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« Schism And Mortal Sin | Main | Celebrating Vs. Assisting »

September 25, 2006

Comments

Ed Peters

Interesting.

If HH. Benedict XVI is the "Anti-Luther," then who is the "Anti-Calvin?" ;)

Michelle Arnold

"If HH. Benedict XVI is the "Anti-Luther," then who is the 'Anti-Calvin?' ;)"

According to Bill Watterson, that would be Thomas Hobbes. ;)

DJ

"If HH. Benedict XVI is the "Anti-Luther," then who is the 'Anti-Calvin?' ;)"

According to my wife, it'd be George MacDonald

I think Calvinism is going the way of the Dodo anyways. The more I interface with protestants who are from traditionally Calvinist denominations, the more they aren't Calvinist, regardless of what they're being taught. Teaching "Quia ipse voluit" as a solution to a problem raised by the system is having its own effect I think..

J.R. Stoodley

Luther came from Germany, B16 from Bavaria. Therefore they came from different countries ;-)

JeremiahBailey

Interesting, Protestantism is poison? At least you Catholics are being honest about your opinions of Protestants for once. As for the comment about losing steam, one would suggest looking in the mirror. Most RCs I know are only Catholic because they were born in the Church and inherited membership from their parents. But then again, when you believe in Baptismal Regeneration, all you have to do is sprinkle them and they are saved.

MaryC

*But then again, when you believe in Baptismal Regeneration, all you have to do is sprinkle them and they are saved.*

Er, no; it doesn't work like that. Baptism is ONE of the conditions for salvation - as Scripture states - but it isn't the only one. A baptized person is still obligated to live a life in accordance with the Lord's Commandments.

J.R. Stoodley

I am a fervent convert to Catholicism, as is Jimmy Akin, Tim Jones, and many of the commentors here. Catholicism aint going away, even if the edges of the Church are rotting away.

About Protestantism, you have to distinguish between Protestantism and Protestants. Many Protestants may well be good Christians. Protestantism on the other hand, inasmuch as it is false, is evil poison. Of course it retains much truth, so inasmuch as it is true and good it is from God.

I think so-called Protestantism isn't going away, just as no heresy really has gone away at least for long, it just morphs or else dies and is later revived in a new form. However the traditional understanding of Protestant theology in the mainline denominations does seem to be faiding away for the most part. For instance it seems few Calvinsts believe in pure Calvinism anymore (thank God), few Lutherans hold to many of the fundamental teachings of Martin Luther, few Anglicans are loyal to the Anglican Church and its supposed via media, etc. And most are adopting new characteristics like female clergy that would have horified their ancestors.

My theory is we are seeing, on the large scale rather than in every case, a shift from traditional Protestantism to modernist Liberal Protestantism on the one hand and (to use the term loosely) fundamentalist Evangelicalism on the other. Both could be considered new heresies rather than continuations of the tired 500 year old ones.

Dr. Eric

"Baptism... now saves you..."

-1 Pet 3:21

"Repent, and be batized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..."

-Acts 2:38

John Henry

Most RCs I know are only Catholic because they were born in the Church and inherited membership from their parents.

Ain't nuthin' wrong with that...

Jason

"The difficulty in the way of giving an answer is a profound one. Ultimately it is due to the fact that there is no appropriate category in Catholic thought for the phenomenon of Protestantism today (one could say the same of the relationship to the separated churches of the East). It is obvious that the old category of ‘heresy’ is no longer of any value. Heresy, for Scripture and the early Church, includes the idea of a personal decision against the unity of the Church, and heresy’s characteristic is pertinacia, the obstinacy of him who persists in his own private way. This, however, cannot be regarded as an appropriate description of the spiritual situation of the Protestant Christian. In the course of a now centuries-old history, Protestantism has made an important contribution to the realization of Christian faith, fulfilling a positive function in the development of the Christian message and, above all, often giving rise to a sincere and profound faith in the individual non-Catholic Christian, whose separation from the Catholic affirmation has nothing to do with the pertinacia characteristic of heresy. Perhaps we may here invert a saying of St. Augustine’s: that an old schism becomes a heresy. The very passage of time alters the character of a division, so that an old division is something essentially different from a new one. Something that was once rightly condemned as heresy cannot later simply become true, but it can gradually develop its own positive ecclesial nature, with which the individual is presented as his church and in which he lives as a believer, not as a heretic. This organization of one group, however, ultimately has an effect on the whole. The conclusion is inescapable, then: Protestantism today is something different from heresy in the traditional sense, a phenomenon whose true theological place has not yet been determined."

--Joseph Ratzinger, "The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood"

SDG

Interesting, Protestantism is poison?

Protestant is Christianity, truncated by error. Error is poison. To the extent that Protestantism is Christianity, it is Truth, not poison. To the extent that it is truncated by error, it is comingled with poison.

At least you Catholics are being honest about your opinions of Protestants for once.

Yes, all the rest of the time when we are calling Protestants our brethren in Christ (albeit separated), that is really all just a smokescreen. How clever of you to see through it. Incidentally, did you notice that you wrongly transferred a comment about Protestantism into a comment about Protestants themselves?

As for the comment about losing steam, one would suggest looking in the mirror.

That is always a good idea. FWIW, I think it is fair to say that Christianity in general, both Catholic and Protestant, is losing ground (if not steam) in much of its historical territory. That said, I am more familiar with forces of renewal within Catholicism than within mainline Protestantism.

Most RCs I know are only Catholic because they were born in the Church and inherited membership from their parents.

No, they are Catholic because they were born again in the Church through their baptism.

But then again, when you believe in Baptismal Regeneration, all you have to do is sprinkle them and they are saved.

That is where it begins, yes. After that, we hope in the One who began the good work, that he will bring it to completion.

Kris

The use of "poison" as a metaphore here applies to Protestanism pretty well. That is, if the proper definition of "poison" is kept in mind. I have pasted Webster's definition below:

1 a : a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism

Now, if Roman Catholicism is the "organism" and Protestanism is the "poison", certainly it can be said that the "poision" has, in many ways, injured or imparied the "organism". In regards to killing the "organism", well, even "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

SDG

Now, if Roman Catholicism is the "organism" and Protestanism is the "poison", certainly it can be said that the "poision" has, in many ways, injured or imparied the "organism".

I'm not crazy about seeing Catholicism as the "organism." Better to say that Catholicism is the true Food that sustains life in the believer's soul (the "organism" if you like), and the error of Protestantism as the poison mixed with the true food that (depending on the culpability of the believer) may impair the food's life-sustaining power or even (in the case of one who culpably embraces the error and resists the fulness of Truth) cause the death of the soul.

Mark P. Shea

For what it's worth, I had in mind not primarily Luther, but *all* the poison that's come from Germany: biblical deconstruction, Prussianism, Nazism, two world wars...

Jeb Protestant

But it's a fact that of the "one billion Catholics" a very large percentage are quite nominal in their belief. That is certainly true of virtually all my Roman Catholic friends. Even Ratzinger said as much when he talked about the church of pagans, or something to that effect.

Let's also remember that the Joint Decree was not signed by Lutherans, but by the modernist World Lutheran Federation. That a "conservative" Catholic like Ratzinger sees modernist Lutherans as his allies says a great deal.

Jordan Potter

"But it's a fact that of the 'one billion Catholics' a very large percentage are quite nominal in their belief."

No need for the scare quotes, Jeb. There really are about one billion Catholics, no matter how many of them are nominal or poorly catechised.

But then, as a former Protestant, my own impression was and is that most Protestants are quite nominal in their belief too.

As for no Lutherans signing the Joint Declaration, in one sense you're correct, but that's in large part because there aren't very many "real" (that is, historical or traditional) Lutherans around any more. The Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Synod are but a minority of Lutherans, and they would never sign such a document.

SDG

Let's also remember that the Joint Decree was not signed by Lutherans, but by the modernist World Lutheran Federation

What exactly is the standard of "real" Lutheranism, Jeb? Would that include such quintessentially "Lutheran" beliefs as the Immaculate Conception and perpetual virginity of Mary, both of which Luther himself affirmed? Would it include repudiation of contraception, as per Luther and all the Reformers?

I am not aware of any communion today that holds or claims to hold to all of Luther's beliefs. So who gets to say which beliefs of Luther's one must hold in order to qualify as "Lutheran"?

Jeb Protestant

SDG,

Well at the least it wouldn't include people who deny the Virgin Birth, the Trinity and the Deity of Christ such as those in the WLF crowd.

Do you seriously deny that the WLF are modernists and that Ratzigner has a certain affinity toward liberal protestant teaching (for example his denial of the historcity of Genesis)?

Mark P. Shea

What I love about guys like Jeb is that they are ultra-quick to assume that I was saying "Protestantism is poison" (which I wasn't) and yet they think *nothing* of declaring World Lutherans to be Fake Lutherans and to read Benedict out of the fold for speaking to these tax collectors and sinners.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking and funny.

Kris

Note: I only made reference to the Holy Catholic Church as an organism for the sake to applying the definition of "poison" to the argument. I didn't mean disrespect to the Churh.

Jeb Protestant

Mr. Shea,

Sorry to disappoint you, but I wasn't commenting on your comment.

Of course, I don't have a problem with speaking with tax collectors and sinners. I do have a problem signing statements with people who reject the Gospel such as the WLF. Just about every pope prior to John XXIII would have had a problem with the joint statements Roem has entered, those bigots.

Is there no one that you would deny is outside the fold? Schillebecx, Kung, Spong, Vicky Gene Robinson, JWs, Mormons?

SDG

Well at the least it wouldn't include people who deny the Virgin Birth, the Trinity and the Deity of Christ such as those in the WLF crowd.

Excuse me, have you read the Joint Declaration? It expressly affirms the Incarnation and the Trinity, so it's hardly an artifact of sub-Christian modernism, as you seem to be suggesting.

Don't you feel at least some obligation of charity to err on the side of caution in throwing around sweeping condemnations where they may not be entirely fair or warranted? I don't pretend to know the extent of denial of basic Christian teaching among the "WLF crowd" (whatever that means), but certainly in signing the Joint Declaration the signatories affirmed their commitment to these beliefs.

Additionally, the Lutheran signatories emphatically affirmed the historic Protestant formulas of salvation sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus. The point of the Joint Declaration is neither to repudiate the heritage of Reformation soteriology, nor to repudiate historic Catholic teaching, but to recognize that on a fundamental level Catholics and Protestants understand salvation in Jesus Christ in essentially compatible rather than contradictory ways.

I'm beginning to get the impression, though, that you may be the sort of anti-Catholic who "knows" beyond argument or discussion that fidelity to Protestant soteriology necessarily entails repudiation of Catholic soteriology as essentially Pelagian or semi-Pelagian ("works righteousness") -- regardless what Catholics say or have said to the contrary for a millennium and a half, i.e., as long as there have been Pelagians around for the Church to condemn their beliefs.

If so, how ironic that your sweeping condemnations include "just about every pope prior to John XXIII" as "bigots." I don't suppose you are similarly harsh on the earlier generations of Protestant leaders? Or do you take their correspondingly dim view of Catholics as heroic fidelity to the gospel?

Do you seriously deny that the WLF are modernists and that Ratzigner has a certain affinity toward liberal protestant teaching (for example his denial of the historcity of Genesis)?

You're barking up the wrong tree, Jeb -- I'm as committed to the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture as anyone, but as per my posts in this comment thread I don't view Genesis (esp. chs 1-11) as historiography.

Jeb Protestant

SDG,

Excuse me, but you need to do some reading in continental "Lutheran" theology. Their theologians will generally say they believe in the Trinity and the Incarnation, but what they mean by these things is not what historic Catholic or protestants mean by them. In case you don't know, this is SOP for liberals. I have read process theologians who claim to believe in these things as well.

As far as Genesis 1-11 goes, I wasn't commenting on your position, but Ratzinger's position in his book IN THE BEGINNING which rejects the historicity of Gen. 1-11.

SDG

Jeb, instead of throwing around vague accusations about what some continental Lutheran theologians may or may not be saying, why don't you comment specifically on the Joint Declaration itself, and document exactly why you think it's such an abomination?

P.S. I know you were commenting on B16's view of Gen 1-11, not mine. My point is, my view of Gen 1-11 is AFAIK essentially compatible with his, so you aren't going to make hay on that point with me.

Jeb Protestant

SDG,

I can't find a list of who signed the Joint Decree on behalf of the "Lutherans," other than one Ishmael Noko, the head of the WLF. Here is this winner on homosexuality, which of course he refused to condemn --

http://www.christianpost.com/article/20041021/3103.htm

One of the larges denominations in the WLF is the ELCA, which recently de-facto merged with the John Spong and Vicky Gene Robinson's social club called the Episcopal Church. Apparently they dont' have problems with people who deny the Trinity.

May I respectfully suggest that you are missing the point. THe problem with signing statements with liberals is that they don't believe what you or I mean by terms such as Trinity, Virgin Birth, etc. For example, John Spong says he believes in the inspiration of the Bible. Would you sign a statement with him?

SDG

John Spong does not say he believes in the Trinity or the Incarnation.

The JD affirms both.

Do you have a specific problem with the text of the JD, or not?

Jeb Protestant

SDG,

As a protestant I have plenty of problems with the JD. For example, it doesn't mention purgatory, etc. which I believe undercuts the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

You are incorrect about Spong. I did a search and, guess what, he claims to be a "trinitarian."

http://www.abc.net.au/sundaynights/stories/s815368.htm

Honestly, are you familiar with liberal protestantism? Do you know that they often claim to support the Trinity and Incarnation but mean something totally different from what you and I mean (Spong as an example)?

Jeb Protestant

SDG,

Let me ask you a question. The Episcopal church still "affirms" the Nicean creed. Do you think that the leadership of this organization means what you mean by born of a virgin, true God from true God, etc.?

J.R. Stoodley

Jeb Protestant,

So are you saying your only problems with the joint declaration are with what it did not say? If so you seem to miss what at least I percieve as the purpose of the document. It is not meant to be a comprehensive examination of every side of our views on justification. Everyone knows there are still differences there.

The point of it is that much of the basic beliefs about justification between the two (now three) groups that have signed it are the same. For instance salvation through unearned grace alone, through the sacrifice of Christ. It is a statment of what we have in common, which helps us understand each other and focus on what still remain points of disagreement. Many Protestants don't understand what Catholics believe about justification and how much in common we have. I suppose it is the same for some Catholics regarding Protestants. With this declaration we can have a clearer picture of what the actual situation is, at least between the Catholic Church, these specific Lutherans, and the UMC.

Jeb Protestant

Mr. Stoodley,

I am a Reformed Baptist not a Lutheran, but I also disagree with it for what it says (although I haven't studied it in detail lately). I think the LCMS makes many good points --

http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2212

In addition, Rome teaches free will, and I believe that this is a false doctrine.

I also think Biblical separation is an important issue, so I would not sign an agreement with John Spong's denomination (and he is a de facto member of the WLF).

bill912

"In addition, Rome teaches free will, and I believe that this is a false doctrine".

If there is no such thing as free will, then we have no ability to "believe" anything.

Kris

Reformed baptist, different types of Lutherans, liberal protestants, calvanists...i'm just your run of the mill faithful Roman Catholic but doesn't this all seem rediculous. Not being versed in the documents you are discussing, I can't add much to this conversation except to ask the begging question. Where do all of you Protestants derive your authority? If the Bible, how do you decide if the Bible is really the word of God?

Thomas

“The wise man will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients, and will be occupied in the prophets...”

Ecclesiastes 39: 1-5

It is generally assumed that there is no room within Christianity for accepting the concept of Sanatana Dharma, or what in the west has been called philosophia perennis or priscorium. This Sophia perennis, to use a phrase preferred by Wolfgang Smith holds that certain metaphysical truths, and hence access to a knowledge of the divine, have always been available throughout history and are to be found within the framework of every valid religious tradition.

First of all it should be clear that such a concept in no way contradicts the principle Extra eclesia nulla salus - that outside the Church there is no salvation. If one understands this principle in the way the Church has always understood it, one accepts the fact that there are individuals who, as Saint Pius X put it, belong to the soul of the Church. Such individuals are “invincibly ignorant” of the manifest Church, and certainly before the coming of Christ, the ark of salvation had to take other forms.

It is also necessary to consider history, not as a progressive advance from primitive times to the present “enlightened” era but more realistically as a continuous degeneration from a former golden age. Adam’s fall from paradise is a paradigm for understanding the present situation. God did not abandon His creation and Adam found regeneration, and is indeed considered by the Church to be a saint. In ancient days, saving revelation, in accordance with man’s more “direct” apprehension of truth, was appropriately more “simple. With each succeeding “fall,” God provided more stringent requirements for man to follow if he sought to reverse the process of degeneration, until the time of Moses when the rules required encompassed every aspect of life. This is well reflected in the Sacrifice of Abel, followed by that of Abraham, and finally by that established through the medium of Moses. Yet throughout all this we have the Sacrifice of Melchisedech, renewed once again in Christ.

Such an attitude is not a carte blanche for every religion that comes down the pike. If salvation is possible outside of the formal structure of the Church, as must have been the case at least before the coming of Christ, one must remember that one cannot be saved by error. It is Truth alone that saves. And so it follows that salvation comes to us by the Divine Logos which Logos exists and existed from the beginning of time, for “in the beginning was the Word.” [1]

The early Church fathers were faced with the plethora of old religious forms which were degenerate in the extreme. They followed one of two courses. They either declared that Christianity had the fullness of the Truth and that therefore there was no need to look elsewhere, or they held that all truth, no matter where it was found, belonged to the integrity of the Faith, and was therefore to be accepted, absorbed, and embraced. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, quoting St. Ambrose, “all truth, no matter where it is found, has the Holy Spirit for its author.” In a similar manner, St. Jerome all but adopted the Buddha’s life story and Christianized it as we have in the hagiographical account of.St Josephat.

Catholic Saints have recognized this reality throughout the centuries. St. Justus referred to Heraclitus as “a Christian before Christ,” and Eckhart spoke of an ancient sage in the following terms: “One of our most ancient philosophers who found the truth long, long before God’s birth ere ever there was a Christian faith at all as it is now.” St. Thomas of Villenova taught the same doctrine: “Our religion is from the beginning of the world. A great Christian was Abraham; a great Christian was Moses; so also David and all the patriarchs. They adored the same God, believed the same mysteries and expected the same resurrection and judgment. They had the same precepts, manners, affections, desires, thoughts, and modes of life; so that if you saw Abraham, and Moses, and David with Peter and Andrew and Augustine and Jerome, you would observe, in all essential things, a perfect identity.”[2] One could multiply such quotations but such serves no purpose as long as the principles are understood.

Against this we seemingly have Augustine’s retraction which he wrote at the end of his life in an attempt to correct any misunderstanding that his works might lead to. This Retraction runs as follows: “The very thing that is now called the Christian religion was not wanting among the ancients from the beginning of the human race, until Christ came in the flesh, after which the true religion, which had already existed, began to be called ‘Christian.’[3]

A closer examination of this retraction however requires an understanding of its reference. The earlier statement occurs in a passage of De Vera Religione (X.19) wherein Augustine explains that “the soul, crushed by the sins which envelope it, would be unable to rise towards the divine realities unless there was found within the human sphere something which would allow man to rise from the earthly life, and to renew in himself the image of God. For this reason God, in his infinite mercy, has established a temporal means by which men may be recalled to their original perfection, and by which God comes to the help of each particular individual and of the human race.” St. Augustine then adds: “That is in our times the Christian religion, to know and to follow which is the most secure and certain salvation.”

In passing it should be noted that Augustine speaks of the “human race,” and not just of the Jewish religion with which of course Christianity has a very close connections. Again, St Justin stated: “God is the Word of whom the whole human race are partakers, and those who lived according to Reason are Christians even though accounted atheists.” He included in these, not only Heraclitus, but also Socrates and Abraham.

It was this last sentence that Augustine wished to clarify, explaining that in his retraction he had made use of the term “Christian religion” but had failed to express the reality which lies behind the name. To quote him again, “It is said according to this name, not in accord with the thing itself, of which is the name.” . To make this even clearer Augustine adds: “When, in fact, following the resurrection and ascension into heaven, the Apostles began to preach and many persons came to believe, it was among the people of Antioch - so it is written - that the disciples were first called Christians. This is the reason why I said, ‘That is in our times the Christian religion’; not because in earlier times it did not exist, but because in later times this name was accepted.”

And so it is that it is possible for a Catholic to hold to the position usually described as “perennial or universal philosophy.” The only requirement is that he hold to it as a Catholic who accepts all the teachings of the Church as encompassed in the traditional Magisterium, and this for the simple reason that if one steps outside the Magisterium and entertains one’s own personal opinion as being “true,” one contradicts all that the sanatana dharma holds sacred.[4]

All this has little to do with the false ecumenism that seems to pervade the atmosphere in our days, an ecumenism that would accept not only Protestantism, but every new age deviation imaginable on - as Vatican II puts it - “on an equal footing.” This ecumenical outreach often extends itself to Eastern religions where those responsible have little true knowledge and understanding. For example, many will speak of the Trinity in Hinduism as being represented by the exclamation of sat chit ananda - which is perhaps best translated as being, knowledge and bliss - names of God equivalent in Islam to qudrah, hikmah and rahmah.. The Hindu Trinity of Powers consists of the solar Father above, a fiery Son on earth (whence he ascends to heaven), and the Gale of their common spiration. St. Frances of Sales warned against those who speak of other religions without adequate knowledge, and indeed, even for those familiar with their own theological terminology (which is rare among current scholars), would have difficulty in understanding ways of expression foreign to their intellectual world.[5]

And so it is that we as faithful Christians can, and indeed must accept the idea of a sophia perennis. Wisdom has always been there, it is Christ, the Word made flesh who opens the door and the Church which gives us access to it.

II

An important consequence follows from the above principles. If there is indeed truths to be found in other religions, these truths may serve to clarify some of the obscurities we encounter within our own. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, they can become “extrinsic and probable proofs” of the truths of Christianity. With this in mind, I offer in what follows a study by Ananda Coomaraswamy on a passage in Isaiah: “there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and of understanding...”

THE TREE OF JESSE AND ORIENTAL PARALLELS[6]

The chapter on this subject in Arthur Watson’s admirable and long awaited monograph on the Early Iconography of the Tree of Jesse (Oxford, 1934) is of particular interest. Let me say in the first place that although the formula appears rather suddenly in Christian art in the eleventh century, I have no wish to demonstrate or even to argue for an Indian or otherwise specifically Oriental origin at that time, my view being rather that we have a single example of the many close parallels between mediaeval Christian and Oriental thought and symbolism which are best understood by an ultimate derivation of both from a common source (of which our earliest knowledge is, perhaps, Sumerian); diversities of formulation representing as it were the dialects of one spiritual tradition common to humanity[7]. From this point of views there is no difficulty in assimilating Isaiah XI, 1-3 to the Vedic texts cited in my Tree of Jesse and Indian Parallels or Sources” (Art Bulletin, Vol. XI)[8] without suggesting any derivation of one text from the other. In just the same way Exodus XIV corresponds to Rg. Veda III, 33 and VII, 18 (in both cases the chosen people cross the Waters in chariots, the waters lending themselves to easy passage, while the enemy attempting to follow is destroyed by the returning torrent); and Genesis, 1, 2 especially as understood by some mediaeval writers, e.g. Ulrich Emngelberti “the Spirit of God moves over the Waters warming (fovens) and forming all things,[9] with Aitareya Aranyaka, II, 4, 3 “He glowed upon the Waters and from the Waters that were set aglow a form was born,” and ib. II, 2, 1, “He who glows is the Spiritus.” Parallels of this sort could be indefinitely multiplied and cannot be accidental.

Certain of the problems can be very profitably envisaged from this point of view. We hold for example that the Vedic Tree proceeding from the navel of Varuna (deity preeminently of the waters), the Mahabharata conception of the Birth of Brahma (and corresponding iconography, the lotus rising from the navel of Narayana, who rests in and upon the Waters), and the Bazaklik representation (in which the lotus-Tree rises directly from the Waters)[10] are all true parallels of the Tree of Jesse, which presents an analogous range of variations and if none of the latter (unless possibly Watson’s Pl. II, which in any case exhibits “the tree as having a deeper root than Jesse himself”) shows the Waters, the same applies to the Burmese representation (Watson’s Pl.. XXXIX) and some others where there is no express indication of the underlying Waters. Needless to say that the Waters stand for potentiality as distinguished from act, and it makes little difference whether the roots of the Tree are represented as outspread in the Waters themselves, or in a Ground, whether anthropomorphic or otherwise, that rests upon or in the Waters; in either case, both Ground and Waters are to be understood. The variety in formulation in this respect appears already in the Rg.Veda; in I, 182, 7 “the Tree stands in the midst of the Flood” (this corresponds to the Haoma-tree that is in the midst of Vourukasha, where the kar-fish swims, in Zoroastrian tradition, Bundahis XVIII, Yusna XLII, 4, etc.); in I, 24, 7 “its Ground is above,” its oriflames or branches tending downwards, upari budhna here, and urdhva mula in Katha Up., VI, 1 corresponding to Boccacio’s “Genealogical Tree of the Gods” in celum versa, radice cited by Watson, p. 45, and to the Zohar passage at the beginning of the section Beha Alotheka, “Now the Tree of Life extends from above downwards, and it is the Sun which illuminates all.” Again in the Gupta representation at Deogarth the stem of the lotus that supports Brahma is not directly connected with the navel of Narayana,. But rises behind him, and this often happens in the representations of the Tree of Jesse. Still, the connection of the root with the navel is, even correct formulation, and this will be evident, if we reflect that the “stem” after all represents the fruition of the “seed” of Jesse, as is especially evident when the Tree becomes a veritable genealogy, and that the navel according to all ancient traditions both Western and Eastern is the progenitive center and a center in every sense of the word, and as such the starting point of manifestation.

The common significance of the aOcci3ental and Oriental trees becomes most evident when we recall that the rose and the lotus are equivalent symbols, and observe that the Christian virga, often hermeneutically assimilated to “virgo,” is identified with the Virgin as being the ground of the divine manifestation, just as in Oriental art the lotus is the earth or ground of any such manifestation. When in Western art there are doves on the branches (as in the Dijon MS. Illustration cited by Kingsley Porter, Art Bulletin, VII, p. 10, Note 2, cf. the mosaic cross in the fault of the apse of S. Clemente in Rome, where the doves are set in the shaft and arms of the cross which rises from a flower provided with proliferating branches like those of the Jesse Tree) this corresponds exactly to Rg. Veda, I, 164, 21 “There the Fairwings (angels) chant their share of aeviternity,” Brhadaranyaka Up., IV, 3,2 where “The Swan, the Golden Person, by the Spirit wards His lower nest,” and Dante, Paradiso, XVIII, 110, “power that is form unto the nests.”

Enough has been said, I think, to prove that the fundamental ideologies underlying the Eastern and Western representations are the same; and where borrowing is improbable, and independent origin unlikely because of the complexity of the symbol itself, the theory of an ultimately common source can hardly be avoided. Mr., Watson remarks that “The difficulty in establishing a relationship between Oriental trees and the Tree of Jesse is that, although we may find striking parallels, it is difficult or impossible to demonstrate connecting links” (p. 65). The same difficulty presents itself if we try to connect Isaiah XI, i-3 with the late mediaeval iconography by documentary links. As to this, we can only say with Andrae (? Berlin 1933, p. 66) that in fact “a formal symbol can remain alive not only for millennia, but...it can spring into life again after an interruption of thousands of years”; and add that, while a symbol as such can survive mechanically in traditional arts for an indefinite period, the transmission of sybols together with that of their metaphysical significance belongs for the most part to oral and initiatory teachings which by their very nature leave no documentary traces; and it is just because of this that symbols and their interpretation so often seem to emerge or reemerge simultaneously at some given moment or in some given place as if from nowhere. In the present case it is not impossible that the transmission of a doctrine of the Tree of Jesse had taken place in Kabbalistic circles; the Zohar (e.g. Vo. V, pp. 203,221; in the Simon and Sperling version) is often most informative as to the Tree of Life or Tres of Life and Death, and that the former is above the latter may be compared with the Bazaklik representation, in which the lotus grounds of the mundane and heavenly levels of being are distinguished by position in the same sense.

The present note is not a review of Watson’s monograph and cannot pretend to do justice to it as a whole. Nevertheless, in connection with the Chapter entitled “References in Literature to Relevant Imagery,” it seems worth while to cite from St. Bernard, De Adventu Domini, II, 4 “From these passages I think it now manifest what is the stem proceeding from the root of Jesse, and what is the flower on which reposeth the Holy Spirit. For the Virgin Mother of God is the stem, her Son the flower... O Virgin! Stem of the highest, to what a summit thou liftest on high thy holiness! Even to Him that sitteth on the throne, even to the Lord in His majesty.... O true tree... O true tree of life, which alone was worthy to bear the fruit of salvation!” As St. Bernard died A.D. 1153, and the passages cited being taken from a sermon suggest that the theme cannot have been one altogether unfamiliar when the sermon was preached, the text is undoubtedly pertinent to the problem of the iconography; and one may suspect that a thorough search of the patristic literature would yield more material of the same sort. An although of later date, reference may be made to Ecklhart’s sermon No. LXI in the Evans version, in which he says “Our philosophers teach that the sun draws the flowers out of the roots through the stem, timelessly wellnigh and too subtly for any eye to follow... Jesse means a fire and a burning; it signifies the ground of divine love and also the ground of the soul. Out of this ground the rod grows, i.e. in the purest and highest; it shoots up out of this virgin soil at the breaking forth of the Son. Upon the rod opens a flower, the flower of the Holy Ghost.” That “Jesse means a fire” evidently rests upon some hermeneutic etymology, and one would like to know its source; in any case, there results an assimilation to the Burning Bush, which is a form of the Tree of Life, and for which there are also Oriental parallels. I may be noted that in the Vysehred MS (Watson, p. 83) the rubus igneus of Moses virgula Aaron, porta clausa of Ezekiel, and virgula Jessa are shown on two contiguous pages, and as Watson comments “It is clear that these four subjects have been put together on account of a community of significance.”

ã R Coomaraswamy, 2001

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[1] If it is argued that Christ’s descent into “hell” allowed for their salvation, this is only to say that all salvation comes through the Word, which is indeed Christ. As St. Clement of Alexandria taught, Christ himself is Wisdom, and that it was his working that showed itself in the [Old Testament] prophets., and that the same wisdom was taught to the Apostles while He was present in the flesh. Jean Borella puts it well: Christianity being the religion ofChrist, is by that very fact the religion of Gnosis (Wisdom) Incarnate, since the Word is the Gnosis of the Father. Now this Gnosis Incarnate is also the preeminent spiritual way: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”Jean Borella, The Gnosis with a True Name in The Secret of the Christian Way. SUNY, 2001T

[2] De. Nat. Virg. Mar. III

[3] This material is taken from an article by Stephen Cross entitled St. Augustine and the perennial Philosophy published in Avaloka, Vol VI, Nos 1&2, 1992 (ISBN0890-5541)

[4] The question of the “infallible” nature of the Magisterium has currently been called into question. However, as Leo XIII stated, for the Magisterium to contradict itself is to declare that Christ has taught error,. Clearly however, one can point to many statements with seemingly Magisterial authority currently being promulgated that contradicts prior Magisterial teachings. I discuss this in some detail in an article on my web page Coomaraswamy-catholic-writings.com.

[5] These failings are by no means limited to Christianity. Moslems frequently accuse Christianity of being polytheistic because of their belief in the Trinity, and Hinduism is frequently described as such which is in fact absurd.

[6] Originally published in Parnassus, Vol. VI, No. 8, January, 1935.pp. 18-19.(Slightly edited)

[7] As an example of this AKC offers the following in a footnote. Natya Sastra, II, 5 (Indian 4th Century) “All the activities of the angels, whether at home in their own places or abroad in the breaths of life, are intellectually emanated; those of men are put forth by conscious effort; therefore it is that the works to be done by men are defined in detail,” with (1) Plotinus, Enneads, IVC, 3, 18 “Souls in the Supreme operate without reasoning... all their acts must fall into place by sheer force of their nature,” (2) Gregory, Moral. II, “Angels do not go abroad in such a manner as to lose the delights of inward contemplation,” (3) St. Thomas, Sum Theol.,m I. Q. 112 a. 1. Ad 3 “We give ourselves to action through the sensitive faculties, the action of angel, on the contrary regulates his exterior actions by the intellectual operation alone, “ (4) Eckhart I, 5, “Man requires many instruments for his external works; much preparation is needed ere he can bring them forth as he has imagined them... More exalted are the angels, who need less means for their works and have fewer images.”

[8] In the Mahabharata (ii, 272, 44 and xii, 207, 13) “As soon as that Eternal Being [Narayana] concentrated thought upon a New Creation of the Universe a lotus flower immediately came into existence from His navel and the four-faced Brahma came forth from that navel-lotus.” Narayana is the supreme deity of the later Vedic period and is effectively identical with Brahma. Bearing this in mind, we can recognize the tradition already in the Rg. Veda (x, 82, 5): “Prior to the sky, prior to this earth, prior to the living gods, what is that germ which the waters held first and in which all the gods existed? The waters held that same germ in which all the gods exist/or find themselves; on the navel of the Unborn stood that in which all beings stood.” Further, in the Athara Veda (x, 7, 38) we have a description of Brahma as “a great Yaksa” in the midst of creation, lying upon the sea in penance, therein are set whatever gods there are, like the branches of a tre round about a trunk.” The conception of a tree of life rooted in Brahma recurs also in the Katha Upanishad (vi,1): “This eternal fig tree! That [root] is indeed the Pure. That is Brahma.” It occurs again in a somewhat different way in the Bhagavad Gita (xv, 1-3). That our tree of life, in which all beings are set, should be rooted in a naval, whether of Brahma, Narayana, or Jesse is significant.

[9] De Pulchro, part of the Summa de Bono, see Gramann in Sitz. Bayer, Akad. Wiss. Phil. Kl., 1926 Abb. 5, p. 82. Ulrich Engelbert of Strassbrg died A.D. 1277

[10] It is worth nothing that the two dragons kn otted about the “waist” of the fasces, vajra, or “thunderbolt” which in the Bazaklik representation divides the upper from the lower range (and corresponds to the Vedic skamba and Gnostic sthauros that at once divides and connects Heaven and Earth) are reminiscent of the paired dragons or nagas that guard the Tree of Life in a well-known Indus Valley seal, often reproduced, e.g. in my History of Indian and Indonesian Art, Fig. 6, cf Fig 243 in Grunwedel’s Altbuddhistische Kultstatten in Chinesich-Turkistan. Parallels in Greek mythology will readily suggest themselves.

If there is no such thing as free will, then we have no ability to "believe" anything.

No, you'd still be able to believe whatever God has you to believe.

Jeffrey Stuart

No, you'd still be able to believe whatever God has you to believe.

Does God have people disbelieve in Him?

J.R. Stoodley

If there is no free will, when we sin wouldn't that mean it is God's will that we sin, and that he actually makes us sin and then throws us into hell to suffer for all eternity because of what he made us do. Nice.

God is more powerful than to be limited to creating robots. He can and in fact has made creatures that can make decisions for themselves. He knows what decisions we will make, but we still make them freely.

StubbleSpark

Getting back to the main point, but for a long time now I have seen the fall of Protestantism in the advent of the current age of human media.

In general, the media like the internet have had two main effects on society: 1) increased fissiparousness and 2) increased polarization.

The first effect can be seen in the increase in loonies and their implausible yet accepted conspiracy theories. The first noticeable popular example of this phenom was the UFO conspiracies that were spun-off into the X-Files. More recently, we have aberrations like the DaVinci Code, and Goddess worship -- two trends that have negatively impacted borderline or "name-only" Christians.

The second effect can be seen in the marshaling of the right under Alternative Media like talk radio, blogs, and streamed audio while the Skeptics in the Left go to suck on the poisoned teats of the MSM.

Now, if you can imagine these two processes (breaking off and re-fusing) occurring simultaneously, you can see that some groups will cease to exist and some groups will grow larger. When the dust settles, who stands to gain more from this, Protestantism or Catholicism?

I have my doubts about Protestantism. The very word is a polite euphemism used to refer the body of Christians who are not Catholic. But there really is no Protestantism, only Protestantisms, and it is from this lack of an organic awareness that the seeds of the movement's doom will grow. How can any group that denies its own group-ness save itself? The idea reminds me of the Democrats who want save America from terrorists merely by ridding us of the very definition of "American" in the first place.

It could very well be argued Protestantisms already do not exist (which may be the true gist of B16's document above concerning heresy and our bretheren). We already know there are no denominations in existence today whose members would be welcome in the Protestantisms of even two generations ago much less 200 years ago when this country was founded -- and certainly not 500 years ago when Calvin and Luther were ushering in their brave new era of relativistic and individualistic Christianity (at the expense of Total Christian Unity).

Even the Protestant ideal of a vague and purely spiritual "church" cannot save today's congregations from being ground into nothing. As a matter of fact, it is another serious blow to the movement because group survival depends on amalgamation and you cannot amalgamate minds and hearts who believe they were already amalgamated. It is like sounding the charge to a deaf calvary.

But in the twilight century of this the most devastating and harmful movement in Christian history, we still have much for which we may be thankful. In many of the former Catholic nations, groups like Liberals, Masons, and Communists have plotted openly against the Church leading to bloody suppressions of Catholicism that lasted for almost 100 years. But in America our strong Puritan roots have created an environment friendly to all religions, including Catholicism, and though our country is now ravaged by the forces of Secularism, America remains unique in its religiosity in the face of the Moderns.

Things have not always been good for Catholics on these shores but the ultimate irony is that America is Christendom's Trojan Horse in the middle of the Secularist world and it is thanks to our Puritan planks that our true nature goes undetected.

Personally, I see the hand of God in that.

Does God have people disbelieve in Him?

If God were controlling your thoughts, who would know for sure but God Himself.

"God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie" (2 Thes 2:11)

"God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." (Romans 11:32)

"God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden." (Romans 9:18)

JeremiahBailey

You know, I was confessing tonight, and one of the things I was convicted of was the rude tone I used earlier. Brothers, please forgive me for being so rude. I am sorry. Youth brings zeal and rash talking, but the love of Christ should counter such things. Forgive me.

SDG

You are incorrect about Spong. I did a search and, guess what, he claims to be a "trinitarian."

On the contrary, Jeb, I am correct, as your own source confirms: In the same sentence you reference, he says "I could never say that God is a Trinity," which confirms what I said: "John Spong does not say he believes in the Trinity."

You are being disingenuous, Jeb, manipulating the facts to suit your argument. I had hoped you were better than that.

Honestly, are you familiar with liberal protestantism?

Dude, I was confirmed by Bishop Spong, back in my Episcopal days, so don't even try to pull the knowledge card on me. (Don't hold it against me: I was only a boy and didn't yet know what the man stood for; two years later I would not have done the same. In fact, I did see him again a couple of years later, and told him to his face that he was a wolf in sheep's clothing, so I was no liberal. FWIW, my father was a pastor in the Reformed tradition -- before he converted to Catholicism, two years after my wife and I did -- and I grew up on C. S. Lewis.)

Do you know that they often claim to support the Trinity and Incarnation but mean something totally different from what you and I mean (Spong as an example)?

A false, discredited example, you mean. In any case, the question is not what some vague "they" "often" do, but what the JD does. I say the JD upholds the true Gospel. What do you say?

As a protestant I have plenty of problems with the JD. For example, it doesn't mention purgatory, etc. which I believe undercuts the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Logic problem. Your reservations about related Catholic teachings (whether valid or, as it happens, mistaken) are not the same thing as having a problem with the actual theological content of the JD, the actual truths set forward in the document.

Having the reservations you do, you might reasonably wonder how the Catholic signatories could sign a document that does affirm justification by faith alone but does not mention purgatory -- but given that it does affirm justification by faith alone but does not mention purgatory, the proper response is to say that the theology affirmed by the JD is in fact true.

Here is where the rubber meets the road. I speculated above that you "may be the sort of anti-Catholic who 'knows' beyond argument or discussion that fidelity to Protestant soteriology necessarily entails repudiation of Catholic soteriology as essentially Pelagian or semi-Pelagian." Here is where we will see whether that impression was right or wrong.

You say you think purgatory "undercuts the doctrine of justification by faith alone" (thereby invoking a term that is of course nowhere found in scripture, except where it is rejected in James 2, but let that pass).

If so, it would seem that any or purgation or suffering for the sake of purity or holiness, whether in this life or the next, must be similarly contrary to justification by faith. But Hebrews 12:7-14 affirms that God "disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness," and "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." It goes on to tell us to "strive" for "the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."

I don't care if you believe that God chooses to discipline us for purity in this life but not in the next. If your argument is that the one "undercuts the doctrine of justification by faith alone," then you must show why this is true of the one but not of the other.

Lacking such an argument, either they both undercut justification by faith, or neither does. Whether purgatory is true is a separate question, but if God can discipline us for purity in this life without undercutting justification by faith, then he can do the same in the next without undercutting it either.

Are you open enough to dialogue to interact with this point? In other words, are you an individual capable of dialogue? Or is your theological discourse limited to monologue? Do you just "know" that purgatory undercuts justification by faith, no matter what I say? Let's see.

Let me ask you a question. The Episcopal church still "affirms" the Nicean creed. Do you think that the leadership of this organization means what you mean by born of a virgin, true God from true God, etc.?

You are right to put "affirms" in scare quotes, because what you really mean is that the Episcopal church still says the Nicene Creed, in its liturgy (which is not actually true everywhere, I can tell you). That is not the same thing as affirming the Creed or the articles thereof, and when you look at the JD, it is a document that affirms certain tenets, it does not merely acknowledge a traditional link to them. So like it or not, you have to deal with the fact that the signatories to the JD actually affirmed salvation by faith as consistent with both Catholic and Protestant soteriology.

Jeb Protestant

SDG,

I realize what Spong said. I went on to say: "Do you know that they often claim to support the Trinity and Incarnation but mean something totally different from what you and I mean (Spong as an example)?"

In other words, Rome and the Episcopal Church could could sign generic statement about God and the Trinity that was agreeable to Spong and his ilk. And that's what Rome did with the modernist WFL.

SDG

Jeb. You said that I was "wrong" to say that Spong did not claim to believe in the Trinity, and went on to imply that Spong as an example of those who "claim to support the Trinity."

In fact, I was not wrong, you were wrong to say that I was wrong, given that Spong says in so many words that he does not say that God is a Trinity. And you continue to be wrong in assert the possibility of a "generic statement about God and the Trinity that was agreeable to Spong and his ilk" when in fact Spong would not agree with a statement that God is a Trinity," and has said so.

Spong's statement is more honest and candid than you seem to be giving him credit for, which suggests that you are being uncharitable. For that matter, Spong's statement about his beliefs seems to be more honest than your statements about his belief. You are being more dishonest than he.

Can't you admit that you were wrong and I was right? Or does the discussion break down here?

Jeffrey Stuart

If God were controlling your thoughts, who would know for sure but God Himself.

Well I suppose you are correct but the notion is rather silly. If one is to come to the conclusion that God is controlling their every thought, word, and deed then for what reason would that individual follow the teachings of Christianity? Oh but then that isn't their choice because God would want them to be lawless. So what is the point again of Christ coming into the world?

"God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie" (2 Thes 2:11)

"God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." (Romans 11:32)

"God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden." (Romans 9:18)

I submit a too simplistic understanding by you of the snippets taken from scripture. The message to be taken in reading the full text, not to mention the theme of God's interaction with the Israelites, is one of letting us "make our own bed" (read choice) and then allowing us to "sleep in it" (see son, prodigal, one each). Only then as we suffer from our own doing do we learn to turn to the Lord Almighty (Grace of course helps) of our own free will.


Oh but then that isn't their choice because God would want them to be lawless.

No, if what a person does is always God's choice, then the person would always be obedient, not lawless.

So what is the point again of Christ coming into the world?

According to Kermit the frog, Jesus was God's puppet son who came to show the other puppets the truth and the way. As Jesus said, "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me... The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work."

The message to be taken in reading the full text, not to mention the theme of God's interaction with the Israelites, is one of...

Yes, that would be your puppet message. Another puppet might have another message. Puppets chattering among themselves to the delight of the Puppet Master.

Well I suppose you are correct but the notion is rather silly.

Silly it is, but "the words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work."

... said the puppet.

J.R. Stoodley

Anon.

You realize that you are saying that when we sin we are being obedient to God, don't you?

I really hope you are actually trying to argue against this idea of no free will by making it sound so sick.

You realize that you are saying that when we sin we are being obedient to God, don't you?

Well, as a puppet, ever in obedience, you wouldn't actually sin, though you may appear to sin or think you've sinned in the course of the puppet show.

I really hope you are actually trying to argue against this idea of no free will by making it sound so sick.

In the words of Puppet Paul, "One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'""

Jeffrey Stuart

I can't tell anon's POV/tact either.

No, if what a person does is always God's choice, then the person would always be obedient, not lawless.

Then if one really believes we are all puppets doing God's will, this statement is nonsensical. Given there are disobedient in this world, either they are using their free will in disobeying God or God is not a very good puppet master. I'll take the former line of reasoning.

Given there are disobedient in this world, either they are using their free will in disobeying God or God is not a very good puppet master.

In puppet shows, there are "bad" puppets performing acts of apparent disobedience, all in obedience to the command of the puppet master. Good puppets and bad puppets. It's all just part of the show. As the Bible says, "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?"

Mark,

I think that Laugenbrot, Bockwurst, and beer more than make up for anything bad that Germany has ever produced! :)

Tim J.

If we are measuring the worth of countries by their beer, then I shudder for the U.S.

DJ

If we are measuring the worth of countries by their beer, then I shudder for the U.S.

The worth of the US should be measured in its desire for good beer. In that way we are suffering souls. :)
--------------------------------
btw- I really respect JeremiahBailey's second comment above. I've seen comments that I personally don't think belong on this discusison from either side. Being technically right does not give one liscence to be rude.

DJ

Hmmm..maybe I need to go back to schul and lern how to spel (or pretend that I do by using a spell checker.:)

bill912

Oh, I don't know, DJ. There are Brooklyn Beer and Sam Adams ("Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Better Beer!).

Puzzled

Jeb,
My understanding is that Papa Ratzi well understands the difference between the modernist "Lutherans" and the genuine Evangelical Catholics of the remnant synods, such as LCMS, WELS, ELS, etc., I know of one very conservative LCMS pastor who was involved in talks with him during these discussions. He believes we can work with B16. B16 gets the differences, gets how the orthodox Evangelical Catholics are much closer than the modernists in doctrine and practice to the 22 Catholic Churches, and also paradoxically how difficult that makes reunification.

Jordan, they would never sign the document for historical and political reasons, but that doesn't mean that there are actual doctrinal issues.

SDG, The Book of Concord. But I would say especially the actual confession of Faith, the Augsburg Confession. If you read that, and the Roman response called the Confutation, you may be surprised at how pleased the Roman theologians were with most of the Augsburg Confession.

I wouldn't put it past B16 to hope for the Joint Declaration, which in itself is not modernist at all, as something that might bring those mistaught by the modernist synods, to Christ and the Gospel.

Jeb, how can you 'believe' free will 'is a false doctrine'? Wouldn't you merely be thinking the thoughts put in your mind by the Prime Mover, and not actually 'believing' anything at all? To be consistant as a TULIPist?

Kris, and how many orders are there in the 22 Catholic Churches? How many chapters that don't agree with each other? SSPX and other RadTrads, Joan of Arc, several theological traditions, Kuung and Scheelebex, etc.? In America, with immigration from many lands, evangelicals just see one church, even if there are many organizations. So, apologetically, can't better be done than that old tired canard? I would think so. ..


J.R. Stoodley

Puzzled,

How many chapters that don't agree with each other? SSPX and other RadTrads, Joan of Arc, several theological traditions, Kuung and Scheelebex, etc.?

I'm not sure what comment by Kris you are responding to, but remember some of those are obedient to the Magisterium, just disagreeing about what it is fine to disagree about, while others are downright heretical. You can't equate that situation with the multiplicity of Protestant denominations if that is what you're trying to do.

J.R. Stoodley

Germany haters:

Ich liebe Deutchland! Good saints. Good beer. Good country. Don't be dissing Germany.

SDG

SDG, The Book of Concord. But I would say especially the actual confession of Faith, the Augsburg Confession. If you read that, and the Roman response called the Confutation, you may be surprised at how pleased the Roman theologians were with most of the Augsburg Confession.

Hi Puzzled. I'm not sure why you think I -- as opposed to Jeb Protestant -- would be surprised by Roman positivity vis-a-vis the Augsburg Confession?

Jeb is the one saying that that prior to John XXIII the Catholic Church basically wrote off Protestantism as sub-Christian -- and that since John XXIII we're basically being disingenuous pretending to accept Protestants as brethren in Christ -- that the Joint Declaration is a joke, that our soteriologies are fundamentally at odds, etc. I'm the one saying that the Joint Declaration is a valid affirmation of the substantial unity of the gospel that both Catholics and Protestants affirm and have always affirmed.

Incidentally, although my Protestant upbringing was Reformed rather than Lutheran, I'm certainly familiar with the Augburg Confession, though I hadn't read the Confutation before.

Looking up the Roman response to the Lutheran articulation of Justification in the Confutation, I see that the Roman response begins by approving as consonant with Catholic faith the Lutheran doctrine's opposition to Pelagianism ("works salvation"). (How about them apples, Jeb? In the sixteenth century! Just a wee bit before J23, hm?)

At the same time, the Confutation lays out the correct understanding of the Catholic doctrine of merit (or reward), which it clarifies by saying that "all Catholics confess that our works of themselves have no merit, but that God's grace makes them worthy of eternal life," and quoting various Bible passages on how God rewards us for our works within the context of salvation by grace.

Good stuff. Thanks for the tip, Puzzled.

DJ

Ich liebe Deutchland! Good saints. Good beer. Good country. Don't be dissing Germany.

Well, SOMEBODY's a bit touchy, aren't they?

J.R. Stoodley

DJ,

I'm just joking around.

I do love Germany though.

Pastor David

I think that it is erroneous to group all Protestants together. More to the point, I think it is especially erroneous to group Lutherans in with the majority of Protestants.

Most Protestants in America come from the roots of Calvinism ... in particular, the American brand of congregationalist Calvinism. In terms of theology (especially sacramental and liturgical theology), the Lutheran church is closer to Rome than to these groups.

Some of the most outspoken American protestants (Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, etc) cannot claim to even have roots in Calvinism. Rather, they are preaching a "gospel" of prosperity, the "gospel" of the American Dream.

Grouping Lutherans in with such is the fastest way to misunderstand who Lutherans are and what we believe.

SDG

Pastor David, what "Lutheran differences" are you thinking of that are most relevant to this discussion?

Pastor David,

150 years ago I would have agreed with you, but American Protestantism today has very little to do with Calvinism. Charles Grandison Finney and Nelson Darby (via Cyrus I. Scofield) have left an indelible mark on American Protestantism. What you have now is largely built on Finneyan Semi-Pelagianism and Darby's Dispensationalism. Nowhere will you find Calvinist Covenant theology outside of Reformed, Presbyterian, or some Reformed Baptist congregations anymore. Add to this a healthy dose of Wesleyan Arminianism (which has its roots as a refutation of Calvin) via the spread of Pentecostalism, and you've got something that is nearly 100% opposed to anything remotely Calvinist.

You're right, though, orthodox Lutherans really have very little in common with much of American Protestantism, but then again, neither does orthodox Calvinism anymore. Between the first and the second Great Awakening, though, Calvinism was indeed the faith of the land. And Calvinism is much closer to Lutheranism than to mainstream "Evangelical" American Protestantism. The main points of contention between Luther and Calvin are double-predestination, and a difference in emphasis on the effectiveness of the sacraments.

Pastor David

SDG,

I am thinking, primarily, in terms of (1) our understanding of the historic church, (2) our sacramental theology, and (3) our understanding of the Gospel. I think, in these ways, we are actually much closer to Rome than to the majority of American Protestantism.

It is an irony that many of the more "conservative" churches (at least insofar as their voices in the culture wars) are actually farther from their reformation roots. How is it that conservative politics have joined hand with liberal theology (at least when seen from the historical perspective of the faith of the church)? I think a church that denies the validity of the ecumenical creeds poses a greater risk to the church universal than one may tend to vote democrat.

But, in all honesty, this is my own little fixation. I am tired, as a Lutheran, of being grouped together with non-sacramental churches and churches that deny 1900 years of the Holy Spirit moving through the church.

Tim J.

Well, of course it is a big mistake to lump all Protestants together. As Jimmy has said, it is usually a mistake to try and talk about "the Protestant position" on ANY subject, as there are probably many Protestant positions.

Unfortunately, it can also be a mistake to lump all Catholics together, which is a pity.

When I think of "Protestant," I tend to think of Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Cranmer. I would think of the Anabaptists separately, as well as the Arminians. To me, the word "Protestant" connotes Lutheran or Calvinist theology and a wide variety of practice, ranging from liturgical to austere, but unified in some idea of predestination (single or double), the ideas of Scripture alone having authority to bind believers and an acknowledgment of the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist (although they have widely differing views of the nature and efficacy of these sacraments). The Anabaptists would depart from here by denying the sacraments, describing them as mere ordinances to be done in obedience of Christ and only for those who have consciously decided to follow Him. Arminians would depart on another point--that of predestination, arguing that God made it possible for everyone to choose Him and that He only foreknows who will choose Him, not that He has in any way especially chosen anyone for salvation. Lutherans would argue that God has chosen some people to have saving faith in Him, but that they may have enough of the grace available to everyone to turn to Him without being specially chosen. Calvinists would say that anyone not chosen by God for salvation is completely devoid of saving grace and is thereby chosen for damnation; common grace being insufficient to lead them to God.

Most of your "American Protestants" of today would fall partially in both the Arminian and the Anabaptist camps. They believe in absolute free will and believe that baptism is not a sacrament, but an ordinance given to believers to freely choose out of obedience to Christ. That is why I would be hesitant to label the large majority of non-Catholic Christians in America "Protestant." The word they use for themselves is usually "Evangelical" (which is ironic because "Evangelical" usually means "Lutheran" in Europe!). Many will even deny the name "Protestant," maintaining that they are following (what they believe to be) the religion instituted by Christ, not in protest of anything.

Since the Second Great Awakening, however, there has been a huge shift away from Protestantism into what would now be recognized as "American Evangelicalism." It had largely to do with the effectiveness of Methodist (Arminian) preaching, and especially with the effectiveness of Charles Grandison Finney, who vehemently opposed the Calvinism that had been prevalent prior to that and preached doctrines that were essentially Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian. Just before the turn of the next century, you had the Scofield Reference Bible, which was pretty much the only Bible commentary available to most people because of its low cost and easy reading, which popularized Nelson Darby's idea of dispensationalism. Then you had D.L. Moody, who was an incredibly effective preacher who trained many others, espousing the dispensationalist doctrines of Darby and helping them spread as well. Lastly, the Holiness movement, which stressed the doctrine of entire sanctification taught by Wesley (founder of Methodism), begat Pentecostalism. Fundamentalism sprang from dispensationalism, and much of the 20th century found most non-Catholic, non-Protestant (defined as Anglican, Lutheran, or Reformed) Christians divided into either the Fundamentalist or Pentecostal camp, both of whom styled themselves as "Evangelicals" rather than "Protestants."

In the latter part of the 20th c. and into today, we've seen a lot of cross-pollenization between the Fundamentalists, the Pentecostals, the Protestants, and yes, even the Catholics. This can be seen in the megachurches, the charismatic movements that have arisen in many communions, and the emergence of the "parachurch" phenomenon.

It's still very much a mosaic. For example, as an Orthodox Presbyterian, I never felt as if I had much in common with "Evangelicals," Catholics, Pentecostals, or really anyone who wasn't faithful to one of the historic Reformed Creeds (Westminster, Synod of Dordt, etc.). And with the emergence of parachurch organizations and megachurches, "free" churches, "Bible" churches, and "community" churches, sometimes beliefs can range widely within the same congregation.

Thank God we have the Magisterium! Of course, we have our own discord in the Catholic Church, but it's nowhere near as chaotic as in, especially, the non-creedal demoninations. The Protestants at least have their own creeds and confessions to refer to, but I find comfort in having a living guide rather than an historical document to guide my faith.

Pastor David

As to the JDDJ, I believe I saw a question further up the thread about how it was approved. After being written by the group from the LWF and Rome, it was then sent to the member communions of the LWF. Each of the member communions approved it. That is where its approval comes from. It was then signed by Ishmael Noko, secretary general of the LWF, and (I belive) Cardinal Kaspar of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

erick

Anonymous-, What "historical document" are you referring to?.

the Protestant creeds, confessions, and catechisms

Erick,

As a Presbyterian, I held that the Westminster Standards (Confession and Catechisms) were the final arbiter of truth in that they were a correct exposition of Biblical teaching. When I began to question what made the Westminster Divines any more qualified to interpret Scripture than anyone else and why I should trust the Westminster Confession as opposed to, say, the Dutch Standards (Belgic Confession, Canons of Dordrecht, II Helvetic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism), it led me down a path where I was able to see that Jesus Christ does indeed tell us in the 16th chapter of the Gospel acc. to Matthew who has authority in binding men's consciences. It is not a document written by Protestant theologians in Europe, but an office given to the Apostle St. Peter which subsists today in the person of HH. Pope Benedict XVI.

J.R. Stoodley

As a Methodist I thought the Apostle's Creed was the only extra-biblical document that was really neccessary to believe in. Also doctrins like the Trinity, the Incarnation, Virgin birth, and bodily Resurrection of Jesus.

Also "predestination" was a big no-no, though believing it did not mean you were not Christian or could not be saved. This was really a much bigger issue though than the nature of Communion (the Eucharist) or the Pope.

I don't think I knew at the time that any Christians that were not Catholic or Anglo-Catholic or Eastern Orthodox refused to call themselves Protestant. I for one had an extremely broad view of the definition of Protestantism, again just a Western Christian that was not Catholic or something wacky like Mormon or JW. Also I knew some Anglicans were so Catholic in their theology that they were not really Protestant either.

I suppose this is still basically what I think of when I hear the word "protestant." Not one particuar set of groups.

erick

I guess what prompted my question is that as a Protestant,I've never given these "creeds" much to do about my faith.
Now, having said that, I do know that they are a "fail-safe" kind of way to "guard" certain essentials, but in no way are they THE FAITH.
Jesus commands to preach the Gospel, not the creeds, for these do not save per se.

Brother Cadfael

Erick,

Jesus commands to preach the Gospel, not the creeds, for these do not save per se.

Of course, it depends what you mean by "save per se." The Word of God without faith is not going to "save per se" either.

The Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed contain nothing that is not in the Gospels, and in fact, they contain the "highlights" or essential points of the Gospels. So if you are "preaching" these Creeds, you are, in fact, preaching the Gospel.

erick

Bro. Cadfael-
When was the last time you went out on the streets and preached the "creeds" to the poor, or disadvantaged etc.?.- I wonder if it did any good!.
All kidding aside Bro. Cadfael are you then saying that Creeds = gospel?.

Matt McDonald

erick,

The creeds are Gospel, it doesn't follow that the Gospels are the creeds. The creed exposes a subset of the Gospel.

When you do your preaching of the Gospel on the street do you read the whole thing or just what you consider are important parts? Do you expound on them at all, inserting clarifying words? Well then you're preaching your creed.

By the way, creed comes from Latin "credo" it is the first word of the creed: "credo" - I believe.

J Reitsema

I believe that there is really only one way, and that is the way of Christ. Jesus was not a catholic, or a protestant...His Disciples, followers of Christ. Luther destroyed the walls to God man created in the Catholic Church...tradition and religion.

Tradition and religion are what Christ battled over with the Pharisees! I don't need to go to a Priest for forgiveness.. The veil was torn when Christ died.

I struggle with the Catholic's view just as Luther... The Bible is the God breathed word of God... period! That gives me the ability to see for myself what He says... I know a lot of Catholics who NEVER open the Bible and read what it actually says.

It is time to be followers of Christ, and loose titles. The term Christian isn't even in the Bible. READ THE BOOK.

J Reitsema

I believe that there is really only one way, and that is the way of Christ. Jesus was not a catholic, or a protestant...His Disciples, followers of Christ. Luther destroyed the walls to God man created in the Catholic Church...tradition and religion.

Tradition and religion are what Christ battled over with the Pharisees! I don't need to go to a Priest for forgiveness.. The veil was torn when Christ died.

I struggle with the Catholic's view just as Luther... The Bible is the God breathed word of God... period! That gives me the ability to see for myself what He says... I know a lot of Catholics who NEVER open the Bible and read what it actually says.

It is time to be followers of Christ, and loose titles. The term Christian isn't even in the Bible. READ THE BOOK.

Inocencio

J Reitsema,

"The term Christian isn't even in the Bible"

Please see Acts 11:26

"Tradition and religion are what Christ battled over with the Pharisees!"

Please see 1 Cor 11:1-2 and 2 Thess 2:15

"I don't need to go to a Priest for forgiveness"

Please see John 20:23, James 5:14-15 and Matt. 9:6,8 authority to forgive sins given to men.

And just how do you think the first followers of Christ learned about the Word of God?

Do you know when the Holy Bible was put together and by whom?

Follow your own suggestion and read the book.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Greg Robertson

Let's see here: Luther, reformer of the church; turned people's hearts to Christ; rebuked and reproved the godless authorities who had set themselves up as being above the Word of God; put the Word of God into the hands of the common man in all the German speaking lands; continually quoted the Church Fathers and early popes in the defense of his Gospel message; restored God's gift of the cup to the laity; caused people to take the Word at face value and to begin trusting that the work of Christ alone was sufficient to save them.

I guess history hasn't changed! Being anti-Luther, the pope is showing himself to be sitting in the same old seat of the anti-Christ!

Reverend Greg Robertson

bill912

And how was it determined which books belong in the Bible and which don't?

bill912

The Catholic Church has *always* taught the sufficiencly of Christ's sacrifice. From whom do you get your misinformation about the Catholic Church?

Mary

put the Word of God into the hands of the common man in all the German speaking lands;

Deliberately mistranslated "the just shall live by faith" as "the just shall live by faith alone."

caused people to take the Word at face value

Called the Letter of James "an epistle of straw." and said it contained nothing of the good news

the godless authorities who had set themselves up as being above the Word of God

See the two points above and consider that one should consider the beam in one's own eye before the mote in another's.

Jeb Protestant

Deliberately mistranslated "the just shall live by faith" as "the just shall live by faith alone."

--Actually, I believe it was Charles Hodge who pointed out that a couple Catholic NT translations around the time of the Reformation had "by faith alone," so clear is the NT teaching.

Called the Letter of James "an epistle of straw." and said it contained nothing of the good news

--I think Luther was wrong here, but he conceded that James had many good things to say. Of those books Luther believed canonical, he had a high belief in their inerrancy and ispiration. He didn't believe they were cut and past jobs, like contemporary church approved Catholic exegetes teach.

David B.

*sigh*

bill912

"A man is *not* justified by faith alone." James 2:24. Yup, that's about as clear as you can get.

Greg Robertson

Luther didn't deliberately mistranslate anything, as far as I know. He did, however, as an in-your-face gesture to the anti-Christ authorities of his day, translate a less clear passage of Scripture in light of more clear passages. Was not Abraham justified by faith without works? You know the Scriptures and you know what your church teaches! How shall you escape the wrath to come?

If I remember right the Council of Trent said something to the effect: "Let any who say that a person is saved by faith alone be anathema (eternally condemned)."

It can be honestly said that conservative Roman Catholics are followers of the Pope and the Roman Church. Lutherans, however, are not followers of Luther or of any human authority, but are those who recognize and honor Luther as the one who restored the Gospel, which had been totally obscured by the Roman Church, to its proper place in the history of the world. Luther did not depart from the Gospel, Rome did. As for the Lutheran Confessions of 1580, they are considered to be, by conservative Lutherans, a reliable exposition of the Scriptures. Theirs is a borrowed authority. The pope, however, by the allegorical (make it what you want by personal revelation) and out-of-context interpretation of Scripture, claims to carry divine authority as the Vicar of Christ. Why did the Reformers recognize the pope as the anti-Christ that was to arise in the church? The answer is simple! Because the papacy was fighting against Christ, the Savior, and because the papacy arose within the church.

Luther was sometimes very wrong and informed Lutherans understand that. Unlike ideas about the Roman Pope, Lutherans do not believe that Luther every spoke infallibly.

James and other books were spoken against in the early church when the canon was being established (we could say when the "canon established itself"). In this case, however, Luther translated the book of James, even though it had no clear statement about the work of Christ (as though He was absent from the manger and thus only straw was present -- an "epistle of straw"), ignoring his own opinions about the letter.

I believe that the 66 books of the Christian canon of Scripture are the infallible, authoritative, and inerrant Word of God -- divinely revealed -- and obviously teaching a literal six day creation and fall into sin which brought suffering and death into the world. The Lord Jesus Christ, also believing in a literal six day creation (and He was there!), was born of the Virgin Mary, and is the only hope of salvation for all mankind. I believe that anyone, whether pope, cardinal, or bishop, who disagrees with the divinely established Word of God forces us into the position where we have to disagree with God or disagree with man and rebuke him for his godlessness and his eternal battle against the Holy One.

Greg

bill912

I'd invite Jeb Protestant to take a shot at my above question about the books of the Bible, but he has always declined to do so in the past, so I won't bother.

bill912

"Anathema" does not mean "eternally condemned"; it means that he believes something contrary to what the Church teaches.

Greg Robertson

"Anathema" comes from the Greek and means eternally condemned. Since Rome claims to have divine authority in such matters, however, I can see how the meaning could get changed.

Jeb Protestant

Bill,

It's not that difficult. As Christians, we use the OT canon of the Jews, who were the people of God when the OT was created. As far as the NT goes, we use books by the apostles and those who were associated with them. For a book like Hebrews, it is to be accepted as canonical because it preaches the deity of Christ and is consistent with the other books.

bill912

Which OT canon of the Jews? The Septuagint? Or the Hebrew canon, which was codified in the Second Century AD? And on what authority do you acdept that the books of the Bible, and only those books are inspired?

bill912

Greg Robertson, I assumed too much. I figured that you understood that I was explaining what the Catholic Church means by "anathema". My error. Now, would you like to take a crack at my above questions?

Greg Robertson

Bill,

Your response proves my point. When it comes between the Church and Scripture on definitions, we should go with the Scriptures in every case, and say with Luther -- "Here I stand!" Protestants do not believe that any "church" has the right to create its own definitions of words that have already been established. In such a case, how are we to know that the "church" is not simply changing the definition so that they look better in another era when the sentiments are against pronouncing eternal damnation on those who proclaim the Scriptues as children in the lineage of Abraham's faith?

As far as I understand the Old Testament Canon by which protestants go by was established at the Jewish Council of Jamnia during the first century. I believe the Roman Old Testament Canon was established at the Council of Trent after the Reformation and lends support to some peculiar Roman doctrine. The books canonized by Rome were already recognized by Luther and translated into German because he believed that they had some usefulness for the study of history.

David B.

Greg,

If you want our attention, at least refer to our church with respect.


David B.

Secondly,

I believe that you have revealed the problem afflicting many Non-Catholic christians: you repeatedly reject any authority other than the bible, and yet set yourselves up as the authority on which books of the bible belong and which do not. Greg, you referred us to the 'Jewish Council of Jamnia' as the authority for which books of the OT belong in the bible. Jesus did away with the Old Law, so how could this 1st century council have any authority?

Greg Robertson

Sorry for the disrespect. It is a disrespect for those who reject God's authority for man's. But you really should worry about God's disrespect for those who establish human tradition to such an extent that they reject His Word.

Is it a Freudian slip that you put "Catholic" in upper case (your meaning is "Roman"), and you put "christians" in lower case? The proper use of "catholic" (universal) cannot mean "Roman" (particular). If it is to maintain its original "catholic" sense, it must mean "Christian" ("They were first called Christians at Antioch") in the sense of being believers in Jesus and not being in agreement with the heretics, false teachers, and other religions. It is also significant that catholic is capitalized and Bible is not. I know the Roman quip, "The bible came from the Church, the Church did not come from the bible." Guess who comes out on top in that transaction!

It is true that "Non-Catholic christians" as you call us "reject any authority other than the bible." Or better said, "We reject any authority that disagrees with Scripture (the Bible)."

One common misconception that stuff like the DaVinci Code capitalizes on is that the canon was established by the Roman Catholic Church. All the early Church did was to establish the criterian by which a book was to be accepted into the canon. Then the canon established itself. Protestants generally believe that the Jews established early on what books should be in the Old Testament canon. But I am not an expert on the subject.

Jesus did not throw out the "Old Law," He fulfilled it! In my mind a first century council could be much more objective, would have much less baggage, and would be much better at determining an Old Testament canon than would a 16th or 17th century council.

Common sense would tell the average person that the Council of Trent is a little late.

I enjoy the correspondence, but must work more on my sermon for tomorrow.

Take care!

Greg Robertson

Quickly. For support on not accepting authority that disagrees with God's Word: Peter in the Book of Acts refused to be quiet about Jesus and said "we must obey God rather than men." And in Romans chapter 13 we see that there are authorities that have been set up by God and that they must be obeyed. The context that Protestants live by -- we must obey authorities that have been established by God as long as they do not cause us to disobey God's higher authority. Also, Jesus said that we should do what the scribes and pharisees said to do but that we should not do what they do. In that sense, we should even obey the pope.

Brother Cadfael

Greg,

You are absolutely correct that we should accept nothing that contradicts God's Word. Sadly, based on your own "authority" and your own "traditions" you reject the very Church that is established by God's Word. Your "authority" is seemingly better than His (real) authority, and your "traditions" are better than His (real) Traditions.

bill912

Glory be to God, Greg! You've either created or been sold a straw man, which you call "The Roman Catholic Church" and you attack the straw man. If you are going to criticize the Catholic Church (of which the Roman Catholic Church is only one of 23 Churches), atleast try to find out the facts instead of criticizing the straw man.

Tim J.

"When it comes between the Church and Scripture on definitions, we should go with the Scriptures in every case"

The teaching of the Church never contradicts Scripture, so there is never any need to choose between the two. The Church DOES, however, contradict many errant interpretations of scripture held by people like yourself.

" All the early Church did was to establish the criterian by which a book was to be accepted into the canon. Then the canon established itself."

Well, that's one I haven't heard before. By what authority did the Catholic church establish those criteria? By the authority given to Peter by Christ himself.

"Protestants generally believe that the Jews established early on what books should be in the Old Testament canon."... "I believe the Roman Old Testament Canon was established at the Council of Trent"

The canon was set much earlier, but proclaimed at Trent.

The Jamnia conference is not even historically established to have really taken place. The Jewish OT canon was formed partly in response to the spread of Christianity. Why in the world would the Christian church take it's cues on the OT canon from those who rejected Jesus as the Messiah? Gee, should we get the input of the Muslims, too, just to be sure?

The Christian Bible has been the same since the canon was set at the councils of Hippo and Carthage. Luther REMOVED from the Holy Scriptures - by no authority but his own opinion - those books with which he disagreed.

Those who follow his example reject the WORD OF GOD, as well as rejecting the legitimate authority that Christ established on Earth.

You are on dangerous ground, Greg, because you consciously reject the Church Christ established in His name. Jesus said "He who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects Him who sent me.". This idea of transferring the authority of God to men was God's idea! God sent His Son, Jesus. Jesus sent the Apostles. Who did the apostles send? Nobody? Everybody? Or those on whom they "laid hands" and to whom they gave their authority?

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