. If conciliarism were the pre-Schism Church's view of the role of Councils, this history wouldn't make much sense.


    Old Adam,

    I am speaking about the Bible and what is contained therein. I'm wondering why the Epistles of Ignatius, or 1 Clement, or Mere Christianity aren't considered Scripture, under your definition. And I'm also wondering who gets to decide if a particular Writing "promotes Christ."

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  22. Joe,

    Whatever promotes the gospel, or not is quite obvious.

    Either Jesus has done it, or not.

    One can have the Word of God without having to have the Bible.

    "In the beginning was the Bible, and the Bible was with God, and the Bible was God."

    See what I mean.

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  23. @Theoldadam

    As a former Evangelical Protestant, I followed Solo Scriptura and adopted many of the same beliefs you are proposing today. Here's one thing that helped me get over many of those hurdles.

    Let's pretend I spoke this sentence, but you weren't present and only saw somebody post on facebook that I said this:
    "I did not say she kissed a boy."

    This sentence was presented to me at a "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" workshop in highschool. The presentation required us to figure out how vital inflection was in interpretating sentences.

    *Note--I could not get the HTML scripting to work so I applied ... around the emphasized word.
    "...I... did not say she kissed a boy" could say that I didn't say it, but somebody else did.

    "I ...did not... say she kissed a boy" could be a complete denial of the claim.

    "I did not ...say... she kissed a boy." could mean that I didn't say it, but I implied it.

    "I did not say ...she... kissed a boy" says that it wasn't her, but somebody else.

    "I did not say she ...kissed... a boy" well, you get it.

    "I did not say she kissed ...a... boy" connotes more than one.

    "I did not say she kissed a ...boy..."says it was probably a girl.

    With that one simple sentence in writing, I could conceivably interpret it to mean 7 different things. It's no wonder we have 25,000 different denominations today based on Solo Scriptura!

    How could we possibly find out how I spoke the sentence "I did not say she kissed a boy"? Well, if you were present you would probably understand what I meant. Lucky for us, many of those present passed on how the word was interpreted and practiced. Some of those wrote down their explicit practices and others had disciples that wrote what they learned down. It's important that we view how they interpreted the scriptures because they had a more pure understanding of the scripture.

    It's worth remembering that the scriptures were not necessarily written to be read, but to be spoken--some evidence may be the fact that Christ never wrote the book himself, but spoke the word to his disciples! When speaking, it's easier to adjust the sermons to any shifts in ideology that have strayed from the originally practiced interpretation of the scripture. Otherwise, we risk readers creating their own interpretation and practice of the scriptures--Luther and following protestants.

    The Church is the "Spotless Bride" of Christ...but the Church has more spots and disunity than couples who appeared on Jerry Springer. Why? Because many Christians and churches do not submit to a magisterium of interpretation.

    Pray for unity :)

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  24. You mean the Roman Church?

    I'd rather stick with the gospel, inspired and put into the gospel.

    There's just too much works centered theology in the Roman Church, which works against the gospel. Purgatory works against Christ and His sacrafice of sins on the cross.

    And where in Scripture does it say that we can pay money or visit holy relics or places to lessen ours or someone else's time in purgatory?

    I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy into it, that is your business. I'm just saying that I don't buy it.

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  25. 'Put into the BIble'

    (I meant to write)

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  26. Old Adam,

    This is what I'm talking about. One of the passages which best supports Purgatory is 2 Maccabees 12:42-46, in which Judas Maccabeus prays for the dead. As I mentioned here, the early Church, those who heard the Gospel preached first- and second-hand, believed that this was Scripture. Christ celebrates Hannukah, a Festival established only in 1 and 2 Maccabees.

    But you deny it's Scripture. Our repeated question has been, on what basis? To deny it as Scripture because you don't like the doctrines it teaches means you're not basing your beliefs off the Bible; you're basing your Bible off your beliefs.

    Sure, if you cut out anything from the Bible that contradicts Luther's sola fide, you can make Luther's sola fide Biblical. But surely that's not the way Christians have ever approached Scripture - we come as students, in humility, instead. Otherwise, you could prove or disprove anything. If you want to get a divorce, just declare all the Scriptural passages which forbid divorce to be legalistic, and therefore, un-Scriptural.

    Surely you see how circular your argument is? Your opposition to Catholicism is that She has doctrines you don't. She bases these off of Scriptures, which you reject. Your only authority for rejecting these Scriptures is that they disagree with your doctrines. But that approach isn't humility, and taken seriously, you place yourself past all Christian correction, and subject yourself to no Church but the one you already agree with.

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  27. Yes, I did mean the RCC.

    Faith and Works: http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/faworks.htm

    Purgatory and why it makes sense: http://www.catholic.com/library/Purgatory.asp

    I'm unsure on the time reduction in Purgatory and don't have any material to provide on the subject ATM.

    God Bless,
    Brock

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  28. Purgatory may make sense to you, but to me it makes the cross of Christ not accomplish everything.

    I believe that when Jesus said, "It is finished", that he meant it.

    This discussion is really great for it does highlight the major differences in our theology and why I would not consider going back to the Roman Church.

    I have to head out and do some things, but I really appreciate the opportunity to give you another view of the Christian faith.

    Whether you agree or not is not important, but that Jesus Christ and His gospel is lifted up is the main thing.

    Take care, my friends!

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  29. Old Adam,

    I agree that it's good to be able to openly talk about these things.

    In 1 Peter 4:8, St. Peter says, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." If our love doesn't render the accomplishment of the Cross incomplete, by covering sins, then it seems to me that neither does Purgatory. the problem appears to be with your view of the role of the Cross, rather than with Scripture.

    On what Jesus meant by "It is Finished" (John 19:30):
    "So what's finished? Not, as some Protestants claim, the work of salvation: Romans 4:25 says that Jesus 'was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.' The Resurrection hasn't happened yet, so that's not finished. No, what's finished is the long fore-shadowed Paschal Feast and Sacrifice. "

    More here

    God bless, and I hope to hear from you again soon,

    Joe

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  30. Hi Joe,

    Great discussion going on here. My book is called "If Protestantism is True" and was just published a few weeks ago. Here's the amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/If-Protestantism-True-Reformation-Meets/dp/0615445306

    I've been sharing several of your blog posts on the book's facebook fan page, because providentially they have touched on several of the arguments I make in my book.

    The book also mentions Luther's struggles with the canon, the effects of which we see here as theoldadam mentions the "canon within the canon" that some Lutherans still hold to.

    God bless,
    Devin

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  31. Hey Joe:

    What was your church background before you submitted to the claims of the Catholic Church?

    I was in Chesterfield, MO just a week ago at an IT conference. I would have loved the opportunity to meet Fr. Andrew.

    Thanks,

    Dan

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  32. I'm a cradle Catholic, but didn't believe a lot of what the Church teaches. Frankly, I'd never been taught a lot of what the Church teaches.

    So I was a pretty nominal Catholic for a long time, with just enough glow to the embers to get me to ask questions now and again. Fortunately, Fr. Andrew was there to (with the help of the Holy Spirit) fan those dying embers into something much more potent.

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  33. "Purgatory may make sense to you, but to me it makes the cross of Christ not accomplish everything."

    There were two main ideas which turned around my thinking on Purgatory (I previously denied it), but I'd just like to share one...

    I have two family members who both profess faith in Christ, yet they refuse to talk to one another after a falling out several years ago. Could these two people exist in their current state before the Throne of Grace in Heaven? Obviously, no. Something has to happen to them before that point. This "something" is what Catholics call Purgatory.


    But back to the fundamental issue...on what basis do you declare one thing Scripture and another not?

    For example, you talk about Jesus saying "It is finished". On what basis do you believe He said this?

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  34. I'm baaaack!

    Yes, we Lutherans do hold to the canon within the canon.

    Yes, I do believe that Jesus meant that His mission to forgive sinners on the cross was accomplished and finished. His resurrection was the answer to his prayer for forgiveness ao all those who killed him (all of us - because of sin)

    I believe Jesus did say that because it is recorded in Scripture that He said it.

    When we look at Romans we see that we are justified apart from works, by grace through faith.

    Romans is one that Lutherans are quite fond of because of all the Christ centered language in it. Galatians is another favorite.

    Anywho, now I have to cook dinner!

    Sheeesh...

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  35. Catholics are always acting like the fact that Protestants don't have a hierarchical system that can tell them for sure which books are inspired means that they can't think any books are inspired. But this is an obviously false inference is it not?

    I mean, how did anyone know which books were inspired before Christ? Could a non-Jew have won the argument about Genesis's inspiration by saying "You don't have a Divinely protected teaching authority saying that, therefore it is false!"?

    If not, can we drop this nonsense about the canon. Protestants can know it the same way those who came before Jesus can know it.

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  36. Old Adam,

    I think the point people have been making is: on what basis are you able to determine which Books are (a) accurate representations of Christ and His Gospel, and (b) inspired by the Holy Spirit? You seem to suggest that anything in (a) is in (b), but if that's right, it seems you'd have to say that inspired Scripture is still being written today. And that still doesn't explain where (a) comes from.

    HocCogitat,

    (1) The Jews before Christ didn't have a single canon. The Hellenists used the modern Catholic Old Testament, the Pharisees used the modern Protestant Old Testament, and the Sadducees used only the Torah. So rather than disproving the need for a Magisterium, this example does the opposite. They didn't have one, and had no agreed-upon canon of Scripture as a result.

    (2) The ancient Jews didn't believe in sola Scriptura. So, for example, the Jewish Virtual Library explains, "The Oral Law is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining how its commandments are to be carried out. Common sense suggests that some sort of oral tradition was always needed to accompany the Written Law, because the Torah alone, even with its 613 commandments, is an insufficient guide to Jewish life."

    (3) Finally, there was a large degree of centralization within ancient Judaism -- one need only read the Bible to see this. Even when the Pharisees and Sadducees disagreed on the canon of Scripture and on doctrines like angels and the Resurrection as a result (Acts 23:8), they still worked together in the Sanhedrin.

    So I think actually looking at the beliefs and practices of ancient Judaism will show you how self-defeating that line of reasoning is. One reason Christ needed to establish a Church was to avoid the sort of crippling factions and infighting we see in Acts 23.

    In Christ,

    Joe

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  37. Joe,

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, 'whatever drives Christ and His gospel'. For us, that is what is to be focused upon. If it does not promote Christ Jesus and His gospel then it is either law (what we should, ought, or must be doing), or just other. We say it is all Word of God and all Holy Scripture, but as Devin Rose accurately pointed out, we have a canon within the canon.

    I check back in later (or tomorrow).

    Thanks to all, once again, for being so congenial and pleasant in your disagreements and or questioning.

    You guys

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  38. Old Adam,

    I appreciate both the conversation and your tone in it, and I'm sorry if I'm just not "getting it," but are you saying that Mere Christianity would be canonical Scripture?

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  39. I think you misunderstood my point. I am arguing that the line of reasoning that runs: "If there is no infallible teaching authority, then there is no obvious way to determine which books are inspired. Therefore, there is an infallible teaching authority." is a non-sequitir.

    And it is. It relies on a suppressed premise that there is an obvious way to determine the canon. And this cannot be proved. And it can't just be presumed that God would give us this clarity since he didn't for thousands of years before Christ. So saying that Protestantism leaves us with no easy way to determine which books are inspired proves nothing.

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  40. I think you misunderstood my point. I am arguing that the line of reasoning that runs: "If there is no infallible teaching authority, then there is no obvious way to determine which books are inspired. Therefore, there is an infallible teaching authority." is a non-sequitir.

    And it is. It relies on a suppressed premise that there is an obvious way to determine the canon. And this cannot be proved. And it can't just be presumed that God would give us this clarity since he didn't for thousands of years before Christ. So saying that Protestantism leaves us with no easy way to determine which books are inspired proves nothing.

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  41. Gents,

    Great dialogue. Purgatory was my last hurdle to get over. In the end, I found it one of the most life affirming doctrines of the Church. St. Paul teaches purgatory in 1 Cor 3:10-15 and the author of Jude refers to a salvation "out of the fire" (1:23) which can't be referring to hell. I also have a couple of quotes from the Church Fathers on purgatory here. It surprised me to learn how clear the teaching of purgatory was in St. Augustine.

    HocCogitat:

    it can't just be presumed that God would give us this clarity since he didn't for thousands of years before Christ

    Doesn't this kind of make our point? Wouldn't the definitive revelation of God--His Son, Jesus Christ, The Truth--clear things up a bit? Wouldn't His Church be better off than the Hebrew people? I also think your points fails to appreciate what the Catholic position asserts--that Christ founded a Church and that He leads that Church into all Truth by the Holy Spirit. The circumscription of the canon is one of those acts of that Church. Is it so controversial to claim that there is nothing ostensibly or demonstrably in Scripture that would be the cause for the circumscription of the canon? Calvin taught we would know by a burning in our heart. As Catholics, we say that doesn't get you much more than Mormonism.

    Let me get this straight:

    1. God didn't give us a way for thousands of years to clearly know the canon
    2. He sends Christ, but still operates under the vague premise of the OT canon (not sure, maybe, kinda sorta)
    3. Protestants aren't sure about the canon just like Jews weren't sure about the canon
    4. Catholics and Protestants are in the same boat

    I'm trying to appreciate Joe's non sequitur...If you would, would you explain where I have misunderstood your argument?

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  42. Very well done Joe! (or should I say your friend?)

    Here are some other comments worth sharing regarding the Papacy and Councils:

    (1) The 6th Canon of Nicaea proves the Papacy, and this is buttressed by Canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council, contrary to popular Protestant and Eastern Orthodox claims.

    (2) The Council of Ephesus said this:
    "Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See [ie Rome] said: There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to to-day and forever both lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed pope Cœlestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this holy synod, which the most humane and Christian Emperors have commanded to assemble, bearing in mind and continually watching over the Catholic faith. For they both have kept and are now keeping intact the apostolic doctrine handed down to them from their most pious and humane grandfathers and fathers of holy memory down to the present time, etc."
    (Council of Ephesus, Session III)

    (3) I haven't looked into the subject in-depth, but apparently Pope St Agatho (who's letter refuting Monothelitism, i.e. one will in Christ rather than the orthodox number two) said some things confirming the Papacy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council, which was accepted by the East.

    (4) The Eighth Ecumenical Council condemned Photius (leader of anti-Papacy sentiment in the East), but the East rejects this Council. Instead, some EO argue that a few years later, in the 'real' 8th Council, the Pope's claims of the prior 'fake' 8th council were annulled, thus proving a council can overturn a Pope. But this appears to be desperation and white-washing of the facts, for no such thing happened in that manner.

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  43. Regarding the Canon question within Lutheranism, I came across a fascinating 'fun fact' which is that Luthernaism has no defined canon - in other words, the canon, for Lutherans, is technically open.

    The Book of Concord gives no list of books - which is odd for something so long and extensive - and contrast this to the various Calvinist confessions which list the canon immediately.

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  44. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, 'whatever drives Christ and His gospel'. For us, that is what is to be focused upon.

    To focus on 'whatever drives Christ and His gospel' you need to know how to tell what drives Christ and His Gospel -- outside the books, of course, since you will be judging them by it.

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  45. So I am well overmatched in this convo in terms of breadth and depth of knowledge on councils, decrees, and even the Bible so feel free to strike this Joe or correct it others if you see an issue but I'd like to try from another perspective:

    I would say we have a disagreement on a fundamental issue, what is the Bible. so now what? Certainly neither of us can say, well it's up to YOU what your Bible is because that quickly can devolve into cultural relativism and we could conceivably find Islam as "right" as Christianity, so with that in mind

    1) Where did Luther get his teachings from?

    2) Where did the church (RCC) get her teachings from?

    3) Why the disagreement?

    Secondly,

    We have to consider the circumstances in which Paul wrote to the Romans. I COMPLETELY agree with oldadam that Romans is a very good book, perhaps one of the best outside of the Gospel precisely because of what he teaches about works. However, we have to realize that Paul is addressing a grievance in THE CHURCH of Rome in that the Jews and Gentiles disagreed. In response to the Jews he displays that their Law is not necessary or sufficient for their own salvation, that Christ is both of these, but he goes on to say that this does not mean that the law is not in and of itself good for development of faith and following of Christ.

    Romans 2:17-24, a stark condemnation of upholding the law for the sake of the law is quickly followed by Romans 2:28-3:2 in which he also praises the advantage that the Jews have in the law but only in following it with their own hearts. I LOVE ROMANS. it shows exactly the truths Luther held while also identifying it for the half-truth that it really is. Keep in mind that Paul goes on to say that those who have the law are helped by it and even more responsible for their actions because of their knowledge of it.... comments welcome

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  46. HocCogitat,

    As Brent alluded to, the New Covenant surpasses the Old in every way, so arguing that because there was no infallible authority in the Old Covenant, there needs be (or can be) none in the New, does not work.

    Calvin argued that the canon is self-authenticating, that the Spirit witnesses to my (or your) spirit and illumines the books of the canon. But he offers no principled reason for believing that God would guide me or you to know the canon instead of guiding the Church to know it.

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  47. Devin,

    If I could add to that, Calvin's Pneumatic way of knowing Scripture undermining virtually everything else he taught vis-a-vis the Radical Reformers. It was the Radicals who believed in understanding Scripture Pneumatically, while the Calvinists were strict about using the historical-grammatical method, to make sure believers didn't arrive at crazy interpretations simply because they thought the Spirit was telling them.

    The idea that a believer isn't qualified to say what the Bible says, unaided by Tradition and the Church, but is qualified to construct a canon without Tradition or the Church strikes me as an unsustainable hypocrisy.

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  48. Joe,

    Mere Christianity could have been included in the canon. Many gospels were not included. Some books just barely made it (Revelation, for example).

    But where it speaks to who Christ is, it is the Word of God.

    Just in the same way that when you speak to someone about Jesus and His work for them on the cross, you are doing the Word of God to them.

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  49. @HocCogitat

    "And it can't just be presumed that God would give us this clarity since he didn't for thousands of years before Christ. So saying that Protestantism leaves us with no easy way to determine which books are inspired proves nothing."

    Would you then claim that Jews could not presume that God would send them Christ because he hadn't for thousands of years or that we can't presume Christ will come again because he hasn't for 2000 years?

    If you accept the premise, "God hasn't given it to us before so he won't give it to us now." We would be left with nothing other than what was there at Creation.

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  50. Restless Pilgrim,

    I appreciate your comments on Purgatory.

    We believe that all those disagreements regarding theology (or whatever) are a result of our fallen, sinful nature.

    When Christ died for us and promised to forgive us (at the cross and in our Baptisms), He makes us New Men/Women. He clothes us in His righteousness (Galatians 4). "We put on Christ"

    That is how we can enter into Heaven with a perfect and righteous God.

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  51. oldadam, i'll ask again:

    I would say we have a disagreement on a fundamental issue, what is the Bible. so now what? Certainly neither of us can say, well it's up to YOU what your Bible is because that quickly can devolve into cultural relativism and we could conceivably find Islam as "right" as Christianity, so with that in mind

    1) Where did Luther get his teachings from?

    2) Where did the church (RCC) get her teachings from?

    3) Why the disagreement?

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  52. scredsoxfan2,

    Luther studied the Bible and taught the same for the Roman Church.

    He was a scholar and knew most of Bible by heart and could recite from it at will.

    He read Romans and realized that the religious life that he had been living for 15 years in the monastery was not what God was after.

    He realized by reading in Romans (and other places) that God justifies us by His work, alone. There is no co-operative effort required.

    I guess the disagreements are about whether we need any additions to the finished work of Christ on the cross, or not.

    Luther gathered (from Romans and Galatians)that trying to keep the law (anything that WE DO for the sake of improving ourselves in the eyes of God) can not only be a waste of time (because that work has already been done), but it can be harmful in that it places the focus on ourselves and our "religious progress", and our motives become even more tainted with 'self'.

    He saw that we are free from all of that. Free for the neighbor. Free from the vertical relationship (already finished and promised in Christ) and free for the horizontal relationships with the neighbor...where our "good works" are needed.

    I hope that helps a bit.

    I won't get home from work until about 9pm (drat!)so I'll have to get back to your response then, or tomorrow sometime.

    Thanks!

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  53. Old Adam,

    Luther did know a lot about Scripture, but we all know people who are knowledgeable of Scripture yet very off the mark.

    As you're probably aware, Luther said he would give away his Bible Doctorate for someone who could tell him how to harmonize James with Paul. Now if he knew the Bible that well, does this comment make sense?

    You said:
    "He [Luther] realized by reading in Romans (and other places) that God justifies us by His work, alone. There is no co-operative effort required."

    This seems a serious oversimplification. Does it make sense to say there is no co-operative effort when we're required to believe, even have "the obedience of faith" as Paul says?

    The FACT Luther and Lutherans believe salvation can be lost proves there is co-operation, else such would be impossible...unless you believe God randomly takes away salvation.

    You said:
    "Luther gathered (from Romans and Galatians)that trying to keep the law (anything that WE DO for the sake of improving ourselves in the eyes of God)"

    To say "the Law" is synonymous with "anything we do" is a serious exegetical blunder. The Law is none other than the Mosaic Law, and thus whether keeping the Mosaic Law saves...."or is God the God of the Jews only?"

    You said:
    "it places the focus on ourselves and our "religious progress", and our motives become even more tainted with 'self'."

    I don't know where you're getting that idea of 'religious progress' since Paul never talks about that, and further, the Judaizers were proponents of unconditional election and thus didn't feel they had to earn anything, merely receive.

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  54. oldadam,

    I absolutely agree that we are only justified (in a general sense) by Christ's work! Indeed, what we strive to recognize is that though our works are good they are only possible through Christ and made possible by Christ. If you agree with this you would agree with the RCC's teaching. See paragraph 1992 from the catechism: "Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men..."

    and on grace paragraph 1996: "Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life."

    I recommend a read of Philipians (sp) chapters 3 and 4 and also, of the catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1987-2029). You might be suprised to find out what the church actually teaches.

    but anyway, saying that Luther saw the OBVIOUS ERRANCY of the Church's teaching and felt he needed to correct it himself, outside of the church, inspite of both the apostles, who directly knew Christ, and the teachings of the Church fathers directly then contradicts what he taught...or where have I gone wrong in my understanding?

    btw, joe, you'll have to teach me how to do this stupid HTML tag thing because one of Christ's humble servants is incompetent

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  55. @scared sox fan:

    I'm also incompetent. Apparently I need a lesson on remedial HTML tags as much as I need these blog posts.

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  56. Old Adam, with regards to my comments over Purgatory, you said:

    "We believe that all those disagreements...are a result of our fallen...nature...when Christ died for us and promised to forgive us...He makes us New Men/Women. He clothes us in His righteousness"

    You've presented your explanation of salvation, but I can't help but feel you missed my point and haven't really addressed the situation I described.

    You appear to imply that having faith in Christ makes us perfectly holy: "[By being clothed in Christ]...we can enter into Heaven with a perfect and righteous God". However, experience tells us that, even after receiving new life in Christ we still suffer disordered desires and we still sin.

    Assuming that my warring relatives are "saved", can they *remain* in their current state (at odds with one another) and *still* worship before the same throne in Heaven? Yes or no?

    The answer *clearly* has to be "no". If they remained as they were then I'm pretty sure Heaven wouldn't remain "heaven" for very long (clearly something "unclean" would have entered heaven...)

    Therefore, a work of God's grace *has to* happen in their hearts before then. If it doesn't happen before their death, then it has to happen somewhere between death and arriving on Heaven's shores. Catholics call this Purgatory.

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  57. Nick,

    You might believe that Luther was way off the mark, but we believe he was pretty much right on the mark...because he was basically parroting St. Paul.

    "Does it make sense to say there is no co-operative effort when we're required to believe, even have "the obedience of faith" as Paul says?"

    God gives us what is required. St. Paul also tells us that "faith is a gift of God."

    Yes, Lutherans believe that faith can be lost, but that in no way disqualifies the fact that it is a gift.
    Lutherans believe that if we are saved, God gets ALL the credit. And if we are lost, WE get ALL the blame."

    "...the Judaizers were proponents of unconditional election and thus didn't feel they had to earn anything, merely receive."

    Then why does Paul say that they cut themselves off from grace, if they persist in keeping the law for righteousness sake?

    Roman Catholic theology is a semi-Pelagain, co-operative effort, and Lutheran theology is ALL Christ centered. Feel free to stick with having to do this and that for your God to think highly enough of you to save you. I prefer to rely totally on what Christ has done for me...because (as the Bible says) "all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags."

    Thanks.

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  58. Restless Pilgrim,

    If none of us can stay in our sinful state and not be saved, then we are ALL in big trouble.

    As St. Paul says, "The good I would do, I do not. And that which I ought not do, I do." (paraphrased)

    In Romans Paul says that "we are to CONSIDER ourselves dead to sin."
    Not because we no longer sin (Romans 7 shows us that), but because in our baptisms (Romans 6) "we are baptized into a death like His."

    This is a great Word of promise for us! That's why they call it (the gospel) the Good News! It wouldn't be so good if we had to DO something to make it effective in our lives. And if that were the case, then why the cross?!

    Why Jesus at all? God might just as well stuck with Moses and lined us all up for inspection.


    I'm tired. Rough night at work. Gonna hit the hay.

    G'nite.

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  59. oldadam,

    dont know if you read my last comment, but you actually agree with the RCC on this! I'm not kidding either. Not to be presumptuous, but I think you may just have been misled as to what the church teaches.

    I hope you had a good night's sleep though, God Bless man!

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  60. Old Adam,

    Not only is the Catholic Church not Semi-Pelagian, She formally condemned Semi-Pelagianism at the Council of Orange in 529 A.D. Read the canons of the Council here, and let me know where you disagree, if anywhere. And if you think "that was then, this is now," read this news article summarizing Pope Benedict's explanation of what St. Paul teaches us about justification. I suspect we're not as far apart on this issue as you imagine. In Christ,

    Joe

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  61. Semipelagianism is a Christian theological and soteriological school of thought on salvation; that is, the means by which humanity and God are restored to a right relationship. Semipelagian thought stands in contrast to the earlier Pelagian teaching about salvation (in which man is seen as effecting his own salvation), which had been dismissed as heresy. Semipelagianism in its original form was developed as a compromise between Pelagianism and the teaching of Church Fathers such as Saint Augustine, who taught that man cannot come to God without the grace of God.

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  62. The Roman Catholic Church condemns semipelagianism but affirms that the beginning of faith is an act of free will. It teaches that the initiative comes from God, but requires free synergy (collaboration) on the part of man:

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  63. for what it's worth that's what wikipedia says...

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  64. Gentlemen,

    I believe the trouble is that we words we all use (in the church)have different definitions.

    "Grace alone" mean completely different things to R. Catholics and to Lutherans.


    Yes, the Roman Church condemned semi-Pelagainism, but in the end, a co-operative salvation is pretty much the norm.

    And thanks! I did get a good nights sleep, but have got to go back into the salt mine...AGAIN!

    No wonder 'work' is a four letter word...

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  65. oldadam,

    how does this indicate anything other than what you have been saying:
    Catechism paragraph 1996: "Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

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  66. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  67. Old Adam,

    Luther could not have been "parroting St Paul", since St Paul never used the phrase "faith alone". When St Paul says something like "faith apart from works of the Law," it is not a parrot to 'repeat' that as "faith alone," for such is actually an interpretation (and wrong one).

    You said:
    "Yes, Lutherans believe that faith can be lost, but that in no way disqualifies the fact that it is a gift."

    You seem to have just conceded a fundamental tenet of Catholic soteriology. We are saved so long as we are persevering in the GIFT of Faith, but that GIFT can be abused, resulting in us losing salvation.

    Note what Luther said in the Smalcald Articles:
    "It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them"

    How is this that much different then the Catholic view? Thus, it's nonsense to suggest *everything* is taken care of once and for all at the moment one converts (is first justified) since they can lose this justification through sin.

    When I said the Judaizers were proponents of unconditional election, you said:
    "Then why does Paul say that they cut themselves off from grace, if they persist in keeping the law for righteousness sake?"

    Because salvation isn't a promise the Mosaic Law grants, so it's a heresy to live as if being in the Mosaic Covenant is what determines salvation. It's akin to saying they are putting Saving Faith in Moses, when Moses never could grant them forgiveness of sins.

    You said:
    "Roman Catholic theology is a semi-Pelagain, co-operative effort, and Lutheran theology is ALL Christ centered."

    It seems you don't know what Pelagianism is, since Pelagianism never was based upon co-operation and in fact denies co-operation (contrary to Augustinianism, which requires co-operation). This is where Luther abandoned Augustine and joined the ranks of Pelagius. It is actually Lutheranism and Calvinism that embrace Pelagianism, because they teach when Adam was in the garden, it was up to his natural human powers to 'earn' salvation on his own (i.e. no gift of faith or Holy Spirit required). The Catholic and Augustinian version is that Adam even before the fall required the GIFT of FAITH and GIFT of the Holy Spirit to be able to do the good works allowing him to be worthy of eternal life.

    This compounds the Lutheran heresy into a Christological heresy as well, since Lutherans believe Jesus picked up where Adam left off, having to merit salvation by PURELY HUMAN ability - which denies Christ's Divine Personhood and the fact His Divine Will was continuously assisting His human will, making the life of Jesus the epitome of Synergism (man co-operating with grace).

    Indeed, Canon 18 of the Semi-Pelagian Condemning Council of Orange says:
    "Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done."

    In other words, it's anti-Pelagian to say good works plus preceding and enabling grace results in reward! Ironically, Lutherans reject any sort of co-operation as Pelagian, in direct violation of the true meaning.

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  68. I'd really rather hear you respond to Joe's questions about how you identify Scripture, but since you've responded to my statements about Purgatory...

    "If none of us can stay in our sinful state and not be saved, then we are ALL in big trouble."

    You don't seem to get what I'm saying here. I'm *not* saying that we have to be perfectly sanctified at the point of death in order to get to Heaven.

    My point is that you surely can't think that warring relatives with hurt, pain, anger, attachment to sin etc. can still be in this state by the time they get to Heaven.

    I appreciate your quotes from Scripture but I don't see how they address my question.

    So, to try and focus this:

    1. After receiving Christ, do we still sin? y/n?

    2. After receiving Christ, do we still have a tendency to choose creatures above the creator? y/n?

    3. Can someone die in friendship with God and be rewarded Heaven, even if there is some sin in their life? y/n?

    I expect you to answer "yes" to all of these.

    4. Is everyone perfectly holy at the point of death? y/n

    Common experience would say "no"...

    5. Can anything sinful enter Heaven? y/n

    Scripture says "no".

    Therefore (assuming Heaven won't just be filled with snow-covered dunghills)...there *must* be a work of *God's grace* in that person prior to entrance into Heaven.

    So, should we conclude that my warring relatives will remain as they are in Heaven? y/n?

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  69. Nick,

    We do have to DO a litle theology, here.

    "We are saved by grace through faith, not of works lest any man should boast."

    To add the word "ALONE" to faith (after reading the above quote from St. Paul) is not doing any harm to the text, but reinforces it.

    The purpose therein is to keep it pure, from God, unstained by human effort.

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  70. Restless Pilgrim,

    Yes.

    When Jesus makes us clean...we are clean, pure, undefiled.

    Not by anything that we do, say, feel, or think. But solely by His promise, His Word, His blood, His broken body.

    A God that can raise the dead is more than capable of cleaning up His own people. And that is exactly what happens to us in Baptism, for all those with faith.

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  71. scredsoxfan2,

    "Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life."

    We differ thusly:

    That word 'help'...we don't like that word. It shows co-operation. Our definition of grace is more radical. It is a free, undeserved, unearned, gift of God, to the ungodly.

    We are DECLARED RIGHTEOUS for Jesus' sake.

    That's the difference.

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  72. This isn't exactly on topic, but it's all related.

    This is the latest post I put up on my site. It's an audio (mp3) class, a little over a half hour, on the 3 main differences between Lutherans and...everybody else.

    Not asking that you agree with it, but you will have a better understanding of what makes Lutherans tick:

    http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/three-big-differences-between-lutheranism-and-roman-catholic-orthodox-and-virtually-all-other-protestant-denominations/

    If you get the chance, later. My pastor does mention Catholicism and the Pope, in the class a couple of times, as well as he bags on our own denomination a bit.

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  73. Old Adam,

    You appear to be asserting the snow-covered dunghills vision of Heaven... (looks pretty but smells funky).

    Are you really suggesting that hurt and anger my relatives feel for one another, this sin in their lives, will continue in Heaven? Sorry, I just can't accept that. How could something so toxic, so unholy exist before the throne of the All-Holy God? Scripture says that nothing unclean can enter heaven and this is certainly something unclean.

    You keep saying things about "not by anything we do...[God] is capable of cleaning up his people" etc. I find this odd. Where have I suggested that this purification is anything other than a work of God?

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  74. RP, (hope you don't mind)

    I never suggested that. I thought I made it clear (somewhere along the line) that we are made NEW, in Christ. "We are clothed in His righteousness."

    Do you not believe that the Lord can do that for us, by just declaring it so?

    Remember, this is the same Lord who spoke this earth and everything in it into existence.

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  75. Old Adam,

    I think that other than the issue of justification being forensic, we're in agreement that all good comes from God, and that we can add nothing (not good works, not even faith) to what God has given us. "Of Thy own have we given Thee" (1 Chron. 29:14).

    But the issue of whether justification is merely forensic, we do disagree. In that vein, think your most recent question is a bit confusing, in that there are two ways that it can be understood.

    One is that God simply declares the guilty innocent. The other is that God actually cleanses us from sin. The answer to the second question is easily: absolutely yes. We think that this is what He does both in our justification and sanctification here on Earth, and if necessary, in Purgatory, if we die in His graces but aren't yet free from our attachments to sin.

    To the first question, it's like asking if God could make a square a circle without changing it. C.S. Lewis specifically denies (in Miracles) that God can do the logically impossible, but I'm not even sure it rises to the level of an answerable question. What could it possibly mean to change a square into a circle without altering it? What could it possibly mean to make the unrighteous righteous without actually changing us?(To use Luther's famous analogy of snow covering a dunghill, snow doesn't make a dunghill not a dunghill. It just masks the problem, without solving it).

    It's worth noting that you'll be hard-pressed to find any Christians before the Reformation who took this view of what Paul was saying. The Calvinist Alistar McGrath called this view of justification a "theological novum." If it really is as simple as parroting Paul, it's remarkable that seemingly no one in the early and middle Church agrees with you. Are you somehow more knowledgeable of Scripture than they are? How do you know that you're right, and they're wrong?

    I think this is a serious question. We're going to have good-faith disputes over how to read Scripture. By what authority ought we decide those disputes?

    Joe

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  76. Thanks, Joe.

    Actaully there were quite a few Catholics who thought along the lines of paul and Luther before the Reformation. I have some stuff I'll dig up for you when I can get to it.

    And does God clease us from our sin OR just declare that we are righteous? YES. Both. That's why it's the Good News.

    As far as the authority of Scripture goes, I'll stick with the Word. And you stick with Rome.

    Take care, my friend.

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  77. Steve,

    Surely you've realized by now that we don't reject the Word, or reject Scripture. We simply think you hack out huge chunks of it, and create a contradictory and unsupported system. I showed you ten reasons from Matthew 16:17-19 that we can know (from Scripture alone!) that Jesus was talking about Peter specifically, and you simply ignored it. So to now simply declare your own faction the only true interpreters of Scripture is a baldly unsupported claim.

    Like I said above, "we're going to have good-faith disputes over how to read Scripture." This seems to be one of them. So to re-ask my question, when there are disputes over how to interpret Scripture, "by what authority ought we decide those disputes?"

    In Christ,

    Joe

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  78. I think I have said this before. The Word is our authority in all matters of faith and life.

    You want to stick with sinful men...be my guest.

    I think on this point we are starting to chase our tails. You don't see it my way and I don't agree with your way.

    As I have said before, my goal here is not to convert folks who are already Christians (as many Protestants try and do with Catholics - and vice versa), but to let you hear what we Lutherans believe.

    Thanks, Joe.

    G'Nite.

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  79. One for the road.

    Here's a very good mp3 audio on where Lutherans derive their authority when it comes to the Christian faith:

    http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/did-the-bible-drop-out-of-heaven-with-a-bow-tied-around-it/


    Give it 10 or 15 minutes...it gets better as it goes along.

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  80. Steve,

    Here's why it seems that we're chasing our tails:
    1. You say that what makes Lutheranism distinct is a simple reliance upon Christ;
    2. To determine this (and everything else), you point to "the Bible," although you and I believe different Books are in the Bible;
    3. You claim to determine which Books are Biblical by "Whatever drives Christ."

    This immediately creates the problem that you acknowledge (that Mere Christianity could be considered Scripture, while you're free to ignore those Scriptures which you unilaterally determine "promote man and what he does"
    instead of Christ.

    But beyond undermining and destroying the Bible, your view is also circular. You claim to get your doctrines from Scripture, but your Scriptures are based on your doctrines. If you're feeling like there's tail-chasing, I think that's what it is.

    All that said, the title of your pastor's sermon seems promising. I'll try and listen to it tonight, and write a post on it for tomorrow. Sound good?

    In Christ,

    Joe

    P.S. We Catholics don't want to rely upon man. We actually rely upon the Holy Spirit working through the Church (as Jesus promised) to teach us, rather than trying to create dogmas on our own. In my view, this is the more humble, less self-centered view of revelation. Despite your repeated claims that we rely upon ourselves, or add the pope to Christ, etc., I haven't actually seen you substantiate those charges. What are you basing that off of, and who gets to decide if we're adding to Scripture?

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  81. I'm going to have one more go at this Purgatory thing - I think we're having a bit of a communication failure...

    I've been trying to get you to tell me at what point my relatives' hurt, anger, sin and attachment to sin gets removed.

    On the one hand you seemed to assert that they'll remain in this state in Heaven. Yet, as I've said, Scripture states nothing unclean can enter Heaven.

    On the other hand you've spoken about Baptism. The thing is that they were both baptised some time ago and this sin is present in their lives *now*. Baptism clearly doesn't remove concupiscence and they clearly still have an attachment to sin, "clothed in righteousness" or not.

    So, if they (God forbid) die tonight, would they be able to take that sin, that hurt, that anger with them into Heaven? Yes or no?

    As I see it, if you say "yes", then that violates Heaven - it will cease to be "heaven".

    If you say "no" then clearly God is going to have to do something in them between the point of death and their entrance into Heaven.

    I'd like to hear your response to this, but I think this'll be my last post on the subject, partly because I don't think we're really getting anywhere, but mainly because I'd like to hear your response to the more fundamental stuff Joe has raised about your view of Sacred Scripture.

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  82. Hello Old Adam,

    I hope you are not feeling overwhelmed with all these posts.

    You said:
    We do have to DO a litle theology, here.
    "We are saved by grace through faith, not of works lest any man should boast."
    To add the word "ALONE" to faith (after reading the above quote from St. Paul) is not doing any harm to the text, but reinforces it.
    The purpose therein is to keep it pure, from God, unstained by human effort.

    The problem here is that you haven't established what "works" here means, and I can provide a solid example that demostrates the flaw in your approach. Many Protestants would say "works" here includes things like Baptism, which they claim undermines "Christ's sufficiency" as much as any other work.

    Well, any informed Lutheran would know that that argument is nonsense, and that Luther and Lutherans have boldly defended that Baptism does no such thing and is not a "work" that Paul was speaking against.

    The issue with the Lutheran approach is that it concedes that "not of works" cannot be reduced to a narrow 'faith alone' since at minimum baptism is not excluded.

    So yes, we do have to do "a little theology" as you said - and that I believe is where the flaws begin to show (notably the fact St Paul never speaks of "faith alone" yet Protestants have made it a central dogma).

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  83. Joe,

    I never said that mere Christianity should be considered Scripture. Never said it.

    What I said was this; whenever someone speaks of Christ and His forgiveness of sins for sinners, it is the Word of God

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  84. RP,

    No Christian take their sin to Heaven because Jesus took it upon Himself at the cross and in their Baptism.

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  85. Nick,

    Since God is the One who does the Baptizing, it is His work...not ours.

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  86. Steve,

    In response to the direct question, "are you saying that Mere Christianity would be canonical Scripture?" you replied, "Mere Christianity could have been included in the canon. Many gospels were not included. Some books just barely made it (Revelation, for example)."

    I summarized this in my last comment as you saying "that Mere Christianity could be considered Scripture." Now you're saying you never said this. Am I misunderstanding you, or are you retracting your earlier point?

    And to get back to the point I keep asking, if Mere Christianity shouldn't be considered Scripture, why not? How would we know such a thing?

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  87. I said "it could have been", I did not say that now we include it in the canon.

    My point is that the Word (not the Bible) is wherever Christ is promoted.

    The Word was present from the beginning...long before there ever was a Bible.

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  88. I said "could," also. You seem to be retreating from your earlier claim.

    You earlier defined the canon of Scripture as "Whatever drives Christ." When I clarified that I was asking about the Bible, and was "wondering why the Epistles of Ignatius, or 1 Clement, or Mere Christianity aren't considered Scripture, under your definition," you just repeated, "At the risk of sounding like a broken record, 'whatever drives Christ and His gospel'."

    So let me try again. I'm using Mere Christianity here as some book we both agree promotes Christ. If you'd prefer to use the writings of Martin Luther or some other modern writings, feel free to sub those in.

    (1)Are these modern writings part of the Bible?

    (2) If not, on what basis do you exclude them, since they promote Christ?

    I'm not sure you've answered either of these questions yet. If you have, I apologize for repeatedly asking the same questions -- I may simply be missing your answer.

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  89. You're getting 'God's Word', and 'the canon of Scripture' confused when I speak of them.

    Whatever drives Christ is GOD'S WORD...the canon is something else.

    Whatever is God's Word is worthy to be included in the canon. Not that is actually in the canon.

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  90. I'm explicitly asking about the canon of Scripture.

    Based on what you just said, is there any reason not to add Mere Christianity to the canon?

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  91. No. Because "the world could not hold all that could be written about Him."

    We already have a Bible...which contains the Word. And we have the Word contained in preaching, teaching about Him, and the Sacraments.

    That has always been enough. And it always will be.

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  92. Is there any distinction, then, between those Books collected in Scripture, and those books which aren't? It sounds as if your view of the Bible is just the first x number of Books about the Gospel which happened to make the cut. Is that a fair understanding of what you're saying?

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  93. Hello Old Adam,

    You said:
    "Since God is the One who does the Baptizing, it is His work...not ours."

    Please clarify. If I get baptized by my priest, how is it God doing the Baptizing?

    And part two of that: why can we not substitute any Christian work for "Baptize" and say God is the one who does it?

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  94. Nick,

    We can.

    Jesus commanded that we Baptize (Matthew 28).

    The Lord never commands us to do anything where He won't be present in it, for us.

    Baptism is not just water alone, but God's Word of promise attached to that water.

    "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

    His name is given to that person in Baptism. The Lord is adopting that person in Baptism.

    Oh yes. God is the One who Baptizes. The priest, the pastor, you or I...we are just His instruments.

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  95. oldadam,

    your discussion of us as His instruments is precisely the reason the Church is the RCC. It is the instrument He dictated via Peter and the Apostles...

    God Bless

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  96. Steve,

    On Baptism, we agree. Certain Evangelicals view it as a "work," because they see the actions of the men baptizing, rather than the invisible working of God. Both Catholics and Lutherans see beyond this, and realize that the man is a mere visible instrument of the invisible God.

    We Catholics see the same thing in all of the "good works" you think we're trying to "add" to Christ's work, "for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10). So St. Paul explicitly tells us that in doing the good works Christ prepared for us, we're behaving as God's "handiwork," His instruments. And serving as His instrument in this way is vital to being saved: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will be saved, but only the one who does the Will of My Father" (Matthew 7:21).

    Whether it's a cause of effect of salvation (or both) is irrelevant to the question before us - the fact is, it's tied up with salvation, as Christ makes clear. If we don't do the good works God prepared for us, if we refuse to do the Will of the Father, we're not saved, period.

    So for the very reason neither of us see Baptism as adding "works" to Christ, but simply letting Him work through you, we Catholics don't see any of the things you criticize as "works" as anything more than letting Him work through us.

    In Christ,

    Joe.

    P.S., As Cary (scredsoxfan2) noted, the Church and Her ministers are also instruments of God, not additions to the Gospel. I think the New Testament bears this out. Obedience to the Church is obedience to the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. You can't separate the Two who have become One (Ephesians 5:25-32; Matthew 19:6).

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  97. Hey Joe, I'm wondering how you reconcile that last post with 1Corinthians 3:10-15?

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  98. You mean the one on Purgatory, I take it? I think they reconcile well -- what tension are you seeing?

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  99. Steve,

    I enjoyed your pastor's sermon. My reactions here: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2011/06/lutheran-pastor-shows-need-for-catholic.html.



    Brock,

    Now that my brain is awake, I realize that you were talking about the comment right about you, rather than the post on Purgatory and Ghosts.

    Yes, we build upon the foundation of Christ, but if we do so well, it's through cooperating with God, rather than trying to go it alone. When our own will takes predominance, that's when you get straw, etc.

    God isn't calling us to inactivity. That misunderstands salvation by grace through faith completely. Instead, we're active (even on fire) for Him, but when we're active for Him, we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking the initiative is ours. Does that answer your question?


    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  100. scredsoxfan2,

    Well, I give God a little more credit than that.

    I believe He is capable of calling His own from wherever it is they happen to be worshipping Christ.

    We believe that Christ does know His Church, and that they are founf wherever His word is proclaimed.

    And we cannot know who is really in, and who really isn't.

    "The wheat and the tares grow together."

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  101. oldadam,

    absolutely, God can call anyone to do his work from wherever they may be. Whether they recognize it or not is another matter but this is part of the reason there is no requirement of Catholicism to be "saved." However, if you knowingly saw something that Christ established and turned from it....saying that his church is everywhere just means you dont have to be Catholic to be Christian, but the Church already recognizes this, but that they dont have the fullness of truth. If what you are saying here is true, are Mormons Christians? I mean they proclaim the NT and OT you ascribe to, and certainly they are doing some things Christ is calling them for right?

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  102. I found this fascinating, but thought that there was just no way the Orthodox didn't have a better response than you gave them credit for. Turns out OrthodoxWiki (not a very authoritative source, obviously, but nonetheless) pretty much admits that they've got nothing at all in response to this. http://orthodoxwiki.org/Ecumenical_Councils

    It notes that "a particular council may declare itself to be ecumenical, it may later be regarded by the Church as being a Robber Council." But then spends its whole time beating up the idea "which has been popular since the time of the Slavophile philosopher Alexis Khomiakov first defined it is that ecumenicity—the idea that a particular council is of universal, infallible significance for the Church—is determined by the reception of the whole body of the Church."

    The reason? "Such reasoning is circular, because whoever accepts a council is therefore inside the Church, but any who reject it are outside. In other words, such councils are ecumenical essentially because those who hold to their decrees declare themselves exclusively to be the Church."

    But that is the best they've got: "At the current time, the episcopacy of the Church has not as yet put forward a universal definition as to what precisely lends a council its ecumenicity. What is generally held is that councils may be regarded as ecumenical and infallible because they accurately teach the truth handed down in tradition from the Church Fathers."

    At which point my head started to spin since they decried circularity and presented even more circularity in its place, so I went and read a little Msgr. Knox as therapy:

    “Strange as it may seem I had always assumed at the back of my mind that when my handbooks talked about ‘Arian’ and ‘Catholic’ bishops they knew what they were talking about; it never occurred to me that the Arians also regarded themselves as Catholics and wanted to know why they should be thought otherwise. ‘Ah! but,’ says my Church historian ‘the Church came to think otherwise, and thus they found themselves de-Catholicized in the long run.’ But what Church? Why did those who anathematized Nestorius come to be regarded as ‘Catholics’ rather than those who still accept his doctrines? I had used this argument against the attitude of the Greek Orthodox Church when it broke away from unity, but it had never occurred to me before that what we mean when we talk of the Catholic party is the party in which the Bishop of Rome was, and nothing else: that the handbooks had simply taken over the word without thinking or arguing about it, as if it explained itself; but it didn’t.”

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  103. I just stumbled on a reference to this thread on the "why not Orthodox thread." I want to finish posting things there (some posts got sucked into the void of the net it seems), but in the meantime, just a few brief comments.

    "First, the Council of Chalcedon was convened precisely to establish that Christ has two natures."
    Not excatly: it was to confirm the Home Synod of Constantinople in which St. Flavian had deposed Eutyches, and reverse Ephesus II, which had reversed the Synod in Constantinople.

    "After reading into the record St. Leo's "tome," his defense of the dual natures of Christ, the bishops cried out, "Peter has spoken thus through Leo. So taught the Apostles." It's an affirmation of the Petrine ministry, and the headship of the pope, and it was recorded in the proceedings of the Council."
    Not quite: Pope St. Leo wanted the Council (which he wanted in Italy) to adopt his Tome as its Definition of Faith, on the basis of his authorship. The Fathers instead established a committee to examine it for Orthodoxy, and when they found it comporting with the writings of Pope St. Cyril of Alexandria etc., then read it into the record and declared it Orthodox, but then wrote their own definition of the Faith.

    "And Pope Hadrian (Leo's successor, who had served as the papal legate at the Robber Council) sent a letter discussing the authority of the pope over the Church, which the Council accepted."
    The letter you cite is from Nicea II, held over three centuries later. And, as you source shows, the letter was edited when read out.

    Quintisext was accpeted by Rome, but that is a post in and of itself.

    "First, Basil of Gortyna presented himself as the "papal legate," although he was not. The fact that it was viewed as necessary that there be a papal legate speaks volumes."
    Not quite. There was no legate from Rome at Constantinople II. Ephesus (I) had a cloud hanging over it because the Antiochian delegation had not arrived before Nestorius was deposed, which had to be ironed out in the Formula of Union between Pope Cyril and Pat. John of Antioch. The Egyptian delegation was not allowed to leave Chalcedon until they elected a new Pope to replace Dioscoros so the Holy Synod of Alexandria could ratify Chalcedon. Constantinople II was held over Rome explicit objection (to which the Council struck Abp. Vigilius of Rome from the diptychs) etc. The Council of Constantinople 1593, which ratified the elevation of Moscow into a Patriarchate, was held so the Pope of Alexandria, who had been holding out, would consent.

    "If papal approval of the Council was unnecessary, why bother trying to arrest him?"
    Because Justinian II (note the name)thought himself a second Justinian, who was going to restore the empire, including Italy. That the canons weren't scrapped until Rome agreed (which she did, Pope Adrian I citing its canons; and canon I of Nicea II refers to it as a done deal) undermines any "need to arrest him."

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  104. Joe,

    I have a question for you. Is Leo's Tome ex-cathedra? If so he says, that Jesus acquired Mary's fault. The council said, "it was Peter speaking through Leo" Would this not make the later doctrine of the immaculate conception seem like a contradiction.

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  105. " What was assumed from the Lord’s
    mother was nature, not fault; nor does the
    wondrousness of the nativity of our Lord
    Jesus Christ, as born of a Virgin’s womb, imply
    that his nature is unlike ours. "

    http://m.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.xi.vii.html

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