Sunday, August 02, 2009

Martin Luther's Views on St. Augustine & Other Church Fathers: Contradictions, Falsehoods, & Dishonesty (+ Does Lutheranism = the Early Church?)

[Luther2.gif]
1521 Woodcut by Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545)


Numbered excerpts are from Ewald M. Plass's book of Luther citations, What Luther Says (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959; one-volume edition; tenth printing, 1994).

* * * * *
I ask the papists to note that I am doing them no injustice. They must certainly confess that their cause is not grounded in Scripture and that their faith and practice (Wesen) did not exist at the time of the apostles and martyrs -- when the church was at its best -- but was invented by men. My cause, however, is not contrary to Scripture, as they themselves must say, but is pure Scripture. . . . Let him who does not want Scripture stick to his own. We want Christ and not the pope. They, on the other hand, keep the pope and not Christ . . .

(#3766, pp. 1178-1179; preface to sermon on Luke 17:11-19 in 1521)

All the world . . . must confess that we have the Gospel just as genuinely and purely as the apostles had it and that it has completely attained its original purity.

(#2688, p. 861; address to the councilmen of Germany in 1524)

The papists themselves know and confess . . . that our teaching is not contrary to any article of faith or Holy Scripture . . . Therefore they have no right to dub us "heretics" . . .

(#2699, p. 864; advice to friends after the Diet of Augsburg in 1530)

We teach nothing new. We teach what is old and what the apostles and all godly teachers have taught, inculcated, and established before us.

(#2689, p. 861; exposition of Galatians 1:4 in 1531; citation also in LW, vol. 26, p. 39: "We are not teaching anything novel; we are repeating and confirming old doctrines"; in that source it is dated at 1535)

This message is not a novel invention of ours but the very ancient, approved teaching of the apostles brought to light again. Neither have we invented a new Baptism, Sacrament of the Altar, Lord's Prayer, and Creed; nor do we desire to know or to have anything new in Christendom. We only contend for, and hold to, the ancient: that which Christ and the apostles have left behind them and have given to us. But this we did do. Since we found all of this obscured by the pope with human doctrine, aye, decked out in dust and spider webs and all sorts of vermin, and flung and trodden into the mud besides, we have by God's grace brought it out again, have cleansed it of this mess (Geschmeiss), wiped off the dust, brushed it, and brought it to the light of day. Accordingly, it shines again in purity, and everybody may see what Gospel, Baptism, Sacrament of the Altar, keys, prayer, and everything that Christ has given us really is and how it should be used for our salvation.

(#3771, pp. 1180-1181; exposition of John 16:13 in 1537; citation also in LW, vol. 24, p. 368)

We have the true doctrine, we know that we do not err, and we refuse to be called schismatics in the sight of God because of our teaching; for the Word of God is beyond criticism (unstraflich). Although they are calling us heretics, God and our hearts know that they are doing us an injustice. Moreover, they themselves know that our teaching is that of Holy Scripture . . . But as long as God is gracious to us, let the devil with all his crew be angry.

(#2696, p. 864; sermon on John 3:25-27 on 28 June, 1539)

We bear a great load of hatred because it is said that we have fallen away from the ancient church . . . But we are falsely accused. For if we want to confess the truth, we must say that we fell away from the Word when we were still in their church. Now we have returned to the Word and have ceased to be apostates from the Word.

(#2690, p. 862; lectures on Genesis 7:16-24, c. 1539; citation also in LW, vol. 2, p. 102, along with the delightful statement on p. 101: "we are His church, but . . . the papists are the church of Satan.")

This theology was not born with us, as those blasphemers, the papists, clamor. It was neither thought up nor invented by us. The holy Paul transmits it and cites Moses as a witness for it . . .

(#2687, p. 861; lectures on Genesis 15:6, c. 1539; citation also in LW, vol. 3, p. 26)

But what would you say if I were to prove that we stayed with the true, ancient church, nay, that we are the true, ancient church, but that you fell away from us, that is, from the ancient church, and established a new church, in opposition to the ancient one? . . .

Now the papists know that in all these points and in whatever other points there are we agree with the ancient church and may in truth be called the ancient church. For these points of doctrine are not new, nor have we invented them. One therefore wonders how they (our adversaries) can afford to belie and condemn us so shamelessly as people who have fallen away fro the church and have "started a new church." After all, they can find nothing new about us, nothing that was not held in the ancient and true church at the time of the apostles.

(#2695, p. 863; Against Hans Wurst (Jack Sausage), 1541; written to Count Henry of Brunswick)

Is it not provoking that the Word of the Lord Christ, nay, of the holy prophets and fathers from the beginning of the world, should be called a "new faith" by those who call themselves Christians? For we certainly neither preach nor desire to preach anything that differs from what you yourself read in the writings of the prophets and the apostles . . . And this doctrine of the Gospel is to be called nothing but a novelty! Why? Because men neither knew it nor preached it twenty or thirty years ago. They do not want to know (what as teachers of Christendom they certainly should teach others) that this is the doctrine and the faith which for fifteen hundred years since the birth of Christ, nay, longer, for five thousand years from the beginning of the world, was preached by the fathers and the prophets and is clearly revealed in Holy Scripture.

(#2686, pp. 860-861; sermon on Luke 19:41-48 at Leipzig on 12 August 1545)

We can prove that our faith is not new and of unknown origin but that it is the oldest faith of all, which began and continued from the beginning of the world.

(#2685, p. 860; sermon on Matthew 8:23-27 on 31 January 1546)

* * * * *

So Luther thinks Lutheranism is the "ancient church" of the apostles and fathers (while Catholicism fell away from the same), yet on the other hand he contradicts himself by noting that the fathers were often wrong (even en masse, not just in isolated cases) in their theology:
I tell you it is difficult to stand before the impact (Puff) of the argument that holy people such as St. Augustine and others were subject to error. For about twenty years I have been greatly concerned about this matter, have argued with myself about it, and have been troubled by the fact that one does not believe all the pope says; likewise, that the church should be in error, and that I should really believe all that the fathers say. This view certainly had a great appearance and reputation, for they were considered great teachers of the church, and all emperors, kings, and princes of the world held to them and their teaching; and all the multitudes in the papacy (which possesses the kingdoms and the goods of the world) hold to their view. What are we compared to them? A small, poor, lowly flock . . .

No one believes what a great obstacle this is and how deeply it offends a person to teach and believe something contrary to the fathers. I, too, have often had this experience. Again, it is an offense to see that so many fine, sensible, learned people, nay, the better and greater part of the world, have held and taught this and that; likewise, so many holy people, as St. Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine. Nevertheless the one Man, my dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, must certainly mean more to me than all the holiest people on earth, nay, more even than all the angels of heaven if they teach otherwise than the Gospel teaches or if they add anything to, or detract anything from, the teaching of the divine Word. When I read the books of St. Augustine and find that he, too, did this and that, it truly disconcerts me very much. When to this is added the cry: Church! Church! that hurts most of all. For it is truly a difficult task to conquer your own heart in this matter and to depart from the people who enjoy a great reputation and such a holy name, aye, from the church herself, and no longer to rely on and believe her teaching. But I mean that church of which they say: The church has decreed that the rule of St. Francis and St. Dominic, and the order of monks and nuns, is right, Christian, and good. This truly offends a person. However, I must, in a word, answer that I need not pick up everything that anybody says; for a man may be a pious and God-fearing person and yet be in error.

(#2710-2711, p. 868; sermon on John 3:23-24 on 16 March 1538)
As with most anti-Catholic rhetoric, then and now, there are always vague yet sweeping, confident accusations of more or less complete apostasy, while there is a corresponding unwillingness to stake claims as to when and how all of this momentous corruption took place. The mythical "case against Catholicism" weakens and starts to collapse in direct proportion to how specific it is, and with attempted content and substance. Lutheranism is the ancient Church, but at the same time it isn't, because all those fathers were mere men and erred constantly, and we must follow Christ alone and the Bible, etc., etc. ad nauseum. This is the self-contradiction running through the whole Lutheran claim regarding its ancient pedigree. It is only "ancient" when it agrees with Catholic teachings. When it does not, it isn't ancient; it is a novelty and corruption. It's really as simple as that.

The Catholic Church either fell away shortly after the apostolic age, or it did indeed preserve the Christian faith entire and intact in the nearly 15oo years between the apostles and the birth of Prophet Luther: Restorer of the Gospel and All Good Christian Things. If it preserved apostolic doctrine at all, then there is a legitimate patristic tradition that the Catholic Church can rightly draw from (as it does). Luther cannot discount Church history entirely, so he gives lip service to it now and then. In the same exposition on John 16:13 cited above, Luther also wrote:
. . . our predecessors also had the same scripture, Baptism, and everything. Yet it was all so soiled with mud and so encrusted with filth that no one could recognize it . . . this same teaching and Scripture has also been accepted by the pope and all the sects.

(LW, vol. 24, p. 368)
Luther could be remarkably deferential to Catholic Tradition when it served his purpose. Perhaps the most striking instance of this occurred in his treatise, Concerning Rebaptism: A Letter to Two Pastors, from 1528 (LW, vol. 40, 225-262):
[231] In the first place I hear and see that such rebaptism is undertaken by some in order to spite the pope and to be free of any taint of the Antichrist. In the same way the foes of the sacrament want to believe only in bread and wine, in opposition to the pope, thinking thereby really to overthrow the papacy. It is indeed a shaky foundation on which they can build nothing good. On that basis we would have to disown the whole of Scripture and the office of the ministry, which of course we have received from the papacy. We would also have to make a new Bible.

. . . We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy; indeed everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from this source. For instance we confess that in the papal church there are the true holy Scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord's Prayer, [232] the Ten Commandments, and the articles of the creed . . . I speak of what the pope and we have in common . . . I contend that in the papacy there is true Christianity, even the right kind of Christianity and many great and devoted saints.

. . . The Christendom that now is under the papacy is truly the body of Christ and a member of it. If it is his body, then it has the true spirit, gospel, faith, baptism, sacrament, keys, the office of the ministry, prayer, holy Scripture, and everything that pertains to Christendom. So we are all still under the papacy and therefrom have received our Christian treasures.

. . . We do not rave as do the rebellious spirits, so as to reject everything that is found in the papal church. For then we would cast out even Christendom from the temple of God, and all that it contained of Christ. . . .

. . . [256] if the first, or child, baptism were not right, it would follow that for more than a thousand years there was no baptism or any Christendom, which is impossible. For in that case the article of the creed, I believe in one holy Christian church, would be false . . . [257] If this baptism is wrong then for that long period Christendom would have been without baptism, and if it were without baptism it would not be Christendom.

(LW, vol. 40, pp. 231-232, 256-257)
Luther was equally adamant about the true tradition of the Holy Eucharist:
Moreover, this article has been unanimously believed and held from the beginning of the Christian Church to the present hour, as may be shown from the books and writings of the dear fathers, both in the Greek and Latin languages, -- which testimony of the entire holy Christian Church ought to be sufficient for us, even if we had nothing more. For it is dangerous and dreadful to hear or believe anything against the unanimous testimony, faith, and doctrine of the entire holy Christian Church, as it has been held unanimously in all the world up to this year 1500. Whoever now doubts of this, he does just as much as if he believed in no Christian Church, and condemns not only the entire holy Christian Church as a damnable heresy, but Christ Himself, and all the Apostles and Prophets, who founded this article, when we say, “I believe in a holy Christian Church,” to which Christ bears powerful testimony in Matt. 28.20: “Lo, I am with you alway, to the end of the world,” and Paul, in 1 Tim. 3.15: “The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.”

(Letter to Albrecht, Margrave of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, 1532, cited by Philip Schaff in The Life and Labours of St. Augustine, Oxford University: 1854, 95. Italics are Schaff’s own; partially cited also in Roland Bainton, Studies on the Reformation, Boston: Beacon Press, 1963, 26; from WA, Vol. XXX, 552)
Schaff, writing in The Reformed Quarterly Review (July, 1888, p. 295), cites the passage and (apparently due to better sources) translates one portion a little differently (my italics):
The testimony of the entire holy Christian Church (even without any other proof) should be sufficient for us to abide by this article and to listen to no sectaries against it.
So he claims to be upholding the "sacrament of the altar" yet he has ditched eucharistic adoration and the notion of the sacrifice of the mass, which were every bit as much of the ancient Christian understanding of the Holy Eucharist as the Real Presence (that he retains without accepting a complete change of substance; in 1520 he called transubstantiation "a monstrous idea" and the Mass "wicked"). Therefore, if the Church went off the rails in these matters, it did so very early on. At least (given the choice) Luther have preferred transubstantiation to the bare eucharistic symbolism of Zwingli and the Anabaptists:
Before I would drink mere wine with the Enthusiasts, I would rather have pure blood with the Pope.

(in Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, translated by Robert C. Schultz, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966, 376; from the early 1520s; cf. LW, vol. 37, 317)
Again in 1538 Luther writes:
Yes, we ourselves find it difficult to refute it, especially since we concede -- as we must -- that so much of what they say is true: that the papacy has God's word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scripture, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them? Therefore, faith, the Christian Church, Christ, and the Holy Spirit must also be found among them. . . .

Thus we are also compelled to say: "I believe and am sure that the Christian Church has remained even in the papacy" . . . And yet some of the papists are true Christians, even though they, too, have been led astray, as Christ foretold in Matt. 24:24. But by the grace of God and with His help they have been preserved in a wonderful manner.

(Exposition on John 16:1-2; 1538; LW, vol. 24, 304-305; WA, Vol. 46, 5 ff.)
Luther's self-contradictory thought can be seen in the remarks in the same context that were passed over by the ellipses above:
On the other hand, I know that most of the papists are not the Christian Church, even though they give everyone the impression that they are. Today our popes, cardinals, and bishops are not God's apostles and bishops; they are the devil's. And their people are not God's people; they are the devil's. And yet . . .
So the Catholic Church is or was the true Church but it wasn't and isn't (and/but it is, nonetheless, despite almost universal apostasy, else Lutheranism couldn't have received all the truly Christian endowments from it). If Luther wasn't given to such extreme rhetoric back and forth, perhaps his message could at least be self-consistent. But he can't sit there in the face of massive contrary historical facts, and say that Lutheranism hasn't changed anything that was orthodox and true and good from the previous 1500 years. I myself have documented that Luther took different views in no less than 50 areas, just in the three treatises of 1520 alone:
1. Separation of justification from sanctification.
2. Extrinsic, forensic, imputed notion of justification.
3. Fiduciary faith.
4. Private judgment over against ecclesial infallibility.
5. Tossing out seven books of the Bible.
6. Denial of venial sin.
7. Denial of merit.
8. The damned should be happy that they are damned and accept God's will.
9. Jesus offered Himself for damnation and possible hellfire.
10. No good work can be done except by a justified man.
11. All baptized men are priests (denial of the sacrament of ordination).
12. All baptized men can give absolution.
13. Bishops do not truly hold that office; God has not instituted it.
14. Popes do not truly hold that office; God has not instituted it.
15. Priests have no special, indelible character.
16. Temporal authorities have power over the Church; even bishops and popes; to assert the contrary was a mere presumptuous invention.
17. Vows of celibacy are wrong and should be abolished.
18. Denial of papal infallibility.
19. Belief that unrighteous priests or popes lose their authority (contrary to Augustine's rationale against the Donatists).
20. The keys of the kingdom were not just given to Peter.
21. Private judgment of every individual to determine matters of faith.
22. Denial that the pope has the right to call or confirm a council.
23. Denial that the Church has the right to demand celibacy of certain callings.
24. There is no such vocation as a monk; God has not instituted it.
25. Feast days should be abolished, and all church celebrations confined to Sundays.
26. Fasts should be strictly optional.
27. Canonization of saints is thoroughly corrupt and should stop.
28. Confirmation is not a sacrament.
29. Indulgences should be abolished.
30. Dispensations should be abolished.
31. Philosophy (Aristotle as prime example) is an unsavory, detrimental influence on Christianity.
32. Transubstantiation is "a monstrous idea."
33. The Church cannot institute sacraments.
34. Denial of the "wicked" belief that the mass is a good work.
35. Denial of the "wicked" belief that the mass is a true sacrifice.
36. Denial of the sacramental notion of ex opere operato.
37. Denial that penance is a sacrament.
38. Assertion that the Catholic Church had "completely abolished" even the practice of penance.
39. Claim that the Church had abolished faith as an aspect of penance.
40. Denial of apostolic succession.
41. Any layman who can should call a general council.
42. Penitential works are worthless.
43. None of what Catholics believe to be the seven sacraments have any biblical proof.
44. Marriage is not a sacrament.
45. Annulments are a senseless concept and the Church has no right to determine or grant annulments.
46. Whether divorce is allowable is an open question.
47. Divorced persons should be allowed to remarry.
48. Jesus allowed divorce when one partner committed adultery.
49. The priest's daily office is "vain repetition."
50. Extreme unction is not a sacrament (there are only two sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist).
Now, would anyone in their right mind suggest that these 50 things changed nothing that was present in the "ancient Church"? Obviously, they can easily be traced back, with plenty of documentation. I've done much of this myself. I just showed in a paper, for example, that St. Augustine believed in all seven Catholic sacraments. But Luther retained only two (see above: #11, 12, 15, 28, 33, 37, 42, 43, 44, 50). So for 1500 years according to Luther, five of the sacraments were an aspect of the "church of Satan" and no part of Christian truth. That would come as strange news indeed to the Church fathers.

Luther's and Lutherans' opinion of St. Augustine in particular is a fascinating study (Luther having once been an Augustinian monk). I have written about that previously, in a joint project with Anglican Church historian, Dr. Edwin Tait: The Ambiguous Relationship of Luther and the Early Protestants to St. Augustine. Later in life Luther let down his guard altogether and said things like the following about the Church fathers:
Behold what great darkness is in the books of the Fathers concerning faith . . . Augustine wrote nothing to the purpose concerning faith. (#526)

The more I read the books of the Fathers, the more I find myself offended. (#530)

Jerome should not be numbered among the teachers of the church, for he was a heretic. (#535)

(Table-Talk; edition translated by William Hazlitt, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, n.d., 286-289)

The Lutherans who followed Luther became even more far-fetched in their historical claims. I wrote in the above paper:
I looked up every single reference to St. Augustine in my copy of the Book of Concord (the doctrinal standard for Lutheranism). Without exception it claims that Augustine is in full agreement with Lutheran doctrine. Furthermore, it makes outright false factual claims, such as that Augustine denied ex opere operato (the notion that the sacraments have inherent power apart from the dispenser or recipient), purgatory . . .

So we see the usual Protestant project of trying to co-opt the Fathers (above all, St. Augustine) for their purposes and views (in an effort to show that Protestantism is entirely "catholic" and in accord with the best of all previous Christian tradition), in the Book of Concord. But the attempt fails miserably, because, as we have seen, modern Protestant scholarship shows many profound differences between Protestantism and St. Augustine, particularly with regard to soteriology and justification in particular.
Philip Melanchthon, in his letter to Johann Brenz (May 1531), illustrates how the Protestants had departed from patristic precedent:
Avert your eyes from such a regeneration of man and from the Law and look only to the promises and to Christ . . . Augustine is not in agreement with the doctrine of Paul, though he comes nearer to it than do the Schoolmen. I quote Augustine as in entire agreement, although he does not sufficiently explain the righteousness of faith; this I do because of public opinion concerning him.

(in Hartmann Grisar, Luther, six volumes, translated by E. M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 2nd edition, 1914, vol. 4, 459-460)
Dr. Tait translated a portion of the above:
Augustine does not fully accord with Paul’s pronouncement, even though he gets closer to it than the Scholastics. And I cite Augustine as fully agreeing with us on account of the public conviction about him, even though he does not explain the righteousness of faith well enough.
He noted that the Protestants were not straightforwardly telling the entire truth about St. Augustine:
They were not above claiming Augustine and neglecting to make it clear that the agreement was not total.

. . . at least one Reformer was willing to exaggerate the degree of Augustine's agreement with him for polemical purposes.

It certainly does indicate Melanchthon's use of some degree of "dissimulation" . . .

Luther biographer Hartmann Grisar elaborates on Melanchthon's questionable approach to St. Augustine in this respect:
We must come back in detail to the allegations made in the Confession, and more particularly in the Apology that Augustine was in favour of the Lutheran doctrine of Justification ; this is all the more necessary since Reformers, at the outset, were fond of claiming the authority of Augustine on their behalf. . . . According to the authentic version, Melanchthon's words were: "That, concerning the doctrine of faith, no new interpretation had been introduced, could be proved from Augustine, who treats diligently of this matter and teaches that we obtain grace and are justified before God by faith in Christ and not by works, as his whole book De Spiritu et littera proves."

The writer of these words felt it necessary to explain to Brenz why he had ventured to claim this Father as being in "entire agreement." He had done so because this was "the general opinion concerning him (propter publicam de eo persuasionem), 3 though, as a matter of fact, he did not sufficiently expound the justificatory potency of faith. . . . In the Apology of the Confession, he continues, "I expounded more fully the doctrine [of faith alone], but was not able to speak there as I do now to you, although, on the whole, I say the same thing; it was not to be thought of on account of the calumnies of our opponents." Thus in the Apology also, even when it was a question of the cardinal point of the new teaching, Melanchthon was of set purpose having recourse to dissimulation. If he had only to fear the calumnies of opponents, surely his best plan would have been to silence them by telling them in all frankness what the Lutheran position really was ; otherwise he had no right to stigmatise their attack on weak points of Luther s doctrine as mere calumnies. Yet, even in the "Apologia," he appeals repeatedly to Augustine in order to shelter the main Lutheran contentions concerning faith, grace, and good works under the aegis of his name. 4

[Footnotes:

2 " Symb. Biicher," p. 45. The Latin text runs : " Tola hcec causa habet testimonia patrum. Nam Augustinus multis voluminibus defendit gratiam et iustitiam ftdei contra merita operum. Et similia docet Ambrosius. . . . Quamquam autem haec doctrina (iustiflcationis) contemnitur ab imperitis, tamen experiuntur pice ac pavidce conscientice plurimam cam consolationis afferre."

3 In the letter to Brenz mentioned above.

4 Cp. the passages, " Symb. Biicher," pp. 92, 104, 151, 218. On p. 104 in the article De iustificatione he quotes Augustine, De spir. et litt., in support of Luther's interpretation of Paul s doctrine of Justification. On p. 218 he foists this assertion on the Catholics, "homines sine Spiritu Sancto posse . . . mereri gratiam et iustificationem operibus," and says, that this was refuted by Augustine, " cuius sententiam supra in articulo de iustificatione recitavimus."

(in Grisar, ibid., vol. 3, pp. 333-334)

We can understand how Dollinger, in his work Die Reformation, after referring to Melanchthon's palpable self-contradictions, speaks of his solemn appeal to the doctrine of St. Augustine as an intentional and barefaced piece of deception, an untruth "which he deemed himself allowed." Dollinger, without mincing matters, speaks of his "dishonesty," and relentlessly brands his misleading statements ; they leave us to choose between two alternatives, either he was endeavouring to deceive and trick the Catholics, or he had surrendered the most important and distinctive Protestant doctrines, and was ready to lend a hand in re-establishing the Catholic teaching.

[Footnote: 5 Die Reformation, 1, p. 358 ff. The page-heading reads: "Melanchthons absichtliche und Gffentlicho Uiiwahrheit."]

(Grisar, ibid., vol. 3, 342)
Grisar provides several instances of Luther's own dishonesty in presenting the (alleged) opinions of St. Augustine:
Luther cannot assure us sufficiently often that man is nothing but sin, and sins in everything. His reason is that concupiscence remains in man after baptism. This concupiscence he looks upon as real sin, in fact it is the original sin, enduring original sin, so that original sin is not removed by baptism, remains obdurate to all subsequent justifying grace, and, until death, can, at the utmost, only be diminished. He says expressly, quite against the Church's teaching, that original sin is only covered over in baptism, and he tries to support this by a misunderstood text from Augustine and by misrepresenting Scholasticism.

Augustine teaches with clearness and precision in many passages that original sin is blotted out by baptism and entirely remitted; Luther, however, quotes him to the opposite effect. The passage in question occurs in De nuptiis et concupiscentia (1., c. xxv., n. 28) where Luther makes this Father say: sin (peccatum) is forgiven in baptism, not so that it no longer remains, but that it is no longer imputed. Whereas what Augustine actually says is : the concupiscence of the flesh is forgiven, etc.
("dimitti concupiscentiam carnis non ut non sit, sed ut in peccatum non imputetur"). And yet Luther was acquainted with the true reading of the passage which is really opposed to his view as he had annotated it in the margin of the Sentences of Peter Lombard, where it is correctly given. Luther, after having thus twisted the passage as above, employs if frequently later. In the original lecture on the Epistle to the Romans he has, it is true, added to the text, after the word "peccatum," the word "concupiscentia," as the new editor points out, in excuse of
Luther. But on the preceding page Luther adds in exactly the same way in two passages of his own text where he speaks of "peccatum," the word " concupiscentia," so that his addition to Augustine cannot be regarded as a mere correction of a false citation, all the less since the incorrect form is found unaltered elsewhere in his writings. . . .

Luther was able to introduce the continuance of original sin into Augustine's writings only by forcing their meaning (see above, his alteration of concupiscentia into peccatum, p. 98).

(in Hartmann Grisar, Luther, six volumes, translated by E. M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 2nd edition, 1914, vol. 1, 98-99, 156)


Luther also quotes St. Augustine, but does not interpret him correctly. He even overlooks the fact that this Father, in one of the passages alleged, says the very opposite to his new ideas on unconditional predestination to hell, and attributes in every case the fate of the damned to their own moral misdeeds. Augustine says, in his own profound, concise way, in the text quoted by Luther: "the saved may not pride himself on his merits, and the damned may only bewail his demerits." 1 In his meditations on the ever-inscrutable mystery he regards the sinner's fault as entirely voluntary, and his revolt against the eternal God as, on this account, worthy of eternal damnation. Augustine teaches that "to him as to every man who comes into this world " salvation was offered with a wealth of means of grace and with all the merits of Christ's bitter death on the cross. 2

[Footnotes:

1 " Schol. Rom.," p. 230, and August., "Enchiridion ad Laurent.," c. 98, Migne, P. L., xl., p. 278.

2 S. Aug., "Contra lulianum," 6, n. 8, 14, 24; "Opus imperf.," 1, c. 64, c. 132 seq., 175 : " De catechiz. rudibus," n. 52 ; " De spiritu et litt.," c. 33 ; "Retract," 1, c. 10, n. 2. Cp. Comely, p. 494, on some exegetical peculiarities of Augustine. ]

(in Grisar, ibid., vol. 1, 195-196)

He continued to rifle St. Augustine's writings for passages which were apparently favourable to his views. He says, later, that he ran through the writings of this Father of the Church with such eagerness that he devoured rather than read them. He certainly did not allow himself sufficient time to appreciate properly the profound teachings of this, the greatest Father of the Church, and best authority on grace and justification. Even Protestant theologians now admit that he quoted Augustine where the latter by no means agrees with him. His own friends and contemporaries, such as Melanchthon, for instance, admitted the contradiction existing between Luther s ideas and those of St. Augustine on the most vital points; it was, however, essential that this Father of the Church, so Melanchthon writes to one of his confidants, should be cited as in "entire agreement" on account of the high esteem in which he was generally held. Luther himself was, consciously or unconsciously, in favour of these tactics; he tampered audaciously with the text of the Doctor of the Church in order to extract from his writings proofs favourable to his own doctrine; or at the very least, trusting to his memory, he made erroneous citations, when it would have been easy for him to verify the quotations at their source; the only excuse to be alleged on his behalf in so grave a matter of faith and conscience is his excessive precipitation and his superficiality.

(in Grisar, ibid., vol. 1, 305-306)

However his convictions may have stood, he certainly, in his earlier writings, claimed Augustine in support of his doctrine of the absence of free-will, particularly on account of a passage in the work "Contra Julianum," which Luther repeats and applies under various forms. [1, 2, c. 8, n. 23] There can, of course, be no question of St. Augustine's having actually been a partisan, whether here or elsewhere, of the Lutheran doctrine of the "enslaved will." " These and other passages from St. Augustine which Luther quotes in proof of the unfreedom of the will really tell against him; he either tears them from their context or else he falsifies their meaning." He is equally unfair when, in his Commentary on Romans and frequently elsewhere, he appeals to this Doctor of the Church in defence of his opinion, that, after baptism, sin really still persists in man, likewise in his doctrine of concupiscence in general, where he even fails to quote his texts correctly. He alters the sense of Augustine's words with regard to the keeping of God s commandments, the difference between venial and mortal sin, and the virtues of the just.

(in Grisar, ibid., vol. 4, 459)
Luther (not able to ever totally shake off the great Augustine) was still referring to him as unique among the fathers (while dishonestly slamming all the other fathers) as late as 1541:
We find not merely obscurity, but actual error, particularly in his account of the traditional interpretation and that which he had himself begun to advocate of the lustitia Dei (Rom. i. 17). Luther is, in this matter, the originator of the great legend still current even in our own day, which represents him as a Columbus discovering therein the central truth set forth by Paul ; no one had been able to find the key to the passage before his glance penetrated to the truth. All the learned men of earlier times had said that iustitia there meant the avenging Justice of an angry God. As a matter of fact, in Luther's lectures on Genesis in 1540-41, it is asserted that all the doctors of the Church, with the exception of Augustine, had misunderstood the verses Romans i. 16 f.; Luther s Preface to his Latin works to some extent presupposes the same, for he says that he had, " according to the custom and use of all doctors" ("usu et consuetudine omnium doctorum doctus"), understood the passage as meaning that justice " by which God is Just and punishes sin," and only Augustine, with whom he had made common cause, had found the right interpretation ("iustitiam Dei interpretatur, qua nos Deus induit"), although even the latter did not teach imputation clearly (see above, p. 392). . . .

Denifle, . . . proves by the testimony of more than sixty interpreters of antiquity, that all are unanimous in taking the iustitia Dei in St. Paul in the same sense as St. Augustine, viz. as the Justice by which God renders men just.

(in Grisar, ibid., vol. 1, pp. 400-401)
Grisar writes of Luther's conflicted, ambivalent relationship to St. Augustine:
It is not surprising that at a later date Luther hesitated to appeal to St. Augustine in support of his doctrine so confidently as he once had done. Augustine and all the Doctors of the Church are decidedly against him. On the publication of the complete edition of his works in Latin Luther expressed himself in the preface very diplomatically concerning Augustine: "In the matter of imputation he does not explain everything clearly." Naturally the greatest teacher on grace, who lays such stress on its supernatural character and its gifts in the soul of the righteous, could not fail to disagree with him, seeing that Luther s system culminates in the assurance, that grace is the merest imputation in which man has no active share, a mere favour on God s part, "favor Dei." . . .

. . . his strictures on Augustine and the Fathers in his lectures of 1527 on the 1st Epistle of St. John, and in his later Table-Talk prove, that, as time went on he had given up all idea of finding in these authorities any confirmation of his doctrine on faith alone and works.

(in Grisar, ibid., vol. 4, 439, 458-459)
In conclusion, let's marvel at Luther's numerous self-exalting, comically surreal utterances placing himself far above the fathers:
"On one occasion when I was consoling a man on the loss of his son he, too, said to me: You will see, Martin, you will become a great man ! I often call this to mind, for such words have something of the omen or oracle about them." . . .

"In Popery such darkness prevailed that they taught neither the Ten Commandments, nor the Creed, nor the Our Father ; such knowledge was considered quite superfluous." . . .

"Before my day nothing was known," . . .

"I wrote so usefully and splendidly concerning the secular authorities as no teacher has ever done since Apostolic times, save perhaps St. Augustine; of this I may boast with a good conscience, relying on the testimony of the whole world."

[Vom Kriege widder die Turcken, 1529]

. . . " Not one of the Fathers ever wrote anything remarkable or particularly good concerning matrimony. ... In marriage they saw only evil luxury. . . . They fell into the ocean of sensuality and evil lusts." " But [by my preaching] God with His Word and by His peculiar Grace has restored, before the Last Day, matrimony, secular authority and the preaching office to their rightful position, as He instituted and ordained them, in order that we might behold His own institutions in what hitherto had been but shams."

The Papists "know nothing about Holy Scripture, or what God is ... or what Baptism or the Sacrament." But thanks to me "we now have the Gospel almost as pure and undefiled as the Apostles had it."

"Not for a thousand years has God bestowed such great gifts on any bishop as He has on me; for it is our duty to extol God's gifts." . . .

"Our Lord God had to summon Moses six times; me, too, He has led in the same way. . . . Others who lived before me attacked the wicked and scandalous life of the Pope; but I assailed his very doctrine and stormed in upon the monkery and the Mass, on which two pillars the whole Papacy rests. . . ."

"I am he to whom God first revealed it."

"Show me a single passage on justification by faith in the Decrees, Decretals, Clementines, " Liber Sextus " or "Extravagantes," in any of the Summas, books of Sentences, monkish sermons, synodal definitions, collegial or monastic Rules, in any Postils, in any work of Jerome and Gregory, in any decisions of the Councils, in any disputations of the theologians, in any lectures of any University, in any Mass or Vigil of any Church, in any "Ceremoniale Episcoporum," in the institutes of any monastery, in any manual of any confraternity or guild, in any pilgrims book anywhere, in the pious exercises of any Saint, in any Indulgence, Bull, anywhere in the Papal Chancery or the Roman Curia or in the Curia of any bishop. And yet it was there that the doctrine of faith should have been expressed in all its fulness."

"My Evangel," that was what was wanting. "I have, praise be to God, achieved more reformation by my Evangel than they probably would have done even by five Councils. . . ."

"I believe I have summoned such a Council and effected such a reformation as will make the ears of the Papists tingle and their heart burst with malice. ... In brief: It is Luther s own Reformation." . . .

"Chrysostom was a mere gossip. Jerome, the good Father, and lauder of nuns, understood precious little of Christianity. . . ."

"See what darkness prevailed among the Fathers of the Church concerning faith ! Once the article concerning justification was obscured it became impossible to stem the course of error. St. Jerome writes on Matthew, on Galatians and on Titus, but how paltry it all is! Ambrose wrote six books on Genesis, but what poor stuff they are! Augustine never writes powerfully on faith except when assailing the Pelagians. . . . They left not a single commentary on Romans and Galatians that is worth anything. Oh, how great, on the other hand, is our age in purity of doctrine, and yet, alas, we despise it! . . ."

"Nevertheless I never should have attained to the great abundance of Divine gifts, which I am forced to confess and admit, unless Satan had tried me with temptations; without these temptations pride would have cast me into the abyss of hell." . . .

"I say that all Christian truth had perished amongst those who ought to have been its upholders, viz. the bishops and learned men. Yet I do not doubt that the truth has survived in some hearts, even though only in those of babes in the cradle."

[Grund und Ursach aller Artickel, 1521]

. . . Luther, at the very commencement of the tract which he published soon after leaving the Wartburg, and in which he describes himself as "Ecclesiastes by the grace of God," says: "Should you, dear Sirs, look upon me as a fool for my assumption of so haughty a title," I should not be in the least surprised; he adds, however: "I am convinced of this, that Christ Himself, Who is the Master of my teaching, calls me thus and regards me as such"; his "Word, office and work" had come to him "from God," and his "judgment was God's own" no less than his doctrine.

[Wyder den falsch genantten Standt des Bapst und der Bischoffen, with the sub-title: "Martin Luther, by God's grace Ecclesiastes at Wittenberg, to the Popish Bishops my service and to them know ledge in Christ," " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 105 ff. ; Erl. ed., 28, p. 142 ff. The book was partly written at the Wartburg (see Introd. in the Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 93 f.), and was published in 1522, probably in Aug.]

. . . "Formerly no one knew what the Gospel was, what Christ, or baptism, or confession, or the Sacrament was, what faith, what spirit, what flesh, what good works, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father, prayer, suffering, consolation, secular authority,. matrimony, parents or children were, what master, servant, wife, maid, devils, angels, world, life, death, sin, law, forgiveness, God, bishop, pastor, or Church was, or what was a Christian, or what the cross; in fine, we knew nothing whatever of all a Christian ought to know. Everything was hidden and overborne by the Pope-Ass. For they are donkeys, great, rude, unlettered donkeys in Christian things. . . . But now, thank God, things are better and male and female, young and old, know the Catechism. . . . The things mentioned above have again emerged into the light." The Papists, however, "will not suffer any one of these things. . . . You must help us [so they say] to prevent anyone from learning the Ten Commandments, the Our Father and Creed; or about baptism, the Sacrament, faith, authority, matrimony or the Gospel. . . . You must lend us a hand so that, in place of marriage, Christendom may again be filled with fornication, adultery and other unnatural and shameful vices."

[Warnunge an seine lieben Deudschen, 1530]

(in Grisar, ibid., vol. 4, 330-332, 334-336, 338, 341, 343)

"Such honour and glory have I by the grace of God whether it be to the taste or not of the devil and his brood that, since the days of the Apostles, no doctor, scribe, theologian or lawyer has confirmed, instructed and comforted the consciences of the secular Estates so well and lucidly as I have done by the peculiar grace of God. Of this I am confident. For neither St. Augustine nor St. Ambrose, who are the greatest authorities in this field, are here equal to me. . . . Such fame as this must be and remain known to God and to men even should they go raving mad over it."

[Verantwortung der auffgelegten Auffrur, 1533]

(in Grisar, ibid., vol. 5, 59-60)

55 comments:

Shammah said...

I'll stake a claim "as to when and how all of this momentous corruption took place."

When: when Constantine's support for the church brought masses of the unconverted pagans--according to the Bible, the devil's children--into the Church.

How: 1. By making Christianity the popular religion of the Roman empire. 2. By letting half-hearted, nominal "Christians" in en masse, so that the devil's children outnumbered God's. 3. By allowing the government to pay, appoint, depose, and empower--and thus corrupt--Church leaders.

Did the Church really fall?

Anyone who has read Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, which covers up to A.D. 323, and Socrates' or Sozomen's Ecclesiastical History, covering the century afterward, has to answer that question yes.

It is impossible to understate the difference between those two histories. One's about Christianity. The other is about government, corruption, intrigue, murder, envy, disputations, and every other evil thing you can think of.

Luther didn't restore anything, as he didn't fix any of the "hows" that I listed above.

Men like Peter Waldo, George Fox, possibly Francis of Assissi, and others that once again gathered the children of God who knew that they were not to be joined to the children of Belial--those people did restore something.

All who gather the saints apart from the world similarly do a work of restoration.

Shammah said...

I do have to add that I am astonished at the audacity of this statement:

"All the world . . . must confess that we have the Gospel just as genuinely and purely as the apostles had it and that it has completely attained its original purity."

Wow, that's incredible arrogance for someone forced to do their own Bible interpretation and whose followers were noted for worldliness.

Jordanes said...

When: when Constantine's support for the church brought masses of the unconverted pagans--according to the Bible, the devil's children--into the Church. ***

Baptised Christians are not unconverted pagans. Those who are washed in the laver of salvation are not the devil's children. So right off the bat your theory about the Church failing during the time of Constantine has a fatal flaw.

I've read Eusebius, Socrates Scholasticus, and Sozomen. They don't say what you claim they say. I don't see that you have any expertise in ecclesiastical history or in the interpretation and analysis of ancient primary sources.

Tim MD said...

Hi Sham,

I gather from your post that you believe that the Church became corrupted at some point in time. Well, welcome to the club. However, you have suggested a “certain time”. That “club” includes ALL Protestants, and this is just another topic on which none of you can agree. Personally, I have heard about a dozen conflicting dates or “ranges in time”. Each one of them has it’s “difficulties” once you actually begin to actually “think about them a little bit”.

By claiming that the Church became “corrupted” in the time of Constantine, then you would have the first four Ecumenical Councils to have been “corrupted” also, which leaves you without an infallible understanding of the nature of Christ or the Trinity, not to mention a “proper” NT canon, all of which were “decided” IN Council.

You can claim (if you want) that ALL Christians could come to these “determinations” correctly, simply by READING Scripture, but then......Christian history denies that presumption, especially given that the correct NT canon was never proclaimed until 365 AD. Obviously, your “theory” about the Church “coming off the rails” at the time of Constantine, in reality, leaves you without a “paddle in the water” in terms of logic and reason, and leaves you “adrift”, which by the way is pretty much how I see Protestantism in terms doctrinal certainty.

I would suggest that actual Christian history absolutely DEMANDS that we question whether Luther was just another in a long line of heretics. Of course, Christian history also records that ALL supporters of a particular heresy claim that the Church was “corrupted” at some previous time, and that their particular “group” was working with God’s Blessing to “recover” the True Gospel of Christ. What is interesting is that, for the most part, each of these various heresies agree with the Catholic Church as to the heretical nature of MANY of the previous heresies, just not their own.

The point is that there have been a TON of very pious and “faithful” Christians who have unknowingly either been or have become followers of heretics. The general response to this from most Protestants is something like:

“I love and recognize Jesus Christ as my Personal Savior, and thus I “have” the Holy Spirit. IF I were in fact slipping into heresy, I would KNOW because the Holy Spirit would “tell” me. Again, Christian history suggests otherwise.

If you really care about how the Church identified, and taught against heresies, the evidence from the Early Church Fathers, including those prior to Constantine, is extremely uniform, and in fact, indicts the basic Protestant “fundamentals” by means of common beliefs WITH those heresies.

God Bless You Sham, Tim

Jordanes said...

Well said, Tim.

As for Shammah's theory, it's simply not true that Constantine's support for the Church brought masses of unconverted pagans into the Church. It was a lot more complicated than that. His support was a consequence, not the cause, of the Church's successes in evangelising the Empire. Is it Shammah's contention that the Church should only preach the Gospel and make disciples of all nations up until the point when the majority of the people in a nation are Christian?

This is not to say that there were serious problems that resulted from the Emperor's formal support of Christianity -- especially when the Emperors and kings meddled in ecclesiastical affairs such as episcopal appointments, or attempted to coerce the Church into accepting a heresy. But that does not prove that the Church fell in Constantine's reign.

Shammah said...

I'm always amazed at the miscommunication I have with Catholics. I honestly don't know which of the following is true:

1. You don't care whether your answers make any sense to non-Catholics, so you just write Catholic conclusions without justifying any of the assumptions that led to the conclusion, or ...

2. You don't realize that most of what you say is based on assumptions that no one but Roman Catholics agree with.

Tim:

1. I'm not interested in agreeing with Protestants. I'm interested in walking with God along with those who turn away from iniquity and call on God out of a pure heart. That's working out really well.

2. You're correct that my statement about Constantine makes all councils after Nicea have no authority. I don't consider Nicea to have any authority, either, but I do agree with their doctrine on the Trinity.

3. I don't claim that "ALL Christians could come to these 'determinations' correctly, simply by READING Scripture." Obviously, they can't, as Christians who rely on Scripture only almost never agree with one another.

I don't believe sola Scriptura is Scriptural.

4. I am not in any way left without a paddle in the water, as the foundation of truth is the anointing in the church (1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Jn. 2:27). God has promised that those who gather together, speaking the truth in love to one another, will be led into all truth.

Those people, who embrace Jesus' Gospel, forsaking their own lives, living in unity and dependence on one another--they are the church. They have the promises of truth, the guidance of God, and power over the gates of Hades. No hierarchy can have that because the hierarchy is unscriptural, unhistoric, and has consistently borne bad fruit, and can thus be safely rejected as having any authority.

5. You're welcome to question whether Luther is in a long line of heretics. Since I don't live in Wittenberg in the 16th century and I don't follow Luther, I don't think it's "MANDATORY" or even relevant, but examining that question is historically interesting.

6. I had to laugh at your concern about an infallible understanding of Christ or the Trinity. I agree with the Nicene Creed, and the Roman Catholic Church does not. I understand what the Nicene Creed means because I immersed myself in the writings of those who preceded Nicea, and the Roman Catholic Church does not.

So there is no infallible understanding of Christ or the Trinity even with the Councils.

But who cares? Tertullian said that the MAJORITY of Christians didn't understand the Trinity in A.D. 200 (see Against Praxeas), and the church was doing awesome in his day.

In the 5th century, they claimed to have an infallible understanding of the Trinity, and they excommunicated whole countries and killed each other until blood was running into the streets.

Shammah said...

Jordanes,

Baptized Christians who live like the devil are the devil's children. As long as you fellowship with them you will be depending on hierarchical dogma and you will not have the revelation of the Spirit that is given to churches whose lampstands have not been removed (Rev. 2).

As for Eusebius, Sozomen, and Socrates, I see that in you I am encountering one more RC who just makes pronouncements, completely uninterested in backing up anything he says.

I can tell you story after story from Socrates history that has no match in Eusebius. Christians in Constantinople beat each other to death until the gore and blood were running into the street--all over the location of Constantine's coffin.

"Christians" pulled a general from his house when he came to Constantinople to remove another bishop. They beat him to death with their hands.

"Christians"--bishops at that--tried to frame Athanasius by saying he cut off a man's hand. They did this at a secret trial held behind the emperor's back.

"Christians" burned down a church building in Alexandria while a meeting was going on.

That's off the top of my head. You won't find such stories in Eusebius, but that's mostly what Socrates' history is like.

Finally, on what basis can you suggest that it's not true that Constantine's conversion brought large masses of people into the church?

To suggest that the inrush of people into the church after the Edict of Toleration was a result of evangelism is groundless. The behavior of these people proves that they were not evangelized--or they were at least not converted.

As for the church evangelizing until Christians are the majority of a nation. Oh, dear God, may the day come that we have to discuss such a situation!

For now, though, the increase in church members from 10% of the Roman empire to 90% was not the result of conversion, and behavior proves it. "In works they deny him, being abominable, and disqualified for any good work."

Dave Armstrong said...

Is Catholicism a Christian system of belief or no?

Tim MD said...

OK Sham,
I think I like your style and you have my full attention.
As to your first two points: Neither actually. My position is that the Catholic “position” cannot be disproven, EXCEPT by the “use” of the “right to Private Interpretation”, a “right” that was established by Martin Luther, and a concept that HAS been proven to lead to a multitude of beliefs which ALL Protestants would agree are false. They just don’t know “for sure”, in reality whether it is THEM or those “other Protestants” who are wrong.
As to your other numbered points:
1. You say that’s working out really well, but does that apply to your doctrinal beliefs and if so, by what “method” do you arrive at your doctrinal beliefs if not by Private Interpretation of Scripture?

2. OK, but I’m wondering why you would prefer your opinion, even potentially, to that of the first several Ecumenical Councils, in which probably more than a thousand of the early Church’s most respected Leaders met to “sort out” among other things, doctrinal disputes?

3. Ahhhh..................Agreement!!!!


4. Well, I guess then that this requires you to have a definition of the “church”, which might not agree with mine. Could you please define? Also, it seems that you have me at a disadvantage; I am very much a Roman Catholic. Could you please share your denominational affiliation?


5. Personally, I believe it’s MORE than interesting. Luther is the basis of the fundamental doctrinal differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. If you aren’t a Protestant then you might not have a dog in this hunt, but I emphasize the term MIGHT NOT. My guess is that you really do.

6. I am not tracking in regards to your comments about the RCC not agreeing with the teachings of the early Councils on the nature of the Trinity.

So there is no infallible understanding of Christ or the Trinity even with the Councils. Again, I think I am going to have to understand your denominational affiliation in order to put your comments into context.
God Bless You Sham, Tim (a non-MD from MD)

Ben M said...
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Jordanes said...

Baptized Christians who live like the devil are the devil's children. ***

And yet the fact remains that they are not unconverted pagans.

As long as you fellowship with them you will be depending on hierarchical dogma ***

If I, like a Christian should, depend on hierachical dogma, that has nothing to do with fellowshipping with unfaithful Christians, which I am bound to do from time to time. The field of the Lord has been sown with tares.

You talk as if you think you have some kind of authority to tell others what Christianity is and isn't, but I see no reason why I should accept your take on things rather than the Church's.

and you will not have the revelation of the Spirit that is given to churches whose lampstands have not been removed (Rev. 2). ***

The Catholic Church has existed continuously from Pentecost until today. Her lampstand has not been removed. I am confident that if you even belong to a church, it is one that hasn't existed for more than 500 years unless you're a Waldensian or Hussite.

As for Eusebius, Sozomen, and Socrates, I see that in you I am encountering one more RC who just makes pronouncements, completely uninterested in backing up anything he says. ***

You are far too ignorant of me, of what I know, and of what the Church of God teaches to justify your saying such things. I eat and breathe ecclesiastical history, Shammah. That's how I know you're completely off base in your reading of Eusebius, Socrates, and Sozomen.

I can tell you story after story from Socrates history that has no match in Eusebius. ***

Which proves absolutely nothing except that Socrates recounted events that hadn't happened until after the time of Eusebius.

Jordanes said...

As for the anecdotes you mention, I already knew about them, and indeed already knew that Christians can and do sin, and sometimes sin monstrously. I also know that some of the "Christians" you mention in thos anecdotes were actually heretics and not Christians at all.

That's off the top of my head. You won't find such stories in Eusebius, but that's mostly what Socrates' history is like. ***

Eusebius tells us stories of gross heresies, such as the pentecostalish heresy of Montanus, or the apocalyptic sect that led its members to such a horrifying end, and let's not forget the gross corruption and scandal of Paul of Samosata. Eusebius doesn't mention too much rioting or violence, though, except for that which the pagans inflicted on the Christians. That began to change in and after Constantine's reign, with heretics and sometimes even Christians resorting to violence (or being forced to resort to violence in self-defense). But none of that established that the Church Jesus founded "fell" as you claim.

Finally, on what basis can you suggest that it's not true that Constantine's conversion brought large masses of people into the church? ***

You didn't say that Constantine's conversion brought large masses of "people" into the Church. You said it brought large masses of PAGANS into the Church. HUGE difference.

To suggest that the inrush of people into the church after the Edict of Toleration was a result of evangelism is groundless. ***

I suggest you read Rodney Stark. You're simply wrong about this, Shammah.

The behavior of these people proves that they were not evangelized--or they were at least not converted. ***

Or it proves that they lapsed into sin . . . assuming, of course, that all of Socrates' anecdotes happens as he related them. It's also dangerous to extrapolate from his sensational accounts and conclude that most or even a majority of Christians were apt to behave so badly or hadn't been evangelised or converted.

As for the church evangelizing until Christians are the majority of a nation. Oh, dear God, may the day come that we have to discuss such a situation! ***

It has come many times in history. Probably not for your sect, of course.

For now, though, the increase in church members from 10% of the Roman empire to 90% was not the result of conversion, and behavior proves it. ***

Imaginary statistics won't help you, Shammah. Again, give Rodney Stark a read.

Ben M said...
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Ben M said...
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Giovanni A. Cattaneo said...

History proves you wrong; Scripture is against you; your polemics are based on lies and half truths I would say that James White and those like him are folling protestantism to its logical conclusion.

Shammah said...

I don't have time to answer y'all right now. I will this weekend.

I can answer a couple things.

Tim:

A real important question is my definition of the church. I've been trying to tell you that, but it's so unusual nowadays that it would be hard for you to realize what I was trying to say.

My definition of the church is the Christians in the local village, town, or city--as long as they are gathered.

We worked very, very hard to gather Christians here in Selmer, Tn. We do not have them all gathered. Some still meet in their schisms and denominations, still gathering mostly with people that don't care much about following Christ.

We have a web site at http://www.rosecreekvillage.com. (My Christian history web site is at http://www.christian-history.org.)

I don't have a denomination. We have a sister church in Nakuru, Kenya. I wish we had more in the U.S., but churches--Christians gathered together--are very rare here.

There are clubs, with all sorts of names, that meet once or twice a week with a very small percentage of people that are wholly devoted to living for Christ. Those clubs call themselves churches, but I do not believe they are churches.

We would recognize as a church any group of Christians that are gathering as Christians and preaching the Gospel Paul and Jesus preached. That means they at least have to be teaching their congregation that God only accepts those who live wholeheartedly for him.

I'm not talking about being judgmental and crucifying the weak. We should forbear, forgive, and help the weak. However, those that really aren't interested in denying themselves and living for Christ--who love their jobs, their savings account, and their lifestyles more than they love Christ and his church--those aren't Christians, and we shouldn't be treating them as Christians.

It's one thing to have difficult cases, certain people that it seems hard to help. That happens. It's quite another to have a group of people that has never even been told that God doesn't care about their savings accounts, and it's more important for them to house and feed their jobless brother than to save for their future and their child's future.

And it's horrifying to tell them that because they all know that if they get older and they haven't prepared for old age, the church won't take care of them. That's because it's not a church--it's not the family of God--it's just a Christian club that holds some meetings.

Shammah said...

One more:

Ben, your comments were difficult to read. You mention some violent stories, and then you see they're not typical of Christians or the church.

My stories were about leading bishops and about "the Church"--the ones these people are talking about--in Constantinople. Yes, they were representative of Christians and churches. Such behavior was common enough for me to say that all it took in the 4th century and later was the right circumstances, and supposed "churches" turned violent in large groups.

The blog I originally commented on asked for a time of the fall of the church and how it fell. I answered that, and the stories I gave are representative of a DRASTIC change in the church before and after Constantine.

That same change is responsible for the fact that the Council of Nicea could forbid Christians from joining the military "like a dog returning to his vomit," yet within decades it was common and accepted for Christians to be in the military.

By the way, if the Council of Nicea is infallible, Canon 12 says none of you should be in the military.

Did y'all know that?

I have those canons listed at http://www.christian-history.org/council-of-nicea-canons.html

Tim MD said...

Hi Sham,

I very much appreciate your response and believe that we have some important things to discuss.

However, I have a pretty full weekend planned and next week is a mess. I would also like to have a few moments to reflect on your comments and also invistigate the web links you posted. Hopefully, I will be able to address your comments either Sunday or Monday night. Anyway, I am more and more a fan of your "style".

May God Continue to Bless You Sham, Tim

Chaka said...

Dear Sham,
If I understood you well,your claim is that the Church fell away at the time Constantine embranced the Christain religion and that before that time all was well.But have you really checked Eusebius' History of the Church and the writings of the fathers who wrote before Consatantine?Because if you do you will find out that all most all the Catholic doctrines and practices which non-Catholic Christians like you refer to as corruptions where held in the Church of the first three centuries of the christian era.For example,The Catholic doctrine of Penace and Forgiveness of sins,the Sacrifice of the Mass,the Real Presence,Baptismal Regeneration,Perpetual Virginity of Mary,Devotion to the Saints,Monarchial Bishop,Primacy of the church of Rome,infant baptism,Prayer for the dead,sign of the cross,holy water,e.t.c.Are you then willing to accept all these doctrines and practices since according to your theory the Church of the first three centuries was pure?

Tim was spot on when he wrote:"Of course, Christian history also records that ALL supporters of a particular heresy claim that the Church was 'corrupted' at some previous time, and that their particular 'group' was working with God’s Blessing to 'recover' the True Gospel of Christ".In his Church History,Eusebius preserved for us a statement from an unknown third century Church writer which collaborates Tim's statement.Eusebius wrote:

"In a laborious work by one of these writers against the heresy of Artemon, which Paul of Samosata attempted to revive again in our day, there is an account appropriate to the history which we are now examining.

For he criticises, as a late innovation, the above-mentioned heresy which teaches that the Saviour was a mere man, because they were attempting to magnify it as ancient. Having given in his work many other arguments in refutation of their blasphemous falsehood, he adds the following words:

'For they say that all the early teachers and the apostles received and taught what they now declare, and that the truth of the Gospel was preserved until the times of Victor, who was the thirteenth bishop of Rome from Peter, but that from his successor, Zephyrinus, the truth had been corrupted.

And what they say might be plausible, if first of all the Divine Scriptures did not contradict them. And there are writings of certain brethren older than the times of Victor, which they wrote in behalf of the truth against the heathen, and against the heresies which existed in their day. I refer to Justin and Miltiades and Tatian and Clement and many others, in all of whose works Christ is spoken of as God.

For who does not know the works of Irenæus and of Melito and of others which teach that Christ is God and man? And how many psalms and hymns, written by the faithful brethren from the beginning, celebrate Christ the Word of God, speaking of him as Divine.

How then since the opinion held by the Church has been preached for so many years, can its preaching have been delayed as they affirm, until the times of Victor? And how is it that they are not ashamed to speak thus falsely of Victor, knowing well that he cut off from communion Theodotus, the cobbler, the leader and father of this God-denying apostasy, and the first to declare that Christ is mere man? For if Victor agreed with their opinions, as their slander affirms, how came he to cast out Theodotus, the inventor of this heresy?'"(Historia Ecclesiastical,5,28,1-6)

The same argument which that third century Church writer used in those times can still be utilized against to all those who expound the fall away theory in recent times.

Shammah said...

Hi Chaka,

Your quote from Eusebius argues doctrinally against Paul of Samosata. You're welcome to defend yourself doctrinally to me, too.

The quote you gave says nothing to refute the possibility that the church could fall away.

As for all the doctrines you listed, I have read the Pre-Nicene writings of the church. I don't agree that they teach the primacy of Rome, as I've argued thoroughly on a different post before.

Real presence, baptismal regeneration: they do teach those things, even prayer for the dead (but not to the dead). Infant baptism can't be proven till the 3rd century, and the perpetual virginity of Mary till even later than that.

I'm willing to follow tradition that at least gives the appearance of going back to the apostles. Tertullian lists some of those things at the start of De Corona.

However, even then some tradition varied from church to church. Even what I do now is not alone but subject to the guidance and interpretation of the church today.

Shammah said...

Giovanni,

I don't know who the James White is that you mention.

Shammah said...

Jordanes,

I'm so glad you know so much about ecclesiastical history, and that you're so impressed with yourself for knowing it. I can only assume that you think I have the same attitude, which I do not.

No matter how much you think you know, your interpretations don't seem reasonable to me. The fact is, you can throw words like "monstrous" around about heresies like those of Montanus and Paul of Samosata, but there is a huge difference between heresies and mass violence.

Yes, there were Arians among those who caused blood and gore to run into the streets in Constantinople. Nonetheless, the story is about the church of Constantinople, not a heresy, nor some small portion of the church.

The fact remains, that Socrates' history is full of violence, intrigue, and politics. Eusebius' history is full of the battle for the faith.

They're different, and they're obviously different, and you can proclaim the glories of your knowledge all you want. Any reasonable person who listens to our discussion and reads those histories is going to agree with me.

Finally, I understand your concern over my saying pagans came into the church. Some of them, I'm sure, did give up their paganism. I should have worded that differently.

I meant they were pagans; they joined Christianity, and they were never converted, and never received the Holy Spirit. The vast majority of them.

There's evidence for that in what happened to the Church and in their lifestyles.

There's evidence of it today, for their hierarchical descendants are no different.

Chaka said...

Dear Sham,
Canon 12 of the Council of Trent reads:

"As many as were called by grace, and displayed the first zeal, having cast aside their military girdles, but afterwards returned, like dogs, to their own vomit, (so that some spent money and by means of gifts regained their military stations); let these, after they have passed the space of three years as hearers, be for ten years prostrators. But in all these cases it is necessary to examine well into their purpose and what their repentance appears to be like. For as many as give evidence of their conversions by deeds, and not pretence, with fear, and tears, and perseverance, and good works, when they have fulfilled their appointed time as hearers, may properly communicate in prayers; and after that the bishop may determine yet more favourably concerning them. But those who take [the matter] with indifference, and who think the form of [not] entering the Church is sufficient for their conversion, must fulfil the whole time".

Now,the first thing to note is that this is a displinary law by the Council and so it could be modified or done away completely with time.Secondly,we have to understand what the idea of a military was in the fourth century of the Roman empire.In many regions of the ancient world in that time the military was associated with paganic cultic woship and this poses a treat to the faith of those Christian who join it.Infact,the Church has several early military saints whom she holds up for venerated since the time of their martyrdom.Saints who were willing to shed their blood for the love of Christ rather than sacrificing to idols.

If you had taken those two points into consideration you would have realized that the argument you are trying to raise from canon 12 of the council of Nicaea does not hold water.Peace my brother

Shammah said...

Last thing:

Jordanes, you wrote:

>>You talk as if you think you have some kind of authority to tell others what Christianity is and isn't, but I see no reason why I should accept your take on things rather than the Church's.<<

You shouldn't. My arguments are for those that want to experience the church life that they read about in Acts--real power, real unity, real joy, real family, real sharing, real separation from the world.

The reason they should accept my take on it is the reason Jesus gave: fruit. What I say comes out of the church life I am part of at Rose Creek Village. What our message produces can be seen; it produces those things I just described.

What the RCC message produces can also be seen.

Chaka said...

Oops...i meant council of Nicaea not Trent in the first sentence.

Shammah said...

Dave,

I don't know how best to answer your question as to whether Catholicism is a Christian system of belief.

The Christian system of belief is that we must believe in Christ, become crucified to the world and the world to us, so that Christ is our all in all, and we are to serve him together with those who have similarly left the world.

Overall, Catholicism teaches that only in small pockets here and there. Mostly, any such message is lost in what 99% of Catholics are doing. They do the sacraments, possible attend mass and confession weekly, and then live like the world except that they take a political stand against abortion--and possibly birth control, too.

That's not a Christian system, but a really bad travesty of it.

Shammah said...

Ben,

You asked what I make of the words of Augustine in your quote above.

Not much. I understand why he would argue that way. He was a good man and a good leader. He was trying to lead people in righteousness.

If I were in Hippo in A.D. 390, I think I'd meet with the church there, not separate from it. I hope I would.

Oh, that God would have granted us that such a situation would persist to our day.

It didn't. Leaders like Augustine became rare. Things got so bad that those that wanted to be Christian were forced to make very difficult decisions in order to experience the church life that Jesus had died to bring them.

The result really is a mess. I wish we didn't have to sort through it.

We've already tried sticking it out with the papal system. That was even worse. We call those days "The Dark Ages." I don't want to go back to that, for sure.

Chaka said...

Sham says:The quote you gave says nothing to refute the possibility that the church could fall away.

Chaka replies:I didnt present the quote to refute your claim(which i dont accept)that the Church could fall away.If I wanted to do that i would have argued from NT such as 1 Tim.3:15;Lk.10:16;Mt.16:17-19Mt.28:18-20;Mt. 18:15-18,John14:16-18.Why I presented that qoute from Eusebius' History of the Church was to show you that your claim that the Church could fall away has always been the cry of heretics to support their novel ideas.

Sham says:As for all the doctrines you listed, I have read the Pre-Nicene writings of the church. I don't agree that they teach the primacy of Rome, as I've argued thoroughly on a different post before.

Chaka replies:The altitude of the Christains of the first three centuries toward the see of Peter during disputes shows that they believed in the primacy of that see.Dave has some interesting papers on this topic.check them out.infact, I would like to know what you feel about St.Clements letter to the Corintians.

Sham said:Real presence, baptismal regeneration: they do teach those things, even prayer for the dead (but not to the dead). Infant baptism can't be proven till the 3rd century, and the perpetual virginity of Mary till even later than that.

Chaka replies:Have you tried to look at the ancient chistain grave inscriptions dating from the second and third century?There you will realize that the idea of invocation of the saints was common place at that time.St.Hippolytus,in his commentary on Daniel written around 204AD even attest to it.Infant Baptism can surely be proved to have been practiced in the Church before the 3rd cent.St.Irenaeus,Hippolytus,and Tertullian's testimonies concerning the practice can be used to prove this.The P.V.M means that the Virgin Mary was virgin before,during,and after the birth of Christ.So which are you against? is it vigin before,or virgin during ,or virgin after the birth of Christ?

You agreed with me that Baptismal Regeneration and the Real Presence was held up for belief in the Church in the first three centuries.Do you accept this beliefs?Do you pray for the dead?.I also mentioned the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Catholic doctrine of Penance as having been been held in the Church at that time.Do you believe in the priestly power to forgive sins?Do you accept the catholic teaching of satisfaction?

Chaka said...

Sham said:I'm willing to follow tradition that at least gives the appearance of going back to the apostles.

Chaka replies:I thought your initial argument was that the Church fell away around the time Constantine embraced Christainity which happens to be in the second decade of the Fourth century.So, following your theory,any doctrine held up for belief by the Church before that time must be considered true doctrine.That was why I pointed out to you that distinctive Catholic doctrines which 'most fall away theorist' like you considered as corruptions were held up for belief in the Church before the time of Constantine.So you see how similar your argument is that to the heretics in the passage i qouted from Eusebius.

'For you say that the truth of the Gospel was preserved until the time Constantine embraced Christainity, but that from the time Constantine embraced Christainity the truth became corrupted.

And what you say might be plausible, if first of all the Divine Scriptures did not contradict you. And there are writings of certain brethren older than the times of Constantine, which they wrote in behalf of the truth against the heathen, and against the heresies which existed in their day. I refer to Clemet of Rome and Ignatius and Justin and Irenaeus and Clement of Alexadria and Cyprian and Origin and many others, in all of whose works the distinctive Catholic doctrines which you reject are found'.

Chaka said...

Sham says:However, even then some tradition varied from church to church. Even what I do now is not alone but subject to the guidance and interpretation of the church today.

Chaka replies:what tradition are you refering to.Is it Tradition or tradition?So you are subject to the guidance and interpretation of the church today.Then why do you believe that the Church at any time fell away from the truth?

If Christ wants us to be subject to the guidance and interpretation of the Church then it is reasonable for us to believe that he would be there in all ages to protect His Church from falling into error.

Moreover,what do you mean by 'church today'.By this do you mean the numerous protestant denominations founded by men whose origin cannot be traced back to the times of the Apostles or do you mean the one true Church founded by Christ which you claim fell away during the time of Constantine?

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Giovanni A. Cattaneo said...

Hey Shammah,

Yeah sorry that was a comment actually for Dave he would not what I am talking about.

Chaka said...

St.Francis de Sales wrote in his Catholic Controversy:

"If then the Church can err, O Calvin, O Luther, to whom shall I have recourse in my difficulties? To the Scripture, say they. But what shall I, poor man, do, for it is precisely about the Scripture that my difficulty lies. I am not in doubt whether I must believe the Scripture or not; for who knows not that it is the Word of Truth? What keeps me in anxiety is the understanding of this Scripture, is the conclusions to be drawn from it, which are innumerable and diverse and opposite on the same subject; and everybody takes his view, one this, another that, though out of all there is but one which is sound:----Ah! who will give me to know the good among so many bad? who will tell me the
real verity through so many specious and masked vanities. Everybody would embark on the ship of the Holy Spirit; there is but one, and only that one shall reach the port, all the rest are on their way to shipwreck. Ah! what danger am I in of erring! All shout out their claims with equal assurance and thus deceive the greater part, for all boast that theirs is the ship. Whoever says that our Master has not left us guides in so dangerous and difficult away, says that he wishes us to perish. Whoever says that he has put us aboard at the mercy of wind and tide, without giving us a skillful pilot able to use properly his compass and chart, says that the Saviour is wanting in foresight".

Chaka said...

Contd:
"Whoever says that this good Father has sent us into this school of the Church, knowing that error was taught there, says that he intended to foster our vice and our ignorance. Who has ever heard of an academy in which everybody taught, and nobody was a scholar?----such would be the Christian commonwealth if the Church can err. For if the Church herself err, who shall not err? and if each one in it err, or can err, to whom shall I betake myself for instruction?----to Calvin? but why to him rather than to Luther, or Brentius, or Pacimontanus? Truly, if I must take my chance of being damned for error, I will be so for my own not for another's, and will let these wits of mine scatter freely about, and maybe they will find the truth as quickly as anybody else. We should not know then whither to turn in our difficulties if the Church erred.

But he who shall consider how perfectly authentic is the testimony which God has given of the Church, will see that to say the Church errs is to say no less than that God errs, or else that He is willing and desirous for us to err; which would be a great blasphemy. For is it not Our Lord who says: If thy brother shall offend thee . . . tell the Church, and if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican (Matt. xviii.) Do you see how Our Lord sends us to the Church in our differences, whatever they may be? How much more in more serious offences and differences! Certainly if by the order of fraternal correction I am obliged to go to the Church to effect the amendment of some evil person who has offended me, how much more shall I be obliged to denounce him who calls the whole Church Babylon, adulterous, idolatrous, perjured? And so much the more because with this evil-mindedness of his he can seduce and infect a whole province;----the vice of heresy being so contagious that it spreadeth like a cancer (2 Tim. ii. 17) for a time. When, therefore, I see some one who says that all our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers have fallen into idolatry, have corrupted the Gospel, and committed all the iniquities which follow upon the fall of religion, I will address myself to the Church, whose judgment every one must submit to. But if she can err then it is no longer I, or man, who will keep error in the world: it will be our God Himself Who will authorise it and give it credit, since He commands us to go to this tribunal to hear and receive justice. Either He does not know what is done there, or He wishes to deceive us, or true justice is really done there; and the judgments are irrevocable. The Church has condemned Berengarius; if anyone would further discuss this matter, I hold him as a heathen and a publican, in order to obey my Saviour, Who leaves me no choice herein, but gives me this order: Let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican. It is the same as S. Paul teaches when he calls the Church the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim. iii. 15)".

Chaka said...

Contd:
"Is not this to say that truth is solidly upheld in the Church? Elsewhere truth is only maintained at intervals, it falls often, but in the Church it is without vicissitude, unmovable, unshaken, in a word steadfast and perpetual. To answer that S. Paul's meaning is that Scripture has been put under the guardianship of the Church, and no more, is to weaken the proposed similitude too much. For to uphold the truth is a very different thing from guarding the Scripture. The Jews guard a part of the Scriptures, and so do many heretics; but they are not on that account a column and ground of truth. The bark of the letter is neither truth nor falsehood, but according to the sense that we give it is it true or false. The truth consists in the sense, which is, as it were, the marrow. And therefore if the Church were guardian of the truth, the sense of the Scripture would have been entrusted to her care, and it would be necessary to seek it with her, and not in the brain of Luther or Calvin or any private person. Therefore she cannot err, ever having the sense of the Scriptures. And in fact to place with this sacred depository the letter without the sense, would be to place therein the purse without the gold, the shell without the kernel, the scabbard without the sword, the box without the ointment, the leaves without the fruit, the shadow without the body"(The Catholic Controversy,Part I,CHAPTER12).

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bossmanham said...

Dave,

Hi, first time commenter. I'm a protestant of the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition, but I'm not an extreme anti-Catholic (I'm actually going to be marrying a Catholic). I'll confess I didn't read this entire post (I did read much of it), but I had a few questions:

Do you think that the RC church, prior to the counter-Reformation, had many deep issues that tainted and blotched the gospel?

Do you think that, while perhaps not a perfect person, Luther did make many valid points that helped Rome reform several things?

I think Trent, to a large extent, was too reactionary against Luther and aspects of the reformation were too reactionary the other way. I also think, to an extent, that the reformers and the Catholics at the time talked past each other when it came to justification. Luther did not support the antinomian view, as evidenced when he said, "Faith alone justifies, but not the faith that is alone." And also, "Works are not taken into consideration when the question respects justification. But true faith will no more fail to produce them than the sun can cease to give light."
I was curious as to what your view was?

Jordanes said...

I'm so glad you know so much about ecclesiastical history, and that you're so impressed with yourself for knowing it. ***

I'm glad I know so much too, even though I'm not at all impressed with myself for knowing it, and nothing I've said can justify your assuming without the slightest shred of evidence that I am. Please avoid ad hominems and stick to the subject at hand.

I can only assume that you think I have the same attitude, which I do not. ***

I don't assume anything about what your attitude may be. I'm only concerned with the fact that you are prone to misinterpret the historical evidence as you seek to support your theory that the Church established by Jesus "fell" in the time of Constantine.

The fact is, you can throw words like "monstrous" around about heresies like those of Montanus and Paul of Samosata, but there is a huge difference between heresies and mass violence. ***

Yes, mass violence defaces the image of God, while heresy defiles the soul. Mass violence destroys the body, while heresy kills grace. Both are grievous and deplorable sins, but heresy is more dangerous than physical violence. In addition, violence is not intrinsically evil, quite unlike heresy.

Yes, there were Arians among those who caused blood and gore to run into the streets in Constantinople. Nonetheless, the story is about the church of Constantinople, not a heresy, nor some small portion of the church. ***

Wrong. That's a total misrepresentation of what Socrates tells us.

The fact remains, that Socrates' history is full of violence, intrigue, and politics. Eusebius' history is full of the battle for the faith. ***

Which still does nothing to establish your thesis that the Church fell in the reign of Constantine. You're only saying what kinds of events Eusebius mentions and what kinds of events Socrates mentions. You describe the changes in the Church's life and experience as the Church's downfall, but it simply doesn't follow that the awful deeds recounted by Socrates and Sozomen must mean that the Church had fallen.

Any reasonable person who listens to our discussion and reads those histories is going to agree with me. ***

Not a chance. A reasonable and informed person will see that your conclusions simply don't follow from the anecdotes you highlight.

I meant they were pagans; they joined Christianity, and they were never converted, and never received the Holy Spirit. The vast majority of them. ***

We have to be very cautious about such pronouncements. Many of them probably weren't truly converted, or their conversion wasn't profound, but it's impossible to judge the souls of people we've never met and know hardly anything about, nor is the evidence adequate to justify a claim that "the vast majority of them" were never converted. We're also in no position to say that they never received the Holy Spirit: the Christian view is that they received Him but through sin alienated themselves from Him. Leave the judging to the Judge.

Jordanes said...

My arguments are for those that want to experience the church life that they read about in Acts--real power, real unity, real joy, real family, real sharing, real separation from the world. ***

. . . and real separation from the Church. Just what the world doesn't need: yet another new Christian sect, more division and schism.

The reason they should accept my take on it is the reason Jesus gave: fruit. What I say comes out of the church life I am part of at Rose Creek Village. What our message produces can be seen; it produces those things I just described. What the RCC message produces can also be seen. ***

Yes, it certainly can be seen: the moral and spiritual transformation of individual lives and of whole societies, the furtherance of culture, music, art, and learning. You would have nothing at Rose Creek Village if the Catholic Church's message hadn't been sown and borne fruit in vast abundance long before you and your fellows decided to try and reinvent the Christian wheel. You wouldn't have our Scriptures, you'd know nothing of Jesus.

Carmelite said...

Martin Luther became a monk because of a lighting storm and broke his vows as a monk and married a nun that broke her vows and introduce novel doctrines never heard before the history of Christodom. I think he done lot of damage to the unity of Christanity and had a unbalance mind and he misunderstood Catholic teaching.

Martin Luther has no credibility at all. St.Augustine of Hippo and St.Thomas Aquinas was not perfect also but they made Christanity stronger they did not try to throw out the baby with bathwater like Luther did.

Carmelite said...

Dave has a good book on Luther I think you should get.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Boss,

Welcome to my blog (or at least to comments!)

I'm a protestant of the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition, but I'm not an extreme anti-Catholic (I'm actually going to be marrying a Catholic).

You're likely not an anti-Catholic at all. If you think I am a brother in Christ, then you are certainly not.

I had a few questions:

Do you think that the RC church, prior to the counter-Reformation, had many deep issues that tainted and blotched the gospel?


I think there were a lot of ignorant people, a lot of corruption and scandals (which is a recurring phenomenon throughout history), whole schools (like nominalism) that had gone astray and had corrupted the robust Thomism of the high middle ages. I don't think actual Church teaching, however, had corrupted the gospel itself. There simply had to be a revival of what was taught at, e.g., the 2nd Council of Orange some 1000 years before. Luther replaced corruption-in-practice with heretical doctrines that were novelties.

Do you think that, while perhaps not a perfect person, Luther did make many valid points that helped Rome reform several things?

Some of the stuff he critiqued about the abuses of indulgences was valid. The Church did correct this at Trent and afterwards. The teaching was correct, but there were abuses (such as the famous Tetzel: though the nature and extent of his errors has been exaggerated by Protestant polemicists). He had some hand in that, but he also threw out many good things and introduced novelties, so overall it was a net loss; not to mention the sin of schism.

I think Trent, to a large extent, was too reactionary against Luther and aspects of the reformation were too reactionary the other way.

Fair enough.

I also think, to an extent, that the reformers and the Catholics at the time talked past each other when it came to justification.

Yes; I agree. That still happens today, for some reason.

Luther did not support the antinomian view, as evidenced when he said, "Faith alone justifies, but not the faith that is alone." And also, "Works are not taken into consideration when the question respects justification. But true faith will no more fail to produce them than the sun can cease to give light."

Yes; I have a paper that details how he believed that works should go hand-in-hand with faith; it's also part of my book about Luther. So many of us who have studied Luther get that. But many Protestants don't get that we are not semi-Pelagian. And many don't get that we are Christians.

I was curious as to what your view was?

That's a short summary! I hope it was helpful to you. And I hope you hang around and engage in some cordial discussion. I think you'll find the regulars here very friendly.

Jordanes said...

I decided to look up Shammah’s Rose Creek Village to see if it would shed any light on where he’s coming from and what his beliefs might be. It’s apparently some kind of group commune dedicated to isolating itself from the surrounding culture and attempting to recreate its leaders’ understanding of Christianity as it was experienced during the months and years after Pentecost. Shammah holds, or has held, some kind of prominent position in the commune. As far as I can make out, the members often change their names after joining up, taking Hebrew names, and I’ve found criticisms on the internet that Rose Creek Village is a cult, though I’m not sure if those criticisms are accurate. A few ex-members have claimed that back in the 1990s RCV was encouraging belief in fairies and elves. In terms of theology and christology, RCV seems to downplay the importance of the Trinity if not outright deny it, though they affirm that Jesus and the Father are divine (though I’m not sure what they mean when they say that, or if they are even sure what they mean). All in all, RCV looks to have a strong strain of restorationism as well as anti-Catholicism, and doesn’t strike me as a spiritually healthy or balanced community.

bossmanham said...

Thanks for your answers, Mr. Armstrong. I appreciate it and do think you are a brother in Christ. We simply disagree on some points of theology. I will continue to hang around.

God bless!

Dave Armstrong said...

Excellent, I'm honored. And please call me Dave! I'm not one for formality in discussion . . .

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Carmelite said...

Great post Ben! Whats interesting is you know the Catholic Church takes the Early Church Fathers and loves them like family members because they are family. Threw out 4 corners of this great blue earth there are thousands of Catholic Churches name after Early Church Fathers. In fact my Confirmation name is St.Irenaeus. When you become a Roman Catholic you will learn very soon how intertwine the Fathers are when you hear them in the homilies. When you go to a daily mass and its some Early Church Fathers birthday they will talk about him. St Augstine the greatest Early Church Father is a Saint and a Doctor in the Catholic Church and thousands of Catholic Churches are name after his honor.

Compare that to James White " Fathers were not Catholic or protestant they were just Fathers so let them just speak for them self.

Its my opinion I dont think most protestant care what the Fathers say they just use them (quote mining)as Sophism.

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Shammah said...

Hi again.

I quit posting because all I could see us doing was going round and round even more than we have. So I just left it with y'all having the last word.

However, I have to comment on Jordanes description of Rose Creek Village, which far more reasonable than I could have ever expected.

>>RCV looks to have a strong strain of restorationism as well as anti-Catholicism<<

Restorationism would be accurate from y'all's viewpoint, though we would never use the word.

We don't talk about Catholicism much. It would be much more fair to call me personally anti-Catholic, though I think I've been very polite with y'all.

>>A few ex-members have claimed that back in the 1990s RCV was encouraging belief in fairies and elves.<<

Blame that one me. I wrote a "fairy story" around 1997 that compared Christians to fairies. It was a neat comparison. Fairies live in two dimensions and have powers normal mortals don't. It was just a comparison.

People sure blew that out of proportion.

Finally, on the Trinity, it's me personally who talks about the Nicene Creed being misinterpreted, not Rose Creek Village. RCV has heard my teaching on it, and they're okay with it, but it's too complicated to talk about much.

Basically, I'd be a subordinationist, like everyone knows that Origen and Eusebius were, though they don't seem to realize that Tertullian, Justin, and others clearly were. It's bizarre that people don't realize because it's stated plainly.

The Nicene Creed is subordinationist, too, though it doesn't fully come out and say it. Have you ever noticed that it says the one God is the Father, not the one God is the Father, Son, and Spirit?

However, it's really "God from God" that expresses the subordinationist view best in the creed. It'd be obvious, in my opinion, to anyone familiar with the Ante-Nicene writings--as in they've read them over and over.

I have a set of pages on that on my web site at http://www.christian-history.org/definition-of-the-trinity.html.

The Athanasian Creed espouses the view held by the modern Roman Catholic Church, but it contradicts the Nicene Creed. It's the Orthodox Churches that still hold to a view that is accurately Nicene.

Jordanes said...

Thanks for explaining the "fairies" rumors. Having belonged to a, um, out-of-the-mainstream sect in my earlier life, I know that there can be a lot of confusion and miscommunication between the sect and the "outsiders" (for want of a better term). Sometimes things get blown out of proportion, as you say -- or there might be problems with the sect and its teachings, just not quite the problems the "outsiders" might think.

Basically, I'd be a subordinationist, like everyone knows that Origen and Eusebius were, though they don't seem to realize that Tertullian, Justin, and others clearly were. It's bizarre that people don't realize because it's stated plainly.

I think anyone who is familiar with the writings of the Fathers and the history of the development of orthodox Christian theology is quite aware that the views of Tertullian and St. Justin were subordinationist, and in fact paved the way for the Arian heresy. Not everything the Fathers said or believed was correct, and in fact, though St. Justin and St. Hippolytus didn't intend to pronounce such erroneou ideas, their views amounted to a form of ditheism (and the Pope's refusal to accept St. Hippolytus' theology led St. Hippolytus' into schism as the first antipope).

The Nicene Creed is subordinationist, too, though it doesn't fully come out and say it. Have you ever noticed that it says the one God is the Father, not the one God is the Father, Son, and Spirit?

No, the Nicene Creed is certainly no subordinationist. That's why the semi-Arians worked so hard to overturn Nicaea, to come up with a compromise formula that left room for subordinationism.

However, it's really "God from God" that expresses the subordinationist view best in the creed. It'd be obvious, in my opinion, to anyone familiar with the Ante-Nicene writings--as in they've read them over and over.

That formula, which came into the Nicene Creed from that which St. Gregory Thaumaturgus received in vision from St. John and Our Lady, would be open to an erroneous subordinationist reading were it not for the insertion of the homoousion.

The Athanasian Creed espouses the view held by the modern Roman Catholic Church, but it contradicts the Nicene Creed. It's the Orthodox Churches that still hold to a view that is accurately Nicene.

No, I'm sorry, but the so-called Athanasian Creed in no way contradicts the Nicene Creed. Where or from whom have you studied Trinitarian theology, Shammah?