A Severed Response?


Have any of the big catholic apologists responded to this article by Douglas Wilson, “A Severed Branch.”

I’m an evangelical somewhere on my journey home…I think the first half of this article makes a good point and I’d like to read a catholic counterpoint. The 2nd half is weak…as if Paul was writing to the “Roman” Catholic Church.

I’d really appreciate your insight on this! Thanks and God bless!

Douglas Wilson, “A Severed Branch.”

[quote=“A Severed Branch”]Conservative evangelicals know what they are submitting to, but they do not know why. Roman Catholics know why they are submitting, but they do not know what they are submitting to. Evangelicals should be asked, regarding the Bible, “Why is your Table of Contents?” Roman Catholics should be asked, regarding the magisterium, “Where is your Table of Contents?” Why has the Church not performed for the magisterium the same service she performed when testifying to the canon of Scripture? Does the magisterium have canonical boundaries, and if so, what are they? Anything with an imprimatur?


Here’s my :twocents: …

If I understand the question correctly, it is asking Catholics for a list of Sacred Traditions similar to a list of Sacred Scriptures. Isn’t that like asking for a list of everything your mother ever told to you? How could someone produce such a list ? "…were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. " (John 21:25)

Regarding the idea that the Church of Rome could become a severed branch…
Presumably, some of the Jews visiting Jerusalem from Rome at the time of Pentecost converted to Christianity and returned to Rome (Acts 2:10) So when Paul wrote to the Romans, he was writing to Christians in Rome, the local Catholic Church of Rome, or the local Roman Catholic Church, if you will. However, since Peter was not yet there, as Paul certainly would have mentioned him in his letter if he was, the Church of Rome had not yet acquired the status of being the principal local Church. Presumably, Peter was still at Antioch (the then principal local Church) and would not move to Rome for another seven years or so. In the meantime, from the time of Paul’s letter to the Romans and Peter’s Roman residency, the branch of the Church of Rome indeed could have been cut off and its lampstand removed. However, once Peter moved to Rome, that possibility disappeared. By the promise of Jesus Christ, Peter’s faith and the faith of each of those men who would later succeed to Peter’s office as steward over his Master’s household (the bishops of Rome) would not fail. (Luke 12:41-46; 22:32) By the promise of Jesus Christ, Peter and those men who would later succeed to Peter’s office (the bishops of Rome) would be the rock upon which the Church is built throughout the ages and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) Once Peter moved to Rome, the Church of Rome acquired “the presidency of love” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, 107 A.D.), it became the Church with which “all other Churches must agree” (St. Irenaeus of Lyon), and it became “the chair of Peter and … the principal Church, in which sacerdotal unity has its source…and among whom it is not possible for perfidy (that is, error) to have entrance” (St. Cyprian of Carthage, 253 A.D.)


[quote=Todd Easton]Here’s my :twocents: …

If I understand the question correctly, it is asking Catholics for a list of Sacred Traditions similar to a list of Sacred Scriptures. Isn’t that like asking for a list of everything your mother ever told to you? How could someone produce such a list ?

I think he’s asking for a list of infallible magisterial teachings. And I can somewhat see his point; a lot of debates between catholics hinge on which teachings whose infallibility is also debated. I would wager that the closest thing he’s asking for is the CCC, but I’m no expert.

Good point about mother’s teaching though!


I’m not entirely sure that I understand the question: What are the boundaries of the magisterium? Taken at face value, I would have to say that the boundaries of the magisterium are the bishops of the world teaching in union with the Pope.

Tradition, of course, is simply the handing down by the magisterium of what has been handed on to them by the Apostles, who taught what was handed down to them by Christ.

Neither Tradition, nor Scripture, nor infallible statements, consist of a complete list of doctrinal truths. Indeed, if there could be such a comprehensive list, it would nearly obviate the need for Tradition and Scripture as well as the magisterium.

Doctrinal statements, infallible statements, commonly arise only in response to a particular error being taught. That is, the Church, upon hearing a particular theological statement, or theory, or an attempted new explanation of previous thought, may, upon reflection, reply, “No, that is NOT what we have always believed.” It is a negative judgment. Then, in response, it formulates what it HAS always believed, but in the new language in which a particular error has been stated, to clearly distinguish where it has gone wrong.

That second part is not even a requirement. All the Church must do with respect to error is to state that it is not what we believe. But theology does develop more fully by the refinement of thinking with respect to particular errors. Making distinctions leads to clearer understanding of basic doctrine.


What he is proposing in this article to me seems like a mis-understanding of tradition. This type of thing has been posted in different ways, Such a people coming right out and stating where is tradition written. Where is it all defined? And other similar questions, thinking in a Sola Scriptura point of view. Which is understandable. They want a “Bible” of tradition.
The decision to include and not include certain books in the Bible is a Magisterial decision, this is part of tradition. we trust God in His power to work through men to reach decisions that fit within the Apostolic understanding of the faith.
If someone proposes a new mandatory practice, such as belief in Saturday worship instead of Sunday. You can justify this from Scripture as some groups have, in their understanding of Scripture.
The Catholic Church would look at this and would it fit under our Apostolic understanding of the faith? Most people familiar with the Catholic Church would see quite clearly that it doesn’t and if 16 Bishops suddenly came up with this desire, the Church might have to reiterate some things and make some decisions. It is not like they would be inventing anything, but they would be making Magisterial decisons, and clarifying apostolic tradition. It goes on and on.
Much like other decisions, such as the Trinity, the Canon of Scripture, Purgatory, etc…

(if I could have worded it better or made any mistakes feel free to correct me)

God Bless


I’ll just respond to this segment as others have responded well to his first assertion. The title of the “Catholic Church” didn’t come until long after ole Paul had gone home to our Lord. To say he was writing to the Roman Catholics is just in error. I’m not sure (someone please correct me) that describing the church as the Catholic Church happned unitl a digruntled monk named Luther broke away.


It was described as the Catholic Church in second century. It’s a very, very early term. Here’s some history on the use of the term:



DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.