Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why Catholicism? - In a Nutshell

This is a selection from Chapter 3 of my book, Why Christianity is True:

One more question needs to be addressed before we move on. I do not have time here to go into this question with any great degree of thoroughness, but we need to look at it briefly. The question is, What is the locus of divine revelation? Christianity claims to be a divine revelation. But this does not mean, obviously, that everything every Christian says is a divine revelation. So we need to find out what exactly, in the history of Christian literature and discourse, we can reliably affirm as God’s revelation.

How are we going to find this out? We certainly cannot go back in time and look around for people to exhibit signs of receiving divine revelation. We must look at the history of Christian literature and discourse as we have it and see if there are signs as to what we would have good reason to take as a divine revelation. If Christianity is true, and God wishes us to have access to a divine revelation that he has revealed in the Christian tradition, then it is reasonable for us to trust in God’s providence, to trust that he has preserved his revelation to us so that the evidence is sufficiently clear that we can know what it is. Therefore, we can look at the received Christian tradition that we have with confidence in God’s preservation of his revelation. Whatever the best reading of the evidence arising from that tradition is will be the right answer.


There are different streams in the Christian tradition as we go back to the earliest records. There is a mainstream, “Catholic” tradition (as it called itself), and there are streams that were labeled “heretical” by the mainstream tradition. The mainstream, Catholic group held to the traditional Christian doctrines we associate with Christianity today, and which I have assumed to be Christian doctrines throughout this book. The heretical groups frequently disagreed with the Catholic tradition on some of these doctrines. The Catholic group was, by far, the largest and best established group historically. The heretical groups were divided into many sects and did not possess the same sort of historical pedigree as the Catholic group did,1 and also their doctrines were frequently out of accord with the mainstream Christian tradition (and with reason). For example, the heretic Marcion, in the second century A.D., didn’t like the Jewish elements in Christianity, and so he accepted only the New Testament, and only portions of it--namely, the “less Jewish” portions. He accepted the letters of Paul, part of the Gospel of Luke (with the more “Jewish” portions excised), etc. His position clearly is based on an alteration of an earlier tradition. Many of the Gnostic heretical sects produced gospels that were not known by the Christian churches of the time, and which were frequently full of esoteric philosophy and metaphysics that were markedly different from the Jewish atmosphere of the traditional canonical New Testament (and, of course, the Old Testament).

Most of these groups, Catholic and heretical, accepted that God had provided revelation to his people in the form of authoritative Scriptures. Such an idea was already established, of course, in the Judaism that preceded the Christian era, and the vast majority of Christians accepted the Jewish Scriptures (the Old Testament) as the Word of God (though there was some dispute over the status of some books, particularly what are known as the “Deuterocanonical” books, that were included in the famous Greek Septuagint translation of the Jewish Scriptures). Very early on, there is evidence that Christians had another body of literature that was on par with the Jewish Scriptures, a body of literature that would later be called the “New Testament.” Both Catholics and heretics tended to accept such a body of literature. Since the Catholic tradition holds the best historical pedigree, as far as we can tell, and its doctrines are the doctrines of historic Christianity (which has the mark of divine revelation, as we established in the previous chapter), while many of the teachings of the heretical sects are not, it makes sense to assume that the Catholic tradition maintained the most reliable passing-down of the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. It makes sense to view their ideas about which books constitute the canonical Scriptures as far more reliable than the canons put forward by various heretical sects, especially when we consider in addition that most of the canonical books accepted by the Catholic tradition were accepted by many of the heretical sects as well, but not vice versa. There was dispute among those in the Catholic tradition about the authority of some of the traditional books, but these disputes were temporary and were eventually resolved into a pretty much universal consensus. Thus, historical investigation, combined with a reasonable confidence that God has preserved his revelation to us so that we can know what it is, leads us to look to the traditional Catholic canon as delineating the books we should look to as the Word of God. There are simply no other claimed en-scripturated revelations that we have good reason to accept as such besides the traditional canonical books which we have come to think of as “the Bible”. The Gnostic gospels, for instance, are of doubtful historical pedigree, being accepted only by certain relatively small sects and universally rejected by the Catholic tradition. There were some books, such as the Shepherd of Hermas, which were looked at in an authoritative manner by some in the Catholic tradition, but only by limited groups and only temporarily. Any claimed revelation coming from within the Christian tradition in more recent times, such as the revelations of Joseph Smith (the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), do not have any clear evidence supporting their being divine revelations, and usually they have internal evidence against them, as they contradict the canonical Scriptures as well as reason. Smith’s revelations, for example, teach that God was once a man, and that God did not create the basic elements of the universe. This teaching is clearly out of accord with the Bible as well as with the sort of sound reasoning we have been engaging in throughout the past couple of chapters in this book. Therefore, it makes sense to accept the Catholic canon of Scripture as the correct canon.

In addition to pointing to the Bible as the Word of God, the Catholic tradition also pointed to the traditions of the church passed down orally, or in the preaching and practice of the church, as authoritative. For example, take the words of St. Basil of Caesaria from his book On the Holy Spirit, written around the year 375:

Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more.2

The Catholic tradition has also taught that the church itself is guided by the Holy Spirit such that its teaching is a reliable interpretation and application of divine revelation. The Scriptures and the traditions of the church, then, are not meant to be interpreted by private interpreters apart from reliance on the divinely-guided teaching of the whole church. St. Vincent of Lerins, writing around the year 434, articulates the consensus view of the Catholic Church during the early periods:

But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church's interpretation? For this reason—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.3

So the evidence of Christian history and literature tells us that God has associated his true religion of Christianity with the Catholic tradition, and with the church founded by Christ and guided reliably by the Holy Spirit over the ages. It is to that church and to its teachings, then, that we should look in order to find the locus of divine revelation.

But there are lots of churches that claim to be the true church, and their teachings disagree with each other in a number of areas. So how do we know which church is the right church to look to? Well, we should obviously avoid what I call “break-off” denominations—that is denominations that have formed by breaking off from earlier groups and starting a new group. Since we have reason to believe that God has guided and preserved his church, we will want to look to a church that has existed from the beginning of Christianity—an “original” as opposed to a “break-off” denomination. This rules out the vast majority of denominations, including all Protestant denominations (including Anglicans). So far as I can see, we are left with only four possibilities—the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Assyrian Church of the East. These are the only four churches or groups of churches which have not come into being by means of a clear, empirically-obvious break from a previous ecclesiastical tradition to start something new. (I don't say that none of them will turn out to be break-off denominations upon further investigation, but only that these four, unlike, for example, Protestant churches, have at least a remotely plausible claim to be organically descended from the early Catholic Church.)

So how do we decide between these four? My short answer is that, upon investigation, it appears that three out of the four (the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, and the Assyrian Church) lack an adequate epistemology to ground their own claims. They claim to be the true church, but their own methods of determining where the true church is are inadequate to show that they are the true church. For example, one of the common claims made by these three churches is that they are right and the Roman Catholic Church is wrong because they are in better accord with the early church and the fathers of the early church. But the claims of these churches to represent the teaching of the fathers of the early church are very dubious historically. Even more importantly, these three churches do not possess a method for determining how to properly interpret Scripture or the church fathers. The early church believed in doctrinal development, which includes the idea that the Holy Spirit guides the church to clarify and further articulate truth and combat error as error arises historically.4 If the churches disagree about how to interpret the doctrinal trajectory of the fathers in order to decide which church is the organic descendant of the early church, how will we know which church to follow?

The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, has an epistemology that is helpful in deciding these disputes. Their position is that the Bishop of Rome has been appointed by God, as the successor of St. Peter, to be the focal point for unity in the church. Just as in a local church the bishop functions as the center of unity,5 so within the college of bishops in the universal church the Bishop of Rome functions as the center of unity. When there are splits between local churches, we must follow those in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Now this epistemology, obviously, provides a tangible way to decide between disputes. Since only Rome has a workable epistemology that can ground its own claims, we have reason to trust that the Roman Catholic Church is the true descendant of the early church.6

So, to sum up, our situation is thus: The evidence from Christian history and literature tells us that God has associated his true religion with the original church founded by Christ and its teachings, infallibly guided and preserved by the Holy Spirit. It is there that we will find the locus of divine revelation preserved accurately and completely. There are only four churches which can make a remotely plausible empirical claim to be the original denomination. Three of those four lack in their own system an adequate epistemology to provide a basis for their claim to be the correct church, while the fourth does have an epistemology adequate to this task. Our conclusion, then, assuming there are no other fatal objections to the fourth church's claims (a question which we do not have time and space here to examine further), is that the Roman Catholic Church is the original church founded by Christ and preserved to be the reliable conduit of God's divine revelation.

Before we move on, let me just make a few more comments regarding one of the other alternatives to the Catholic position, the Protestant position of Sola Scriptura—the idea that the Bible alone is infallible (utterly reliable), and that the tradition and teaching of the church is not infallible. The main difficulty with this position is that there is simply no evidence for it. The Sola Scriptura position would require us to break from the unity and authority of the original denomination—for that denomination does not teach Sola Scriptura, but rather holds that God has guided the church such that its teaching is utterly reliable, and that the Scriptures are intended not to be interpreted by individuals acting alone, relying ultimately on their own abilities, but in the context of the teaching of the church which has been given the task of authoritatively and accurately gathering, preserving, interpreting, unpacking, and applying the revelation of God through history.7 Before we would be warranted to break with the original denomination, we would need to have conclusive evidence that there is some problem with its teaching which would require us to take such drastic action. But Sola Scriptura proponents, I believe, cannot substantiate any such claim. If the Scripture is intended to be interpreted in the context of trust in the teaching of the church, then the Sola Scriptura approach would tend to lead us astray in our interpretations and applications of Scripture; so the proponents of this approach must prove that Scripture is intended to be interpreted according to their method. But I do not believe they have proved this. Sola Scriptura is not a doctrine taught in the Scriptures themselves (ironically!), and there is no rational evidence demanding it. It was not an idea held by the early church or by any of the churches organically descended from the early church. (For more argumentation regarding these points, see here8 and here.9 I would also recommend Catholic Answers as an excellent resource for answering objections to Catholicism, including objections arising from Sola Scriptura.)10

It would seem, then, that the method of finding the true church in the midst of non-authoritative sects proposed by early church fathers St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. Augustine (an eastern bishop and a western bishop, respectively) is still useful today:

But since the word Ecclesia is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly), and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to you now the Article, And in one Holy Catholic Church; that you may avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which you were regenerated. And if ever you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all; which before was barren, but now has many children.  (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 18)11

For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual men attain in this life, so as to know it, in the scantiest measure, indeed, because they are but men, still without any uncertainty (since the rest of the multitude derive their entire security not from acuteness of intellect, but from simplicity of faith,)— not to speak of this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should, though from the slowness of our understanding, or the small attainment of our life, the truth may not yet fully disclose itself. But with you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me, the promise of truth is the only thing that comes into play. Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church; but if there is only a promise without any fulfillment, no one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.  (St. Augustine, Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, Chapter 4)12


1See St. Irenaeus's book from the second century (about 180 A.D.), Against Heresies, especially Book III, Chapters 1-4, for more on this - http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103.htm
2St. Basil of Caesaria, On the Holy Spirit, Chapter 27, Section 66, taken from the New Advent website (with embedded links removed) at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3203.htm at 11:07 AM on 8/4/15.
3St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory, Chapter 2, taken from the New Advent website (with embedded links removed) at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3506.htm on 6/27/17. In general, I recommend J. N. D. Kelly's book Early Christian Doctrines for those who are interested in learning more about the early church's views on these matters. Chapter II, “Tradition and Scripture,” is particularly helpful.
4See St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory, Chapter 23.
5See Bryan Cross's article summing up the views of St. Ignatius of Antioch on this subject -http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/10/st-ignatius-of-antioch-on-the-church/
6I would add that I think the Roman Catholic claims about the authority of Rome are very well supported historically from a study of the early church. See this excellent work by E. Giles, an Anglican, which presents much of the “raw data” that helps us evaluate how the papacy was viewed in the early church up until the time of the Council of Chalcedon -https://archive.org/details/DocumentsIllustratingPapalAuthorityAd96-454Giles) Also, see my article in which I go into greater detail in examining the claims of the Eastern Orthodox Church and other eastern churches - http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/2016/06/dialogue-on-claims-of-eastern-orthodoxy.html
7For more on the Catholic view of how Scripture and Tradition work together under the authoritative guidance of the teaching authority of the church, see the official Vatican II document Dei Verbum, particularly Chapter II -http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
11Found at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310118.htm (with embedded links and added Scriptural references removed) at 11:12 AM on 8/13/15.
12Found at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1405.htm (with embedded links removed) at 11:15 AM on 8/13/15.

For more, see here, here, here, and here.

20 comments:

John Bugay said...

You assume too much with this statement:

If Christianity is true, and God wishes us to have access to a divine revelation that he has revealed in the Christian tradition, then it is reasonable for us to trust in God’s providence, to trust that he has preserved his revelation to us so that the evidence is sufficiently clear that we can know what it is. Therefore, we can look at the received Christian tradition that we have with confidence in God’s preservation of his revelation. Whatever the best reading of the evidence arising from that tradition is will be the right answer.

Look at the difficulties with your own "Pope Francis". He is causing all kinds of confusion. You may say, "oh, well he's not changing any dogmas" -- but look at the cynical way he's going about it:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2016/03/bergoglios-gig-being-heretic-without.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2016/03/pope-francis-is-on-verge-of-creating.html

There are different streams in the Christian tradition as we go back to the earliest records. There is a mainstream, “catholic” tradition (as it called itself), and there are streams that were labeled “heretical” by the mainstream tradition. The mainstream, catholic group held to the traditional Christian doctrines we associate with Christianity today, and which I have assumed to be Christian doctrines throughout this book.

You certainly assume a lot. Of course, to be Roman Catholic, you must assume the truth of Roman Catholicism, and proceed from there. But it seems as if you haven't really done the deep kind of digging that should be required if you're going to make such a life-changing choice.

I've written extensively about "the non-existent early papacy". Newman assumes this to be because "the papacy" existed in some non-visible but "latent" form, only to have been "discovered" at a time when conflicts "gave exercise" to that functionality.

More recent historical studies have shown fairly conclusively that in the city of Rome up until 150 AD, there was no one "bishop" -- that there were varying sizes of house churches (some of which may have had multiple elders) -- though there was no one "successor of Peter" in that city. So you are talking about "fiction" in another thread -- the real "pope fiction" is the notion that there was one until late in the 4th century. After that point, "Pope Damasus" and his "successors" have been caught re-writing church histories in order to give the Rome a more prominent place than it actually had.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/05/historical-revisionism-in-romes.html

John Bugay said...

Continuing:

Similar things are being said about other aspects of the Roman church. There is a similar kind of "non-existence" to the early church's liturgy -- that is, they don't know what form "goes back to" the early church, and beginning with the New Testament, they are unable to trace any one particular form of worship through time. That's not an "argument from silence" -- it means rather, that there are multiple forms, and no one of them had dominance.


The catholic tradition has also taught that the church itself is guided by the Holy Spirit such that its teaching is a reliable interpretation and application of divine revelation.

You are following what I've called "the fingerpainting method" of looking at church history: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/08/bryan-cross-fingerpainting-your-way.html


Since we have reason to believe that God has guided and preserved his church, we will want to look to a church that has existed from the beginning of Christianity—an “original” as opposed to a “break-off” denomination.

More simplistic assumptions on your part. I'll just give you a few examples:

* The "Nestorian" churches never accepted the council of Ephesus (431) -- and Nestorius himself felt vindicated by Chalcedon (451). There were far more millions of "Nestorian" Christians than there were in Europe (at that time, the combination of both Greek and Roman) -- but even "Pope John Paul II" signed an agreement in 1994 to the effect that the "Nestorian" characterization of Mary ("Christotokos" rather than "Theotokos") was not heretical.

* Even the Eastern Orthodox churches never accepted "the papacy" -- they were willing to attribute a primacy of honor to Rome, but anything more than that -- there are several incidents in which some eastern acceded to some Roman demands -- usually they were the result of some form of forgery or arm twisting or both -- it is more accurate that Rome was a "break-off" from the much larger EO church in 1054.

* That the papacy could consolidate itself in western Europe in the middle ages is due again to (a) massive forgeries and (b) the fact that four of five Patriarchal bishops now were swallowed up by Islam and had more important things to tend to.

Regarding the forgeries, here is one instance:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2016/02/one-way-that-forgery-plays-role-in.html


I hear that you are about to join the Roman Catholic Church at Easter. I would urge you to reconsider, because while you've done some surface level checking of history, you really have failed to consider some of the deeper level investigations that have the potential to simply turn your stomach. And if you go through with it this weekend, I'll guarantee you that you'll be re-thinking your decision (as having been a very bad one) before long.

John Bugay said...

I'm just commenting here to make sure I don't miss your responses. But by the way, you seem like a conscientious person. You've looked at this a bit. Maybe had some difficulties with Protestant churches you've known in the past. You'll find Rome to be a far more difficult taskmaster:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/05/co-dependence-and-roman-catholic-buyers.html

John Bugay said...

Mark -- there are two writers particularly who have done a good job of addressing Roman Catholicism, in its present iteration, from a Protestant perspective. Leonardo De Chirico has looked at Protestant evaluations of Roman Catholicism and found them lacking. You can start by looking at these two links:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/search/label/Leonardo%20de%20Chirico

http://vaticanfiles.org/

Following on De Chirico's work, what I've found by far to be the most easily accessible and thorough work on Roman Catholicism from an evangelical perspective is Gregg Allison's work "Roman Catholic Theology and Practice". I've posted large chunks of that work in a series of blog posts that I put up; they are under the tag "Gregg Allison on Roman Catholicism":

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/search/label/Gregg%20Allison%20on%20Roman%20Catholicism

Seriously, Mark, you seem to have swallowed whole the drivel that the Catholic Apologists are putting out, without having gone into the deeper issues and especially the explanations of what makes "Catholic Apologetic" material such a collection of purely bad arguments. I'll be happy to correspond with you as I have time (and I may or may not have a great deal of time coming up, as I've recently lost my wife, and I'm a single father in the middle of a job search -- that makes for some interesting times for sure).

I'll tell you briefly that I grew up Roman Catholic, left as a teen for what I thought were good reasons, went back to Roman Catholicism based on the very kinds of arguments that the Roman Catholic apologists are making. But over time, as I investigated these -- and I encountered them all at one point or another -- I decided that there were too many contradictions in the Roman Catholic system -- I could not in good conscience remain Catholic.

So I admit that Protestantism isn't perfect -- but that is not a good reason to move to Catholicism, which is far more of a bastardization of Christianity than any Protestant denomination has done. The thing to do, I've found, is to remain within one of the most honest Protestant denominations, and to work to promote clear thinking about the Bible, the Biblical message, what Christianity means, and church history.

Mark Hausam said...

John: Thank you for taking the time to correspond with me about these things, and for providing me with lots of thoughts, information, arguments, etc. This is just a short note to let you know that I want to interact with you about all of this, but I probably won't be able to begin to do so until Tuesday. I often don't get to the computer very much over the weekend. So I'll get back to you soon! Have a good weekend!

Mark Hausam said...

OK, it took me a bit longer to get back to this than I thought. Let me say that I very much appreciate all that you have shared with me. I find great value in this kind of interaction. I need to be kept on my toes, and I am grateful for any help given me that challenges me not to be lazy or to take anything for granted. I consider it a personal mercy towards me. So thank you!

It will also probably take me a good while to get through all of this, because I want to go through it with some thoroughness and depth. I'll have to do a little at a time, here and there.

"http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2016/03/bergoglios-gig-being-heretic-without.html"

I read this article of yours. The document it speaks of will be out tomorrow, so we can see what it actually says then. Lots of people speculate about it, but I don't have much to say until I've seen it, so I'll save my comments for then.

Your article also speaks of "mental reservation." The idea seems to be that the Jesuits have endorsed a kind of tricky lying. I'm glad you brought this up, because it is not something I've looked into much before. I found a Catholic Encyclopedia article on the subject just now, and another good article from Catholic Answers:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10195b.htm

http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/is-lying-ever-right

It looks to me like you have misconstrued the Jesuit position on this, and the Catholic stance. It looks like the whole thing is akin to discussions of lying in other traditions, where there is a general aversion to lying, but there is also a recognition that lying (or something like lying) might be right in certain circumstances, such as when a murderer asks where his victim is. I haven't seen anything thus far that goes beyond the sorts of discussions that often come up when philosophers and theologians talk about lying. I certainly see in it no sinister plots that would justify treating Pope Francis with suspicion. Your dealing with this looks, frankly, like a bit of Protestant paranoia and prejudice to me. But I'm open to further evidence or information if you've got any on this subject.

"http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2016/03/pope-francis-is-on-verge-of-creating.html"

This is another article on the marriage of divorcees issue, so, again, we'll wait to see what happens tomorrow. I will say this: The Catholic teaching is that marriage is indissoluble, so it is difficult to see how divorced and remarried people could be granted communion while continuing to live in sexual union with their new partners. How could this be anything but sin, if the previous marriage is not null? And if it is sin, then how could they be allowed to take communion? So it seems pretty unlikely to me that Pope Francis will allow for this. But I'm not an expert on this topic, so we'll see what happens.

"You certainly assume a lot."

I assume nothing without argument. In that portion of my text, I am making a logical argument. Perhaps it would help to be aware that that is part of a larger book. In the previous parts of the book, I had made a general case for Christianity. Now, in this part, I am making logical arguments with the goal of figuring out where the locus of Christian revelation is. If you think I have left some point unassumed that needs arguing, I would be happy to hear what it is specifically.

"Of course, to be Roman Catholic, you must assume the truth of Roman Catholicism, and proceed from there."

I do no such thing.

"But it seems as if you haven't really done the deep kind of digging that should be required if you're going to make such a life-changing choice."

Well, if it "seems" that way to you, then in this case appearances are deceiving. Of course, for the conversation to be carried further, we will have to consider specific objections and problems.

I must go now to my class (I teach philosophy). More later! Thanks again!

Mark Hausam said...

Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation (referred to above and in your linked articles) has now come out. I have not read it all or most of it yet, though I just read through chapter 8, which deals with how to treat the divorced and remarried. I've always read a few commentaries on it. I'm looking forward to reading the whole document.

I see nothing problematic in it. In fact, what I've seen so far seems to exhibit a beautiful example of the Spirit guiding the Church to apply the principles of the gospel to the complex situations faced in modern times with regard to marriage, divorce, etc. No changes in doctrine or in practice are proposed in chapter 8, but there is a discussion of how the complexities of people's situations might need to have a practical effect on how to minister to them. The Church teaches that it is a sin to divorce and to remarry. That is why the historic practice has been to deny communion to those who are living in sexual relationships with new partners while they are still, in Church law, married to their previous partners. However, there is much confusion on marriage and divorce in the modern world, and this confusion has led to the existence of many very complex situations. Oftentimes, there is clear sin involved (not just in terms of deviation from the objective rule but also subjectively, involving a failure of love to God and man). Sometimes, there may be situations in which there is no subjective sin or very little, for lots of reasons. (For example, we might think of situations where someone was previously divorced and then remarried and had children with the new partner, but they did not realize that what they were doing was objectively wrong. Now there is this new, established relationship, new children, etc. In this situation, a person may not know what their duty is, and there are obvious complexities that need to be dealt with. This is precisely the kind of situation where I think it is so valuable to have the Holy Spirit's guidance with the Church to deal faithfully with these kinds of things. Sola Scriptura would lead to such a horrible morass of conflicting opinions, forcing people who are not gifted and called to nagivate these kinds of things well to have to do so as they try to interpret the Bible for themselves, etc.) The Church's pastoral practice must put forward the general principles as well as take into account the complex nuances. Personally, I do not know what the best response would be in terms of communion for people in these kinds of situations. I look forward to seeing how the Church as a whole, guided by the Holy Spirit, develops on these issues.

More coming . . .

Mark Hausam said...

"I've written extensively about "the non-existent early papacy"."

On the other hand, I have been very impressed by how much historic evidence there is for the papacy from very early in church history. I first encountered some of that evidence in a book written by an Eastern Orthodox author, a book called His Broken Body. I have found immensely helpful a book written by an Anglican scholar, Edward Giles, in which he provides a good deal of raw data from the early church up until Chalcedon, showing how various fathers spoke and acted regarding claims of Roman bishops, etc. The book is called Documents Illustrating Papal Authority AD 96-454. I highly recommend it. It convinced me that the early evidence for the papacy is astoundingly more positive than I would have thought possible.

My basic position is summed up in this very article these comments are appended to. I also discuss it a number of other articles, such as:

http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/2015/06/a-trajectory-of-doctrinal-progression.html

http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/2015/07/why-not-eastern-orthodoxy.html

http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/2016/01/living-authority-versus-dead-archaeology.html

The first article linked to above chronicles my transition to Catholicism, and it talks about what I call my "default" argument. The historic Church of the fathers, and all the churches empirically descended from it, did not hold to Sola Scriptura but rather to the idea of an infallible Church and infallible tradition in which Scripture was to be interpreted. Therefore, we should default to the historic position unless we have good reason to do otherwise. (God has commanded us to preserve obedience to Church authority and the unity of the Church, so we should never break from that without good, conclusive reasons to do so.) This leads us to the only four churches that are empirically descended from the early church of the fathers (these four are discussed in the article these comments are appended to).

The other two articles linked to above describe in more detail why I went to Rome rather than the other three churches. The reason was basically this: Rome is the only church which has a workable means of discerning true Christian doctrine--the papacy. Since I talk about this above and in the other articles, I won't describe it further here. But all of that gives me good reason to think the idea of the papacy is true. Historical research leads me to the conclusion that the concept of the papacy was alive and well in the early Church, though it was never formally defined. The early Church, as a whole, acts in a way that is far more consistent with the Roman view than with the Eastern Orthodox view or the Protestant view, etc.

More coming . . .

Mark Hausam said...

"Newman assumes this to be because "the papacy" existed in some non-visible but "latent" form, only to have been "discovered" at a time when conflicts "gave exercise" to that functionality. "

I've read Newman on this. It's not so much that the papacy was invisible at one time, but more that it was less formally developed. It is quite visible, actually, as reading through Edward Giles's book would make clear. The concept of doctrinal development is very reasonable and plausible and gives me no problems. I discuss it in the last linked article above, as well as in the next-to-last linked article. It was articulated very early and very clearly by St. Vincent of Lerins (who is often thought of as very conservative in his theological methodology and oft appealed to by Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox for that reason).

"More recent historical studies have shown fairly conclusively that in the city of Rome up until 150 AD, there was no one "bishop" . . . the real "pope fiction" is the notion that there was one until late in the 4th century. After that point, "Pope Damasus" and his "successors" have been caught re-writing church histories in order to give the Rome a more prominent place than it actually had."

I'm rather astonished to see you making such claims, for I know enough history to know that they are quite false. It can be argued that there may have been some development to get from a system of multiple elders to the episcopal system of one bishop in a particular church with a number of presbyters with less authority, but we see that system clearly referred to as early as St. Ignatius of Antioch (probably writing around 110 AD). The idea that there was no one clear bishop of Rome before late in the 4th century is just sheer historical nonsense. There are lists of Roman bishops (and bishops of many other cities) given much, much earlier, such as the lists at the beginning of Book III of Irenaeus's Against Heresies. Tertullian gives lists, and so do many others very early on. Eusebius gives lists of bishops. The idea of a single bishops is assumed everywhere I'm aware of from as early as you can get. And also very early (much earlier than the end of the 4th century) we have evidence that the bishop of Rome was making very modern-sounding papal claims, such as in the accounts surrounding the issue of the baptism of heretics in the middle of the third century. The bishop (singular) of Rome at that time was Stephen, and his claims are articulated by an opponent of his, Firmilian, bishop (singular) of Caesaria. But anyway, your history is just plainly way off here.

More coming . . .

Mark Hausam said...

"http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/05/historical-revisionism-in-romes.html"

I don't see anything substantial to respond to here. You just assert that modern scholarship has shredded Adrian Fortesque's ideas about the early church and the papacy. You link to other articles, but I've not followed those. If you would like to refer me specifically to any of them, feel free to do so, and I will follow it up. Until then, I'll just keep moving on, for it will take me forever if I follow every link in every article without having reason to think it is relevant to the conversation.

"There is a similar kind of "non-existence" to the early church's liturgy -- that is, they don't know what form "goes back to" the early church, and beginning with the New Testament, they are unable to trace any one particular form of worship through time."

I'm not really sure what you are getting at here. You are right, so far as I have seen, that there is not a single liturgy in the early Church. There is not a single liturgy in the Catholic Church now either. There are liturgies get worked out during the time of the fathers, such as the liturgy of John Chrysostom, of James, and others. I'm not sure how all of this is related to arguing for or against Catholicism though.

More coming (though probably not today) . . .

John Bugay said...

Mark, it is possible to range far and wide in these discussions, and so I’ll limit my comment here to “the early papacy”.

As a cradle Catholic in the 1960’s, I grew up believing precisely the things you are espousing about the papacy. I want to say, though, that the version of the papacy you are espousing via Newman and Giles and others you are citing is a Roman Catholic version of “easy believeism” – it’s a dogmatic treatment of the papacy that was built up through the middle ages, but which was really dismantled in the 20th century.

In the 20th century, that whole Newman/Giles narrative was looked at critically and rejected, even by Rome. Most recently, you should check the works of (say) Robert Eno (“The Rise of the Papacy”) and Klaus Schatz (“Papal Primacy from its Origins to Present”). These works relate what Rome actually believes (and what actual seminarians are actually taught about the origins of the papacy in actual Roman Catholic seminaries.)

So, you’ve got Newman and Giles. You also referred to Irenaeus. Keep in mind several things: Irenaeus’s “historical details” about the church in Rome are incorrect, and aside from that, only three manuscripts of Irenaeus’s works are known to exist prior to the year 1000 (and only one prior to 950). He was not a significant influence. His work was totally unknown in the first millennium. It was picked up and propagated, as the medieval papacy, unmoored from its eastern challengers, was free to craft its own stories.

Those stories persisted, because Rome, in 11th century Europe, had no rivals telling stories that challenged its authority.

These stories persisted through Vatican I (“plenitude potestatis”); believed by writers like Newman and Giles, and of course by day-to-day Roman Catholics through the early 20th century. Adrian Fortescue in the 1920’s tried to summarize all of it.

But something else was happening. As “critical scholarship” was looking at the Bible, it was also looking at Roman Catholic historical accounts of itself. And as conservative Biblical scholarship was able to stand up to such “critical scholarship”, the account of Roman primacy could not be defended and was eroded to the point that in 2010, the Roman Catholic biblical scholar John Meier (in a 2010 ecumenical discussion devoted “the Petrine Ministry”) complained that “A papacy that cannot give a credible historical account of its own origins can hardly hope to be a catalyst for unity among divided Christians.”

That simply is the state of affairs right now with respect to the papacy, and for you to cite Newman and Giles etc. as if they were state-of-the-art history is simply naïve.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/06/papacy-is-fundamentally-dishonest.html

John Bugay said...

Here’s something you didn’t know:

Archbishop Roland Minnerath, who was a contributor to the Vatican’s 1989 Historical and Theological Symposium, which was directed by the Vatican’s Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, at the request of the then Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the theme: “The Primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the First Millennium: Research and Evidence,” has made the admission that the Eastern Orthodox churches “never shared the Petrine theology as elaborated in the West.”

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/06/archbishop-says-eastern-orthodox-never.html

Medieval Rome wants you to think that the Eastern churches agreed with its characterization of “the papacy”. But it never did. And Minnerath’s account is Roman Catholic state-of-the-art.

* * *

Just to give you an overview of the “critical scholarship”, a French priest named Duchesne did some fundamental research into the “Liber Pontificalis”, which was a major source of understanding of the papacy through the middle ages. It would be kind to say that much of this work was based on “fiction” (but that is what is said of it).

In English, James Loomis and Louise Shotwell catalogued much of the actual source material on Petrine legends and “the papacy” in the 1920’s. Later, you may have heard of Oscar Cullmann (and there were other writers at the time, including Daniel William O’Connor), who studied much of this and wrote about what is actually known about the various pieces of literature that claimed to be “proof” of an early papacy (even in “undeveloped” form). The bottom line: Yes, Peter was important; no, he wasn’t a pope, and no, there was nothing resembling “a papacy” nor anything resembling a “papal succession”). Irenaeus’s list was “drawn up” after-the-fact” to counter Gnostic claims that they had some secret insider knowledge (“to contrast the true apostolic tradition of the Church with the pseudo-apostolic traditions of Gnosis”, in the words of Ratzinger):

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/06/kruger-vs-ratzinger-2-apostolic.html

In 1987, a writer named Peter Lampe scoured every scrap of paper, every inscription, every archaeological site in Rome, and constructed a highly detailed view of what the ancient church in Rome was like. Lampe’s book, “From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries” prompted a Vatican discussion (not widely publicized) of the same topic. Among Lampe's propositions: 1. No monarchical bishop existed in Rome before around 180 AD, and 2 the “apostolic succession” list used by Irenaeus in “Against Heresies” was “with the highest probability a historical construction.” Others have called this list a forgery.

John Bugay said...

The Roman Catholic historian of the papacy, Eamon Duffy says “All modern discussion of the issues must now start from (this) exhaustive and persuasive analysis”.

It was following this that “Ut Unum Sint” came out – in which JPII asked for help finding “a new situation” for the papacy. Both Robert Eno and Klaus Schatz, whom I mentioned earlier, wrote after this, and did not disagree with Lampe in any significant way.

So, I’ve written to you above from a framework of knowledge that takes all of this work into account. Your explanation of “less formally developed”, when Vatican 1 claims “plenitude potestatis”, is a bit backward, don’t you think? If Peter had “plenitude potestatis”, where did it go during those early centuries? There are ridiculous claims made to defend the story that “the Petrine ministry” existed fully and thoroughly in Peter himself (what did VaticanI think that “plenitude potestatis”meant?), and yet in subsequent “bishops of Rome” (which didn’t actually exist), it became “less formally developed”.

That is only ONE of the difficulties that John Meier (and others) referred to. In fact, there is a “development” of “the papacy” which many others consider to be a completely illegitimate usurpation of authority within the church. These threads are far too long and convoluted to follow here, but I would urge you to give up your simplistic reliance on Newman and Giles, and look at what actual historians (both Roman Catholic and Protestant) are telling us about these things.

Mark Hausam said...

"You are following what I've called "the fingerpainting method" of looking at church history: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/08/bryan-cross-fingerpainting-your-way.html "

I don't understand what your problem with my reasoning is specifically. Can you clarify and specify?

"The "Nestorian" churches never accepted the council of Ephesus (431) -- and Nestorius himself felt vindicated by Chalcedon (451)."

I'm well aware of the Nestorians, as well as the Oriential Orthodox. I don't understand why you think you need to tell me about them, or what simplistic assumptions telling me about them is supposed to be addressing.

"Even the Eastern Orthodox churches never accepted "the papacy""

I am aware of the history between East and West. There is much complexity there. I agree that there was never a clear, formal affirmation of the full Roman concept of the papacy in the early church by the whole of the early church, or at least by both East and West entirely, unless one counts the signing of the Formula Hormisdae, or a few other possible places where one might locate a statement of agreement--but in my view, nothing to warrant declaring a full formal affirmation of the papacy. Nevertheless, there was a lot of individual cases of acceptance of the papacy. At any rate, the history is complex, and I am aware of it, but I don't see what argument you are presently making from this.

"it is more accurate that Rome was a "break-off" from the much larger EO church in 1054."

Was the Eastern side so much larger? I'm not absolutely certain on this point, but I am skeptical of your claim. Are you comparing Rome itself by itself to the whole East? We must remember that the church which followed the papacy at the time of the schism was the whole Western church, which was a large group.

"That the papacy could consolidate itself in western Europe in the middle ages is due again to (a) massive forgeries and (b) the fact that four of five Patriarchal bishops now were swallowed up by Islam and had more important things to tend to."

The history is very complicated. The history of the four other patriarchs is itself very complicated, as many of them had been replaced at various times because of heresy. Also, for example, later on the Patriarch of Antioch split into two, one side choosing to be in communion with Rome. The relationship between East and West in general varied a lot at different times, and a clear split was not necessarily in place really even perhaps until after Florence in the 15th century. But, again, I'm not sure what your specific argument is here.

Mark Hausam said...

"That the papacy could consolidate itself in western Europe in the middle ages is due again to (a) massive forgeries"

The consensus is certainly that there were forgeries made that pertained to the papacy, but the papal claims were not ultimately grounded on them. They pre-existed them, and have continued to be made without them.

"I hear that you are about to join the Roman Catholic Church at Easter. I would urge you to reconsider, because while you've done some surface level checking of history, you really have failed to consider some of the deeper level investigations that have the potential to simply turn your stomach."

I've done more than surface-level checking. I've considered a large number of historical issues and other issues. Without any specifics here, I don't really have anything to add.

More coming . . .

Mark Hausam said...

"it is more accurate that Rome was a "break-off" from the much larger EO church in 1054."

Back to that comment for a minute. It doesn't quite match the map, does it? http://www.medievalchronicles.com/medieval-life/medieval-religion/the-great-schism-of-1054/map-showing-divide-of-eastern-western-churches-during-great-schism-1054/

You've also misunderstood my idea of "break-offs." It has nothing to do with the size of some particular group, but rather whether the denomination came into existence having broken from a contrary position previously in an obviously empirical sense. Anglicanism, thus, is a break-off because the Anglican Church was clearly Roman Catholic before it broke up (they acknowledged the papacy, etc.).

"But by the way, you seem like a conscientious person. You've looked at this a bit."

Thank you. Yes, I have. There's always more to learn, however.

"Maybe had some difficulties with Protestant churches you've known in the past. You'll find Rome to be a far more difficult taskmaster:"

I haven't made my choice based on what seems easier, or to avoid conflict, etc., but only on the basis of what it seems to me the evidence says with regard to what is actually true.

"http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/05/co-dependence-and-roman-catholic-buyers.html"

Perhaps you have something in particular in this article you would like me to respond to?

In the article, you seem to suggest that the requirement that Catholics have to deal with proposed apparent contradictions in Catholic Tradition implies that there is something wrong with Catholic Tradition. As a Protestant, however, you have surely noticed that all Christians must do this with regard to Christianity in general, and the Bible in particular. In fact, everyone in every worldview has to do this, because reality is not always straightforward. So I don't quite see the argument here.

"http://triablogue.blogspot.com/search/label/Leonardo%20de%20Chirico"

"The “once for all” sense of biblical revelation is opened up to being integrated with “living Tradition” that is mediated by the Magisterium, creating a dialectic between the biblical message and the process of tradition."

When Jude wrote about the faith "once delivered to the saints," he was at that very moment writing additional Scripture. This is what makes the practice of Sola Scriptura so dangerous. We read our own ideas into a text which does not always clearly and/or completely address our concerns. Inferences made from too little data in a very complex text, without an assurance that one is supposed to use the text in this way, are very tricky and likely to go wrong. Witness the explosion of Protestantism into a whole host of people and groups inferring different and often contrary things from Scripture.

More to come . . .

John Bugay said...

Mark, thanks for responding here. Sorry I have not followed up, I've been very much occupied with other things.

Regarding the "fingerpainting" comment, Rome begs the question on what, specifically, the New Testament church was. And so the comment, "put your finger on the earliest church, then look, organizationally, at who has broken off". The very issue at question is "what exactly was 'the church that Christ founded'?" How do you know that Rome was somehow in charge at that point? The historical data in no way supports the Roman Catholic account of that.

Mark Hausam said...

"http://vaticanfiles.org/"

I've just subscribed to get email updates from him. Thanks!

"Gregg Allison's work "Roman Catholic Theology and Practice". I've posted large chunks of that work in a series of blog posts that I put up; they are under the tag "Gregg Allison on Roman Catholicism": http://triablogue.blogspot.com/search/label/Gregg%20Allison%20on%20Roman%20Catholicism"

I've heard very good things about this book, and hope to read it soon.

"Seriously, Mark, you seem to have swallowed whole the drivel that the Catholic Apologists are putting out, without having gone into the deeper issues and especially the explanations of what makes "Catholic Apologetic" material such a collection of purely bad arguments."

I don't think anything I have written warrants this evaluation. Since there is nothing specific in this statement, there is nothing specific to respond to.

"I'll be happy to correspond with you as I have time (and I may or may not have a great deal of time coming up, as I've recently lost my wife, and I'm a single father in the middle of a job search -- that makes for some interesting times for sure)."

I also would be happy to continue to correspond with you. I think these conversations are valuable and enjoyable.

I'm very sorry to hear about your wife. You are certainly in my prayers.

"Most recently, you should check the works of (say) Robert Eno (“The Rise of the Papacy”) and Klaus Schatz (“Papal Primacy from its Origins to Present”)."

Thank you for the suggestions. I will plan to get a hold of these books and read them. I am currently very much into reading historical accounts of the early papacy.

"In the 20th century, that whole Newman/Giles narrative was looked at critically and rejected, even by Rome."

Newman hasn't really been a source for me in studying the history of the early papacy. I read a while back his essay on the development of doctrine, and I found his treatment of the papacy there very careful, although I didn't know nearly as much about the subject at the time (I ought to read through this again now that I am much better informed). I don't think he's really that radical in terms of the history. His contribution is more to make his argument about how development works.

Giles is an Anglican, though you seem to be treating him as if he were a Roman Catholic. He has no "narrative," really. That's what I find so attractive about his book. He's trying simply to lay out important texts from the fathers which are often used by both sides (Anglicans and Catholics) so that readers can see the raw data for themselves. I find this very useful, and I wish more people wrote things like this. I wish he had continued past Chalcedon, however. I would so much love to see his texts from the Acacian schsim controversy, for example.

I looked at some commentary on the Klaus Schatz book you mentioned, and it seems to me to be very similar to what I've seen already. I have read enough on all sides to be pretty familiar with the evidence from the early church, so your assumption that I am ignorant, relying uncritically on some superficial Catholic apologetics arguments simply has nothing to do with the reality and so is unhelpful.

More to come . . .

Mark Hausam said...

"You also referred to Irenaeus. Keep in mind several things: Irenaeus’s “historical details” about the church in Rome are incorrect, and aside from that, only three manuscripts of Irenaeus’s works are known to exist prior to the year 1000 (and only one prior to 950). He was not a significant influence. His work was totally unknown in the first millennium. It was picked up and propagated, as the medieval papacy, unmoored from its eastern challengers, was free to craft its own stories."

Irenaeus is a very important witness to second century Christianity, as everybody recognizes. It seems bizarre that you are trying to minimize his importance. His work was totally unknown in the first millennium? I suppose that Eusebius of Caesaria didn't really exist, since he talks about Irenaeus? Irenaeus played a role in the resolving of the early Easter controversy with Victor and the eastern churches as well.

I don't care if Irenaeus is right about everything. Of course, this doesn't minimize his importance as a witness to second-century Christianity. And I am skeptical that all these confident conclusions about how wrong the early fathers were about historical details and how right modern reconstructors are are totally well-grounded. But it is difficult to say much without more specifics to respond to.

"Medieval Rome wants you to think that the Eastern churches agreed with its characterization of “the papacy”. But it never did. And Minnerath’s account is Roman Catholic state-of-the-art."

I know the history of the East's understanding of and relation to the papacy. My own current conclusion based on the evidence is that there was no formal recognition by the Eastern churches of the role of the papacy (except perhaps for the signing of the Formula Hormisdae, and perhaps some other things that might be read as somewhat formal endorsements). However, there were a lot of Eaterners who accepted it, and the Eastern churches in general seemed to recognize it to a surprising degree as witnessed by their interactions with it in history. The record is checkered, but it does seem to me that there was a surprising amount of recognition of the papacy in assumptions and practice throughout the first millennium. Of course, since the record is checkered and complex, people come to different conclusions about what it implies.

In general, it would be helpful if you would cease to think of me as some ignorant, uncritical person who just needs to be updated on modern scholarship. That attitude makes the conversation far less productive. I prefer to talk about specific cases, arguments, incidents, etc.

You mention Peter Lampe's work, and a bunch of other things. I know about the scholarly debates over how to interpret the evidence as to what was going on at Rome in the second century, and all of that. (Thank you for the specific recommended sources, however.) In a lot of these matters, there is wide room for speculation, and lots of plausible inferences, because there is so little data. I tend to give the benefit of the doubts to the early accounts, whereas in some circles it is popular to default to a skeptical evaluation. Certainly, either way, we must be open to all the evidence, but in areas where there is so little data and so much speculation, a default assumption can often go a long way.

Again, though, the conversation would be more productive if instead of just throwing a barrage of material at me without hardly anything specific at it, we could look at specific points of evidence, specific arguments, etc.

More to come . . .

Mark Hausam said...

" Your explanation of “less formally developed”, when Vatican 1 claims “plenitude potestatis”, is a bit backward, don’t you think? If Peter had “plenitude potestatis”, where did it go during those early centuries? There are ridiculous claims made to defend the story that “the Petrine ministry” existed fully and thoroughly in Peter himself (what did VaticanI think that “plenitude potestatis”meant?), and yet in subsequent “bishops of Rome” (which didn’t actually exist), it became “less formally developed”."

This seems to me to be most likely the case, based on my current estimates of the evidence: Peter was appointed head of the Church by Christ and had a headship over the apostolic band an the rest of the Church. He actually did exercise this during his life, and it was recognized. The bishops of Rome, from the earliest times after Peter, recognized that Peter having died at Rome bequeathed his headship to them, and they attempted (like Victor) to exercise this power. Others recognized it. Over time, the bishops of Rome became more and more conscious of the various implications of their position, and others in the Church become more conscious of them as well. In the first millennium, there is growing recognition of the importance of Rome's role in protecting Church unity by deciding schisms, though it is not really until much later that this is worked out very formally and with theological precision. Although it is practically acted upon, it is not very often made an explicit part of more abstract discussions about Church unity. In short, just as with many other doctrines (the Trinity, etc.), the core idea is there from the beginning, but it is worked out more specifically and consciously over time as the Holy Spirit guides the whole Church. We must also distinguish between the core ideas of the concept of the papacy and varying forms it can take. Over history, the bishop of Rome has had greater or lesser immediate control, or has been involved in regular affairs more or less, for example, though the underlying idea of his relationship to the Church has been articulated from the earliest times we have record of.

At any rate, that is what I would say is the best reading of the historical evidence, read in light of other things I also hold to be true (and think I have good reasons to believe to be true) that color my conclusions.

"Sorry I have not followed up,"

There has not been an opportunity to follow up, as I have only now completed my initial responses to what you've previously written.

"The very issue at question is "what exactly was 'the church that Christ founded'?" How do you know that Rome was somehow in charge at that point? The historical data in no way supports the Roman Catholic account of that."

In short, tracing the true Church back has some significant complexity to it. Indeed it does.

I would certainly be interested in further discussion, but I would ask that we try to be narrow in focus and very specific. When lots and lots of very broad claims are thrown out, it is too difficult to have a truly productive conversation because the conversation ends up turning into a whole bunch of contrary broad assertions. If you wish to discuss further, don't be concerned about having to reply quickly, etc. We are all busy. As you can see, my own policy has been to respond when time permits, which sometimes means weeks in between. I have no problem with that.

Thanks again! Have a good day!