Sunday, September 26, 2010

Aquinas solves the Contrition Debate

SO. I haven't blogged in a long time, mostly on here because apparently chinese pornographers keep leaving large amounts of comments to my posts, and so I've been at Recusant Corner.

However, I stumbled across something tonight that I thought I'd post as it was very relevant to a longstanding debate that has occured on this blog for the last year (or more).

Contrition vs. Perfect Contrition vs. Imperfect Contrition.

My scruples surrounded the idea of perfect contrition and the term 'perfect love for God'. As is the case with most post-Tridentine Catholic theology, the grounds are a mess. There are so many qualifiers and hastily thrown together documents and a rebuttle of a misunderstood Protestantism, that it left me without much hope.

So for some reason, after all this, I went back to St. Thomas, and read these words which shocked me:

"we must say that sorrow, however slight it be, provided it suffice for true contrition, blots out all sin." -

Now as far as I exegeted this chapter of the summa, St. Thomas seems to be arguing that any sorrow for sins is a divine and therefore infinite sort of thing. Thus sorrow for sins possesses the infinite and gracious efficacy that sanctifying grace has, and where one is the next will follow. Basically resulting in a theology where, sorrow for sins with any kind of conviction, is a sign of efficacious grace, and necessarily entails a desire for confession, and necessarily gives one the ability to hope for their own redemption.

(which is good as I haven't been to confession in a month, and can't go until Saturday).

Things are always simpler with Aquinas.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bernard on Journey, Rest, and Peace

"It is so that these impious ones wander in a circle, longing after something to gratify their yearnings, yet madly rejecting that which alone can bring them to their desired end, not by exhaustion but by attainment. They wear themselves out in vain travail, without reaching their blessed consummation, because they delight in creatures, not in the Creator. They want to traverse creation, trying all things one by one, rather than think of coming to Him who is Lord of all. And if their utmost longing were realized, so that they should have all the world for their own, yet without possessing Him who is the Author of all being, then the same law of their desires would make them contemn what they had and restlessly seek Him whom they still lacked, that is, God Himself. Rest is in Him alone. Man knows no peace in the world; but he has no disturbance when he is with God. And so the soul says with confidence, ‘Whom have I in heaven but Thee; and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee. God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. It is good for me to hold me fast by God, to put my trust in the Lord God’ (Ps. 73.25ff). Even by this way one would eventually come to God, if only he might have time to test all lesser goods in turn." - St. Bernard of Clairvaux "On Loving God" chapter vii

Peter Kreeft's Thoughts on Justification

"The gift of God's love is ours for the taking. I am a Roman Catholic. But the most liberating idea I have ever heard I first learned from Martin Luther. Pope John Paul II told the German Lutheran bishops that Luther was profoundly right about this idea. He said that Catholic teaching affirms it just as strongly and that there was no contradiction between Protestant and Catholic theology on this terribly important point, which was the central issue of the Protestant Reformation. I speak, of course, about "justification by faith" and its consequence, which Luther called "Christian liberty" or "the liberty of a Christian" in his little gem of an essay by that name.

Let us be careful to approach the point in the right way. I think most misunderstandings begin at this very first step. Let's begin with a solid certainty: God is love. God is a lover, not a manager, businessman, accountant, owner, or puppet-master. What He wants from us first of all is not a technically correct performance but our heart. Protestants and Catholics alike need to relearn or reemphasize that simple, liberating truth... it liberated me just as it had the Catholic Augustinian monk Luther 450 years earlier. The crucial sentence for me was: "We may think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain sort." (Mere Christianity)

The point is amazingly simple, which is why so many of us just don't get it. Heaven is free because love is free. It is ours for the taking. The taking is faith. "If you believe, you will be saved." It is really that simple. If I offer you a gift, you have it if and only if you have the faith to take it.

The primacy of faith does not discount or denigrate works but liberates them. Our good works can now also be free - free from the worry and slavery and performance anxiety of having to buy Heaven with them. Our good works can now flow from genuine love of neighbor, not fear of Hell. Nobody wants to be loved merely as a means to build up the lover's merit pile. That attempt is ridiculous logically as well as psychologically. How much does Heaven cost? A thousand good works? Would 999 not do, then? The very question shows its own absurdity. That absurdity comes from forgetting that God is love.


The whole point of justification by faith is God's scandalous, crazy, and wonderful gift of love." - Peter Kreeft "The God Who Loves You" p. 23-25

Not exactly an analytical take on the issue, but a good read nonetheless.

The Roman Catholic condemnations seem to be on the issue of faith being the sole basis of our justification. This leaves works at least some spot for our trust and assurance of salvation. BUT what Kreeft and others have done, for the sake of sanity, is really said that faith plus the habitus or innate regenerated inclination towards love are the ground of our justification. So as long as you can say 'I love God' and in some way whatsoever mean it, you can have a grounding in your faith, because it is faith formed by love. Thus the anathemas of Trent are just barely dodged, and one can be a Catholic of the Pascalian/Jansenist flavour and remain orthodox.

According to J.V. Fesko, this also has a similitude to some outliers in the Reformed Tradition, such as Jonathon Edwards, Albert Ritschl, and others in the early 20th century who emphasized mystical union and the Fatherly judgments of God / Congruent merit, rather than the juridicial / imputation doctrines. Or in other words, if you heap up the Congruent merit, and believe that every time God judges a believers work he is polishing the spots from it (to use Calvin's analogy), and you believe that he imputes perfection to the person's infused faith, hope and love, THEN you can have some sort of assurance. But again, this is just barely dodging Trent, and probably outside the mainstream of Roman Catholic theology.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another Gospel and the Greek Text

I've been told not to 'go back under the yoke of bondage' as St. Paul taught the Galatians, meaning that I should not re-enter Catholicism because it is 'another gospel'. This has worked well, and I found myself reading Galatians daily to maintain my zeal. I'm reading a book by a Reformed theologian named Fesko about the History and summary of the doctrine of justification, understood to be the gospel in Protestantism.

It seems to me that the argument of Alister McGrath about Augustine is wrong for a few reasons. The argument goes that St. Augustine didn't understand Greek or Hebrew, and only used Latin to write his theology and commentaries, and when it came to the Psalms the Latin was terrible in it's blatant mistranslations. Likewise the Greek word logozomai which should have been understood as a forensic/legal term for impute/recount/repute/declare something as just, was translated into Latin as iustificare which means 'to make just'. Thus St. Augustine and all the Catholic expositers on justification to Trent and beyond, shared in this mistake, and thus conflated justification and sanctification into one process of salvation, whereas they should've kept these two processes distinct like the human and divine natures of Christ.

...However the Eastern Orthodox who worked in the original Greek, and presumably had no such iustificare translations, also interpret Scripture in this way, and see justification, sanctification, and glorification (Theosis) as all one indistinguishable process. Looks like it's back to the drawing board there.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Christianities (?)

C.S. Lewis famously described Christendom as a house with different rooms, from Congregationalism to Greek Orthodoxy in it's diversity. He is a man universally respected by everyone from Mormons to Baptists to Roman Catholics to Anglicans. He was one of the few great men that were Anglican on purpose, but he respected other creeds at odds with his own. He somehow managed to affirm sola fide in one place, and Purgatory in another.

In any case, I was thinking about him today as I listened to a discussion on the Great Schism/Orthodox-Catholic split of 1054. I am always amazed and perplexed by how people personally understand their faith. I know the intellectually fighting arena quite well, but it's a different thing entirely to look at the practical spiritual journeys of individuals. I was thinking about Photios 'the great' of Constantinople. What made him want to be a Christian? Why did he enter the priesthood? When he read the Scriptures what did he imagine they meant? What was the faith to him? When he died what were his thoughts about? Was he trusting in Christ as Lord and Saviour, as Billy Graham (and Romans 10) would tell him to? or was he thinking about the Filioque and his own 'orthodoxy' and merit before God?

He is only really considered a schismatic, and examined as a historical figure, but what did it mean for Photios to be a Christian? Is he in Hell or Heaven? I'm finding these questions more interesting now, as opposed to the supreme apologetic ones.

I am thinking about this today, because I realize that in my heart, the gospel feels like it is the offer of Free Grace and Righteousness to the repentant sinner trusting in Jesus apart from works. It is 'of the Lord', and an effectual call. But what did Photios think Christianity was? What did the Venerable Bede? What did saintly Augustine?

Am I (or anyone for that matter) allowed to say what I personally think Christianity is essentially/substantially and make that the measure of everyone else's orthodoxy?

I was looking for what Christianity was in the Vincentian way: believed everywhere, at all times, by everyone. But what if that doesn't exist? What if Christianity is as simple as saying "Jesus is Lord"? What if it is as simple as saying an "Our Father" and meaning it? What if it is as complex as Confessing every mortal sin in number and kind, and receiving the sacraments at the proper time and with the right disposition and dying in this state?

The more and more I look, the less and less sure I am. I don't think there are any easy answers. I had a Baptist pastor once tell me: There are no black and white answers to colorful questions. He might be right... but I'm starting to sound like a Kantian, if not a Relativist.

I was talking to my friend Fr. Scott, my Anglican Priest, and he was talking about the Orthodox Church, and how they haven't had time to go into Western Scholastic squables because they've been praying so much. "Is justification by faith alone or faith formed by love? - I don't know but the Communists are coming, let's pray". If the blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the church as Tertullian writes, then the Orthodox Christians of Russia must be a green tree with all they've suffered. Muslims, Commies, and everything in between. I don't really like Orthodox theology, I'm more of a Filioque guy myself (thank Thomas for that), but perhaps I might be leaning towards the sort of unIntellectual or rather non-polemical inquiry that I despised so much in my Evangelical upbringing.

Once again, my common rejoinder: I just don't know. I don't know where I'll end up, I truly and honestly don't, but I'm enjoying some time to just browse and not buy. It is a humbling experience. I have been so humiliated with all of these changes, and as John Donne wrote: Humiliation is the beginning of Sanctification, so perhaps this is all a part of God's unknowable Providence, I hope so.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Theologia Cordis

"Search me, O God, and know my heart" - Psalm 139:23

"O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run towards this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed." - St. Augustine of Hippo

Monday, June 7, 2010

Some Fathers on Peter and the Rock (1)

I'm trying to go through all the Church Fathers to find their views on Peter and the Rock, and by the help of my friend Matt, I have found 6 so far:

"In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: ‘On him as on a rock the Church was built’...But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained what the Lord said: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ For, ‘Thou art Peter’ and not ‘Thou art the rock’ was said to him. But ‘the rock was Christ,’ in confessing whom, as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter. But let the reader decide which of these two opinions is the more probable." - Augustine "Retractions"

""If, because the Lord has said to Peter, ‘Upon this rock I will build My Church,’ ‘to thee have I given the keys of the heavenly kingdom;’ or, ‘Whatsoever thou shalt have bound or loosed in earth, shall be bound or loosed in the heavens,’ you therefore presume that the power of binding and loosing has derived to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter, what sort of man are you, subverting and wholly changing the manifest intention of the Lord, conferring (as that intention did) this (gift) personally upon Peter? ‘On thee,’ He says, ‘will I build My church;’ and, ‘I will give thee the keys’...and, ‘Whatsoever thou shalt have loosed or bound’...In (Peter) himself the Church was reared; that is, through (Peter) himself; (Peter) himself essayed the key; you see what key: ‘Men of Israel, let what I say sink into your ears: Jesus the Nazarene, a man destined by God for you,’ and so forth. (Peter) himself, therefore, was the first to unbar, in Christ’s baptism, the entrance to the heavenly kingdom, in which kingdom are ‘loosed’ the sins that were beforetime ‘bound;’ and those which have not been ‘loosed’ are ‘bound,’ in accordance with true salvation.." - Tertullian, "On Modesty" 21

"And if we too have said like Peter, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ not as if flesh and blood had revealed it unto us, but by the light from the Father in heaven having shone in our heart, we become a Peter, and to us there might be said by the Word, ‘Thou art Peter,’ etc. For a rock is every disciple of Christ of whom those drank who drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, and upon every such rock is built every word of the Church, and the polity in accordance with it; for in each of the perfect, who have the combination of words and deeds and thoughts which fill up the blessedness, is the church built by God.

But if you suppose that upon the one Peter only the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder or each one of the Apostles? Shall we otherwise dare to say, that against Peter in particular the gates of Hades shall not prevail, but that they shall prevail against the other Apostles and the perfect? Does not the saying previously made, ‘The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,’ hold in regard to all and in the case of each of them? And also the saying, ‘Upon this rock I will build My Church?’ Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given by the Lord to Peter only, and will no other of the blessed receive them? But if this promise, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ be common to others, how shall not all things previously spoken of, and the things which are subjoined as having been addressed to Peter, be common to them?

‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ If any one says this to Him...he will obtain the things that were spoken according to the letter of the Gospel to that Peter, but, as the spirit of the Gospel teaches to every one who becomes such as that Peter was. For all bear the surname ‘rock’ who are the imitators of Christ, that is, of the spiritual rock which followed those who are being saved, that they may drink from it the spiritual draught. But these bear the surname of rock just as Christ does. But also as members of Christ deriving their surname from Him they are called Christians, and from the rock, Peters...And to all such the saying of the Savior might be spoken, ‘Thou art Peter’ etc., down to the words, ‘prevail against it.’ But what is the it? Is it the rock upon which Christ builds the Church, or is it the Church? For the phrase is ambiguous. Or is it as if the rock and the Church were one and the same? This I think to be true; for neither against the rock on which Christ builds His Church, nor against the Church will the gates of Hades prevail. Now, if the gates of Hades prevail against any one, such an one cannot be a rock upon which the Christ builds the Church, nor the Church built by Jesus upon the rock" Origen, Commentary on Matthew, Chapters 10-11).

These last three I have to re-check the sources again for.

""Upon this rock," not upon Peter. For He built His Church not upon man, but upon the faith of Peter. But what was his faith? "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." - John Chrysostom

"To Peter the Father revealed that he should say, "Thou art the Son of the living God." Therefore the building of the Church is upon this rock of confession; this faith is the foundation of the Church." - Hilary

""Faith, then, is the foundation of the Church, for it was not said of Peter’s flesh, but of his faith, that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ But his confession of faith conquered hell." - Ambrose of Milan

If I can go through the Fathers and find a consensus against it, not only can I prove Traditionally speaking that Rome is not the Rock on which the Church is built, but also that faith is what the Church is built on. That's a big if though, and only one of my plans.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Psalms 124-139 (lines that stood out)

"Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth." - Psalm 124:8

"Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides for ever." - Psalm 125:1

"May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy." - Psalm 126:5

"Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain." - Psalm 127:1

"Happy is everyone who fears the Lord,
who walks in his ways." - Psalm 128:1

"The Lord is righteous... ‘The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the Lord!’" - Psalm 129:4, 8

"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord...If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you" - Psalm 130: 1,3-4

"I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother" - Psalm 131:2

"Let your priests be clothed with righteousness...The Lord swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back...the Lord has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his habitation:
‘This is my resting-place for ever;
here I will reside, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless its provisions;
I will satisfy its poor with bread.
Its priests I will clothe with salvation,
and its faithful will shout for joy... " - Psalm 132: various

"How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life for evermore." - Psalm 133 (I love the way it pictures oil running down the beard, I think of God's grace and blessings just overflowing from his ministry)

"May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion." - Psalm 134:3

"Your name, O Lord, endures for ever,
your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages.
For the Lord will vindicate his people,
and have compassion on his servants." - Psalm 135:13-14

"It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures for ever" - Psalm 136:23

"Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy." - Psalm 137:6

"I bow down towards your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word
above everything...The Lord will fulfil his purpose for me" - Psalm 138:2,8

"even the darkness is not dark to you" - Psalm 139:12

Personal Post: Confusion and the Death of Truisms

I'm supposed to spend the next week in prayer and scripture trying to figure out what religion I'm going to be in the end. I think it's a bad plan to just go by one's heart, but everyone seems to have suggested it. I've had Protestant moments and Catholic moments. I just need clarity. I think it's a pretty even balance as all my personal benefits fall on the Protestant side, and all my intellectual prowess falls on the Catholic side.

I feel so strange not having a specific creed. I feel like I'm standing infront of a table, and on the table is a Catholic Catechism, a Book of Concord, and the Westminster Confession of faith. I feel like I understand each of them fairly well. Although no one else seems to agree on this point. It will be interesting to see what a week will do (probably nothing), I keep asking God which side to choose, but he seems annoyingly bi-partisan. I'm finding comfort in the Psalms though, as always.

I was thinking about Edward Gibbon today, the famous English historian who I enjoy reading when I feel cynical. When he was at Magdalen college (where C.S. Lewis was I believe), he faced a rationalist theologian (I think he was CofE) and defended miracles based on the famous Catholic preacher, Bishop Boussett's writings, and eventually converted to Roman Catholicism. His father pulled him out of school, and sent him to Switzerland to live with a Reformed Pastor. Eventually his father said if he didn't revert to Protestantism he would disinherit Edward, and so Edward re-converted on Christmas Day. He said the Romish creed disappeared then from his mind like a dream. After that he wrote scathingly against all organized religion, and was known by some as the father of the English Enlightenment.

I tend to go with the existentialists and postmoderns who say that you cannot but be affected by what you are taught. My mom was trying to give me the Billy Graham / Baptist altar call talk today about 'trusting in the cross' we got in a fight when I told her how complex it was and that she hadn't studied the nature of the debate or understood it at all. I think I wish Edward Gibbon were around today so that I could talk with him. I am a blender of confused theology. I have the Evangelical Arminian decision theology that I was raised with, blended with the Methodism and Biblicism I learned in England, mixed with the Calvinism and Reformed theology I've read everywhere from Karl Barth to Jonathon Edwards, blended with the catholic moralism and neoplatonism of the Fathers, countered by the polemicism of Luther, Calvin, Loyola, and Bellarmine, blended with the Roman Catholic romanticism of Chesterton, Waugh, and Newman, blended with the intellectual foundation of Thomism, attacked by the Fideism of Kierkegaard, the subjectivism of Kant, the skepticism of Sartre, and all topped off with a liberal scoop of C.S. Lewis. My mind, is like a bunch of wires that short circuit now. Whenever someone says an evangelical-ism or a truism, all the arguments start going off in my head like a bar room brawl.

For example. I'll just pick trite phrases people have told me in the last few days and how I react to them inside.

"Do whatever makes you happy" - John Stuart Mill, utilitarianistic hedonism, selfishness, but could also be understood in the Augustinian/Aristotelian/Thomistic framework of choosing whatever ultimately is best for me. But most decisions in life don't make me happy, I should exercise even though it doesn't make me happy, but if I followed this advice I never would.

"Just follow the Bible" - Whose interpretation of the bible should I have? which book should I start at? If I read the Pauline epistles I will lean towards Protestantism, but if I read the Johannine literature I will lean towards Rome. Should I think bishops when I read apostles? should I think magesterium when I read church? Should I think Total Depravity when I read Sin and Adam? Who wrote the bible? Do the Fathers have the right to interpret it? or is it as Luther said, that they are soot-filled bags that poison the spiritual milk of the Word? Kant said you should only do things if you are to make them universal maxims, and I definately don't think everyone should just read the bible for themselves and interpret it without proper education, it is a hard book to understand.

"Just pray" - If the Calvinists are right and I am outside God's grace, then he won't listen to my prayers, if the Catholics are right my soul is dead and unable to access God's grace or resurrect my soul in order to hear from him or feel the leading of the Spirit. How should I pray? How will I know what an answer is and what an arbitrary idealization of my own random thoughts is present? Should I pray my Rosary or not? Should I use my Prayer book (Anglican) or will that lead me astray? Why should I pray if God already has made up his mind? If God is Good by nature, why would I pray to ask him to be good, wouldn't he already do whatever is best by necessity?


so ya. Lil bit confused... I just know I don't want to make decisions based on what other people are telling me, I have Catholics emailing me patristic citations, and Evangelicals inviting me to their bible churches, and an Atheist co-worker came up to me the other day and congratulated me for leaving Roman Catholicism like she had when she became an Atheist. (I wanted to kill myself because of the sin of scandal that I've caused with all of this). I have parents preaching, a girlfriend who is trying to be impartial (but favours her native Anglicanism), and even though I was trying not to think about it today, I looked down at my shoes which our Catholic chaplain bought me on a pilgrimage. Even my shoes are reminding me of the Reformation.


I'm gonna read some Psalms and try to get some exercise.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Careful Inquiry

"Have thou ever in thy mind this seal, which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures." - St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. A.D. 350, Catechetical Lecture IV. 17)

I have no problem with the Fathers, I am still trying to learn them without merely proof-texting them, which is hard, because it seems that their proof-texts are the only thing people care about.

But what is their limit. This troubles me. St. Cyril here says that we are to weigh everything he says against the Scriptures. Of course the debate then immediately goes to 'whose interpretation of the scriptures', which I don't want to get into right now.

In the same way that I am extremely troubled by Trent declaring "concupiscence"/material original sin, what St. Paul calls "sin", I am disturbed by the way Tradition is treated.

I have abandonned the Newman-ian understanding that doctrine develops. The only thing that develops is heresy, the Arians argued that the Trinity was a development, and the catholics argued that it was a Tradition. What is true, must be either in Scripture or the public Tradition of the Church (councils and fathers).

In my personal scruples I was interested to find out from J.N.D. Kelly, that the Tradition of Penance/Reconciliation was quite different than it is now. For example, in the early church, a person could always receive communion unless they committed 3 sins: murder, adultery, apostasy. All other sins were considered to be forgiven merely by contrition and the petition in the Lord's prayer: 'forgive us our trespasses/dimmite nobis debita nostra'. As well, Penance -according to the Fathers- could only be formally done once. You got one shot, and once you had done your penance for a few years, the bishop would come to you and administer the Eucharist. No absolution was ever given, and the first record of absolution in A.D. 589 was called by a contemporary an 'excreable precept' for there to be a human absolution.

Then eventually we get Trent which says:

"the Lord then principally instituted the Sacrament of Penance, when, being raised from the dead, he breathed upon His disciples saying: 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained' (John 20:22-23). By which action so signal and words so clear the consent of all the Fathers has ever understood that the power of forgiving and retaining sins was communicated to the Apostles and to their lawful successors, for the reconciling of the faithful who have fallen after Baptism." (Sess. XIV, c. i)


So how do we get from 500 years of no confession to a priest, and the only mortal sins being murder, adultery, and apostasy, to: every time you deliberately lust you have to go to confession or you are damned.

This seems to be my issue. Tradition either is static or it develops. If it develops, then there really is a big problem with saying Revelation ended with Christ. If it is ongoing, then the Fathers can eventually be outgrown. For example, St. Augustine, Prosper, and St. Thomas Aquinas all taught the doctrine of reprobation, the idea that God predestines to Damnation.

After the debate with the Jansenists, the Magesterium decided that actually God gives sufficient grace to everyone. Bye bye doctrine of Reprobation, bye bye Tradition, make room for development.

This is an issue I need to carefully inquire into.

Likewise, I'm tired of reading pages of sifted quotes from the Fathers either for or against sola scriptura, sola fide, or any other doctrine. The fact that someone can even make up such pages shows how complex the issues are.

So in the end, if the Church directly contradicts the sense of scripture by saying concupiscence isn't sin, when Paul calls it "sin", does it have that kind of authority? St. Cyril seems to think it doesn't... that is until someone finds me another St. Cyril quote to show why he believed in sola ecclesia.

lord have mercy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

How I Feel Today

I have told my friend who is a priest in the ANiC that I am going to be received there, but now I have alot of Catholics proving to me that my intellectual 'escape route' has collapsed. It appears I am caught, and left with my true motive for leaving the Roman Catholic Church: I need assurance of God's grace and love towards me. I need to know that even though I haven't been to confession, God will still accept me with open arms.

Anyway, that's just me being honest, and I'm sure some Catholic will seize the opportunity to attack me for my behaviour. In any case, in my current weird position as an Anglo-Catholic holding Reformation soteriology, I've decided to really delve into the Fathers this summer, as well as exegesis on the issue of Justification. (to further confuse myself)

I came across this passage in St. Jerome's Letters tonight which was similar to how I feel sometimes:

"Oh! That I could behold the desert, lovelier to me than any city! Oh! That I could see those lonely spots made into a paradise by the saints that throng them! But since my sins prevent me from thrusting into your blessed company a head laden with every transgression, I adjure you (and I know that you can do it) by your prayers to deliver me from the darkness of this world... I have the will but not the power; this last can only come in answer to your prayers. For my part, I am like a sick sheep astray from the flock. Unless the good Shepherd shall place me on his shoulders and carry me back to the fold, (Luke 15:3-5) my steps will totter, and in the very effort of rising I shall find my feet give way. I am the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) who although I have squandered all the portion entrusted to me by my father, have not yet bowed the knee in submission to him; not yet have I commenced to put away from me the allurements of my former excesses. And because it is only a little while since I have begun not so much to abandon my vices as to desire to abandon them, the devil now ensnares me in new toils, he puts new stumbling-blocks in my path, he encompasses me on every side.

The seas around, and all around the main.

I find myself in mid-ocean, unwilling to retreat and unable to advance. It only remains that your prayers should win for me the gale of the Holy Spirit to waft me to the haven upon the desired shore." - Letter 2 (

please pray for me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I need a little more time than I thought to address the Catholic hate mail and remind the Protestants that I don't think they have 'won' the battle in the sense they think they have.

I am not a piece of meat. I have found a few points in the Roman Catholic confession untenable, and I have personally and existentially come to believe in the biblical yet unpatristic and unhistorical doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone.

I no longer feel I am obliged to remain in communion with the Pope of Rome for my salvation, but I have nothing evil to say to him or to other Roman Catholics.

My reading of Scripture and Tradition as well as the interior witness of the Holy Spirit has led me to where I am, you are free to call me damned, heretic, or fool. I have no defence, only trust in Christ.

I am going to need some more time before I blog on anything, Triumphalism has become a bitter taste in my mouth.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ecclesiology (1) - Church Structure

The area in-between the *** are personal reflections and not properly arguments, so feel free to skip them.


I've now decided on my soteriology, an absolutely basic understanding that "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13), regardless of whether they are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed or (ana)Baptist. That most simple gospel, that if I ask God for forgiveness, for the sake of Jesus Christ, he will not withhold it from me, because he desires that all should be saved, over and above the retension of a visible unified Church. So I have accepted this much of the Reformation, that God freely offers his grace to any whom the Spirit regenerates. The fact that Paul could rebuke Peter on a gospel issue, means to me that soteriology must come first.

But now comes the next challenge must be dealt with: Ecclesiology.

1. Which style of Church Governance is correct?


This model has support from Acts 1, and the succession of Matthias to Judas "bishopric" in the King James, or apostolic office. What does that mean however? The Fathers seem to indicate that each city or geographic diocese (a Roman Province decided on by the Pagan Imperial powers) had a bishop who was a figure of unity. However, if Paul and Peter were both in Rome, then that raises questions about the nature of the rule of 'one bishop one diocese'. In fact, if the Pope has universal jurisdiction, then really there is either only one global diocese/bishop, or 2 bishops in every diocese (again going against Tradition).

Likewise, the Methodists made a strong argument. For example, Timothy was allegedly to be appointed as Bishop of Ephesus, this tends to be the Roman Catholic argument. However, look at 1 Tim 4:14 "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery (or priesthood)." If Timothy was given his ministry (bishop) by the laying on of hands by the presbytery/priesthood, this means his succession was passed on by the priesthood, and not by the Episcopate. This means, as the Methodists will tell you, that all that is required to make a church is at least 3 priests validly ordained in apostolical succession, and they could then vote in a bishop (in the Alexandrian and Nicene Tradition, which states that bishops must be elected). An interesting argument to be sure.

Anyone arguing for a congregationalist style of church government like the Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Baptists, would have to base their argument on the ecclesial 'popular sovereignty' of Christians. They argue (quite rightly in terms of linguistics) that 'ecclesia's (churches) were assemblies in ancient Greece. For example, in Athens, the Ecclesia was a group of around 5000 men who would elect a leader like Pericles. Baptists argue that their 'bishops' (pastors) are elected by the congregations and that the 'laying on of hands' really means the raised hands that were used in voting. While the burden of proof is on them to show the truth to this unsubstantiated claim, it is still one argument. The case can be made that Presbyter/Priest, and Pastor/Bishop are actually all equivalent terms, and that in the hierarchy there is only two offices: laity and pastorate/presbytery.

I accept the authority of Scripture, the Fathers, and Tradition, and so the second two sources seem nigh unanimous in their support for the episcopal system of governance. As St. Ignatius of Antioch so harshly warned "do nothing without the bishop", and the Didache and other early texts seem to make the sacramental validity of the Eucharist to be dependent on either the presence or permission of a bishop in the line of apostles. I don't believe Tradition teaches a Petrine supremacy of jurisdiction though.

So, that leaves the Anglican Church of Canada, the Orthodox Church in America, and the Anglican Network/Anglican Church in North America (Evangelical & Anglo-Catholic split). I think Eastern Orthodoxy has gone against Antiquity and Tradition (ironically enough) by calling early medieval teachings 'apostolic tradition' (and thus falling into a quasi-Roman gnosticism of 'the secret tradition of the apostles'). The Anglican Church of Canada has gone against nature and grace by blessing homosexual unions and supporting abortion, leaving me the Anglican Church in North America, of which I am currently seeking membership.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Apologia Pro Mi Vita

I've been challenged that I am not in fact actually a Christian at all and that I merely blog on here for entertainment and to provoke controversy. For someone who has spent over 500 posts for 2 years or more, praying, weeping, searching, and longing for the truth, I'm not even going to honor such an utterly baseless and offensive charge. It is much easier to simply dismiss people, than deal with them as actual human beings.

Since I have been provoked, I will give a response.

Everyone keeps asking me about encountering Jesus. I don't think you can encounter Jesus. The article of the creed seems clear to me "he ascended into Heaven". The way Paul taught people about Jesus was not by administering the sacraments: "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect" (1 Cor 1:17 KJV).

I made the argument in another post that I think the catholic faith holds Tradition to be a deposit, not an ever-evolving system of new doctrines, or merely 'whatever the magisterium says at this hour' (Pace Cardinal Manning). The episcopate is a part of Tradition, Papal Primacy is an innovation. At least that's the "unoriginal" argument I put forth previously. When I converted to Roman Catholicism last year, I did so because I intellectually believed it was the only Christian worldview I could uphold. I sought for months - begging people to help me - find a way out. Intellectually, I finally found one, and I faced the question of: at a personal soul level, do I enjoy being Roman Catholic? or would I not prefer to be Orthodox, Anglo-Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed?

My heart was not strangely warmed by the thought of nearly never receiving communion, being forced to confess to a priest even when my conscience didn't particularly trouble me (on pain of damnation), denying the hope and joy giving gospel I had been raised with, and having my friends and family desert me. (apparently it was all a scheme of eventual self-glorification...)

As I re-examined the Word of God in Scripture, the 3 'words' I received from God on pilgrimage, and my own experience, I found that I was free. If I am certain about one doctrine, it is Total Depravity. It is that absolutely nothing within me is worthy of condign merit, that I have no pure intentions, and that I can only be saved by looking to Christ Alone (with a capital A). If salvation is about anything I contribute, I am utterly hopeless. What do we have that we have not received? asks the apostle (1 Cor 4:7). The more I try to focus on my own improvement, the worse I do. The more I accept my total inability, and rest on the promises of Christ, and grasp his righteousness by faith, the more I am at peace. I have rarely been more peaceful, than in the last few days.

I took Communion at an Anglo-Catholic church today, and it was wonderful. I had confessed to God a hundred times my sin, I was not rid of it, but I received him in faith. In Lutheran theology the Eucharist forgives sin, in Roman Catholic theology it is not for the sinful, but the absolved, Jesus comes not to sinners, but to the righteous, those who have jumped through the hoops, followed the rules, towed the party line. Such are allegedly God's children. That I find repugnant. We do not bring anything to God but sin and suffering, and he accepts it and pours out grace upon us. The Eucharist is a means of grace for the believer, even if he is 'unworthy'. God after all "justified the UNGODLY".

There. There's my personal experience. I have no hatred for actual Apostolic and Patristic Tradition, for the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, for the Church and the Law (when applied properly with the gospel).

So to the question: Why is a priest/human/the Church necessary? To lead us to Christ. To say here is the Lord, here is his grace, it is free, it is yours, take it. Catholics claim they have the same view. Actually, what I've experienced, is the opposite. You receive the 'New' Law: do this and live, when you have done your part, God will do his. Clergy should be a special mediation of grace, not the sole mediation of grace. The Church is not the Holy Spirit, and Peter is not the Church.

At the end of the day, it is my soul. Perhaps God will look on me on the day of Judgment and say "you did not submit to the Roman Pontiff, enter into my wrath!" But as Luther says, we have the exterior witness, and the interior witness. By the exterior witness I have shown the the Roman claims to infallibility are seriously dubious, as is the exegesis and Tradition it is built on. The interior witness, is the freedom and grace of the gospel that I feel, the hope about the future, the certainty with which I know Christ will save me.

...but of course, everyone who throws their life away in a secret dishonest pursuit of God for their own glorification, attention, and desire for controversy says such things, why could I ever be trusted...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Problems: Tradition and Catholicism

A man who has been far too kind to a fool like me, sent me an article quoting the great theologian and priest Luigi Giussani, who advocates that the way we encounter Christ nowadays, is through the Catholic Church of today, it is the way we truly, really, and objectively encounter the witness to Christ.

My problem with the argument, is that the Scriptures, Fathers, and history also attest to Christ, and in general, anytime I want to know about someone lived on earth long ago, I go to the most contemporary sources. Luckily for me, there exist the witness to Christ and God's actions in history, preserved by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches throughout time and space in Scripture and the patristic tradition.

The Council of Trent argues that no interpretation of Scripture should be made without the consensus of the fathers or the appeal to Tradition. Indeed it said that the deposit of faith was given in written scripture and unwritten traditions and passed onto us. ...And yet after that controversial meeting, as Ultramontanism strengthened and the first Vatican council was about to be called, there was a shift in the Catholic Tradition.

The former Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, and convert alongside Cardinal Newman, Henry Manning:

"But the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the Divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be Divine. How can we know what antiquity was except through the Church?...I may say in strict truth that the Church has no antiquity. It rests upon its own supernatural and perpetual consciousness. . . . The only Divine evidence to us of what was primitive is the witness and voice of the Church at this hour" - Henry Cardinal Manning "The temporal mission of the Holy Ghost"

Manning also writes: "the annunciation of the faith by the living Church of this hour is the maximum evidence, both natural and supernatural, as to the fact and contents of the original revelation. I know what are revealed there not by retrospect, but by listening" - 214

read for yourself :

It's very disturbing.

He says that before facts and history existed the faith existed and was taught. Thus because the Catholic Church now teaches Papal Infallibility, history, antiquity, the fathers, do not matter, because they are of necessity not true if they contradict the first truth, which is Papal Infallibility.

So there is no point in historically verifying it with Scripture or Tradition, it just is. In fact, to investigate is to negate faith.

... Such Traditionalism is not common after Vatican II which advocated EXACTLY what Manning is saying, but the fact is, even in the post-conciliar 'lights' you find the same problem:

"In every age the consensus of the faithful, still more the agreement of those who are commissioned to teach them, has been regarded as a guarantee of truth: not because of some mystique of universal suffrage, but because of the Gospel principle that unanimity and fellowship in Christian matters requires, and also indicates, the intervention of the Holy Spirit. From the time when the patristic argument first began to be used in dogmatic controversies — it first appeared in the second century and gained general currency in the fourth — theologians have tried to establish agreement among qualified witnesses of the faith, and have tried to prove from this agreement that such was in fact the Church’s belief...Unanimous patristic consent as a reliable locus theologicus is classical in Catholic theology; it has often been declared such by the magisterium and its value in scriptural interpretation has been especially stressed. Application of the principle is difficult, at least at a certain level. In regard to individual texts of Scripture total patristic consensus is rare. In fact, a complete consensus is unnecessary: quite often, that which is appealed to as sufficient for dogmatic points does not go beyond what is encountered in the interpretation of many texts. But it does sometimes happen that some Fathers understood a passage in a way which does not agree with later Church teaching. One example: the interpretation of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16-18. Except at Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy; they worked out an exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological thought, more anthropological and spiritual than juridical. This instance, selected from a number of similar ones, shows first that the Fathers cannot be isolated from the Church and its life. They are great, but the Church surpasses them in age, as also by the breadth and richness of its experience. It is the Church, not the Fathers, the consensus of the Church in submission to its Saviour which is the sufficient rule of our Christianity." - Yves Congar O.P. "Tradition and Traditions"

This is the issue. Not that Rome claims Scripture and Tradition as authoritative, but that rather, there is a 'secret tradition' that only the Magesterium knows, by which they interpret Scripture. So even though the majority of fathers deny Mt 16:18 being about Peter personally, or some successor of his, and even though no doctrine exists of Papal Primacy in Church Tradition, the fact that the Magesterium decided in 1870 that it is infallibly true, means that Tradition, the Fathers, and History must adjust accordingly.

This to me is a contradiction within the Catholic Tradition, which claims to be dogmatically immaculate. The entire argument of St. Irenaeus and the patristic proponents of Apostolic Succession was the exact opposite. That unlike the Gnostics, the churches claiming to be Catholic actually had a public Tradition which was clear as day for all to see. The idea that dogma 'develops' is a theory of Cardinal Newman's which has NEVER been accepted as Catholic Dogma. If dogma does develop then this implies progressive revelation, which is in contradiction to both the Catholic Catechism, and the orthodox Christian understanding of the Incarnation of Christ.

This is my problem, Rome has an un-catholic understanding of Catholicism, and has contradicted itself. It reminds me of the argument Stephen Colbert had where he said: The U.S does not torture. But it does waterboard. But waterboarding has been considered torture. But because the U.S waterboards, waterboarding isn't torture. It's the same with Papal Primacy.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar does a great job proving Papal Primacy from Scripture and Reason, but this is in contradiction to the Catholic method. Interestingly enough, only by using the principle of Sola Scriptura, is the doctrine of Papal Primacy and Infallibility plausible... but once one accepts this principle, one has ceased to be Catholic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Random Augustine

"[Referring to a Psalm]...For by "spontaneous rain" nothing else is meant than grace, not rendered to merit, but given freely, whence also it is called grace; for He gave it, not because we were worthy, but because He willed. And knowing this, we shall not trust in ourselves; and this is to be made "weak." But He Himself makes us perfect, who says also to the Apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Man, then, was to be persuaded how much God loved us, and what manner of men we were whom He loved; the former, lest we should despair; the latter, lest we should be proud. And this most necessary topic the apostle thus explains: "But God commends," he says, "His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Romans 5:8-10— Donavit Also in another place: "What," he says, "shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how has He not with Him also freely given us all things?" Now that which is declared to us as already done, was shown also to the ancient righteous as about to be done; that through the same faith they themselves also might be humbled, and so made weak; and might be made weak, and so perfected." - St. Augustine, On the Trinity, Book IV, ch. 1

Nothing particularly polemical here, just a quote I enjoyed.

Rebuilding From the Ground Up (1) - The Irrationality of the Theology of the Cross

What is the basis of philosophical justification? Is it reason? Is it practicality? Is it authority?

This is the first problem when trying to rebuild the faith. Some will say Reason is our starting point - heck, I used to say that.

But let's think about that idea in a historical-genealogical way. The ancient Greeks stated that reason was the mark of the gods in man, and that if we shared anything it was reason. Aquinas and other scholastics say that reason is the image of God in man, and that man is essentially a rational animal. But what if we disagree? Is there a reason to attribute reason a special place? or is this just arbitrary.

Using reason we can argue for the necessary being, God. But then what. Can we say that we really understand God? Wouldn't we be saying that we - finite beings - could comprehend an infinite being? (and thus make him finite).

The truth of the matter - I think - is that while we can say 'some necessary being' was required to start this whole thing, you can't say much more than that.

To say that a being would need to give us revelation is irrational. The deists quite easily argued that for God to love or be involved with humanity is not logical, it is gracious, love has no reason, and yet "love alone is credible" (Hans Urs Von Balthasar).

Thomas Aquinas in good patristic tradition said that the only thing we could actually say about God was - what Pelikan called 'the metaphysics of Exodus' - that God is who he is (Ex. 3:14). God is, and so we are. So then the smartest question would then be to ask: what does God say about humanity, reason, revelation, etc. And how can we judge between revelations?

Why should I trust the Bible and not the Qu'ran? In the end, really, there is no argument for why the Christian revelation really is true, except the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This is where I find Rome to be no better than Wittenberg. The Protestant says "God's revelation is true because God said so, and there is no authority higher than God", the other says "God's revelation is true because we say so, and there is no authority higher than us (the Church)".

So what is the Christian supposed to do. By the common grace of reason, he knows some kind of Being must exist. Then we have the Revelation to Israel in the Old Testament, and from that community Jesus of Nazareth, and the apostles of the church. The problem is that reason is uncapable of giving me an answer to tons of issues. Why did God have to become a man? Ockham argued that God could've become a Donkey and saved us. How can we say our finite human reason is capable of comprehending an infinite being. Likewise, even if we just accept the Old Testament, God does some crazily irrational things. He orders Moses to kill his son against the natural law (unreasonable) as old Soren reminds us (Fear and Trembling), and he orders the slaughter of every man, woman, and child of foreign tribes purely by his will, he says he "will have compassion on whom he will have compassion", and when Moses asked to see God's glory, God showed him his backside (Luther implies Butt). None of these are rational things.

I can explain after the fact that Jesus had to be a God-man, as Anselm did, and that makes sense, how God saved us seems rational. Why he saved us, is entirely another matter.

So the Christian is left with reason which has already been shown an inadequate tool at arriving at an understanding of this irrational God. Hans Urs Von Balthasar (I believe paraphrasing Karl Barth) said that God's revelation is like an unfinished symphony of Mozart's. There is no way to 'reason out' an ending to it, it is purely gracious and benevolent, it has no reason to exist, but it does, and yet people's hearts are moved by it.

The grace of God is like music, it is a gift, and gifts are not rational, or rather, they are not for our fallen minds. Scripture and Augustine teach us that humanity is fallen and that their minds have been corrupted by sin. "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" asks Tertullian (with an implied answer of Nothing). And the Scriptures warn against vain philosophy, and Paul writes that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man (1 Cor 1:25).

Thus no such analogia entis, Analogy of Being, is possible for the Christian. Catholic Thomism proposed such an understanding, but really -as Barth claims- only an Analogy of Faith is possible, because if God is the ultimate truth of the universe, and he has given us his eternal word, and the deposit of faith once and for all (Jude 3), and reason is uncapable of 'explaining' him, then we can only use the faith. The Theology of the Cross is foolishness to the world of rationalism, which makes it's own Theology of Glory. But God is known by the Theology of the Cross, he gives life and takes life, his gratuitous and arbitrary grace and blessings flow where they will, and he descends to a stable to be born, dies on a cross between two criminals, and raises from the dead. There is nothing in Plato or Aristotle that will tell you that is logical, it is a theology of foolishness, a theology of the cross, not a theology of glory.

So for the Christian, we have our only epistemological foundation being God and what he reveals and enlightens via the Holy Spirit, who is "the light which enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:9).

As to which books fall within the Canon, which councils are correct, and which fathers orthodox, I'll give you all of them. The next post will be on Authority for the Christian.

I will be defending the Book of Concord's formulation that doctrine must be:

"supported by firm testimonies of Scripture, and to be approved by the ancient and accepted symbols... [which] ... have... [been] ... constantly judged to be the only and perpetual consensus of the truly believing Church, which was formerly defended against manifold heresies and errors, and is now repeated."

And defend Scripture first, read within the ancient creeds, and in accordance with the first councils, and with the insights of the Fathers, Tradition, and a very careful and limitted use of reason.

The Next Necessary Step

So now that I've at least shown that there is good reason to doubt the catholicity and historicity of Catholic claims, I have of course to show why whatever confession I eventually adopt (Probably Lutheran, but possibly Reformed) is superior to my previous one.

I still have to figure out:
-Apostolic Succession
-Protestant Canon
-Christology (Lutheran and Reformed both have issues with either their understanding of the atonement or the Eucharist)
-Proper status of Tradition

And most importantly, I have to find a historical defense of the prime existential reason I'm switching, that crazy doctrine we call: Justification.

So far I think I can at least give sufficient defense of it with Augustine, Hippolytus, Prosper, Bernard of Clairvaux, Teresa of Avila, and some others.

Monday, May 24, 2010

This Article Just Might Have Destroyed My Faith in Catholicism

I just don`t even know what to say... It is very difficult to argue against... Wow.

Well, I know what I`ll be thinking about for my day at work tomorrow.

Another Personal Rant: Melanchthon, Confession, and My Damnation

I read these things that Melanchthon said today and I could relate:

"The condition of Church affairs causes me anxiety which nothing can mitigate. Not a single day goes by on which I do not wish that my life was at an end."

"All the waters of the Elbe would not yield me tears sufficient to weep for the miseries caused by the Reformation."

He was not fully a Donatist, he cared about the unity of the Church (obviously not enough, but still). While others said that the Papacy was the Anti-Christ, Melanchthon said he would happily submit to it, if it only taught the doctrine of sola fide / the gospel as he understood it.

I also was re-reading the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. There were a few spots where I winced. This one especially to me seemed to be the entire Reformation summed up:

"when individuals voluntarily separate themselves from God, it is not enough to return to observing the commandments, for they must receive pardon and peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation"

This made me sad. It is this doctrine of Catholicism and Trent more than anything that frustrates me personally (though I understand the Church's defense of the doctrine, and it seems logical and scriptural and patristic enough for me). It is the idea that a person can cry out to God for salvation and not be received by him without the Church. The idea that God cannot save individuals, or rather that these individuals can have no assurance whatsoever of the efficacy of God's grace. Even the medievals said that to those who do what they can, God will not withhold his grace.

But let's make this really practical. Confession wasn't offered tonight (my only time off) and I was planning on going. As I've said before I COULD get up at 5 AM and go to confession at the scary Traditionalist parish. I theoretically could, just like theoretically I could get on a plane to Rome and find a priest there to give me reconciliation. But the reality is that it is not feasible, and that while I intend on confessing, it is not a practical possibility. For the last three weeks I have studied the bible and prayed and cried in repentance. But none of that matters. I am outside of God's grace. There is no assurance I can have. If my plane begins to crash on Thursday I can beg God to forgive me, but I can't know according to Rome.

None of this of course proves it isn't true, none of this removes Rome's claim to authority, etc. I am guilty, I freely admit it.

But there's just something that seems so wrong about it. So utterly unChristian. There is a complete revolting at this idea in my heart. It's the same thing Luther said in the 95 theses. Why doesn't the Pope empty purgatory? Why doesn't the church 'loose' the requirements for penance and declare the whole world saved, or at the very least, repentant Catholics who haven't received the sacrament yet.

This is the reason why I hate being Catholic. If this is Christ, bound in all the canon laws of the church, trapped by all the legal requirements. In the Lutheran confessions, the Eucharist makes the unworthy worthy, it remits sin, because it is Christ, and he loves and died for sinners. In the Roman Catholic confession, Christ is only offered to those who are worthy, those who have jumped through the sacramental hoops, it is a weapon to withhold from the politicians who disagree with the Church, or the remarried. It is a sacrifice where WE offer something to God, rather than receive something from him. It is a work first and foremost, and a blessing only after.

So while Catholicism might not teach that we are justified by the works of the Old Law, I hate that it teaches we are justified by the works of the New Law, or at least a work of the new law (confession). The whole purpose of confession is supposed to be that we are unworthy of God's grace, that Christ as highpriest has absolved us, not that if we do something, then God will forgive us.

I'm sorry this is a terrible rant.

I really like what Melanchthon wrote before he died:

"Thou shalt be delivered from sins, and be freed from the acrimony and fury of theologians" and "Thou shalt go to the light, see God, look upon his Son, learn those wonderful mysteries which thou hast not been able to understand in this life."

Lord have mercy on this confused Catholic trying not to be swept away on every wind of doctrine, but also to abide in your word.

Donatism and the Catholic Luther

"... if unfortunately there are such things in Rome as might be improved, there neither is, nor can be any reason that one should tear oneself away from the Church in schism. Rather, the worse things become, the more a man should help and cling to her, for by schism and contempt nothing can be mended. We must not desert God on account of the devil; or abandon the children of God who are still in the Roman communion, because of the multitude of the ungodly. There is no sin, there is no evil that should destroy charity or break the bond of union. For charity can do all things, and to unity nothing is difficult." - Martin Luther (Feb. 1519) [cited from Dave Armstrong's blog]

There's an interesting article by ELCA Lutheran David Yeago, citing this case from Luther, as an example of why Donatism - while essentially being a part of Reformed and other Protestant confessions - was never Lutheran (according to him, obviously the claim is debatable).

While I still find Luther's doctrine of sin compelling and his theology of the cross, I don't think it is perfect. For instance, you can't square the Reformation teaching with that of the non-Pauline New Testament. For instance, just look at the book of Matthew: 6:15 makes salvation conditioned on a person's forgiveness of others, 7:21-23 says not all who call on Christ as Lord will be saved, and of course the famous 25:31-46 makes salvation conditioned on works or 'evangelical obedience'.

While they try to get around it by saying that they are not against works, in my opinion it still doesn't get around the salvic nature or assurance of salvation which Jesus clearly attributes to them. But no confession is perfect, there exists no explicit biblical prooftexts for the sacrifice of the mass, apostolic succession, or other key Catholic doctrines.

When it comes to the doctrine of the Church (Ecclesiology), I think Catholicism has nailed it dead on. Early Luther emphasizes the role of the keys of the kingdom and the existential assurance and peace people should have from having the church loose their sin by the administration of the sacraments. Hans Urs Von Balthasar makes the case that every wilfull breaking of communion is a case of Donatism, and that there is no reason ever to break the unity of charity, as God has declared that love "bears all things" (1 Cor 13), and that the Gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church, which is visible.

I feel like alot of what Luther wanted reformed has been changed. The Liturgies are in vernacular, the bible is read (to the point that I've heard Catholics complain about having to stand for our long readings), and the shift in other doctrines and emphasis have made the doctrine of justification by faith and works declared by Trent to be either turned Protestant in practice, or at least interpretted in the most gracious way possible.

Notice what I'm not saying. I'm not saying the word is preached. I'm not saying Trent is gone. I'm not saying I find freedom and hope in the synergistic gospel. I'm just saying I know this:
1. It is always wrong to break the unity of the church
2. I as an individual have no right to arrogate my own interpretation over and against the Augustinian tradition which has been in force for over a thousand years.
3. I as an individual nonetheless am obliged by Christ to "abide in his word" if I want to be his disciple, and thus can only preach what I find there, which may sound similar though not identical to the doctrine of Faith Alone, or at least, to emphasize above everything else, that personal conversion to Christ and trust in him alone for salvation is the essential doctrine of Christianity.
4. I cannot accept the other innovations of the Reformation (priesthood of all believers, denial of apostolic succession of bishops, denial of reverance for the saints, denial of auriculur confession).

I find in Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Schillebeeckx, and Yves Congar, (and I'm told Henri De Lubac is similar) a form of Roman Catholicism that is 'evangelical, catholic, and orthodox'. The biggest problem is, outside of Balthasar, finding Catholics that are 'evangelical', just as the problem I found in the Anglican church was finding people who were 'catholic' and/or 'orthodox'.

I guess I must say that I despise indulgences (thank God for our episcopal chair being empty at the moment, so we don't have to put up with any more of those), I no longer feel obliged to pray to the saints, and I dislike the restrictions on communion. But that is a longshot from saying I like Calvinism, or even Lutheranism as a whole. I do like early Luther when he's being Catholic, and I like that they have such a high view of unity. I think what he does best - as does Protestantism - is remind Catholicism of that truth they never like to admit, that truth which they sometimes deny, that God is not bound to the sacraments, that salvation is "of the Lord" as Jonah teaches, and that we should look to Christ for hope, not to ourselves (which the sacramental system sometimes encourages).

The other doctrine I'm really examining, is the idea that the Eucharist forgives sins, I know we say this about venial sins, but not mortal ones. I'll have to investigate more on Luther's teaching here.

Good Short Article on Penal Substitution

This is the big problem I find with Luther and Calvin's theology of the cross. It either says God damned his own nature and separated the inseperable members of the Trinity, or it divides the one will of the Father and the Son. ... but of course as Luther aptly wrote: "Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has"

Sunday, May 23, 2010


"The word "Church" (Latin ecclesia, from the Greek ek-ka-lein, to "call out of") means a convocation or an assembly. It designates the assemblies of the people, usually for a religious purpose. Ekklesia is used frequently in the Greek Old Testament for the assembly of the Chosen People before God, above all for their assembly on Mount Sinai where Israel received the Law and was established by God as his holy people. By calling itself "Church," the first community of Christian believers recognized itself as heir to that assembly. In the Church, God is "calling together" his people from all the ends of the earth. the equivalent Greek term Kyriake, from which the English word Church and the German Kirche are derived, means "what belongs to the Lord."" -Catechism of the Catholic Church

I'm tired of hearing people say "happy birthday Church", the Church is much older than Pentecost. It's a dispensationalist error to say the Church was born on Pentecost.

The Trinitarian founding of the Church was in some way instituted by the Father in the election of Israel, some way instituted by Christ with his institution of the apostolic ministry, and some way instituted by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some Favourite Passages From Ephesians

"You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived... But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus." - Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-7

"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians 3:20-21

I remember a conversation about the freedom of the will and cooperation with God that was once happening between a Catholic and a Reformed guy, and the Reformed guy quoted Eph. 2:1 and said "how much can a dead person cooperate?". It was funny, even if unaccurate (as our Roman Church teaches that God takes the initiative to make us alive in his grace).

I like the line also in Chapter 3:

"through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him."

What a difficult verse to exegete after 1517. The gospel coming through the church, but the gospel of "confidence through faith" and in this case, clearly a 'fiducia' faith, a personal trust. Sometimes I wish I was born in 3rd century Corinth, the theology would be alot more simple. Although I would probably have become apostate at the first sign of persecution. As Flannery O'Conner once wrote, if they made it quick I could be a martyr, though I don't have the longsuffering to be a saint.

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" - Ephesians 4:4-6

People always tell me you aren't allowed to make this dichotemy between the Church and the Gospel, but I'm having alot of trouble with it. Eventually one ideal will be sacrificed on the altar of the other.

I know it's out of context to understand it this way, but I like to imagine 4:32 as a declaration: "God in Christ has forgiven you.".

Anyway, early morning Mass tomorrow, enough Gospel, time for some Law (jk).


This is a completely personal post - there will be no dogmatic arguing, just me writing things for the sake of honesty. It will be Wesleyan to the core - that is - based on personal experience not Scripture and Tradition. I am literally just copying online what I wrote down and put in my wallet a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago I went as a pilgram to St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, QC. I saw the steps leading up to the Church and there was a specific staircase to crawl on your hands and knees saying prayers. My first thought was - Luther in Rome. I kept trying to 'feel something' but it didn't work. We sat through the intolerable freewheeling liturgy they called Mass, and then proceeded to see all the statues and shrines to the saints. I went to the shrine of St. Joseph and prayed, and it didn't do anything (obviously that's not fair, as many of my prayers aren't answered, but I'm just saying).

Then we went up to the largest sanctuary, it was Gigantic, and in the middle was a giant crucifix. I was in a state of mortal sin, and there were no confessions (even at a shrine!) My friend was sketching the scene and I sat there staring at the crucifix and praying. I wrote 2 things down on the business card of my friend who is an Anglican priest. They were the first things God "said" (I don't even want to try to explain how this occurs) to me in a long time.

1. 'I love you more than you can hate me.' - I was in mortal sin, and I was thinking about how a Catholic friend said that when we are in such a state we are utterly forsaken by God, and in his wrath like Christ on the cross (she was a Traditionalist, and I don't know how orthodox what she said was). In any case, the thought was basically, that any sin, is too small for Christ's death to be invalidated by. In the middle of the giant room, there was Christ, his death, his atonement, his righteousness.

2. "My faithfulness is not dependent on yours". I was thinking about how in Catholicism the New Covenant is nullified by the unfaithfulness of the Christian. If I commit a mortal sin, even if I repent (without priestly absolution), I am still out of Christ, I am in condemnation. I was thinking when I felt this sentence, of the event in the Old Testament (Gen 12) where God pledges his faithfulness to Abraham, even though he doesn't do anything for it. I was thinking about Jacob, and how God chose him, even though he was a sinner, and even though he did some terrible things, God was still faithful to him.

Finally, we walked outside and saw a giant statue of Christ resurrected. At this point I felt this urging:

"Die already, and let me live." In dying I die to self, in living I live in Christ. This was much less revelatory, and pretty much just Galatians 2:20, but I wrote it on the card, so I figured I'd just put it in this post.

By the time we got to this part, my friend (a former Anabaptist) asked if I wanted to go see the heart of Br. Andre, soon to be another Canadian saint. I told him no, and that I thought it was stupid, even though I knew the bible verse in Acts 'proving' relics. I just felt confused, and after all that experience, I read Hans Urs Von Balthasar and then was ok with the Papacy and everything.

I think my problem is not that I have a problem with the Church or Catholicism, if I could live up to the standard, and fulfill all the works of the (new) law, then I'd be fine. If I had the ability to break my sin habits, and remain in 'sanctifying grace' for more than a day, and remember not to eat meat on fridays (or substitute a prayer), then I'd be fine. But the only verses I seem to find whenever I look at myself, are basically the list of proof-texts for the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Hence why I enjoy reading Luther.

I don't know what I'll do. I ended up deciding against Anglicanism, which was the closest thing to Rome (I thought at least). Lutheranism is closer in doctrine (no Calvin snuck in), but I don't know. I'm going to mass tomorrow morning with a Catholic friend. If I eventually leave Catholicism, I want to do it after making a final sacramental confession, just to prove to people that it's not about me being too 'embarrassed' to confess. But like I said, I just don't know.

I find my biggest pet peeve is ignorance. I HATE sitting through a Protestant service where the pastor smuggly mocks a viewpoint without even trying to understand it, and I HATE listening to Catholics talk about how 'no one but us' have preserved due respect for the Eucharist / believe in the real presence / are sacramental / read the Fathers, etc. Perhaps I'm just a theological snob.

I also found out a priest who served in my parish for over a year just got tried for molesting children and was also secretly married (though strangely it has nothing to do with my feelings about justification and/or the Church)... Lord have mercy.


I'm reading Martin Marty's biography of Martin Luther. I can't make myself like Calvin, but there's something about ol' Martin, he of all the Reformers I think really knows Catholicism. It's funny because I thought as a Catholic Luther would be less appealing, but actually his writing becomes more appealing, because all of his complaints I can now truly identify with. I've heard other Catholics ask the same questions he asked, and heard priests give me his solutions to the same problems (I guess he was more successful than Catholics would like to admit).

Lutheranism I also find appealing because of it's faithfulness to regenerative baptism and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (and I think Consubstantiation/Sacramental Union is more defensible than Transubstantiation). The main appeal though - the reason a friend of mine said he is Lutheran - is the appeal of the Theology of the Cross, rather than the Theology of Glory.

Of course the other reason I like Lutheranism is because I haven't actually been to a Lutheran Church service, so I can't come up with any personal complaints. It is still an ideal, not a reality.

I'm not saying I'm converting or anything, I'm just saying I really like alot of what Luther had to say, and can empathize with his story. (I spent literally 8 hours today thinking about Justification, all day at work, trying to find SOME way to make Catholicism sound luck so far)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More on the Faillure of Anglicanism

I want to enumerate more the reasons why Anglicanism failed in my eyes.

I could maneuver around the Caesaropapism if I tried hard enough. Surely a ruler choosing a bishop does not invalidate the sacrament of Episcopal Consecration.

The best defense I had of Anglicanism was my argument that a portion of the Church - validly ordained in apostolic succession - voted (even under duress it is still valid) to separate with Rome. Under the six articles of Henry VIII which were very Catholic, this could be defensible. It would be the same case the Eastern Orthodox made with Photius.

The problem arises not even with the Edwardian ordinal (making Anglican ordinations basically presbyterian ordinations of elders, rather than priests). Rome can argue all it wants about the invalidity of the liturgy, etc, but theoretically one could argue that Rome cannot change the catholic tradition of Episcopal Ordination and make requisite that "roman innovation" of the addition of "intent" to matter and form, for a sacrament.

The problem arises when one looks at the theological history of Anglicanism. Under the former Presbyterian John Tillotson as ABC (Archbishop of Canterbury), transubstantiation was declared a horrifying and immoral error in accordance with the 39 articles. However, Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI could substantially agree (pun intended) on the Eucharistic presence.

If the argument is made that a body of bishops in the historic episcopate of England are allowed to descent and remain catholic, and that I may submit to them, then that means I have to submit to them and commune with them. This is the problem. If I live in the era of Elizabethan Calvinism, I can't talk about infusion of righteousness, and likewise after 1930, I can't in the Anglican church declare contraception (and eventually homosexuality) to be disordered acts. If I follow the logic of my apologia of Anglo-dissent, it leads me to Liberalism, not to Confessional Protestantism. Perhaps in the days before Women-Bishops and gay clergy, in the 1928 and the glory days of Anglo-Catholicism I could make my case and proudly be Anglican. But the reality of the situation is that if I wanted to cross the Thames, I would not be in Nigeria with the Anglican Church in North America or the Reformed Episcopal Church, I would be with Desmond Tutu and Katharine Jefferts Schori.

It is as Cardinal Newman so wisely prophesied: there is only Rome and Liberalism, and Anglicanism is the half-way house.

As I've previously noted, if I was in search of the 'comforting doctrine', that is, justification by faith alone, which would free me from perpetual fear, guilt, and necessary auricular confession, then I would not be obliged to look for it in an apostolically successing episcopate. The Presbyterians or the Lutherans, or the Baptists would do. As I cannot conceive of a non-episcopal church as in any way catholic, and as I am unable to conceive of women in the presbyterate -much less the episcopate- as being in any way catholic, I am forced to deny both the Anglican communion, and the Protestant communions.

This - I think - is my killer argument against Anglicanism. That it was possible to be one pre-1967, but after that, not likely. Luckily my argument only grows stronger as time goes on, as the Anglo-American churches are slowly killing their apostolic succession by adding women into the mix, who cannot receive the sacrament.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Private Judgment Revisited

One commentator noted that Protestants see final authority as resting in Scripture alone, and Catholics see it in the Church alone.

But one could say that in another way: for Protestants the final authority is their own private judgment of the Scriptures, and for Catholics the final authority is the consensus of the Church / Magesterium / Tradition.

When it is phrased that way, I clearly side with Catholicism.

As Tertullian teaches:

"They [Heretics] put forward the Scriptures, and by this insolence of theirs they at once influence some. In the encounter itself, however, they weary the strong, they catch the weak, and dismiss waverers with a doubt. Accordingly, we oppose to them this step above all others, of not admitting them to any discussion of the Scriptures.

If in these lie their resources, before they can use them, it ought to be clearly seen to whom belongs the possession of the Scriptures, that none may be admitted to the use thereof who has no title at all to the privilege.


Truth is just as much opposed by an adulteration of its [Scripture's] meaning as it is by a corruption of its text.


Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible, or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: "With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?" For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions.


Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, ‘as many as walk according to the rule,’ which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures; and it may be very fairly said to them, ‘Who are you?’”" - Tertullian "The Prescription Against Heretics"

In football (soccer) games in England, the home team shouts at newcomers and the opposing sides: "who are you!?" (which sounds like: Eww AHHH YAAHH). That reminds me of Tertullian here.

Personal Clarifications

As for my very near conversion to Anglicanism, it was based on the desire to be accepted by God, even when in a state of Mortal Sin, or at least the desire for grace before I receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Similarly, I've always had issue with the Scholastic / Greek Patristic understanding as humans only 'wounded' by original sin, and not totally depraved. I find Trent troubling in it's understanding of Concupiscence light, and tend more towards Augustine and Calvin.

I thought Sola Fide could be supported by many passages in scripture, but also that it was not justification by imputation, but rather by infusion or transformation. Philippians 3:12 seems to me to entirely repudiate the 'bare dogma of double imputation' as Cardinal Newman called it.

So for a while, based on my personal experience, I wanted to leave Catholicism. Which would've made me a Methodist/Wesleyan (using personal experience as an authority). But instead I've simply decided to do as Hans Urs Von Balthasar says, believe in love. Love alone is credible, and it is completely unbelievable. There's no reason why God would love us, or accept us, even if we 'jump through the sacramental hoops'. So I have decided that when I am in mortal sin, it is time for me to - in good Thomist tradition - practice the theological virtue of hope. Hope in God's good providence, that I will not die in a state of mortal sin, and hope that if I did, God would accept me based on his mercy, and my congruent merit (the fact that I tried to get to confession).

I've also decided to read my bible more often, and to try to find some good Catholic Biblical Theology if there is such a thing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sola Scriptura and Private Judgment

I argued that Sola Scriptura is the same as Solo Scriptura, and that in the end there is no formal difference between the two.

Called to Communion did a post on this a long time ago which was brilliant. Please read it, or at least part 4 where the Catholic argument begins (

Their basic argument is that Protestants define 'the gospel' being preached as a necessary pre-requisite for a Church. With Sola Scriptura, the individual reads and defines what the gospel is for himself, and then picks the church that agrees with him. If at any time the church disagrees with him, he leaves and either establishes a new church or joins a new church that agrees with his view of the gospel. Therefore, sola and solo scriptura are the same thing in the end.

Their argument is more nuanced but that is the basic line of it.

Protestants can talk about submitting to the Councils, but if I say to them "one baptism for the remission of sins" they deny it, saying baptism cannot remitt sins, because the bible says: x. If I show them the second council of nicea (787) that declares iconic veneration of Christ and the Virgin, they say it can't be true because of what the bible says. Thus even the universal agreement of the Church is not enough to trump their own private interpretation. Which is why Solo and Sola Scriptura are no different.

This was pretty much the straw that broke the camels back for me with Anglicanism. I wanted to refute what the priest was saying in his sermon on sunday, but I know that all I can do is offer my interpretation of scripture and the councils and Tradition of the Church, but in the end, Anglicanism allows the individual to decide and interpret whatever they want.

True submission, is accepting the teaching of the Church when you DON'T personally feel it is right. This can never happen in Protestantism, because the Church always has to remain subject to Scripture, which means it has to remain subject to the individual's interpretation of scripture.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Usual Suspects: Original Sin, The Fall, and Concupiscence

So I guess I'm not ending my inquiry. Although of course we will be playing by Wesleyan (prison) rules I guess, Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience, are all fair play.

The main issue of contention that has remained since the Reformation between Protestants and Catholics and is chronologically the first battleground, is nature (and thus grace).

What is Nature? Was it perfect without grace? Was Adam merely natural, or did he also have sanctifying grace? What is original sin? etc.

I'm going to try to keep posts shorter so that you don't have to read as much, with the sacrifice being extra prooftexts.

Pelagius argued that Nature was perfect in itself, and that Adam was not given any gift of grace, because nature itself is a gracious gift. Protestantism agrees with Pelagius in arguing that Nature was perfect and was without grace, it was "good", and man likewise "very good" ('no one is good but God alone' as Jesus said).

The Cappadocians and Augustine argued on the contrary that man was not without grace, and that the 'breath of life' implied more than life, but actually the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and/or Sanctifying Grace. God blessed them in the garden before the Fall, and this seems to me, to indicate a divine gift (grace). This is "Original Righteousness" in Thomas. It thus follows that Original Sin is merely "not having Original Righteousness/Sanctifying Grace".

Fr. Hardon (man I feel gross typing that name) has an article on it here:

Called to Communion also has good posts on it as well (here's just part 7 in the series: