Thursday, June 29, 2006

Did St. Paul & Other Biblical Writers Always Necessarily Know That What They Were Writing Was Inspired Scripture? / NT Prophets (vs. Ken Temple)

This is from a discussion on my blog (starting here). Ken Temple is a Baptist and frequent enthusiastic contributor in my blog discussion threads. His words will be in blue. When Ken cites my words back, they will be in purple.

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John (blog contributor): "When Paul talked about scripture, I doubt he included his own writings . . . "

Ken: I absolutely [my emphasis] refute that:

I Corinthians 14:37:

"If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command."

We went through this in our recent debate. This is more of your wishful eisegesis. It doesn't prove that he thought that this particular letter was Scripture. Of course it was, but this doesn't prove that it was Paul's understanding at the time; nor is it necessary that he know that in order for it to be inspired; nor that this sort of thing be present in the writing to "prove" that it is Scripture for later readers.

Context and Scripture cross-referencing mitigate against you. "A command of the Lord" need not be Scripture itself, just as the prophets surely gave many "command of the Lord" which were not recorded in Scripture or anywhere else. In other words, the category of "Lord's commands" is much larger than such commands as have been recorded in Holy Scripture.

Paul mentions a "prophet." But previously in the same chapter he taught about prophesying (14:1,3-5,22,24,29,31-32,39; cf. 12:10,28-29). Paul is by no means the only "prophet" here. Note the implication (in light of context) in 14:6 that anyone who prophesies might "bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching."

Those who prophesy in church may bring a revelation? Try that out in your Baptist service sometime, Ken. Paul is even more clear, referring to "a revelation . . . made to another sitting by" in 14:30). Such "revelation" would be a "command of the Lord" just as much as Paul's letter in which this writing was recorded, since "God's commands" is also a category larger than Scripture itself. You or I could be commanded by an angel this very day if God so willed.

Moreover, four verses later, Paul goes right back to oral proclamation: "I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast - unless you believed in vain." (1 Cor 15:1-2)

Oops! Paul must have flunked Calvinism 0101, Eternal Security 0101, and Sola Scriptura 0101 classes in seminary. Let me correct his teaching here with the RFBV (Revised Fundamentalist Baptist Version):
I presented to you the gospel in this letter which is Scripture, which you received, in which you stand, by which you were saved; therefore you will hold it fast - unless you believed in vain.
Paul goes on to recount how he "delivered" the gospel to the Corinthians (orally), in 15:3-6. Later (15:29) he discusses folks "being baptized on behalf of the dead" - the most difficult verse in the NT for Protestants to interpret.

I Timothy 5:18 - he calls the Law and the Gospel (the phrase is in both Luke and Matthew) as "Scripture".

How is that relevant to the question of whether Paul knew that his own letters were inspired, as he wrote them?

All of these were considered the word of God, and he does not have to say, "What I am writing to you now is also Scripture"; as it was understood by the way he writes with authority, being an apostle, giving commands, teaching about the word of God and that the Holy Spirit is speaking, etc. "These things we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." I Cor. 2:13.

This is very good, and you understand this better than many Protestants, who adopt a radical solo Scriptura position. My main point was to say that Paul may not have necessarily known he was writing Scripture, and that your "prooftext" of 1 Cor 14:37 did not establish that he did. Secondly, one didn't have to even be an apostle to pass along the "word of God." They merely had to be a prophet, or to prophesy; and Paul seemed to think that many would do so and that it would be a routine occurrence.

What's interesting here is how that squares with present-day Christianity, where such prophesying is a rare occurrence, in all the major Christian traditions. Even the pope doesn't claim such a gift, but rather, the far lesser gift of infallibility. So this becomes yet another indirect argument for the biblical plausibility or at least (for the more skeptically-minded) permissibility of papal infallibility, since both inspiration of sinful men and prophesying of sinful men occurred and were instruments through which a sure word of divine prophecy or revelation were received; why, not, then, also the far inferior gift of protection from doctrinal error, so that Christians could be certain of doctrinal truths?

*** CLICK ON "Tolle, lege!" immediately below to finish this article ***


We went through this in our recent debate. This is more of your wishful eisegesis.

I disagree and I don’t think I am eis-o-getting, or "reading into" the text. Paul says "what I am writing" "is the Lord’s command".

This remains to be seen, as the dialogue continues. By the way, the word eisegesis is just as I have spelled it, with the "e" in the middle, not an "o" (though I don't know if you were being tongue-in-cheek here or not). See, for example, the Theological Terminology Dictionary, which defines the word as following: "A methodology of textual study in which a meaning is assigned or 'read into' a passage of text." Exegesis, on the other hand, is defined as: "A methodology of textual study in which the meaning of a passage is explained from within the passage itself. To analyze and interpret a passage by what it says." Exegesis is what all Bible students should strive to do.

It doesn't prove that he thought that this particular letter was Scripture. Of course it was, but this doesn't prove that it was Paul's understanding at the time; nor is it necessary that he know that in order for it to be inspired; nor that this sort of thing be present in the writing to "prove" that it is Scripture for later readers.

Just because there are also other prophetic gifts, oral teachings, revelations, God inspired traditions at the time ( I Cor. 11:2, 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6, etc.) does not speak against I Corinthians 14:37 or the whole book as Scripture.

I didn't say it did. What I argued was that the "prooftext" you produced to show that Paul understood his letters to be Scripture was insufficient for its purpose. The other stuff about prophets and prophesying had to do with a related issue: that inspired utterances are a larger phenomena than just Holy Scripture. So any Pauline reference to "inspiration" need not necessarily and always refer to Scripture. And even if he explicitly claimed inspiration for some piece of his writing, that still wouldn't prove that he thought it was Scripture, as opposed to a sure word from an apostle or a prophecy (though it is obviously consistent with such a notion).

It seems that Paul did know he was writing Scripture, putting both context and cross-referencing together, as will be fleshed out more through as we go along. No, it is not eisogesis.

I maintain that it is, but it is important to note that this is not a tremendously important issue, and reasonable men can differ. I'm not even definitely asserting the contrary. My position here is more of an agnostic one: "you have not proven what you assert by the 'proofs' you adduce."

Context and Scripture cross-referencing mitigate against you.

I disagree, as demonstrated more as we go along.

"A command of the Lord" need not be Scripture itself, just as the prophets surely gave many "command of the Lord" which were not recorded in Scripture or anywhere else.

Yes, Sola Scriptura does not deny this, but just because they were not all written down (at that time and place), does not prove that the writings we do have were not understood at the time as Scripture.

You're missing the point. You used 1 Corinthians 14:37 and Paul's reference to "the Lord's command" in reference to his message as (absolute) "proof" that Paul understood this writing as Scripture. I argued that this phrase can apply to non-Scripture, and you presently agree. Therefore, how can you prove that Paul didn't mean this other sense in this instance, or prove that he definitely meant "biblical inspiration"? I respectfully submit that you cannot do so; therefore, I conclude that you have inadequate information in that verse to substantiate your claim. And context (as I have shown) at the very least suggests that he may have had either apostolic authority or inspired prophecy (not necessarily Scripture or inscripturated) in mind.

I agree with what John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote:
20. If there be at once a divine and a human mind co-operating in the formation of the sacred text, it is not surprising if there often be a double sense in that text, and, with obvious exceptions, never certain that there is not.

Thus Sara had her human and literal meaning in her words, 'Cast out the bondwoman and her son,' &c.; but we know from St. Paul that those words were inspired by the Holy Ghost to convey a spiritual meaning. Abraham, too, on the Mount, when his son asked him whence was to come the victim for the sacrifice which his father was about to offer, answered 'God will provide;' and he showed his own sense of his words afterwards, when he took the ram which was caught in the briers, and offered it as a holocaust. Yet those words were a solemn prophecy.

And is it extravagant to say, that, even in the case of men who have no pretension to be prophets on servants of God, He may by their means give us great maxims and lessons, which the speakers little thought they were delivering? as in the case of the Architriclinus in the marriage feast, who spoke of the bridegroom as having kept the good wine until now;' words which it was needless for St. John to record, unless they had a mystical meaning.

Such instances raise the question whether the Scripture saints and prophets always understood the higher and divine sense of their words. As to Abraham, this will be answered in the affirmative; but I do not see reason for thinking that Sara was equally favoured. Nor is her case solitary; Caiphas, as high priest, spoke a divine truth by virtue of his office, little thinking of it, when he said that 'one man must die for the people;' and St. Peter at Joppa at first did not see beyond a literal sense in his vision, though he knew that there was a higher sense, which in God's good time would be revealed to him.

And hence there is no difficulty in supposing that the Prophet Osee, though inspired, only knew his own literal sense of the words which he transmitted to posterity, 'I have called my Son out of Egypt,' the further prophetic meaning of them being declared by St. Matthew in his gospel. And such a divine sense would be both concurrent with and confirmed by that antecedent belief which prevailed among the Jews in St. Matthew's time, that their sacred books were in great measure typical, with an evangelical bearing, though as yet they might not know what those books contained in prospect.

21. Nor is it de fide (for that alone with a view to Catholic Biblicists I am considering) that inspired men, at the time when they speak from inspiration, should always know that the Divine Spirit is visiting them.

The Psalms are inspired; but, when David, in the outpouring of his deep contrition, disburdened himself before his God in the words of the Miserere, [Psalm 51] could he, possibly, while uttering them, have been directly conscious that every word he uttered was not simply his, but another's? Did he not think that he was personally asking forgiveness and spiritual help?

Doubt again seems incompatible with a consciousness of being inspired. But Father Patrizi, while reconciling two Evangelists in a passage of their narratives, says, if I understand him rightly (ii. p. 405), that though we admit that there were some things about which inspired writers doubted, this does not imply that inspiration allowed them to state what is doubtful as certain, but only it did not hinder them from stating things with a doubt on their minds about them; but how can the All-knowing Spirit doubt? or how can an inspired man doubt, if he is conscious of his inspiration?

(On the Inspiration of Scripture, 1884; bolding added)
So Cardinal Newman agrees with the general principle I am defending as likely ("that inspired men, at the time when they speak from inspiration, should always know that the Divine Spirit is visiting them"). But later in the same section 21 he casually assumes that Paul was aware of his own inspiration in 1 Cor 2:4 and 7:40. It is not clear if he would equate this with writing Scripture, but it could very well be. That doesn't harm my point of view at all, since he agreed with my general principle (as seen in my precise title for this dialogue). I am not dogmatic about applying it across the board in all Pauline or other biblical passages, etc. Don't assume too much about what I am arguing.

The content of the prophecies may be the content of Romans, Galatians, and even Revelation, which the Corinthians probably did not have.

Why must they be restricted to biblical texts (or likely to be same, as you appear to imply)? A prophecy stands on its own as an inspired utterance. Certainly the OT prophets spoke tons and tons of prophecies which didn't end up being recorded. The same would be true of John the Baptist (the last prophet, as it were: Mt 11:13). But these were no less authoritative, if indeed they were true prophecies, because they were equally inspired by God, by definition.

The certainly did not have the book of Revelation, so the oral teachings in all the churches was most probably the content of other letters (and the gospels, that he didn’t write) that Paul wrote.

This is a fallacy, which doesn't follow, from logic, common sense, or biblical teaching. Nowhere does the Bible say that every prophecy is simply a citation of known biblical books, or that the oft-referenced oral preaching is restricted to NT (and OT) writings.

In other words, the category of "Lord's commands" is much larger than such commands as have been recorded in Holy Scripture.

This is true, but it does not refute my point. We don't know what any of them are and there is no evidence of any of those things that were spoken orally, were the word of God, and not written down. We can only guess.

Guess??!! Paul, in the very same chapter (1 Cor 14) repeatedly teaches about prophecy (prophesying). What is there to guess about? Obviously, if there was any significant amount of prophecy given, only an extremely small portion of it made it into the NT, if at all, because the NT is a pretty small book: about as long as an average-sized novel. So there was tons of oral messages by apostles and prophets and evangelists which would have been inspired, but ultimately non-biblical, just as was the case with our Lord Jesus. The NT refers several times to non-recorded speeches or acts of Jesus (Mk 4:33, 6:34, Lk 24:15-16,25-27, Jn 20:30, 21:25, Acts 1:2-3). It's the most elementary common sense.

Prophecy was rather common in NT or apostolic times (Acts 2:18). The Ephesians did it (Acts 19:6), as did the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9), and the Corinthians (aforementioned passages and 1 Cor 11:4-5). There were even prophets (in terms of a calling or office), in addition to folks who prophesied on occasion. Prophets were listed in lists of ministries (1 Cor 12:28-29, Eph 4:11), and work with teachers, as in Antioch (Acts 13:1). They both proclaimed and predicted (see, e.g., Agabus: Acts 11:28, 21:10-11). Prophets exhort believers (Acts 15:32) and provide edification (1 Cor 14:3). Prophecy is described as revelation (1 Cor 14:30) and as connected with the Holy Spirit (plausible implication of 1 Thess 5:19-20). Prophets were subject to the norm of NT or apostolic tradition (1 Cor 14:29,37-38), just as the OT prophets had to be in conformity with the Law of Moses.

The Protestant assumes that they were various pieces of other important content in other letters of the rule of faith and doctrine and exhortations that are now contained in the other written letters.

This is a huge, non-necessary, and non-biblical assumption.

If the Corinthians did not have Romans or Galatians yet, we assume that Paul and other apostles, teachers, and prophets would be orally teaching those things, until all the churches got all the letters, gospels, acts, Revelation, etc.

The gospel message is not confined to the text of the NT. It cold be expressed in many different ways. We see, e.g., how St. Paul ingeniously crafted his message at Mars Hill in Athens, to effectively reach the philosophically-inclined Greeks. We know that this was his habitual method ("I have become all things to all men, that I may by any means save some of them").

The RCC assumes that it may be that also, but it also assumes much more, such as teachings on Mary, and the Pope and transubstantiation, etc., but that those "oral traditions" did not come out in writings (Early church fathers, councils, traditions, etc.) until centuries later.

They were already all there in kernel form; they merely had to be developed. There was also oral tradition which was around at the same time, and passed down.

For example, the first known statement that says that Mary was pure and undefiled was by Ephraem of Syria. (Died in 373, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia) "For in You, O Lord, there is no mark; neither is there any stain in your Mother". (Ephraem the Syrian, Camina Nisibena 27, 8.).

Not quite. It is already taught in the Bible itself, in Luke 1:28, since to be "full of grace" (a quite-permissible literal rendering of kecharitomene) is to be without sin. See my paper: Luke 1:28 (Full of Grace) and the Immaculate Conception: Linguistic and Exegetical Considerations. So when you have biblical revelation, why worry about Church Fathers from the 4th century?

That still does not prove he was actually teaching "immaculate conception", and if he was teaching that, namely sinlessness, it does not make it correct.

That's correct: sinlessness is the doctrinal kernel of the Immaculate Conception, which extends the sinlessness to the matter of original, as well as actual sin. Original sin was slow to develop among the fathers, and they wrote more about purgatory than about that subject. But I don't see Protestants being troubled by the logical implications of that (assuming they even know about it).

There are too many other fathers at his time and before who believed that Mary sinned - Origen, John Chrysostom, Basil, Cyril of Alexandria, and according to J. N. Kelly: Tertullian (On the Flesh of Christ, 7), Ireneaus (Against Heresies, 3, 16, 7) , and Hilary (Tract. In Ps. 118, 3, 2). (ECD, p. 493, 496).

They were wrong (assuming your references really prove that they thought this). Whatever contradicts Scripture must be erroneous.

Of course oral teachings on the gospel and prophetic words are the Lord’s command (from apostles at that time). In order to prove your point, you have to prove that when Paul said, "what I am writing" means "what I am not writing" or "not what I am writing" (which is ridiculous),

It certainly is, but this forms no part of my argument (nor is it required for my case), so it is a moot point.

and the opposite of what he clearly means, namely, "I am writing". It seems it is as if you are saying that Paul is saying: "I am writing something, and it is the Lord’s command, but that doesn't matter, it is not Scripture, even though the word 'scripture' means 'the things written'."

Not at all. I am saying that when Paul refers to his writing being the "Lord's command" he could mean it in the sense of prophecy or apostolic authority; not necessarily that it was Scripture (i.e., a book of the Bible, later recognized as such and canonized). What is so difficult to understand about this? Why does it threaten you so much. This particular discussion doesn't require you to forsake sola Scriptura or biblical inspiration or infallibility. I fully agree with you on the last two questions. Just because Paul may possibly have not always known that he was writing Holy Scripture has no bearing on the doctrines of inspiration or infallibility. Rather, it has to do with the complicated question of the relationship of the biblical authors to divine inspiration and guidance.

Just because oral teachings and traditions are also the word of God at the time, and are yet to be written down, does not mean that at least Paul understood his letters and writings to be Scripture.

This is incoherent. I think you wrote it incorrectly, missing one negative. But I have answered above, anyway, if you mean what I think you mean.

Paul mentions a "prophet."

Yes, so what?

I dealt with this above.

But previously in the same chapter he taught about prophesying (14:1,3-5,22,24,29,31-32,39; cf. 12:10,28-29). Paul is by no means the only "prophet" here. Note the implication (in light of context) in 14:6 that anyone who prophesies might "bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching."

No problem. It does not really directly relate to your argument, as far as I can understand.

I have now explained further how it does, somewhat indirectly.

Those who prophesy in church may bring a revelation? Try that out in your Baptist service sometime, Ken.

What is your purpose here?

To show that a truly biblical view sometimes creates difficulties for some present theologies. ON the other hand, doctrines develop, and we are not required to be exactly like the NT Church in absolutely every way (the Church of Christ futile attempt).

You don't believe in continuing prophesy either, at least prophesy on the level of Scripture, do you? I know you don't.

I think there is such a thing as prophecy (as one of the gifts which Paul mentions), but extremely rare. I agree with you that the canon is closed, and that there is no new revelation. So any prophecy today could not add to that deposit of faith: it can only expand upon it and make it better understood. I hasten to add that I am no expert on current-day prophecy!

There is disagreement today over that the gift of prophesy exactly means, for churches today. Is it "Spirit anointed preaching"? Is it "sanctified insight"? Is it guidance or comfort, or exhortation or edification, warnings? Even doctrinal (not the uniformed popular TV and sensationalistic level, at least until confronted); even doctrinal Charismatics, Pentecostals, and the 3rd Wavers (John Wimber, Wayne Grudem, Jack Deere) all agree that whatever the gift of prophesy entails for today, it does not add to Scripture.

Yes; we Catholics agree.

Now, many charismatics and Penetcostals and 3rd Wavers are sloppy in their applications of the gift of prophesy, and when confronted, they will usually back down and admit that it is not on the same level as Scripture. That is the strongest argument in favor of cessationism (for at least prophetic revelatory gifts that are on the same level of Scripture), it seems to me.

I believe that all the gifts operate today (though clearly less often than in unique apostolic times), and have written about the non-biblical nature of cessationism.

Paul is even more clear, referring to "a revelation . . . made to another sitting by" in 14:30). Such "revelation" would be a "command of the Lord" just as much as Paul's letter in which this writing was recorded, since "God's commands" is also a category larger than Scripture itself. You or I could be commanded by an angel this very day if God so willed.

No problem. All you prove is that there is other revelation, prophesy, teaching, etc. that is going on at the time in oral fashion, and that God’s word was at the time, both oral and written. Sola Scriptura has no problem whatsoever with any of that.

You have to look at my overall argument, in context. You are missing the interconnections that I make.

All of this is the reason why "cessationism" developed, which is the understanding that once the canon of Scripture was written, that is once a book was written whether from AD 49-69 (most, if not all of NT) or 80 (Jude) or 90-96 AD (maybe John, I-3 John, Revelation, but I personally believe that they were all pre-AD 70. (although not necessarily known to all the churches), prophecy and new revelation stopped.

New revelation did, but I see no NT indication that any gift, such as prophecy, would cease thereafter.

That is why Montanism was deemed a aberration and false doctrine. Right?

In part, yes. It was also the excessive rigorism and utopian perfectionism.

By the way, when did the Early church first decide that Monatanism was false and heretical? (I admit I need to study that issue more closely.)

I'd have to look that one up.

Moreover, four verses later, Paul goes right back to oral proclamation: "I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast - unless you believed in vain." (1 Cor 15:1-2)

Oops! Paul must have flunked Calvinism 0101,

This is no way contradicts Calvinism. Those who are saved, also, if their faith was also in the past and real, were saved, and are being saved, and will be saved.

Then why do Calvinists object so strongly to the Catholic notion of salvation as a process, if this is true? I think they talk out of both sides of their mouths too often. They will give lip service to the threefold temporal senses of salvation, yet when a Catholic talks about "working out your salvation" or brings up one of the many other passages about the salvific process, we get accused of being "synergists" or supposed purveyors of "works-salvation."

But if a person no longer believes, he is not saved, and never was saved.

Exactly. This is the conundrum of Calvinists and Eternal Security advocates, that I have pointed out for years (going back to my Protestant days). What this means is that no one can have assurance now that they are eternally saved, because (simply put) we don't know the future. If you should happen to fall into serious, persistent sin five years from now, this will "prove" that you never were saved. If you don't, then presumably you are, or (more accurately) will be, as a likelihood (not a certainty). But the fact remains that one cannot know that with absolute certainty presently, if the chance always remains that they may "fall away" or cease believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and thus prove they never were saved. It's a vicious logical circle (one of many in Protestantism and particularly Calvinism).

The warnings are real warnings; - not to have been saved and then lose real salvation, but they are spoken in such a way so as to have teeth, and not fall into the error of the "easy believe-ism" or a kind of eternal security teaching that says, "you are saved" no matter if you are living in deliberate sin.

We agree that faith and the fruits of sanctification go hand in hand, as a practical matter, however the relationship of sanctification to salvation is viewed.

If someone says "I believe", but later says, "I don’t believe", then that faith was "empty", "in vain", not real faith.

Possibly; possibly not.

Real saving faith perseveres and keeps going.

If someone is truly in God's elect, they will persevere in faith and belief. The trouble is, we don't know for sure who is in this elect camp, so for us there will always be ultimately a lack of knowledge and certainty, even for ourselves. We can have a reasonable moral assurance if we look at ourselves closely and see that we are not in serious sin and rebellion.

Eternal Security 0101,

(see above) Also, some of the best preaching and teaching on this issue is John Piper at www.desiringGod.org, especially his series on Hebrews.

Yes; he is a very good teacher and preacher (within the limitations and errors of Baptist theology).

This is classic Reformation understanding that both preserves God's sovereignty and power to keep us, and also makes the warning real warnings. The typical modern day Baptist teaching on eternal security waters down all the warning to not have any "teeth".

Why is that? Why has bad teaching become "typical"?

and Sola Scriptura 0101 classes in seminary.

How is I Cor. 15:1-2 related to the sola Scriptura argument?

The Gospel was delivered by means of oral preaching, not the written Bible.

As I have shown, it does not teach against oral preaching and teaching and revelation or God-inspired tradition, which later became inscripturated.

Yes, but note that the oral preaching (like any tradition) is only legitimate if it is later inscripturated. This teaching is itself not taught in the Bible; therefore it is a mere tradition of men, inconsistent with sola Scriptura, and yet another evidence of the hopeless incoherence and inconsistency of that rule of faith.

It does say that there is no more of those kind of traditions, that are equal to Scripture or "God's word" in the sense that Paul and others spoke about them, that they are on the level of Scripture – I Cor. 15:1-3 "delivered to you" , I Cor. 11:2, 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:5, Jude 3, 3 John 12.

We all agree that revelation has ceased. It does not follow from that that there is no such thing as a valid Christian tradition or an authoritative, infallible Church.

Let me correct his teaching here with the RFBV (Revised Fundamentalist Baptist Version):

No such thing. (as that version of the Bible)

Thanks for making sure our readers know that. :-) Maybe one day there will be. I would love to add more verses to it. It's so much fun.

"I presented to you the gospel in this letter which is Scripture, which you received, in which you stand, by which you were saved; therefore you will hold it fast - unless you believed in vain."

I understand your sarcasm and pejorativeness and point you are trying to make, but it is not true (that there is such a version, or that even a Fundamentalist would change the text, etc.)

It's called humor Ken. You gotta lighten up a bit. I know you can do it. I've had plenty of laughs with many dear Baptist friends of mine for 25 years. The point, of course, is that (from our perspective), several Protestant teachings are inconsistent with the Bible. You do the exact same thing with us, so it is fun to turn the tables on you: give you a taste of your own medicine.

What they might say is that "you are saved", because "you really were saved" and "if you hold it fast", that means you are saved, and "if you are truly saved, you will hold it fast", but if you don’t, you never were saved, that whatever you thought your experience was, it was an “empty, vain” faith – not real.

I see; so present really means the "real" past and future means the present, and the present "certainty" means that the future will be an inexorable outcome and consequence of the present reality. Right. Gotcha. This is why it makes no sense to speak of being "saved" in the past tense. The only salvation that ultimately means anything is eschatological salvation, and none of us possess that in the present because it is by definition future, and therefore, unknowable with certainty. We can only know if we are right with God right now. If we continue to strive to stay in His grace, by His power, we can have every hope of attaining final salvation. I'm not one whit less confident about my salvation now than I ever was as a Protestant. I know that God is mnerciful and good and that I am serving Him. If I continue to do so, everything will be great in the end.

Paul goes on to recount how he "delivered" the gospel to the Corinthians (orally), in 15:3-6. Later (15:29) he discusses folks "being baptized on behalf of the dead" - the most difficult verse in the NT for Protestants to interpret.

Yes, it is a difficult verse, but since the RCC does not do that (baptize for the dead) either, you also have to explain it. Yes, you pray for the dead, but what connection does that have here? How do you interpret I Cor. 15:29?

See my paper on that topic.

Just because it is a difficult verse to interpret, does not have any bearing on an argument against Sola Scriptura. I fail to see your connection.

There is no direct connection, other than that it happened to be in the context of the passage we were considering (so I threw it in for no extra charge), and shows how prevalent in the NT are doctrines which contradict Protestantism. Almost everywhere one looks, one can find them.

I Timothy 5:18 - he calls the Law and the Gospel (the phrase is in both Luke and Matthew) as "Scripture".

How is that relevant to the question of whether Paul knew that his own letters were inspired, as he wrote them?

Because, if he puts the gospels on the same Scriptural level as the Law, and he calls the OT sacred Scripture in 2 Tim. 3:15, and then expands it to "all Scripture" in 2 Tim. 3:16 and he is writing all of these things to Timothy "in order that you may know how to conduct yourself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." ( I Tim. 3:14-15), then it seems pretty clear that Paul understood his own letters as Scripture.

It's clear as mud. This doesn't follow. Paul probably does that, at least some of the time (as Cardinal Newman agreed), but your reasoning here does nothing to show that these particular elements prove this, let alone regarding all of Paul's letters. You seem to often conflate mere possibility or harmony and consistency with "proof."

Also, because he says, in 4:13, "give attention to public reading, preaching, and teaching", and he says to read his letters in the churches, Colossians 4:16.

So what? That doesn't prove that he necessarily knows it is Scripture. He knows for sure, though, that it has authority as the message of an apostle, whether or not it is literally inspired, or inspired Scripture. He knows that simply from the knowledge that he is an apostle.

All of these were considered the word of God, and he does not have to say, "What I am writing to you now is also Scripture"; as it was understood by the way he writes with authority, being an apostle, giving commands, teaching about the word of God and that the Holy Spirit is speaking, etc. "These things we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." I Cor. 2:13.

This is very good, and you understand this better than many Protestants, who adopt a radical solo Scriptura position.

Thank you. I finally got something right!

Congratulations! Once in a while I do, too, huh?! :-)

My main point was to say that Paul may not have necessarily known he was writing Scripture, and that your "prooftext" of 1 Cor 14:37 did not establish that he did.

I don't think you disproved that Paul did know his letters were Scripture at the time. All you showed was that oral authoritative "God's word" existed also at the same time at the time that the letters and gospels were being written and the early churches were being founded. (AD 33-70 - 96).

As always, I appeal to the reader to make his own determination as to the better case presented. That's why God gave us this noggin, to apply reason to subjects like this.

That Paul understood himself to be writing Scripture, other evidence is in I Cor. Chapter 7, where he says at one point, "I say, not the Lord" (verse 12)

This is, of course, at least as strong of a proof that there are times when he himself does indeed not think he is writing inspired Scripture (cf. 1 Cor 7:25), when in fact he is (since we all regard this verse as inspired, along with the rest of 1 Corinthians and all of Paul's NT letters). What more do you need to prove that Paul wasn't aware at a particular time that his writing was inspired, besides his saying "I say, not the Lord" (1 Cor 7:12) and "I have no command of the Lord" (7:25). This is particularly effective against your own argument since you claimed (at the beginning of this dialogue) that when Paul said he was presenting the "Lord's command" (1 Cor 14:37), that was "absolute" proof to you that he was writing Scripture. Therefore, if he expressly denies this in other passages, he cannot possibly be conscious of writing inspired Scripture: at the time he writes those things. It's a slam dunk. Thanks! I should have thought of this passage myself.

and then at the end, he says, "I have the Spirit of God" (verse 40).

We discussed something like this before. I think this is most plausibly interpreted to simply mean that Paul is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, as are all regenerate Christians.

Since he clearly said, "I give instructions, not I, but the Lord" (verse 10); the only conclusion to draw from all this is that Paul knows 1. He is quoting and repeating teaching in the gospels from Jesus himself (Matthew 5, 19, Mark 10) 2. Marriage to an unbeliever was a new issue, not addressed by the Lord Jesus, so Paul says he is also giving advice, and that this advice is from the Holy Spirit. (verses 12-40)

Those portions are quite consistent with his knowledge of inspiration, but 7:12 and 7:25 are not (which seems to be a pretty compelling proof for what I am arguing). You want to look at one thing (a rather weak argument) but strangely ignore the other (a rather strong one).

Secondly, one didn't have to even be an apostle to pass along the "word of God." They merely had to be a prophet, or to prophesy; and Paul seemed to think that many would do so and that it would be a routine occurrence.

That is true, that is why Ephesians 2:19-20 says "the household of God, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone." But that is also not an argument against Sola Scriptura.

Go back and look at the context, and my argument as a whole.

What's interesting here is how that squares with present-day Christianity, where such prophesying is a rare occurrence, in all the major Christian traditions. Even the pope doesn't claim such a gift, but rather, the far lesser gift of infallibility.

I understand this point you are making, but in effect, the infallibility dogma, even though saying that it does not add new revelation, in a practical sense does function as prophecy, because the Bodily Assumption of Mary does not even have any material sufficiency of Scripture behind it, which is like adding new revelation, no matter who much you claim that it was already deposited in the first century, there is no evidence for this.

See my next comment.

And, as I heard Gerry Matatics and, I think Tim Staples declare, this dogma is part of the gospel, (even though not in I Corinthians 15:1-9, where Paul comes close to defining what the gospel is; and it is not in any other text.) Is it part of the "gospel"? If it is de fide dogma, something one is oblibated to believe as a RC, then that means the RCC says it is part of the gospel. this is adding things to Scripture, seems to me, as many others think also.

Catholics tend to define the "gospel" as the entire teaching of Christianity, whereas Protestants tend to define it as a particularly soteriology (TULIP, sola fide, etc.). We can all agree, however, on the stricter definition of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and the Good News which flows out of the incarnation and sacrificial death on our behalf.

So, even as many admit, there is not material sufficiency for it,

There is, indirectly and deductively. If Mary was without original and actual sin (as we believe is made clear in the second sense, in Luke 1:28), then she would not be subject to bodily decay, or death (Gen 3:16-19). It is also fitting that the Mother of Jesus Who is God, would be the "firstfruits" (1 Cor 15:20) of the general resurrection (15:35-58). We also have the biblical precedent of certain persons not undergoing death, such as Enoch (Heb 11:5; cf. Gen 5:24), Elijah (2 Kings 2:1,11), and Paul being taken up to heaven, possibly in the body (2 Cor 12:2-4), and of those who are alive when Christ returns, who will not have to die (1 Cor 15:23; 1 Thess 4:15-17: the latter falsely regarded as the "rapture" by dispensationalists). None of that "proves" the Assumption of Mary, but rather, shows that the notion is not at all incompatible with the biblical worldview. So, coupled with Luke 1:28, we see it as altogether plausible from Scripture itself, that Mary could be assumed bodily into heaven.

and that is one reason why there are arguments between RCs as to the Partim-Partim theory of Scripture and Tradition and the material sufficiency view. John 20:30 or 21:25 hardly counts as a text for this doctrine to promote material sufficiency.

It does in the sense I have just described.

So this becomes yet another indirect argument for the biblical plausibility or at least (for the more skeptically-minded) permissibility of papal infallibility, since both inspiration of sinful men and prophesying of sinful men occurred and were instruments through which a sure word of divine prophecy or revelation were received; why, not, then, also the far inferior gift of protection from doctrinal error, so that Christians could be certain of doctrinal truths?

2 Timothy 3:16 says that the writings are God-breathed, and therefore, infallible. It does not say the prophets or apostles as people are "inspired" or "God breathed".

That's correct. The Bible teaches that in Acts 15:28, regarding the Jerusalem Council. One inspired Scripture is as authoritative as another, right Ken?

They were controlled and carried along to write what God wanted them to write, as taught in 2 Peter 1:20-21.

And the Council was "controlled and carried along" to decide what the Holy Spirit (God) wanted it to decide, too.

Once the ink dried on the last NT book, inspiration of Scripture stopped, and so did infallibility, because only God and His Word, now written is without error.

We see no indication in the Bible itself that the Jerusalem Council was sui generis.

Yes, the prophets and apostles were sinful, and God used them to write Scripture, but Scripture's quality of being "without error" and includes necessarily that it is without sin. Scripture is without error because it is without sin, because God cannot lie.

Scripture is without sin because only creatures can sin, not books and words. But sinners wrote inspired Scripture. Since that could happen, it is even more plausible that sinning popes can be merely infallible, not inspired. Jesus also promised us that the same Holy Spirit would "guide [us] into all the truth" (Jn 16:13), and it is not stated that this is solely through the biblical books, or any book. But this is perfectly consistent with what we see in Acts 15:28.

You cannot separate infallibility from impeccability in the writings. It is the product of Scripture that was inspired or God-breathed, not the people themselves.

It was the product of men who were sinners, being used as inspired, infallible instruments of God. Therefore, it takes far less faith to believethat sinners can be non-inspired, infallible instruments of God.

Their sins or mistakes did not make it into the Scriptures.

That's right, just as pope's sins or even (theoretically) heresies do not make it into their definitive pronouncements.

Thanks for the meaty debate. I enjoyed it and was excited, as always, to delve (along with you) more deeply into Holy Scripture, where we find inexhaustible riches and treasures of knowledge and wisdom.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Apologetics & Lay Apostolates: Express Approval & Strong Encouragement From Popes Paul VI & John Paul II

See my related paper: Catholic Church Teaching on Internet Evangelism, Catechism, and Apologetics: Excerpts.

All red-colored emphases are added.

* * * * *

Thanks, Dave, for usurping the role of the Catholic bishops. The bishops are the shepherds of the flock, not a lowly layman. Dear old Dave really can't get over being Protestant at heart. He really can't leave it to the Magisterium to get the job done. Instead, we have this self-anointed shepherd of the Catholic flock. Thanks, Dave, for reminding us of how little faith you have in the hierarchy. Thanks for taking it upon yourself to out-Pope the Pope.

* * *

Yes, the papacy encourages a lay apostolate the way a principal encourages student government. Just as student government gives a gullible junior high or high school student the illusion that he has a real say in the process, papal encouragement of the laity gives them the illusion that a layman has a real say in the process.

The policy-makers learned along time ago that the best way to avert a grassroots insurrection is to give a gabby member of the hoi polloi his own office - preferably a windowless room in the subbasement - with his own name on the door, his own letterhead, and a fancy title; then steer a lot of busywork his way - like polishing the brass plaque with his name on the door, sharpening departmental pencils, and filing departmental memos on interdepartmental pencil-sharpening protocols.

(Anti-Catholic Protestant Sophist-blogger Steve Hays: 2-19-06 and 6-29-06)

This makes more evident the role given to the laity in catechesis today . . . We must be grateful to the Lord for this contribution by the laity, . . . lay catechists must be carefully prepared for what is, if not a formally instituted ministry, at the very least a function of great importance in the Church.

(Pope John Paul II, 1979 - see below)

Lay people also play their part by consecrating the world to God, and many of them are coming to a deeper sense of their indispensable role in the Church's evangelizing mission. . . . lay people can and must be a true leaven in every corner of society in Oceania. Upon this, the success of the new evangelization depends in large part . . . There is a need too for a new apologetics in keeping with the words of Saint Peter: "Be ready to give reasons for your hope" (1 Pt 3:15). In this way, the faithful will be more confident in their Catholic faith and less susceptible to the allure of these groups and movements, . . .

(Pope John Paul II, 2001 - see below)

[T]his sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen - each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning - to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church.

(Pope Paul VI, 1965 - see below)

Theology Professor and Apologist Scott Hahn with Pope John Paul the Great

Pope John Paul II
Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae
("On Catechesis In Our Time")
16 October 1979


18. . . . All in all, it can be taken here that catechesis is an education of children, young people and adults in the faith, which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life. Accordingly, while not being formally identified with them, catechesis is built on a certain number of elements of the Church's pastoral mission that have a catechetical aspect, that prepare for catechesis, or that spring from it. These elements are: the initial proclamation of the Gospel or missionary preaching through the kerygma to arouse faith, apologetics or examination of the reasons for belief, experience of Christian living, celebration of the sacraments, integration into the ecclesial community, and apostolic and missionary witness.

[ . . . ]

Lay Catechists

66. I am anxious to give thanks in the Church's name to all of you, lay teachers of catechesis in the parishes, the men and the still more numerous women throughout the world who are devoting yourselves to the religious education of many generations. Your work is often lowly and hidden but it is carried out with ardent and generous zeal, and it is an eminent form of the lay apostolate, a form that is particularly important where for various reasons children and young people do not receive suitable religious training in the home. How many of us have received from people like you our first notions of catechism and our preparation for the sacrament of Penance, for our first Communion and Confirmation! The fourth general assembly of the synod did not forget you. I join with it in encouraging you to continue your collaboration for the life of the Church.

But the term "catechists" belongs above all to the catechists in mission lands. Born of families that are already Christian or converted at some time to Christianity and instructed by missionaries or by another catechist, they then consecrate their lives, year after year, to catechizing children and adults in their own country. Churches that are flourishing today would not have been built up without them. I rejoice at the efforts made by the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to improve more and more the training of these catechists. I gratefully recall the memory of those whom the Lord has already called to Himself. I beg the intercession of those whom my predecessors have raised to the glory of the altars. I wholeheartedly encourage those engaged in the work. I express the wish that many others may succeed them and that they may increase in numbers for a task so necessary for the missions.

. . . 67. . . . That is why every big parish or every group of parishes with small numbers has the serious duty to train people completely dedicated to providing catechetical leadership (priests, men and women religious, and lay people), to provide the equipment needed for catechesis under all aspects, to increase and adapt the places for catechesis to the extent that it is possible and useful to do so, and to be watchful about the quality of the religious formation of the various groups and their integration into the ecclesial community.

[ . . . ]

70. Lastly, encouragement must be given to the lay associations, movements and groups, whether their aim is the practice of piety, the direct apostolate, charity and relief work, or a Christian presence in temporal matters. They will all accomplish their objectives better, and serve the Church better, if they give an important place in their internal organization and their method of action to the serious religious training of their members. In this way every association of the faithful in the Church has by definition the duty to educate in the faith.

This makes more evident the role given to the laity in catechesis today, always under the pastoral direction of their Bishops, as the propositions left by the synod stressed several times.

71. We must be grateful to the Lord for this contribution by the laity, but it is also a challenge to our responsibility as pastors, since these lay catechists must be carefully prepared for what is, if not a formally instituted ministry, at the very least a function of great importance in the Church. Their preparation calls on us to organize special centers and institutes, which are to be given assiduous attention by the Bishops. This is a field in which diocesan, interdiocesan or national cooperation proves fertile and fruitful. Here also the material aid provided by the richer Churches to their poor sisters can show the greatest effectiveness, for what better assistance can one Church give to another than to help it to grow as a Church with its own strength?

Pope John Paul II
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania
22 November 2001


19. . . . With the Bishops, all Christ's faithful - clergy, religious, and laity - are called to proclaim the Gospel . . . Lay people also play their part by consecrating the world to God, and many of them are coming to a deeper sense of their indispensable role in the Church's evangelizing mission. (69) Through the witness of love in the Sacrament of Matrimony or the generous dedication of people called to the single life, through their activity in the world whatever it might be, lay people can and must be a true leaven in every corner of society in Oceania. Upon this, the success of the new evangelization depends in large part.

[ . . . ]

Fundamentalist Groups

24. Ecumenism needs to be distinguished from the Church's approach to fundamentalist religious groups and movements, some of which are Christian in inspiration. In some missionary areas, the Bishops are concerned about the effect that these religious groups or sects are having on the Catholic community. Some groups base their ideas on a reading of Scripture, often employing apocalyptic images, threats of a dark future for the world, and promises of economic rewards for their followers. While certain of these groups are openly hostile to the Church, others wish to engage in dialogue. In more developed and secularized societies, concern is growing about fundamentalist Christian groups which draw young people away from the Church, and even from their families. Many different movements offer some form of spirituality as a supposed remedy for the harmful effects of an alienating technological culture in which people often feel powerless. The presence and activity of these groups and movements are a challenge to the Church to revitalize her pastoral outreach, and in particular to be more welcoming to young people and to those in grave spiritual or material need. (89) It is also a situation which calls for better biblical and sacramental catechesis and an appropriate spiritual and liturgical formation. There is a need too for a new apologetics in keeping with the words of Saint Peter: "Be ready to give reasons for your hope" (1 Pt 3:15). In this way, the faithful will be more confident in their Catholic faith and less susceptible to the allure of these groups and movements, which often deliver the very opposite of what they promise.

Pope Paul VI
Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity
Apostolicam Actuositatem
18 November 1965


1. To intensify the apostolic activity of the people of God,(1) the most holy synod earnestly addresses itself to the laity, whose proper and indispensable role in the mission of the Church has already been dealt with in other documents.(2) The apostolate of the laity derives from their Christian vocation and the Church can never be without it. Sacred Scripture clearly shows how spontaneous and fruitful such activity was at the very beginning of the Church (cf. Acts 11:19-21; 18:26; Rom. 16:1-16; Phil. 4:3).

Our own times require of the laity no less zeal: in fact, modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified. With a constantly increasing population, continual progress in science and technology, and closer interpersonal relationships, the areas for the lay apostolate have been immensely widened particularly in fields that have been for the most part open to the laity alone. These factors have also occasioned new problems which demand their expert attention and study. This apostolate becomes more imperative in view of the fact that many areas of human life have become increasingly autonomous. This is as it should be, but it sometimes involves a degree of departure from the ethical and religious order and a serious danger to Christian life. Besides, in many places where priests are very few or, in some instances, deprived of due freedom for priestly work, the Church could scarcely exist and function without the activity of the laity.

An indication of this manifold and pressing need is the unmistakable work being done today by the Holy Spirit in making the laity ever more conscious of their own responsibility and encouraging them to serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances.(3)

In this decree the Council seeks to describe the nature, character, and diversity of the lay apostolate, to state its basic principles, and to give pastoral directives for its more effective exercise. All these should be regarded as norms when the canon law, as it pertains to the lay apostolate, is revised.

[2. cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Nature of the Church, nos. 33 ff.: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 39 ff.; cf; also Constitution on the Liturgy, nos. 26-40; A.A.S. 56 (1964) pp. 107- 111; cf. Decree on Instruments of Social Communication: A.A.S. 56 (1964) pp. 145-158; cf. Decree on Ecumenism: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 90-107; cf. Decree on Pastoral Duties of Bishops, nos. 16, 17, 18; cf. Declaration on Christian Education, nos. 3, 5, 7; cf. Decree on Missionary Activity of Church, nos. 15, 21, 41; cf. Decree on Priestly Life and Ministry, no. 9.]

2. . . . In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world.(2)

They exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.

3. The laity derive the right and duty to the apostolate from their union with Christ the head; incorporated into Christ's Mystical Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, they are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself. They are consecrated for the royal priesthood and the holy people (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-10) not only that they may offer spiritual sacrifices in everything they do but also that they may witness to Christ throughout the world. The sacraments, however, especially the most holy Eucharist, communicate and nourish that charity which is the soul of the entire apostolate.(3)

[ . . . ]

5. . . . There are innumerable opportunities open to the laity for the exercise of their apostolate of evangelization and sanctification.

[ . . . ]

6. . . . Since, in our own times, new problems are arising and very serious errors are circulating which tend to undermine the foundations of religion, the moral order, and human society itself, this sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen-each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning - to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church.

[ . . . ]

15. The laity can engage in their apostolic activity either as individuals or together as members of various groups or associations.

16. The individual apostolate, flowing generously from its source in a truly Christian life (cf. John 4:14), is the origin and condition of the whole lay apostolate, even of the organized type, and it admits of no substitute.

Regardless of status, all lay persons (including those who have no opportunity or possibility for collaboration in associations) are called to this type of apostolate and obliged to engage in it. This type of apostolate is useful at all times and places, but in certain circumstances it is the only one appropriate and feasible.

There are many forms of the apostolate whereby the laity build up the Church, sanctify the world, and give it life in Christ. A particular form of the individual apostolate as well as a sign specially suited to our times is the testimony of the whole lay life arising from faith, hope, and charity. It manifests Christ living in those who believe in Him. Then by the apostolate the spoken and written word, which is utterly necessary under certain circumstances, lay people announce Christ, explain and spread His teaching in accordance with one's status and ability, and faithfully profess it.

[ . . . ]

24. . . . Finally, the hierarchy entrusts to the laity certain functions which are more closely connected with pastoral duties, such as teaching of Christian doctrine, certain liturgical actions, and the care of souls. By virtue of this mission, the laity are fully subject to higher ecclesiastical control in the performance of this work.

See also: Evangelii Nuntiandi ("On Evangelization In The Modern World"): Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation of 8 December 1975.

Many more related links (including several articles from Catholic bishops).

END

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Calvinist Confusion & Contradictions Concerning Election, Valid Baptism, & Whether Catholics are "Brothers in Christ" or Slaves to Satan

[originally uploaded on 17 February 2001]

One Calvinist's words (at the end) will be in green. John Calvin's words will be in blue.

* * * * *

It is very difficult for Catholics to figure out what Reformed, Calvinist Christians believe about us and our baptism in particular, with so many conflicting opinions floating around. Who are we to believe? Seeking certainty and "magisterial authority" (insofar as such a notion exists at all) within the Calvinist framework, I eventually inquired as to John Calvin's own opinion, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. But alas, various Calvinists I know seem to reject some of Calvin's teaching in this regard. So in the end it must regretfully be concluded that there is no certain answer, or one which all Calvinists will agree upon.

This confirms once again that the attempt to find or determine "orthodoxy," even within any particular Protestant denomination, seems doomed to failure from the outset. Are Catholics Christians or sons of darkness, according to "orthodox" Calvinism? The answer hinges upon the resolution of this "problem." There are certainly many Calvinists who do not regard Catholicism per se as a Christian institution, let alone a Church. Whether they constitute the majority I know not.

I continue to maintain that the things Protestants agree upon are either those doctrines which they hold together with us, or those things in Catholicism which they universally detest (which they have long since cast off as "heretical"). Beyond that, I have found, in my long experience dialoguing, that it is virtually impossible to find unanimity of opinion. The following example is a case-in-point.

Calvin, in his Institutes, III.2.15-16,24, apparently teaches a personal assurance of one's own saving faith.  Calvin speaks of a "full and fixed certainty," "full assurance," "sure confidence in divine benevolence and salvation" (15), "assurance of his salvation," "fruit of great assurance" (16), and "indestructible certainty of faith" (24).

Times without number, I myself have been judged as "outside the fold," not of the elect, unregenerate, unsaved, not born again, etc., simply because I am a Catholic Christian, and especially since I once was a Protestant (Arminian), and am therefore now a wicked "apostate" or "traitor" in the eyes of these self-anointed judges and inquisitors. The classic example was on the Reformed List, a major Internet e-mail discussion group (consisting of about 175 members at the time), which I joined in early 2000, hoping for some intelligent conversation (and not seeking to convert anybody myself, or to "proselytize").

When I was straightforward and honest about my beliefs and intentions in joining, a firestorm immediately broke out - the sky fell down -, and I was called every name in the book, mercilessly attacked personally, and subjected to the most Pharisaical, wicked (and utterly groundless) condemnation of my inner motivations and heart I have ever seen in 20 years as a committed Christian (half of them as an evangelical Protestant). I lasted all of two days before I was kicked out by the moderator. But I had already - in disgust and severe disappointment - decided to leave

One person posted to the list that I was "definitely" damned (since I was an "apostate"), and should not even be prayed for. So much for not knowing who is in the elect or not. Now one might say he was a lone voice, or a fringe character within Reformed circles. If so, very few others on the list (none that I recall in my short stay there) rebuked or excoriated him for his abominable denigratory remarks; strange indeed if what he was saying went directly against Calvin's own teaching (not to mention elementary biblical charity). So the confusion continues, and the Catholic observer (and recipient of such malicious hostility) may be excused if he is a bit confused about Calvinist / Reformed "orthodoxy" in this regard.

Recently, I critiqued an anti-Catholic tract by a pair of Calvinists, both "orthodox" Presbyterian pastors. I informed them of the critique, and offered them space on my website for a rebuttal, and inquired if they would like to get together sometime for some group discussion on Catholic-Protestant issues (since they live in my state - it turns out, about 70 miles away). Neither showed the sightest interest in answering my reply to their tract. One was at least cordial and invited me to his office to talk sometime, when I was in his area. The other, however, minced no words in expressing what he thought of me:

I noticed you referred to me as a brother in Christ - I do not regard you as a brother in Christ at all. You are enslaved to the popish whore. You are a member of the synagogue of Satan. You should turn from your idolatry to the Living God of Scripture through Christ alone.
Is this reasonably construed to be an assertion that I am not "in Christ"; therefore presumably not of the elect? It certainly reduces me to a sub-Christian infidel, reduced to rank idolatry, "enslaved," following Satan, etc. Close enough, in my book, and - it seems to me - a distinction without a difference (if indeed he would even distinguish the categories).

It so happened that another Reformed pastor, whom I met on the Reformed List, who has remained on friendly terms and exchanged many brief e-mails (albeit not with much "meat" or content), is friends with a fourth Reformed pastor, who lives about 15 miles away from me. He kept urging me to visit the local pastor and engage in "ecumenical" discussion. The catch, however, was that the pastor who wrote the stinging words above, I discovered, is featured on the local pastor's website, so that it was reasonable to assume that they held similar views about my spiritual estate (or, at any rate, the non-Christian status of my Church).

Well, the local pastor wrote in a letter that he has "assurance" that he is of the elect (given by the Holy Spirit). Then he denied that he could be absolutely sure "who else" was on the list (thus implying again, that he did possess absolute assurance about himself). Yet he could be "99.9% sure" about some others, who give evidence in their "lives" and "attitudes" of their regeneration, and hence, election. I responded in a personal letter:

So you can't be absolutely sure, but 99.9% sure about others, and absolutely sure about yourself. This seems to me like a practical certainty and pretty much a distinction without a difference. Your friend [the one who wrote the stinging words against me] is even more sure than you are (about myself, anyway), and far less cheerful and diplomatic :-). [Name], a Reformed fellow with whom I have had two enjoyable dialogues (I forwarded this letter to him also), told me that Calvinists can't know who is in the elect. So who am I to believe?

. . . I want to know whether you think I am on it [the list of the elect] or not, with that 99.9% assurance you say you have, even concerning others who show forth Christian fruit to your satisfaction.

. . . Catholicism is either a Christian religion or not. [Name] obviously thinks not. [Name] and [Name] say that at least our baptism is valid, and that I am therefore "in the fold" in that sense, if no other. What do you say?

. . . If you disagree with him, then what is the "official" Calvinist view on these matters, or does no one know? Not that internal Protestant contradiction and doctrinal relativism ever surprises me.
A few days later, I wrote to three of these men, after the friendly acquaintance tried to achieve a certain rapprochement. I had entitled my previous letter "Am I Saved or Not?" This question was then described by my friendly acquaintance as "relatively irrelevant." I replied:

It is not at all. One doesn't establish an atmosphere for constructive, ecumenical dialogue by immediately dismissing the other's heartfelt concern as "relatively irrelevant." This is exactly what I am talking about. I have to meet your terms for the discussion and the very category I belong to before I even set foot in the house. I have to (in effect) admit up-front that whether I am a brother in Christ or not, or a Christian, or regenerate, is "irrelevant." That is no ecumenical discussion at all. And it is an extreme insult to me (and I think it is intellectual suicide also, on your part); therefore I refuse to countenance it, as a matter of principle, not personal pique . . .

[This] is not a dialogue at all! I have (true) dialogues with people of every stripe on my website, as [Name] well knows. But the great majority of them don't start out with, and presuppose, an insult which denies the very thing I am. If I am not a Christian, it is inaccurate and improper to speak of such a meeting as "ecumenical." It is not; it will degenerate into a preaching/evangelization session, and I will have no part of that. I'm interested in Christian dialogue as equals, not superior-to-subordinate.
Then my friend stated that both Catholics and Protestants ought to follow the example of Calvin and the Catholic Cardinal Sadoleto, who had tea at Calvin's house, after they had engaged in their famous written debate. To do that would help achieve "real ecumenical progress," so he claimed. I responded:

As (I believe) you yourself have stated or at least implied, Calvin accepted Sadoleto's place in the Body of Christ by virtue of his baptism, if nothing else. Rev. [Name], on the other hand, has flat-out denied that I am a brother in Christ. Since Rev. [Name; the local pastor] has not denied that he agrees with this, and since they are close comrades (by the looks of the latter's website), I must conclude that he feels the same way. So if you are correct about Calvin's view of Catholic baptism, they are not even in accord with that. Therefore (if so), your attempted analogy to Sadoleto does not apply at all.
Then my friend mentioned how Dutch Catholics and Calvinists had dialogued in Japanese concentration camps in Indonesia during World War II. And I wrote:

Yeah, I suppose it took such horrid conditions to make the Dutch Calvinists wake up from their self-delusion and realize they were incarcerated with fellow Christians. Meeting (and being subjected to, in this case) true non-Christians has a profound way of showing stubborn people how much they really have in common. How sad that Rev. [Name] cannot see this, and that he continues to lie about my Church and one billion members of it. Satan triumphs with such division. Divide and conquer. Is it any wonder that the Christian Church as a whole has been so ineffective in changing the culture around us and stopping such hideous evils such as abortion, etc.?

. . . . Go preach to your brothers, my friend (they'll obviously listen to you a lot more than they would to me), since Calvin stated in his Institutes IV.15.16 (McNeill / Battles ed., Phil: Westminster Press, 1960), that:


. . . Such today are our Catabaptists, who deny that we have been duly baptized because we were baptized by impious and idolatrous men under the papal government . . . baptism is accordingly not of man but of God, no matter who administers it. Ignorant or even contemptuous as those who baptized us were of God and all piety, they did not baptize us into the fellowship of either their ignorance or sacrilege, but into faith in Jesus Christ, because it was not their own name but God's that they invoked, and they baptized us into no other name. But if it was the baptism of God, it surely had, enclosed in itself, the promise of forgiveness of sins, mortification of the flesh, spiritual vivification, and participation in Christ.


Calvin's biographer Francois Wendel writes (probably referring to this very passage):

The Anabaptists repudiated the baptism that they had received at the hands of Roman Catholic priests, on the ground that the latter were unworthy and unable to confer true baptism. Calvin replies that what matters is that we should have been baptized in Christ, and that notwithstanding any errors or unworthiness in him who administers baptism the divine promise is fulfilled towards us.
[Calvin: The Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, tr. Philip Mairet, New York: Harper & Row, 1963 (orig. 1950 in French), pp. 322-323]

Besides, I did not receive Catholic baptism in the first place. I was baptized in a Methodist church as a child, "and" in the Assemblies of God (full immersion) as a 23-year-old in 1982. I received "conditional baptism" when I became a Catholic in 1991, but I had already been truly baptized in 1958.

So I am indeed a brother in Christ, according to Calvin (over against Rev. [Name] ). John Calvin states in Institutes IV.15.1:

Baptism is the sign of initiation by which we are received into the society of the church, in order that, engrafted in Christ, we may be reckoned among God's children.

And in IV.15.3:
But we must realize that at whatever time we are baptized, we are once for all washed and purged for our whole life . . . we may always be sure and confident of the forgiveness of sins . . . For Christ's purity has been offered us in it [baptism]; his purity ever flourishes; it is defiled by no spots, but buries and cleanses away all our defilements.
Then I appealed to the Bible also, in an attempt to show that my five Calvinist friends' opinions were utterly incoherent and at odds with each other (as well as with Calvin):

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? . . .

(2 Corinthians 6:14-16a; KJV)
I pressed my point to its logical conclusion:

In verse 17 Paul commands Christians to come out from among them. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-13 he enjoins believers not to company with (among others) idolaters, and with such a one no not to eat, and to put away from yourselves that wicked person.

So, clearly, either Calvin was violating this Pauline injunction by having Cardinal Sadoleto over for tea and crumpets, or else he did not regard him as in such a lowly category. If the former, then Calvin acted wrongly, even wickedly (as he wantonly violated a biblical command). If the latter, then Rev. [Name] acts even more wickedly, as he slanders an entire Church and myself as a committed adherent of that Church. Which is it?

I rest my case. You can't have it both ways. Calvin himself says that I have, by virtue of baptism:
1. "forgiveness of sins"
2. "mortification of the flesh"
3. "spiritual vivification"
4. "participation in Christ"
5. "received into the society of the church"
6. "engrafted in Christ"
7. "reckoned among God's children"
8. "washed and purged for our whole life"
9. "sure and confident of the forgiveness of sins"
10."Christ's purity has been offered us in it [baptism]"
11."his purity ever flourishes; it is defiled by no spots, but buries and cleanses away all our defilements"

One might also add that I myself could conceivably have rightly applied Romans 16:17-18a (KJV):

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly . . .
It is surely "causing division" to read people right out of the Christian faith, and Paul takes a dim view of people who rend and divide the Christian Church.

I shall now undertake a brief overview of Calvin's views in his Institutes concerning election, salvation, and church discipline, and see if we can arrive at a fuller understanding of Calvin's belief concerning how the state of another person's soul (even a lowly Catholic "idolater" enslaved to the "popish whore") is to be discerned by someone other than God, Who alone knows all things and reads hearts without mixture of error or prejudice.

. . . we are not bidden to distinguish between reprobate and elect - that is for God alone, not for us, to do . . .

(IV.1.3.)

We must thus consider both God's secret election and his inner call. For he alone "knows who are his" [II Tim. 2:19] . . . except that they bear his insignia by which they may be distinguished from the reprobate. But because a small and contemptible number are hidden in a huge multitude and a few grains of wheat are covered by a pile of chaff, we must leave to God alone the knowledge of his church, whose foundation is his secret election. It is not sufficient, indeed, for us to comprehend in mind and thought the multitude of the elect, unless we consider the unity of the church as that into which we are convinced we have been truly engrafted.

(IV.1.2.)

Of those who openly wear his badge, his eyes alone see the ones who are unfeignedly holy and will persevere to the very end [Matt. 24:13] - the ultimate point of salvation.

(IV.1.8.)

It is . . . not our task to erase from the number of the elect those who have been expelled from the church, or to despair as if they were already lost. It is lawful to regard them as estranged from the church, and thus, from Christ - but only for such time as they remain separated. However, if they also display more stubbornness than gentleness, we should still commend them to the Lord's judgment, hoping for better things of them in the future than we see in the present. Nor should we on this account cease to call upon God in their behalf . . . let us not condemn to death the very person who is in the hand and judgment of God alone; rather, let us only judge of the character of each man's works by the law of the Lord. While we follow this rule, we rather take our stand upon the divine judgment than put forward our own. Let us not claim for ourselves more license in judgment, unless we wish to limit God's power and confine his mercy by law. For God, whenever it pleases him, changes the worst men into the best, engrafts the alien, and adopts the stranger into the church. And the Lord does this to frustrate men's opinion and restrain their rashness - which, unless it is checked, ventures to assume for itself a greater right of judgment than it deserves.

(IV.12.9.)

I therefore conclude that John Calvin leaves the determination of who is and is not elect up to God, excepting assurance of the individual, given by the Holy Spirit and the presence of a living faith.

Where does that leave our zealous Reformed pastor friend, so sure that I am not his "brother in Christ"?

Further discussion with another Calvinist friend, who wrote
in response to the above:

If you ever find a Reformed list where Catholics are respected as brothers in Christ, and actually engaged in rational discourse, by all means let me know. That would be fun.

I don't know why you think this is hard.

Because I am given conflicting opinions all the time: mostly anti-Catholic. Do you want me to assume that most Calvinists are ignorant of their own teachings, and so cannot be taken at face value?

Well, this is what I do with Catholics :) Call one of the Presbyterian pastors you mention on this page and ask them where to find doctrinal authority in their church. They'll tell you Westminster Confession and the decisions of the General Assembly. Call one of the reformed Churches, they'll tell you the Belgic Confession and the Synod. You want to know the Presbyterian position on baptism? Read chapter 28 of the Westminster Confession, or ch. 34 of the Belgic Confession (they teach the same thing). Calvin is highly respected, obviously, but the Institutes don't have official authority (though doctrinally they present the same position on baptism as Westminster and the Belgic confession).

Why, then, does this confusion (or misinformed opinion) about the status of the Catholic Church seem to be the status quo in Reformed circles?

(Which makes me wonder what the point of your page on Calvin and supralapsarian is - no Reformed confession endorses supralapsarianism, and most implicitly approve infralapsarianism.

My argument was that Calvin espoused it; if not explicitly, then, I think, by strong logical implication, as indeed many other Calvinists whom I cited, seemed to believe. And many not so sophisticated Calvinists do as well, I would say.

So why ask Calvinists to defend Calvin on a point at which most Calvinists disagree with Calvin?

Just for fun, I guess. :-) Originally, though, that paper arose from the Theology List, when I was challenged as to factuality (and whether or not I knew anything at all about what I claimed) by a Calvinist on the List. As usual, I was being insulted by my esteemed Calvinist brethren (and I do have a significant respect for them; that was only half tongue-in-cheek). This was my response.

I disagree with Augustine's teaching on double predestination, though I'd still call myself an Augustinian).

Well, he didn't teach that, as far as I know (certainly not as Calvin did), so I don't think you disagree with him in the first place!

I will look at the Westminster Confession, when I get in the mood some night and run out of things to do. But my main point was the confusion of "Calvinists" as a group of people, not "Calvinism" or Reformed Christianity as an official position as set down in Creeds and Confessions. I was curious that there was so much confusion (as my title itself indicated). That is a somewhat different issue than simply "what official Calvinism holds on thus-and-so."

On to the next point in that page, determining who is elect (assurance of one's own salvation is a different issue). As [Name] no doubt showed, the Reformed position is that no human being can know with certainty whether another person is truly one of the elect. This is just Augustinianism - there are many wolves within and sheep without, as he put it. But this does not mean if someone curses Christ and lives a life of gross sin, all I can do is shrug my shoulders and say, maybe he's saved, maybe he's not. He's not. Perhaps this person is actually elect and in the future will come to faith, but at that moment I can say, he's not saved. For some, an ex-evangelical who converts to Roman Catholicism may be the equivalent of this person. I don't agree with the criteria they use, but in principle there is nothing inconsistent in saying, "I don't know the with certainty if this person is elect, but this person isn't a Christian."

This is what I understand is the "mainstream" position, but again, if so, why is it so little understood? Is Reformed catechesis as bad as ours? God forbid! I hope not!

Don't get me started on this. Contrasting the biblical literacy and catechetical instruction of Presbyterian and Reformed Christians - even just last century, to say nothing of the 17th century - is like night and day. Admittedly, probably not as bad as it is in some denominations, but still depressingly bad.

But I'd say a lot of what you've encountered is just that everyone's an expert. I'd imagine you've met a few people who have read a few issues of Catholic Answers and half-dozen books who think they're ready to answer any question on Catholicism. I certainly know plenty of Presbyterians who think this way (lots of R.C. Sproul, no Calvin or Turretin), even though many of their views are holdovers from what they may have learned in fundamentalism or broader evangelicalism.

Saying you shouldn't be prayed for is of course nonsense, but you shouldn't take this kind of attitude as representative of Calvinists . . .

Yet I saw no one rebuke it on that board, and there were 175 people there. Why should I not think it is "representative" in such a bizarre, scandalous scenario, repeated now several times on a number of different lists and boards? That's just a rhetorical question, mind you; I don't think Reformed as a class are that dumb (and wicked). It troubles me, however, that anti-Catholicism is so extreme among those whom I actually regard as the most sophisticated and respectable Protestant theology and worldview.

I'm very troubled that I can't seem to find a single list where I can simply interact with Calvinists without all this frustrating and insulting baggage inevitably coming in, spoiling everything. I was so extremely disappointed and shocked by that list. You say this is not "mainstream" - why, then, can I not find a board where this sort of thing is not allowed? Don't you find that odd?

Hey, imagine how troubling it is that a Calvinist can't find a single list to interact with Calvinists without some nutcase dominating the discussion with goofy, simplistic opinions. Why do you think I'm off the Reformed list? Too many goofballs calling me a heretic for not giving complete affirmation to whatever their pet doctrine is. I sent an email to a friend not too long ago asking if he know of any decent lists for Reformed theology, and he had no suggestions. That's not to say there's nothing - there are good specialty lists, on biblical theology, the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, etc. - but not much good in terms of open discussion lists. But I found the same think in Orthodox and Catholic lists.

For a while I was on a few Orthodoxy lists, and many told me, don't take what you see here as represtantive of Orthodox churches in the real world. This was good advice - the internet is dominanted by the "True Orthodox," old calendar, etc. folk. For Reformed churches, the situation isn't quite as extreme, but similar - the extremes are much more vocal than the mainstream.

So that is an analogous process. Why is that? Why would the ecclesiological simpletons and "exclusivists" so dominate such venues?

Well, here's my theory, cynical as it may be - those with no real involvement in their church, family, community, etc. spend all their time online arguing. That's not to say everyone on the internet is a nut - obviously I wouldn't make such a statement in an email, and I know a number of solid people through the internet. But for some - I suspect it's either email lists or off to the mall to babble at strangers.

Just find me one respectable list; that's all I ask! :-) Even then, I will have a lot of trepidation. My trust will have to be earned the hard way, after that lamentable experience I had on Reformed List. Seeing is believing.

Catholics are nowhere near as confused about the Christian status of Protestants as a whole, as Reformed are about our status as a Christian institution. The ancient seed of Vatican II ecumenism goes back at least as far as Augustine's acceptance of Donatist baptism, if not back to Jesus' treatment of the Roman centurion, the Samaritan woman at the well, and other such biblical indications. Ecumenism did develop very rapidly in this century, though; no doubt about that.

Finally, there isn't an official Reformed position on the status of Catholics and the Catholic church. Why should you insist there must be one?

I thought there was! Now I am confused again (sigh). I guess you were just referring to baptism per se above, not Catholic baptism. Well, this would more than adequately account for the confusion, then, wouldn't it?

Certain denominations have had offical positions. The CRC. . . has a position against re-baptizing those baptized as Catholics, which is an implicit recognition that the RC church is not a false church. And Hodge wrote the article I mentioned before in part to get the Presbyterian Church to have an official position on RC baptism (incidentally, keep in mind Hodge wrote this before Vatican II, in the context of 19th century Roman Catholicism, which was, I think it's fair to say, pretty hard-line. I think it's especially interesting how irenic Hodge is, relatively speaking, about Trent). But of course there are some who think the RCC is utterly corrupt.

You know that Rome hasn't made an official pronouncement on every issue under the sun.

No, but it is pretty important, in my opinion, to know whether someone is a "brother in Christ" or not. Thinking the contrary obviously produces many undesirable, uncharitable, and unbiblical results (from my ecumenical Catholic perspective, and high concern for Christian unity insofar as possible, anyway).

I agree it's important, certainly more important than a lot of the nonsense people argue about in synod meetings. I suspect at some point soon some attention will need to be given to it, even if it is just pastoral advice on cooperation with Catholics on social issues.

Though there isn't an official position, the general consenus including Calvin, his successor Beza, and his successor Turretin, 19th c. American theologians Charles Hodge and John W. Nevin, J. Gresham Machen etc. all held that the Roman Catholic Church, while not a pure church, is nevertheless part of the true, visible Church of Christ on earth. . . (you'll find far less recourse to notions of an invisible church in Reformed writings than Catholics usually assume). Now, of course many Reformed Christians probably don't know Turretin's, or Hodge's, view on this and haven't read their arguments. At one time I didn't, and since I hadn't thought through the issue, probably would have disagreed with them. But so what? Your opinion of Calvinists is far too high if you expect them to know every point of their theology and history in detail.

No, no. I don't expect that at all. I am never surprised at ignorance (including my own, on the many occasions I discover it with regard to yet another tidbit of knowledge I didn't yet know). Again, what shocks and scandalizes me is the frequency and intensity of the anti-Catholicism, along with the confusion, given that (as you say) the "general consensus" is actually more ecumenical. I'm delighted to hear that the "consensus" is in that direction, but it's distressing to know that so few Calvinists (by appearances, anyway, and maybe the Internet is a bad sampling) seem to be aware of it.

"General consensus" of the most influential theologians, I should clarify, not the general consensus of Ian Paisley.

I observe the conflicting opinions on the ECT statements, e.g., with R.C. Sproul and D. James Kennedy on one side, and J.I. Packer and Charles Colson on the other: Calvinists all.

Yes, all Calvinists... but if you went around the world and asked Reformed Christians whether they agreed with J. I. Packer or D. James Kennedy, what do you think they'd say? I suspect it would be, Packer or who? And I haven't read much Sproul recently, and I know he's been very critical of ECT, but you wouldn't categorize him as an anti-Catholic, would you? He's always seemed much more knowledge and balanced than someone like James White.

A friend of mine told me recently that Harold O. J. Brown (professor at Reformed Seminary, among other things) has quit teaching seminars on soteriology, because he's convinced that evangelicals just don't understand Catholic teaching on soteriology. He's probably right.

But then I suppose I shouldn't ever be surprised by Protestant chaos and confusion, come to think of it.

Yes, be more consistent in your polemical gripes. But that's part of my complaint - until Rome does some serious housecleaning (like excommunicating Ted Kennedy, for a start - a man most confused and chaotic evangelical denominations would bar from the Communion table), pointing out Protestant chaos doesn't carry much weight.

I guess my dismay has to do directly with my growing admiration of the better, more respectable aspects of Calvinism as I have come to understand it over time, thanks to people such as you, who take the trouble to more carefully explain the positions.

If you put your faith in Christ for your salvation, I (and I think Calvin with me) would make a judgement of charity (though Calvin would no doubt blast you for being baptized three times).

LOL Just "twice" (conditional being a different category). If one comes to believe in adult baptism, shouldn't they follow their conscience? That's all I did in 1982. But my real baptism was in 1958 (short of the Methodist minister being a flaming liberal or Unitarian or something, in which case it would be 1982, but not 1990 in any event; that was just dear old Fr. Hardon [RIP] being very careful and "making sure." He almost drowned our first two sons in baptism, making sure they got well-baptized . . . :-).

I agree with you that - doctrinally, one goes to the official documents. I've believed that for 20 years now, since my days as an evangelical cult researcher, where this was stressed, for obvious reasons. And it is common sense. But that wasn't exactly what I was driving at in my critique of Calvinists. Asking (rhetorically) "why are Calvinists so confused, generally speaking, about Catholicism?" is not the same thing as saying "Anti-Catholicism is the official stance of Calvinism, as indicated in its Creeds."

No, they're very different questions. The first is sociological, the second is theological. And there are a variety of reasons for the first. Here's my take on them:

1) Fundamentalists aren't just becoming Catholics or Orthodox. Many are becoming Presbyterians or Lutherans, but they often carry with them certain strong anti-Catholic views.

2) The U.S. has always had a strong strain of anti-Catholicism. That comes in part from the Puritans, though really their "anti-Catholicism" was actually more directed at the Church of England and it's hesitancy to reform as much as the Puritans would have liked (not that they were big fans of the Pope, though).

3) More specifically, the South has had a strong strain of anti-Catholicism, and the Southern Presbyterian church especially. Hodge wrote his article on Rome as a visible church as part of a debate with James Henley Thornwell, the most prominent Southern Presbyterian theologian, who rejected the validity of RC baptism (he also misunderstood the confessional view of baptism in the Reformed confessions, but that's another story). Guess what the origins of the Presbyterian Church in America, the church home of probably at least half the people on the Reformed list?: Southern Presbyterian.

4) Turretin, Hodge, Westminster, etc. set forth nuanced views on the topic. For example, the WCF (in the original, deleted by about every Presbyterian denomination today) states that the Pope is the antichrist. But this does not mean that simply because there is a pope, the church he leads is a false church. It also states that there has never been a time (including pre-Reformation) when the true, visible church did not exist on the earth. That's not a contradiction, but it does take some explanation of the nuances, and the theological minimalism that is popular among Christians today doesn't like nuances much.

And of course, there is such a thing as anti-Protestantism. I had a discussion with a woman who runs a Catholic book store in Iowa, who simply did not, would not, believe that I could be pro-life, because I was a Presbyterian.

Turretin??!! One citation [Name] gave me sure didn't appear that way, but then, I guess there are nuances there too.

I probably shouldn't have included Turretin in the list, since he is much more negative in his evaluation than the others. Yet, there's always a nuance in Turretin. He does deny that Rome is a true church, period. Yet, he then goes on to affirm that it can "relatively and improperly" be called a Christian church, because there are true Christians in it, that the true form of the sacraments have been preserved, and that there is true teaching on "Christian and evangelical truths." So the question is, what does he mean by "improper." I think it means inadequate, not full, but this does not mean false. And with Calvin, who defined a true church as a group of baptized Christians gathering to hear the Word of God and partake in the sacrament, could affirm there were true congregations in the otherwise corrupt RCC.

By the way, I think Turretin also has the best formulations of faith and justification. It couldn't be affirmed by Catholics, I don't think but it is probably less shocking than more extreme formuations: faith alone does not justify, but only faith justifies; the coexistence of love with faith in him who is justified is not denied, but its co-efficiency or cooperation in justification." "The question is not whether solitary faith - that is, separated from the other virtues - justifies, which we grant could not easily be the case since it is not even true and living faith; but whether it alone concurs to the act of justification, which we assert: as the eye alone sees, but not when torn out of the body."

Well, thanks for the good discussion. I would appreciate any more information in this regard, just for my own education, and so I can point this out to Calvinists who are uninformed of the "general consensus" of their own tradition (I'm sure they'll love me for that!).