Monday, July 09, 2007

Mary Mnemonic

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

Lutherus Triumphans
Lutherus Triumphans

Dave Armstrong has responded to my review of Koons.

My original review can be found here.

Proceeding with Armstrong:
This is an ethereal, fictional "conflict", then, because "Rome" does not deny sola gratia at all.
Except that Rome negates sola gratia by its commitment to synergism. Consider a few examples from the Council of Trent:
CANON IV.-If any one saith, that man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.

CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.1
We could cite many other examples. Rome believes that sacramental grace is resistible. Rome believes the regenerate can commit apostasy and lose their salvation.
It's fine if Hays wants to bring in his Reformed approach to things (as a sort of "footnote" or aside), as long as he doesn't confuse the reader with regard to what Koons himself was attempting to argue.
Except that one of the flaws in Koons’ argument is his acting as if there are only two alternatives—Catholicism or Lutheranism—such that the denial of the one entails the affirmation of the other. Lutheranism is his proxy position for Protestantism in general.
This begs the question. Being "scriptural" and being in accordance with sola Scriptura are not one and the same.
Irrelevant to my point that Koons prematurely demotes sola Scriptura to a secondary issue. If one or more Catholic dogmas are contrary to Scripture, then that alone falsifies Catholicism.
So when Hays caricatures the Catholic position as "exegetical foundation[s]" of any given doctrine supposedly being a "secondary issue" he is engaging in sheer obscurantism, straw men, and circular logic, because he has presupposed that sola Scriptura is essential to exegesis or desire to biblically support any doctrine, when it is not at all.
Dave suffers from reading incomprehension. At this juncture I wasn’t commenting on Catholic theological method, but on Koons’ methodology.
Strictly speaking, that is correct; however, one has to immediately ask why, if something is so biblical and true, was it so difficult to locate in historic theology?
Several reasons:

i) For most of its history, the polity of the church paralleled the secular social structure, which, in the Roman Empire, feudal era, and the like, was authoritarian rather than democratic. The bishops, under the auspices of the Emperor, decided what was orthodox or heterodox. They didn’t solicit open debate or a free exchange of views. And dissent was penalized. So what you find in historical theology of the period is the party line.

ii) Once a primitive error becomes dogma, tradition takes on a life of its own. The object of exegesis is the secondary source (tradition) rather than the primary source (Scripture). Instead of questioning the traditional interpretation, the traditional interpretation is the point of reference and point of departure for further elaboration. Tradition supplies the premise.

iii) The Latin church quickly lost touch with Jewish culture and the Bible in the original Greek and Hebrew. It became reliant on the Vulgate, philosophical categories, and the syncretistic influence of pagan culture to fill the vacuum.

Patron saints take the place of patron gods; the Pope takes the place of the pagan priest (Pontifex Maximus); the sacraments take the place of sympathetic magic. The names change, but the underlying conceptual scheme remains the same.
Does God not have the power to guide the Christian Church in major areas of theology, so that she doesn't fall into serious heresy or, worse, apostasy?
God has guided the remnant throughout the ages, which is quite different from the institutional church.
But to be novel in relation to those two eminent Fathers is itself a novelty, given how both sides have argued through the years, in claiming to be legatees of the teaching of those two men and other eminent Church Fathers. Therefore, it is relevant to note whether there is actual agreement or disagreement, since Catholic, Lutherans, and Calvinists alike all appeal to St. Augustine as in agreement with their views.
Dave is confusing polemical theology with systematic theology. Because Rome made a big deal about historical continuity, the Protestant Reformers and post-Reformation theologians like Chemnitz and Turretin (to name a few) spent a lot of time calling her bluff. "You bet twenty traditional chips? Fine. We’ll match your chips and raise you another twenty traditional chips!"

This showdown is a way of answering Rome on her own grounds. We can quote the church fathers too! And we can quote them against you!

That’s a useful tactic as part of an internal critique of Catholic theology. And it also comes naturally to Protestants who were one-time Catholics, trained in Catholic theology. To some extent they defined themselves in opposition to their former religious identity.

And there is still a place for that line of argument. But it was never the foundation Protestant theology. And it is less relevant to later, Protestant generations.

It’s like the difference between first, second, and third generation immigrants. The first generation defines itself by the old country. The old customs. It identifies with the national culture in which it was raised.

The second generation is torn between the old and the new. Between its immigrant parents and its indigenous friends.

The third generation has assimilated with the mainstream culture. It identifies with the new country because the new country isn’t new to the third generation. That’s all it’s ever known.

Theological traditions are like colonies that eventually outgrow the mother country and develop their own way of life. They no longer feel the need to compare and contrast what they were with what they are. The mother country no longer supplies the standard of comparison.

They grew up, left home, got married and had kids. They have their own family traditions. They don’t spend all their time looking back—longing nostalgically to be a teenager all over again. They don’t feel the need to move back in with mom and dad. They have a home of their own. A wife of their own. A life of their own.

Now, there are some arrested adolescents like Timothy George and Thomas Oden who can’t quite bring themselves to cut the apron strings. And some of these overgrown adolescents, like Scott Hahn, Thomas Howard, Francis Beckwith, and Mr. Bubblator do move back in with mom and dad. Back to the old bedroom—plastered with the faded posters of Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Tiegs, and Saturday Night Fever.

And I’d add that one result of the theological life cycle is that some of the fire has gone out of the old debates. The issues remain, and, in some cases, have intensified (e.g. adding the errors of Vatican II to the errors of Trent), but there’s no need to take it as personally.

For example, some people act as if Beckwith’s reversion to Rome was an act of betrayal. But that reaction is a bit too possessive, as if Beckwith was disloyal to his homiez.

Beckwith was never my homeboy or gang leader. He did nothing to wrong me personally. If he reverts to Catholicism, that is his business. He is responsible for his own choices in life. He is free to make his own mistakes—and suffer the consequences.

I will continue to respond to the arguments of a Koons or Hahn or Beckwith or Mr. Bubblator. I will continue to post a warning sign beside a washed out bridge. But if some folks decide to drive across the bridge and plunge into the waters below, I can stay high and dry.

In the modern cult of celebrity, it may make a big splash, but I don’t identify with these people, any more than I identify with tabloid scandals involving some decrepit rock star or Hollywood bimbo of the month.
And of course, we argue that both Lutheran and Reformed theology is novel according to Augustine and Paul and John alike. It all has to be discussed at great length.
And of course, we argue that Roman Catholic theology is novel according to Paul and John alike. It all has to be discussed at great length.
Obviously, to locate an alternative, biblical rule of faith; sola Scriptura having been shown to be unbiblical and false.
Koons hasn’t shown that.
The choice is between those who adhere to sola Scriptura (basically, all Protestants) and those who do not.
Wrong. He pinned the case for sola Scriptura on a specifically Lutheran version in which a Protestant must be able to deduce everything he believes or does from Scripture.
This is sensible; however, in practical terms it doesn't work, because if a non-scriptural "tradition" is appealed to in Protestantism, then the door is left wide open for contradiction and doctrinal chaos, because it then finds itself in "no-man's land" insofar as the Bible is silent and it has no binding authority other than Scripture.
i) This begs the question of whether we need "binding authority" for everything we do.

ii) And, assuming for the sake of argument that we do need such authorization, then the Catholic is at an impasse as well. Even Ratzinger admits that Catholicism does not and cannot offer ready-made answers to many bioethical questions.
We are in fact constantly confronted with problems where it isn’t possible to find the right answer in a short time. Above all in the case of problems having to do with ethics, particularly medical ethics. But also in the area of social ethics. For example, the situation in American hospitals forced us to deal with whether it is obligatory to continue giving food and water to the very end of patients in an irreversible coma. This is certainly enormously important for those in positions of responsibility, if only because they are rally concerned and because it’s necessary to find a common policy for hospitals. We finally had to say, after very long studies, "Answer tht for now on the local level; we aren’t far enough along to have full certainty about that."2

Again in the area of medical ethics, new possibilities, and with them new borderline situations, are constantly arising where it is not immediately evidence how to apply principles. We can’t simply conjure up certitude. Then we have to say, "Work this through for now among yourselves, so that we gradually mature to certainty from level to level within the context of experience."3
What is Armstrong’s "binding authorization" to hawk hot tubs as a cure for cancer? And what is the authorized hot tub?

Absent binding authority, the door is left wide open for chaotic no-man’s land of competing hot tubs. Why doesn’t the Vatican issue a certified hot tub consumer review? That’s the problem with the Magisterium—never there when you need it.
I agree. But I would turn the tables (using one of Hays' favorite approaches) and argue: "assuming, for the sake of argument, that one has demonstrated catholic self-contradiction in dogmatic proclamations: does that automatically make sola Scriptura true by default?" Of course it does not. So the Protestant has as much burden of proof in establishing sola Scriptura, as the Catholic does for his system. And they have failed to do so in no uncertain terms. Hays himself will try to skirt the issue and wiggle himself out of his own dilemmas at every turn. We have seen it already, and we will till the end of his paper. It must be that way, because sola Scriptura is a thoroughly indefensible doctrine, any way you look at it. That's why it is simply assumed as true by most Protestants.
I wasn’t attempting to make a case for sola Scriptura in my review of Koons. I was merely answering him on his own level.

I have argued for sola Scriptura on many other occasions. No need to repeat myself.
That's right, strictly speaking, yet in practical terms (since people invariably disagree in doctrines and interpretations), this is exactly what is needed…That tells us nothing in concrete terms; it is merely a typically Protestant desperate, pious-sounding abstraction (and ultimately logically circular when actually applied to real human affairs). How does this help us attain to the truth unless someone can tell us with definite assurance, "this is the truth about doctrine x, and it is dogmatized in this Christian communion" (and provide some solid epistemological basis for believing same?
i) One of the flaws in Armstrong’s style of counterargument is that he treats my points in isolation. He will raise an objection to a statement I make even though I address that objection further down the line.

ii) In addition, Dave is the one who, like every Catholic polemicist, must indulge in pious-sounding abstractions of papal primacy while glossing over the many historical sandbars on which his pretty little theory runs aground. To take a few awkward examples, shall we?
If one has asked a Christian in the year 100, 200, or even 300 whether the bishop of Rome was the head of all Christians, or whether there was a supreme bishop over all the other bishops and having the last word in questions affecting the whole Church, he or she would certainly have said no.4

In the West as in the East, papal leadership was far more a program than a reality. The "eastern patriarchy" embracing Illyricum and Greece as well was by no means a Church ruled from Rome, but a very loose-knit and heterogeneous entity…For the most part, however, reality fell far short of Roman ambitions. In Spain, southern Gaul, and North Africa dogmatic decisions were still made on matters of faith and heretics were condemned without any reference to Rome.5

The saying of Bishop Augustine of Hippo (396-430), Roma locuta, causa finita ("Rome has spoken, the matter is settled") was quoted repeatedly. However, the quotation is really a bold reshaping of the words of that Church Father taken quite out of context.6

Concretely the issue was the teaching of Pelagius…this teaching was condemned by two North African councils in Carthage and Mileve in 416.But since Pelagius lived in Rome, and Rome was the center of the Pelagian movement, it seemed appropriate to inform Pope Innocent I of the decision. Ultimately, the struggle against Pelagianism could only be carried on with the cooperation of Rome. The pope finally responded in 417, accepting the decisions of the two councils. Augustine then wrote: "In this matter, two councils have already sent letters to the apostolic see, and from thence rescripts have come back. The matter is settled (causa finita est); if only the heresy would cease!"7

Both the context of this statement and its continuity with the rest of Augustine’s thought permit no interpretation other than that Rome’s verdict alone is not decisive; rather, it disposes of all doubt after all that has preceded it. This is because there remains no other ecclesiastical authority of any consequence to which the Pelagians can appeal, and in particular the very authority from which they could most readily have expected a favorable decision, namely Rome, has clearly ruled against them!8

In reality, of course, the causa was by no means settled, for under Zosimus, the next pope, the Pelagians succeeded in obtaining a hearing at Rome and defending their orthodoxy. Augustine did not wait for Rome’s decision; in 418 he called another council at Carthage that solemnly condemned particular Pelagian doctrines. The decree was simply communicated to Rome, and the pope confirmed the council’s decisions.9

The African Church was even more determined to defend its jurisdictional autonomy. Councils at Carthage in 419 and 424 forbade any appeals to Rome…it was unthinkable that God would give the spirit of right judgment to a single individual, the Roman bishop, and withhold it from an entire council of bishops.10

This particular decision had been preceded by a similar case involving a bishop who had fallen out with his congregation but was protected by Rome; at that, even Augustine of Hippo threatened to resign. From now on, the only court of appeal was to be the North African council at Carthage. This case was to be brought up repeatedly in future as an example of resistance by the episcopate of a national Church against Roman centralism.11

In fact, until the modern era the Roman church constituted such a coordinated center only to a very limited degree, and not at all before the eleventh century, if only because very few popes pursued a consistent and active ecclesiastical policy; their actions were mainly reactions.12

Since the time of Paul VI many, including Cardinal Ratzinger, have repeatedly stated that as far as the Orthodox Churches are concerned the task at hand is to restore the unity that existed in the first millennium. The problem is only that such a unity in the first millennium is an equivocal concept. It looked very different in different eras and was very differently interpreted, not only in the West and East, but especially within the Eastern Church itself…It is clear especially in the conflicts surrounding Canon 28 of Chalcedon and the allegiance of Illyricum that Rome was scarcely or not at all able to accomplish its aims in serious jurisdictional questions affecting the whole Church, especially when the emperor took the opposing side.13

Often Rome is only the first see in the series of patriarchs, but its preeminence does not seem to be qualitatively different from that of the other patriarchates. In the latter theory of the pentarchy the issue is mainly that of harmony among the five patriarchs, and not simply union with Rome.14

Thus came about the greatest and longest papal schism in history, lasting almost forty years (1378-1417) and splitting Christianity in two…Because both popes had successors and the political power blocs and opposing forces cemented the schism, it put down deep roots.15

How else was the Church to escape from this blind alley? During the next three decades most hopes rested on a solution within the system itself in cooperation with the popes, without reference to a foreign authority. The "papal summit" never took place. That ended the last chance for the divided papacy to restore the unity of the Church through its own efforts.16

The behavior of the two popes, which in retrospect seems so grotesque, can only be understood if we take account of factors beyond the personal. Each of the two popes was convinced of his own claims and identified them with the claims of the papal office itself; he thus believed he could not resign without surrendering the claim of the office not to be subject to judgment by any higher authority. The popes of the schism were ultimately the prisoners of their own system, namely an exaggerated papal theory that they, of course, carried to the limits of absurdity because they could not cope with the situation. In truth it was the absolutizing of the papacy that had led the Church down the blind alley of the schism in the first place and was incapable of bringing it out again…The answer could only come from a completely new ecclesiology.17

A second attempt was made to resolve the schism by means of a council, namely Constance (1414-1418). That the tragedy of Pisa was not repeated was due on the one hand to the fact that there now existed, in the person of the German king Sigismund, a dominant figure and central authority who took control of the council with superior diplomatic skill and guided the infinitely tedious negotiations.18

John XXIII owed his authority to the very principle to which the fathers of the council of Constance appealed, namely the emergency power of a council over the pope. If the decision at Pisa were overturned the council ran the risk of having not three, but four popes; above all it seemed that the one legal basis on which they were able to proceed might be destroyed.19

Then cam another stroke of bad news; the pope [John XXIII] had fled from Schaffhausen to Breisach; he had revoked his promise to resign, saying that it was forced and therefore invalid, and he had called on the cardinals to leave the council and come to him. It was the council’s fatal hour.20

Now it was purely a question of survival: Should they admit that the pope could dissolve the council and thus abandon all hope of escaping the dead end of the schism for the foreseeable future, or should they stand firm on the basis of their own rights? Under the leadership of the chancellor of the University of Paris, Jean Gerson, they chose the latter course.21

The fruit of this decision was the decree Haec sancta of April 6, 1415. Its most important statements are the following: The synod solemnly declares that it possesses its own authority stemming immediately from Christ. It is "legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit," represents the Church, and receives its power immediately from Christ. The practical consequence that follows is that everyone of whatever condition or status, including the papal, is bound to obey it in "those matters which pertain to the faith, the eradication of the said schism and the general reform of the said church of God in head and members." Although the first statement applies only to the current council at Constance the second part, threatening punishment of everyone of whatever dignity, "even papal," who refuses obedience, is more general in scope; it applies not only to the current council, but also to the decrees of "any other legitimately assembled general council" called on the same principles, that is, for matters of faith, the eradication of schism, or Church reform.22

In any case this decree was the basis on which the council continued to meet even without the pope and ultimately put an end to the schism. John XXIII was put on trial; he was arrested, taken to Radolfzell as a prisoner, and finally deposed. Of the three popes only Gregory XII, the pope of the "Roman" line, acceded to gentle persuasion. He finally announced his resignation, but not without first formally calling the council. This mode did not succeed with the pope of the "Avignon" line, Benedict XIII, who had the greatest personal integrity of the three popes but was possessed of a rigid notion of legitimacy…when Sigismund presented the point of view that since the outbreak of the schism in 1378 there had been no legitimate pope at all, Benedict gave an answer that was as logical as it was estranged from reality. He said that in that case no cardinals had been legitimately appointed either. And since he himself was the only living cardinal who had received the purple before 1378, he consequently had the sole right to elect a pope; he would elect a pope, promising at the same time to elect someone other than himself.23

A game was played similar to the previous one with Gregory: Benedict’s supporters and the "assembly at Constance" mutually invited one another to a newly-constituted ecumenical council in Constance. They were thus permitted to construe the law to mean that the council only became ecumenical when they joined it. Benedict himself (Pedro de Luna) was deposed in 1417. Residing in his castle of Peniscola on the Aragon coast, his "Noah’s ark," he continued to regard himself, until his death in 1423, as the only legitimate pope, and excommunicated all the rest of Christendom.24

For a conception of the Church oriented to Vatican Council I the events of those times, and especially the council of Constance’s decree Haec sancta, remain a hard nut to crack. Even to the present time they have not been thoroughly examined by theologians. A number of questions arise: How is this decree to be interpreted? Does not the superiority of a council over the pope that it claims contradict later teaching of the Church, and especially of Vatican I. Can it be that Haec sancta is also a dogmatic definition contrary to Vatican I, so that one of the two must necessarily be wrong?25

The minority opposed to a definition of infallibility comprised about twenty percent of the [Vatican I] council fathers (some 140 out of 700); these came primarily from the more socially and intellectually developed countries.26

In particular they argued not only on the basis of individual documentary teachings but more from the whole sweep of Church praxis to show how questions of doctrine were decided in the first millennium. This, they said, had always taken place through a long and tedious process of consensus building; no one ever thought it possible to shorten that complicated process by means of the "short cut" of papal pronouncement. The idea of the papal magisterium as a living oracle was regarded as contrary to the genuine historicity and humanity of the Church.27

Theoretically, said Cardinal Rauscher of Vienna, God could have used the preaching of the apostles to anticipate all later false teachings by placing in it all later dogmatic formulations and precise definitions in a clear an unmistakable manner and in systematic order. In the same way, he could have said from the outset: Whenever disputed questions arise, simply ask the successor of Peter! Such a simple solution would seem most obvious to our human understanding. But God’s ways are different. He preserves his Church in the truth through arduous struggles and seeking, as the history of the Church demonstrates.28
And it will hardly do for Armstrong to take refuge in the theory of development, for that directly undercuts his appeal to certainty. At most, such certainly only operates in hindsight. Tomorrow’s certainty is yesterday’s uncertainty.
Scripture teaches that many mutually-exclusive views of baptism can be true at the same time? That's interesting . . .
A straw man argument since this is not what is meant by the adiaphora.
Because folks have learned a few things and advanced in understanding over hundreds of years. Because we now have the Holy Spirit to guide us, and the apostolic deposit, and the power of regeneration and the New Covenant. We have had the benefit of the teaching of the God-Man, Jesus, and that of the Apostles. We have the New Testament. I should think that even Steve Hays would readily agree that these are humongous differences between the Church and "second Temple Judaism."
I see. Dave subscribes to the liberal, evolutionary view of Bible history. For Dave, Bible history is not the record of God’s revelation to man, but the record of man’s groping in the darkness from animism to polytheism to ethical monotheism to Trinitarianism, and—to carry the story down to our own times—to process theology and secular humanism. Wellhausen, Durkheim, and Freud would be proud of Armstrong’s analysis.

Poor old Abraham and Moses, David, Isaiah and Daniel didn’t have the Holy Spirit to guide them. They were uninspired and unregenerate.

Well, all I can say is that I have a very different take on covenant theology than Armstrong’s hyperdispensationalism, which is worthy of E. W. Bullinger. As I read it, Jer 31:33-34 are two different ways of saying the same thing. Or more precisely, v34 is epexegetical of v33.

In context, v34 probably has reference to the fact that the new covenant will abolish the priesthood (as well as the Temple). So there will be no sacerdotal mediators between the believer and his Lord.

Hence, we should use v34 to interpret v33. The immediacy in view (v33) is the fact that no priest will channel the benefits of the new covenant to the believer. No Temple. No repeated sacrifice.
Dr. Koons did not argue that it does; rather, he is saying that the logical reduction of the sola Scriptura position requires every believer to make basic, crucial decisions and choices and judgments that in fact are best reserved for the experts (or a magisterium, as it were).
i) A Catholic is in the same boat. Indeed, he has to find the right boat, since he thinks that only one boat in the whole marina is the true boat.

ii) I don’t have any problem with expert opinion. There is, however, a big difference between a blind appeal to raw authority, on the one hand, and an expert who presents the evidence and marshals his arguments so that the reasoning process is transparent to the reader, on the other.

This is what passes for expert opinion in Roman Catholicism:
Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.

It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.29
One has the burden of finding the "most true church" within Protestantism or else succumbing to doctrinal indifferentism and de facto relativism, as millions of Protestants do, because their system is of little use in leading them to theological certainty in faith.
The only necessity is to come to a saving knowledge of God. One can find that in many different churches. One can find that outside the institutional church as well. The gospel is widely available.
This is always the Protestant appeal, in trying to divert away from the crucial issues. It won't work. Baptism is not a secondary doctrine.
Armstrong is assuming what he needs to prove.
Nor is sola fide, etc.
I never said that sola fide is a secondary doctrine. What I said is that, in Reformed theology, sola fide is an essential doctrine without being a central doctrine. Sola fide is a special case of sola gratia. Sola gratia is the general principle.

As we know from Pauline usage, justification by faith is opposed to justification by works. And works, in the synergistic sense, are also opposed to salvation by grace. So we are justified by faith alone in order to be saved by grace alone.

Of course, Catholics also pay lip-service to sola gratia, but we also know, from reading the fine print, that this is hopelessly adulterated by their commitment to synergism.

Some Reformed spokesmen like to imitate the Lutheran priority (sola fide as the article on which the church stands or falls). But the Reformed center of gravity is rather different. And our commitment to sola fide is deepened by embedding it in the bedrock of sola gratia. Ironically, Lutheranism weakens the foundation for sola fide by weakening the foundation for sola gratia in its commitment to gratia universalis.
So is denominationalism. Well said! yet every Protestantism is a member of a denomination, if only in the vaguest sense of "generic Protestant" -- which is different from historic Catholic Christianity and cannot historically trace itself back to the apostles.
i) Many Evangelicals belong to independent churches rather than denominations.

ii) I couldn’t care less whether Protestant theology can "historically" trace itself back to the apostles, since that is irrelevant to true doctrine.

As I’ve said before, apostolic succession commandeers the framework of witchcraft. To be a true sorcerer, you must be apprenticed to a sorcerer. When the sorcerer dies, he transfers his mojo to his apprentice.

This conception is characteristic of pagan priestcraft. It accounts for vicious succession disputes in Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as Catholicism and Orthodoxy—as bitter, ambitious rivals vie for the top spot.
Because both the Bible and common sense and logic rule that out. The Bible teaches indefectibility of the true Church (Matt 16:18; John 16:13; Acts 15:28 [implied] ).
Classic Catholic spooftexting. Jn 16:13 refers to the Apostolate, not the church.

Mt 16:18 refers to the survivability of the church, not the indefectibility of the church. And Dave is also equivocating over the identity of the church.

I’ve discussed the council of Jerusalem on many occasions.
Paul presupposes that there is one truth and that it wold continue on in perpetuity in the Church.
Dave doesn’t explain what he’s referring to. Is this an allusion to 1 Tim 3:15? 2 Thes 2:15? Both of which I’ve discussed on multiple occasions.
Apostolic succession is taught in Scripture.
I recently dealt with Scott Hahn’s spooftexting for apostolic succession.
The argument from common sense and logic are that it is senseless for God to establish a new community of believers (granting His providence and omniscience and the indwelling and guidance of the Holy Spirit) and yet not enable it with enough power and protection to even survive through history. So we have both biblical indications and God's nature to lead us to the catholic and Orthodox view of the historical Church.
Been there, done that. Dave reminds me of an over-the-hill swinger, like the role that Sonny Bono played in Troll—before Torok turned him into a seedpod.
It is made rather more simple than it might be, due to insuperable Protestant internal difficulties and self-contradictions, both in actual denominational teaching and in Protestant foundational structures (sola Scriptura, the conundrum of an "unbiblical" canon, etc.).
I’ve been over the canon on beaucoup occasions. Dave’s disco music is getting to be pretty dated, don’t you think?
Hays is reduced to embracing a counsel of despair: the very opposite of a hopeful, sunny biblical faith.
This is where Armstrong should cut to a soundtrack of some violin music. Unfortunately, you’ll have to use your own imagination.
In this mentality, one cannot find the one true Church of Scripture. It's futile to even try. God is not able to preserve one truth or lead His followers to it. This is how low Protestant sectarian chaos and doctrinal relativism has brought most Protestants. They no longer think it is even possible to find and believe in one Christian truth (it is viewed as a "romantic" and childlike notion, as we see Hays -- astonishingly -- do above).
Bracketing the illicit slide from the "one true church" to "one Christian truth," Christians don’t need to find the one true church because so many churches exemplify the true church. Although I’m not a Lutheran, Koons would have done just fine to stay in the Lutheran church. Unfortunately, he left a true church for a false church.
Like the Council of Jerusalem? That is certainly not how they viewed what was going on at the time (Acts 15:28-29).
Bad example, since this was bound up with the Judaizers. So there were false teachers afoot—even in the NT church.
No one was at liberty to dissent ("they delivered to them for observance") from "the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders".
A straw man argument since the question at issue is no whether a Christian is at liberty to dissent from apostolic doctrine.
The existence of a heretic doesn't disprove the existence of a true Church.
A red herring since my comment was directed at Koons’ claim about the necessity of a doctrinally inerrant church. Even apostolic churches were not synonymous with doctrinally inerrant churches, for although the apostles were doctrinally inerrant, their churches were not—which is what made heresy possible in NT times.
In its own way, this is perhaps the clearest indication that the Protestant like Hays has actually conceded the argument on authority to the Catholic, and admitted that Protestants really have no authority and are left to glib acceptance of irresolvable differences and relativism amongst themselves.
What I accept is the way in which God has chosen to govern the world. The way to avoid heresy or lesser disputes would be to directly inspire every Christian. God didn’t do that. And nothing short of that preempts the rise of heresy.
Very simple: the saints, being with God in heaven, are outside of time. That being the case, they simply have no problem of number and sequence as we do, since we are temporal creatures, and hence, severely limited in that sense.
i) This is a breathtakingly ambitious, metaphysical claim. Where is the supporting argument?

ii) What about Purgatory? Does the Church Expectant also subsist outside of time? But aren’t the penitents supposed to spend a certain amount of time in Purgatory? Isn’t Purgatory a process?

iii) Or does Dave maintain that one part of the afterlife is timeless, while another part is temporal? Why is heaven timeless while Purgatory is temporal?

iv) What about hell? Is hell timeless or temporal?

v) If Mary is timeless, then Mary cannot learn anything knew? So how does Mary come to know who prayed what?

Is Armstrong conjecturing that at the moment Mary was translated into heaven, God instantly uploaded a billion gigabytes of encrypted, future petitions into her head? Mary Mnemonic instead of Johnny Mnemonic?

vi) If Mary is timeless, then how does she intercede for the faithful on earth? How does she communicate or express her will to the Father or the Son? How does Mary respond to their petitions if she is timeless?

This is not a problem for Reformed theism, where an omniscient God has foreordained our prayers as well as their answers.

What we see in Armstrong’s explanation is the apotheosis of Mary into goddess with divine attributes. This goes to a fundamental tension in Mariology, where the BVM must be just human enough to model synergism, but sufficiently divine to process millions of prayers per day.
The power to say no!
No one has the power to say "no" to God and make it stick.
Perhaps Hays thinks that God would force her to bear Jesus if she didn't want to?
i) There’s a long scriptural history of reluctant prophets and other unwilling servants of God, viz. Moses, King Saul, Elijah, Jonah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, &c.

ii) There’s nothing Mary could do to prevent a virginal conception. And unless she was prepared to perform a self-induced abortion, she had no veto.

Let’s remember that in Bible times, marriages were arranged. Eligible young women didn’t choose to get married or bear children.

Armstrong is reading the text as if he were Rosemary Reuter, with Mary as a pioneer of women’s lib. But his exercise in feminist theology, while very postmodern, is quite anachronistic.

The reason Roman Catholic superimpose this interpretation onto the Annunciation is because they want to elevate Mary to be the paradigm of synergism.
He didn't force Adam and Eve to not rebel and to always do the right thing. He could have prevented the Fall had He done so.
True, because he decreed the Fall.
I was foolish enough to think that Hays was gonna deal with the soteriological arguments. But he never did. I believe someone else took a crack at them. I'll have to take a look at those. But Hays has offered us nothing here of any note or substance, to prove to anyone that Protestantism is a superior choice over Catholicism.
Armstrong is foolish enough to think many things. That’s why he’s a Romanist.

What does he suppoose I should have dealt with? Sola fide?

But, as I already explained, Koons’ priorities are not the same as mine. And although sola fide is a cornerstone of Reformed theology, it is not the only cornerstone of Reformed theology.

Conversely, even if Catholicism were right about justification, it would still be wrong about many other things of equal consequence.


2 Salt of the Earth (Ignatius 1997), 100-101.

3 Ibid. 101.

4 K. Schatz, Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present (Liturgical Press 1996), 3.

5 Ibid. 32.

6 Ibid. 34.

7 Ibid. 34.

8 Ibid. 34.

9 Ibid. 35.

10 Ibid. 35-36; Cf. CCL 149.170-71 [Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina], 40n47.

11 Ibid. 36.

12 Ibid. 36.

13 Ibid. 60.

14 Ibid. 60.

15 Ibid. 101.

16 Ibid. 101-102.

17 Ibid. 102.

18 Ibid. 106.

19 Ibid. 107.

20 Ibid. 107.

21 Ibid. 107.

22 Ibid. 108.

23 Ibid. 108.

24 Ibid. 108.

25 Ibid. 111; cf. 113.

26 Ibid. 158-159.

27 Ibid. 160.

28 Ibid. 159-160.



  1. Annoyed Pinoy7/10/2007 4:50 AM

    When Perry Robinson (Eastern Orthodox convert from Anglicanism who's well known to triabloggers) used to visit irc channels on a regular basis, I would have interesting discussion with him. On several occasions he pointed to Harry McSorley's book _Luther: Right or Wrong?_ to prove that Roman Catholicism does not teach Semi-Pelagianism. So I took his advice and found it to be very eye opening. It does seem that RCism officially does reject Semi-Pelagianism, but in practice (especially via the sacraments) it nullifies it's anti-Semi-Pelagian stance. I was wondering what whether Steve Hays has browsed the book, and what he thought of it. Steve any comments? Or is the book too basic and out-dated to even comment about? :-)

  2. Hi Annoyed Pinoy,

    The basic flaw in the argument is the notion of saving grace as a quantitative rather than qualitative factor, so that if, according Catholicism or Arminianism or Orthodoxy, salvation is 51% divine grace to 49% human freewill, then we've given God enough of the credit for the outcome.

    But, according to Scripture, saving grace doesn't work that way. It isn't a matter of which party (human or divine) makes a relatively greater contribution to the outcome.

    In Scripture, grace is a totalitarian dynamic. Either it's efficacious or it's not; either it's gratutious or it's not. There's no middle ground: partly resistible, partly meritorious.

  3. The Red Rocker7/10/2007 11:01 PM

    What does this mean: "(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)" I'm truly curious. You've probably addressed it somewhere, but I can't find it. Are you sending handwritten posts by mule to monks who type it into a computer and post it?