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Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Tradition’

Well, so you’ve probably heard that the largest body of Presbyterians in the U.S. have voted to allow gay clergy.    I’m not actually going to delve into that here because it is clear to me that mainline Protestantism is busy destroying itself from within.   The situation reminds me of the book of Judges which tells us what happens to the people when they have no king, and each man decides for himself:

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.  Judges 21:25

Now, the really funny thing about this quote and why it matches the situation with the Presbyterians so well is that it comes immediately after, and by way of explaining, the previous chapters concerning the tribe of Benjamin.  If you haven’t read it before, I won’t ruin it for you.  Suffice it to say that the chapters concern homosexuality, licentiousness, abuse, rape, murder, more murder, lies, cover-ups, chaos, mayhem and evil. 

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.

So…this is what the great reformation has wrought.  Everyone, every denomination doing what he thinks is best, and moral relativism’s grip gets tighter.

Oh, but I said I wasn’t going to discuss the Presbyterian Church situation, per se.  Right.  Okay, back to the point of this post.  What I want to talk about is the response to the Presbyterian Church situation, at least insofar as other more orthodox Protestants view it.  Which brings me to today’s article in Christianity Today, the magazine of Evangelical Christians.  In an article entitled, The Road to Gay Ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a Reformed Presbyterian theologian by the name of Dr. S. Donald Fortson III addresses the voted change to that denomination’s constitution.  Dr. Fortson is a Professor of Church History and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary—Charlotte. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which (I learned from reading his article) broke away from the main body of the Presbyterian Church in anticipation that it was only a matter of time until the main body fell to “a pro-gay agenda relentlessly pressed until at length Presbyterians officially landed in the gay ordination camp”.   

The article itself is brilliant in its linguistic and theological acrobatics to say how wrong this decision by the PC(USA) is, how unbiblical and outside of tradition…without of course, admitting that the entire Protestant Reformation was…<ahem>…unbiblical and outside of tradition.  And of course, to make his point, this Reformed Presbyterian relies on the Church Fathers of the Catholic Church to make his case.  It’s a brilliant use of equivocation.**  Really, it’s brilliant

Here are some examples of Dr. Fortson’s theological heroics:

And church history is crystal clear: Homosexual practice has been affirmed nowhere, never, by no one in the history of Christianity. The church fathers insisted that doctrine and practice must be tested by Holy Scripture. In addition to careful exegesis, another test was catholicity, that is, what has been the universally accepted scriptural interpretation passed down in the church. (emphasis mine)

To what church is he referring?  the Presbyterian Church?  Or that other one

I kinda think he means this one

He continues–

When novel teachings were shown to fail both the careful scrutiny of Scripture and the consensus of the orthodox Fathers, heretical ideas were doubly condemned.

Um, gosh, could the ‘novel teachings’ he refers to be something like, I dunno…sola fidesola scriptura?  If you remember your history, they both failed the careful scrutiny of Scripture and the consensus of orthodox Fathers, not a one of whom supported either.  The reformers were the ones who championed these novel teachings.

He goes on to quote SAINT Vincent of Lerins (without “Saint” naturally) —

… if anyone wishes, to detect the deceits of heretics that arise and to avoid their snares and to keep healthy and sound in a healthy faith, we ought, with the Lord’s help, to fortify our faith in a twofold manner, firstly that is, by the authority of God’s Law [Scripture], then by the tradition of the Catholic [universal] Church. …[W]e take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.'”

Um, Dr. Fortson, I know you are a scholar and like a teacher of kids as well as an actual historian so I’m sure you realize that (this is embarrassing) but uh, you do realize that you misquoted a church father, right?  I am sure that you did not mean to suggest that St. Vincent, the Catholic monk said, “the univeral church” because of course, he didn’t.  He said, the Catholic Church.  Changing the name of the church would seem sorta like you are hiding or obfuscating facts and of course as a Professor of Reformed Theology…I know you wouldn’t do that.  I mean, it’s not like he was just some presbyter schmoo.  He was a monk.  So I’ll just correct it for you.  Here, let me correct your mistake.

‘… if anyone wishes, to detect the deceits of heretics that arise and to avoid their snares and to keep healthy and sound in a healthy faith, we ought, with the Lord’s help, to fortify our faith in a twofold manner, firstly that is, by the authority of God’s Law [Scripture], then by the tradition of the Catholic Church. …[W]e take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.'”

Yes, yes!  ‘the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere’…yes, the Presbyterian Church has been taking great care to hold onto that which has been believed since the time…er…well, since the time that it formed itself in defiance of that which was believed everywhere, always, and by all.  But I will take your word for it that since the time of their rejection of the universal beliefs of the universal church, they have been really really good at holding onto that which has been believed everywhere.  (So that is, what?  1541 or so?)

Dr. Fortson, now on a roll, heads toward his conclusion–

Christianity is a tradition; it is a faith with a particular ethos, set of beliefs and practices handed on from generation to generation. The Christian tradition may be understood as the history of what God’s people have believed and how they have lived based upon the Word of God. This tradition is not only a collection of accepted doctrines but also a set of lifestyle expectations for a follower of Christ. One of the primary things handed down in the Christian church over the centuries is a consistent set of …

I’m sorry!  I need to take a break.  Laughing too hard.  BRB!

kk, sorry, where were we?  oh yes…haha, we were talking about the Christian tradition, some of us more seriously than others.   Dr. Fortson now makes his dramatic and unintentionally Catholic and/or seriously hilarious conclusion regarding the matter at hand–

Revisionist biblical interpretations that purport to support homosexual practice are typically rooted in novel hermeneutical principles applied to Scripture, which produce bizarre interpretations of the Bible held nowhere, never, by no one. (emphasis mine)

So there you have it.  Typical Reformed Protestant absconds with Patristic Fathers, rewrites what they say to make them agree with his Protestant theology, and equivocates his way into agreeing completely with the position of the Holy Mother Church circa 1520 all the while still assuring himself and his wayward, defiant Protestant flock that while it is meet and right to condemn homosexuality via the tradition of the Holy Catholic Church, because, well, you know, those Papists got it right on that one, but hey, don’t come waving your authority in my face!

Hahahahahaha.   I wish I had an nth of the intellect and scholarship of someone like Dr. Michael Barber who I know would see layers here that I do not.  Nevertheless, I  find this whole article ripe for satire and abuse.  I wonder if these earnest Sophists ever realize how absurd and hilarious they are!  God bless ’em. ***

**a quick lookup of the word “equivocation” reveals that its synonyms are misrepresentation, deceit and doublespeak.  To be charitable to Dr. Fortson, we are only using the definition of equivocation in the philosophical use, meaning a fallacy.

***and my original response via the comment section may not have been as charitable.  Mea culpa.

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Pope Benedict making the Sign of the Cross

 

Over at Catholic Answers, I came across this this link on a forum posting.  The minister at a very large Methodist Church in Texas has a series of sermons about different Christian faith traditions, in very charitable and ecumenical presentations. 

The series started with his appreciation of Roman Catholicism.  I listened to it and was very moved.  Not only would Protestants brothers and sisters benefit from it, but we Catholics as well.  Overall, the pastor gave a very fair presentation.  (A couple of his historical dates seem influenced by his Protestant background, e.g. the date of the establishment of Roman papal authority.)  But his historical overview is generally acceptable.  It’s what he has to say about the things he appreciates in Catholics where this sermon gets going, and surprising.  I’ve never known any Protestant to admire our Purgatory beliefs, for instance.   What else does our Methodist brother appreciate?  Not surprising: our commitment to life issues, our steadfastness against cultural attacks, and our work with the poor.  Oh, and of course, Authority.  Surprising: Sacramentals, liturgy, reverent ritualized prayer, candles, and the Sign of the Cross.  He even tackles the sex abuse scandal.

I got a bit choked up listening to it.

Here is the minister, Dr. Ed Robb, preaching on “Why I appreciate the Roman Catholics“.  (there is a video option as well).  Take time to listen to it; it just may make you appreciate your faith more.

The Woodlands UMC

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Herewith I answer Russ’ question from earlier today.  I am posting it separately instead of in the comments section because I got carried away again and it wouldn’t all fit into the comments box.

To those new to this discussion, these exchanges in the Comments started with my October 6th post  More on the Problem of Authority, continued into Answering Russ’ Questions–Many are Called, Few are Chosen, and went back to More on the Problem of Authority.  To catch you up, I have quoted below the most recent exchange between my reader Russ and me (his original comments are at More on the Problem of Authority).    Russ’ comment and question from earlier  today finishes the series and my answer follows:

Russ    October 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Can I ask you all a question? In Mathew 3:2 Jesus says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” If you were alive at the time of Jesus and you heard Him say this, would you repent or would you ignore Him?

edit this on October 13, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Reply LuceMichael

Russ,

I believe wholeheartedly that upon hearing that the kingdom was at hand, I would have repented immediately.

….Unfortunately, I am pretty certain that by the next day I would have lapsed back into my neglectful, proud and sinful ways. >.>

I am in a constant state of conversion, but as my life and attitude mature, I find that I am getting better at avoiding temptation and near occasions, have improved judgment, (slightly) more patience and lots more charity.

My pastor just quoted an author in his homily who said, “God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He wants to see that we are making progress.”

I’m making progress.

Peace.

Russ   October 19, 2009 at 5:15 pm

LuceMichael,

Who’s interpretation would you use to know what Jesus was really saying? If you insist that people cannot interpret the word of God themselves, then you are insisting that the people who heard Jesus say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” should just ignore Him until the first Pope, Peter, tells them exactly what Jesus meant.

God not only allows us to interpret His word, He expects us to know and understand and interpret His word even as He expected those that heard Him say, “Repent, for the kingdom…” to actually repent at the sound of His voice.

 

 

Christ's Charge to Peter by Raphael 1515-16    The master combines two different Biblical passages, Matt 16:18-19 (Keys to the Kingdom) and John 21:15-17 (Feed My Sheep)

Christ's Charge to Peter by Raphael 1515-16 The master combines two different Biblical passages, Matt 16:18-19 (Keys to the Kingdom) and John 21:15-17 (Feed My Sheep)

My answer today: 

Russ!  welcome back!  what long pauses we have and it seems that we are still mired in this Catholic / Protestant debate.

First of all, I will reiterate that I am not a theologian.  I should also mention that I’m not an apologist either and my weblog is not about Protestant errors or conversions.  I do post Protestant-related material from time to time, mostly when it amuses me and sometimes when it confuses me.  I guess I kinda stepped in it this time.  :-P  I do worry that our back-and-forth tends to take my little weblog on a confrontational path that I would not want to continue down, although I will venture that way for a little while with you.

Your suggestion that listening directly to Jesus preach is analogous (is the same as) with reading Scripture (written 60-80 years after His death) in modern times— 2000 years after His Ascension, after many translations and through a different lens of history and culture–is sophistic and therefore, I am not going to address it.   However, I will answer the rest of the spirit of your comment.

I do not know where you get the idea that God “expects us to understand and interpret His Word.”  Is that in Scripture somewhere, because again, I’m not a Biblical scholar or theologian and I’ll need help finding the citation.  I wouldn’t want to put words in God’s mouth. ;-)   Having said that, I do know many places in Scripture where we are directed to ‘not lean on our own understanding’ (Prov 3:5)  but rather are encouraged to listen to the teachings of the Apostles and Church.  Here are some of them:

  1. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch…reading the prophet Isaiah…[Philip] asked “do you understand what you are reading?” He replied “How can I unless someone guides me?” and he invited Philip [note: the Apostle] to get in and sit beside him (Acts 8:30-31)
  2. So the Levites read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8)
  3. Jesus even told the rabbis:  “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29)
  4. Peter warned against personal interpretation of the prophetic writings (2 Peter 18-21)
  5. Jesus didn’t consecrate all of us to the Truth, he consecrated the Apostles (John 17)
  6. Nowhere in Sacred Scripture does Jesus command anyone to write and read.  However, there are repeated instances of Him commanding to PREACH and HEAR. (citations too numerous to list)
  7. All of what Jesus said and did was not written down in the Gospels.  John admits as much.  Twice.  (John 20, John 21)  
  8. However, we can be assured that the Apostles did not forget and preached and passed on the traditions that Jesus taught them.   “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” (Second Paul to the Thessalonians—2 Thess 2)
  9. Somewhere, in one of the letters, I know Paul instructs his brothers to correct errant brethren, and if that doesn’t work, take it to the Church.  I am too tired to remember the verse.  (help?)

I disagree with your statement that God expected those who heard His voice to repent.  Scripture is clear that it was in fact just the opposite:  Jesus expected most people to turn away from Him and His message.  See:

  • “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”  Matt 7: 13-14
  • “Many are invited but few are chosen.” — Matt 22:14
  • “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.”  Mark 9:31
  • “Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name.”  Mark 13:13
  • He departed from there and came to his native place,  accompanied by his disciples.  When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.  Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”  
  • The parable of the rich man and Lazarus–“‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”  Luke 16:31

Russ, where in the Bible does it say to rely only on the Bible?  Where does it say sola scriptura?  In fact, where in the Bible does it mention ‘the Bible’?  Why did Jesus commission His Apostles to go preach the Word, but didn’t commission them to write it down? 

Finally, I would suggest that if interpreting the Bible and leaning on one’s own IMPERFECT understanding were so ‘fool-proof’, then we would not see 30,000+ different Protestant denominations.  Wouldn’t God, whose Son Jesus desired unity for His Church, prayed for unity and told us that His Father would grant Him whatever He asked–wouldn’t Almighty God have made sure that all 30,000 of your “little popes” (Luther) would have agreed on interpreting His word?  If understanding God’s word were easily accomplished by everyone, laity and ministers and theologians all–IF THAT WERE THE CASE–then that would leave only TWO churches:  the CATHOLIC Church and the PROTESTANT Church.  Luther would have been proved right, and the apostolic church would have been proven wrong.  But you can see from history alone that not only was Luther wrong, but that his wrongness was heresy, because his legacy is not “the ONE PROTESTANT Church”.  No.  Instead, there are over 30,000 Christian sects fighting each other over a myriad of issues including baptism, salvation, sacraments, homosexuality, abortion, segregation, female ministers, rapture, creationism, divorce, Sabbath, end times, gambling, alcohol, head coverings, speaking in tongues, gay marriage, Trinitarian issues, infant baptism, tithing, governmental taxes, grace, prayer and even music. What we have is the Tower of Babel:   a loud, nonsensical clamor that is coming from literally thousands of different voices from ‘little popes’–

the Anglicans and Episcopalians (high and low)–[note: founded by an adulteror and murderer], the Lutherans (4 major American synods, 30+ divisions), the Unitarians, the Congregationalists, the Presbyterians (reformed and other), the Methodists, the Wesleyan division, the Baptists (Over one hundred subdivisions!), the African Methodist Church, the Dutch Reformed, the Disciples of Christ, the Assemblies of God, the Anabaptists, the Pentecostals (gee whiz, how many of them are there?), the Seventh Day Adventists, the Church of Christ, the Church of Christ Scientist, the Church of the Nazarene, the Church of God,  the United Church of Christ (so much for truth in advertising), the United Christian Church (ditto), Uncle Max’s Bible Church down the street, the Living Word church across from Wal-mart, the Bible Fellowship church in the old bowling alley, the Harvest Church out RR1, Grace Chapel in the mobile home, Calvary Temple, the Quakers, the Shakers, the Mennonites, the Mormons and uh, Jehovah’s Witnesses.

That’s a lot of popes!  Even Wikipedia can’t keep up:

Note: This is not a complete list, but aims to provide a comprehensible overview of the diversity among denominations of Christianity. As there are reported to be over 38,000 Christian denominations, many of which cannot be verified to be significant, only those denominations with Wikipedia articles will be listed in order to ensure that all entries on this list are notable and verifiable.
Note: Between denominations, theologians, and comparative religionists there are considerable disagreements about which groups can be properly called Christian, disagreements arising primarily from doctrinal differences between groups. For the purpose of simplicity, this list is intended to reflect the self-understanding of each denomination. Explanations of different opinions concerning their status as Christian denominations can be found at their respective articles.  [emphasis mine]

This is not the unity for which Christ prayed (John 17).  Even Martin Luther, at the end of his life, bemoaned that “there are now as many doctrines as there are heads.”  Which just proves 1 John 4:1 – “Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”   Clearly, there are about 40,000 false prophets.  In the meantime, the Catholic Church keeps on keeping on, still holding to, still teaching the same dogma it taught 2000 years ago. 

In defense and explanation of myself,  in regard to your original question about repenting if I heard Jesus say to, I would like you to know that (after our Lord died) I would have also repented had I heard Peter, Paul, Thomas, John the Evangelist, St. Irenaeus or any of the early Church fathers preach the Good News, which—by the way, Russ–is how the world was converted to Christianity.  The first 400 years after Jesus death, it was in fact the word of the Apostles, the teachings of the Catholic Church that spread the Good News, and those teachings were not clear even to the Apostles.  Peter and Paul debated (as we see in Acts) theological points and had many differences, e.g. the question of Jewish law applied to Gentiles.  The early Church decided how to resolve this, with the primacy of the chair in Rome being acknowledged within the first decades of the Church.  Heresies and the proliferation of “inspired Gospels” made it imperative for the Church to write down the oral tradition.  As I said before, it was the Church, the holy apostolic catholic Church that collected the writings.  Russ, when you sit down to read the Bible, you are *de facto* accepting the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, of the Magisterium and of the Pope.  You are saying, I agree that the Catholic Church was right about the canon of the Bible.  There is no way around that.  Your Bible is– at its foundation– the work of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.  (You’re welcome.)

(Speaking of which, which version of the Bible are you reading?    Do you know Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew or Latin?  Do you read the texts in their original language?  Or are you RELYING on someone else’s interpretation?  Whose interpretation and translation are you reading?  I read on Christianity Today that a big battle is brewing over the newest ‘translation’ of the Protestant Bible.  Seems there’s going to be a lot of gender-neutral language in the next version.  Boy, I’m sure glad the Magisterium would never allow that in the Catholic Church.  Anyways…just thought I should let you know that decisions about the Word of God–translations, interpretations, changes to text, modernizing, etc.–are being made for you …not by the Holy Spirit but by some publishers in Wheaton, Illinois.  Oh, and did you know, Martin Luther added a word to your Bible.  He was called on it by other Protestant Reformers and he basically said, “I don’t care, it’s my Bible.”  I wonder what the Evangelist Paul would have to say about Martin Luther claming the Bible as his own plaything and changing Paul’s inspired text…. Oh, what was the word Luther added?  He added “only” to the passage about…oh gosh, I don’t want to spoil it.  You should look it up.)

Speaking for myself, Russ–

  • I believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection was sufficient to redeem the world. 
  • I believe that ancient Hebrew Scripture reflects God’s plan for our redemption from the beginning of time, which is Salvation History, a history that was fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
  • I believe that God’s salvific plan was completed in Jesus and Jesus alone. 
  • I believe that Jesus consecrated His apostles and commissioned them to go preach the Good News to all the ends of the world. 
  • I believe that they did just this, through the holy Catholic Church, and guided by the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to them.   
  • I do not believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, only to have His message absconded by a whore and the antichrist, with the message perverted or lost for 1500 years until Martin Luther came and saved itI do not believe Christ failed, and I do not believe that the birth of Martin Luther was necessary to bail Him out.  I do not believe that God sent Martin Luther as the real messiah.
  • I believe in our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ, and I, like the Catholic Church, “preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23), NOTMartin Luther justified.’
  • I do not believe Martin Luther is part of God’s salvation plan at all .  And that is what all the Protestant Reformation boils down to:  whether you believe Jesus Christ when He gave Peter the keys and promised eternal protection for the Church, OR whether you believe that a second messiah was needed to come and resurrect Jesus’ teachings. 

The question for yourself is what you believe.  It is up to each of us to decide for ourselves.  “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Best wishes on your faith journey, Russ.  I do not think I can help you anymore, not only because I’m unqualified but most in particular because I get agitated, argumentative and somewhat snippy, and that’s not why I have this little online diary.  If you feel the need to debate Catholic theology further, I recommend that you click on the link to the right for Catholic Answers.  Those guys are great: smart, funny, truly Biblical and they are all Catholic Apologists–it’s what they do for a living.  It’s not really my gig. 

May the peace that surpasses all understanding be yours.

Luce

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