Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Surprised by Joy

It's funny because I'm supposed to feel somber and solemn these days. My RC chaplain friend is pissed at me, and I have a bunch of papers due, but I can't help it. I'm not sad or scared.

I'm joyful.

I feel so free.

I haven't felt this good in so long. I have hope. I sing with St. Paul: "Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies." (Rom 8:33)

The Reformer of Wittenberg used to sign his name: Martinus Eleutherius, meaning Martin the Free One.

As an Anglican I used to pray daily in the morning Liturgy to the God, "whose service is perfect freedom". I love that phrase. It's beautiful.

I have the whole evening to myself, I could do anything, and I'm going to sit down, put on some pajamas, make some hot chocolate, and grab my biggest bible and a patristic commentary.

Just the thought that God unconditionally accepts me for Christ's sake is too marvellous to bear. This great crucified God, "[w]ho was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." (Rm 4:25).

Blessed be God forever.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. - 1 Tim 4:14

I actually think the Methodists have pwned the Anglicans with this verse. If St. Timothy was Bishop of Ephesus, why were the hands of the presbytery laid upon him in consecration? This would go with St. Jerome's / the Presbyterians' argument that there are only two levels of church gov't.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Funny moment

on my facebook there appeared two suggestions for things for me to like:
The Catholic Church
Martin Luther

facebook is apparently getting really advanced...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Some Passages from St. Bernard of Clairvaux & Thoughts

"And who need wonder when I say that the Word was united to human flesh through the faith of Mary, seeing that He received that same flesh from hers ? There is nothing in the foregoing explanation opposed to our regarding the faith of Mary as a type of the kingdom of heaven ; nor does it seem unfitting to compare her faith with the kingdom of heaven, since by that same faith its losses are repaired."


"O Lamb of God ! O truly meek Lamb ! do Thou open the book. Open out Thy pierced hands and feet, that the treasure of salvation and the plentiful redemption hidden
in them may come forth."


"If there be anyone stained with crime, and driven headlong by despair to the pit of destruction, let him call upon this life-giving name, and he will speedily be restored to hope and salvation. Is there anyone amongst you in hardness of heart, in sloth, or tepidity, in bitterness of mind, if he will but invoke the name of Jesus his heart will be softened, and tears of contrition will flow gently and abundantly. In dangers and distress, in fears and anxieties, let him call on this name of power, and his confidence will return, his peace of mind will be restored. Doubts and embarrassments will be dispelled and give place to certainty. There is no ill of life, no adversity or misfortune, in which this adorable name will not bring help and fortitude. It is a remedy whose virtue our dear Saviour invites us to test."


I've always loved St. Bernard. I believe it was Calvin who cited him more than any other Christian author. He has such a lively faith, and a love for Jesus that just shines through the page. I wish I had someone like him to teach me the faith sometimes.

The pastor I've been meeting with has been great, and is very meek. Not at all argumentative or polemical, a quiet man. Of course as our Lord said, "they will all be taught by God" (Jn 6:45) so I suppose I have nothing to complain about. Just like the Blessed Virgin, and the Patriarchs, and St. Bernard (and Calvin?), all I can do is trust in the promises of God, and call upon the name of Jesus, for he - not me or anyone else - is my Saviour.

"they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."" - John 6:28-29

Jesus I trust in You

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Fred has rightly reminded and corrected me, that I was mistaken about St. Augustine's concubine.

A Photograph of Two Great Christian Adulterers

I was trying to explain to someone the other day that a person's sin is no reason to discount their theology.

These two men were both great Christian thinkers and witnesses, and yes, there is substantial evidence that both of them had mistresses / cheated on their wives.

If only I could find a picture of these two with Fr. Karl Rahner (though apparently he was technically a fornicator, and his mistress was an adulteress), then we'd have all 3 of them.

The great other exception is of course St. Augustine, who had multiple concubines, once for over a decade.

Of course, we are not good, because of our righteousness, but because of Christ. After all, concerning the so-called "free" will, St. Augustine wrote:

"Behold what damage the disobedience of the will has inflicted on man's nature! Let him be permitted to pray that he may be healed! Why need he [Pelagius] presume so much on the capacity of his nature? It is wounded, hurt, damaged, destroyed. It is a true confession of its weakness, not a false defence of its capacity, that it stands in need of." - St. Augustine (On Nature and Grace, 62.)

And as the very traditional Catholic legend goes, the saints rejoice in Heaven over their sins, because they were opportunities for the abundance of God's grace to shine through.

Some Milton

This downfall; since by Fate the strength of Gods
And this Empyreal substance cannot fail,
Since through experience of this great event
In Arms not worse, in foresight much advanc't,
We may with more successful hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternal Warr
Irreconcileable, to our grand Foe,
Who now triumphs, and in th' excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the Tyranny of Heav'n.
So spake th' Apostate Angel, though in pain...
- John Milton "Paradise Lost" Bk. 1, Lns. 115-125

Proposed Syllogism

love is the fulfilling of the law - Romans 13:10
by works of the law no human being will be justified - Romans 3:20
justification cannot be based upon Love (as Roman Catholics claim justifying faith is faith formed by love, or faith & love)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Good Shepherd Iconography

Roman Catholic Jesus (The Good Shepherd)

My commentary here seems to be the way that Western Christian art de-masculinizes Jesus. Sometimes to the extreme. For instance, the Western mystics speak about Christ nursing them at times. (St. Bernard claimed to have nursed from the Blessed Virgin, but I'm not touching that issue). I sometimes enjoy these portrayals of Christ, and I think they were produced to show the approachability(?) of Christ, and his meekness. I like this image a lot, and after spending enough time in the RCC, I have come to identify with it's once foreign iconography and art. It's a very kind Jesus.

East Orthodox Jesus (The Good Shepherd)

There's no one quite like Orthodox Jesus. Half Putin, half Goliath. That sheep is being dragged with Him whether it likes it or not (paradoxically contradictory to the EO view of predestination, but I guess sometimes lex orandi lex credendi non est). Sometimes I feel like I'm looking at Vlad the Impaler, rather that our blessed Lord, but other times I'm impressed by the authority and power of Christ. This icon reminds me of his strong words: "[m]y sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me". If I heard this man shouting at me (with a heavy Russian accent?) I would certainly stop what I was doing, and listen.

Synthesis / Protestant(?) Jesus

This image is a nice rapproachment between the East & West. It's an image from a Lutheran church in my province. I won't say it's the best because of it's denominational affiliation, after all, it might've just been a public domain image that they slapped on their website. However, I think it does a good job of capturing the humanity of Christ (while keeping him masculine), and also the sheep over his shoulders is quite significant to me, and is more reminiscent of Lk 15:5 "when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing."

Christ is my Good Shepherd, who leaves the 99 to find me, a wayward sheep, one which doesn't heed his voice, and wanders my own way, but whom the Lord graciously picks up and carries home himself.

Morning Ramblings: The Paraclete's Power

I just wrote this long and great story of the Holy Ghost leading me to resist temptation, and then I realized that it all just amounted to me trying to impress my RC friends that I'm still a Christian and more holy now than ever.

...It's hard not picking up the shackles of the Law over and over again. It's so much easier to try to justify yourself, than to plead guilty and ask for pardon.

In reality, despite whatever meager acheivements would've been won by me (or t Spirit in me), I am called to repent of my false righteousness and simply trust in the victory of Christ rather than any of my own victories.

"...sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves... He [The Holy Ghost] fetches us to Christ" - Martin Luther (The Large Catechism) 39, 53

So instead of another chapter to a pseudo-Augustine's style "Confessions", here's some wonderful music by Johann Sebastian Bach.

With wiki's more literal translation of the words:

Well for me that I have Jesus,
O how strong I hold to him
that he might refresh my heart,
when sick and sad am I.
Jesus have I, who loves me
and gives to me his own,
ah, therefore I will not leave Jesus,
when I feel my heart is breaking.

Jesus remains my joy,
my heart's comfort and essence,
Jesus resists all suffering,
He is my life's strength,
my eye's desire and sun,
my soul's love and joy;
so will I not leave Jesus
out of heart and face.

This is my 'resisting the Devil' theme music. Every time I'm really tempted I think of these words, hum Bach, and trust in the righteousness of Christ. I've been sitting in my office at the university listening to it for probably an hour now.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More on Vocation: Things I thought today in my office

A girl came into my office jokingly asking me if I knew anything about American foreign policy and religion after 1914, and was shocked when I provided her with three separate answers and sources for each (1. American endorsement of radical Islam during the Soviet-Afghan War, 2. Vatican-U.S Relations from Truman to Kennedy, 3. The preferred status and evacuation of Christian South Vietnamese for refugee status after the fall of Saigon). She kept telling me I was so smart, but she has more funding and higher grades than I do because she doesn't argue with the professors.

I prayed a bit, trying to discern my vocation and came to these hesitant conclusions:

1. You are more intelligent than most professors, but there are many other people who are just as intelligent as you are, and plenty of people more intelligent. It is good, and you should be grateful for it, but it is not the one needful

2. You really need to be married, and loved. I can do a lot, but I have no faith in myself. If there is someone who is in my corner, so to speak, I could do so much more with my life.

3. There will be nothing ordinary about your life. There is no template you are working against. My story doesn't fit the 'traditional' vocation stories of a cleric, professor, or anything else. I will have to be led by God himself to what my calling is.

No more purely anti-Roman Catholic posts

I feel that I have sufficiently defended my theological shift in beliefs thus far. That being said, I truly love my Roman Catholic friends and all the wonderful Christian truths they profess. For this reason, I want to cease making this blog primarily about a polemical attack on any confession (though I'm sure I will slip often).

After all, Our Blessed Lord said, "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." (Mt. 7:2).

While it goes against my current theology, as someone who has switched confessions before, it would be prudent for me to be careful in my judgment of others.

Luther's really Real Presence v. Thomistic Calvinism

I was shown a brilliant article furthermore ripping apart Aquinas in ways I never knew! For instance the entire Lutheran/Nominalist argument that in the 'hoc enim meum corpus est', Aquinas asserts the 'hoc' as the body of Christ (because he can't say the bread remains), so it amounts to 'my body is my body'. Brilliant. Here's a later quotation from the argument though, that is likewise surprising and fascinating:

"Luther’s understanding of the real presence cannot be
deemed a via media between Roman excess and Reformed understatement.
The medieval theory of transubstantiation is, in fact,
poles removed from any crass overstatement of the real presence.
Rather, transubstantiation, at any rate as expounded by Thomas
Aquinas, represents a watering down and evaporating away of the
real presence, which is conceived more as the presence of the idea
of the body of Christ than as the actual presence of the sacred
body itself. In keeping with the anti-Thomist position of his
nominalist forbears, Luther, as the two quotations at the head of
this section indicate, had a much stronger conception of the real
presence than did Aquinas. “[T]he massive limbs [are] there so
concealed that no one sees or feels them.” “[S]o great a body [is]
in so small a piece of bread.” Such a massively realistic confession
would have been impossible for Thomas Aquinas, whom the late
Hermann Sasse, writing to the Swedish Gnesio-Lutheran Tom
Hardt, dubbed a “Semi-Calvinist” in this connection." - Dr. John Stephenson (here:

(This is my friend Margaret's Dad, who had some hilarious and great conversations with me - he is an incredible historical theologian)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Funny Quote From Luther's Small Catechism

"20. But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?
To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it ...[Gal 5, Rom 7]... Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say...[Jn 15, 1Jn2,5]... Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace..."- Luther's Small Catechism.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Concupiscence & You

"What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? God forbid. But I do not know sin, but by the law; for I had not known concupiscence, if the law did not say: Thou shalt not covet. But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. " - Romans 7:7-8 (Douay-Rheims/Roman Catholic translation)

Works of the Law/N.T. Wright

It has been suggested that I read Bishop Wright's interpretation on justification. I have, it's wrong. This passage proves all the points against him.

He - and subsequently RCs - has interpretted the 'works of the law' which we are not justified by, as 'external legal/mosaic works and ceremonies' (ex. circumcision). His Grace concludes that Christian justification is primarily the life of Christ lived in us and shown by virtue, by following the 'spiritual law' of Christ (his morality). He rejects the claim that the Reformers made that 'works of the law' meant good works performed by Christians.

It shows that covetting - an internal matter of the heart, IS opposed to the law/'works of the law'. Covetting is not a mosaic ritual, it's an issue of Christ-like virtue.

Likewise Galatians 5 lists the gifts of the Holy Spirit and says, "against such things there is no law", again identifying virtue with 'the law'.


The case laid out at the Council of Trent, which I knowingly reject, is the argument that it is not sin formally dwelling in us that St. Paul refers to, but concupiscence (the desire for sin in St. Augustine, or material original sin in Thomas Aquinas - even here you see how the RC shift is made to rethinking humanity's sinful nature). I've already shown how Thomistic hermeneutics obliges us to read "sin" here and in Romans 7:20 as Formal, Substantial, and Entire, SIN.

Likewise in 7:8 "sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence". What is the subject of the sentence: sin. What is it doing? causing concupiscence/lust/the desire for sin. This is totally the opposite of Trent! Trent says that concupiscence - which isn't sin, but dwells in us - leads us to sin. St. Paul says that sin - which IS sin, dwells in us - and makes us have concupiscence/desire for sin.

I don't know how it could be any clearer that while one may not be comfortable with saying "sin nature" (I actually had an FSSP priest use this phrase twice with me by the way in confession - James knows the guy!), the passage clearly implies that Sin is dwelling in Christians, and making them desire sinful things.

This isn't the rose-coloured picture we get of the scholastics, with a good human nature merely having a potential for evil. (I learned my understanding of Thomas' doctrine of Original Sin, by reading the Called To Communion posts on Trent, and Chesterton's book on St. Thomas)

How Do We Know the True Religion?

On the curious question of how Christians know heresy from orthodoxy, I found a great quote from St. Irenaeus of Lyons in his book Against the Heresies:

"Anyone who keeps unswervingly in himself the canon of truth received through baptism will recognize the names and sayings and parables from the Scriptures, but this blasphemous hypothesis of theirs [viz. of the heretics] he will not recognize. For if he recognizes the jewels, he will not accept the fox as the image of the king. He will restore each one of the passages to its proper order, and having fit it into the body of the truth, he will lay bare their fabrication and show that it is without support." (via:

It is interesting that St. Irenaeus does not point us in this instance, to a magisterium, but rather to the Gospel, which is signified in baptism (one of the ordinary means of grace).

Luther on Noah

"Nor must we trust in holiness of origin, in forefathers, or in the gifts of God which we enjoy. We must look to the Word alone and judge thereby. Those alone who truly embrace the Word will be as immovable forever as Mount Zion. They may be few in number and thoroughly despised by the world, as were Noah and his children. But God, through these few, preserved to man the truth of that promised mastery when he had not even room to set his foot upon the earth...

Let us say with Noah: I know that I am righteous before God, even though the whole world condemn me as heretical and wicked, yea, even desert me. Thus did the apostles desert Christ, leaving him alone; but he said (Jn 16, 32): "I am not alone." Thus did the false brethren desert Paul. Hence, this is no uncommon danger, and it is not for us to despair; but with courage to uphold the true doctrine, in spite of the world's condemnation and curse." - Luther's Commentary on Genesis 6

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Great Gulf Fixed

"Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved." - Second Vatican Council "Lumen Gentium" (14)

If Roman Catholicism is true, I'm an apostate who has rejected God's love and fellowship. I've refused the means of grace to eradicate my mortal sins, and I've torn the Church asunder by schism and heresy.


"But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned... when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel...I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing."- Galatians 2 (various)

The witness of the Reformation is to do once more what St. Paul did before St. Peter, to force the Roman Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) Church to listen to the message of the Gospel (sola gratia ; sola fide ; solo Christo).

As the Protestant observers should have replied to the council fathers of Vatican II: 'whosoever hears and rejects the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, could not be saved'

Why Protestantism? (or rather, why the Lutheran Church-Canada)

Devin Rose - a friend who has helped me in so many ways over the years, asked me a fair question.

If Roman Catholicism is not the true religion, how do you know your 'brand' of Protestantism is correct?

1. Rationalist Assumptions of Roman Catholicism

Like every argument for Roman Catholicism, this one begins with pure reason (which Kant despised so much). It assumes that divine revelation devolves naturally to arguments about divine revelation. It assumes that Aristotle's account of logic is the only account of logic, and that human nature is essentially Aristotelian.

What if Aristotle was wrong (as the Church Fathers thought he was)?

How would you disprove Roman Catholicism in a way that was satisfactory to them? Admittedly, you'd have to use Aristotelian logic.

For instance, Kant and (Lord) Russell, both ripped apart the 5 'proofs' for God's existence using empirical epistemology / analytic philosophy. What is RC's reply? Wrong logic. You started with the wrong rules. I might ask, who says we have to start with your rules?

So what I did, and what the Church Fathers did, was use the logic of a system against itself. With my concupiscence/consubstantiation argument, I used Thomism to show the why Trent was wrong.

Were I to then come up with a system based on the same epistemology, I'd have contradicted myself! Because the Roman Catholic claim is circular reasoning: logic is what we say it is, and this is logically demonstrable.

Protestantism says something quite different in it's epistemology.

Protestantism begins with God. God (as St. Anselm and Descartes understood him) was: that Being, a greater than which, cannot be conceived.

So we are presented with the Revelation of God's Word to Moses, through Jesus. How do we decide if this Word is true or not? If we require a rational argument to demonstrate it's truth (which Aristotelianism would have us do), then we aren't actually saying there is truth inherent in the Word. It's just a really good human philosophy, using allegedly divine sources.

By contrast God's Word is a pre-rational revelation that is necessarily self-referential, and circular. God says it, and it's authoritative because God says it. It can only be accepted or rejected. In any case, there's no way to falsify the claims of God about Himself, we can't know. We either trust, or reason.

In short: the epistemological authority of God's Word is greater than the epistemological authority of any argument about his Word.

2. Only Two Traditions

Again, retaining their rationalism, Roman Catholicism asserts that there are 22 000 Christian 'churches' all claiming to have 'the true religion', let alone Islam and Hinduism. Without reason, how can we judge which claims are best.

First of all, when we're judging claims outside of Christianity, we can certainly use philosophy and reason to undermine these things. (That's why Tertullian used Stoic philosophy to undermine the Stoics, but didn't adopt it in his theology.)

Secondly, there are hardly 22 or 25 k denominations. Likewise, Protestantism follows none of the rules Roman Catholicism does, regarding a communion. For RCs, a church is a communion. For Protestants a church is a confession. There are only really two confessions or Traditions in what I would identify historically as 'catholic Protestantism'. These are Reformed Theology and Lutheran Theology.

Also, it's important to note that both of these confessions acknowledge that the other teaches the saving gospel of justification by faith alone, which in the end is -at least existentially/salvifically- all that matters. So it's not even a necessary issue of 'which is right' (without being too latitudinarian), as any Christian who trusts in God's grace will be saved.

Furthermore as we've seen via Protestant epistemology, the only way to 'internally undermine' things (as I did for Roman Catholicism), as by making Scriptural arguments against them.

In the same way that Roman Catholics are fine having the Pope alone know the true interpretation of Scripture, they seem quite upset that Protestant confessions ultimately confess that their church has the most correct doctrine.

It must also be remembered the numbers have nothing to do with who has 'the true church', as at many times (Noah, Judah, St. Paul, St. Athanasius) the true church was a minority faction.

3. Inherently Humanist Implications in the Question

Next the RC apologist would revert to their argument that God didn't reveal himself properly in his Word, as it's easy if not obligatory to misunderstand it without the Pope (Magisterium and Church can easily be conflated to the Petrine office).

In the same way we saw Papal Infallibility as a de facto denial of the Inspiration of Scripture, we see here the de facto denial of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in two ways. First, it denies that the individual can actually be inspired by the Holy Spirit to be led into the truth. Secondly it denies that there is truly any difference which the Holy Spirit makes when reading the bible. (This is the rationalistic and pelagian understanding, coupled with an intellectually centred faith, that rejects grace alone or even de facto grace in the believer operating at all)

The individual Christian reading God's revelation with the illumination of the Holy Spirit and the rest of scripture to compare a passage to? Rubbish they say.


How do I know that the Lutheran Church-Canada is either: the, or a, true church? First of all, it doesn't matter, because ecclesiastical membership is not a salvific issue. Salvation is the work of the regenerating Spirit of Christ, not church bodies. Secondly, when I accept God's Revelation as true (because he could swear by no one greater than himself Hb. 6:13), and am illuminated by the Holy Spirit, I conclude that the gospel of the Augsburg Confession, was the gospel of Christ.

In short, to require any extra-revelatory verification of either God's existence or the validity of his Revelation would be blasphemy.

*note* This is the primary reasoning and epistemological defense of Protestantism/Confessional Lutheranism. There are other arguments in its defense, such as an argument from Patristics or Church History, but these are not what establishes the fundamental truth. They are secondary arguments in both the general apologetic discourse, and importance generally.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How The Roman Church Masters the Scriptures

As a previous commenter jcrng (I think I know who this is, my old Deli co-worker) made the point, any Catholic (*read Roman Catholic) would agree that Scripture is inspired and authoritative in and of itself without the Church's approval.

Here's how that breaks down in practice if not in theory.

Let's look at St. Paul's famous exposition of the struggle of the Christian life in Romans 7:20 "Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me."

How should this be interpretted?

Well in Tradition, both St. Jerome (letter 2) and St. Augustine (Nature and Grace) agree in many places that the will of the baptized Christian is not free to do good. It is free to sin or not to sin, but any good work is directly attributable to the Holy Spirit. This is because, as any plain reading of the text will tell you, St. Paul says: "sin ... dwells within me". Not concupiscence or the opportunity to sin (as the Scholastics will say), but sin. Aquinas argues in III. Q. 75, A. 2, that to use a proper noun is to signify it substantially (this is how he 'proves' transubstantiation). If this interpretive principle is applied to Rom. 7:20, this means that (Original) Sin, formally and substantially, dwells in the baptized Christian.

Simple enough, this interpretation, popular enough before Trent, suddenly leads Martin Luther et al, to say that the Christian is simul iust et peccator / at the same time righteous and a sinner.

This utterly undermines the entire system of Purgatory, Indulgences, etc., and St. Peter's still has to be built. Enter the 22 Spanish and Portugeuse bishops who somehow equal an ecumenical/universl Church council, and the Roman Church declares in Trent that: even though the apostle saith sin, the Church has never understood it to be sin proper, but concupiscence (material original sin/opportunity to sin).


So you have Scripture and Tradition in unity on the matter, and the Magisterium saying "wrong".

How is this justified.

First of all, the interpretation of the Bible is made impossible. The Church denies (in a logically circle argument referencing St. Peter's epistle) that Scripture is clear for the laity to understand. Likewise tradition (which had always been public tradition, ie. knowable and written down) suddenly becomes secret unwritten tradition passed on esoterically through the Church. In the end, the only person who can infallibly judge the matter is the Pope.

So Scripture (and less importantly Tradition) are both declared to be fundamentally incomprehensible, and only knowable through the Pope.

This means in practice that it is not the text or Scripture, or the proclaimed message it records, which holds the Truth, but the Papacy. God's revelation is thus only understandable by a secret (gnostic?) special revelation made clear by the Magisterium (presumably Magisterial pronouncements are clear and comprehensible?).

In the end this amounts to saying de facto, that Scripture is not inspired. It also amounts to saying that Tradition is not a valid way of interpretting Scripture either, because this can be confusing, and not all the sources are public or written down, some are secret - knowable and interpretable only by the Pope. In the end, this amounts to something like the inspiration of the Papacy, rather than the inspiration of Scripture, or even a reliance on Scripture interpretted by Tradition.

The Distinction Between The Word Proclaimed and the Word Recorded

"While the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life" - St. Irenaeus of Lyons (I stole this quote from Jared's blog)

"For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God." - Romans 3:2

The central argument that Roman Catholicism (hereafter referred to simply as RC) bases its epistemology upon is the claim that Sola Scriptura cannot be true because the Church wrote the Bible. Thus, where the Reformers (and as aforequoted, St. Irenaeus) said that the Gospel made the Church, Tridentine RC taught the opposite. After all, how could we know the gospel if we didn't even have the New Testament canon?

1. Ontological Pre-eminance of the Word
The problem with this state of affairs is that it immediately assumes. First of all, the New Testament is a record of the teachings of Christ, his proclaimed word, through his apostles and messengers. The epistemological point must be stressed that the written record of Scripture is true and authoritative, because it faithfully represents objective events. In other words, the authority of the scriptural passage "whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mk.16:16) rests upon the fact that Christ historically and objectively said this in history first, and that the Bible records it secondly. It is not St. Mark's authority that we trust in when we read this, it is the authority of Christ. It is not the case that St. Mark wrote these words and authored these ideas, it is the fact that they are Christ's words and ideas. In modern terms, if St. Mark wrote this phrase in an essay submitted to me, he would have had to cite it, because it wasn't his idea (and he'd better do it Chicago Style!)

This is summed up nicely in the Belgic Confession, which states: "the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God". I.E. Even if no one wrote it down, the preaching of the apostles was the Word of God in oral form. In the same way that I can hum Bach's music without reading a music note, the Gospel was known in the Church even before the canon was decided, Nay! even before the Scripture was written.

This argument may sound familiar as it was used in a different form by St. Paul against the judaizers: "the law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise." (Gal. 3:17). The "promise" or the gospel which Abraham believed in, justified him (Rm 4) and existed long before a New Testament, which leads us to the next point.

2. The Gospel According To Abraham.
The Old Testament, which St. Paul reminds us, was intrusted to the Jews, is the story of Israel. Christians since the 1st century argued after St. Paul, that the Christian Church, was the True Israel. The Old Testament was a Christian book, as the apostle reminds us that all scripture speaks of Him (Christ). Isaiah 53 is a clear example of the gospel in the Old Testament. Genesis 18 was a proof-text for the Trinity.

The idea that Christians needed the Magesterium to know the Gospel or that they needed the New Testament to know the Gospel, flies in the face of all this.


For these reasons, it is wrong to say that the Church makes the Gospel. The fact that Pope Damasus oversaw a Council in Rome (382) which declared the canon of scripture, no more creates the Scripture/Gospel, than me telling my friend what I read in class, creates the book I read. It's a subversive argument that makes man the master of God's Word. The Church is ministerial, it is the servant of the Gospel, not magisterial, the master of the Gospel.

Return to Protestantism

Just when you thought I'd quietly acquiesced to papaldom, the evangelischegeist suddenly came flowing back into me. The shackles of the Law fell off, and I found myself awash once more in the unmerited grace of Christ.

I've come up with new arguments for Protestantism/against Roman Catholicism, as well as a new Barthian (tremble at the name!) epistemological argument against Thomism, or rather certain understandings of Thomism.

They are as follows:
1. The proper distinction between the proclaimed word, and the written word of Scripture.

2. An argument that Papal Infallibility and the Magesterium of the Church necessarily result in textual relativism, and a de facto denial of Scriptural Inspiration, and commit a form of gnosticism.

3. A defense of Heiko Oberman's understanding of the complex historical theology of scripture and tradition. (tradition 0, tradition 1, tradition 2, etc)

4. My old argument about how the Thomistic philosophy of language employed in III. Q. 75, A. 2 flatly contradicts the Council of Trent's doctrine of Concupiscence as Material Original Sin, AND (interestingly enough) can be used to verify Consubstantiation rather than Transubstantiation.

5. This one has to come last, because it is a rejection of the Aristotelian logic I employ in arguments 1-4., that not only does the tradition of the Church (ex. Tertullian) require us to reject Greek Philosophy as leading us to heresy, but also the Ontological Primacy of the Word, demands us to reject any theoretical basis for legitimizing Revelation. Ultimately, Revelation is necessarily self-referential and cannot be reasoned about but only either accepted or rejected.