As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Monday, December 27, 2004

What Shall We Do With the Homeless Catholic...

I should add one thing (this is still the "catholic" brother speaking) about my Church affiliation. One reason I haven't gone whole-hog Orthodox is because the same kind of blind acceptance of authority that I had as a Baptist is required. The Baptists were so wrong on so many things that I have a bit of residual skepticism born of being burned by people who were Really Sure of what they believed. Just thought I should say that. I'm in denominational limbo.

We and God

What I cannot accept is when a council, of humans, begins to espouse doctrine that is not clearly laid out in the Bible. You have rejected the doctrine of Immaculate Conception for that reason. I reject the doctrine of Real Presence for the same reason.

I don't reject the Immaculate Conception because it's not in Scripture. The perpetual Virginity of Mary is not in Scripture and I believe that wholeheartedly. I reject it because the ancient Church did not believe it. It is an unnecessary innovation which is logically necessary according to the Augustinian doctrine of Original Sin on which the Western Church is hung up.

Your response, apparently, is the church represented by what you have chosen to believe. All you have done is widen the circle of that which influences what you believe from the Bible to the Bible and the councils that you have chosen to accept.

No, not at all. First, let me say that I am arguing as if I were Orthodox. I'm not. I always look to them first for my answers, but no Orthodox priest I know would let me commune at Mass. My personal convictions will wait until later. As for widening the circle, nope. I have placed Scripture in a context out of which it was never meant to be taken. It was done in response to the abuses of the Western, Roman Catholic Church, but never in the East. Scripture has always been part of that Tradition which was identified and upheld by the Church. It is no higher, nor lower, than the Creeds, or the councils, or the dogma of the Theotokos (Mary, Mother of God or God-bearer), etc. The Church recognized that without inspired authors, there is no inspired Scripture, and the inspired authors gave inspired interpretation which was passed down from Apostles to their heirs, the Bishops.

It's not "me and God" but "us and God."

There is no one denomination that represents the one true church any more.

Nope. And that's why even modern Orthodox look to the decisions of the undivided Church and are very Entlike in even considering changes. I consider no one as authoritative as the unified Church once was. Thus, when I look back for answers, I look WAY back! I don't care how logical, based on Scripture, someone's argument is. If it doesn't mesh with the way the ancients interpreted it, it is suspect.

By the way, the doctrine of the Real Presence is in Scripture. Jesus said, "This IS my Body and my Blood." He didn't say, "This REPRESENTS my Body and my Blood." Catholics and Orthodox are very literal that way. :-)

Brick Walls

Okay, we seem to have hit some sort of brick wall because you keep avoiding the one question I really want you to answer. I have said that my final authority is Scripture. Your ultimate criticism of this is that by doing that, I have no real accountability and ultimately what I choose to believe is left up to my own whims.

Then you proceed to say that we should submit to the authority of THE church. "Which church?", Josh asks. Your response, apparently, is the church represented by what you have chosen to believe. All you have done is widen the circle of that which influnces what you believe from the Bible to the Bible and the councils that you have chosen to accept.

I have no problem accepting the councils and the creeds for what they did well...helping define and clarify the Bible. A good systematic theology class does the same thing. What I cannot accept is when a council, of humans, begins to espouse doctrine that is not clearly laid out in the Bible. You have rejected the doctrine of Immaculate Conception for that reason. I reject the doctrine of Real Presence for the same reason.

There is no one denomination that represents the one true church any more. The church is now found in the conglomeration of churches that exist, the true believers that exist in all the various denominations. Was that God's will? Absolutely not! I believe that God truly desired there to be only one universal church. Unfortunately, as with many of God's perfect plans, we went and messed it up.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Clarification by the Catholic

The problem here is that it seems like you are elevating the traditions of men to an equal status with Scripture.

Yes, but that is not new. Scripture has always been considered a part of tradition in the Church. Comparatively, the ideas of Sola Scriptura are relatively new. I should emphasize that, by Tradition, I don't mean trivial stuff. I mean things like the Creeds and the Ecumenical councils, not things decided on the whim of one Bishop (the Pope) or even one area of the Church, but the whole Church deciding things together.

I might not have a problem submitting myself to the authority of the church prior to the Middle Ages, but the Catholic Church went off the deep end after that.

I would submit myself to the authority of the RCC, except that I can't without adhering to all their beliefs, which include some I don't accept (like the Immaculate Conception). It would be a lie. But I'm not specifically referring to them. Usually, when referring to the ancient Church, I have something that most resembles the modern day Orthodox churches in mind. Although I would say this: the Holy Father used to be in authority over all the Western churches. The Bible is very explicit about how we should respond to authority, even that which is not doing what it should. The Protestant movement was one of hubris, not humility. St. Francis is an example of a humble Reformer who didn't divide, but healed.

And lest we forget, there wasn't a universal church when the Orthodox and Catholic churches divided.

Really, even before that. The Copts divided some time before. I entirely accept there were divisions before the Reformation, but they multiplied exponentially afterward. Also, those divided churches pre-Reformation were much closer in theology than Protestant churches are with the ancient Church, or even with each other.

I do not trust in the church because the church is made up of humans. I don't even trust myself, which is why I am willing to constantly evaluate my non-essential beliefs in the light of new evidence. I trust in Christ.

I gots news. The Church is Christ. St. Paul is very clear that we are the Body of Christ. If you don't trust the Church, you aren't trusting Christ. Remember the way Daddy talked about his role as father, placed in authority over us? He was, in a very real sense, Christ to us. This is an awesome responsibility, at which he sometimes failed. Same with the Church.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Elevated Traditions and Universal Churches

I think it's the same with the Bible. Even if it is infallible, inerrant, and a couple of other words which start with "in" in the original autograph, it doesn't matter. We don't know the Bible ding an sich." We know it as we percieve it.

Well, I perceive that you spelled "perceive" incorrectly. In all seriousness, that's an interesting point.

The Church, by the way, did not have the New Testament in the beginning, yet was able to make definitive statements about the faith. This was based on the authority of the apostles. The Church continued to make definitive statements and these, collectively (including, but not limited to, Scripture) are the Tradition of the Church. They are things that the successors of the apostles, the Bishops, worked out together in councils, identifying that which was True by the power of the Holy Spirit and discarding that which was false.

Is there a solution? Not really. You say you trust in the Bible, but you don't. You're really trusting in yourself as the interpreter of the Bible. All Protestants are. I think that's incredibly dangerous!


The problem here is that it seems like you are elevating the traditions of men to an equal status with Scripture. My point is that all the councils and discussions of wise men over all the years of church history are just that, discussions of men...men's interpretations of Scripture.

Here's the Catch 22...I might not have a problem submitting myself to the authority of the church prior to the Middle Ages, but the Catholic Church went off the deep end after that. It seems that we have an all or nothing proposition here. Either you accept the authority of a universal church to interpret Scripture for you, or you make your own decisions guided by the Holy Spirit.

And lest we forget, there wasn't a universal church when the Orthodox and Catholic churches divided. So, which church's interpretation do we follow? When we choose, are we not then relying on our own understanding and interpretation of Scripture in order to make the decision. There is no denomination that doesn't have some statement of beliefs; a creed, if you will. The only difference between us now and Christians of 500 AD is that instead of 2 choices, we have a whole buffet. So when you say that all Protestants are trusting in their own interpretation of Scripture, it would be more accurate to say that all Christians across the board are doing that.

I trust in the Church. I have faith in what Jesus said, that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. They were preaching the Gospel and teaching the Christian life long before anything was written down.

I do not trust in the church because the church is made up of humans. I don't even trust myself, which is why I am willing to constantly evaluate my non-essential beliefs in the light of new evidence. I trust in Christ. The Scripture you quoted doesn't mean that Satan will not defeat the church. It means that the church will always defeat Satan.

Immanuel Kant, Ding a Sich and Scripture

There's a philosopher, Immanuel Kant, who talks about what things we can know. His main and most interesting idea is Ding an Sich or "Things in themselves." Here's an example. Place a quarter on a table. Look at it. Now turn off the light. It looks darker. Move to another place in the room. It looks bigger or smaller. Our perception of the quarter changes as we look at it from various sensory places. Kant says there is the quarter AS WE PERCIEVE IT and the quarter AS IT IS. We can know the former, but not the latter.

I think it's the same with the Bible. Even if it is infallible, inerrant, and a couple of other words which start with "in" in the original autograph, it doesn't matter. We don't know the Bible ding an sich." We know it as we percieve it.

The Church, by the way, did not have the New Testament in the beginning, yet was able to make definitive statements about the faith. This was based on the authority of the apostles. The Church continued to make definitive statements and these, collectively (including, but not limited to, Scripture) are the Tradition of the Church. They are things that the successors of the apostles, the Bishops, worked out together in councils, identifying that which was True by the power of the Holy Spirit and discarding that which was false.

Is there a solution? Not really. You say you trust in the Bible, but you don't. You're really trusting in yourself as the interpreter of the Bible. All Protestants are. I think that's incredibly dangerous! I trust in the Church. I have faith in what Jesus said, that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. They were preaching the Gospel and teaching the Christian life long before anything was written down.

You can respond or move on. I'm game for either.

Evangelical Rebuttal on Sola Scriptura

WOW! I have been very lazy in responding, so I make this promise. Whenever a posting is made, I will respond within 2 days. Here goes:

- Which Bible? The one with or without the Apocrypha? The translation approved by the Orthodox, King James, based on Greek, Latin or Aramaic, etc, etc?

Well, when I speak of inerrancy and infallibility, I'm speaking of the original Greek and Hebrew texts. I prefer the New American Standard or New King James translations. Having been raised in a church tradition where the Apocrypha isn't considered canonical, I don't, but I haven't done enough research of my own to decide whether I agree with that or not.

- There are several issues (like the perpetual virginity of Mary) on which we disagree. If you accept the (truncated) canon of scripture approved by the Ecumenical Councils, why do you not accept their other beliefs?

Because I don't believe that they are Biblical. I'm setting you up to let you lay into that one :o)

- Even if the Bible were entirely infallible and inerrant in its autograph (the original version), wouldn't you need an infallible, inerrant interpreter? "Why yes," you answer, "I am guided by the Holy Spirit." Then why is there such diversity of belief on important issues like Original Sin (not found in Orthodox theology) or the Real Presence (not found in most Protestant churches)?

Well, let's take those two issues as an example. Ultimately, where our sin comes from, whether by a stain given by Adam or our own choice, is irrelevant. The fact is that we all sin (Rom. 3:23), and therefore all need salvation. As a result, I don't think the issue of where the sin comes from is nearly as important as the belief that we are all sinners, which I think all Christians believe. We'll hbave to discuss the doctrine of Original Sin later.

As for Real Presence, the belief the the elements of the Lord's Supper literally turn into the body and blood of Christ, I think this is also irrelevant. If it happens, then it happens not because of some elaborate ceremony, but because it does. No amount of belief or lack thereof can change that. If it doesn't happen, then we can chant and believe all day long, but it still doesn't that the bread and wine (or juice) is just that.

There are certain things that are essential and others that are not. I have absolute confidence that I am wrong about certain issues and so is everyone else. We'll just find them all out when we get to Heaven.

An infallible, inerrant, authoritative scripture is still limited by fallible, errant humans. Soooooo .... what's the answer?

I don't think there is an answer except that we do the best we can, we identify the essentials, and we give grace on things that are not. However, I know you have a solution, so let's hear it, dear brother.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Catholic/Orthodox View of Christian Epistemology

And, as you said, since we've had some of these conversations before, you know what I'm going to say. But I'll say it anyway. You say your knowledge comes from the Bible and only the Bible. There are several problems with that. In random order...

- Which Bible? The one with or without the Apocrypha? The translation approved by the Orthodox, King James, based on Greek, Latin or Aramaic, etc, etc?

- There are several issues (like the perpetual virginity of Mary) on which we disagree. If you accept the (truncated) canon of scripture approved by the Ecumenical Councils, why do you not accept their other beliefs?

- Even if the Bible were entirely infallible and inerrant in its autograph (the original version), wouldn't you need an infallible, inerrant interpreter? "Why yes," you answer, "I am guided by the Holy Spirit." Then why is there such diversity of belief on important issues like Original Sin (not found in Orthodox theology) or the Real Presence (not found in most Protestant churches)?

An infallible, inerrant, authoritative scripture is still limited by fallible, errant humans. Soooooo .... what's the answer?