Both Catholics and Evangelicals have lost their moorings

I have been thinking recently about how conservative American Christians, both Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, lament the “judicial activism” of the American Supreme Court, which adjudicates beyond the supposed “original intent” of the U.S. Constitution to promulgate liberal or left wing policies.

Ironically, I think that both Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism is guilty of a sort of “theological activism” or neglecting the “original intent” of Jesus and the disciples.

Roman Catholics have developed certain innovations such as the immaculate conception, indulgences, purgatory and papal infallibility that go beyond that which can be clearly interpreted from Scripture or from the way the Early Church Fathers interpreted Scripture. Or, alternatively, they cite aberrant Early Church Fathers who may support their innovative ideas and thereby contravene the maxim of Vincent of Lérins that orthodox faith is found in “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus” (“What (was believed) everywhere, always and by everyone”). The “progressive revelation” of the RC Church is remarkably similar to judicial activism.

Evangelicals are just as guilty of ignoring the original intent of the Church. In an effort to rectify Roman Catholic innovations, they turn to Sola Scritura, thereby cutting off Scripture from the historical context of the Church and how it interpreted those Scriptures. If we do not understand St. Paul, why not first look to St. Clement, his disciple? If we do not understand St. John, what about St. Ignatius? Evangelicals turn to private interpretation of Scripture, leading to innumerable different ways of viewing Scripture, ignoring again Vincent of Lérins maxim for epistemology.

Now, I am not suggesting that Scripture cannot have several meanings: Thomas Aquinas showed that the author of the Bible (God) is also the author of history, so the Bible can speak at different levels of meaning.

My question is this: why do both Roman Catholics and Evangelicals succomb to innovations that ignore or at least do not fully appreciate the consensus of the saintly Fathers of the church?

Is the Eastern Orthodox Church, with their focus on the Early Church Fathers, more respectful of the original intent of the Scriptures?

As a matter of disclosure, I am an Evangelical and my wife is an Opus Dei RC, so I have no axe to grind in my questions.

That rather depends on which Fathers you choose to read and which ones you don’t. :wink:

One could place the Trinity in the category you described as “not clearly explained in scripture” or the earliest of patristic writings. But yet it IS clear once you look BACK at the Scriptures and see how the catholic doctrine unifies parts of scripture that might initially SEEM to contradict one another.

This Sunday’s readings struck me like that. In Acts, Peter CLEARLY acts like a pope on multiple occasions. Not impeccable. Not beyond being rebuked. But once a final decision is formally made, it’s done. The buck stops. And it isn’t just once, it’s multiple times in there.

But then you’d expect me to answer - even if I’m not quite an ‘Opus Dei’ RC. :smiley:

If are convinced in what you have written here, why are you still an Evangelical Protestant?

Is the Eastern Orthodox Church, with their focus on the Early Church Fathers, more respectful of the original intent of the Scriptures?

Who do you think wrote and assembled the Scriptures to start with?

Let’s keep to the original subject, which is whether or not we (Catholics and Evangelicals) have lost our moorings.

JesusForMadrid, I do not think the Catholic Church has lost her moorings, but is still tied firmly to Jesus, the Rock. He is the root and the vine, and we Christians are the branches. The Catholic branch is strong and healthy, and has flowered and leaved in many ways and directions - but all are firmly attached to the vine and root.

Or you could say our house is built on rock, and the house has been carefully added to over the years, but is still solidly built on the rock.

What I’m awkwardly trying to get at is that doctrines that seem to have suddenly appeared in the Catholic church have actually arisen bit by bit, and can be followed back to their origins in Jesus.

One rather simple example, as someone mentioned, is the Trinity. That word is not mentioned in the Bible, nor is it unquestionably clear from the Bible that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God. (If it was, there would be no Oneness Pentecostals.)

Yet, that dogma did not spring into being all at once when somebody invented the word, “Trinity.” It developed slowly over time, as wise men guided by the Holy Spirit thought about it, discussed it, and put the pieces together, until it crystallized as dogma.

Other “innovations” of the Church have the same kind of history.

As far as the members of the Catholic church are concerned, yes, many have lost their moorings in Jesus, and begun to follow the popular culture, the wide way that leads to destruction. They still call themselves Catholics; I wish they wouldn’t. Breaking one Commandment is just as bad as breaking them all. I think that’s in the Bible somewhere…:wink:

God bless you,

Ruthie

Your analogy is flawed.

The Scriptures were never meant to stand apart from Tradition. They are both *equally *the deposit of faith. They stand together, and those things you ascribe to Catholic “invention” are indeed legitimately doctrines and dogmas found in the deposit of faith via Tradition. And, the Church does not use the “consensus” of the Fathers as the criteria for Tradition. Remember, the Church’s authority is found in the Bishops-- either in ecumenical council, the ordinary magesterium, or the Pope’s extraordinary use of his ex cathedra authority. Otherwise, we’d all be Arians, as the “consensus” of the majority of Bishops in that century was Arian… whole areas of the Empire for a time.

The Constitution, OTOH, was not meant to be interpreted on any basis other than its face. Not its “prenumbra,” not what the Constitution meant to say, not what someone thinks is fair or empathetic, not what a founding father wrote in another document, but rather what the Constitution itself actually DOES say. The Constitution contains within itself procedures for amendment, which is the only part of the document that should be “living.”

And, no the Orthodox have not been faithful to the deposit of faith. Their innovation in the areas of contraception and divorce/remarriage contravene the moral and divine law. But, that’s another thread.

The Scriptures were never meant to stand apart from Tradition. They are both *equally *the deposit of faith. They stand together, and those things you ascribe to Catholic “invention” are indeed legitimately doctrines and dogmas found in the deposit of faith via Tradition. And, the Church does not use the “consensus” of the Fathers as the criteria for Tradition. Remember, the Church’s authority is found in the Bishops-- either in ecumenical council, the ordinary magesterium, or the Pope’s extraordinary use of his ex cathedra authority. Otherwise, we’d all be Arians, as the “consensus” of the majority of Bishops in that century was Arian… whole areas of the Empire for a time.

But the RC Church does use “unanimous consent” as the criteria for Tradition, certainly that part of Tradition which is Scripture. The Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary says *“When the Fathers of the Church are morally unanimous in their teaching that a certain doctrine is a part of revelation, or is received by the universal Church, or that the opposite of a doctrine is heretical, then their united testimony is a certain criterion of divine tradition. As the Fathers are not personally infallible, the counter-testimony of one or two would not be destructive of the value of the collective testimony; so a moral unanimity only is required” (Wilkes-Barre, Penn.: Dimension Books, 1965), pg. 153. *

That is my point: certain RC doctrines that were developed after the patristic period, generally agreed to have ended with St. John Damascene (d. 749), cannot be supported by the unanimous consent. These doctrines would include purgatory, indulgences, the immaculate conception, and papal infallibility. The also are doctrines that were accepted after the Great Schism, so the Eastern Church never latched onto them.

-]The Constitution, OTOH, was not meant to be interpreted on any basis other than its face. Not its “penumbra,” not what the Constitution meant to say, not what someone thinks is fair or empathetic, not what a founding father wrote in another document, but rather what the Constitution itself actually DOES say. The Constitution contains within itself procedures for amendment, which is the only part of the document that should be “living.”/-]

Yet by selectively choosing certain ECFs, Roman Catholics are doing something that is analogous to those activist judges, basically looking to the “penumbra” of Tradition to justify an innovative doctrine. Evangelicals, in reaction to this error, go to the other extreme, by rejecting the context of the scriptures, the “original intent” in issues such as baptism, the Eucharist, liturgy, hierarchy, etc.

Ironically, the Eastern Orthodox look at the Western churches (Catholic and Protestant) and see the same tendency to separate modern doctrine from the Early Church Fathers and Tradition. Are they wrong? (I am not Orthodox).

[SIGN]And, no the Orthodox have not been faithful to the deposit of faith. Their innovation in the areas of contraception and divorce/remarriage contravene the moral and divine law. But, that’s another thread.[/SIGN] This is a red herring. Contraception was not available in the early Church and, by the way, the Orthodox are against contraception except in unusual circumstances. Divorce was accepted both in the Old Testament and by Christ, for reasons of adultery, so there we could have a good argument and there certainly is not a ECF consensus on this issue.

Nope. Contraception is NOT a modern invention. Ancient cultures were very familiar with using animal intestime condoms and herbal concoctions to try to induce temporary sterility. Even in the Old Testament, you see Onan trying to separate sex from fertility via withdrawal (aka Onanism). The Early Fathers speak of this and a clear in their condemnation. There’s really nothing new under the sun. We moderns just like to imagine that it is so.

In spite of the way most Evangelicals read it, it is NOT clear that adultery is an acceptable exception for divorce. The word in scripture is ‘pornea’ and is most literally translated as ‘sexual debauchery.’ It is more like in the context of the day (pagan culture) that this exception related to those ‘married’ to a close family member (incest), or polygamists who had multiple wives prior to conversion.

Jesus clearly said that no one could separate what God had joined. The only remaining trick is to figure out whether God did join those who may have appeared to be married.

I would love to engage you on contraception, which 90% of Roman Catholics use in contrary to Church teaching, or divorce, which the RCs do in practice through the annulment process. However, I propose you take up these issues with the Eastern Orthodox on the Eastern Catholicism subforum.

My point here is that both Evangelicals, of which I am included, and Roman Catholics have jettisoned the anchor of the Early Church Fathers and are floating away from the authentic New Testament church (although in different directions). That the Eastern Orthodox may also be doing this is interesting, although debatable.

What is my alternative? I just want to be an authentic Christian in the Church that Jesus founded. If my church does not reflect those teachings, I should indeed find another one.

Charismatic Episcopal Church? Anglican? Eastern Orthodox? Eastern Catholic? I am aways open to reconsider.

The Trinity is exactly my point. Where Scripture is opaque, look to the Early Church Fathers to interpret Scripture. The Trinity is absolutely not a recent innovation not supported by the ECFs.

I’m OK with avoiding tangents, but you originally brought them up!

I might suggest that you appear to be substituting ‘Sola Patriarcha’ for ‘Sola Scriptura’. Neither is necessarily the best way to stay faithful to the teaching’s of Jesus. Both Scripture and the Early Fathers recount a narrative of how the Church taught with authority and how she dealt with vexing controversies. Neither the Bible or the Fathers ever draw a line and say “Here it stops! From this point on, all authority falls from the shoulders of the apostles (and their successors) and falls onto the written word about what came until now.” Far from it!

I sense that you see the inherent shortcomings of the “My interpretation of the Bible Alone” model of christianity. But I hope you are very cautious before simply transferring the practice from the writings of the apostles to the writings of the Early Fathers. Both have crucial contributions to make to proper doctrinal understanding. But a mere written word can never substitute for the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church that Jesus established for all time to come.

God bless!

I don’t want Sola Scritura or Sola Patria, but I also don’t want Sola Papa or Sola-what-the-Holy-Spirit-told-me-in-the-shower (my Latin translation skills just met their limits). However, when Godly men in either the RC Church or Evangelical churches arrive at doctrines today that are not consonant with Tradition, defined as Scripture and the ECFs commentaries on those Scriptures, then Tradition takes precedence.

I sense that you see the inherent shortcomings of the “My interpretation of the Bible Alone” model of christianity. But I hope you are very cautious before simply transferring the practice from the writings of the apostles to the writings of the Early Fathers. Both have crucial contributions to make to proper doctrinal understanding. But a mere written word can never substitute for the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church that Jesus established for all time to come.

Of course I see the shortcomings of the My Interpretation of the Bible Alone, although I think few Evangelicals would claim such an epistemology. However, I also disagree on giving the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church that Jesus established for all time to come” license to introduce innovations in doctrine that are not supported by the ECFs. That is, I also see the shortcomings of “progressive revelation” of doctrine, which enables the RC Church to declare new dogmas in the 19th and 20th centuries that do not exist in the early church. These new dogmas, in turn, become binding on all Catholics and their acceptance crucial for salvation.

By cutting off doctrine from the consensus of the Early Church, Evangelicals are free to turn the Eucharist into a memorial meal and Catholics are free to turn the Bishop of Rome into an infallible hierarch of Christ’s church. Both seem wrong.

I’m not sure what you mean by “supposed” original intent in the Constitution, as the intent of the founders is quite clear in their writings - specific and limited powers in the central government. But, that may not be the actual topic. :shrug:
Jon

Speaking of catholics…:p:p

http://www.flashasylum.com/db/files/Comics/Rob/barmitzfa.png

The holy catholic church ofcourse!:thumbsup:

Gabriel,

You make a lot of assertions here, without any support. I am happy you are happy to be Roman Catholic. That is not my doubt.

If you were to read many of the past Popes and present day Popes encyclicals, you will find many of the Early Church Fathers faith teachings being pronounced, taught and believed in every Catholic age these past 2000 years supported by Sacred Scripture. For when the Roman Catholic Church teaches she teaches from the “Full Deposit of the Christian faith” from Jesus and the apostles. Your accusation is not accurate, public and historical records refute your false claim here about the Roman Catholic Church.

When I refer to “innovations”, I mean such doctrines and dogmas as purgatory, indulgences, papal infallibility, the immaculate conception and others. All of these doctrines/dogmas were formally pronounced in the Western Church and have never been accepted in the East. So Eastern Orthodox do not accept your assertion that these were “taught and believed in every Catholic age”, since until the Great Schism in 1054, the Orthodox Church was the eastern part of that very same church.

Protestants, for the most part also reject these innovations, although not because they were not supported by the ECFs and Tradition but rather because they are not supported by Scripture. They limit their scrutiny to Scripture alone, but come to the same conclusion as the Eastern Orthodox.

So, show me that my “false claim” is refuted by “public” and “historical records”. The standard is that these doctrines/dogmas should be generally accepted by the ECFs everywhere in the Christian world and always. I would be delighted to look at the evidence.

Hi JesusforMadrid,

I too used to be an Evangelical Protestant until I took St. Vincent’s advice and began reading the Bible through the lens of Tradition (rather than the lens of the 16th century European Reformers and their progeny, as I had been unconsciously raised to do). Once I did that, I quickly came to believe in the Real Presence, the Eucharist as the centerpiece of liturgical worship, infant baptism, baptismal regeneration, apostolic succession, and an institutional/hierarchical Church that can never fail. I assume you now believe in these things too, given the consensus view of the CFs on these topics.

As for the so-called defeaters of Catholicism that you mention (papal infallibility, Immaculate Conception, indulgences and purgatory), I think each can be adequately defended from Scripture and Tradition. Fundamentally, I think your view of the Catholic notion of the development of doctrine is a little off. The Church teaches that public revelation, i.e., the entire deposit of faith, was completed upon the death of the last Apostle (John, around 100 AD). It does not teach progressive revelation. Rather, it teaches that some doctrines and concepts require generations or even hundreds of years of contemplation, prayer and “hammering out” before their implications are fully realized or understood (the same is basically true in science). Doctrine doesn’t change; our understanding of it does. John Henry Newman’s “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine” is indispensable to properly understanding the Catholic view – I highly recommend it. I now believe that all of the distinctly Catholic doctrines were part of the original deposit of faith and (at least implicitly) believed by the earliest Christians, even if in a primitive and not fully-developed or fleshed-out form. I’ll try to briefly address your four objections in the following post(s).

  1. papal infallibility

As a Catholic, I believe that Jesus Himself laid the foundations for the papacy and papal infallibility in Matthew 16:16-19/Isaiah 22:20-22, Luke 22:31-32 and John 21:15-17 (inasmuch as every organization or institution needs a physical leader, it seems reasonable to believe that the restored Davidic Kingdom, the Church – “the pillar and foundation of truth” – would have need of one). And the earliest Christian writings display an understanding of Peter’s special primacy, as well as that of his successors, the bishops of Rome.

In the early 2nd century Rome was singled out for special praise and honor by St. Ignatius of Antioch. By the late 2nd century, the popes believed that they had the power to excommunicate bishops as far away as Asia Minor, and that communion with Rome was a necessary condition for being in communion with the Catholic Church. At the same time, Christians were saying that Rome was the standard for sound doctrine and that agreement with her was necessary. Heretics were making attempts to gain recognition in Rome and, by the middle of the 3rd century, Novatian became an anti-pope. Around this time, St. Cyprian was saying that false doctrine can have no access to Rome, and that Jesus Christ instituted the papacy as a necessary requirement for preserving church unity. Less than a century later, Pope Julius rebuked Alexandria for deposing a bishop (St. Athanasius) without first consulting Rome, grounding his rebuke on an earlier custom of the church. He assumed he had the authority to reopen cases which had already been closed in other apostolic sees. By the time of the Nestorian controversy, popes were deputizing other bishops to depose heretics. It is clear, then, that from a very early date, the see of Rome claimed to have a universal jurisdiction. And, while it is true that Christians sometimes appealed to other sees for guidance, Rome was unique, for Rome has never been allowed a case which had been decided in Rome to be carried to the East. On the contrary, the Apostolic See has always known that it was lawful to appeal to her from a judgment which had been pronounced in the East, and many times have such appeals been made from the East to Rome. Thus, the appeals-process was asymmetrical; Rome held an authority unequaled by the other sees. She claimed this authority was derived from the Apostle Peter.

We might summarize the patristic evidence in favor of infallibility like this: the bishop of Rome possessed an unequaled didactic authority, namely, the authority to act on behalf of the universal church in ratifying doctrinal statements. Accordingly, any doctrine which Rome accepted while exercising this authority was de facto accepted by the universal church. Since communion with Rome was understood as a necessary condition for communion with the Catholic Church even as early as the 2nd century, it would follow that any church which rejected Rome’s decisions would no longer be Catholic. I do not think it is going too far beyond the facts of history to claim that this understanding of Roman primacy is behind much of what the Fathers say about the papacy. And if this understanding of papal primacy is correct, then, when conjoined with the doctrine of the indefectibility of the church, it does logically entail papal infallibility.

There is also corroborating evidence to support papal infallibility. In particular, the inductive argument for papal infallibility was not unnoticed in the early church. When one compares the history of Rome with the history of the Eastern churches, it is remarkable that Rome always came down on the orthodox side of the issues, whereas the East’s reputation was much more checkered. One author calculates that during the five centuries separating the time of Constantine and the seventh ecumenical council in 787 AD, the see of Constantinople was out of communion with Rome for a total of 200 years. That is, the Eastern bishops were in a state either of schism or heresy for a combined total of two centuries during this period, whereas Rome took the right side from the very beginning, even though it by no means had the better theologians. These facts led Pope Hormisdas (r. 514-523 AD) to observe: “‘We cannot ignore the declaration of our Lord Jesus Christ when he said ‘Thou art Peter, etc.’ Moreover, the truth of his word is shown by actual fulfillment, since in the Apostolic See [Rome] the Catholic Religion has always been preserved without spot.” Already in 180 AD, St. Irenaeus said that “all churches must agree” with Rome and, by 250 AD, St. Cyprian had remarked that “false faith can have no access” to Rome. St. Optatus seems to have presupposed some kind of papal infallibility, because he stated that the true church must always possess the chair of Peter and orthodox doctrine, which clearly entails that Rome could never abandon the orthodox faith. Writing later, Theodoret observed: “This most holy See [Rome] has preserved the supremacy over all Churches on the earth, for one especial reason among many others; to wit, that it has remained intact from the defilement of heresy. No one has ever say on that Chair, who has taught heretical doctrine; rather that See has ever preserved unstained the Apostolic grace.” I am not saying that these authors had all the details worked out, but certainly the claim of infallibility seems to be implicit in their statements.

The next three will be shorter, I promise!

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