Jimmy Akin on the Practical Problems of Sola Scriptura

In summary, sola scriptura presupposes (1) the existence of the printing press, (2) the universal distribution of Bibles, (3) a cash-based economy, (4) universal literacy, (5) the universal possession of scholarly support materials, (6) the universal possession of adequate time for study, and (7) a universal education in a high level of critical thinking skills.

Needless to say, this group of conditions was not met in the crucial early centuries of the Church, was not met through the main course of Church history, and is not met even today. The non-existence of the printing press alone means sola scriptura was totally unthinkable for almost three-quarters of Christian history.

It is thus hard to think of sola scriptura as anything but the theory spawned by a group of Renaissance-era dilettantes-people who had an interest in being their own theologians, who had a classical education in critical thinking skills, who had plenty of leisure time for study, who had plenty of scholarly support materials, who had good reading skills, who had access to Bible-sellers, and most importantly, who had printed Bibles.

The average Christian today-even the average Christian in the developed world-does not fit that profile. Much less did the average Christian in the early centuries. What this means, since God does not ask a person to do what they are incapable of doing, is that God does not expect the average Christian of world history to use sola scriptura. He expects the average Christian to obtain and maintain his knowledge of theology in some other way.

But if God expects the average Christian to obtain and maintain the Christian faith without using sola scriptura, then sola scriptura is not God’s plan.

–Jimmy Akin, Ten Thousand Chickens for One Thousand Bibles: Some Practical Problems of Sola Scriptura

(Side note: This problem is probably why modern day Evangelicals don’t even worry so much about what the Bible teaches and would prefer to focus solely on their “personal relationship with Jesus” as a way to avoid difficult problems.)

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Disclaimer – This blog post is just that: a blog post with my personal thoughts. I am not a Catholic apologist or theologian. What I say here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am still learning and am susceptible to error. Don’t take anything here as Gospel. Don’t be stupid. Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.

Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.

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28 thoughts on “Jimmy Akin on the Practical Problems of Sola Scriptura

  1. Must,

    A couple problems here:

    1. Akin has not properly defined sola scriptura and has ignored the definitions set forth by Reformational protestants (Ketih Mathison’s “The Shape of Sola Scriptura” for instance).

    2. Akin ignores the patristic argument for sola scriptura and assumes the rightness of his own historical narrative.

    3. Akin ignores the Biblical argument for Sola Scriptura.

    4. Akin ignores every single patristic example of a Church Father urging the flock in a sermon or a letter to study scripture.

    5. Akin ignores that Scriptures demands that it be read by all of God’s people.

    6. Even if Akin’s 7 points are true, that in no way justifies the existence of non-Scriptural dogmas (papal infallibility, transubstantiation, the assumption of Mary, etc).

    7. The modern day evangelicals that you are describing are pitiful members of Christ’s covenant. We ought to pray for them. That being said, pitting the worst of evangelicalism with Rome will not lead anyone to a proper perspective of the issues.

    • 1. Akin has not properly defined sola scriptura and has ignored the definitions set forth by Reformational protestants (Ketih Mathison’s “The Shape of Sola Scriptura” for instance).

      Okay. I’ll look into Mathison. Does he also speak for all Protestants? Because I’ve never heard of him.

      2. Akin ignores the patristic argument for sola scriptura and assumes the rightness of his own historical narrative.

      “…assumes the rightness of his own historical narrative.” Don’t we all? Don’t you? And Akin’s article is subtitled the “practical” problems, not the “patristic” problems. He deals with that in other writings.

      Even if the case could be made that the early church believed in sola scriptura in the same understanding Protestants do (which is questionable), the Scriptures of the early Church was larger than our Protestants Bible. Interestingly, it is the Catholic Church that still holds the deuterocanonical books as inspired. So who is truly protecting the Scriptures and who is removing from them? Even non-Catholics recognize that the early Church considered the deuterocanonical books inspired Scripture. A couple I have read is J.N.D. Kelly and F.F. Bruce.

      Indeed, those books went through a questioning process; but so did Hebrews, Revelation, James, Jude, etc. And of course the next questions are, “If all these books were questioned, what authority decided that they were okay? Since the church can be in error, are we all allowed to decide for ourselves what the Bible contains? Who says I can’t? Luther? Mathison?”

      3. Akin ignores the Biblical argument for Sola Scriptura.

      Again, the article is subtitled the “practical” problems; not the “Biblical” problems. And where is sola scriptura taught in the Bible, anyway? I’ve looked into this issue a bit. If you have something new and game-changing, please let me know.

      4. Akin ignores every single patristic example of a Church Father urging the flock in a sermon or a letter to study scripture.

      That’s probably because Akin’s article isn’t about whether we should study the Bible or not. Even Akin would say we should. Yes. The Bible is a big deal and even the Catholic Church encourages people to study it.

      So I’m not sure I understand your point. Is it intended to prove universal literacy and distribution of Bibles existed? Because it doesn’t.

      5. Akin ignores that Scriptures demands that it be read by all of God’s people.

      Okay. Again, the Bible is a big deal and is an authority. Nobody is arguing against that. That’s not the same as being the sole authority.

      6. Even if Akin’s 7 points are true, that in no way justifies the existence of non-Scriptural dogmas (papal infallibility, transubstantiation, the assumption of Mary, etc).

      There is actually Biblical support for Catholic doctrines and there is a plethora of Catholic Biblical exegesis and apologetics for anyone who wants to know. Ignatius Press has tons of books and Catholic Answers has tons of articles.

      Protestants just take issue because it just doesn’t jive with our interpretations. It doesn’t mean they are wrong and that we are right. It just means there is a difference in interpretations. But they definitely appeal to the Bible all the time—and too often they seem to do it better.

      7. The modern day evangelicals that you are describing are pitiful members of Christ’s covenant. We ought to pray for them. That being said, pitting the worst of evangelicalism with Rome will not lead anyone to a proper perspective of the issues.

      According to Reformation principles, the church and individuals can descend into corrupt doctrine and it is up to each individual to decide for himself what the true interpretation of Scripture is, according to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and bring “reformation.” So you have no right to call them “pitiful members of Christ’s covenant” without claiming your interpretation is infallible and theirs is wrong. Do you claim that?

      It seems the modern day Evangelical beliefs are the end result of the sola scriptura theology, especially when coupled with sola fide. Since most people are not and cannot be scholars, and Christianity is for everyone, and we’re saved by faith alone anyway and not by our scholarly abilities, then the end result is simply a focus on our personal relationship with Jesus. If something is really important, He’ll let us in on it. It seems the logical end to the presuppositions.

  2. Must,

    1) Mathison is excellent. His articulation of sola scriptura is pretty standard. Michael Kruger is also great.

    2) Must, I really hope that in dialogue with you and anyone else I am charitable enough not to beg the question. But if I do beg the question, I shouldn’t. It’s not productive to simply assume the rightness of one’s position. One must seek to prove it.

    Akin, by titling his article, “Practical Problems with Sola Scriptura” did not avoid totally begging the question in his historical narrative.

    (I’ll make a separate post with primary sources on Patristic and medieval views of the canon).

    3) The Scriptural debate is pretty straightforward:

    We begin with one of Paul’s classic statements in 2 Timothy 3:14-17–

    “14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom[a] you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

    What do we learn from Scripture in this passage?

    A) They are “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” They contain what we need for salvation.
    B) “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” God is the author of Scripture. The implications of this are too wonderful to count. Scripture has its authority from its author–God, Scripture is free from error, and Scriptures achieves its purpose.
    C) “…and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Here we learn more about the purpose of Scripture. What is the result of all that Scripture has to offer? That the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. The purpose of Scripture is to equip us for EVERY good work. There is not a good work that Scripture does not equip us for.
    D) Thus, everything that we need in regards to faith (salvation) and good works (sanctification) is contained in Scripture.

    Then we move on to John 20:30-31:

    “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

    -God, writing through John, expresses the purpose of the Gospel–that we might believe and believing we might live. Whatever it is that we need to believe in, John says, is contained in his Gospel. Otherwise, the Gospel of John would fail and achieving its purpose. But God never fails.

    Or, as Saint Vincent of Lerins said, “Scripture is sufficient, and more that sufficient.” I doubt that this is new to you though. I don’t mean to be patronizing by re-articulating part of the argument.

    4. My point is the following–what sense would it make for for a bishop to urge his flock to read Scripture, if that was not a real possibility for them? I think Akin is overstating himself. Of course I don’t mean to imply that this proves widespread literacy and Bible distribution!

    5. Akin seems to be saying that Scripture just isn’t for everyone. Some people just aren’t smart enough. Others just don’t have time to read the Holy Word of God that contains the Gospel of Salvation. Presumably they have more pressing matters. I don’t believe Scripture looks at it in quite the same way.

    Protestants don’t believe that Scripture is the *sole* authority for the Christian. God has appointed all kinds of authorities–parents, ministers, and magistrates. The Protestant contention is that Scripture is only infallible rule of faith. All other rules are fallible and must be measured by Scripture.

    6. This is just a claim. I am well aware that there are Roman Catholic websites and publishing houses that write in order to defend Rome. Perhaps you will feel the force of my point better if I give you a little challenge: Show me a Scriptural passage that indicates that the bread is no longer bread and the wine is no longer wine. Show me one Scriptural passage that talks about the assumption of Mary. You will not find transubstantiation in Scripture or in the early tradition of the Church. You need Newman’s theory of development to justify such a doctrine.

    Also, there is so much Roman and Reformed Catholic literature out there that I’m not even sure what to make of your statement. And sometimes, there is a amazing overlap. If you are every studying Romans, do check this commentary out– http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0300140789/ref=s9_wish_gw_d52_g14_i3?ie=UTF8&colid=3C6E0DVZIDCFG&coliid=I3G1K5G20FLWSQ&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-3&pf_rd_r=0YKRR6F9R6C10MFN3R43&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=1970566782&pf_rd_i=desktop

    You will see that often, serious Roman Catholic Biblical scholars agree with Protestants on Reformational principles. Often reading Apologists (Roman and Reformed Catholic) is the worse thing one can do to get an honest perspective.

    7.”According to Reformation principles, the church and individuals can descend into corrupt doctrine and it is up to each individual to decide for himself what the true interpretation of Scripture is, according to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and bring “reformation.””

    If you believe that Israel is a pre-figuration of the Church, then you will see that this is not simply a “Reformational principle” but a simple Biblical fact. How many times does Israel and her leadership fall into apostasy throughout the Old Testament? Tons and tons. It’s not about “my interpretation of Scripture.” It is about God’s declaration of reality. I believe that God has made Himself intelligible by using human language. If you are able to properly read the documents of Vatican II and understand them, I can certainly read the much simple Biblical text and understand it.

    “So you have no right to call them “pitiful members of Christ’s covenant” without claiming your interpretation is infallible and theirs is wrong. Do you claim that?”

    – I can and I do. Why? Because they have already in principle set themselves and their sensitivities over the word of God. At this point we are not even talking about disagreements in interpreting Scripture, we are talking about evangelicals setting themselves and their emotions above Scripture. I not only have a right– I have a brotherly duty to show them that they are in error in setting themselves over the Word of God (1 Cor 6). I don’t claim infallibility. I don’t need it. Philip was able to explain the Gospel without infallibility to the Eunuch. Why can’t I do the same? Why do I need to be infallible to know that someone is wrong? How can you become Roman Catholic and declare everyone else wrong without being infallible yourself?

    “It seems the modern day Evangelical beliefs are the end result of the sola scriptura theology, especially when coupled with sola fide.” Let’s take a look at your argument:

    A) Most people are not and cannot be scholars.
    B) Christianity is for everyone.
    C) We’re saved by faith alone and not by our scholarly abilities.
    D) The end result is simply a focus on our personal relationship with Jesus. If something is really important, He’ll let us in on it. It seems the logical end to the presuppositions.

    I don’t think this argument is even valid, much less sound.

    A) No one is saying that everyone should be a “scholar.” Should we all study and read Scripture on a regular basis? Absolutely. Who were Timothy’s Bible teachers?
    B) Sure.
    C) Absolutely.
    D) I’m really not sure how this follows at all. God has revealed himself clearly. I think the problem, per Romans, is not that we do not KNOW the truth. The problem is that we know the truth and we suppress it. Jesus clued us in by having his Gospel written, by appointing ministers, and by his glorious creation.

    8. I don’t mean any of this, pointed though it may be, in a mean-spirited way. Lord knows too many of these conversations cause more fire than light. I would much rather get you a beer.

    • On the Scriptural basis for sola scriptura:

      In the 2 Timothy 3 passage, what Scriptures was Paul referring to at this point? The New Testament was not fully written or compiled yet. It seems the biggest case this passage could make is the case for “sola Old Testament” writings.

      In the John 20 passage, does this mean the whole Bible could be reduced to John’s Gospel? Were no other writings necessary? Then why have all the other books?

      St Vincent of Lerins also said,
      “I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

      But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation? For this reason—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another,Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.” (For the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith Against the Profane Novelties of All Heresies, Chapter 2)

      Side Note: Vincent also seems to have accepted the deuterocanonical books as Scripture. I found in chapter 21 of the same work where he quotes Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) alongside other Scripture calling them “divine Oracles.” There’s not much point in having a sola scriptura theology if we don’t even have all the Scriptures.

      The Bible also has a case for unwritten tradtion:

      • “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15
      • “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” 1 Corinthians 11:2
      • “Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14
      • “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:1-2

      On the Challenges:

      I’d rather not get too far into alternate doctrines because the topic at hand is sola scriptura. But I’ll dabble for now.

      Transubstantiation is pretty easy, but I’m sure you know the verses Catholics point to.

      • John 6 is a classic one. Jesus is being very literal with his words and says over and over again, “Truly, truly.”
      • At the last supper Jesus said this is my body with no qualifiers.
      • Jesus is the perfect Passover Lamb. It was required to eat the Passover lamb, therefore Jesus is consumed in the Eucharist.
      • In I Corinthians 10:16-17 Paul says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (This is RCC doctrine to a tee. We are all the body and connected with each other because we all consume Christ.)
      • 1 Corinthians 11: 24-30 “…and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

      The Assumption of Mary is tougher and I’ve seen explanations but they seem to revolve around her roles as Queen of Heaven, Queen-Mother, Ark of the New Covenant, etc and the hermeneutic of typology, etc; so explanations get really deep really quick and throwing Bible verses around doesn’t work. Since Protestants don’t agree with the premises, it’s not surprising they don’t see it in the Bible either.

      I haven’t looked too deep into it myself because it’s not a game-changer for me one way or another. So long as it isn’t directly contradictory to Scripture, I’m fine either way. For example, if the Bible said “Mary was definitely not assumed into heaven” than that would be contradictory and a problem. But we know there’s a Biblical precedent of bodily assumption into heaven because it happened to Enoch and Elijah. Should I choose Catholicism, it’s something I’m willing to take on faith.

      Besides, Marian doctrines aren’t solely the province of the RCC. Eastern Orthodox and many Anglicans have Marian theology and devotions to Mary.

      On point 7:

      I feel a lot of agreeing and disagreeing within myself with this whole section. If we all had the same standard by which to judge, then yes, you can correct somebody. For Protestants it’s supposed to be the Bible. But when the contention comes down to one interpretation vs. another interpretation of the Bible then by what standard do we then judge? Both sides appeal to Scripture. You say they’re wrong and they say you’re wrong. It goes nowhere because it’s a matter of opinion.

      I do not believe the Evangelicals place themselves above Scripture. Like Socrates realizing how little he knew, I think they’ve come to understand just how little they understand. I’ve hung out and been one most of my life. If anything, it’s a fear of misrepresenting Scripture that makes us hold back from pronouncing definite declarations about what it says and pronouncing judgement on others. Hence my logical progression of points.

      And finally, I would love to get a beer with you. Personal conversations really are the best and I’ll bet we’d have some good ones. 🙂 I also hope I haven’t come across too mean-spirited. There is definitely a level of “devil’s advocate” in me and I’ve presenting tough issues to a local priest, too.

  3. Must,

    You certainly have not come across as mean-spirited. We’ve both have been firm and even pointed, but this is appropriate.

    -1-

    I will begin with my little challenge:

    Transubstantiation: My challenge was quite specific. You were to prove with Scripture that the bread is no longer bread and the wine is no longer wine. You did not do so in your response. All of the passages you mentioned do talk of the bread as the body and the wine as the blood. But there is absolutely no talk of the bread no longer being bread and the wine no longer being wine. And this last bit is official Roman Catholic Dogma. You will not find it in Scripture (or the Fathers). On the contrary, you will find in Scripture and in the fathers the wine identified as wine and the bread as bread.

    Marian Dogma: I’m very much aware of arguments relying on typological blasphemy in order to prove the “fittingness” of Mary’s Assumption. Particularly the “Mary as Ark of the Covenant” arguments. The problem with these is that the Ark of the Covenant is *identified* with God. The ark, in others words, is a Sacrament of God, not of Mary. At any rate, this is not a peripheral side question because Rome has elevated the “Assumption of Mary” to dogma. If anyone disbelieves it, he has fallen from the faith.

    -2-

    Nothing Vincent says in that quote points to Roman Catholicism. His comments about the sufficiency of Scripture point away from it. Rome does not believe that Scripture contains everything the believer needs to believe in order to be a faithful member of His covenant.

    -3-

    On 2 Timothy 3: You are are right in claiming that by this time all of the NT writings had not been written. However, a lot of them had and many of them were identified as part of Scripture (you know the reference from Peter’s Epistle). That being said, even if Paul has the OT exclusively in mind (which is possible but not certain) my point is strengthened. If the OT is sufficient to make one wise unto salvation and righteousness, how much more the Old and New Testaments?

    On John 20: One answer that I believe is certainly true–God is a generous fathers and gives us more than what we need. God has a purpose for the books in His covenant word. This is not a full answer, of course, but, I think sufficient for our purposes.

    -4-

    Your claim is that the Bible “has a case for unwritten tradition.” You put forward the following texts:

    “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15

    – This proves nothing for Rome. Paul taught the same thing in His letters and in His writings. That is why he said “word of mouth or letter.” He makes no differentiation.

    “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” 1 Corinthians 11:2

    – Just because the term tradition is used, doesn’t mean we got to load it with the Roman Catholic definition of the term. That would be begging the question. We both now that tradition comes from the Latin trado, tradere, which means to passed down (or to betray). Paul is talking about teachings that he has passed down (traditioned). This says nothing about an oral tradition that contains information outside of his letters.

    “Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14

    “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:1-2

    -What I’ve said about the others passages applies to these as well. I hope you will agree that none of these passages proves oral tradition as Rome understands it.

    -5-

    “I feel a lot of agreeing and disagreeing within myself with this whole section. If we all had the same standard by which to judge, then yes, you can correct somebody. For Protestants it’s supposed to be the Bible. But when the contention comes down to one interpretation vs. another interpretation of the Bible then by what standard do we then judge? Both sides appeal to Scripture. You say they’re wrong and they say you’re wrong. It goes nowhere because it’s a matter of opinion.”

    – I do not believe that textual interpretation is a matter of opinion. It is a matter of faithfulness. And, I think we are capable of discerning who is faithful and who isn’t. For example, if someone tells me that Scripture does not teach the bodily resurrection of Christ, I will tell them they are wrong and will be thoroughly confident in telling him he is wrong. I hope you don’t misunderstand this for self-confidence. This is not confidence in myself. It is confidence and God and his ability to speak to me through His word.

    Perhaps the following question will help you see my point: If you become a Roman Catholic, how will you know whether you will become a sedevacantist or not? Both parties quote Scripture, tradition, history, and the magisterium, and very ably at that!

    “I do not believe the Evangelicals place themselves above Scripture. Like Socrates realizing how little he knew, I think they’ve come to understand just how little they understand. I’ve hung out and been one most of my life. If anything, it’s a fear of misrepresenting Scripture that makes us hold back from pronouncing definite declarations about what it says and pronouncing judgement on others. Hence my logical progression of points.”

    – I don’t believe that every Evangelical places himself above Scripture. Some most certainly do. I don’t follow your logic though. These evangelicals seem to reject the clarity, sufficiency, and teaching of Scripture. I’m not sure they can even be described as Protestant in any meaningful sense of the word. If they can, it is only in the most anemic of senses.

  4. The Challenges:

    Your challenges are based on sola scriptura, which is exactly what is in question here. If sola scriptura is not correct, then there is no need to prove all doctrines beyond a shadow of doubt from Scripture. I’m questioning sola scriptura and then you’re challenging me to prove Roman doctrines using sola scriptura.

    It seems as though you’re looking for proof from Scripture beyond a shadow of doubt. Is that what you believe is necessary for correct doctrine?

    For transubstantiation, you also seem to base a lot on the fact that the terms “bread” and “wine” get used. Even modern Catholics I’ve read sometimes still say “bread and wine” when referring to the Eucharist. It seems like an easy thing to do because it still appears and tastes like bread and wine. So your basis isn’t proof one way or another. It’s probably just humans trying to put something super-divine into words. It’s hard to do!

    A quick question for clarification: You used the term “typological blasphemy” but I’m not sure how you mean it. Is that to mean the hermeneutic of typology is blasphemy or just that the typological interpretations of Mary are blasphemy?

    St Vincent:

    He doesn’t name the Roman Catholic Church, probably because at the time there was only one Church so there was no need to give it a name other than what it held—Catholic. But he did speak about it as an authoritative Church with the authority to interpret the Scriptures. Roman Catholicism or not, this is still not Protestant theology. Not just any individual could interpret the Scriptures and run off and do his own thing. Well…they could but they were called heretics.

    Unwritten traditions in the Bible:

    In this section you constantly say these passages don’t prove Roman tradition or doctrine. I don’t deny that but that is not the issue right now. The issue is sola scriptura and the Scriptures themselves tell us oral teachings existed and does not tell us that they were all written down. Roman Catholicism or not, we’re still left to believe oral teaching existed and was passed on. Scriptures also don’t tell us they are the sole infallible authority.

    On 2 Thessalonians 2:15 you said, “Paul taught the same thing in His letters and in His writings. That is why he said ‘word of mouth or letter.’ He makes no differentiation.”

    This passage doesn’t show that everything Paul taught orally was written down. It is a stretch to make the inference. Paul did make a differentiation when he said “either by word of mouth or letter.” This means there was oral teaching and written teaching and they both held the same authority. It doesn’t prove the oral teaching was eventually written down completely.

    On 1 Corinthians 11:2 you said, “This says nothing about an oral tradition that contains information outside of his letters.” It says much more about oral tradition than the inference which says everything Paul taught orally was eventually written down. The first is sticking closer to what the actual text of the Bible says and the latter moves away from it. You’re looking at the passage with the presupposition of sola scriptura so you interpret it to mean everything taught orally was written down.

    The fact is, you have your presupposition of sola scriptura and all your beliefs grow out of that. That is your tradition.

    Question at the end:

    You asked, “If you become a Roman Catholic, how will you know whether you will become a sedevacantist or not? Both parties quote Scripture, tradition, history, and the magisterium, and very ably at that!”

    That’s easy. If I make the plunge I would not be a sedevacantist. Sedevacantism is just a new version of Protestantism. Why would I leave Protestantism just to continue being one? All the same issues of authority would still be there, would still need to be answered, and I’d still be on this blog trying to figure it all out for myself starting from square one. Like Jerome when there were alternating theologies, if I join I would say, “As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built! This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.”

  5. Must,

    – Challenges –

    My challenge is not based on Sola Scriptura. My challenge is a response to your claim: “There is actually Biblical support for Catholic doctrines and there is a plethora of Catholic Biblical exegesis and apologetics for anyone who wants to know.” I simply put forth a challenge to this claim. And, as of yet, I’ve seen no support for the Roman dogma that states that the bread is no longer bread and the wine is no longer wine. Correct me if I am wrong, but now, it seems, you are willing to acknowledge that Scripture does not teach that the bread is no longer bread.

    When I called the arguments for the Assumption of Mary typologically blasphemous, I did not mean that typology was blasphemous. Typology is a fine thing. The problem is that some Roman Catholics argue that the Ark of the Covenant is a type of Mary. This claim I take to be typologically blasphemous because the Ark of the Covenant is identified with God.

    -St. Vincent –

    Again of course the Church has the authority to interpret Scripture. The Protestant claim is that the Church ought not teach what is not taught in Scripture. The Roman insistence is to teach things that are not taught in Scripture. If Rome simply put forth her teachings as interpretations of Scripture, Rome would be more compelling to me.

    – Unwritten Traditions –

    “In this section you constantly say these passages don’t prove Roman tradition or doctrine. I don’t deny that but that is not the issue right now. The issue is sola scriptura and the Scriptures themselves tell us oral teachings existed and does not tell us that they were all written down.”

    – I don’t deny that Christ did and said many things. John talks about this:

    “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

    What we need in order to be saved has been written down. And, as discussed earlier, Paul makes no distinction between the substance of his preaching and his writings. Thus he writes that they should hold firm to the teachings whether passed down orally or in writing. So yes, there was most certainly authoritative oral teaching. And everything that we need from that authoritative preaching is contained in writing.

    “Roman Catholicism or not, we’re still left to believe oral teaching existed and was passed on. Scriptures also don’t tell us they are the sole infallible authority.”

    – What other infallible authority does Scripture discuss? What other teaching is God-breathed but God’s covenant Word? There is a reason why we are not to go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4: 6).

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear with my commentary on 2 Thess. 2:15. Let me try again.

    Obviously there is a difference in form–Paul preached and Paul wrote. Paul makes absolutely no distinction between the content of the teaching found. Paul writes: “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” The *or* implies an identity in content. Why? Because at that point in time, you could be faithful by holding to the Apostolic teaching contained in writing *or* taught orally.

    What is certainly not hinted at all, is that Paul believed that his oral teaching contained all kinds of doctrine *not found in his writings* that one needed in order to be a faithful Christian.

    On 1 Corinthians 11:2

    Again, you have not shown how this text teaches that there is an oral tradition that has content not found in Scripture. Instead, you’ve made several assertions. If you believe that this text teaches that there is an oral tradition that contains things necessary for salvation–things which are not written down in Scripture– I would love to see your analysis which sticks closer to the text.

    – Questions at the End –

    There are some very important differences between sedevacantists and Protestants. While we don’t believe that the papacy is an office instituted by Christ, SVs do. They believe that there are such things as antipopes. “Popes” which are not legitimately popes. This category is accepted not by “regular” Roman Catholics as well. Their contention is simply that contemporary Popes are anti-popes. To see a discussion of someone who converted to Rome and then became a SV see: https://www.gerrymatatics.org/GRIsGerrySede.html

    I don’t think that Jerome took the “chair of Peter” to be occupied by the “bishop of bishops.” As with Cyprian, I think Jerome believes that Peter represents or stands in for the other Apostles as well.

    Do consider the following:

    – “But you say, the Church was founded upon Peter: although elsewhere *the same is attributed to all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the strength of the Church depends upon them all alike,* yet one among the twelve is chosen so that when a head has been appointed, there may be no occasion for schism.”

    – “The rock is Christ, Who gave to His apostles, that they also should be called rocks, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.'”

    – By the way, Jerome was wrong in his theological assessment of the other bishops he dismisses in the letter you quoted.

    • My challenge is not based on Sola Scriptura. My challenge is a response to your claim: “There is actually Biblical support for Catholic doctrines and there is a plethora of Catholic Biblical exegesis and apologetics for anyone who wants to know.” I simply put forth a challenge to this claim. And, as of yet, I’ve seen no support for the Roman dogma that states that the bread is no longer bread and the wine is no longer wine. Correct me if I am wrong, but now, it seems, you are willing to acknowledge that Scripture does not teach that the bread is no longer bread.

      And I gave Biblical support; at least as Catholics see it. I know you reject the support and say it means something else. Fair enough, but that is not the same as saying support is not there. It’s a difference of interpretation.

      Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6)

      At the Last Supper Jesus said, “This IS my body. This IS my blood.”

      Christ is the Passover lamb. What were the people required to do with the lamb at Passover? They had to eat it.

      Paul said, “The cup of blessing which we bless, IS IT NOT a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, IS IT NOT a participation in the body of Christ?”

      If the bread is Jesus’ body then the bread is Jesus. The Biblical support is certainly there.

      Are you looking for the specific phrase “the bread is no longer bread and the wine is no longer wine”? If that is the criterion, than you’re right. The RCC is wrong.

      When I called the arguments for the Assumption of Mary typologically blasphemous, I did not mean that typology was blasphemous. Typology is a fine thing. The problem is that some Roman Catholics argue that the Ark of the Covenant is a type of Mary. This claim I take to be typologically blasphemous because the Ark of the Covenant is identified with God.

      The Ark itself was not God, right?

      Again of course the Church has the authority to interpret Scripture.

      Which Church has this authority? I’m curious; do you submit your interpretations of the Bible to the Church you attend?

      The Protestant claim is that the Church ought not teach what is not taught in Scripture.

      Something that has yet to be shown from Scripture itself.

      The Roman insistence is to teach things that are not taught in Scripture. If Rome simply put forth her teachings as interpretations of Scripture, Rome would be more compelling to me.

      It seems you have your own theological rules that the RCC does not match, therefore you know the RCC is wrong. I’m just not sure that’s good enough for me.

      I don’t deny that Christ did and said many things. John talks about this:

      “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

      What we need in order to be saved has been written down.

      I think you’re reading a lot into this passage that isn’t really there. Does this mean only the Gospel of John contains everything needed for salvation?

      And, as discussed earlier, Paul makes no distinction between the substance of his preaching and his writings. Thus he writes that they should hold firm to the teachings whether passed down orally or in writing. So yes, there was most certainly authoritative oral teaching. And everything that we need from that authoritative preaching is contained in writing.

      Nowhere does the Bible say this. You’re assuming everything Paul taught orally was written down.

      What other infallible authority does Scripture discuss? What other teaching is God-breathed but God’s covenant Word? There is a reason why we are not to go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4: 6).

      1. The same goes here as I suggested for the passage in 2 Timothy 3. If we are not to go beyond what is written, does that mean not to go beyond what is written during the time 1 Cor. 4:6 was written? Then we’re missing part of the NT because the whole thing wasn’t even written yet. Or not to go beyond the OT writings? Because then we have no NT.

      2. It took an authoritative Church to give us the Bible in the first place. I didn’t do all the research myself and decide for myself what the Bible contained. I didn’t figure out that Esther held the same divine status as Revelation. Such an authority to decide the infallible books of the Bible must be used by God infallibly.

      Perhaps I wasn’t clear with my commentary on 2 Thess. 2:15. Let me try again.
      Obviously there is a difference in form–Paul preached and Paul wrote. Paul makes absolutely no distinction between the content of the teaching found. Paul writes: “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” The *or* implies an identity in content. Why? Because at that point in time, you could be faithful by holding to the Apostolic teaching contained in writing *or* taught orally.

      The “or” does not imply 100% identity.

      What is certainly not hinted at all, is that Paul believed that his oral teaching contained all kinds of doctrine *not found in his writings* that one needed in order to be a faithful Christian.

      It hints much more toward oral tradition than the inference which says everything Paul taught orally was written down.

      On 1 Corinthians 11:2

      Again, you have not shown how this text teaches that there is an oral tradition that has content not found in Scripture. Instead, you’ve made several assertions. If you believe that this text teaches that there is an oral tradition that contains things necessary for salvation–things which are not written down in Scripture– I would love to see your analysis which sticks closer to the text.

      What “analysis” is needed to show this passage says traditions existed? It simply says it. The passage says to remember the “traditions” and does not say those traditions were written down. If major analysis is needed to make this say something else then we’re back to the practical problems that Jimmy Akin was talking about. An individual would need to be literate, possess scholarly support materials, adequate time for study, a high level of critical thinking skills, etc etc. This whole conversation is proving his points.

      Protestants constantly ask, “Where is that in the Bible?” When they’re shown, they then say, “That’s not what that means.” Likewise, when Scripture also says something blatantly contrary to their own theology (such as unwritten traditions, Mary’s motherhood, or Jesus’ literal words in John 6) they come up with all the ways those passages don’t actually mean what they say. So they simultaneously try to tell me Scripture is “clear” while rejecting parts that are clear. So round and round it goes. Oh, but it’s those Catholics who don’t follow the Bible, right? Do you get a feel for my frustrations?

  6. Must,

    I understand your frustration. I’ve suffered through the very same frustration. These are the very reasons I went through RCIA and was convinced that becoming Roman Catholic was the right thing to do. That being said, I think that an irenic look at the issues and the history can help us gain clarity on the issues. That being said I think that you’ve either misunderstood the thrust of some of my arguments or I have failed to communicate them correctly. Here I only want to make my position clear and I can give you historical and Scriptural justifications on an issue by issue basis.

    -Scripture & Tradition-

    My contention is not that there was no oral teaching. There most certainly was. Was all oral teaching inspired in the same way Scripture was? We don’t really know. My contention is quite simply that we have no grounds for thinking that Paul was preaching one thing and writing another. We have good reasons for thinking that his preaching and writing were the same in *content*.

    So, there is oral teaching, but one what grounds do we say that Paul’s oral teaching is different in content from his written teaching?

    Why Scripture alone? Because in Scripture alone we have the Gospel delivered *infallibly* once and for all. Where else might I find the Gospel infallibly proclaimed? Scripture certainly teaches its authority and infallible status. It does not teach us that any other authority is infallible. On the contrary, it warns us about false teachers arising from the Church. We are to be unswervingly faithful to the Gospel, not to certain teachers.

    Also, if we have epistemic problems identifying the canon, we have the same epistemic problems identifying the identifier of the canon.

    – Eucharist –

    This needs to be a more involved discussion. Christ says, “This is my body” he also says, “This is bread” and “This is wine.” Rome is being selectively literal by accepting one statement “literally” and rejecting the other. Furthermore, Rome does not teach that we “chew” on the flesh of Christ as the interpretation of John 6 you put forward would suggest. Your teeth do not teach Christ. Your teeth touch the accidents of bread. Christ is present in a way that is thoroughly non-sensorial and non-corporeal. He can’t be seen or touched. Here we have “flesh” and “blood” that does not have the attributes of flesh and blood. Rome’s interpretation would be literal if Rome presented in the Eucharist flesh and blood that one could chew on and swallow (Let’s remember that for Aquinas that only accidents are the objects of sensorial experience).

    You have certainly brought forth passages that support the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That is not under dispute. What is under dispute is the Roman dogma of transubstantiation in which the bread is no longer bread and the wine is no longer wine. So yes, I am looking for a passage that teaches what Rome teaches about the identity of the bread and wine. So far, I don’t see support for the bread not being bread and the wine not being wine. I do see the contrary affirmed.

    A Scriptural argument for the Roman dogma of *transubstantiation*–not simply for the real presence– would be interesting since Christ seems to think that he and his disciples were drinking of the “fruit of the vine” (Luke 22:18).

    – The Ark –

    The Ark was certainly not God.

    – Canon –

    I’m not sure what you mean by this:

    “It took an authoritative Church to give us the Bible in the first place. I didn’t do all the research myself and decide for myself what the Bible contained. I didn’t figure out that Esther held the same divine status as Revelation. Such an authority to decide the infallible books of the Bible must be used by God infallibly.”

    The Canon was already well in use by the end of the second century. Did Christians not know what was Scripture because there had been no infallible declaration of what was Scripture? Furthermore, how did the Israelites know what was Scripture? They certainly had no “infallible councils” or “popes.”

    – The Sufficiency of Scripture –

    I put forward a passage from John and from Corinthians. You reject my interpretation. I don’t believe that your reasons are illegitimate. But, again, more needs to be said. My solution to the “problem” with the Gospel of John statement is to believe, that Scripture is sufficient and more that sufficient.

    A tentative solution to the Corinthians problem is that Paul is referring generically to God’s Covenant declarations. As know, Christianity is a Covenant and a fulfillment of a covenant. God’s covenant people in the past received all of their guiding principles in written form. Thus, all of the “practical problems” of Sola Scriptura would be problems that Joshua would have to face. For Joshua is commanded:

    “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go (Joshua 1:7). A command that is directed not only at Joshua, but at the whole nation of Israel.

    • Not sure what else to add about the Eucharist in the Bible, except that I’m not looking for any specific phraseology because I don’t think that’s a legitimate reason to reject it.

      I also don’t follow your section on chewing and so forth. Such as your statement, “Rome’s interpretation would be literal if Rome presented in the Eucharist flesh and blood that one could chew on and swallow.” Isn’t that exactly what they teach? The bread and wine are the literal body and blood of Jesus. Therefore, we chew and swallow. Are you saying they don’t teach the very thing they teach? Or are you saying that the Eucharist can’t be Jesus’ flesh because it tastes like bread and doesn’t taste like Jesus?

      The literalness of the words like “chew” and “gnaw” in John 6 are exactly what Catholics refer to when explaining transubstantiation. One example is Steve Ray’s talk about it here.

      The Ark was certainly not God.

      Likewise, Mary is not God. No one claims she is. What is “blasphemous” about her role as the Ark of the New Covenant?

      I’m not sure what you mean by this:

      “It took an authoritative Church to give us the Bible in the first place. I didn’t do all the research myself and decide for myself what the Bible contained. I didn’t figure out that Esther held the same divine status as Revelation. Such an authority to decide the infallible books of the Bible must be used by God infallibly.”

      What I mean is, for all the talk from Protestants about how we don’t follow “men” but only God and we don’t follow “tradition” but only the Bible, it’s ironic that we accept the Bible as inspired when it was someone else who told us it was inspired and that the Bible itself is a product of the tradition. That’s where I was going with that statement.

      We all accept traditions and authority to tell us what the Bible says or is. Catholics just admit it. I admitted it before Catholicism was even on my radar. That’s probably why Catholicism began making sense to me. Maybe on a certain level Protestants know that admitting tradition as authoritative just opens the door to considering Catholicism legitimate because it removes one of the main indictments against it.

      The Canon was already well in use by the end of the second century.

      The “Canon” as we know it today was not “well in use by the end of the second century.” They had Scripture and held it in high regard, but there was not a formalized canon that everyone agreed on for a long time. Some books were disputed. Some books were sometimes called Scripture that were eventually rejected. The various lists were never in full agreement, though the lists became more alike as time went on. That’s exactly why Damasus tasked Jerome in the 4th century with traveling around Christendom to discover exactly what was being read in the Churches so that they could start nailing down a definitive canon.

      Furthermore, how did the Israelites know what was Scripture? They certainly had no “infallible councils” or “popes.”

      But they did have Moses and leadership to which they were to submit. I haven’t done tons of research into ancient Israeli government, but I’m pretty sure each individual did not get to decide for themselves what Scripture contained, nor could they interpret it for themselves and do their own thing apart from the divinely ordained institutions.

      On Joshua 1:7 and the sufficiency of Scripture, I don’t really have an answer. Can’t say I’ve come across this particular argument except from you so I’ll have to look into it and ponder. But I have some initial thoughts.

      Joshua 1:7 does not say the Law was the “sole” authority. It was certainly an authority and to go against it would be sin. Even Catholics believe going against Scripture is sin.

      Also, if this passage means what you suggest it means, than the Israelites were not to go beyond the Torah. Except that they did go beyond the Torah by adding other Scriptures later (like the prophets and Psalms). Much like using 1 Cor. 4:6 as evidence for sola scriptura, it seems you’re reading more into this passage than what is there.

      To put it another way: If these verses mean what you suggest, than God told Joshua “Don’t go beyond the Bible…except for the other writings that will be written in the future by someone and added to the Bible someday by someone.” Paul said, “Don’t go beyond what is written…except for the other writings that will be written in the future by someone and added to the Bible someday by someone.” So apparently it’s cool to add to the Scriptures over time, since the Bible itself sets the precedent for it. (I once had a Protestant tell me she believed the Bible would probably be added to someday, since the Bible doesn’t say it won’t. From a sola scriptura point-of-view I couldn’t disagree. And no, Revelation 22:18-19 doesn’t count.)

      OR, those passages don’t mean what you’re suggesting they mean.

      It also seems as though you do not hold the doctrine of sola scriptura to the same standard of proof as transubstantiation.

  7. Must,

    Thanks for your patience and persistence in discussing these issues.

    – Eucharist-

    My contention is that Rome takes away with its left what it grants with its right. I am familiar with the argument contemporary Roman Catholic Apologists make about the Eucharist. They tend to forget to synthesize their analysis with the official metaphysical dogma of transubstantiation.

    For example, Scott Hahn will stress the verbs used in John 6 in order to argue for Christ’s corporeal presence in the Eucharist–the elements, he says, are the flesh and blood, he says, and we must chew on the flesh of Christ. He then says nothing about the mechanics of this according to Roman Catholic dogma.

    I’m sure you are familiar with the doctrine of transubstantiation at this point. I’m only repeating it here to be clear. According to Rome, the elements are no more. The substance of bread is not more and it is replaced by the substance of Christ. The accidents, however, remain. Thus, what you see and what you literally chew on is not bread and is not Christ. You are chewing on the accident of bread.

    So, according to Rome, Christ is present is “really” present in the elements in an invisible and non-sensorial matter. That’s just how it is. I don’t believe I am unfairly representing the Roman Catholic view.

    -Ark-

    The problem is that the Ark of the covenant represents God. It doesn’t represent Mary. The Ark is identified with God–not with Mary. Thus:

    “And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you'” (Numbers 10:35).

    There is nothing blasphemous about the role of Mary. What is blasphemous is taking a sign that represents God and turning it into a sign that represents Mary.

    – Scripture & Tradition –

    Protestants obviously accept the Apostolic Tradition which has been handed down to us in Scripture. God is the ultimate witness of His word. When the Good Shepherd speaks, the sheep hears His voice and recognize it.

    The problem is not “tradition.” The problem is the kind of “tradition” and the role it plays. I love Christian history and the Early and Medieval Christians and their writings. That being said, I don’t read Augustine or Aquinas as if they were writing down the word of God. I read them as wise Christian men of whom I have much to learn from.

    – The Canon –

    Yes, the Canon was up and running by the end of the second century (Please check out Cardinal Avery Dulles’ essay in “You Word is Truth”). Why is universal agreement necessary for a canon? If that is the case, we still don’t have one. There has *never* been a real Ecumenical council to establish the canon. Trent certainly does not count. The Church in the East was not represented in any way shape of form (despite the fact that the East was the seat and major contributor to the first Seven Ecumenical councils).

    – Councils, Popes, & the OT! –

    “But they did have Moses and leadership to which they were to submit. I haven’t done tons of research into ancient Israeli government, but I’m pretty sure each individual did not get to decide for themselves what Scripture contained, nor could they interpret it for themselves and do their own thing apart from the divinely ordained institutions.”

    – This is true. Each individual Protestant does not decide what Scripture contains. Each Israelite did have to have meditate upon the Scriptures and act upon their understanding of them. Moses was not writing infallible Encyclicals interpreting the Law. And no council ever got together to decide what was canonical or not. The witness and guiding providence of God took care of that.

    I do not claim, nor do the Protestant doctors (See– Augsburg Confession, Thirty-Nine Articles, and the Westminster Confession) that Scripture is the *only* authority. Protestants believe in multiple authorities and various roles. The ordained ministry has a different role than Scripture. And this difference is not a matter of degree but a matter of quality (and also a matter of function).

    Scripture contains all of the content for God’s covenant. Everything necessary for faith and morals is found there. The contents of Scripture are God-breathed. Scripture derives its authority from its author–God.

    The ordained ministry has the job of proclaiming God’s word. They proclaim what God was declared to us once in for all. They are not an infallible authority, but they are an authority nonetheless.

    The civil magistrate is also an authority ordained by God.

    What you are describing is the worse of modern low-church evangelicalism.

    What do you suppose the passage in Joshua and in 1 Cor. 4:6 are saying? I think that they are talking about God’s revealed Law. I honestly don’t think that your objection succeeds because these new books really add nothing new to the Covenant. The Prophets spend all of their time chastising Israel for not keeping the covenant. Thus, the Israelites could keep the commandment and Joshua *and* receive further revelation from God without contradiction. God’s further revelation, then, becomes part of the book of the Law from which one ought not depart from.

    Why add more books? Because God is a generous God. We need the same truth delivered to us over and over again. The rest of the Old Testament after the Pentateuch is an testimony to what happens to God’s people when they are unfaithful to the Covenant.

    Thus, I see no inconsistency between God ordering Joshua not to depart from the His revealed Law, and God adding a commentary lived out in history, as it were, to his Law.

    • As a Catholic, I’d like to offer some clarification regarding the Catholic view of the Eucharist. The more full explanation can be seen in the Catechism paragraphs 1322-1419, but for ease-of-understanding I’ll quote a more concise explanation:

      “The moment the priest or bishop says the words of consecration — the words of Christ at the Last Supper, ‘This is My body’ and ‘This is My blood,’ (Matthew 26:26-29) — Catholics believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ.
      “On the natural level, whatever we eat becomes part of us… On the supernatural plane, when Catholics eat the body and blood of Christ, they’re supposed to become more like Christ in his obedience to the Father, humility, and love for neighbors.
      “To Catholics, the physical act of eating the consecrated host or drinking the consecrated wine from the chalice, a blessed cup, … is secondary to the underlying invisible reality that the human soul is being fed by the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. The body merely consumes the appearances of bread and wine while the soul receives Christ personally and totally.”
      -“Catholicism for Dummies”, 2nd ed. by John Trigilio and Kenneth Brighenti

      Jonathan,

      In your summary of transubstantiation, you seemed to be on track up until your conclusion. You said, “the elements are no more. The substance of bread is not more [sic] and it is replaced by the substance of Christ. The accidents, however, remain. Thus, what you see and what you literally chew on is not bread…” I totally agree with this. But then you said, “and is not Christ. You are chewing on the accident of bread.” This conclusion has to be incorrect because we do actually “chew” on Christ (John 6:53-55), even though it still looks, feels, and tastes like bread (the “accident” of the perception).

      In your various comments on this blog I notice an interesting lack of explanation as to what exactly you are advocating as a set of beliefs. Exactly what church are you a part of? Do you accept particular creeds or councils and why? You seem to recognize tradition as having some value while pointing to Scripture as the only doctrinal authority. Many people with many different belief systems share that perspective, but I wonder which of those groups you are part of. Catholics claim to be part of the one true Church founded by Christ himself. Can you make that claim about your church, or are you offering an alternative option? What exactly do you believe, and why exactly should Mustfollow join you? You are good at casting doubt, but what are you really offering here?

      If “Trent certainly does not count” as a legitimate ecumenical council in your mind, by what standard do you reject some councils while accepting others? Are there consistent criteria that you use, or do you pretty much just accept councils that fit your personal interpretation of Scripture?

      You mention an “ordained ministry” as having “authority”. What makes this authority real and actual in a way that people must obey (with their eternity potentially at stake)? Is there a way to test the legitimacy of this ordained ministry that you speak of? This also brings me back to my first question… if your church does not even claim to be the one true Church that Jesus established, then why should anyone care what your “ordained ministry” has to say?

      As a Catholic, I’m honestly curious to see your answers to these questions. You seem quite educated, but for me there are some larger questions that rise above the detailed back-and-forth.

      -Ben

  8. Ben,

    You are right to say that I have spent most of my time on this blog offering critiques rather than contending for a particular understanding of the Church. Part of that has to do with the nature and issues discussed in this blog. I hope you can understand that one can’t do everything in a comment box responding to a particular set of concerns.

    Let us begin with authority. God is the ultimate authority and thus His Words and decrees are are final. God has revealed His plan for salvation and the Church infallibly in Scripture. God’s word is authoritative and definitively sets out what what we need for faith and morals.

    The ordained ministry also has authority, but this authority is not different in degree. It is different in quality. Whereas the Word of God cannot be broken and cannot teach error, the ordained ministry can and has things which are false. This was true even in the Apostolic era–remember Peter and James preaching the need for circumcision? What did Paul say about that? That they were betraying the Gospel. Paul also charged his congregations with testing their teachers. A faithful Roman Catholic cannot test Rome. It must believe its decrees by the Rome’s fiat.

    What makes this authority real? Christ’s appointment of it.

    Furthermore, I believe that God has appointed political authorities for the right governance of nations. Nowhere do we see the Roman doctrine which subjects the civic authorities to the ministerium. This is also very important.

    I believe that the substance of everything I’ve articulated can be found in the chief confessions written by the Protestant doctors–the Augsburg Confession, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the Westminster Confession of Faith. I believe that these substantial points are a true articulation of the teachings of Scripture.

    I believe that I am a part of the catholic church founded by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I believe that the Roman Church is a member of Christ’s covenant people, but, because it has set itself above the Word of God and teaches many things outside of His revelations, Rome is woefully deficient in her covenant faithfulness. I don’t say this to be offensive, but to be clear about what I believe.

    Councils are a trickier matter. I believe that they are authoritative insofar as they teach what is in Scripture. When they depart from Scripture, they have no authority and ought to be rejected. What makes an ecumenical council? That’s a great question. The Tridentine answer to that question is that an Ecumenical Council is one convened by the pope and ratified by the pope. Thus, the first seven councils do not qualify for they were not convened by the Roman bishop. Trent is certainly not ecumenical in the sense that it is not in any way representative of all of God’s people at that time. The representatives at Trent were of a particular set *within Western Christianity.* Even the Arians had the opportunity to defend their case at Nicea. The Reformed branch of the Catholic Church had no real representation and the East was totally ignored.

    Finally–concerning the Eucharist. I appreciate your effort at clarifying and your use of sources. That being said, the citations you posted support my articulation of the Roman view. John 6, literally interpreted, requires that we literally *chew* and *swallow* the *literal* body of Christ.

    According to Rome you *chew* on the accidents of bread and wine. You mysteriously and in a non-corporeal and non-sensorial, invisible way *taking in Christ.* But, your teeth are in no way coming into contact with Christ because, as I’ve stated repeatedly, under the Thomistic view, only accidents are what come into contact with the senses.

    What I’ve articulated is vindicated by the following quote you presented:

    “To Catholics, the physical act of eating the consecrated host or drinking the consecrated wine from the chalice, a blessed cup, … is secondary to the underlying INVISIBLE reality that the human soul is being fed by the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ.”

    I made invisible all caps in order to highlight my point. I don’t believe I am setting forth a controversial claim. In my view, it simply shows that the pop apologists such as Scott Hahn and company are not thorough enough in their explications of Roman dogma.

    I hope this clarifies the Reformed view. I hope you can appreciate that even though some of my comments might be pointed, I bear no hostility towards you and write all of this, I pray, in charity and in the spirit of earnest discourse seeking truth.

    Peace,

    Jonathan

    • Jonathan,

      I do appreciate your charity, and I wish to convey the same to you.

      You gave me the Reformed view, and I would like to share a glimpse of the Catholic view. There’s only one real way to re-unite the Church (John 17: 20-23), and that’s upon the apostolic succession (Acts 1:20) that can be traced back to Cephas(Rock)/Peter, the rock upon which Christ built His Church (Matt. 16:18+19, John 1:42). This Church possesses singular authority (Matt. 18:17) and the Truth (1 Tim. 3:15), and it is actually visible (Matt. 5:14). As Christ Himself is the Truth (John 14:6), and His Church is the fullness of Him (Eph. 1:23), we know that His Church cannot teach error as Christ cannot teach error. If the church you are part of teaches any error, then it’s not the Church that Christ founded. I know you believe that the Catholic Church teaches error, but I spent a long time researching and found that “errors” in the Church’s teaching are actually misunderstandings on our part.

      Also, Christ told those He sent out that “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16). He gave His apostles (and their successors) the power to bind and loose (Matt. 18:18), and the ability to forgive or retain sins (John 20:21-23), which can only work with the knowledge of a person’s sins through their verbal confession (commanded in James 5:16). These are some examples of the authority that actual Church leadership has. This doesn’t mean that a person in leadership is above correction, or that they are perfect, but they are prevented from officially teaching error and Church teaching NEVER contradicts Scripture. This God-given authority is not something that can be negated by someone’s personal interpretation of Scripture.

      Catholics thank God for the Scriptures, but Jesus founded a Church with teaching authority and the gates of hell have not prevailed against it as per Jesus’ promise (Matt. 16:18). To take the sacred Scriptures and run off with them in opposition to the Church just doesn’t make sense, but people do it. Councils have the final say regarding disputes (like in Acts 15), and the real Church must have the authority to call councils to this day to preserve unity as Christ intended. How many churches can actually call an authoritative catholic council to this day? One. After a Church-approved council has settled an issue, schismatics are taking their souls into their own hands.

      It’s important to mention that Catholics respect Scripture at least as much as Protestants, but they do not assume too much in the way Scripture was intended by God to be used.

      Here’s the thing… I might think I know something that the Church doesn’t, but it always turns out that I still had more to learn and the Church had been right all along. It’s not that I “cannot test Rome”, it’s just that I realize ahead of time that Rome will pass the test, so I may as well just learn. Mustfollow is apparently still testing, and that’s great, because the Church will pass every legitimate test.
      If Scripture is the final doctrinal authority, then we’re left declaring our personal interpretation to be infallible while others must simply be wrong, thereby establishing OURSELVES as make-believe doctrinal authorities. You cannot convince me that 2 Timothy 3:16,17 effectively states “Scripture alone is the final doctrinal authority”. And if Sola Scriptura is not specifically stated in Scripture, then it’s self-refuting.

      Was reform needed in the 1500’s? Yes! But it wasn’t the teachings that were wrong, it was sinful individuals who needed to reform themselves. Thankfully Trent helped get people back on track with even more clearly-defined expectations for living a Christian life as part of the Church. Whether Trent was truly ecumenical or adequately involved the East comes down to whether Rome has pre-eminent authority. And Protestants absolutely had a chance to defend their case at Trent, with guarantees of safe passage to do so (I know this because I read the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent early on in my investigation of Catholicism).

      The Church recognizes the early ecumenical councils as being ecumenical councils.

      I don’t recall “Peter and James preaching the need for circumcision”.

      As far as the Eucharist goes, perhaps we’re just having a communication problem over terminology. If we both recognize that the Catholic view of the Eucharist is that Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity are consumed, then perhaps there’s no real disagreement here. You said, “under the Thomistic view, only accidents are what come into contact with the senses”. It sounds like what I’m saying… that our senses perceive only the accidents while we are literally consuming Christ’s flesh and blood.

      The reason I made a big deal out of testing the legitimacy of your ordained ministers is because in my own experience I’ve found the authority of Protestant ministers to be hollow and essentially pointless when it comes down to it. They go through the motions of teaching and correction, seeming to have authority as long as people agree with them.

      My sincere hope is that you give the Catholic Church a fair test, much like Mustfollow is doing. For me, it became obvious that Catholicism would not cater to my Protestant preferences, but Protestantism was inadequate anyway, so I allowed my expectations to change. Catholicism is the fullness of the Christian faith, and ultimately better than I even hoped. At the end of the day, academic discussions do not adequately describe the truth, goodness, and beauty found in the Catholic Church.

      Take care, and God bless.

      -Ben

      • Ben,

        I do appreciate your sketch. And I understand the frustration Roman Catholics have at being misrepresented. I also understand and share the frustration of historical, confessional protestants at being misrepresented.

        Once upon a time I was convinced that everyone ought to “go back to Rome.” I even did RCIA and was ready to become Roman Catholic. I’ve investigated and understand the central claims Rome makes. I reject them as false and am happy to talk about particular issues.

        I think it is widely acknowledged that the Reformers would not be heard at Trent. I’m also not impressed about Rome granting safe passage to anyone since it is ok to lie to heretics and kill them.

        As per circumcision–Galatians and Acts 15 are a good place to start.

        On the eucharist: I think we are in agreement. The implication, then, is quite clearly, that we don’t *literally* chew on the body of Christ, as a literal interpretation of John 6 would require. This undermines a lot of popular Roman Catholic apologetic literature.

        I’d be interested in knowing what you mean by calling the authority of protestant ministers “pointless.” It seems like Roman Catholic authority has proven itself to be pointless as well. One must only take a look at how many Roman Catholics go to confession, or how many actually believe in Roman Catholic sexual ethics.

        • Jonathan,

          I’ve been pondering your comment and I realize that I really should reply.
          You said, “Once upon a time I was convinced that everyone ought to ‘go back to Rome.’ I even did RCIA and was ready to become Roman Catholic.” What was the SPECIFIC thing that changed your mind? What happened to you?

          In an earlier comment, you said, “remember Peter and James preaching the need for circumcision?” Would you mind citing specifically where Peter and James were “preaching the need for circumcision?” I don’t see it.

          I have documented evidence that Protestants were offered safe passage to attend the Council of Trent. However, you are “not impressed about Rome granting safe passage to anyone since it is ok to lie to heretics and kill them.” I’m having my doubts about your accuracy regarding Church teaching. Would you mind humoring me with some documented evidence to support your claim?

          If you are determined to believe that the official Roman Catholic position is that we do NOT literally eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood in the Eucharist, then I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much trouble for you to provide the specific Church teaching to back up your claim.

          Lastly, I’m still wondering… what specific church are you a part of and why should I (or anyone) become a part of your church? Does your church hold to a more literal interpretation of John 6 than the Catholics do? Is your church able to call an ecumenical council? Can your church’s leadership be traced in an unbroken line back to the apostles? If I were to leave the Catholic Church to join you, what would I be joining? I have no desire to be part of a protest club. Christ founded one Church. Is it yours? If so, how? If not, what are you doing?

          -Ben

          P.S. Regarding the differences in authority… for Catholics, the Church hierarchy as the power to bind and loose (Matt. 18:18), and forgive or retain sins (John 20:21-23). For Protestants, their authority is their personal interpretation of Scripture regardless of what their ministers say. If a Catholic rebels against the Church’s teachings as passed down through the leadership, then he’s putting his soul at risk, whereas a Protestant can alter his interpretation of Scripture regardless of his church’s leadership and find a church he likes better. That’s the difference.

          • Ben,

            What happened to me? I read Keith Mathison’s “The Shape of Sola Scriptura”, George Salmon’s “The Infallibility of the Church,” and Brian Tierney’s “The Origins of Papal Infallibility.” In addition to this I studied the history of the interpretation of Matthew 16:18. In addition to this, I began to read more and more official documents of the Roman Church. All of this convinced me that the papacy is not a real office instituted by Christ.

            As far as Peter and his error (especially 11-21): https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+2&version=ESVUK

            “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.”

            Is it ok to lie to heretics and then kill them? Yes. Check out the story of John Hus.

            I can provide you with further references to what Rome teaches, but I think that even the quotes you’ve provided make my point. Rome teaches that we “literally chew” on Christ. And by literally chew, Rome means that our teeth come into contact with the accidents of bread (and not the accidents are substance of Christ) and we somehow partake of the invisible and incorporeal flesh of Christ. I’ll write something up for you soon.

            I am Anglican, for a fuller view and justification of the Reformed view of the Eucharist, please see Daniel Waterland’s “A Review of the Eucharist.” Ultimately, I think that a literalist interpretation of John 6 is a poor one.

            Per my church affiliation: I belong to the Church instituted by Christ. I am united to Christ. The Church is the assembly of the people of God. Furthermore, not that it matters, the Church of England has “apostolic succession.” If you leave your unreformed communion, and join mine, you will join a communion that is more truly catholic and faithful to the teaching of the Apostles. I only speak this way because it seems like you want to reduce protestantism to a “protest club.” I understand and accept that you must speak this way because of your convictions, and I am sure you see that I must speak this way because of mine.

            There are some very important differences between Roman Catholic and Protestant understandings of Ecclesiology and Church authority. Rome’s teachings must be accepted because they are Rome’s teachings. Rome’s teachings cannot be examined, critiqued, or questioned, because Rome will always be right about everything. There is not a possibility that Rome’s main teacher, the Roman Pontiff will be a false teacher. The Roman ecclesial structure can also choose not to forgive your sins and so forth.

            Despite all of Rome’s grandiose claims to power, she has the exact same problems as any other communions: many, many, Roman Catholics partake of communion without going to confession, so many Roman Catholics simply reject Roman Catholic sexual ethics–birth control, homosexuality, abortion, and so forth. So yes, Rome has authority in paper.

            Protestants can change their mind about how they view Scripture, yes, within reason–certain things are not open to debate. This can be abused yes. But this also means that protestants are open to repentance–something that is impossible in the Roman communion.

            Protestant ministers do have authority. They have the authority to publicly proclaim the word of God, and to excommunicate.

            This is hasty, insufficient, and more needs to be said. But, I did want to put some important considerations on the table. Thanks for your patience.

            Best,

            Jonathan

            • Jonathan,

              It’s very kind of Mustfollow to allow us this back-and-forth on his blog. I personally find it interesting that the original post was on the problems of Sola Scriptura… and here we are debating Christianity even though we both carefully studied Scripture. How interesting.

              I appreciate you sharing your experience, and the book recommendations. Have you read “The Catholic Controversy: A Defense of the Faith” by St. Francis de Sales? I also recommend that you read “Europe and the Faith” by Hilaire Belloc, “The Catholic Church and Conversion” by G.K. Chesterton (he also wrote the classic “Orthodoxy” when he was still an Anglican, where if I recall he makes fun of Calvinists). I’m currently reading an outstanding book: “Theology and Sanity” by Frank Sheed… HIGHLY recommended. Along with Mustfollow, I’ve found Robert Hugh Benson to be insightful, particularly in your case I recommend “Confessions of a Convert”.

              I am well aware of “Peter and his error” as recorded in Galatians. What I’ve been trying to get from you is support for your claim of “Peter and James preaching the need for circumcision”. You keep rephrasing it, and I keep taking you back to your original statement. Is it possible that you misspoke in your original statement?

              Protestants WERE offered safe passage to attend the Council of Trent. I believe this was done in good faith. You believe it wasn’t. Oh well. I point out that lying to those Protestants and killing them would NOT be “ok” according to Church teaching. You point out that Catholics have killed Protestants. I could point out that Protestants have killed Catholics, but this is already getting lame.

              Regarding the Eucharist: Since you seem unwilling to provide Church teachings to back up your interpretation of Church teachings… I think I’ll just stick with the Catholic scholars’ interpretations of Church teachings and what I can read for myself. But… if you want to write something up for me like you said I’d be happy to read it.

              Regarding John 6, I’m planning on posting something in the near future that basically explains that however we read John 6, one thing that an honest study of the chapter doesn’t allow for is a merely symbolic interpretation.

              I seriously considered Anglicanism for awhile on my way to Rome. However, I was intrigued mostly by the Anglicanism of Lewis and Chesterton (before he became Catholic of course). Ironically, it was the presence of Calvinism within the Anglican Church that scared me away from considering it too seriously. I had already determined as a Sola Scriptura Protestant that Calvinists have a rather unique perspective of God, in which He is portrayed as more totalitarian than Scripture would allow. Interestingly, it was partially my efforts to oppose Calvinism that eventually led me out of Protestantism all together… first toward Eastern Orthodoxy through a book called “Reconsidering TULIP” by an ex-Calvinist, then a glance at Anglicanism (too Calvinist and/or confused among themselves), and finally to Catholicism.

              As to which of our churches is best qualified to be “the Church”, I guess that’s a question that you and I cannot resolve here. However, I am curious while on the subject… are you okay with female priests and bishops? As nice as it might seem, is it something instituted by God?

              Check out “Apostolicae Curae”.

              You can speak flippantly about Rome’s authority, but it’s really the only way that the Church can truly exist as the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”. One of the amazing bits of evidence for Rome’s legitimacy is that despite all of the corrupt characters and crazy historical events, the Church is still strong and the teachings are sound. No merely human institution could have ever dreamed of such longevity.

              You say Protestant ministers have the authority to excommunicate. If a Protestant minister excommunicates you, even though you are following the Bible exactly according to your conscience, would you consider yourself as having been expelled from Communion until you’ve changed your perspective?

              Lastly, one sentence in your last comment was a bit confusing to me. You said, “But this also means that protestants are open to repentance–something that is impossible in the Roman communion.” Are you unaware of the Sacrament of Confession? It’s also sometimes referred to as the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. In other words… it’s all about getting right with God on His terms rather than our own. Repentance is not only possible for Catholics, it’s one of the seven sacraments!

              It’s been an interesting discussion. May God bless you.

              -Ben

              P.S. If I may make one request… please don’t try to get me into a debate over whether Calvinism is biblical. Not only would it be boring… it would also be pointless because it’s a discussion dependent upon proper interpretation of Scripture, which is the very problem that remains unresolved between us.

              • Ben,

                I’ve read some of the authors you mentioned–not the same books though. I am shocked that you are putting forth Belloc as someone you would recommend! Please, please read this article about Belloc, by someone who admires him: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/why-belloc-still-matters/

                I hope to read de Sales soon.

                I don’t believe I have rephrased anything concerning Peter, James, and their preaching of the circumcision. What I am saying is hardly obscure or controversial. I’ve never heard any Roman Catholic contend that James and Peter were *not* preaching the need for circumcision to the gentiles. This is the issue that Paul discusses in his letter to the Galatians–the very issue resolved in Acts 15. Let’s take another look at the passage from Galatians 2:11-21:

                “11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.”

                – Peter was acting in accordance with the Gospel until men from James entered the situation. The circumcision party scared Peter into acting against the Gospel. What does the circumcision party teach? That Gentiles need to be circumcised (among other things) in order to be Christians.

                “13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?””

                – These Jews–the circumcision party, Peter and Barnabas, were according to Paul, *forcing* the Gentiles to live like Jews. Forcing them to get circumcised. What are Peter, James, and the rest of the circumcision party teaching?

                “15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified[a] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

                – We *as Jews* says, Paul, understand that we are justified by faith and not by the works of the law. What were Peter, James, and the circumcision party teaching about justification? That works of the law–such as circumcision–were necessary for justification.

                Again, I don’t believe I am saying anything controversial here. Every RC that I’ve discussed the issue with takes this interpretation of Galatians to be standard and non-controversial. If I rephrased anything, it was an unconscious tick for rhetorical variety. I stand by my previous words.

                – Safe Passage –

                My only point here is that the Holy Roman Emperor granted safe passage to John Hus so that he could defend himself. The council of constance persuaded the HRE to lift the promise of safe conduct because it was ok to lie to a heretic. And, very clearly, it is ok to kill heretics. It still is…

                I’m not talking about who killed who. I just don’t see why protestants should have been impressed by promises of safe conduct. The protestants were seeking and asking for council for a long, long time before Trent. When Trent came around, the agenda was set and the Reformed branch was not going to be heard.

                – Eucharist –

                I’m not unwilling to discuss this at greater length with more primary sources, I just didn’t have time yesterday. But, let us begin with the quote you provided and build from there:

                “To Catholics, the physical act of eating the consecrated host or drinking the consecrated wine from the chalice, a blessed cup, … is secondary to the underlying invisible reality that the human soul is being fed by the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. The body merely consumes the appearances of bread and wine while the soul receives Christ personally and totally.”

                – So, there are two thing going when one consumes the Eucharist: the first is on a physical/ visible level– you eat the physical accidents of bread and wine. The second reality is invisible–you eat the risen Christ.

                Are you *literally* chewing on the risen Christ as you would chew on bread? As the “very graphic verbs of John 6” would demand? Well, if one is able to masticate on a Christ that is invisible and non-corporeal, then sure. That just means you believe you can masticate something with your teeth even if your teeth don’t touch what is “being masticated.”

                Do official Roman sources say anything different? No.

                Paul VI in his Credo of the people writes:

                “And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.”

                – Christ, in the Eucharist, is beyond our senses–beyond sight, beyond touch, and thus beyond “graphic, literal, masticating.”

                You are familiar with Trent, so you know these excerpts from the 13th session:

                “In the first place, the holy Synod teaches, and openly and simply professes, that, in the august sacrament of the holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things. For neither are these things mutually repugnant,-that our Saviour Himself always sitteth at the right hand of the Father in heaven, according to the natural mode of existing, and that, nevertheless, He be, in many other places, sacramentally present to us in his own substance, by a manner of existing, which, though we can scarcely express it in words.”

                – We see the same thing: the elements are present in a visible, corporeal sense, and Christ is present in an invisible, non-corporeal sense that is sacramental and inexplicable. I draw the same inference here as above and for the same reasons.

                Cardinal Avery Dulles states that Christ is invisible to you in the sacrament http://www.30giorni.it/articoli_id_9352_l3.htm?id=9352 :

                “Christ is really but invisibly present in this sacrament. His presence is such that the bread and wine after the consecration are truly, really, and substantially His body and blood but according to a mode of existence that differs from His presence in heaven.”

                – The mode of existence is different. One could *literally* chew Christ at the right hand of the Father because he can be touched and seen. You can’t touch or see Christ in the Host.

                In short–your Roman Catholic apologists interpret John 6 to mean that one must literally, masticate, chew, and destroy with our teeth the glorified and resurrected Christ. Your official Church documents say that you can’t destroy the body of our risen Lord with your teeth because His presence is not accessible by our sense of touch or sight.

                I will not discuss Calvinism with you, as you wish. However, I do want to say that you will hardly ever find the very scary TULIP in the pages of the Calvinist International. I made my peace with what scared me about Calvinism when I was guided through these same questions by Augustine and Aquinas. Everything scary about Calvinism can be found in these two great doctors. Roman Catholicism is not your way out–only, as you rightly saw, Eastern Orthodoxy.

                – Excommunication Challenge –

                In terms of best case scenarios:

                Let’s say that I am excommunicated for believing that Christ rose from the dead. The minister, graciously attempts to persuade me that the Gospels are symbolic and so forth. I am not convinced and I am kicked out. I would find an orthodox Church, and pray for this minister and congregation that have lost its way.

                Now, let’s say that I believe that the Gospels are spiritual and symbolic and that the resurrection was not historical.

                Best case scenario: The ministers persuades me and I repent of my folly.
                Worst Case Scenario: I don’t repent of my folly and go to a synagogue of satan to increase in my blindness.

                By repentance, I did not mean penance. Rome *cannot* repent from teaching doctrinal errors. Why? Because Rome can’t make doctrinal errors. That’s what I meant.

                I hope this clarifies a few things here and there. Despite some slightly more aggressive wording, I write this in good spirits towards you and I take your writings in the same manner.

                Pax,

                Jonathan

  9. Very interesting discussion, guys. Welcome to the conversation, Ben.

    I have a couple comments and observations, though I hope I don’t disrupt discussion too much (there are a lot of topics on the table right now).

    I have not read Aquinas and my head wanted to explode during the few quotes I have actually read. He is a Matterhorn of thought and theology that I may never be ready for. Jonathan, I know you keep appealing to Aquinas but that’s a subject I know nothing about so I’m not going to get involved in it. To be involved would be to either (a) read Aquinas for myself to ensure he’s being accurately explained, which I’m not ready to do, or (b) take your word that Aquinas said what he said, which I’m also not ready to do.

    Jonathan, you called Scott Hahn a “pop apologist.” Can you back that up or is that just a snarky comment to disregard someone who is a real threat to Protestantism? You’ve made comments about “real scholars” before. What makes a “real” scholar, anyway? Scott Hahn is not some random guy on a blog. He is very accomplished and widely regarded. He writes about deep subjects in ways the common man like myself can understand. Does that make him “pop” and not a true scholar? Do real “scholars” only write in ways common people cannot understand? If that is the case, then it’s yet more evidence alongside Jimmy Akins points that the common man needs a magisterium. Since you disagree with Akins points, you may want to be careful using the “my scholar can beat up your scholar” playground argumentation that people often get into and which goes absolutely nowhere. I hope these words do not offend Christian charity and dialog, but it is a pet-peeve of mine that I find annoying.

    Jonathan: Your last comment, and Ben’s questions about it, brought up some good topics that I have wanted to ask about but didn’t feel the opportunity. So this is a good occasion.

    What I’d like to ask is whether there is book (or maybe two) that sums up the theological views of Jonathan Roberts? You have recommended several books and essays, but they tend to be very focused on specific issues (which is understandable because my posts have been focused on specific issues). But are there any that condense and summarize your basic beliefs showing the system of theology and thought as a whole, like a sort of catechism? Such as ordained ministry and what constitutes a legitimate ordination, are councils authoritative and why accept some and not others, and so forth.

    If it can’t summed up in a couple of books, maybe a full bibliography or list of authors you trust that I can peruse and choose what I want to dedicate time to.

    Or, maybe there is a website you trust that has tons of Q/A on all sorts of topics (like a Protestant version of Catholic Answers).

    That’s all I have right now. God bless.

    • Must,

      Just to be clear: I’ve only been pointing at those aspects of Aquinas’ metaphysics that are not controversial. Fortunately, Aquinas’ metaphysics is actually not essential for me to make my point.

      When I saw “pop apologist” I mean Roman Catholics, such as Scott Hahn, who are widely read by people on their way to converting to Rome. Is not really meant to be snarky. I have the same pet-peeve about “academic writing” being that which is inaccessible to the common man. This is why I often find David Bentley Hart to be insupportable.

      That being said, I don’t that Hahn treats certain subjects rather lightly. I’ve never read any of his works clearly address the metaphysics of transubstantiation. On the other hand I have heard him say things which technically speaking, contradict Roman Catholic theology–particularly as it pertains the Eucharist. He seems to actually believe in a physical chewing of Christ.

      When I think about “real scholars” I think of people that craft careful arguments and deal forthrightly with the historical data. Brian Tierney, for instance, is a careful Roman Catholic scholar.

      The Heidelberg Catechism, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the Westminster Confession of Faith would be a good place to get my view on these matters.

      I don’t know of a website that I would recommend that is like Catholic Answers. I tend to be suspicious of apologetic folks. I do love the work of the Calvinist International crowd: http://calvinistinternational.com/an-introduction-to-the-calvinist-international/

      Best,

      Jonathan

      • Jonathan,

        –Dulles question–

        Several comments prior you made the statement “The Canon was already well in use by the end of the second century.” To this I disagreed and said the canon “as we know it” was not fully agreed upon even in the 4th century. You then recommended I read Dulles’ essay in “Your Word is Truth.”

        I found a cheap, affordable copy of that book and read Dulles’ essay. Nowhere in that essay did I see him teaching what you claimed he taught when you said, “The Canon was already well in use by the end of the second century.” On the contrary, he seemed to agree with my statements. He said, “The church’s acquisition of a full set of canonical Scriptures required a considerable period of time. By the middle or end of the second century the main questions appear to have been settled. Debates concerning the precise limits of the canon continued, of course, down through the fourth century, and have erupted from time to time since that date. Only with the passage of time did the councils of the church (beginning late in the fourth century) seek to achieve complete uniformity regarding the canon.”

        Can you provide the specific reference you were referring to when you claimed Dulles taught the canon was “well in use”?

        –Eucharist–

        I’m also really not following most of what you are saying about the Eucharist as understood by Catholics. As I understand the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist, from Catholics themselves, is that the bread is truly Christ in substance. Our senses are only able to perceive the “accidents” but that does not change the reality of what the bread is…it is Christ. He is “invisible” in that our senses can only perceive bread and that we cannot perform scientific experiments to prove it is Jesus. But that does not change the reality. So in a sense, yes, they chew on Christ because Christ IS the bread (or the “consecrated host” or whatever term you want to use here). They do not chew on Him as if the host tastes like human flesh, but that does not change the reality that they chew on the host that is substantially Jesus and no longer substantially bread.

        Are you saying that reality is only what our senses can perceive?

        Even the very sources and quotes you gave support the above reasoning and don’t really say what you’re saying they say. The entire article by Dulles could have been written by a “pop apologist.” In fact, Dulles could have been speaking directly to you and me when he warned “not to inquire too curiously, because our minds can easily become confused in speaking about such an exalted mystery. It is better simply to accept the words of Christ, of Scripture, of the tradition, and of the Church’s Magisterium, which tell us what we need to know: Christ is really but invisibly present in this sacrament. His presence is such that the bread and wine after the consecration are truly, really, and substantially His body and blood but according to a mode of existence that differs from His presence in heaven.” (Interestingly, I feel the same about the Trinity. If we inquire too deeply we’ll get it wrong. It’s best to just believe it as a matter of faith.)

        As Dulles says, Catholics believe the bread is truly, really, and substantially His Body. Catholics keep driving this point home. The bread IS Christ.

        If you know Catholic doctrine better than Catholics, may I ask what specifically are you saying is the true Catholic doctrine on transubstantiation? Can you lay that out for me as understood by Catholics?

  10. Must,

    I’ll look into the Dulles’ quote. I hope that I didn’t get carried away with his statement that– “by the middle or end of the second century the main questions appear to have been settled”– as it is unclear and can mean a good number of things.

    I want to answer your question about the Eucharist, but I’m not exactly sure what it is that you think needs to be addressed. So, I’ll enumerate my argument:

    1. Contemporary Roman Apologists use John 6 to argue for “transubstantiation” and to support their understanding of the Eucharist. They claim that the words of Christ are literal and they support this by the fact that the Greek uses “very vivid and graphic verbs” (because metaphorical language cannot use vivid and graphic verbs…). Thus, Hahn and others end up saying that because of transubstantiation we literally chew, gnaw, masticate the body of Christ.

    What does this mean literally? This means that our teeth come into contact with the *body* of Christ.

    2. The Roman Catholic Dogma of Transubstantiation states that the elements are destroyed and the substance of Christ replaces the substance of the elements. That being said, the accidents of the elements remain and Christ is present in a invisible, non-sensorial way.

    Since Christ is only present invisibly and non-sensorially, we cannot crunch on Jesus.

    3. The problem should be clear. The Roman Apologists try to gain rhetorical points by being arguing for a literalistic reading of John 6 at the expense of handling official dogma somewhat carelessly (or ignoring it).

    – Responses –

    I have a few quick responses:

    a) I am by no means arguing that the Roman Church does not teach transubstantiation. It most obviously does. I think you are making a mistake when you say that “the bread is Christ.” According to Rome, there is no bread.

    b) “He is “invisible” in that our senses can only perceive bread and that we cannot perform scientific experiments to prove it is Jesus.” That exactly right. The problem for Rome is not that we can’t perform science on Jesus, the problem is that we can’t munch on Christ.

    c) “Are you saying that reality is only what our senses can perceive?” Not at all. What I am saying is that literal, vivid, graphic, chewing of Christ’s body requires vivid, graphic, chewing of Christ’s body.

    d) “Even the very sources and quotes you gave support the above reasoning and don’t really say what you’re saying they say.” I wish you would explain further. It seems like Dulles is saying exactly what I’ve been saying all along. Rome teaches that Christ is present in an invisible way. Good luck masticating something that is invisible and does not have accidents.

  11. Must,

    I’m not saying anything new. I’m still trying to be more clear in my re-articulation and hoping that you will tell me where you think I’m misrepresenting Rome. I’ve also asked you a few clarifying questions.

    That’s the Dulles’ quote I had in mind. There certainly was a canon in place by the end of the second century. A canon that was that determined by a council or any such thing. Dulles says it was solidified by the end of the 4th Century, but Rome didn’t actually make a final decision until Trent…

    I do hope that you can either agree with my assessment, or show me where I go wrong.

    Pax Domini,

    J

    • When I said nobody was saying anything new I meant with this particular conversation. You had your say. A Catholic had his say. What else is there to say? You have your definitions on words like “accidents” and “invisible” that Catholics apparently do not hold to.

      Here’s what I see happening.

      Jonathan Roberts says, “Catholics believe A.”
      Catholics say, “Catholics believe B.”
      Jonathan Roberts than says, “Those Catholics who claim to believe B are wrong because Catholics actually believe A.”

      At this point I raise an eyebrow of skepticism. I’m left asking, “Who knows Catholic doctrines better: a non-Catholic sceptic or actual Catholics?”

      Here is what I had written out yesterday on the Eucharist but decided not to post. Since you wish to continue I will go ahead and post it. But I’m getting tired of this conversation, since this blog is not about convincing Jonathan Roberts about Catholicism but allowing others to try to convince me not to.

      1. Contemporary Roman Apologists use John 6 to argue for “transubstantiation” and to support their understanding of the Eucharist. They claim that the words of Christ are literal and they support this by the fact that the Greek uses “very vivid and graphic verbs” (because metaphorical language cannot use vivid and graphic verbs…). Thus, Hahn and others end up saying that because of transubstantiation we literally chew, gnaw, masticate the body of Christ.
      What does this mean literally? This means that our teeth come into contact with the *body* of Christ.

      Yes. The teeth come into contact with the “bread” which is the body Christ.

      2. The Roman Catholic Dogma of Transubstantiation states that the elements are destroyed and the substance of Christ replaces the substance of the elements. That being said, the accidents of the elements remain and Christ is present in a invisible, non-sensorial way.
      Since Christ is only present invisibly and non-sensorially, we cannot crunch on Jesus.

      Yes they do. By crunching on the host which is Jesus.

      3. The problem should be clear. The Roman Apologists try to gain rhetorical points by being arguing for a literalistic reading of John 6 at the expense of handling official dogma somewhat carelessly (or ignoring it).

      What “official dogma” are they ignoring? You have yet to show me something that actually says what you claim it says.

      a) I am by no means arguing that the Roman Church does not teach transubstantiation. It most obviously does. I think you are making a mistake when you say that “the bread is Christ.” According to Rome, there is no bread.

      Yes, Jonathan. That’s why I said “or the ‘consecrated host’ or whatever term you want to use here” to try keep you from nit-picking words. But you did anyway. It seems you are being difficult on purpose. Choose whatever term you wish…bread, consecrated host, who cares! I’m trying to deal with what Catholics say it IS not the terms they or you wish to call it. They claim it IS Christ.

      b) “He is “invisible” in that our senses can only perceive bread and that we cannot perform scientific experiments to prove it is Jesus.” That exactly right. The problem for Rome is not that we can’t perform science on Jesus, the problem is that we can’t munch on Christ.

      Yes they do. By munching on the “host” which is Christ.

      c) “Are you saying that reality is only what our senses can perceive?” Not at all. What I am saying is that literal, vivid, graphic, chewing of Christ’s body requires vivid, graphic, chewing of Christ’s body.

      They do, by chewing the “host” which is Christ. Our senses only sense bread but that does not change the reality.

      d) “Even the very sources and quotes you gave support the above reasoning and don’t really say what you’re saying they say.” I wish you would explain further. It seems like Dulles is saying exactly what I’ve been saying all along. Rome teaches that Christ is present in an invisible way. Good luck masticating something that is invisible and does not have accidents.

      Yes. Christ is “invisible” in that we cannot look at the “host” and recognize Christ or taste it and recognize Christ. But that does not change the reality of what it is.

      –On the Canon–

      The Dulles quote also does not say what you say it says. He does not say there was a definitive canon by end of the second century. He says the exact opposite, “Only with the passage of time did the councils of the church (beginning late in the fourth century) seek to achieve complete uniformity regarding the canon.”

      This matches the history I’ve learned from others too, including Protestants like F.F. Bruce and J.N.D Kelly.

  12. Must,

    I’m not trying to be difficult. This topic can be difficult because of the importance attached to it and the metaphysics used to articulate the change that occurs in the Eucharist.

    We seem to have some difficulty in defining certain terms, and, just like in philosophy, it is also very important to define our terms carefully.

    You said, “You have your definitions on words like “accidents” and “invisible” that Catholics apparently do not hold to.” So let me define these terms–an accident is a property of a substance that is not essential to the substance. Pretty standard Aristotelian definition. In this I am in agreement with the Romans. The accidents of a substance can be perceived by sense perception, the essence of a substance cannot be perceived by sense perception though the essence and the form of a substance can be apprehended with the mind. Nothing of controversy here.

    Invisible: something that is invisible cannot be perceived by the sense of sight.

    Non-sensorial: something that cannot be perceived by the sense of touch.

    How am I discerning these terms any differently? I really have no idea. I’ve discussed these matters with my Roman Catholic friends and we’ve never had any controversy about these definitions.

    I am not contesting at all that the Roman Catholics claim that Christ is present under the accidents of bread. I am talking more specifically about the mode of His presence.

    For instance, I agree, and always have with your following statement:

    “Yes. Christ is “invisible” in that we cannot look at the “host” and recognize Christ or taste it and recognize Christ. But that does not change the reality of what it is.”

    This is exactly right. Thus, we munch on the accidents of bread. Christ is not the accidents of bread. There is not controversy amongst us and the Romans concerning this.

    http://www.thesumma.info/reality/reality40.php

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4076.htm

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4077.htm

    http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/order-of-mass/liturgy-of-the-eucharist/the-real-presence-of-jesus-christ-in-the-sacrament-of-the-eucharist-basic-questions-and-answers.cfm

    https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/eucha5.htm

    “Is there any real difference between Jesus in heaven and Jesus in the Eucharist? No, it is the same Jesus. The only difference is in us. We now on earth cannot see or touch him with our senses. But that is not a limitation in him; it is a limitation in us.”

    Pax,

    J

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