Monday, August 08, 2011

Brief Exchange With Lutheran Nathan Rinne on Luther's Revolt and Fundamental Differences of Perspective Regarding the So-Called Protestant "Reformation"


 This very friendly yet intense discussion took place on my blog, in the combox for my post (with quite a provocative title!), Martin Luther in His Pseudo-Prophetic, Hyper-Infallible, "Super-Pope" Mode (Shocking Examples). Ben, a regular on my blog, makes some excellent comments in the combox, too, with several interesting links. Be sure to check those out, too, as a second reply to Nathan. Nathan's words will be in blue. Words of mine cited from the above paper will be in red.

Nathan's website is called Theology Like a Child.

* * *

"He actually believes these things."

I actually believe these things as well. And so should you. Seriously. : )

Really, when Luther speaks this way, it is within the context of defending doctrines of Scripture over against the doctrines of the church or canon law. The pope claimed to be right because he was pope (and maybe because he was the ruler of a massive enterprise). Luther claimed to be right because of Scripture.

He actually thought the Scriptures were clear enough and that their core message was obvious enough for everyone to see.

The nerve.

Yes, I actually believe this. I think it is true. Luther was much like the OT prophets. Where in RC doctrine is the existence for such prophets - such "out of the church mainstream" people - dealt with?

So you actually defend all of these ridiculous sayings of his?

Where in RC doctrine is the existence for such prophets - such "out of the church mainstream" people - dealt with?

We have saints who are extraordinary and who rebuked popes at times: folks like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Dominic, and St. Francis of Assisi. But they didn't talk like Luther. They might rebuke a particular error, but they don't say that they have all truth, and everyone else for 1500 years was a dumbbell except them, and run down the Church, etc.

So you might say we have a prophetic tradition without the ludicrous excess that is so obviously apparent in Luther.

Yes, for the most part I defend his statements. If he actually said that "everyone else for 1500 years was a dumbbell" up to him, I'd disagree with him.

We have saints who are extraordinary and who rebuked popes at times: folks like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Dominic, and St. Francis. But they didn't talk like Luther. They might rebuke a particular error....

On issues of faith or morals? As Luther pointed out, the issue was the doctrine. Likewise, in the Old Testament, people embraced false doctrines. Behavior was not really the issue for Luther, belief was. I'd like to know more about the prophets in the RCC who confronted the teachings (not behavior) of the mainstream church and still continued to be recognized by the church. I confess I do not know as much about this as I should, but from what little I have been able to gather, there aren't any. Maybe I am wrong.

Thanks again for your blog. Appreciate your desire to delve into these issues. 

* * *

Simple Christians would have always understood such clear words (like Romans 5:1 for example), and the Church Fathers, if pressed, almost certainly would have come to see the light had they been pressed more by blatant heresies to do so (as Augustine was). In any case, very few of their writings show evidence of ideas that would explicitly mitigate justification by faith alone.

So yes. Intellectuals often create systematic frameworks which overcome the clear meaning of simple statements that even children can understand. It happens all the time.

Luther was right. People, even sincere Christians, simply suppress the truth to this or that degree (this has to do with the sinner/saint thing as well, also rejected by the RCC in spite of the clear meaning of Romans 3 and 7)

I hope Dave can answer my question. I will state my point again: the RCC has no room for prophets who would call the church away from false teachings.

You can see more about how I think (roughly) by reading this paper, which is one of the better ones out there.

The Church is protected from such false (dogmatic, binding) teachings in the first place. That is what the infallibility of the Church means. Those who rebuked popes did so when they were going against clear moral stands; were being hypocrites or wimps.

In the case of Pope John XXII (1249-1334), though, he temporarily denied (unofficially) the Beatific Vision, and there was a spontaneous reaction against him from laypeople. He denied what had been held.

With Luther it is entirely otherwise. He comes around and starts denying at least 50 received doctrines and practices (as I have documented from his pre-1521 works alone).

That's not reform: it is full-fledged rebellion and revolution: such that no institution would ever, and should never, sanction.

If I went to your Lutheran church (or whatever you are) and stated that I had a special commission from God, standing on Scripture and plain reason, and that you had 61 teachings that were false and must immediately change, I would not only not be heard or taken seriously, but would be thrown out on my ear as a nut and fruitcake.

Yet we're supposed to accept as self-evident that Luther was right, and 1500 years of Catholic Apostolic Tradition wrong. It's no different. It's not even reasonable to do such a thing, even before we get to individual theological issues.

Thanks for the engagement. I appreciate the conviction with which you write even though I think it is misled.
I do wish I had more time to continue the discussion, but I don't. I will simply make a couple brief comments and allow you to have the last word (if you please).

Dave, I would be interested in knowing the 50 or 61 things that Luther denied that had been held for 1500 years (though that sounds extremely silly to me). Please provide the link if please.

In my mind, Luther clearly did not have rebellion in mind, but was a faithful son of the Church. Further, I do not think the "Catholic Apostolic Tradition" was nearly as monolithic as you say.

I think I am confirmed in my claim by your saying the infallibility of the Church protects it from false [dogmatic, binding] teachings in the first place. Indeed, in the RCC and EO conceptions of the Church there is no room for the idea that false teachings could ever be proclaimed in the highest levels of the church. I look at the O.T. and the N.T. (see the Pharisees, who sit in Moses' seat, rejecting those teachings brought by John and Jesus) and see all the confirmation I need for the Lutheran view. Not that there is no hope - the Holy Scriptures, recognized widely from the very beginning by faithful believers everywhere, do indeed guide us into all truth.

Best regards,
Nathan 

Thanks for your civility and your conviction as well. Here is a link to my "extremely silly" yet (unfortunately) stubbornly factual account:

50 Ways In Which Luther Had Departed From Catholic Orthodoxy or Established Practice by 1520 (and Why He Was Excommunicated)

Related papers:

Dialogue: Why Was Martin Luther Excommunicated? / Questions Concerning Luther's Expressed Obedience to the Pope's Decision Regarding His Orthodoxy

Was Corruption in the Medieval Papacy the Primary Cause of the Protestant Revolt?



I look at the O.T. and the N.T. (see the Pharisees, who sit in Moses' seat, rejecting those teachings brought by John and Jesus) and see all the confirmation I need for the Lutheran view.

It's precisely the opposite of the way you are portraying it. Jesus was not against Pharisaism per se, but against hypocrisy in particular Pharisees: a far different thing. He Himself followed Pharisaical traditions, and Paul called himself a Pharisee twice (after his conversion).

Jesus didn't reject their teaching authority at all: quite the contrary. He stated, "practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice." (Matthew 23:3, RSV)

It was a rebuke for hypocrisy; not false teaching (having just upheld their continuing authority on the basis of Moses' Seat, which is an extrabiblical tradition, not in the OT). It was exactly analogous to Paul's rebuke of Peter in Galatians for hypocrisy. They agreed in principle, but Peter was acting hypocritically.

As so often with Protestants arguing against Catholicism, you are simply reading your prior beliefs into the text, but as we see, you have distorted the meaning entirely. Therefore, your analogy to Lutheranism over against Catholic tradition and Church authority fails miserably. This text doesn't support it at all.

63 comments:

infanttheology said...

David,

Yes, Jesus primarily accuses the Pharisees of hypocrisy.

But note also what we find in Matthew 23 even, the biggest hypocrisy section:

" 16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it."

They were blind guides as well. False teachers.

There are other examples. Their teaching on "corban" comes to mind as well.

Finally, they obviously did not believe Jesus was the Christ. They missed the whole point. No Apostle's Creed for them. Blinder than blind indeed.

So, I stand by my original claim.

By the way, I believe exactly what you say about the Pharisee's sitting in Moses' seat. But you see, for me, the legitimate authority can still hold the office by God's will and teach falsely. Therefore, I like to point out how the Lutheran Confessions emphasize that even if the Pope is Pope by divine rite, he would still need to be resisted, insofar as he denied justification by faith.

That's all I'll say again. I do hope I'll have time to look at your list of 50 things sometime soon.

In Christ,
Nathan

infanttheology said...

One more thing:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%207:1-23&version=NIV

"And you do many things like that."

Clearly, when Jesus told the disciples to "call no man Father" this needs to be understood in its proper context. In some contexts there is no problem with this. Likewise, when he said to "do as they say, but not as they do" he meant for these words to be understood in their proper context, for elsewhere, such as here in Mark 7, he clearly teaches otherwise.

And again, John 5:39 should kind of seal things for me. They did have issues with right teaching (Apostle's Creed, etc.), even if they did legitimately sit in Moses' seat.

So it is today.

Paul Folbrecht said...

Dave,

Kudos to your extensive knowledge on that first, brave "reformer" and to your patience.

This is the thing about debating Protestants: almost invariably they do not 1) understand what the Church really teaches, and 2) understand the basis for those teachings. This was evident here. So there is no proper basis for the conversation to start; everything they say proceeds from that false basis (as I think you alluded to).

Of course, with an intelligent and *intellectually honest* person, there can still be fruitful discussion.

Ben said...

“So it is today.”

Nathan, I don't see how you can say that!

We are no longer under the Old Covenant, which was temporary and which had not the promise of the Holy Spirit’s perpetual guidance and protection.

That Old covenant is over, is done away with, never to be repeated. It has been superseded by the New Covenant!

Or perhaps Jesus said "It is finished" to no purpose?

No my friend, it certainly must be absurd - and quite frankly, blasphemous - to suffer parallels between Luther and Christ, the Synagogue and Catholic Church, as if the whole affair somehow needed to be repeated anew before finally being gotten right! Or has Luther accomplished what Christ could not??

You ought to listen then, not to Luther (even were he sincere in his own mind), but rather to Christ and to his Church, which he established once and for all time, and with a great promise, namely, that the very Gates of Hell could never conquer!

And btw, listening to the Church is indeed listening to Christ, because the Church is Christ.

And just in passing...

Sometime ago I was roundly criticized by a Protestant for having said 'the Church is Christ,' and for also having said that the Church is, in a sense, Christ’s Incarnation which is being - in certain sense mind you - continued in us. In this I was simply echoing the teaching of Augustine and the Fathers. Yet for these assertions I, along with the entire body of the Catholic Church, was branded idolaters! But if we be idolaters, all I can say is that, well, I find we have some rather curious company! ;) See this and this.

Anyway, listen now to St. Jerome as he refutes from Scripture the possiblity (with which heretics flatter themselves) of Christ's Church ever reverting to the tragedy of the Synagogue. Here

If Scripture held true in Jerome's day (as it surely did), it must hold and remain true in our day, and even unto the end of the world!

Think about it, Nathan. God bless.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Nathan,

They were blind guides as well. False teachers. . . . I believe exactly what you say about the Pharisee's sitting in Moses' seat. But you see, for me, the legitimate authority can still hold the office by God's will and teach falsely.

Well, that is extremely fascinating. You not only hung yourself with this particular dead-end argument, but you nailed your own casket shut and lowered yourself into the ground.

This sounds great (like much false Protestant teaching does), except for the little insignificant fact that it requires our Lord Jesus to sanction false teaching.

As I already pointed out:

Matthew 23:2-3 (RSV): "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; [3] so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.

So you would have it that they are false teachers, and here Jesus tells His disciples observe whatever they tell them (i.e., teach them). Thus, amazingly and shockingly, in your scenario, Jesus commands His followers to observe the teaching of what you call "false teachers." A very coherent position indeed!

If only Jesus could get up to speed and brush up on his Lutheranism, huh?

Dave Armstrong said...

Paul,

I don't think Nathan is intellectually dishonest (and he has been congenial); he just has many false premises and argues consistently from them. But it leads to absurdities: such as the one I just showed: Jesus sanctioning wickedly false teaching. We simply have to convince him of the falsity of his first premises.

There are people who are intellectually dishonest, and I will call them out on it (e.g., Steve Hays). Nathan is infinitely different in spirit from anti-Catholics like that. He is simply arguing classic Lutheranism.

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

First of all, I thank you for your generosity of spirit. I do indeed believe firmly what I am saying here (evidently contra Paul F. above)

I understand that you think I am not being coherent. That is fine. I think I am on firm and level ground.

“If only Jesus could get up to speed and brush up on his Lutheranism, huh?”

David, if I did not believe that Luther and Jesus did not teach the same thing, I would not be Lutheran, correct? This is not to say that I am not willing to learn from disagreements, to be cordial, to try my best to understand others and to wear their shoes, attempting to think and understand from their perspective, as much as I am able (and possibly, to be knocked off my horse and converted, if God so desires… my prayer is always for continual conversion to Christ and His will)

That said…

First of all, I already explained why Jesus tells people to obey the Pharisees, who, yes, do sit in the position of authority in the church, or assembly, of His day. He is telling them to obey them insofar they teach in accordance with the Word of God, which they are not to go beyond. In other words, elsewhere He clearly tells His disciples not to fall into the “traditions of men” (not the right tradition) that the Pharisees falsely practice, mitigating the true Word of God. You can tell me I contradict myself, but you and everyone else, must, before God, wrestle with how Jesus can tell people to obey someone while also clearly pointing out elsewhere how they teach falsely. My answer was simple: context. Just like Jesus’ words to “call no man father” have a proper context and should not be applied in a blanket manner, we can clearly should see the same thing is happening here. Obviously, the Pharisees Jesus told the people to obey taught falsely about “corban”, what makes the altar holy, John’s baptism, and the nature of the Son of God. We all need to wrestle with how to make that coherent.

Ben - I do believe that the Confessional Lutheran Church is “truly Church”. You can read more about how I see this specifically here (you will see that I do indeed believe we are Christ’s body). Further, I agree that ideally we should remain in “that Church that was founded by the Apostles and continues to this day”. I just think that that Church is best represented in the serious (i.e. confessional) Lutheran communion.

Finally, the new covenant is different because God’s people ***are now indwelt with the Holy Spirit and have the firm Apostolic deposit in the Scriptures. This is how we, who test all things, and do not “need anyone to teach us”, remain in the true faith and are guided into all truth.*** This is how we hear the Shepherd’s voice. The legitimately ordained pastors of the church, even in the highest levels, can indeed error, as good churchmen have known from the beginning. When I look at the peculiar “development” of RC dogma, I simply must say that my [evidently not-well-formed] conscience is captive to the Scriptures, which yes, are clear enough in their central message that a child can *begin to understand* them.

Again, Rome has no room for a prophetic voice to call it away from false teaching because, by definition, the church is infallible which means in part all of the stuff I have said above is foreign thinking to them. But I do believe with all my heart that such words are true, and that they must overturn the false conceptions of the nature of the Church that RC believers are saddled with. I highly recommend the article by Pastor Jay Webber that is mentioned above (i.e. “You can see more about how I think (roughly) by reading this paper, which is one of the better ones out there.”)

This all said, I will check back here in a week but not before that. Work to be done!

Blessings in Christ,

Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

Here's the link I mentioned:

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/babies-in-church-part-vii-the-%E2%80%9Cchurch-speak%E2%80%9D-that-we-need/

Dave Armstrong said...

Again, Rome has no room for a prophetic voice to call it away from false teaching because, by definition, the church is infallible which means in part all of the stuff I have said above is foreign thinking to them.

The Bible has no room for your notion of the Church, either. I challenge you to find me a passage anywhere in Scripture that tells us that the Christian Church ever "officially" teaches error. It is always stated that the "truth" or "word of God" (beyond Scripture alone), the "message" or "doctrine" or "the faith" or "tradition" is absolutely true (hence infallible). Paul always assumes his teaching is absolutely infallible and without error. The Church is called "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15). I wrote an entire paper on that passage, showing that the only logical interpretation is infallibility:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/03/biblical-proof-of-church-infallibility.html

The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) speaks in quite certain terms, and Paul goes out and informs his hearers of the decisions of he council, for obedience and observance (Acts 16:4).

Infallibility, therefore, is all over Scripture, whereas Luther's invention of sola Scriptura is not at all. My next officially published book is entitled 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura. I've written more about the topic than any other, and I have more than 2600 papers posted.

There is plenty of room to correct the Church on non-infallible teaching, however. An example would be Galileo and heliocentrism. The Church was wrong to say that geocentrism was true (and Lutherans, by the way, held on to it longer than we did: in some cases even into the 1800s).

So Galileo was a sort of prophet in that regard (though by no means infallible himself, as I have documented), but since the teaching on geocentrism was never enshrined as de fide (infallible) dogma, this is a case where the Church could be wrong, and was corrected by science. It was a teaching of science, not theology, faith or morals. But in the latter areas, the pope is protected when he binds all the faithful to hold a doctrine.

If the Church was allowed by God to teach error, we would be in rough shape. But the Church is indefectible, according to Scripture, and contra Luther:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/05/biblical-evidence-for-indefectibility.html

Are you the same Nathan I have had a few (posted) dialogues with in the past?

Ben said...

Nathan,

Read what Augustine says in chapter 20 here.

infanttheology said...

David and Ben,

Thank you kindly for your continual conversation. I will try to reply tomorrow or the day after.

I appreciate discussions like this, because I think it can help us to clarify our positions - both for ourselves and others.

Blessings in Christ,
Nathan

infanttheology said...

David,


I am not the same Nathan you mention, although we did have a brief exchange a few years ago on one Pontifications post.


Of course the ”truth” or “word of God” (beyond Scripture alone), the “message” or “doctrine” or “the faith” or “the tradition” is absolutely true – which is why the Roman Catholic Church – the foremost representative of the institutional Church on earth – is not infallible. From my perspective it is clear that not only in the Old Testament but since the New Testament error has been at times been officially sanctioned and permitted run wild within that visible assembly that we since Pentecost call the Church. I do not not see why I need to find a passage somewhere that would directly say this, seeing as how I have clearly demonstrated from Biblical texts itself that this was true in Jesus’ day (above – I see no answer from you regarding these points).


That said, of course there is a sense in which the Church can be said to be infallible and indefectible, and that is that there will always be a remnant who holds on to the rule of faith – the truth. This remnant, represented by Paul (whom you mention) and others, is rightly confident that they are true representatives of the Lord – for they recognize the truth when they hear it. They recognize the authentic voice of their Shepherd, and rightly know that whatever is said in the mainline church (that which all people can see outwardly identifies with following and worshipping the man Jesus Christ, who claimed to be divine) needs to be tested by the authoritative Scriptures (which believers in the train of the faith have always recognized to be the truth through the power of the Holy Spirit) – this “looking back to the Scriptures” is in fact a *part of* the authentic rule of faith. Therefore, yes, the church is the pillar and foundation of truth – mankind will get the full truth from nowhere else but this authentic remnant – from the mainline, they may only be able to get an anemic and weakened version of the truth (but one, that God, in His grace can and does still use to save many in spite of their teacher’s “official” teachings, which they may thankfully mitigate through other words they speak… speaking of teaching, this will really help you to see where I am coming from: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/ )...

Nathan Rinne said...

.... (now can't sign in with my other account...)


If this doesn’t sound like the kind of “Scripture alone” that you are used to, the answer is that the original Lutherans (like Chemnitz, Luther, Melancthon, etc) never held to “Scripture alone” in the modern sense. Luther never taught sola Scriptura (I don’t believe he ever used this phrase – I may be wrong), even if in the face of Roman opposition, Scripture was truly his greatest ally, and through vicious attacks on his life and character and teaching he clung to it and continuously looked to it as his conscience demanded he do. In fact, all the stuff that was condemned at Trent was often a blanket condemnation of an imagined "general Protestant position" and did not really address the actual teachings that were most commonly believed among the Lutherans. There was a lot of straw man stuff happening, which to be sure, is often the case in theological disputes.


Here is some helpful info that digs pretty deep into the way the Lutherans actually looked at things (and those “in the know” still do today) regarding the place of Scripture as related to tradition:


"The concept of a contemporaneous existence of the Word of God in a corrupted verbal form, and a pure written form, spawned Chemnitz's explanation of traditiones in the second locus, De traditionibus. Here he lists the first of eight different types of traditiones as Scripture itself, i.e. the things that Christ and the Apostles preached orally and were later written down. Then follows: 2) the faithful transmission of the Scriptures; 3) the oral tradition of the Apostles (which by its very nature must agree with the contents of the New Testament canon); 4) the proper interpretation of the Scriptures received from the Apostles and "Apostolic men"; 5) dogmas that are not set forth in so many words in Scripture but are clearly apparent from a sampling of texts; 6) the consensus of true and pure antiquity; 7) rites and customs that are edifying and believed to be Apostolic, but cannot be proved from Scripture. Chemnitz rejects only the eighth kind of tradition: 8) traditions pertaining to faith and morals that cannot be proved with any testimony of Scripture; but which the Council of Trent commanded to be accepted and venerated with the same reverence and devotion as the Scripture. The important element of this last of the traitiones appears not to be the fact that such traditions of faith and morals not provable from Scripture actually existed, but that their status of equality with Scripture was foisted upon the church by the Council of Trent." P. Strawn, Cyril of Alexandria as a Source for Martin Chemnitz, in Die Patristik in der Bibelexegese des 16. Jahrhunderts, Wolfenbu"ttleler Forschungen, Bd. 85, Hrsg. v. David C. Steinmetz, Wiesbaden 1999, p. 213-14.


“since the teaching on geocentrism was never enshrined as de fide (infallible) dogma”


Correct me if I am wrong, but the whole concept of infallible dogma is only a recent construct that Rome has created in the past couple hundred years in order to make distinctions between one papal pronouncement and another. With this (I think) arbitrary teaching about “ex cathedra” statements, past statements of Popes that have fallen out of favor can be said to have not been made from the chair. At least, this is the way I see it.


Ben,


I read what Augustine says there. What were you hoping it would help me see?


Sorry to do this, but I will check back in a week again. Very busy.


Thank you again,

Nathan

Maroun said...

infanttheology said... That the church is not infallible .
In matters of dogmas and morality , the church is infallible , otherwise , the bible which you hold so dearly in your hands and you believe that the scriptures is the word of God could also be wrong , why you may ask ? well because maybe the Church gave you the wrong scriptures , because if in these matters the Church is not infallible , maybe just maybe you dont have the correct infallible word of God but something else . And other books which were not chosen by the Church and were not considered part of the canon of scriptures were in fact and should have been a part , and a part or maybe the whole of scripture which you and i have should have never been part of the canon of scriptures?
Do you understand what i`m trying to tell and show you?If the Church is not infallible in these matters , then nothing could be absolute truth anymore , and the consequence is relativism and confusion .
GBU

Ben said...

Hi Nathan:

I read what Augustine says there. What were you hoping it would help me see?

The light! (short answer) ;)

But to be a little more specific…

Separation from the Church is never justified, even if at times some bishops (who do in fact hold legitimate authority) lead less than exemplary lives. The Church always contains both good and bad members, both clergy and laity, and the good ought to help and pray for the bad; they ought never to separate from them.

Of course, on the pretext of opposing a “false gospel” and of bad members being in the Church, certain self-proclaimed “prophets” severed the bond of unity (search “sodomites” in this document for an example of Calvin’s take on "bad Catholics" - a bit ironic though, since according to Calvin's own broad brush, Luther must have married the likes of one of these!!). Go figure.

At any rate, Erasmus says that such abusive language and crys of immorality, as well the endless feigned hysteria about "false teaching" is just so much phony excuse - a case of the pot calling the kettle black. See this.

But don't get me wrong; for my part I'm not saying there were no good people in the Reformers’ camp – that would be unjust and unhistorical! But remember, “good” is a relative term; Augustine would insist that anyone who breaks the bond of peace cannot be as good as one who keeps it.

Also - we may as well say it - it does seem that, even among the “good” early Reformed and evangelical Protestants (and yes, some Catholics too) we find very little resembling the kind of wonderful humility, purity, and simplicity of the early Christians, whom the 2nd century Aristides speaks of in his “Apology” to "king" Hadrian (see e.g., chap. 15 here)(pp. 48-50).

Where in the history of Protestantism do we find such gentle Christian spirits?

Do we not find rather - and virtually without exception – a clamouring for the "first places" (Matthew 23:6), a dictatorial attitude and intense hatred toward those regarded as “enemies” – the ”beastly” Catholics - from among the worst even to the “best” in those reformed and "evangelical" churches? And was this not the case for centuries?! (btw, Calvin is hardly one to be calling others ”beastly”).

One wonders then how, given such fruits of the Reformation, so utterly at odds with Aristides’ examples of true peaceful, joyful, loving, and unified Christianity, there can be a basis for regarding men like Luther and Calvin as true reformers, claiming to be “prophets” and “apostles” of God.

Perhaps we really should listen instead to the genuine voice of the Church, which has never ceased to speak to us from the very beginning, and which will continue to do so till the end of the age.

Again, think about it. God bless.

infanttheology said...

Maroun,

First of all, I said the church was infallible - *in a qualified sense* (see above). Lutherans have no official pronouncement on what is and is not canonical. We have no reason to doubt any of the 66 books though. In any case, even if some of these were doubted - or were given less status than others, we still can be assured of the apostolicity, catholicity, and orthodoxy of the Gospels and Paul's letters for example. Their popularity in the early church assures us that no one doubted these books. And those books contain what we need to know to be saved. As far as I am concerned, the rest is just icing on the cake.

Ben,

"Separation is never justified." Luther and the Lutherans did not separate from the Church, unlike the other Protestant Reformers. In any case, if I were a single person without children, I would probably stick it out until the bitter end. But if my conscience, informed by Scripture, told me that what my children were being taught was deleterious towards their relationship with Christ, I might think differently. It is always a practical question - a matter of life and death.

So Luther wasn't nice huh? Well, there is always Melanchton, Chemnitz, and Gerhardt. They could be quite irenic. In any case, I don't think the Apostle Paul, for all his talk of love, was the most "nice" guy either. Why don't they just castrate themselves? Really, Paul - come on! In any case, I feel called to take the Apostle Paul's advice about always responding in a gentle fashion, in love, and by God's grace, I shall.

In short, your arguments come down to character. I don't doubt that there were very godly men on both sides. Real Christians. Of course, I believe that sin persists in us until death, and that when believers stumble, we should not be shocked to find out there are real sinners among us. Should Luther have repented of his accusations against Rome of false doctrine though? I don't think so. For the way he talked to people, or about people, sometimes? I think so. Still, Paul did not mince words with those he felt had betrayed the Gospel either.

I don't think Calvin was pleasant at all, from what I know of him. I do believe some RC's will be saved - but in spite of some of their doctrines, because when the chips are down, they believe like all Christians do - which is to say, they believe like Lutherans. Christ alone. Grace alone. Faith alone. All our works as dung.

Will check back again in a week...

-Nathan

P.S. You guys notice you didn't really address any of my arguments?

infanttheology said...

Dave,

I just wanted to thank you also for your blogging hospitality.

Best regards,
Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

You're welcome.

Ben said...

Nathan: Luther and the Lutherans did not separate from the Church...

Ben: And FDR thought Hoover a fiscal conservative! ;)

Maroun said...

infanttheology said .
Maroun,

First of all, I said the church was infallible - *in a qualified sense* (see above). Lutherans have no official pronouncement on what is and is not canonical. We have no reason to doubt any of the 66 books though. In any case, even if some of these were doubted - or were given less status than others, we still can be assured of the apostolicity, catholicity, and orthodoxy of the Gospels and Paul's letters for example. Their popularity in the early church assures us that no one doubted these books. And those books contain what we need to know to be saved. As far as I am concerned, the rest is just icing on the cake.

Please check David`s blog.

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/06/are-all-biblical-books-self-attesting.html

And you will see that popularity has nothing to do with the canon of scripture . We need someone with divine authority to decide and to tell us what is scripture and what is not , and that someone is the Catholic Church which was established by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and received it`s authority from Him . Now to refuse that and to refuse the infallibility of the Church as we said before , is to doubt everything .
How can you or anyone just decide on which matters the Church is infallible and on which the Church is not?That`s the biggest problem with the protestants , they put themselves above the Church,and by doing that they put themselves above the authority established by God .Sorry to say this,but , this is pure arrogance and will only lead to confusion as you can see , and also to relativism and in the end idolotry . Now you may wonder why idolotry?well , because that will lead you back exactly to the original sin when man wanted to be God , and he wanted to do things his own way and not God`s way .
GBU

infanttheology said...

Ben,


That's that, huh? : )


Maroun,


I should not have used the word popularity, as it has the potential to confuse. Still, my point is that no one doubted that these books were God’s word – and not because some infallible authority had pronounced on them. This was already known and believed among the faithful, namely that the Pauline corpus and the Gospels were clearly Scripture, the very Word of God. Now, there was a debate about how to interpret those of course, and the gnostics lost this debate because they could not show that their guys knew the originals – the Apostles (and there is no doubt that the question of Acts 8 – regarding the importance of interpretation – is of import here – of course). In short, this whole matter is not about logic so much as it is about what happened in history. To say that just because there is no particular and identifiable infallible authority that one must doubt everything is not credible.


And as I said earlier about the true remnant:


“They recognize the authentic voice of their Shepherd, and rightly know that whatever is said in the mainline church (that which all people can see outwardly identifies with following and worshipping the man Jesus Christ, who claimed to be divine) needs to be tested by the authoritative Scriptures (which believers in the train of the faith have always recognized to be the truth through the power of the Holy Spirit) – this “looking back to the Scriptures” is in fact a *part of* the authentic rule of faith."



Faithful believers recognize that certain texts conform to the rule of faith and are testified to by fulfilled prophecies – and these texts become staples of the life of faith. Scriptures are recognized as being from God through men. Those adhering to the true rule of faith realize that any “new developments” will always be in line with the old stuff. Serious Lutherans do not put themselves above the authority established by God because it is clear that the greatest representative of the “official church”, the RCC, has clearly contradicted the Scriptures, which are also authority established by God – and, those practicing the true rule of faith recognize, an authority that must trump contradicting churchly authorities. The Lutheran claim, of course, is that it is Rome that has wanted to do things their own way and not God’s way. Hence, the Reformation, the emergence of a “prophetic voice” that the mainline RCC did not receive (and since that time has developed doctrines that would make receiving such a corrective prophet even more unlikely).


Back in a week again.

infanttheology said...

Ben,

See below as it relates to your quip...

David,

I had time to read your article, “Luther Was Not a Revolutionary?! Huh?!”, linked to above.

Here are the quotes that stood out to me:

“One can quibble about when and why he intended on starting a new version of Christianity, but the fact remains that he did. It is foolish to think that the Catholic Church was supposed to simply bow to Luther's novel ideas, rather than assert its own received Tradition and demand a retraction on his part.”

And,

“the honest thing for Luther to have done would have been to leave the Catholic Church, since he no longer accepted its doctrines -- rather than create a spectacle and a schism that had repercussions we still live with today. …”

And,

“To ditch dozens of beliefs and practices of any institution, and revise it almost entirely is
not reform, but rather transformation, evolution, or revolution.”

And,

“Popes never even dreamt of the power and self-granted infallibility that Luther claimed in his own created church.”

Last one first: when did Luther ever claim infallibility?

Second: if Luther truly believed that the Scriptures had informed his conscience that:

- incredibly, the institutional Church (not the faithful remnant within) had strayed badly from the true teaching of the faith (in “dozens of beliefs and practices”)

-as a “faithful son” of the church and pastor/teacher (professor) in the church it was his responsibility to fight for the truth as Paul had said…

- he was a part of One Church that, albeit unfaithful, was still God’s One Church and of course he had no right to “start a new Church” because there only is One Church...

…what should have he done? (other than “changed his mind” that is)

Again, it seems to me that the RC view of the Church will not allow for prophetic corrections. Seeing as how this happened throughout the Old and New Testaments, I do not see why it is unreasonable for me to think that it would happen today as well.

Dave Armstrong said...

Luther in effect claimed infallibility many times, by saying that his teaching was from God, and no one could, therefore, question it. Whoever did was immediately classified by him as a rascal, damned, a scoundrel, unregenerate, etc. I have many papers on this, documenting it. Just see my Luther and Lutheranism page. His claims of authority far exceeded what any pope has ever said, or ever could claim, according to how we view the office of the papacy. Luther pretended (almost literally) to be a prophet.

The Bible teaches that the Church is infallible and indefectible. Therefore, it couldn't be wrong on its "de fide" doctrines, because of the protection of God (not man's arbitrary allegiances, as we see in Protestant denominationalism, including Lutheranism).

Ben said...

Nathan:

when did Luther ever claim infallibility?

Better still, when did he ever claim fallibility for his “Gospel”? Lutherans deny his infallibility, but in the same breathe ask,“wherein did he err”?

Second: if Luther truly believed that the Scriptures had informed his conscience …

Problem is, Nathan, all heretics “truly” believe Scripture informs their consciences! For the tragic consequences of such pride and folly, see what the Anglican bishop Brian Walton says here, p. 382 . The primary Latin source text here .

Then we have another Anglican, Thomas Balguy See what he says here.

-as a “faithful son” of the church and pastor/teacher (professor) in the church it was his responsibility to fight for the truth as Paul had said…

Does this sound like a "faithful son" of the Church?

Ben said...

Cont.

Again, it seems to me that the RC view of the Church will not allow for prophetic corrections.

It’s not prophets that concern the Church, but only the 'crack-prophets'! ;)

Seeing as how this happened throughout the Old and New Testaments, I do not see why it is unreasonable for me to think that it would happen today as well.

So were the biblical prophets infallible when they transmitted God’s messages? Were their words binding on all men, everywhere, in every age?

And what about Calvin? He too claimed to be a messenger of God – a “prophet”, a "vicar" of Christ. See this and this.

Yet he, like Zwingli and others, fundamentally disagreed with Luther on the Eucharist! See this.

Luther of course, defended his teaching on the eucharist, not just by Scripture alone, but by an appeal to the Fathers, to tradition. See this.

So Nathan, my friend, what are folks to believe? Who, among all the various “prophets” are folks supposed to listen to?

Nathan Rinne said...

Testing...

Nathan Rinne said...

Ben,

With all due respect, you are not responding to my arguments – nor are you really representing my position.

You say that Luther appealed to the Fathers and tradition. This is no surprise to Lutherans, because as I said “Scripture alone” was not the cry of the Lutheran Reformers (see the 7 kinds of tradition the Lutherans did accept, as laid out by Chemnitz above).

In his large catechism Luther makes the case that infant baptism, although not explicitly commanded in Scripture, has been the earliest practice of the Church and argues that so many Christians have been formed in the Church which baptizes, so it must be correct.

This article (p. 323) may help you to understand us a bit more also: http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/scaerdevangelical.pdf

Of course Calvin and Zwingli were wrong. I am a Lutheran, remember? Not only this, those the Anglicans you quote speak of persons who were wrong as well. And they were wrong. All one need do is test their words against the Scriptures. The fact that so many reject these words – and fracture Christianity more and more – is not evidence that Luther was wrong. He was, although not without error, the “original and best” of the Protestant Reformers. Only he demonstrated by his actions (early on) that he was concerned to remain faithful to the church.

Your quote about the die being cast comes after it had become clear that Luther was to be condemned I believe. I believe most everything that Luther wrote before that can only be interpreted as meaning that he desired for the Pope to agree with his main points (not necessarily all his “suggestions”). If this is unthinkable for you, you really should read this: Hendrix, Scott, Luther and the Papacy, Minneapolis: Fortress, 1981. That said, I wish Luther would not have been so quick to cast the die. But I was not in his shoes. As Melanchton said at Luther’s funeral, he could be a bit strong, but the church needed strong medicine.

Read the Hendrix book and the whole idea of him being a faithful son of the church will not seem nearly as far-fetched....

Nathan Rinne said...

...

“So Nathan, my friend, what are folks to believe? Who, among all the various “prophets” are folks supposed to listen to?”

The one who faithfully expounds the Scriptures, recognized by the faithful as God’s Word from the very beginning. The one who upholds Christ (like the early ecumenical councils did) and defends His free grace in all its freeness. “Wherein did he error?” indeed. The whole point is that the *real* rule of faith always is driven back to the Scriptures. I do believe that the words of the biblical prophets were God’s very words – and yes, infallible. But see my words to Dave about infallibility.

“Is there nothing too hard for your understanding?” Yes. Of course. But the main message of the Scriptures – that which we need to know for forgiveness, life, and salvation, is clear. I heard just yesterday that Luther said of Rome that they could not find comfort in any doctrine. I realize that you may think that is a foolish thing to say, but as best I can tell, Rome does not believe the simple message of Romans 5:1. And this ( http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/ ) is something they refuse to teach.

Next week.

+ Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

For some reason, the first part of my letter did not post.

Here it is:

Ben,

With all due respect, you are not responding to my arguments – nor are you really representing my position.

You say that Luther appealed to the Fathers and tradition. This is no surprise to Lutherans, because as I said “Scripture alone” was not the cry of the Lutheran Reformers (see the 7 kinds of tradition the Lutherans did accept, as laid out by Chemnitz above).

In his large catechism Luther makes the case that infant baptism, although not explicitly commanded in Scripture, has been the earliest practice of the Church and argues that so many Christians have been formed in the Church which baptizes, so it must be correct.

This article (p. 323) may help you to understand us a bit more also: http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/scaerdevangelical.pdf

Of course Calvin and Zwingli were wrong. I am a Lutheran, remember? Not only this, those the Anglicans you quote speak of persons who were wrong as well. And they were wrong. All one need do is test their words against the Scriptures. The fact that so many reject these words – and fracture Christianity more and more – is not evidence that Luther was wrong. He was, although not without error, the “original and best” of the Protestant Reformers. Only he demonstrated by his actions (early on) that he was concerned to remain faithful to the church.

Your quote about the die being cast comes after it had become clear that Luther was to be condemned I believe. I believe most everything that Luther wrote before that can only be interpreted as meaning that he desired for the Pope to agree with his main points (not necessarily all his “suggestions”). If this is unthinkable for you, you really should read this: Hendrix, Scott, Luther and the Papacy, Minneapolis: Fortress, 1981. That said, I wish Luther would not have been so quick to cast the die. But I was not in his shoes. As Melanchton said at Luther’s funeral, he could be a bit strong, but the church needed strong medicine.

Read the Hendrix book and the whole idea of him being a faithful son of the church will not seem nearly as far-fetched....

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

Right, now we are back to where we started (http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2011/07/martin-luther-in-his-pseudo-prophetic.html ). Saying Luther “in effect” claimed infallibility is simply not fair. You may not agree with Luther’s way of reading the Bible, but he believed God’s word was *clear when it came to the matters he was proclaiming so boldly* (i.e. this kind of stuff: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/ ), and of course not only this, but that *God’s word was infallible* (not him). At issue here is really this contention of clarity in the Church’s central message. The problem is not with the Word, but people’s careless and thoughtless reading of the Word.

He asked that his opponents respond to him with Scripture and pure reason. I think he meant that - for all of his stubbornness. I think if questions had been asked of him in a more irenic, curious or concerned spirit he probably would have responded more favorably. In any case, the point is that Luther did not believe he was infallible. The Pope, however, did. And that attitude was canonized at Vatican I. So talking about claiming infallibility “in effect” may be appropriate in some contexts, but not here I think.

I do recognize Luther as a prophet of sorts – a prophetic voice as I’ve been saying (I don’t have the need to equate him with “the seers of old time”. Not in that I consider everything he said infallible. But I am confident that some of the things that he wrote – and which he commended over and again - for example his Large Catechism, do not contain any errors and faithfully relay the core message of the Church.

“The Bible teaches that the Church is infallible and indefectible. Therefore, it couldn't be wrong on its "de fide" doctrines, because of the protection of God (not man's arbitrary allegiances, as we see in Protestant denominationalism, including Lutheranism).”

Yes, and I said I believe this, although I believe that the remnant within that larger institutional structure (that the world sees externally as the church) is always the one that does not fail in all points (I do believe the God has preserved the external church as well to a very strong degree) – by God’s protection.

Again, Dave, I humbly submit to you that have refused to continue to deal with my best arguments above. You started to do so, but when I effectively answered you (others will need to judge this I know), I think you stopped arguing.

By the way, I have a lot of respect for you. That’s why I am here. That’s why I am trying to slowly read through all your posts about Luther you referred me to above.

Will be back.

In Christ,

Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

Ben,

I said:

"I believe most everything that Luther wrote before that can only be interpreted as meaning that he desired for the Pope to agree with his main points (not necessarily all his “suggestions”)."

By this, I mean Luther seriously wanted to find concord/agreement with the Pope and even believed it was possible (his letters show that he did think the Pope might agree with him) - not that the "evil Pope" would submit/bow to him.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Nathan,

There is nowhere else to go with this present line of argument. We both presented our positions (mine backed by much of my own prior writing and research) and they are incompatible. It's not a matter of being scared or unwilling: there is simply no way to logically continue it (i.e., the discussion as it has been proceeding thus far). Ships passing in the night.

I understand the Lutheran perspective pretty well, I think. Much of what you express, I used to hold myself.

The only place to go now is to start discussing individual doctrines, if you desire to do so. With entrenched premises, it is necessary to dismantle each one piece-by-piece. Then perhaps the person who held them will see that the entire superstructure has a rotten or nonexistent foundation, and crumbles, upon close scrutiny.

This is what my website does: it attempts to systematically dismantle Protestant false premises and doctrines, and to argue for (with extensive use of Scripture) the cogency of the Catholic alternative.

If you want to start discussing individual doctrines, feel free. But you have to hang around consistently and not come around every two weeks or so. You'll have to devote serious time to it. I've had many past debates with Lutherans, as you can see on my Lutheranism and Dialogue web pages.

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

Thanks for the reply. I simply do not have time to do this more than once a week. If you can't work with me on that, I understand. : )

It would probably be more helpful for me to read some of your past writings on Luther and Lutheranism, which I am doing.

When I said that you did not address my arguments, I particularly meant the ones that you "took down" in the initial blog post. I replied, I think quite effectively, to that.

"The only place to go now is to start discussing individual doctrines, if you desire to do so. With entrenched premises, it is necessary to dismantle each one piece-by-piece. Then perhaps the person who held them will see that the entire superstructure has a rotten or nonexistent foundation, and crumbles, upon close scrutiny."

Yes, I see that this is what you do, and, in general, I appreciate your approach. I think it is very cool how you can do this full-time.

This is what I'm trying to do with you to. : ) And it all starts with your admitting, that on this point, at least, my rebuttal to your initial blog post is quite convincing.

At least, I'm quite convinced it is. Just allowing that point makes a huge difference to the conversation in my book.

Until you tell me to stay away, I'll try to be back here once a week, letting you know what I've learned from your stuff - and whether I think any of it has addressed the questions I'm putting to you.

+ Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

You are an interesting correspondent, for sure. I'm not sure what you think your knockout punch is. You seem to think that we must always admit the Church can be wrong, if some "prophet" comes along. I deny this because it is unbiblical. According to Scripture, the Church possesses theological and spiritual truth in its fullness, is specially guided by the Holy Spirit, and prevented from serious heretical error, and it is indefectible.

Prophets can expose hypocrisy and human beings falling short of the ideal, but they can't prove that the Church is wrong in its doctrines; in the apostolic deposit.

So we have a fundamental disagreement there. You deny that the Church is indefectible. I follow the biblical teaching. :-) Luther was wrong. The fruit of his error manifested itself in the long run, through the bloodshed and division that ensued. That is not God's will. For Him there is one truth alone, and His Church protects it, as a Guardian.

We can't agree on this particular principle. For me to do so would mean that I have to accept hostile Protestant premises. Been there, done that. I reject them, and I do so on the basis of the Bible, reason, and apostolic succession and the unbroken history of the Catholic Church.

We can only discuss individual doctrines. I'd be happy to do so if you like.

Ben said...

Nathan:

… Luther appealed to the Fathers and tradition.

Yes, but only insofar as these agreed with his private interpretations. Calvin likewise (for Calvin on tradition, see this ).

…“Scripture alone” was not the cry of the Lutheran Reformers…

Well, that's debatable... But even if not technically the case, it was for all practical purposes!

Of course Calvin and Zwingli were wrong. I am a Lutheran, remember? Not only this, those the Anglicans you quote speak of persons who were wrong as well. And they were wrong. All one need do is test their words against the Scriptures.

Every Protestant group claims to test doctrine by Scripture, with the predictable result of hopeless doctrinal disagreement. And why? Because of a faulty premise i.e., making the Scripture the starting point of faith and doctrine, rather than the Faith and Tradition of the Church, which the Scriptures then simply confirm. See Cardinal Newman on this.

The fact that so many reject these words – and fracture Christianity more and more – is not evidence that Luther was wrong.

It’s the inevitable result of following Luther’s very un-christian example of defiance and self-will!

And it is evidence that rejection of ecclesial authority (even were it to be fallible) is always wrong, that private interpretation (to determine doctrine) is always wrong. But what else to expect when one despises even the idea of an infallible Church?

It all boils down to just this: the sheep - THE SHEEP! - demanding to be shepherds, to having the "first places" of teaching authority!

Why? Perhaps one who himself knew firsthand a thing or two about such matters can inform us. ;)

Nathan Rinne said...

David,


“For me to do so would mean that I have to accept hostile Protestant premises.”

There is no hostility here! Just a desire for the truth (is what I said above regarding Jesus’ *seemingly* contradictory stance towards the Pharisees as teachers of truth not interesting, and worthy of more thorough reflection?) May God guide us into it.

“You deny that the Church is indefectible... We can't agree on this particular principle… We can only discuss individual doctrines. I'd be happy to do so if you like.”

David, I know you are greatly concerned to accurately represent the views of others. Your scrupulosity may be annoying to some, but to me it is good, right and salutary. Remember, I deny that I deny the Church is indefectible, remember?

It seems to me that the main doctrines that we can discuss then should be the nature of the Church (including concepts of infallibility and indefectibility) or the assembly/gathering, especially as regards the concept of “remnant”. I know that you have some in your circles who think this way (there is even a newspaper called this, no doubt considered a bit radical by you, I would imagine). It is a common Old Testament concept, and in spite of this, we never see the prophets talking about there being more than one Assembly, or grouping of God’s people. David, how do you understand this idea of “remnant”, and do you think that it has any validity whatsoever after Pentecost?

Further, can you give me an idea of how the concept of “infallibility” unfolded in the Old Testament, that witness that we have that Jesus exalted highly during His earthly ministry?

David, I am eager to learn from you – even if all of this results in us simply learning from our disagreements, I do not doubt, that you, as a full-time apologist (my dream job?), will also have made me aware of many important pieces of evidence that I am unaware of.

Thanks again, and God bless.

+ Nathan

(I only need to read your “Ecumenical Dialogue #3 now, and then I am on to your treatment of Chemnitz)

Nathan Rinne said...

Ben,

You really need to define “private interpretation” for me. I do not believe private interpretation exists, because all of us make interpretations in the contexts of other persons. We all share a world out there, and further, we identify more so with groups of people who find this or that aspect of reality important and interesting. This is especially true of the Church. Note that even though I, an individual am speaking, I am talking about knowledge and understanding as something we do together, as a corporate thing. That is me to the bone. It seems to me that when you say "private interpretation" I can just interpret that to mean I disagree with the Magisterium.

Looking at these may help:

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/babies-in-church-part-ii-word-or-the-church/ (most important one)

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/babies-in-church-part-v-the-arrogance-of-the-infant-a/ (second most important one)

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/babies-in-church-part-iii-the-unattractive-body/ (3rd most importnat one)

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/06/03/babies-in-church-part-iv-miraculous-ordinary-conversational-experience/

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/babies-in-church-part-vi-the-arrogance-of-the-infant-b/

I said:

…“Scripture alone” was not the cry of the Lutheran Reformers…

You said:

Well, that's debatable... But even if not technically the case, it was for all practical purposes!

I will disagree with you that it is debatable and disagree with you about the “practical purposes” point. Did you look at the paper from Scaer I linked to? Again, how did Luther defend infant baptism, not explicitly commanded in Scripture? How did the Lutherans justify liturgical ceremonies that were not explicitly commanded in Scripture – sometimes when these ceremonies did not even seem to have anything to do with the Gospel (as they understood it in the narrow sense: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/ ) that they claimed was the central message of the Christian faith? Why is monasticism per se, (which is never explicitly commanded in the Scripture) actually never condemned in the Book of Concord (http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/a-child-at-peace-in-the-presence-of-the-father-a-lutheran-monasticism/) even if monasticism as it was widely practiced was condemned? (there were and still are some Lutheran monks).

I take it you think that Chemnitz was wrong then (or being dishonest?) in his analysis of the 7 kinds of tradition the Lutherans did not question?

“Because of a faulty premise i.e., making the Scripture the starting point of faith and doctrine, rather than the Faith and Tradition of the Church, which the Scriptures then simply confirm.”

Again, you are not arguing with me when you say this – nor many Lutherans who are more deeply aware of what their faith teaches (please try and find “Sola Scriptura” in our confessions). See the fourth of my links above.


+ Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

Back next Wednesday, I hope.

+ Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

No need to answer today, then.

Nathan Rinne said...

David,

I am looking for this, but I get a 404 error:

Critique of Martin Chemnitz' Examination of Trent: Scripture I (Poisoning the Well as to the Catholic Rule of Faith and Veneration of Holy Scripture)

+ Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Nathan,

I'm glad you pointed this out. It was a completely bad URL (happens, with all my multiple hundreds of papers!). I corrected it, and here it is:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/08/critique-of-martin-chemnitz-examination.html

Ben said...

Nathan:

[Luther] demonstrated by his actions (early on) that he was concerned to remain faithful to the church.

Why then wasn’t he? And really, is there ever a time when any of us are permitted to be 'unfaithful' to the Bride??

[We are to listen to the] one who faithfully expounds the Scriptures, recognized by the faithful as God’s Word from the very beginning.

But ultimately, ONLY THE CHURCH can FAITHFULLY expound the Scriptures. It's part of her very mission as a "teaching" (not a self-teaching) Church.

Go ye therefore, and TEACH all nations ... TEACHING them to OBSERVE all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you ALWAYS, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt. 28: 19-20)

But the Church could not teach without having Christ's authority. This he gave to her in saying

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" Matt. 28:18

The Church therefore TEACHES and DISCIPLINES with Christ's authority. Luther in his own way understood this. Calvin too (in his own way) seems to have recognized this basic truth.

And why not? After all, we look in vain for an instance in Scripture where laypersons are teaching doctrine and / or correcting error. On the contrary, what we find, always and everywhere, is the CHURCH - AND ONLY THE CHURCH - teaching, interpreting and correcting.

The one who upholds Christ (like the early ecumenical councils did) and defends His free grace in all its freeness.

The Church has always done this. Or where do you find the Catholic Church ever failing to uphold Christ, or teach that his grace was not free??

You really need to define “private interpretation” for me…. It seems to me that when you say "private interpretation" I can just interpret that to mean I disagree with the Magisterium.

Well, it would help to know which “Magisterium” you’re referring to – Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, so and so's “Bible church" etc. But whichever you choose, you must then show why it’s legitimate to reject its teaching and authority.

Regarding “private interpretation,” I mean simply the determining for oneself which doctrines and practices shall be binding on the universal Church.

As for the Reformers use of tradition…

Yes, they appealed to tradition – as it suited them. But had Luther for example, at any point in his career decided that say, infant baptism had to go, gone it would’ve been! Should he have felt differently later, back it would’ve come! And so on...

please try and find “Sola Scriptura” in our confessions

Nathan, have you forgotten what Luther himself declared?

“I am bound by the SCRIPTURES” and “captive to WORD” .

When is the last time you heard a Protestant speak of being “bound” or “captive” to Sacred Tradition?

Later,

God bless.

Nathan Rinne said...

Ben,

Most of the stuff you bring up here, I think that I have already addressed above. As such, there is really not more that I can say, I think. I realize that you obviously do not find my arguments convincing. I would only ask of you two things: A) pay attention to the specific thing Dave says that I misinterpreted in his original post, and then see my replies. After my first reply, Dave surprised me a bit, saying: “You not only hung yourself with this particular dead-end argument, but you nailed your own casket shut and lowered yourself into the ground.” I went on to directly answer his points quite effectively I think, and have yet to hear another rebuttal. My conscience is quite clear here. B) I challenge you the way I challenged Dave: deal with the issue of what the Biblical concept of “remnant” means in RC theology. And does it play out on the ground, through history? I’m trying to get you to think outside of your self-chosen box (yes, you, as an individual, have chosen to side with the interpretation of the RC church, whom you consider to have the only authoritative, and evidently “non-private” interpretation [maybe you’d say the EO don’t have this either, but then you must talk about how they are different from Confessional Lutherans, who hold to a public, not private confession, claiming not to be just a bunch of “like-minded” individuals, who have found that we all share similar private interpretations, but to actually be Church])...

Nathan Rinne said...

...

That said, let me briefly try to deal with these things you bring up again. 1) Luther wanted to remain faithful to what was then recognized as the visible Church on earth but could not, in good conscience do so. He believed that he, not they, was closest to the Rule of Faith of the catholic and universal church on earth. Their errors were so great – and their condemnations of him so strong – that he obviously could not remain in the RC church. This is why it was legitimate – nay, a tragic necessity – to reject its teaching and authority (though not deny that they were still Church, albeit one that was daily mitigating the truth and grace found there) 2) Yes, only the Church can faithfully expound the Scriptures, but the question is “who is Church and who speaks for it”? Luther was a legitimately ordained pastor in the Church and one possessing the authority of Christ to preach to/teach/guide the nations, to bind (not absolve) and to loose (absolve). The question is, was his view of the Rule of Faith correct? I argue it was, or at least is closer than the RCC view(s). In addition, because Luther held to the genuine Rule of Faith so tenaciously, he would not have, like the pretenders who followed him, ever rejected infant baptism. If you think this for a minute, you need to actually read his writings. In general, after 1520, his teachings did not change much. 3) You ask where I find the Catholic Church ever failing to uphold Christ or teach that his grace was not free. I have continually referred to this post: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/ (not sure how to do the links with html, but please cut and paste it if you have not already). Like I said, I suspect this is the crux. This, I think, is where the errors of Rome really come to a head: the discouragement of the confidence of faith (as I mentioned before, Luther at one point said of Rome: “our opponents cannot find comfort in any doctrine” – Lutherans basically find some comfort in every doctrine). 4) Regarding “Sola Scriptura” I suppose there is a sense in which we can say the most serious Lutherans (like Chemnitz) did believe something like this. At the same time, their version of “Sola Scriptura” is far more nuanced then, and almost unrecognizable from, the more modern notions of Sola Scriptura, often trumpeted by Reformed and Baptist apologists. The Lutheran view is totally different. In Luther’s circumstances, given the claims of Rome, he took his stand on Scripture. Against the Anabaptists, he took his stand on tradition. This is not because he was being inconsistent, it is because it he was also captive to the genuine Rule of Faith, which hopefully, we will get into more detail about… (if people actually care to discuss what it looks like on the ground: concrete examples, etc.).

+ Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

I am hoping that I will get something from you today - if you are still planning on continuing our discussion.

I have almost finished all of your Chemnitz posts (reading them very carefully, and am formulating a detailed response), in addition to the Luther links you posted on this original blog post.

Again, I would be very eager to hear your take on "remnant" as well as the unfolding of infallibilty in the Old Testament. I know you do your research!

+ Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

I've already commented on the "remnant" business, I believe. This cannot be justified in a way that entails schism from the Church. Luther denied (by redefining) apostolic succession, thus rationalizing his schism from the One true Church.

The Church is what it is. It can't be redefined by whim. Since sinners will always be in the Church, the remnant of faithful followers are also in the Church, not outside of it. What you do is pit piety and faithfulness against allegiance to the Church, which is entirely unbiblical.

Of relevance here would be the biblical evidence for indefectibility:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/05/biblical-evidence-for-indefectibility.html

See also my paper, "The Visible, Hierarchical, Apostolic Church"

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/01/visible-hierarchical-apostolic-church.html

I have a number of papers on infallibility in the Bible: of the Church and the pope; and analogies for same. See the "Infallibility" sections of my Church and papacy pages:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/church-index-page.html

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/papacy-index-page.html

Nathan Rinne said...

David,

Thanks. I will take a look at these - and hopefully be back to comment in a week or so.

"the remnant of faithful followers are also in the Church, not outside of it."

How do you see the situation with Israel and Judah in Elijah's time? Israel seems to have fallen away from the true Assembly by this time (if not now en toto, later for sure). There is all kinds of false worship and false belief among the people, the priests, and the prophets there. In the midst of this, God tells a discouraged Elijah that there are still 7,000 faithful in Israel (don't know if they are attending the worship services that are offered around there or not - I'm guessing some were and some weren't). Note, I do not think that this exhausts the ways that "remnant" is used on the Old Testament, but it is interesting in that I'm not sure how it would go along with what you said above. How do you see this? Do you think that these people were in the visible Church of the day? If not, how were they connected to the Church?

Back in about a week. Thanks.

+ Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

By the way, you have said:

"“Since sola Scriptura is devoid of any unquestionable patristic support (as I and many other Catholics have shown, I think), then it must be ditched, according to this true and wise maxim of Martin Chemnitz. I continue to await modern-day adherents of Chemnitz' position (Lutherans) to come and defend both him and his argument.

Usually, at this point of the argument (i.e., after patristic demonstration), the argument from my esteemed Lutheran brothers in Christ ceases, or (as in cases such as the extreme polemicist Josh Strodtbeck, descends into the merely personal and ad hominem and is entirely devoid of rational substance). But where are the modern defenders of Lutheran orthodoxy, who will be willing to amiably engage a Catholic critic? Few and far between, they are . . .”

I might be your guy - although I have nothing on Chemnitz (will try though). For a short while that is (not that I am afraid of debate - just that I have full time work and more, 4 kids, etc. etc.).

If I do engage you on your Chemnitz posts, may I do so here, on this post (just to keep everything tidy)?

+ Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Nathan,

The sin of schism doesn't go down through many generations. That's why today's Protestants aren't guilty of it. The Bible allows for those "outside" the gates to possibly be saved (Romans 2).

In Luther's case it is different. He was in the Church; knew it to be the Church, and deliberately decided to dissent on at least 50 beliefs and practices (as I have documented), thus leading to inevitable excommunication and schism, since he started up a rival communion.

Dave Armstrong said...

To say that someone can possibly be saved "outside" the one true Church is not the same as saying that there should not be or is not, one true, identifiable, institutional, visible, apostolic Church.

Therefore, there can be "remnants" of folks who are ignorant of true ecclesiology and tradition who are saved. That says not a whit about what the true Church is; nor is it any denial that there is only one Church, per the Bible. This Church is visible and hierarchical; not merely abstract. E.g., the Jerusalem Council . . .

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Nathan,

If I do engage you on your Chemnitz posts, may I do so here, on this post (just to keep everything tidy)?

If you were to actually attempt a point-by-point rebuttal, I would request that you send me an e-mail:

apologistdave [at] gmail [dot] com

Then I would create a new post with your entire reply and my counter-reply. I want to keep comboxes generally on the topic of the post they are under. Thanks.

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

I'm getting a 404 error on the Webber paper I referred to in the initial post. Here it is again:

http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/WebberReformationsBefore.pdf

Eventually, I will be taking on your take of Chemnitz. It will be an honor to do battle with you. I've enjoyed your series on Whiticker.

+ Nathan

+ Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

Cool. Have a great weekend, my zealous friend in Christ. :-)

Ben said...

Nathan,

I challenge you the way I challenged Dave: deal with the issue of what the Biblical concept of “remnant” means in RC theology. And does it play out on the ground, through history?

Nathan, “remnant” simply means that God will never abandon His Church(just as He promised). The wheat and the chaff must grow together until the harvest; but it is the Wheat who always remain faithful to the "Apostolic Tradition" of truth in every age. Read this letter fragment from St. Athanasius.

Read also another all but untold story of faithfulness - a holy German Prioress and her nuns, embattled by the fanatical Bucer. Their story begins here.

I’m trying to get you to think outside of your self-chosen box (yes, you, as an individual, have chosen to side with the interpretation of the RC church, whom you consider to have the only authoritative, and evidently “non-private” interpretation…

Doesn't seem like such a bad idea to “side” with the Roman Church, especially given that this church is honored and esteemed by “all the churches of Christ” in Scripture! ;)

Luther wanted to remain faithful to what was then recognized as the visible Church on earth but could not, in good conscience do so.

“Good conscience”? But what about those who also in “good conscience” saw things differently from Luther?

He believed that he, not they, was closest to the Rule of Faith of the catholic and universal church on earth. Their errors were so great – and their condemnations of him so strong – that he obviously could not remain in the RC church. This is why it was legitimate – nay, a tragic necessity – to reject its teaching and authority (though not deny that they were still Church, albeit one that was daily mitigating the truth and grace found there)

No one denies that Church needed reform at the time. What is denied is that the Church at any time officially taught error.

Yes, only the Church can faithfully expound the Scriptures, but the question is “who is Church and who speaks for it”?

Well Nathan, I think we can safely say that no individual constitutes “the Church.”

Luther was a legitimately ordained pastor in the Church and one possessing the authority of Christ to preach to/teach/guide the nations, to bind (not absolve) and to loose (absolve).

There were thousands of ordained priests in Luther’s day (and countless others before him). Could any of them have been “legitimately ordained” in any but the one true Church?

Ben said...

Cont.

The question is, was his view of the Rule of Faith correct? I argue it was, or at least is closer than the RCC view(s).

Then all the Doctors and Fathers before Luther were wrong?

In addition, because Luther held to the genuine Rule of Faith so tenaciously, he would not have, like the pretenders who followed him, ever rejected infant baptism. If you think this for a minute, you need to actually read his writings. In general, after 1520, his teachings did not change much.

I may have read a line or two of Luther.

You ask where I find the Catholic Church ever failing to uphold Christ or teach that his grace was not free. I have continually referred to this post: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/a-child-of-the-reformation/ (not sure how to do the links with html, but please cut and paste it if you have not already).

How’s this? (To see how hyperlinks are made (in Firefox), just point the mouse anywhere on a web page (except pics and links) and right click. Then choose “view page source” from the menu. This will show the underlying html code, which can then be easily searched (as with any other document) by pressing “control f” (or “control g”).

Like I said, I suspect this is the crux. This, I think, is where the errors of Rome really come to a head: the discouragement of the confidence of faith (as I mentioned before, Luther at one point said of Rome: “our opponents cannot find comfort in any doctrine”

Luther (and all the Reformers) had a well-documented tendency to misrepresent Catholic teaching.

Lutherans basically find some comfort in every doctrine).

Well, speaking just for myself, I always feel a bit less "comfort" when it comes to certain doctrines ... such as the doctrine of hell! But if Lutherans find “comfort” in such doctrines... ;)

Regarding “Sola Scriptura” I suppose there is a sense in which we can say the most serious Lutherans (like Chemnitz) did believe something like this. At the same time, their version of “Sola Scriptura” is far more nuanced then, and almost unrecognizable from, the more modern notions of Sola Scriptura, often trumpeted by Reformed and Baptist apologists.

I agree.

The Lutheran view is totally different. In Luther’s circumstances, given the claims of Rome, he took his stand on Scripture.

Don't you mean on his interpretation of Scripture?

Against the Anabaptists, he took his stand on tradition.

As interpreted by himself.

This is not because he was being inconsistent, it is because it he was also captive to the genuine Rule of Faith...

Again, shouldn't we rather say captive to his own opinions?

Looking forward to your reply…

God bless. †

Nathan Rinne said...

"No one denies that Church needed reform at the time. What is denied is that the Church at any time officially taught error."

Yes, we say it clearly did, as anyone can see by examining the Scriptures vs. Trent (see Chemnitz)

"Well Nathan, I think we can safely say that no individual constitutes “the Church.”"

Luther simply put into words more clearly than any before him what many in the Church felt in their bones to be true. He was not the only respected pastor to think that he had truth on his side. Others resonated with what he said of course. It has always been the same in the Church, even if, admittedly, some of the brave defenders of the truth in the past gained a following in wider quarters and in a more speedy fashion.

"There were thousands of ordained priests in Luther’s day (and countless others before him). Could any of them have been “legitimately ordained” in any but the one true Church?"

That depends on what you think of the E.O. I see their ordinations as being just as valid as those in the R.C.C.

"Then all the Doctors and Fathers before Luther were wrong?"

No - it is as Chemnitz says of Augustine. Here, he explains that Augustine himself talked about how painful but necessary it was to have to correct many of the respected and revered fathers of the church before him. The only reason he had to do this was because the errors of the time (Donatism and Pelagianism especially) forced him into the Scriptures more and more, and he realized in the course of his arguments with his opponents how badly off the fathers were in many topics. He tried his best to "cover" their errors so to speak (without being dishonest), by putting their interpretations in a generous light. This all he says himself, and he also talks about how he realized that he himself was in error regarding certain important doctrines...

"Well, speaking just for myself, I always feel a bit less "comfort" when it comes to certain doctrines ... such as the doctrine of hell! But if Lutherans find “comfort” in such doctrines... ;)"

Of course we do. In hell, we have the ultimate in protection for the faithful. Our enemies, those who would destroy us and the King we serve, will be kept far from us. There will be a great chasm between those who fear, love, and trust God perfectly - and whose only joy is Him - and those who would use any means necessary to pull us down into the pit with them. Yes, *extremely comforting*....

Nathan Rinne said...

....

Me: "he took his stand on Scripture."

You: "Don't you mean on his interpretation of Scripture?"

As Augustine says, many passages are so clear on the face of it, that it does not make sense to talk much about personal interpretations or opinions. The meaning of the text is externally clear to everyone, even if they, not having spiritual illumination, do not understand or believe it (internal clarity).

Me: "Against the Anabaptists, he took his stand on tradition."

You: "As interpreted by himself."

I disagree. As interpreted by the Church, with the true Rule of Faith. Here, think remnant, both in O.T. and N.T.

Ben - next week on Wednesday I hope to send David my reply to all of his Chemnitz postings. I am sure you will find my reply (and David's as well) very interesting at least.

In Christ,
Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

I look forward to it. I wish you the best in defending a hopeless cause. :-)

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

I humbly say: I believe, good sir, that the shoe is on the other foot. : )

Seriously, if you'd like to keep going after Chemnitz, I have the next thing for you to take on:

http://cyberbrethren.com/2010/10/26/more-treasure-from-johann-gerhard-now-in-english-the-church/

After 2 (or has it been 3) have now told me that this book is even better than the Confessio Catholica (the two volume work where Gerhard defends the Lutheran Church as the true church), it has finally sunk in and I will stop bothering everyone to translate the CC from Latin/German.

Here's more on the author and the series as a whole:

http://cyberbrethren.com/2011/03/17/johann-gerhards-loci-theologici-the-best-and-most-comprehensive-lutheran-presentation-of-christian-doctrine/

Just perusing the content I think I can give you assurance Dave that this man takes care of all your concerns about the dearth of strong arguments vs. the RCC. As I look at the index of this book - and all the sources Gerhard quotes and seems to be very familiar with - I am in a bit of awe.

So go get him...

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

As if you needed more reasons to read Gerhard on the Church, here is a quotation from Dr. C.F.W. Walther, the revered founder of the LC-MS, as he describes the importance of Johann Gerhard’s Loci Theologici:

"Among the works that deal with dogmatics in detail, one can ask which one is first and foremost just as little as one can ask which star outshines all the others. Just as in the latter question one can only speak of the sun, so in the former question one can only speak of Johann Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces. . . . The proofs from Scripture are everywhere clear and exhaustive. ***The refutation of opponents is pervaded and pulses just as much with the spirit of love toward them as with the love of the truth*** ; it seeks out the opponents in all their hiding places and always robs them of their last supports, so that no further contradiction seems possible. The application of the whole as well as of the particular is simple, illuminating, clearly arranged. Free from destructive fragmentation—at times an error of the later dogmaticians—the entire development of the doctrine flows along briskly with its linguistic, historical, and antithetical excursus like one great stream that describes pleasant bends in the river. Everything is all of a piece. Ethics here are not yet separated from dogmatics; the former appear here like grapes growing from a ripe vine. Biblical isagogics, hermeneutics, exegesis, history of dogmas, patristics, and polemics are added here not like a merely worthwhile appendage, but are organically woven into the whole like necessary beams, like adornments in this architectural marvel. The expression and style are so certain and thereby so simple and brisk; the development of topics, even with its exhaustive precision, goes forward without burdensome repetition so swiftly; even the most dry and subtle subjects are discussed with such exceptional freshness and facility; everything is handled with such holy seriousness; and the words are soaked with such devout meaning that the reader, being taken away by the speech of this precious man, does not know whether he has before him a work for the promotion of Christian erudition or a devotional book. One does not tire of it as long as he reads it and notes how light and warmth go forth from this speech of noble simplicity and true depth of spirit. In sum, in our opinion this work of dogmatics is, in content and form, the most glorious, most complete work in this field that has ever been achieved within Christendom, and until the Last Day it will probably remain the model for all who labor in this field."

Source for Walther quote:
C. F. W. Walther, “Lutherisch-theologische Pfarrers-Bibliothek,” Lehre und Wehre 1 (1855): 300–301. Translation by Benjamin Mayes.

That's a bit of a ringing endorsement, huh? In this day and age where theological shallowness is so much the norm, this makes me very hungry/thirsty reading about this.

I am also actively seeking to find out what kinds of substantial and/or rebuttals are available to this work. Will let you know what I find out in my initial searching soon...

Dave Armstrong said...

Maybe I'll look it over. No one seems to care when I do these studies (you're a rare exception). I've done Calvin, Chemnitz; now I'm working on William Whitaker.

I'm getting very impatient with relentlessly fallacious arguments and the usual straw man "Catholicism" that is supposedly being refuted, but we'll see. If he actually puts up some decent arguments, and understands his opponent (for a change: what a novelty!) it would be fun to tackle.

Dave Armstrong said...

Is Gerhard available online or as an e-book, though? That's what I need to properly do a point-by-point reply, as I did with Calvin, Institutes, Book IV (in its entirety).

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

One more thing I want to say: Gerhard's devotional books are amazing - so Walther's statement does not surprise me. When one reads them one wonders how pietism could possibly accuse the institutional church of cold-heartedness...

And if you needed one more reason, consider this:

http://www.worldcat.org/title/thomas-aquinas-and-john-gerhard/oclc/639827&referer=brief_results

...evidently he appreciated Thomas (and knew his work) much more than Luther...

e-book? Not yet, I guess (but you should ask McCain : ) ). There is one for other books of Gerhard's:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Theological+Commonplaces%3A+On+Christ&x=0&y=0

http://www.amazon.com/Theological-Commonplaces-Theology-Scripture-ebook/dp/B003GEKKQQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317147117&sr=1-1

...so maybe you should wait.

In the meantime, I'm sending you an interesting article on Gerhard via email.
!
+ Nathan