Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Is the Catholic Church a true church?

(I should ask the same thing about 80% of modern American churches also, since they teach basically the same thing.) Is it a big deal that they teach that justification is dependent on works in addition to faith? If so, how big? I mean, they're right on so much; how important is it that they are wrong on this one?

"What was it that gave rise to the stupendous polemic of the Epistle to the Galatians? To the modem Church the difference would have seemed to be a mere theological subtlety. About many things the Judaizers were in perfect agreement with Paul. The Judaizers believed that Jesus was the Messiah; there is not a shadow of evidence that they objected to Paul's lofty view of the person of Christ. Without the slightest doubt, they believed that Jesus had really risen from the dead. They believed, moreover, that faith in Christ was necessary to salvation. But the trouble was, they believed that something else was also necessary; they believed that what Christ had done needed to be pieced out by the believer's own effort to keep the Law. From the modern point of view the difference would have seemed to be very slight. Paul as well as the Judaizers believed that the keeping of the law of God, in its deepest import, is inseparably connected with faith. The difference concerned only the logical -- not even, perhaps, the temporal -- order of three steps. Paul said that a man (1) first believes on Christ, (2) then is justified before God, (3) then immediately proceeds to keep God's law. The Judaizers said that a man (1) believes on Christ and (2) keeps the law of God the best he can, and then (3) is justified. The difference would seem to modern "practical" Christians to be a subtle and intangible matter, hardly worthy of consideration at all in view of the large measure of agreement in the practical realm. What a splendid cleaning up of the Gentile cities it would have been if the Judaizers had succeeded in extending to those cities the observance of the Mosaic law, even including the unfortunate ceremonial observances! Surely Paul ought to have made common cause with teachers who were so nearly in agreement with him; surely he ought to have applied to them the great principle of Christian unity. "

As a matter of fact, however, Paul did nothing of the kind; and only because he (and others) did nothing of the kind does the Christian Church exist today. Paul saw very clearly that the difference between the Judaizers and himself was the difference between two entirely distinct types of religion; it was the difference between a religion of merit and a religion of grace. If Christ provides only a part of our salvation, leaving us to provide the rest, then we are still hopeless under the load of sin. For no matter how small the gap which must be bridged before salvation can be attained, the awakened conscience sees clearly that our wretched attempt at goodness is insufficient even to bridge that gap. The guilty soul enters again into the hopeless reckoning with God, to determine whether we have really done our part. And thus we groan again under the old bondage of the law. Such an attempt to piece out the work of Christ by our own merit, Paul saw clearly, is the very essence of unbelief, Christ will do everything or nothing, and the only hope is to throw ourselves unreservedly on His mercy and trust Him for all.

"Paul certainly was right. The difference which divided him from the Judaizers was no mere theological subtlety, but concerned the very heart and core of the religion of Christ". (Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism, New York: Macmillan, 1923, p. 23-25.)

Here is more (though on a slightly different subject.)

58 comments:

Vastine said...

stoking fires? ;-)

BV

rich said...

Actually, there is a lot going on personally that is forcing me to ask this question. I thought I might get some responses with this one that would help me think through it.

RobU said...

I think that the Catholic church would argue that they don't believe in a works-based salvation. I used to work with a guy who converted to Catholicism from the PCA and he denied it.

rich said...

Rob,
The impression I'm getting is that despite what the Catholic Church's official doctrine is, there are many, even clergy, that don't believe that justification is dependent on faith and works in the logical sense. When you say that, it leads me to believe that this phenomenon is pretty widespread.

Andy said...

"...there are many, even clergy, that don't believe that justification is dependent on faith and works in the logical sense. When you say that, it leads me to believe that this phenomenon is pretty widespread."

Maybe this "widespread phenomenon" is the doctrine of the Church and it is your "logical sense" that miscontrues your understanding of Catholic dogma? Rich, you have admit, it is at least possible that you misunderstand.

rich said...

In that case, I am not the only one, but our denomination, and our theologians, and almost every Reformed theologian since the Reformation. I understand what they mean. Why don't you try looking at the Vatican's website? They have a Catholic catechism there. The point is that when faith needs works to be added to it for salvation, the promise no longer rests on grace, no matter what people say to the contrary. This is what Paul is saying in Galatians.

Anyway, every knowledgeable Catholic I know says that justification is dependent in the logical sense on faith and works. I know a Catholic who doesn't believe this, but he does so knowing full well that his church is opposed. The Council of Trent is still the official theology of the church.

rich said...

Wait a second. I thought that it was Rob who had commented, not Andy.

rich said...

So, Andy, you would say that justification is dependent on faith on Christ alone?

rich said...

I have heard you say that you believe that justification is dependent on faith and works. Your argument has been that these are works that are born of grace; therefore it is still a salvation of grace. However, Paul is saying that if it depends on works, then it is no longer of grace. The promise has to rest on faith, or it is no longer of grace.

Andy said...

Rich,
"In that case, I am not the only one, but our denomination, and our theologians, and almost every Reformed theologian since the Reformation."
Surely many of the outspoken latter theologians (of the last two-hundred years) have held this. Evangelicalism has evolved uniquely in the Reformed world.

This was actually the first and main reason why I left the PCA (long before accepting the truths of Catholic dogma).

"The point is that when faith needs works to be added to it for salvation, the promise no longer rests on grace, no matter what people say to the contrary. This is what Paul is saying in Galatians."
Well, we've discussed this to death :)

"So, Andy, you would say that justification is dependent on faith on Christ alone?"
It really depends on how you break it all down. It is a matter of perspective, which has been the center of strife for the Reformed (Calvinists and Lutherans) and Catholics since the beginning

If you want a broad point of view, and define faith in the fiduciary sense and reject distinctions between different types of "works," then yes, we are indeed saved by faith alone. If you want the more traditional point of view (pre-1500) which is the more detailed point of view, and recognize distinctions in the types of "faith" and recognize distinctions in the types of "works," then no we are not saved by faith alone at all.

Both Luther's and Calvin's view of sola fide (one forensic, the other union w/Christ) lack on necessary distinctions that both Scripture and tradition (both lower case and upper) have given us. These distinctions are important and necessary, which is what Trent tells us.

"I have heard you say that you believe that justification is dependent on faith and works. Your argument has been that these are works that are born of grace; therefore it is still a salvation of grace. However, Paul is saying that if it depends on works, then it is no longer of grace. The promise has to rest on faith, or it is no longer of grace."
Well again, if you refuse to believe those Catholics (myself included) that our sotierology makes a necessary distinction between types of "works," then you will continue to think that Catholics/Catholic sotierology violates the teachings of St. Paul.

Ed said...

The Catholic Church has NEVER taught salvation through faith and works. In fact it has condemned the notion that we can earn salvation. The Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by God's grace alone, completely unmerited by works.

In Philipians 2:13, Paul presupposes that the faithful Christian is not just desiring to be righteous, but is actively working toward it. Even James 2:17 reminds us that faith without works is a dead faith. As we see in, Ephesians, the works are laid out by God for us to do.

The Catholic Church teaches that mere belief is in sufficient for justification (think of it as: giving lip service is not enough). Saving faith is always manifested and exemplified by works. It is good works, when they become habit forming, which can keep the faithful from bad works..sin. Initial justification comes from faith, but if one professes faith but shows differently in their actions, then what faith do they have?

Here's the kicker, even the Council of Trent taught that it is impossible for anyone to be justified before God by works.

The entire notion of works based righteousness was condemned as a heresy at the Council of Carthage in 418 AD (Pelagianism).



The Catholic Church teaches the biblical doctrine of justification.
It avoids the two extremes of works alone and bare faith alone.

So where in lies the mistunderstandings? Well Protestants will fail to understand the Catholic view because of tainted glasses of history and a selective and misunderstood reading of Trent.

Catholics themselves are confused on this issue because of a lack of proper catechism in the church, most recently resulting from the free for all that followed Vatican II.

I suggest beginning in the Catholic Catechism, paragraph 153.

Ed said...

Ok, after having quickly perused the two links....

Number 1 (Machen): There is a problem here...the writers refer to the Roman Catholic Church...huge problem here...it doesn't exist, never has. It has become common in the vernacular to refer to the Roman Catholic Church however the Catholic Church has never used that name.

Number 2. The famed validity of baptism paper. I am very, very familar with it, along with the many dissenting opinions to it. I'm no expert on it all, but very well read on it.

I give you a link to the PCA's Peru Mission Resources page.... the pdf on "Roman Baptism" is quite interesting.

Ed said...

http://perumission.org/content/view/103/138/

rich said...

Ed,

You are arguing that the Roman Catholic church or whatever name you want to call it, is not Pelagian. However, Pelagianism is not what Paul argues against in Galatians. I have read the Catholic catechism. It seems to me to be exactly the kind of view of the gospel which Paul says is another gospel, or really no gospel at all.

Your definition of faith as merely giving lip service to God is not the definition we are working from. We are working from a definition of faith that presumes that it is real trust in Christ for salvation, including justification, which is the once-made act of making those who are not acceptable before God, completely righteous and therefore free from his wrath and given unto his reward.

You say that the Catholics avoid the two extremes of works alone or a bare faith. I would claim (along with the rest of Reformation history) that they do so in the same way that the Judaizers did (proving that they never understood Christ's work of salvation to begin with).

Also, you said, "Saving faith is always manifested and exemplified by works. It is good works, when they become habit forming, which can keep the faithful from bad works..sin. Initial justification comes from faith, but if one professes faith but shows differently in their actions, then what faith do they have?"

-This is not the doctrine of the Catholic church that I am arguing with. We all claim that true (saving) faith in Christ leads to good works.

rich said...

Andy,
You say, "It really depends on how you break it all down. It is a matter of perspective, which has been the center of strife for the Reformed (Calvinists and Lutherans) and Catholics since the beginning" regarding whether or not it is by faith alone. And this is precisely the question in point. How does Paul (in Galatians) say we should break it down?

And here, in response to my statement, I have heard you say that you believe that justification is dependent on faith and works. Your argument has been that these are works that are born of grace; therefore it is still a salvation of grace. However, Paul is saying that if it depends on works, then it is no longer of grace. The promise has to rest on faith, or it is no longer of grace.

"Well again, if you refuse to believe those Catholics (myself included) that our sotierology makes a necessary distinction between types of "works," then you will continue to think that Catholics/Catholic sotierology violates the teachings of St. Paul."
-Please explain how a "type of works" distinction helps the issue.

Andy said...

Rich, after all we've gone around and around about this, and after you have admitted that your mind is already made up on this matter, why on earth (on your first version of this post) did you say that this was an issue that you were personally trying to work though?

Do you have a friend who Poped and now you are worried about his soul? Are you reconsidering your previously held understanding of the Catechism? I am curious, and I bet Ed is also.

Andy said...

Rich,

I won't address the words you wrote to Ed (for he can hold his own rather well).

"And this is precisely the question in point. How does Paul (in Galatians) say we should break it down?"

That would depend on what the actual heresy of the Judaizers was, now wouldn't it? If it is true that the heresy that St. Paul was condemning was that we must perform some kind of work (prior to the grace of God; of ourselves) before Jesus could save us (such as circumcision or whatever), then Catholic theology is free from this charge. If the heresy of the Judaizers was that works were transformed by the grace of God into good works b/c of Christ to combine with his atonement for our salvation, then Catholicism is guilty as charged. Obviously I maintain that it was the former.

"Please explain how a "type of works" distinction helps the issue."

Well basically if there is indeed a distinction between works (of man apart from grace) and good works (of man made possible only b/c of the grace of Christ), then Catholics are free from trying to save themselves apart from the grace alone. Sola Gratia remains for the Catholic and the Calvinist can be at ease.

rich said...

"Do you have a friend who Poped and now you are worried about his soul?"~ Not precisely this, but we were thinking about an issue regarding Westminster Confession Chapter 24. I don't want to say outright what it was here. But in addition, I am worried about you, and more so than when we started these discussions. And I did consider you a friend. And I did not have my mind made up about this when I started.

"That would depend on what the actual heresy of the Judaizers was, now wouldn't it? If it is true that the heresy that St. Paul was condemning was that we must perform some kind of work (prior to the grace of God; of ourselves) before Jesus could save us (such as circumcision or whatever), then Catholic theology is free from this charge."

To answer, this was not the issue. The Judaizers and everyone else were in agreement that they had "received the Spirit ...by hearing with faith," and the issue was whether they would, "having begun by the Spirit, [begin being] perfected by the flesh." The heresy was not that this work needed to be done prior to the work of grace. Paul knows that his audience knows perfectly well how they began; that's why he appeals to their beginning as a pattern for the rest of their lives.

We know that you believe in "grace." So did the Judaizers. It is how that "grace" gets worked out that brings into question whether or not it is the grace of which the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul.

Andy said...

"And I did consider you a friend."

Ouch...

Ed said...

Rich,

All I am arguing with my referal to Pelagianism is that the Catholic Church does not teach a doctrine of works and has set that down definitively since Carthage.

I nowhere said that I was defining faith as lip service to God. However, I was pointing out that such a view shows where works are needed to separate the believer from the non believer.

I would ask how the Catholics avoid the two extremes like the Judiazers? The Judiazers where Jewish Christians who held that circumcision and holding Mosiac Law were requirements of the faith and were necessary for salvation. I don't see the Catholic Church going around holding believers to Jewish feasts or customs.

Now if you are arguing with the Catholic Church's idea of Holy Tradition's, a key point of angst among Reformers (Sola Scriptura and all), is this right. There is no teaching in the Bible that defends Sola Scriptura outright and I can think of one that shatters it 2 Thess. 2:14, which gives ammo to the Catholic idea that traditions and oral teachings passed on to the Apostles from Christ are as equally valid as the written word (which they'd have to be if the New Testament wasn't canonized for a few centuries).

You say "it is how the grace gets worked out", I believe I beginning to see the problem. Protestants view justification as a one time thing, Catholics view it as a process. Until these views are distinctly understood and compared, confusion on the issue will continue between both sides.

Looking at the WCoF, XXIV, it appears that the word papist only appears in paragraph 3. Whether or not this is the area you are referring to, I do not know...I can however say that the term papist has got to be one of the most vile terms ever thrown around in the WCF and by Protestants, even the PCA has failed to define what is meant by the term when they use it, opening it up for all soughts of meanings. I find the failure to define it to be either an act of cowardness or a reason to veil anti-Catholic viewpoints, some of which are flat out lies being preached from the pulpit.

I saddens me to read you refer to your friendship with Andy in the past tense, though you disagree on things...such issues should not stand in the way of friendship. Though differing in opinions, Catholics and Protestants are brothers and sisters in Christ. We must remember: Deus Caritas Est

rich said...

What I meant was, I did consider Andy a friend when I was thinking about this. I didn't mean to refer to his friendship in the past tense. However, I am wrestling with what I must do if I believe he has abandoned the faith, while calling himself a Christian.

Also, Andy should know that, while it doesn't make much of a difference, I am a member of the A.R.P., and not the P.C.A. now. That's only because of the geographical area I live in now, however. It might make a difference when people are wondering where I under church government, though.

rich said...

And Ed,
You've got the right paragraph. There is supposedly some debate in the PCA about that term. However, I'm not in the know about these things.

rich said...

Ed,

In answer to this paragraph,
I would ask how the Catholics avoid the two extremes like the Judiazers? The Judiazers where Jewish Christians who held that circumcision and holding Mosiac Law were requirements of the faith and were necessary for salvation. I don't see the Catholic Church going around holding believers to Jewish feasts or customs.

-my line of reasoning, and Paul's as well, has to do with what place works (in general) play in justification, and sanctification. Paul is not discussing a priori the role of the Jewish customs here.

Ed said...

The Catholic Catechism, section 1996 says that justification comes from the grace of God, while Sections 1997-2000 describe the believers response to faith.

Catholics value acts of charity and this is where the concept of works really comes into play. And I touched on this earlier.

Paul, who was as "born again" as anyone, even said "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). The condition being implied that not only must he continue to believe in the Lord, but also DO the will of the Lord. James tells us that faith without works is a dead faith.

Luther, Mr. Reformation himself didn't understand James at all and moved it to an appendix in his translation (he also insterted the idea of faith alone by inserting the word alone into Romans in his translation).

Protestants will say that a lack of charity shows that faith never existed. Catholics would say lack of charity shows a hardness that results in a fall from the grace bestowed at baptism, the regenerational powers of the sacrament which are even alluded to in the WCoF.

The biggest problem facing Protestants in understanding how Catholics view works is the different definitions each side uses.

It's a free will vs. bonded will argument as well, which has been debated for centuries by those more well versed than I.

It's a matter of applying the Catholic definitions to their theology and not filtering through the reformers. Most of whom went against 1500 years of teaching, reinventing God as they wanted Him to be and not as He truly is.

rich said...

Ed,

I have read the stuff that you are talking about. It is these definitions I am working with. Did you read the stuff by Machen that I posted? I am dealing with Galatians. It appears that Andy has already admitted that Galatians condemns (consistent) Catholics.

At this point, I would say that Andy, as an individual, is living as non-Christian, though calling himself a Christian. I cannot even eat with him. He is not my brother in Christ. He stands condemned unless he repents. I do care about Andy, but I cannot be wishy-washy about that which Paul through the Holy Spirit is most severe. God has a deep concern for his glory, and for the purity of his gospel. It is my duty to do the same.

rich said...

I should say that I am and have been praying for that repentance.

Andy said...

Rich,
"It appears that Andy has already admitted that Galatians condemns (consistent) Catholics."

Wow! Rich, you'd better stick to engineering. Texual observance and critical analysis just doesn't seem to be your forte'.

"To answer, this was not the issue. The Judaizers and everyone else were in agreement that they had "received the Spirit ...by hearing with faith," and the issue was whether they would, "having begun by the Spirit, [begin being] perfected by the flesh." The heresy was not that this work needed to be done prior to the work of grace. Paul knows that his audience knows perfectly well how they began; that's why he appeals to their beginning as a pattern for the rest of their lives."

I understand that this is the standard interpretation post-Reformation Protestants, but I and the Catholic Church have rejected this. In fact, this interpretation (like so many others) is a historical novelty. You simply cannot find this interpretation of Galatians prior to C16.

Like Ed mentioned, the heresy of the Galatians/Judaizers was that Jewish observances were required to be a valid Christian. St. Paul was writing that the works of the Law are not what unite us to Christ, but our faith in Him. Therefore even those Christians who do not observe the Jewish laws will be saved b/c of their faith.

Catholicism does not require works of the law in addition to faith to be saved. It dictates that our faith without works is dead and that we are not justified by faith alone, but by works also. This, then, reveals the distinction between "works" and "good works."

rich said...

You have contradicted yourself. You earlier gave your interpretation, and now you're saying you agree w/ Ed's interpretation. Your insults have been given before. If you want to call me stupid, you can. I already know that you consider yourself the most intelligent person around. In fact this pride is the very reason you have apostasized.

I am shocked that you appealed to tradition (sarcasm). Your textual argument falls flat. You continue to appeal to your circular reasoning. I don't care. Call me stupid (as you already have). However, you are outside of the Christian faith.

Andy said...

Rich,

It seems you are addressing two issues here, which is part of the mess we are having.

The first seems to be your initial concern, which is whether or not I personally am a true Christian.

The second seems to be your concern of Catholic dogma as a system.

I think if we discussed each seperately, we would get someplace and your mind might be put to ease as to the state of my soul.

Andy said...

Rich,

I am not calling you stupid at all. And I do not consider myself the most intelligent person by any means. In fact, I rely upon Anselm's cry: Faith seeking understanding. I do not claim to have invented any kind of new systematic theology here. I am simply going with the ancient faith, which happens to differ with the reformational version on some things. I think you have me all wrong. Please forgive me, as it seems I have angered you again.

"You have contradicted yourself. You earlier gave your interpretation, and now you're saying you agree w/ Ed's interpretation."

But my point is that my interpretation is the same as Ed's, which is why I was so shocked to hear you say that I believe consistent Catholicism is guilty of the condemnation in Galatians.

I gave the two perspectives, which Ed talks about:
"The biggest problem facing Protestants in understanding how Catholics view works is the different definitions each side uses.

It's a free will vs. bonded will argument as well, which has been debated for centuries by those more well versed than I.

It's a matter of applying the Catholic definitions to their theology and not filtering through the reformers. Most of whom went against 1500 years of teaching, reinventing God as they wanted Him to be and not as He truly is.
"
I completely agree with what Ed wrote.

Andy said...

Rich,

When you say things like this:
"In fact this pride is the very reason you have apostasized.

I am shocked that you appealed to tradition (sarcasm). Your textual argument falls flat. You continue to appeal to your circular reasoning. I don't care. Call me stupid (as you already have). However, you are outside of the Christian faith.
"
...how can anyone be expected to prove themselves otherwise, when you have your mind already made up?

I see that it is useless to talk with you any longer. Good day, sir.

rich said...

I have asked you to prove otherwise. You didn't. You first dealt with the text, then when you were shown wrong, you decided you couldn't argue about this, so you started talking about Holy Tradition again. I wanted you to deal with the text. It is apparent to me that you don't care what the text says, you are going to believe what you are going to believe. And you already stated that the Catholic Church, and yourself are heretical if Galatians is saying what we say it is saying (and you have done nothing to say that it says otherwise). I can do nothing but respond as I am called to do.

rich said...

And I forgive you for your insults. They are nothing compared to what Christ has done for a sinner like myself. I am sure that I behaved improperly in responding to you, and I am sorry for that, but I still cannot regard you as being within the faith.

The Common Anglican said...

Rich,

I am sorry, but I didn't know that you were wanting me to go back to the text (once again). I gave you the two interpretations and was hoping to leave it at that, since in the past we have debated the text to death.

Honestly I am sick of debating the text with you, so if you take that as a sign of weakness or a sign of apathy on my part, then that is your assumption, but I am sorry you assume this. I just am tired of using two different hermeneutics when discussing this text and getting nowhere. The fact remains that even if I am wrongly interpreting Galatians, I am not consciencely trying to work my way to heaven apart from the grace of God. I just happen to believe that God transforms our works into good works, appealing to him. Regardless of whether or not I am correct, I am not guilty of trying to work my way into heaven. To work your way into heave, it must be a conscience effort to appease God on your own (apart from faith in Christ). I am telling you now, I am not trying to do this. This is all I am trying to get across to you.

Also, I was not trying to insult you by saying you should stick with engineering. I was completely serious. If that injures your pride, then I am sorry for that. For I do not mean to offend. But when I constantly tell you that I don't personally believe that I am trying to work my way to heaven, and you then continue to accuse me of it by reverting back to your (not mine) understanding of Galatians, it reveals an inability to see things from another's pespective, which is essential in analyzing literature, much less theology. This is what I meant, not to come anywhere close to calling you stupid. I just believe your strengths to lie in engineering. Mine certainly are not. I apologize for leading you to believe it was an insult.

As for regarding me within the faith or not, that is certainly your perogative to do or not. It just seems that there is, at this juncture, nothing I can say to vindicate myself personally, or Catholicism as a valid system.

Ed said...

Rich,

Andy proved his point and I don't see where he was proved wrong other than your rejection of his argument because you fail to analyze it through the lense is given in.
Holy Tradition is something that many Protestant churches have given up in favor of feel good, it is what the Bible means to me mentality. However, the baby was thrown out with the bath water. If the church teachings on a subject were constant for 1500 years and not called into question, I think serious consideration must be given those teachings. I believe it was Luther that stated the church stood or fell on Sola Fide, I would argue it stands or falls on Sola Scriptura. Which when seriously analyzed is nothing more than a starting assumption and as I mentioned is not taught and is contradicted by Scripture. If Sola Fide is held to be true, and the Bible refutes clearly refutes it, then perhaps it is a theory that is lacking. We see Protestant denominations splitting left and right because of battles over the meaning of Scripture. If one is to look at the Catholic Church one sees the split with the East and the Reformation splits and that is pretty much it. It makes one wonder if the Reformers were more interested in nationalism than anything else, for most of Protestantism split along national lines.

The text alone can must be examined through the understanding of ancient teaching and Andy has done this.

Sola Scriptura can not be demonstrated from scripture for the Bible does not state that it is the Christian's only authority. It is essentially a historic confession of the Reformers against the Catholic claim of Scripture, Church, and Holy Tradition. For those of the Reformed mindset, when they are intellectually honest, they must admit that it is a theological persupposition, a starting point rather than a proven conclusion. From this, is it not ironic that Reformed Christians teach that Christians should only believe what the Bible teaches but the Bible doesn't teach that it is the only authority? This is a tough argument to bend one's mind around, but it is an important one to study and wrestle with.

All I can ask is, what to you is the pillar and foundation of truth?

If you answer the Bible, you are against the teaching of Scripture. In 1 Timothy 3:15, the Church is said to be the pillar and foundation of truth. And then the question becomes...how many dare make this claim?

rich said...

Andy never answered the Biblical argument. There is another debate about Sola Scriptura, but that is not what we are having. Of course, Andy's Biblical exposition does not hold up, so he appeals to Tradition. I have already tried to have that debate. But here, we are talking about one of the foundations of the Christian faith. Without this being set right, I cannot call him a Christian.

rich said...

And I forgive him for his insults despite the fact that he put them out again. Andy's abandonment of the faith on this point is apostasy, and nothing less. He says that it's only apostasy if he does one thing or another. However, Galatians does not allow that path of reasoning.

Ed said...

Rich,

Are you letting some anti-Catholic bigotry cloud your judgement on this?
You mnetioned earlier Andy contradicting himself by agreeing with me, thing is...I'm giving the Catholic side as well. I'm surprised you didn't pick up on that and that is what makes me think you have an anti-Catholic bias which has clouded your mind from even considering an argument outside the reformed notion of how things should be. Let go of the refromed glasses and you'd be suprised at the results.

As for considering Andy to have been abandoned the faith...do you dare cast judgement on him? Is your knowledge of the faith that perfect? Do you claim to know better than God what is and what isn't apostasy?

If Andy is apsotate, then so am I and I will stand there next to him.

rich said...

Yes, yes, anti-Catholic bigotry is to blame. I just can't see clearly because the bigotry is clouding my eyes. I can't even think straight. All that goes through my head is "I hate Catholics, I hate Catholics."

Actually, no. That is not my thought at all. I have come to this conclusion from months of talking to Andy. I have just come to the conclusion that the Catholic church is not a true church. I thought I was wiser than Paul and the rest of the Reformed church. However, I am not. I am only making statements that have already been made. Some of Galatians is hard to understand, but a lot of it is very clear. And it is corrective to my thinking.

Andy has appealed saying that he is not Pelagian. However, that was never the issue. You have not made the same statements as he has. Please don't follow him on his path. Please think about Galatians some more. What do you think of Machen's analysis? Where did he go wrong? This is obviously a serious issue; please don't take it lightly.

21st Century Kashmiri Nomad said...

interesting blog

Ed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ed said...

Ed said...
Well, I just needed to check to make sure your judgement wasn't being clouded, there is quite a lot of antiCatholicism out there that hides behind arguments.

You ask me about Machen's analysis and what he states doesn't apply itself to this argument in the least. Machen does not draw the line between Catholic's and apostasy and the trueness of the Catholic Church. The quote itself can be effective in this area, but unfortunately that was not what Machen was even writing about in Christianity and Liberalism.

He was confronting head on the modern liberalism in the church he saw after World War I. I can not find any mention of his confronting the Catholic Church in this document.

Andy has gone to the Anglican Church, allow me quote Machen, from the same document you try to use to refute his views:

"According to Anglican doctrine, the bishops are in possession of an authority which has been handed down to them, by successive ordination, from the apostles of the Lord, and without such ordination there is no valid priesthood. Other churches deny this doctrine of “apostolic succession,” and hold a different view of the ministry. Here again, the difference is no trifle, and we have little sympathy with those who in the mere interests of Church efficiency try to induce Anglicans to let down the barrier which their principles have led them to erect. But despite the importance of this difference, it does not descend to the very roots. Even to the conscientious Anglican himself, though he regards the members of other bodies as in schism, Christian fellowship with individuals in those other bodies is still possible; and certainly those who reject the Anglican view of the min-istry can regard the Anglican Church as a genuine and very noble member in the body of Christ."

And again Machen states in that document:

" Far more serious still is the division between the Church of Rome and evangelical Protestantism in all its forms. Yet how great is the common heritage which unites the Roman Catholic Church, with its maintenance of the authority of Holy Scripture and with its acceptance of the great early creeds, to devout Protestants today! We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all."

Even Machen considered Catholics to be Christian. So your own author turns against you in the same document.

I think Machen's analyis of libreralism being no Christianity at all is dead on and he did not go wrong. I think you may have erred in trying to rely on only portions of his writing to prove your point. In doing so you lose all foundation for your reliance on it in your arguments.

I'm sure if you found something better, it could boslter your argument, but you must be careful not to take out of context, which is where you went wrong here I think.

Andy followed his path to the Anglican Church. I am on my own path and it leads me to a distinct destination, as does yours. But that does not mean we are all not brothers in Christ.

rich said...

I am not alone in thinking that this logic applies to the Catholic Church. Please tell me one way in which this logic just applies only to Liberalism.

I don't have a problem with Anglicanism per se. It is the doctrines which Andy has stated as being his own that are in contradiction of Scripture at the most fundamental level, and they are not the official doctrines of the Anglican church (39 articles).

Ed said...

You are not alone in thinking this logic applies to the Catholic Church, I give you that, but the text being cited isn't applying it as such. I would say in order to prove your point though or at least strengthen your argument, you need to rely on documentation that connects this logic and directly applies it to the Catholic Church. You asked me what I though of Machen and I can only base that on this document, I can't get inside the man's head other than what he presented in this instance. He notes that the Catholic Church is Christian, though he frames at as a perversion, but still Christian. Given that, his logic of Galatians is that it obviously can't apply to the Catholic Church. It's all I have to work with there, the authors own words.

That said, the problem with this logic being applied to the Catholic Church is that the Reformation took this text and applied it to the Catholic Church, but I can't find a valid argument for it other than (and this is just my summary of what I've read): Catholics are wrong therefore they must be violating this. But no solid arguments of how they are wrong, why they are, and where/when they went wrong have been given. Two of those three criteria are often cited, but the latter is usually left out.

I can look at the other link you give on baptism and the PCA's majority position. I am very, very familar with that document. On this I will say, the position paper advocates flat out heresy by invalidating the Catholic Baptism. This is done, not based on Scripture, but on human tradition of the Presbyterian Church, it runs counter to Scripture and the Westminster Confession. The argument made compares it to the Lord's Supper and the contrasting views of each party. The problem then become a docrinal one. The Catholic Church uses the traditional Christian doctrinal formula with a Trinitarian view (not to be confused with Mormon formula and non Trinitarian views). In trying to nullify Catholic Baptism, the argument must bring another sacrament into the mix and a whole separate matter. This is a reach if there ever was one.

So the arguments for nonvalidity given are 3 fold. I'll throw out doctrine cause given the difference between Protestant doctrines, it's amazing the PCA calls any baptism but their own valid (and we could spend a long time comparing doctrines, which a whole different exercise). Cause 1 for invalidty calling the Catholic Church not a true church is one often reached for, but is lacking. If the Catholic Church is not a true church, then if must be proven where it ceased to be so and where the sacraments given therein have changed since the time of Christ. Now the customs surounding them may have changed, but the doctrine of them must be shown to have changed. This is not done in this paper.

That brings me to the "Romish Priest are not ministers of Christ" This is Donatism, where the validity of sacraments rests on the moral character of the administer of the sacraments. What needs to be proven is that Catholic priests are not ministers of Christ, again this is not done. Now they try to do this, using the Galations argument, but they gloss over the why. They rely on the traditions and teachings of those coming before them to reach their opinions. The authors wave the magic wand of not even addressing the Donatist controversy by saying it doesn't apply, but yet even the pre-Reformation Church used this as a basis for other situations which arose after it. It was a consitent teaching that lasts to this day.

The validity of Catholic baptism is one I have personally wrestled with, thus giving me a good perspective of it. It has taken a while, but I am of the opinion that Catholic Baptism is valid. I am also convinced that anyone who would say otherwise may be inadverantly or purposefully encouraging heresy, depending on their knowledge of the arguments. As such, I also remain unconvinced that the Catholic Church is not a true church.

Without the Catholic Church, all of Protestantism collapses. Without Protestantism, the Catholic Church will still stand.

It's an identity crisis in Protestant circles, if the Catholic Church is wrong then it must be clearly shown where the error began in order to have anything to Protest against. If the Catholic Church is true, then every Protestant should be on their knees at the Vatican tomorrow asking forgiveness. So it must be a starting assumption for Protestant logic that the Catholic Church is not true, however it must be proven and no amount of hand waving or arguments can do that until it s shown exactly where the Catholic Church changed it's teachings.

I don't know what doctrines you and Andy have talked about privately, nor is whatever is between the two of you and of my business. I stumbled into something deeper here, but I see it as a good intellectual exercise.

Until we stop arguing and start understanding, all any Christian can do is pray for the day when the Church is one.

Well I'm off to sleep, goodnight my friend. This is definitely a deep and thought provoking question.

Andy said...

Rich,

"and they are not the official doctrines of the Anglican church (39 articles)"

I suggest you learn just what the official doctrine of the Anglican Church is. It is not the Articles. We are a Creedal Communion, not a confessional "church."

Also, again, I was only trying to be honest in my assessment of our dialogue and was not meaning that offensively, though you seemed to have taken it again as an offense.

Rich, what Ed and I are talking about is the exact same thing. The fact that we both recognize that, and you do not, is what led me to say that.

As for Machen's argument, I suggest you listen to Ed's words. And as for your position concerning Galatians, I hope to address that in the next week or so.

You seem to know my heart better than I do and so you can declare me outside the faith. I feel sorry for all the children who cannot explain how Jesus saves them. I feel sorry for all of the mentally-handicapped people who simply love Jesus and try to do good deeds.

May the Lord have pity on all of our our apostate souls!

rich said...

Andy has come to the center of the issue: the inability to articulate oneself. I am so glad he pointed this out. Obviously, when Paul condemned the Judaizers, he could not have done so without condemning children and mentally handicapped people. Those apostate children! I don't feel sorry for them, b/c they are apostate.

Thanks to him also for pointing out what else is so relevant to the conversation: the fact that the Anglican Church is creedal rather than confessional. So anathemas have got to be leveled against that church as well!

I understand that Andy wants to disagree with the exegesis of Galatians. I also understand that for him to win arguments, he has to employ every rhetorical tool in his toolbox. Insults are one of the most useful, but misdirection is possibly the most important. Hopefully, however, it is obvious that a clear and knowledgeable teaching of a justification that is dependent on works in addition to faith is what I, the PCA, and others are getting at here. The Anglican church as a whole, children, mentally-handicapped, fetuses (if you want to distinguish them from children), people with very little education, and those who are inconsistent with regard to this are not what I am getting at, nor what Paul was aiming at either.

As far as Ed’s question of the lack of connection of this statement to the Catholic Church:

Well, obviously, the PCA connected the logic of Machen to the Catholic Church. Despite the fact that Machen was not addressing that issue; (his primary concern was the apostasy of the PCUSA, since that was his denomination), this does not mean that he did not think that this logic applies to the Catholic church. Obviously, he didn’t join the Catholic Church for some reason or another. He found it necessary to be Reformed. Secondly, both of you know that we should not expect that every author relate his teaching to the Catholic Church; again, this was not Machen’s concern at the time. That does not mean that the logic does not apply. His statement is posted b/c it is a clear and cogent statement of the correct exegesis of Galatians, and because I, among many more knowledgeable others, think that it obviously applies. Here is what the PCA said:

We further declare that our understanding of justification is not compatible with the teaching of the official Roman Catholic Church.

The Presbyterian Church in America continues to believe that Holy Scripture specifically and emphatically condemns any form of the idea that human works contribute to a sinner's justification before God, a conviction to which J. Gresham Machen gave timeless expression in his summation of the teaching of the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians:


Secondly, there is the Council of Trent. No one has denied that this teaches that works play a necessary part in justification.

Thirdly, you have Andy, who says, If the heresy of the Judaizers was that works were transformed by the grace of God into good works b/c of Christ to combine with his atonement for our salvation, then Catholicism is guilty as charged.

ReformedCatholic said...

"Thirdly, you have Andy, who says, If the heresy of the Judaizers was that works were transformed by the grace of God into good works b/c of Christ to combine with his atonement for our salvation, then Catholicism is guilty as charged."

Good thing that is not what the heresy of the Judaizers was, then!

It's a shame to see sectarianism praised as a good thing on this blog, rather than the heresy that it is.

Ed said...

The PCA does connect the logic, but it is intellectually dishonest to do so with Machen's text given the author's own opinion of the Catholic Church stated in the same text. It's a pick and choose mentality and these same folks that do this also play fast and loose with Scripture. I can not in good conscience stand behind such tripe.

We should not expect every author to relate this teaching to the Catholic Church, but if we are going to use author's to support this false accusation against the Catholic Church, then by all means it is IMPERATIVE to use an author who relates this argument.

Is it a correct exegesis on Galatians, yes, but it does not apply to the Catholic Church. As much as you want it to, it simply doesn't apply.

As had been said, the heresy you accuse the Judaizers of is not what the heresy was!

rich said...

That apostle Paul was a horrible sectarian. He should have allowed for a little bit of works mixed in. I mean, it's not like the Judaizers were Pelagian or anything.

Machen did not say that the Catholic Church was a true church. He only said it wasn't as bad as liberalism, and I agree.

"but if we are going to use author's to support this false accusation against the Catholic Church, then by all means it is IMPERATIVE to use an author who relates this argument."
~Why in the world do we bother using Scripture as our guide? Paul never calls out the PCA, the Catholic Church, the Mennonites, or the Mormons. It is "IMPERATIVE to use an author who relates the arguments" specifically to each particular heresy that is going to be addressed, right?

Obviously, with every type of literature, we don't just wait for them to name each heresy by name, but we consider whether the logic applies. Think about lower court rulings. They use precedent, not only when the exact same case has been heard before, but also when the logic can be applied in the same way to both cases.

If Machen's exegesis is correct, then the logic applies.

Is it sectarian to label as evil what God labels as evil? No, Scripture always puts the burden of divisiveness on those who teach "another gospel."

Ed said...

The logic would only apply if what you're trying to apply it to was true.

I disagree based on what I've already said.

I know Andy is working on something, I'll be interested in seeing what he comes up with.

rich said...

Andy disagrees with the exegesis. If this exegesis is true, then the logic applies.

Andy now says that "Law" for Paul means the ceremonial law only. Earlier, he said Galatians was condemning Pelagianism. Neither of these two positions are tenable, and they are not compatible either. If Paul was condemning Pelagianism, he would have to be referring to good works when he talked about works of the law. He can't be talking about mere ceremonialism. The whole idea that Paul was getting at the ceremonial part of the law only is ridiculous, too. It is very clear that Andy is not interested in the truth of God's Word.

One thing that I am not shocked about is that it comes down to "Holy Tradition" again, b/c the rest of his case is absurdly weak.

reformedcatholic said...

"It is very clear that Andy is not interested in the truth of God's Word."

He posted on this issue, if you care to read it Rich. I think you would prefer to sit there and judge him on your high horse of private reason though.

Click here.

By the way, where did he say Galatians was condemning Pelagianism?

rich said...

I have read it. I posted my last post in response to his post.

Here is a quote from one of his comments (if you scroll up, you can read it):

That would depend on what the actual heresy of the Judaizers was, now wouldn't it? If it is true that the heresy that St. Paul was condemning was that we must perform some kind of work (prior to the grace of God; of ourselves) before Jesus could save us (such as circumcision or whatever), then Catholic theology is free from this charge. If the heresy of the Judaizers was that works were transformed by the grace of God into good works b/c of Christ to combine with his atonement for our salvation, then Catholicism is guilty as charged. Obviously I maintain that it was the former.

rich said...

I guess I should have said semi-pelagianism.

Anyway, I have a lot of work to do over the next two weeks with finishing grad school and moving to another city to begin work. There won't be any more from me until this is complete.

reformedcatholic said...

Well I am not sure I agree with Andy, because I haven't thought about it from that angle, but it's dishonest to say:
"It is very clear that Andy is not interested in the truth of God's Word."

It is not clear at all, since he went through and exegeted the whole chapter. You can disagree with his exegesis, but don't slander his person.

As for that quote from Andy you cited, he never mentioned Pelagianism or semi-pelagianism. In fact, his either/or proposition demonstrates he doesn't think it has to do with any form of Pelagianism, semi or otherwise. Why? Because he maintained that the former interpretation (which he elaborated on in his recent essay) is not about works of the moral law, but of the ceremonial.

So what gives? Either you are completely misunderstanding him and the situation or you are purposefully slandering Andy. What's the deal?

rich said...

So I have to choose? I think I understand him, and I am not slandering him. You say that his statements demonstrate what he was trying to say earlier. However, I am saying that what he said earlier is something different than what he is saying now. This is not an elaboration of "the heresy that St. Paul was condemning was that we must perform some kind of work (prior to the grace of God; of ourselves) before Jesus could save us (such as circumcision or whatever)." Andy now is saying that it's not condemning this, just the application of the O.T. ceremonial law in this manner.

Now please hold your comments for a week and a half so I don't have to make choices between (a.) you don't understand Andy, or (b.) you are lying about Andy.

reformedcatholic said...

Ok I'll take your word on it, especially since you are so busy. I just don't think it's fair to say that he doesn't take God's word seriously when he obviously does (even if his exegesis is wrong).

"This is not an elaboration of "the heresy that St. Paul was condemning was that we must perform some kind of work (prior to the grace of God; of ourselves) before Jesus could save us (such as circumcision or whatever)." Andy now is saying that it's not condemning this, just the application of the O.T. ceremonial law in this manner."

But these two things are the same thing. Circumcision, as I understand it, is a part of the Old Covenant law.

Anyway, correct me if I am wrong in a week. Good luck.

rich said...

Circumcision is a part of Old Covenant law, which is a subset of "some kind of work" and "circumcision or whatever." Andy never limited his discussion to purely ceremonial observances, and he did so purposefully, saying "whatever" would fit the criteria of being a work that would exist "prior to the grace of God; of ourselves." Andy very clearly stated what he thought the issue was: whether that work was prior to the grace of God or not. It is clear that Andy did not think that the passage was addressing the discontinuance of the ceremonial law.