Jason Stellman Has Officially Gone to Rome

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Jeremy McLellan

Puritan Board Freshman
I’m engaged in a Facebook "argument" about Stellman with some Converted-to-Catholic friends (Joshua Lim and Chad Pecknold) and it seems to me that the vast majority of the arguments between Protestants and Catholics rest on how we understand the Apostolic Fathers. In other words, while schism between Lutherans, Calvinists, and Anglicans rest on hundreds of things that each have to be addressed, schism between Protestants and Catholics+Orthodox seems to rest on differing understandings of the period of the Apostolic Fathers, out of which the differing hermeneutics (and their ensuing doctrines like sainthood) arise. Maybe individuals have different motivations for converting both ways, but it seems to me that the basic reason a Catholic becomes a Protestant is because he starts to think like a Protestant (and vice-versa) which in turn assumes something about the history of the early church: namely, whether to regard the extra-Biblical government, practices and beliefs of the Apostolic Fathers as authoritative in a way that requires obsequium religiosum. Even Calvin and Luther both agreed that many of the Apostolic Fathers practiced and believed many things that they opposed–including the veneration of saints like Polycarp–but they did not believe such practices and doctrines were authoritative in the same way.

Would you (or others on here) agree that this is the crux of the matter, and the rest are just footnotes? (For me, if I were convinced of that, I’d become Catholic.) What resources would you recommend for this? So far I’ve relied mostly on Jaroslav Pelikan’s 5 Volume Series for my very early church history.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I do know this--that the party in question met with prominent and able men from his seminary who sought to dissuade him and rather than listening to his professors assayed to instruct them.

I've commented here before about the dangers of an overly objective view of the Christian faith and Church, one that downplays the ministry of the Holy Spirit, an ecclesiology that swallows up soteriology--this and other matters are involved in such defections. There's a difference between faith and sight and without true faith, believing and trusting in that which we do not see, there are those who fall away. We had an alumnus who did it and left the OPC. It was not what he was taught. WSC has had this now (and one before graduating).

It's heartbreaking--and reminds me all that much the more what I must be doing in helping to train our students. The soundest of institutions have had men do this, pointing to the sort of thing that Steve raises in #8 and the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Peace,
Alan
:amen:

I am very grateful for your participation on this board.

Likewise to Steve and Heidi's comments.

The man who has not this grace has not spiritually apprehended the things of Christ:
Matt 11:25-30
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.g 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light"
The irony of these "Calls to Communion" is that the RCC does not ask men to reason that the Church is correct but to accept, as an article of faith, that the Church is correct regardless of the evidence. There is no place for an examination for the internal consistency of the Roman Catholic Church's claims. They are to be believed and held. The notion that each of us is to examine the evidence and come to the conclusion that their claims of history are true is not a principle of their religion. Furthermore, the notion that the Church interprets the Scriptures for the Roman faithful is belied by the fact that no uniform interpretation exists. Again, there is no place for examination. Simply an implicit resolve that the Church is correct.

Jason's arguments are, therefore, not applicable. It needs to begin and end with this statement: Believe what the Roman Catholic Church says is true right now. Full stop.

Do not pass Go. Don't even try to harmonize a dogmatic statement from today with one from the past. Simply trust that the Church is correct. All other inquiry is futile and non-Roman Catholic.

That said, I return to what has been noted.

Ours is, indeed, a reasonable religion and our minds are involved in faith. We can reason from the Scriptures for God's Word is shown to be faithful and true and does not contradict itself.

Yet we are of a people who have been called from darkness into light. That darkness is not that we lacked the logical propositions and, if we merely demonstrate that we can master Systematic theology and demonstrate its coherence, that we have arrived at the heart of the matter.

No!

Christ thanks the Father for us.

Why? Because the Father has revealed these things to us. Truth is not a matter of undifferentiated facts organized by the organ of our mind to make sense of "facts" of revelation (special and general). All knowledge is revelation and our minds were darkened. We were blind to the things of God. But the Spirit of Christ has opened our eyes to worship. We have been transported from the Wisdom of this Age to the Wisdom of the Age to Come.

Do not lament the Roman Catholic's faulty syllogisms. Lament that his mind is darkened and pray for the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Do not be haughty that we have received light but be patient with all men and endure their folly for such as we were except that God, in His infinite mercy, looked upon me, a sinner.
 

Jeremy McLellan

Puritan Board Freshman
Rich,

I agree with you, but I'm not entirely sure that it's that simple. The reason that Catholics are to "accept, as an article of faith, that the Church is correct regardless of the evidence" and we Protestants are not to accept that, rests on our differing understandings of the period of the Apostolic Fathers, out of which our differing hermeneutics (and their ensuing doctrines) arise. Maybe individuals have different motivations for converting both ways, but it seems to me that the basic reason a Protestant becomes a Catholic is because he starts to reason like a Catholic (and vice-versa) which it turn assumes something about the history of the early church: namely, whether to regard the extra-Biblical government, practices and beliefs of the Apostolic Fathers (and their progeny) as authoritative in a way that requires obsequium religiosum.

"Thinking like a Catholic" involves regarding the development of doctrine throughout history as authoritative in a particularly linear unreformable way, like we find in Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Obviously, I do not share that view, but that's because--as a Reformed Christian--I regard as fallible the history of doctrinal development, leaving open the possibility of wrong turns, non sequiters, bad reasoning, lack of access to Greek texts, ecclesiastical expediency, the existence of practices that might be tolerated but never mandatory, etc. (e.g. We might say that Augustine misunderstood the Hebrew concept of justification because he relied on a Latin translation.)

All this just to say that treating the development of doctrine as authoritative or not (in the way I describe) needn't be an a priori conviction NOR an objective assessment of "is the history correct?" I think it relies fundamentally on how one views the transition from the Apostles to the Apostolic Fathers. If you buy the Catholic account of that, it seems that the rest would follow. Again, I'd like to know what Reformed resources are available in terms of that history (besides Calvin's ICR4).
 

Unprofitable Servant

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't think I can say this definitively or dogmatically, but when I see folks leave the sure mercies in Christ's person us-ward as revealed in His word for the formulas of receiving "grace" through observing the Roman "sacraments" – "grace" dispensed by the RC organization – I say, "Can these people truly have known the Savior's person, known His heart toward them, to exchange it for a formula?"

While living in a Greek Orthodox country many years I observed that some people found it easier to obey numerous intricate rituals and austerities of religion rather than simply rending the heart, owning our helplessness and utter dependence, and casting ourselves upon His sure mercies and undeserved favor – given freely to those who so trust Him. The flesh works to please Him; the spirit simply cleaves to Him.
I have recently acquired a set of volumes of Spurgeon's sermons. The very first one in volume one speaks to what you are saying. It is based upon Isaiah 45:22-

"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."

Men will gladly do the impossible for salvation, and will trust in formulas and rituals before trusting in the stumbling block that is the simplicity in Christ. Spurgeon goes on to speak about how He does this for His glory.

I read Spurgeon right after hearing about this Stellman fellow. It was an encouragement.

We must be grounded in the Word and in prayer. But for the grace of God, there go I.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Rich,

I agree with you, but I'm not entirely sure that it's that simple. The reason that Catholics are to "accept, as an article of faith, that the Church is correct regardless of the evidence" and we Protestants are not to accept that, rests on our differing understandings of the period of the Apostolic Fathers, out of which our differing hermeneutics (and their ensuing doctrines) arise. Maybe individuals have different motivations for converting both ways, but it seems to me that the basic reason a Protestant becomes a Catholic is because he starts to reason like a Catholic (and vice-versa) which it turn assumes something about the history of the early church: namely, whether to regard the extra-Biblical government, practices and beliefs of the Apostolic Fathers (and their progeny) as authoritative in a way that requires obsequium religiosum.

"Thinking like a Catholic" involves regarding the development of doctrine throughout history as authoritative in a particularly linear unreformable way, like we find in Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Obviously, I do not share that view, but that's because--as a Reformed Christian--I regard as fallible the history of doctrinal development, leaving open the possibility of wrong turns, non sequiters, bad reasoning, lack of access to Greek texts, ecclesiastical expediency, the existence of practices that might be tolerated but never mandatory, etc. (e.g. We might say that Augustine misunderstood the Hebrew concept of justification because he relied on a Latin translation.)

All this just to say that treating the development of doctrine as authoritative or not (in the way I describe) needn't be an a priori conviction NOR an objective assessment of "is the history correct?" I think it relies fundamentally on how one views the transition from the Apostles to the Apostolic Fathers. If you buy the Catholic account of that, it seems that the rest would follow. Again, I'd like to know what Reformed resources are available in terms of that history (besides Calvin's ICR4).
There are obviously complexities to the issue. Nevertheless, the fact remains that it is not up to a believer, in Roman Catholic dogma, to come to the conclusion that the Roman Catholic Church is correct in her historical theology through a process of independent reasoning. The person in the pew is not permitted the liberty to "check the math" of the Church in her formulations but must accept, as an article of faith, that she is correct in her conclusions regardless of the way those conclusions are supported.

It is certainly the case that some Roman Catholics argue from their understanding of historical theological development that they are Catholics by independent study but that is not the foundation upon which the Church calls her adherents to believe. In fact, some Roman Catholic apologists who engage in a historical theology have concluded the Holy See is in error because they attempt to draw a historical line of theological understanding according to what they have independently concluded the Church believed and held.. This is not what the Roman Catholic Church calls her adherents unto. The individual has no authority to do this and it thus demonstrates that, in the final analysis, even trying to keep track of the dogmas and harmonizing them is not what an adherent is expected to do. When Luther noted that councils contradicted one another he was committing an unpardonable sin. The Church does not allow anyone to determine what is and isn't to be reasoned from her contradictory dogmas that have been variously laid down only to be brought up again and replaced with another. Papal infallibility? No problem. Those popes that taught things contradictory to current dogma were not teaching ex cathedra. How do we know? Of course because the Church tells us so.

The Church gets to decide what is to be believed and held and even gets to say that this has always been the case. It also gets to decide how to interpret ECF's and which portions of which ECF's are to be listened to and which are to be ignored. At the end of the day, my point is that the argument to "check for yourself if this is so" is not a Roman Catholic method. The method is: "We're the Church and you owe us implicit faith in all our dogmatic and historical assertions...."

Consequently, in the final analysis, any appeal to call a man to "check for yourself that these things are so" is simply not a way that an adherent is called to think. It's bait and switch. The man who comes to the independent conviction that Rome is correct because he has independently reasoned that she is what she says she is get in one way and then, when in, is expected to never again reason any further than to accept, as dogma, whatever the Church holds forth.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Maybe individuals have different motivations for converting both ways, but it seems to me that the basic reason a Catholic becomes a Protestant is because he starts to think like a Protestant (and vice-versa) which in turn assumes something about the history of the early church: namely, whether to regard the extra-Biblical government, practices and beliefs of the Apostolic Fathers as authoritative in a way that requires obsequium religiosum.
I think it's wider than that, Jeremy; that's undoubtedly a part of it, but "sacred tradition" is not exhausted by the Apostolic Fathers, even if it starts with them. And so it comes around again to the issue of authority: sola scriptura. Can doctors, popes, and councils err, and have they done so? Is there anything that can be placed on a level with Holy Scripture? When Luther cannot be convinced by any authority that is not derived from Scripture or plain reason he has, as you say, begun to think like a Protestant; but that sort of thinking is exactly what Scripture calls us to with its exhortation not to believe all the spirits, but to test them; or with the command to prove all things and retain only what is good. You can call it thinking like a Protestant; but it is also thinking like Isaiah, or indeed like Christ. The question is "What saith the Scripture?" not "What say the Apostolic Fathers, or the college of cardinals, or the Pope?"
 

Jeremy McLellan

Puritan Board Freshman
Like I keep saying, the reason they ask "What say the Apostolic Fathers, or the college of cardinals, or the Pope?" is that they assert a way of understanding Scripture and Tradition, the latter being central to their assertion of a very seamless transition from the Apostles to the Apostolic Fathers. If it's true that the Apostolic Fathers (even while John and Mary were around) presented a fairly unified Roman Catholicism that continues uninterrupted to this day, that's a pretty compelling reason to become Catholic. If nobody on this board has any resources to combat their narration of the first two hundred years of church history, I can request it elsewhere, but I hoped y'all would.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Like I keep saying, the reason they ask "What say the Apostolic Fathers, or the college of cardinals, or the Pope?" is that they assert a way of understanding Scripture and Tradition, the latter being central to their assertion of a very seamless transition from the Apostles to the Apostolic Fathers. If it's true that the Apostolic Fathers (even while John and Mary were around) presented a fairly unified Roman Catholicism that continues uninterrupted to this day, that's a pretty compelling reason to become Catholic. If nobody on this board has any resources to combat their narration of the first two hundred years of church history, I can request it elsewhere, but I hoped y'all would.
Jeremy:

Bryan Litfin has a fine work, Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction, published in 2007 by Brazos Press.

I am in the midst of something, have just seen your posts, and don't have time to respond fully now. But you've been sold a bill of goods by someone, friend, and I am quite concerned to hear someone coming on this confessional board and saying what you're saying about "pretty compelling reason to become Catholic."

I trust that you know with the Apostolic Fathers we are talking about only the most immediate churchmen after the close of the apostolic era. We're talking, say 95-140 (A.D.), men like Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius. It is the case that their writings are strikingly different than that of the NT (in terms of spiritual power, clarity, and authority), being often quite moralistic, lacking in grace; notwithstanding, these are our fathers who are trying to understand the momentous thing that has just happened. They get that Jesus is Lord and that what He did saved us. That's pretty momentous. But there are many other things that they are not clear about. Nobody will be clear about grace like Paul until Augustine and then he gets some things about justification unclear.

Roman Catholicism does not exist as such until the fourth century, at the earliest, really until Leo I (440-461). Episcopacy, yes, but not Roman Catholicism, which some would argue does not take anything like the kind of shape that we know it until after the fall of the Empire in the West (476) and with the bishopric of Gregory the Great (590-604), early in the Middle Ages.

Sorry, to be so quick and blunt but I saw many things here that concerned me and as a historian thought that I should make some response.

Peace,
Alan
 
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Jeremy McLellan

Puritan Board Freshman
Dr. Strange,

Thank you, I look forward to reading that tomorrow. I haven't been sold anything besides Litfin's Kindle book, I assure you! Do not revoke my Genevan passport! I have never asserted any uninterrupted ecclesiological/doctrinal development of Roman Catholicism from the Apostles. I merely noted that this is something that the RCC and OC assert, and if they are right that would be a very compelling case for their particular hermeneutic, out of which all the other things they believe would flow.

But you assure me that are not right, and even provided me a book to read, so thank you!

Peace,
Jeremy
 

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Strange,

But doesn't the fact that the early Church fathers come so soon after the apostles lend credence to what they said? The fact that they were so close to the apostles in time at the very least would warrant examination. I'm not necessarily saying they were right in all of their assertions, but being one generation apart from Peter, Paul, etc., does strike me as a bit more credible than if it had been seven or eight generations away.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Like I keep saying, the reason they ask "What say the Apostolic Fathers, or the college of cardinals, or the Pope?" is that they assert a way of understanding Scripture and Tradition, the latter being central to their assertion of a very seamless transition from the Apostles to the Apostolic Fathers. If it's true that the Apostolic Fathers (even while John and Mary were around) presented a fairly unified Roman Catholicism that continues uninterrupted to this day, that's a pretty compelling reason to become Catholic. If nobody on this board has any resources to combat their narration of the first two hundred years of church history, I can request it elsewhere, but I hoped y'all would.
Yes, they do assert a way of understanding Scripture and Tradition - but it's a way of understanding that Scripture itself opposes. That has to be the first point. If my understanding of tradition functionally denies the unique place Scripture claims for itself, well, it certainly shouldn't be Scripture that gets revised or reinterpreted. It is an interpretation of Scripture that is opposed by the very text being interpreted. John 21, while John is still alive, already has to correct an oral tradition that was going around the churches.

"Seamless transition" and "fairly unified Roman Catholicism" are pipe dreams. You had errors, divisions, and heresies while the apostles were around: you had people denying Paul's apostolic credentials, and assuming preeminence even in a church which John oversaw. You had people hybridizing Christainity with Judaism, gnosticism, and what have you. That is what elicited most of the NT! Nothing was seamless, and in a quite early epistle Paul can write that the mystery of iniquity is already at work. If you take the deliverances of Trent or Vatican I or II, or the writings of a doctor of the church, like de Sales, and compare them to Polycarp, Ignatius, the epistle to Diognetus, and other early writings you will find a hodgepodge: agreements, disagreements, developments, distortions, omissions.

"Uninterrupted to this day" is a ridiculous fantasy: the church of Christ is uninterrupted, but the papal succession can only be defined as "uninterrupted" if "uninterrupted" means "eventually resumed after long breaks with murky doubts about legitimacy and succession that are incapable of resolution." A doctrinal and spiritual succession cannot be maintained (for the sake of argument, contrast the Apostle Peter -not that he was a pope in the Roman sense, but they think he was- and Innocent III); an organizational and physical succession cannot be maintained (the accession of Martin V illustrates that rather well); even a geographical succession cannot be maintained (the time the papacy spent in Avignon).

To briefly summarize, I think there are three vital points. First, "early" does not mean "right". Second, the claims for what is "early" are often wildly exaggerated. Third, as Calvin summarized Paul's teaching in Colossians, if someone is otherwise big with heaven and earth, but does not hold on to Christ and hold Christ out to us, they are to be rejected. Now I deny that Rome or Constantinople are big with heaven and earth, though they certainly claim to be: but even if they were, it makes no difference - I dare not fall into the condemnation of those who do not hold the Head.

Jeremy, I'm not Dr. Strange, obviously, but you have to distinguish. Someone who had known the apostles would obviously have a better recollection of them than someone who was only born after they died (though again see John 21 for a clear illustration that this has its limits); but if we are talking about interpreting their writings, that advantage doesn't necessarily carry over. The question returns to this: do we believe that God inspired a written record of what we needed to know that is uniquely authoritative and sufficient for its purpose? Or do we believe that it must be supplemented from another source? It doesn't matter what that other source is: tradition, new revelations, philosophy, what have you. There is a dividing line between those who accept Scripture as Christ's unique method of communicating his will to his church, and those who believe that something must be added to it. Obviously there are inconsistencies on both sides, and no one practices their belief perfectly, which may make the division between individuals less easy to notice; but there is still a clear distinction in the positions themselves.
 
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Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
the papal succession can only be defined as "uninterrupted" if "uninterrupted" means "eventually resumed after long breaks with murky doubts about legitimacy and succession that are incapable of resolution."
:up:

Quote of the year from the Bat.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Dr. Strange,

Thank you, I look forward to reading that tomorrow. I haven't been sold anything besides Litfin's Kindle book, I assure you! Do not revoke my Genevan passport! I have never asserted any uninterrupted ecclesiological/doctrinal development of Roman Catholicism from the Apostles. I merely noted that this is something that the RCC and OC assert, and if they are right that would be a very compelling case for their particular hermeneutic, out of which all the other things they believe would flow.

But you assure me that are not right, and even provided me a book to read, so thank you!

Peace,
Jeremy
If they are right? Which? They make exclusive authority claims. Why would you need an assurance from anybody that they are not correct?

At the end of the day, the soul needs to rest in one authority. Either:
1) You trust, implicitly, in an uninterrupted ecclesiological/doctrinal tradition in the Roman Catholic Church.
2) You trust, implicitly, in an uninterrupted ecclesiological/doctrinal tradition in the Greek Orthodox Church (or Georgian or Russian or ...).
3) You trust in yourself and your apprehension of historical theology. You remain a member of a visible congregation (pick your stripe) but you neither really are of any Church because authority rests alone in you.
4) You trust, implicitly, that the Holy Spirit works through the Word, which is the only infallible and unbroken tradition amidst the clear historical testimony of fallible, sinful Church men more or less being obedient to its authority. As I've stated over and over to my brother, a father does not need to be infallible to have authority over his children. Let God be true and every man a liar. The Church is not merely a disposable appendage because it makes mistakes but a healthy Church recognizes that it was called out and formed by the Word an not the other way around. It consequently heeds the warnings of the Scriptures themselves that it be not haughty because, if the Lord does not spare the natural branches, he doesn't owe it to us who do not hear His Word daily and depend upon Him for strength.

Sola Fide - you either believe that man is saved by the simple act of trust in the righteousness of Christ alone and turning away from all self-righteousness and, by this act, he is united vitally to Christ and all His saving benefits for such was the will of the Father that we should believe and walk in all its fruits.

OR

You believe that a form of Pelagianism really is true. Man is fallen for sure but not so fallen that the Church can't infuse an amount of grace and wash away enough sin to permit man to cooperate with grace that he might be perfected by a mixture of his faithfulness and the Church's sacraments or, conversely, destroy that grace and be in danger of hellfire.

Sola Gratia - Either you believe that man was dead in His sin and trespasses, hopelessly enslaved to sin, that none could come to the Son because He was loathsome in their sight, unless the Father draw them and, because we have peace with God through Christ, the Father will not cast out His friends because He who began a good work in us will continue it to the end.

OR

A form of Pelagianism is true after all. Man is not so sinful that God is able to give a little bit to man and, so long as he cooperates with it, he may be assured he is saved from hell fire. Today that is. Tomorrow is a new day where you may destroy that grace. You were not a slave after all and you chose, with some help, to become a Christian and so you may destroy that grace and receive all the wrath that is due. Tis the greatest heresy of the Protestants that a man may have assurance of salvation.

Solus Christus - Either Christ Alone and His righteousness saves you to the uttermost. His sacrifice was not only sufficient to put the penalty of sin to death but its power as well. His resurrected, indestructible life sanctifies us to the uttermost because He has all power and authority so to do. His sacrifice is once for all and we have bold access into the throne room of God's very presence through the veil of Christ's flesh.

OR

Christ's righteousness is but one of many sources of grace which may be dispensed by sacrifices that never save or sanctifiy. Christ's sacrifice is not finished but must be re-presented and can never accomplish the sure salvation of any it is given to.

Sola Scriptura - either God's Word alone is θεόπνευστος. It is the final authority in all matters because it, alone, has the Divine imprimatur as reflecting the mind of God. We, who are fallen, and do not even know our own deceitful hearts, stand in need of it for the eyes to see the Kingdom and, properly, the world around it.

or

A form of Pelagianism is true after all. The Church does not consist of sinful men but an infallible collective with the Bishop of Rome as its Prince. It not only cannot err but determines what the Word is and its very Words are to be taken authoritatively. Christ's condemnation to the See of Jerusalem in His day or Paul's warning that even an Apostle is to be judged by the Word does not apply because there is no authority by which any can judge the declarations of the Church.

Soli Deo Gloria - Either God alone is glorified for your salvation because you realize that you were dead in your sin and trespasses and that even your faith, among all the other Evangelical graces, is a gift from God.

OR

You participate in your salvation and may, in fact, participate in another's salvation if you exceed the merit needed for your own salvation.

Consequently, let's turn aside from the absurd notion that this question turns on whether or not we can perform historical theological study to determine what men said in the past.

Either your heart beats with life as you consider the Gospel and all its benefits or it runs cold and such things are tentative until you figure out whether or not either the Roman Catholic or some form of Eastern Orthodoxy have the claim to the historical/doctrinal record.

Dr. Strange,

But doesn't the fact that the early Church fathers come so soon after the apostles lend credence to what they said? The fact that they were so close to the apostles in time at the very least would warrant examination. I'm not necessarily saying they were right in all of their assertions, but being one generation apart from Peter, Paul, etc., does strike me as a bit more credible than if it had been seven or eight generations away.
I've spet a lot of time on this thread so let me simply point out that the Galatian heresy occurred within the lifetime of Paul. We err if we do not engage in dialog with our forefathers from the past and assume we're the first to speak about Christ but we likewise err if we assume that if we just found what a Church believed as close to the Apostles as possible that we'd have an orthodox faith. The irony is that a good portion of our New Testament is Paul correcting error. I think what that tells us (and explicitly so in his charge to Timothy) is that our hearts are prone to wander and that we ministers need to remain fixed upon the Apostolic tradition that was once and for all delivered to us.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Originally Posted by J. Dean
Dr. Strange,

But doesn't the fact that the early Church fathers come so soon after the apostles lend credence to what they said? The fact that they were so close to the apostles in time at the very least would warrant examination. I'm not necessarily saying they were right in all of their assertions, but being one generation apart from Peter, Paul, etc., does strike me as a bit more credible than if it had been seven or eight generations away.
I've spet a lot of time on this thread so let me simply point out that the Galatian heresy occurred within the lifetime of Paul. We err if we do not engage in dialog with our forefathers from the past and assume we're the first to speak about Christ but we likewise err if we assume that if we just found what a Church believed as close to the Apostles as possible that we'd have an orthodox faith. The irony is that a good portion of our New Testament is Paul correcting error. I think what that tells us (and explicitly so in his charge to Timothy) is that our hearts are prone to wander and that we ministers need to remain fixed upon the Apostolic tradition that was once and for all delivered to us.
Exactly, Rich. The Galatian heresy, the libertinism of some Corinthians, the asceticism of others, the problems with the churches of Asia Minor, are all problems that immediately affected the church, just to name a few. To be sure the Apostolic Fathers combatted most of these problems: think of Ignatius combatting docetism. Is it surprising, however, that the radical need for grace and the nature of that grace (particularly as they were in the middle of such an immoral culture, which always tempts the godly to moralizing) was missed?

You can see many right things in the AP and those that followed-- Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, to name a few--but the touchstone for all of them is the Word of God. Canon formation was still in process, a whole other matter, during the time of the AP. They quoted the Apocrypha, e.g. (though those that knew Hebrew, like Origen, Jerome, Melito of Sardis, et al., didn't), assuming that it was a part of the old canon, though Jews never considered it a proper part of the Hebrew canon. My point is that the AP had nowhere nearly the clarity that we do with respect to the NT canon and if you read their writings, which I assume that you all have given your comments, you'll see for youself how different they are in sound and feeling from the NT. Why? The NT is the infallible Word of God and there is a clear demarcation between that and all the writings that follow. I also assume you know that the Apocrypha was not declared deutero-canonical until Trent.

Bottom line: the Word is the touchstone by which all are to be judged, including the church fathers. We do not read the Scriptures through them, though with them, together with the church throughout the ages. Rather, we are to read history through the lens of Scripture. I realize that the RCC recoils at this and considers it ecclesiastical anarchy. This is because its trust is in Mother Church to tell me what the Scriptures mean. My trust is in the Holy Spirit who, does indeed, work in the church, through the means; but the object of faith is God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) not the Church, such implicit faith being no true saving faith.

Peace,
Alan
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
As an aside, if you stop and think about the way life is and the way people around you act and think and the way things are misunderstood even in our own times then it helps to avoid some of the excesses of relying on historical theology as the foundation for doctrine.

We assume that these were somehow men unlike us. I also think there is a tacit assumption that, since these writings survived, that they're the only voices that existed at the time. Imagine, for instance, if only one PCA TE is studied 2000 years from now and he happens to be Joseph Pipa. Somehow, everything crashes and only his works survive. Would anyone agree with the Church historian's conclusion that the PCA, as a whole, is represented by Joseph Pipa. I'd actually like something close to that but my only point is that the Church has never claimed inspiration for these men whose letters have survived and even if we assume they represent the best we all know that there are many things going on all over the place.

I think what many of these ideas of "the Church has always believed" is a suspension of disbelief. We're transported into a magical land of the past where men didn't have differing opinions and where they made no mistakes or that even the best of us didn't have blind spots. We're transported back into the place where jelly bean fields yeild their delicious fruit and men remained untainted by the thoughts of this world even though we can't find any uniformity like that today.

The more I get in contact with God's Word, the more our frailty doesn't surprise me. What surprises me is the relative peace and purity we do enjoy in some Churches because it comes at extraordinary effort through men who are committed to God's Word and who are dependent upon His Spirit. Even with that, we don't arrogantly assume we're there but see the small (or major) disagreements among us and it causes us to cling to Christ even more for faith in the face of the difficulties we face as saints who are simil justus et peccatur.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Right, Rich.

Another way of putting this is that it's about Him and not about us. Frankly, the RCC make the faith as much, if not more, about the folk in the church rather than the one who is the Lord over the church. Here's Jason Stellman over at Hart's blog about my post on this thread (#42, above):

"As Dr. Strange demonstrated to you on the Puritan Board, the Reformed sometimes find themselves in the position of having to say that the early fathers, almost immediately after the death of the apostles (and in some cases even sooner), began distorting Paul’s message of grace and smuggling in pagan ideas and practices into the church. The problem with this theory (one of them anyway) is the fact that these were the very same men who were so conservative as to refuse to light a candle to Caesar, choosing horrific deaths instead of capitulating to the world. Are we really to believe that these men were simultaneously willing to die for their faith, despite deliberately distorting it?

If you think about it, this position is only a hair’s breath from the liberalism that says that Jesus preached a good message that his disciples corrupted (think Jesus Seminar). But rather than the first generation blowing it (Peter, James, and John) it was the second generation who mucked it all up (Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus). It just seems much more plausible to me that Jesus handed on a message to the Twelve, who handed it on intact to those who succeeded them."
Did I accuse the AP of "deliberately distorting" the faith? I don't think that for a second. And I don't think that Jason thinks I do. "Smuggling in pagan ideas and practices?" We do that all the time in the church and our lives. It's called idolatry and we ever have to put it to death. He acts as if the AP got everything that Paul was teaching. Did Peter? I am not clear that he did. A good deal, no doubt, but he still has to be corrected about what this Gentile inclusion thing is really all about. The Ebionites certainly didn't get it, along with all the other Judaizers. And I am not saying that the AP were Judaizers, but they didn't get grace as it taught in Paul. And because men died for their faith--and thank God for those martyrs--does that mean that they understood it in all its implications? Do we? I think that we apprehend God's grace quite poorly most of the time and we are supposed to have it right in theory after all these years.

And then the implications of his second paragraph are even more chilling. Yes, chilling. Think of the comparison. What I did is like the Jesus Seminar. Why? Because the writings of the AP are apparently on a par (how else might one interpret this?) with the Apostles. There you have it. The low view of God's Word that leads men into the Roman communion.

Was the message handed on intact? Yes. Does this mean, "The message of Paul was handed on intact and everyone understood and interpreted it correctly?" No. It doesn't. Did the AP deliberately distort it? No, but read them for yourselves and see if their teaching is always consonant with the NT soteriological emphasis. They were just hearing this momentous stuff. Did they know enough for their souls' salvation? Sure. Did they know enough to become our teachers and set us straight on everything? No. No more than did the children of Israel better understood the Torah (it was given directly to them, after all) than the prophets who came later. This is the kind of seemingly sound but actually specious reasoning that is Rome's stock-in-trade.

Peace,
Alan
 
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louis_jp

Puritan Board Freshman
It needs to be added that even Rome doesn't think the ECF's got everything right, as they routinely have to 're-interpret' or dismiss the parts that don't agree with them.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.'
'Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?" And then will I declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from me you workers of lawlessness."
'Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man . . . ' (Matthew 7:21-24)
‘For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.’ (John 5:21-24)
Not only will being known by the Judge be everything on the great day of judgment (& not any number of works done 'in His name'), it already is. And He says that the distinguishing mark of those He knows is that they hear His voice -- the voice that raises the dead: they have already heard it and come to life, and passed through judgment in knowing and being known of the Judge.

'Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the LORD.'
His voice in Proverbs 8 cries directly to me -- to the simple, to the foolish, to the children of man -- in plain words, all of them righteous, nothing twisted or crooked in them.

Why do I need these plain, righteous, pure, words crying directly to me to be interpreted by a church whose words have so often been perverse and corrupt and deceitful, the fruit of which (and by their fruits we shall know them, Christ said when He warned us to beware of wolves, Matthew 7:15-20) is to teach me to give the honor that belongs to God to many other people besides the Son, and to tell me I cannot actually hear His voice, and I cannot know that I have eternal life?

I'm not going to listen to that stranger. I hear my Shepherd in Proverbs, in John, in Matthew, in the Psalms where I have walked with Him in the worst times of my own life and His, in Deuteronomy from which He quoted when He was tempted -- 'man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'.

If someone does not hear Him in Scripture, making up for that lack with the church's voice is surely no substitute. It is the voice of the Judge, Wisdom who created all things, God the Son, that makes all the difference; and He says, 'Him that comes to me (not to the church, or Mary, or some other saint) I will in no wise cast out.'

How could anyone think that my salvation hinges on my (simple and foolish person as I admittedly very much am) ability to trace a very thin, wavering, at times altogether lost, and at times impossibly tangled, line of interpretation through centuries of history and decide which church to join accordingly -- when Christ has said that everything hinges on my hearing His voice, living as a member of His body and walking in His way accordingly? Why would anyone ignore His own words in their immediate hearing for a convoluted argument about a long line of historical succession whereby some other mere mortal can (at least in about ten passages) infallibly tell them what He meant when He addressed us? Does His voice raise the dead or not?

It would seem the Roman Catholic church (for all its claims of the miraculous) doesn't think so, for it prefers that tangled, thin, frayed, and sometimes simply disappearing thread of the muffled voices of men.
 

louis_jp

Puritan Board Freshman
Why do I need these plain, righteous, pure, words crying directly to me to be interpreted by a church whose words have so often been perverse and corrupt and deceitful, the fruit of which (and by their fruits we shall know them, Christ said when He warned us to beware of wolves, Matthew 7:15-20) is to teach me to give the honor that belongs to God to many other people besides the Son, and to tell me I cannot actually hear His voice, and I cannot know that I have eternal life?

I'm not going to listen to that stranger. I hear my Shepherd in Proverbs, in John, in Matthew, in the Psalms where I have walked with Him in the worst times of my own life and His, in Deuteronomy from which He quoted when He was tempted -- 'man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'.

If someone does not hear Him in Scripture, making up for that lack with the church's voice is surely no substitute. It is the voice of the Judge, Wisdom who created all things, God the Son, that makes all the difference; and He says, 'Him that comes to me (not to the church, or Mary, or some other saint) I will in no wise cast out.'

How could anyone think that my salvation hinges on my (simple and foolish person as I admittedly very much am) ability to trace a very thin, wavering, at times altogether lost, and at times impossibly tangled, line of interpretation through centuries of history and decide which church to join accordingly -- when Christ has said that everything hinges on my hearing His voice, living as a member of His body and walking in His way accordingly? Why would anyone ignore His own words in their immediate hearing for a convoluted argument about a long line of historical succession whereby some other mere mortal can (at least in about ten passages) infallibly tell them what He meant when He addressed us? Does His voice raise the dead or not?
Heidi, that was excellent! Amen!
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Did I accuse the AP of "deliberately distorting" the faith? I don't think that for a second. And I don't think that Jason thinks I do. "Smuggling in pagan ideas and practices?" We do that all the time in the church and our lives.
Roman Catholics commit the Either/Or Fallacy, as a common "apologetic" for their position:
Either/Or – a claim that presents an artificially limited range of choices.

An either/or fallacy occurs when a speaker makes a claim (usually a premise in an otherwise valid deductive argument) that presents an artificial range of choices. For instance, he may suggest that there are only two choices possible, when three or more really exist. Those who use an either/or fallacy try to force their audience to accept a conclusion by presenting only two possible options, one of which is clearly more desirable.
Either the ECF's are inerrant in all their views OR they are disregarded as cowards who smuggle in pagan ideas.

Beloved, do we need any greater exhortation to encourage one another to remain fixed upon Christ? As noted earlier, how many times do we need to see someone who once understood how our views are formulated jump to a new position and present the position in a light we cannot even recognize? Is he being deceitful? I don't think he's actually cognizant that his egregious 9th Commandment violation stems from a new party spirit. Lord protect us all for we know our own hearts!

Once again, the light of nature itself demonstrates the folly of this view. I am a sinful man. That which I will to do I often do not do and never is that more apparent than with my children. Yet, for all my faults, when I admit to my children that I'm so sinful they seem incredulous at the notion. Why? Because I'm their father and they respect me. They don't need a sinless, inerrant father to train them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. They don't need a sinless, inerrant father to obey the 5th Commandment any more than I need sinless, inerrant fathers in the faith to obey the 5th Commandment in heeding their wisdom and rule.

You see, the peace I have, even when my Church makes decisions that leave me scratching my head, is that Christ is ruling His Kingdom here on earth. I submit to my fellow elders not out of a sense that our collective decisions reflect an infallible ruling on an issue but I trust Christ Who loves His Bride and continues to perfect her and pursue her even when she is whoring. The pride of man prevents some from even considering that Christ perfects His bride in spite of herself.

How can we think so highly of ourselves when we see God speaking with such hot anger at His people in the Scriptures only to turn in tenderness toward her and call back a whore to His bosom? It breaks my heart to think that a Church that calls itself Christ's no longer looks like the bride He continually fights for and subdues not because she is perfect but because of His lovingkindness unto her.
 

Unprofitable Servant

Puritan Board Freshman
Like I keep saying, the reason they ask "What say the Apostolic Fathers, or the college of cardinals, or the Pope?" is that they assert a way of understanding Scripture and Tradition, the latter being central to their assertion of a very seamless transition from the Apostles to the Apostolic Fathers. If it's true that the Apostolic Fathers (even while John and Mary were around) presented a fairly unified Roman Catholicism that continues uninterrupted to this day, that's a pretty compelling reason to become Catholic. If nobody on this board has any resources to combat their narration of the first two hundred years of church history, I can request it elsewhere, but I hoped y'all would.
Try this document.

It's a decent starting point.
 
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Jeremy McLellan

Puritan Board Freshman
Justin,

"We're sorry but it appears the page you are looking for has been moved or does not exist. Please click here to return to our home page."
 

Jeremy McLellan

Puritan Board Freshman
Rich,

Not sure if you're giving me the benefit of the doubt here--or if anyone here is. You're using a sledgehammer to set a tack. I affirm all the Solas and subscribe to the WCF as the clearest (though fallible) summary of Christian doctrine. If you have spotted a delinquency in doctrine or life, I can give you my Session's address.

I do think history matters, though. It can never vindicate one's beliefs but at the very least it can belie the claims of others to represent a linear development. Do you never react to something like Open Theism with "nobody has ever thought that before!" even as you base your rejection of it on Scripture and the small-t tradition of argument about Scripture? Most on here do seem eager to rebut RCC claims of unbroken doctrinal development, as did the Reformers. I don't see how something that features so prominently in Catholic apologetics can be ceded to them, even as we view history, tradition, and authority as authoritative only insofar as it is formed by the Word.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Do you never react to something like Open Theism with "nobody has ever thought that before!" even as you base your rejection of it on Scripture and the small-t tradition of argument about Scripture?
OT is probably not the best example for you to use, as they repeat some of the same errors as the Socinians. There is nothing new under the sun. :2cents:

As far as an article, this one is rather lengthy, but it might be helpful to you.

http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2011/02/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and.html
 
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