Thursday, January 03, 2013

Should you cross yourself left to right? Or right to left?

Susan 242, you said:

I am a brand new convert to the Catholic Church(12-16-2012)

I am very sorry to hear this. It’s not too late for you to leave. I did leave, too, after a number of years. Those years now seem like wasted time, much damage having occurred, except that, you know, God has a purpose for everything. I did manage to learn where the exits are, in such a way that I could help people find them.

You asked:

I asked my pastors directly, “which church should I submit to?”, and everytime they answered my question with the question, ” So you believe that Rome has an infallible interpreter?” Well, I hope somebody’s got some definate answers otherwise Christ left us oprhans! I went as far as to assert that they(Reformers) were relying on Reformed formularies much in the same way that Catholics rely on bishops and popes, for they are absolutely not relying on scripture to serve as the sole informant of their doctrines, but on men who believe that they were interpreting correctly whether you say they are infallible(not erring) or not. Further, if Reformers are not interpreting without any error in regards to faith and morals, why should I trust them and be required to submit to their authority?

Susan, we are not orphans in the world that we should run around blindly with our arms raised, asking, “who is my rightful parent, who is my rightful parent?”

God created us “in his image”, with the capacity to understand what He says to us [whether you know it or not] and with the ability to reflect His glory in the world.

We do have the ability to understand Him if we will stop and focus on Him, on hearing His voice.

Your pastors were right to ask you to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Rome. If Rome’s story is not true, all the disorganization in the [Protestant] world does not make Rome’s story about itself true. I’ve written elsewhere, “Too often, an argument is put forth in this form: “Protestantism has lots of problems. Therefore, Catholicism.”

That’s not what they’re saying here, precisely, but that was how you looked at it.

In defense of Roman Catholicism, now, you see a philosophy professor positing that “it is incumbent on anyone debating said question to argue, on grounds independent of the particular biblical interpretations he adopts, that his IP has a principled distinction between divine revelation and human theological opinion, so that by deploying it, he at least has an argument that his particular interpretations are reliable expressions of divine revelation, not just opinions”

That’s gobbledygook. What he is saying is that you (nobody) can understand what God is saying to you. You can’t trust your own judgment as to what God’s word is and what it is saying to you. What he is saying further is that God does not have the ability to communicate directly with you. Now, you may still be confused, but is that your fault, or God’s fault?

At it’s heart, the Gospel is the reporting of an event. I like to cite some of the sermons in Acts because they’re so straightforward:

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

No epistemological conundrum there. Was it because Peter had some kind of mysterious “authority” to “define” a “formal proximate object of faith”? Or was he just simply telling folks about Jesus, the one the Jews had been waiting for. [Is Acts not a book of the Bible?]

Or Paul:

When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Roman Catholics have this concept of a “formal proximate object of faith” as if it had some kind of hard-edged boundary that you dare not cross, lest you miss out on “the fullness of the faith”. But do you know what “the faith” is?

Jesus Christ was the one who was prophesied and promised to the nation of Israel. He died for your sins; therefore, trust and believe, turn and be healed.

Yes, learn everything that Jesus did and said. Then “go and do likewise”.

Then what should I do, what should I do? Should I get baptized by sprinkling or dunking? When I bless myself, should my hand cross from left to right or right to left? Sola Scriptura doesn’t tell me!!!!

Well, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, we “get to” do good works, not “we got to”. Continuing that thought:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both [Jews and Gentiles] one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

We are at peace, end of story. Yes, we live our lives in tension; we are healed but we carry around sinful flesh.

The Lutherans have a concept, adiaphora (from the Greek ἀδιάφορα “indifferent things”). You have very many questions – “when I fold my hands, which way do I cross my thumbs?” – but these are adiaphora. That’s a fancy way of saying, “who cares?”

I’ll tell you who cares. Rome cares. The Roman Catholic Church is not descended from the Apostles who said “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” It is descended from the Roman empire, which, to say it bluntly, “wants to be the boss of you”. The Roman tendency is just the tendency of sinful man. “I want to be in charge”. I’m the authority, I’m the boss of you, you have to listen to me. Only I can tell you the boundaries of “the formal proximate object of faith”. “Only I can tell you whether to bless yourself left to right, rather than right to left”.

Someone has to tell you that, if you are an orphan in the world, running around blindly with your arms raised, asking, “who is my rightful parent, who is my rightful parent?”

But if you know God is your Father, and Christ has made things right for you, that you are not a blind orphan, you need not run around looking for “the right” parent. You simply need to look to the one true parent that you have, the Father, and his ONE mediator, Jesus Christ, and understand with your heart and turn and be healed, and know that He is a God who is good for His Word, which you now conveniently [thanks to Godly and careful believers before you, who worked to understand the calculations needed to discern the canon of Scripture, to learn the languages that others, who had heard directly from God, spoke, to trace the history of how it occurred] have in the form of a single book, “God’s word to mankind”.

There is your “formal proximate object of faith”. If you believe God’s word tells you to cross yourself left-to-right, and some other believer says “no you must do it right-to-left”, when you stand before God to give an account, do you think He really cares about that?

Meanwhile, thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Rome. Is the story of their “authority” a true one? Or is it full of falsehoods?

People now need to ask the one question: “Did the Roman church come by its authority in a legitimate way?” Was its authority “divinely instituted,” as it never tires of reminding us that it is? Or was this authority accumulated through less-than-honest means?

Does Rome really get to retrospectively say what happened in history, even if it didn’t? Is retrospectively determining what happened in history a matter of authority? Or is it a matter of understanding? Nevertheless, they will tell you they have the authority to take a non-event and make it a dogma that you must believe lest you “incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

Peter and Paul had no knowledge of such an event, and the Scriptures say that God is rather angry with people who inventively “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” to say precisely where the authority comes from to create such a heavy burden in the first place.


  1. Susan,

    The Protestants are leading you to Scripture, and appropriately so. However, their blind spot is that they are, in the process, replacing Rome with their own churches.

    The solution is to trust Scripture and recognize that the age of church ended with the apostles. We have lived in the kingdom age ever since ("the day of the Lord"). Church can't help us, but Christ can...and will.

    1. Mike Gantt, you are obviously mistaken about what ended when.

    2. John,

      I'm just siding with the apostles who viewed the end of that age as imminent. I can't be mistaken unless they are.

    3. Mike Gantt, you appear to be a bit of a black hole:

      Not worth my time to bite.

    4. John, you can avoid me but you cannot avoid the Lord.

    5. Thanks Mike I'll take that under advisement.

  2. "We are living in the Day of the Lord." "We are living in the Day of the Lord."

    Now just calm down, says Paul, and don't be deceived. Has the man of sin been revealed and taken his seat in the temple? Nope. 2 Thess. 2:3-4.

    If still jittery, look up 2 Thess. 2:3 in the Greek and note that the verb "come" is not future tense ("will [not] come") but aorist: "has not come unless...."

    1. Ted,

      Paul was right to say that in 2 Thess 2 that the time had not come. And John was right in 1 John 2:18 to say that it had.

  3. First of all, John that last comment to Mike Gantt was very funny....."Thanks Mike, I'll take that under advisement.". lol!
    Secondly, John, if you didn't see it yet I responded to you today( Epiphany 2013)
    John, I can be sure that I am not being heard by you just in the same way that my previous pastors did not hear me either. I’m gauging this by your response that completely misses what I am trying to say. Just like them, I don’t believe that you are doing this purposely, but at least, grant that if I say I am experiencing a epistemological crisis, I am not exaggerating. You may not agree that I have any reason to be perplexed, but it is not a matter of opinion.

    Listen to your reply to me:
    “God created us “in his image”, with the capacity to understand what He says to us [whether you know it or not] and with the ability to reflect His glory in the world.
    We do have the ability to understand Him if we will stop and focus on Him, on hearing His voice.
    Your pastors were right to ask you to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Rome. If Rome’s story is not true, all the disorganization in the world does not make Rome’s story about itself true. I’ve written elsewhere, “Too often, an argument is put forth in this form: “Protestantism has lots of problems. Therefore, Catholicism.””

    My response: I was told by my pastor to read Romans, Galatians and Ephesians and to pray. I did and I do read those epistles. I believe every word. I cannot argue with them because the scriptures are self-authoritative. My dilemma, that you made light of, is “What do I do with those aspects that are being debated within Protestantism?” Do I “bite the bullet” as Ray Stamper says, and hang out in a URC even when very learned men like NT Wright, and Alister McGrath do not believe that there is no such thing as forensic justification? Sure I could stand on this doctrine in the way the Reformers articulate it, preaching it to myself when my conscience condemned me. ( a whole other problematic issue with the Reformed schema), but I am left wondering “how do I know if this is what Paul meant when there is disagreement on this point?” But then other questions came pouring in that make it difficult to stay in a particular Reformed congregation. And they have nothing to do with adiaphora, but with important things like idols, confession, and sacraments….. most especially the Eucharist. There is not universal agreement within Protestantism concerning these things. Surely, you can see that as soon as one recognizes that there are many voices saying, “this is what scripture says”, that a person will wonder if anybody can rightly divide the divine oracles? Your saying to me that “all the disorganization in the world does not make Rome’s story about itself true” does not help me discover the church where the essentials are taught.

    If I were to walk away from Rome today, please tell me which church should I go to? You truly don’t see the dilemma. I like my old congregation, but they don’t practice communion the way the scriptures instruct, and they don’t permit incense, or crucifixes…..but I like those. I guess I could become Lutheran in order to get those aspects or hey maybe High Church Anglicanism….they have priests, elevate the Host, practice confession, honor Mary in their liturgy… I believe that scriptures teaches seven sacraments and that the book of Revelation is, at least, partially describing the Eucharistic Mass. I really like sola fide, though, so maybe I should start my own thing."

  4. Staying with my last sentence......Can you see that if I did try to "start my own thing" that I actually could pass it off if I had a following? Hypothetically if this did pan out, which church could charge me ( authoritatively) with heresy, and see to my subsequent excommunication? As long as there are other Protestant Churches to use as cities of refuge I could conceivably run round and round to any church where I happened to like their doctrines. Using the rule of sola scriptura, a URC cannot excommunicate me if I became Anglican. They can't put me under censor or call my newly adopted scriptural beliefs an error or a heresy as long as there is another community that says that it's biblical.This is what sola scriptura reduces us to... It doesn't work, John.

    What angers me terribly is that Christianity has had to forbear the theological and philosophical shoddy schema devised by Reformers. When Luther took out his scalpel to do surgery he opened Pandora's Box.

    1. Susan, since you bring up "very learned men like NT Wright", I think you may be interested in this piece from Dan Wallace:

      This is the right way to disagree with someone like Wright. Just because Wright doesn't believe in "forensic justification" doesn't invalidate centuries of Protestant understanding. In fact, as Wallace points out, the author he cites argues with "impressive evidence". The called-to-confusion crowd side with Wright on this one issue, but did you know that Wright says that Trent got the nature/grace distinction terribly wrong? No, they don't point that out to you.

      Rome's claim to certainty is in no wise a way to find "the church where the essentials are taught". I've put up a new blog post this morning that goes into some detail as to why this is true:

      The paradigm that I've proposed "works" far better than Rome's "dogmatizing crickets", as I say at the end. I'll be happy to discuss this further with you but I don't have time right now. Leave a comment after you read my current blog post and I'll try to spend more time discussing these things with you.