The Law of Causality and Sola Scriptura

I do not expect that the following argument is going to win a Protestant to the Catholic Faith. I have learned from St. Thomas Aquinas that reason has its limits in persuasion, and when reason reaches the wall, Grace is what pulls it over. My reasoning here is akin to the reasoning to God’s existence, namely, that it offers a proof that will not necessarily convince the reader of any certainty, but rather it will ‘predispose one to faith and help them see that faith is not opposed to reason’ (CCC 35).

Being a convert to the Faith, I am well aware of the a priori assumptions that Protestants hold about the Christian religion, for I held them myself. It was not until those assumptions were challenged that I became aware of their errors. The issue I wish to address here is the logical incongruity of the Protestant beliefs on the Bible and the Church. Many Catholic apologists have written about the non sequitur tenets of Protestantism, which includes this matter of illogical formulation. However, I do not want to address the teaching of tradition or provide Scriptural corroboration for extra-biblical truths. The matter I wish to address is much simpler. All it requires is the use of logic and deduction. Here is my point: The Protestant beliefs concerning the Church and the Bible, and consequently their relation to one another, violate the Law of Causality when they contend that the Bible alone is infallible and that the Church is not. (I am grateful to Dr. Peter Kreeft for birthing in me this truth, for it helped in my conversion.)

 

The Law of Causality Refutes Sola Scriptura

Many thinkers have taught the Law of Causality, but I am just going to focus on one. In his book, A Treatise on Human Nature, David Hume, a philosopher with whom I seldom agree, predicated some rules by which the Law of Causality operated. In it, he lists eight rules by which the Law of Causality operates, but we are only concerned with one, namely, the rule that ‘the same cause always produces the same effect, and the same effect never arises but from the same cause’ (Hume 173). This is easily seen in and understood by our experience. It is a fundamental metaphysical truth about reality; it is, in fact, self-evident. It is impossible, by means of natural processes alone, to get more from less. I cannot get a block of gold from a sliver of it. I cannot get an ice sculpture of St. Peter’s Basilica from an ice cube. Such cause-and-effect relationships are diametrically opposed to reality, opposed to the way nature works. No one in their right mind would argue a position such as this, yet Protestants seem to do it all the time.

Protestantism is under-girded by five pillars (five solae), but the most often invoked ones by Protestants are sola scriptura, sola fide, and sola gratia (Allen). One of the most divisive between Catholics and Protestants is the belief of sola scriptura, the belief that the Bible is the sole authority on and the sole arbiter of God’s revelation (Leffler & Jones). In other words, the Bible always has the final word, and thus does not need the Church to dictate dogma to the faithful. Therefore, it is the belief among Protestants that the Bible is infallible and that the Church is not. The Church exists as an impetus for Christian fellowship, while Jesus, whose fullest image is found in the Bible, remains at the center. Nevertheless, the formula remains: the Church is fallible in structure and in its members, and the Bible alone is the rule of faith from which all revelation is taken.

 

The Church and the Bible

The problem here is obvious, particularly pertaining to the violation of the Law of Causality. Did not the Bible come from the Church? Was it not in the fourth century at the Councils of Hippo, Carthage, and Rome wherein the Church first authorized the seventy-two book canon of Scripture? If this is indeed so, how can one reconcile, in light of the Law of Causality, the dichotomist conceptualization of the Church and Scripture? Protestants are claiming that an infallible effect (the Bible) came from a fallible cause (the Church). This violates the Law of Causality, for the cause and the effect must always be similar, or as Hume put it, ‘like causes always produce like effects’ (Hume 174). This cause-and-effect relationship is incongruent with reality, just as one might say that my producing an infallible mathematical proof is incongruent with reality, for I know very little about mathematics. In fact, this breach of logical consequence may alert a teacher or publisher to plagiarism. If a professor receives a paper of exceptional erudition by a student who has hitherto submitted sub-par work, the professor is likely to be suspicious that the student plagiarized — for the effect is not congenial to the cause. Likewise, if the Church is fallible, and as an institution is prone to defection of the body and, more importantly, distortion of or contradiction of the truth, then it could not have produced the Bible. From such a fallible Church, readily admitted to be so (a millennium later) by the Protestant reformers, we could have no certainty of whether the books contained in the Bible are inspired by God Unless, however, you qualify the claim with an exception — which is precisely what happens.

 

The Holy Spirit, Extra-Biblical Inspiration? No! Protection From Error, Infallibility? Yes!

The exception that Protestants attempt to make is that during the specific point in time in which the canonization of the Bible occurred, the bishops convened were divinely inspired to create the canon of Scripture. In other words, at that moment in time, the Holy Spirit told the bishops present at the early councils what the books of the Bible were. This rejoinder to my claim is hard to argue against without placing a limit on God’s providence, for certainly God is capable of divinely inspiring the delegates at the council to canonize the correct books. However, upon further consideration, this rejoinder fails. For any serious individual, it is easily discernible what the Church was doing and teaching at the time of the councils during which the canonization occurred. If one reads any of the Church fathers, he or she will know immediately what the Church taught and what Christians believed in the first few centuries. They were Catholic, with the same Faith as ours. With that in mind, then, if one is going to concede the possibility of the bishops at the councils being divinely inspired, then one must have to explain the divine circumvention of inspiring the bishops on other dogmatic matters as well, matters equally or more important than the canonization of Scripture, matters such as sheer blasphemy. Scott Hahn presented this dilemma wonderfully:

 

‘Why do you assume that the Holy Spirit led them to declare what books are inspired, when those same Bishops teach the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the veneration of Saints, devotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Purgatory, seven sacraments…’

Protestants Need a Deus Ex Machina Solution

The Protestant must answer these questions, for there is a consequent penumbra of maintaining the Protestant position on the Church and the Bible that must be resolved. In other words, the Protestant must attempt to answer why the Holy Spirit fixed the problem of which authors and holy books were divinely inspired text (when many of the faithful wrongly held this or that apocryphal book was inspired) and did not correct all the other “errors” Catholics believed in and practiced in the early Church and which Protestants consider superstitious or even blasphemous. The reason the canonization of Scripture was needed was because of the abundance of false teaching being promulgated during that time; therefore, why would the Holy Spirit resolve that issue but leave all the other issues, issues with which Protestants disagree, unattended?

Let us rephrase the question in the parlance of Protestantism by using Scripture to preface the question. According to John 16:13, the Spirit will ‘guide men into all truth’ (italics added). The Holy Spirit leads us to not just some truth, but He will guide us in all truth. Thus, does it not logically follow that if the Holy Spirit acted then and resolved one problem, why did He not resolve the rest, for according to Protestantism all of the beliefs that are clearly present at that time, and that are still present in the Church today, are heretical? Those beliefs, according to the Protestant, are damning. They jeopardize one’s salvation. By maintaining the dichotomous position of the Church and the Bible, Protestants must provide an explanation why the Holy Spirit waited until the middle of the sixteenth century to purge, with limited success, the faithful of their erroneous beliefs.

As I mentioned at the start, these arguments may not convince a Protestant of anything. They may not convince them of the infallibility of the Church. They may not convince them of the authority of the Magisterium. The only thing I hope for, and such is my continuous prayer, is that it predisposes them to look at the rationality of their creed, and evaluate its basic structure, its fundamental shape, in terms of plausible realities. If they do that, then, by the Grace of God, they will be certain of something.

Sources:

  • Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed.Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000. Print.
  • Hahn, S. “The Bible & The Church: both or neither.” Newman Apologetics Resource. 1994: n. page. Web. 7 Feb. 2012. http://www.star.ucl.ac.uk/~vgg/rc/aplgtc/hahn/m1/bbl.html
  • Hume, D. A Treatise of Human Nature. 2nd ed. London: Aldine Press, 1911. 173-175.
  • http://books.google.com/books?id=yYmqSeQC9rsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=treatise of human nature&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YFkxT5r-JIGFtgfK3qCLBw&ved=0CD4Q6AEwAg
  • Kreeft, P. Catholic Christianity. 1st ed. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2001. Print.
  • Leffler, W., and P. Jones. The Structure of Religion: Judaism and Christianity. 1st ed. Lanham: University Press of America, 2005. Print.
  • Michael Allen, R. Reformed Theology. 1st ed. New York: T& T Clark International, 2010. Print.
  • Mark, my brother in Christ, thanks for the thought provoking post,

    The church exists today as it has from the days of the apostles.
    Jesus says, where ever two or three are gathered in my name I am with them. Matthew 18:20
    Paul says, whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim his death until he comes again. First Corinthians 11:26
    Jesus is there just as He promised. Wherever the sacraments are celebrated and the Word (the gospel that Jesus dead and risen is Lord) is preached that’s the church. You are quite right to say the church predates written scripture.  In fact the church post dates scripture too.  Because Jesus keeps his Word anyone with simple faith in Christ as Lord is saved just as Jesus himself taught. They need not join a particular denomination in order to be reached by God’s grace; they only need simple faith in Christ as Lord.

    You presume all protestants subscribe to a form of fundamentalism called Biblicism. In exchange you encourage them to swim toward a form of “traditional” Roman Catholicism. Experience proves fundamentalisms, like these 2 different forms, are sometimes attractive. Fundamentalism of all stripes answers questions fast and allows shelter in company of those with similar beliefs.

    It’s in the moment, stepping out into the marketplace of ideas, when someone comes along and starts asking pesky questions that fundamentalism fails; but faith in Christ isn’t shaken in the world.  Jesus came because he loved the world John 3:15-18.  He came to save those with faith in himself and not just those who assent to the teachings of one group who gained power through force.  It’s not a surprise to learn that fundamentalism has offered you a temporary rest-bit from pesky questions.  You have swum to a point you believe is fixed; but there are no fixed points in the universe other than Jesus Christ: He is the Light of the World.

    Swim to Christ. He’s your light and your salvation.  There is no one you need fear.

    Pax, John

  • TIM

    Christ clearly founded a Church with the guarantee that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against It”.  http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drb&bk=47&ch=16&l=18#x  If anyone should hold that this Church has failed, they call Jesus a liar. If Jesus lied, then He is not God, as God is incapable of lying or of making a mistake. Therefore, the “jesus” of the protestants is a made-up idol, and they are idolators in a made-up “religion”.

  • Tim,
    My brother in Christ,
    I give thanks today knowing that the church of Christ has not failed because Christ, the one true head of the church has not failed.  Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth and his church has not failed because he keeps his promises.  He saves any who call on his name, not just those who share membership in one denomination.

    Fallible people acting collectively in Christ’s name have failed.
     –people acting as denominations, congregations, or councils have failed
    Fallible people acting individually have failed
    –people acting as theologians, pastors, popes, bishops, or just part of the priesthood of all believers have failed.

    Tim,
    I’d like to ask you a direct question: Was the Roman Catholic Churches view of execution as a valid punishment for heresy right or wrong?

    Saddly history repeatedly shows us how those in power in your “church” used force and threatened force creating an appearance of uniform orthodoxy. 

    Tim,  those crimes are evidence of a failed insitution.  Murder was wrong, even if Aquinas said it was morally acceptable.  Murder, even of one labeled a “hereitic”, is sin.  The 5th commandment was not nullified for those acting on behalf of Jesus Christ in whatever human capacity they might claim.

    Tim, Christ loves you so much he gave his life for you.  May you know the fullness of his cross and the mercy he has not only for those who share your beliefs but for the whole world. 

    Pax, John

  • Justin

    Pastor John-

     I’ve seen you post here before so something must be drawing you to consider Catholicism or at least ask questions about it. Take a look at the saints of our Church as well as the teachings on the sacraments. Spend some time in a Catholic Church before the Blessed Sacrament and open your heart to believe that He is really there, hidden in a Host within a Tabernacle. Spend much time there and bring a good catechism with you or a book about the spiritual life.

    The Church is made of of fallible men that can and do make mistakes and have acted poorly sometimes but she herself teaches infallibly. No Protestant ecclesial community is immune from people who act badly anymore then we are. Don’t reject Rome because you don’t like the teaching on the death penalty or you don’t like that certain heretics were killed for their errors. Heresy leads people away from God and  thus towards eternal ruin and thus should be punished. Sholuld heretics be killed? I think that is debatable but that they should be punished and silenced is, in my opinion, the duty of a Catholic State since the Church teaches that there is no salvation outside or her and heretics lead souls away from the the Church.

    I will pray a decade of the Rosary for you, that you may receive the grace to continue studying the Faith and that one day you may know the peace and grace of the sacraments, most especially Confession and Holy Communion. 

  • schmenz

    Dear Sir:

    It is a common failing to judge the past using our own modern prejudices as the standard.  If the Catholic Church, after conducting fair and honest trials in an ecclesiastical court, giving the defendant every possible latitude to state his case (yes, that is how it worked), finds the man guilty of outwardly professing Catholicism and secretly working to undermine it, and then turns him over to the secular arm for punishment there is the end of the matter.  What you fail to realize is that in a Catholic country heresy was regarded in the same manner as treason.  You can sit here on your lofty perch in the year 2012 and condemn these men of the past if you want to but you do your case no good by parading your ignorance of history.

    Of the 200+ denominations of Protestants out there, each squabbling with each other over this point of doctrine or that, you do not tell us which one you belong to.  Not that it matters much, of course, because no Protestant denomination can claim the Apostolic Succession, nor can it claim any guardianship over the truth.  Why, for example, should I accept your version of the essentials of Christianity, when I can find 200 other Protestant churches who disagree with you?  What authority can you show me to back up your claims?  It is no good to tell me that you are following Christ’s pure and undiluted teachings because some other Protestant who says something different from you will say the same thing.  Whom shall I believe, sir?

    You state that “fallible people acting collectively in Christ’s name have failed, etc.”  You are, presumably, referring to Catholicism.  But, failed in what?  The “failed” Church is still here after twenty centuries.  Yet various sects and denominations come and go.  I would hardly call a Church that came into being while Christ Himself walked the earth and is still with us after 2,000 years a “failed” enterprise.  That many of its members, religious and lay, have failed in their duties there is no doubt whatsoever.  But the Church founded by Christ, which history knows as the Catholic Church, has  not and can not fail.

    St Robert Bellarmine states the case admirably:  “The one and true Church is the congregation of men bound together by the profession of the same Christian faith, and by the communion of the same Sacraments, under the rule of the legitimate pastors, and especially of the one Vicar of Christ on earth, the Roman Pontiff.”  

    I do not know if you wish to respond to me but if you do I would ask you kindly not to refer to me as your “brother in Christ.”  We are not brothers in Christ because we do not profess the same Faith.  The Faith I profess, clumsily I admit, comes from Christ, the Fathers, Doctors and the unchanging doctrines of two millenia; the faith you profess comes from God knows where.  We cannot me brothers in the Faith until such time as you decide to climb aboard the one Ark of Salvation that God has provided.  When that happy day comes then will we be brothers.

  • Justin,
    my brother.  thanks for the prayers.  I look forward to the day when we wil join together at the great wedding feast as brothers in Christ without the walls of division. 

    I will consecrate the Eucharist this Sunday for the whole people of God.  In our congregation we practice open communion and you or anyone who comes hungry to receive Christ’s Body and Blood given for them for the forginess of sins is welcome.

    Pax, John

  • Tim,

    You ask a great question, “Who should you believe?”

    Believe Christ and his Word revealed to you by the Holy Spirit in Word and Sacrament.  There is no other to put your trust in than Jesus Christ.

    I must apologize to you directly.  I made an accusation that “your “church”” is responsible for grave crimes.  Leaders in The Roman church of history clearly were wrong in their actions and used force sinfully to supress disent in clear violation of the 5th Commandment.   Most Catholics today, seeking to be faithful to Christ’s Word have saught a new direction.  It is by facing the sins of the past and calling out those leaders and teachers who made grave errors condoning and participating in such sin.  I must apologize for any accusation I made against you or any contemporary Catholic of condoning such heinous acts. 

    I can’t however apologize for calling you my brother in Christ–You are my brother.  The day you were baptized into Christ you became my brother.  To say otherwise would deny the saving power of God.  I am a slave to Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  He is the one true head of the church, he is the Lamb who was slain, he is the rejected one who has become the cornerstone.  Jesus revealed a love for the world (John 3:16).  If you won’t listen to Jesus alone consider Peter and Paul.  Both taught plainly echoing the prophet Joel (Joel 2:32) that any who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  The Apostles were clear.  Look closely at Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13.  

    Put your trust in Christ.  I pray for the day I will see you at the great wedding feast.  Now doubt you shall be amazed to see how many are already in the Body of Christ, the Ark of Salvation, because of God’s grace and His grace alone.

    May God’s blessings and peace be with you now and always. John

  • Schmenz and Tim

    I mistakenly addressed you both as the same person.  In my fallen state I make so many mistakes.

    Christ’s peace to you both,  John

  • schmenz

    The “heinous acts” you refer to, sir, are in your imagination.  If you refuse to face the historical facts there really is nothing more to discuss with you.  When you have expended even a slight, elementary study of these matters from unbiased sources we may exchange views again, but not before.

    Regarding a subsequent comment from you, whereby you mention that you will “consecrate” the Eucharist, charity forbids me to ask you what you mean by that.

  • Eleonore

    Pastor John,  Your comments regarding heretics being killed for the sin of heresy by the Catholic Church is one that needs some correcting.  I assume that you are referring to the time of the Inquisitions after the Protestant Revolt, a time much misunderstood and, frankly, lied about by Protestant historians.  To take the particular case of Spain, during the time of Ferdinand and Isabella and later, it was treasonous to profess any but the Catholic religion, unless one were a professed Jew or Muslim.  Treason was a crime punishable BY THE STATE (not the Church).  The heretic was given an inquiry (hence, the term Inquisition), taught proper doctrine and given a chance – indeed, many chances – to recant his or her heresy.  Only if the criminal remained adamant in his heresy was he punished, and not usually by execution.  It is a myth that thousands were burned at the stake for heresy.  I direct you to two small and very interesting books, Dr. Diane Moczar’s SEVEN LIES ABOUT CATHOLIC HISTORY: INFAMOUS MYTHS ABOUT THE CHURCH’S PAST AND HOW TO ANSWER THEM and WHY APOLOGIZE FOR THE SPANISH INQUISITION?  (Both are available from SBC’s bookstore.)  Then there is Henry Kamen’s THE SPANISH INQUISITION, A HISTORICAL REVISION, a much longer study.  It is a fact that the horrid tortures attributed to the Inquisitions by enemies of the Church and of Spain were actually done by the vicious torturers of Henry VIII’s and Elizabeth I’s henchmen against Catholics, with more than 72,000 Catholics being slaughtered during Henry’s regime alone, not to mention the theft of Church lands and the pauperization of those peasants who lived on those lands.   Facts is facts, as they say.  You just have to be of good will and find them.  Eleonore

  • Tomas de Torquemada

    Well said, madam.

    Thanks to the Black Legend and other calumnies, most people are only too willing (indeed, eager) to believe the worst of the various inquisitions, including the Spanish Inquisition.  All played an essential role in protecting (more, preserving) a given society’s Catholic identity; protecting both Church and State from influences and forces that sought to disrupt and ultimately destroy the established order and culture.  As Diane Moczar wrote in the book you recommended:  “Given its formidable task of guarding the purity of the Faith in Christian souls…the overall record of the [Spanish] Inquisition in dealing with heresy is not only defensible but admirable.”

    Two additional recommendations, if I may:  “Characters of the Inquisition”, by William Thomas Walsh, and “Inquisition”, by Edward Peters.

  • Tomas and Eleonore,
    my sister and brother

    A murder is murder no matter the person killed or the number killed. 
    Even those you call heretics were still created in the likeness of God. 
    There is more than the Spanish Inquisition to face here.  In 1415 Jan Huss was condemned a heretic part of his crime was naming the killing of heretics as sin adn asking the church to repent.  After his burning Bohemia was invaded to squelch the evangelical renewal the church.

    As I read you words I wonder if you mean to stand apart from the teachings of Pope John Paul II?

    He wisely instructed Catholic people to both give and to seek forgiveness for the very real sins of the past.  Please consider his words:

    “Let us forgive and ask forgiveness! While we praise God who, in his merciful love, has produced in the Church a wonderful harvest of holiness, missionary zeal, total dedication to Christ and neighbour, we cannot fail to recognize the infidelities to the Gospel committed by some of our brethren, especially during the second millennium. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions.”

    Was Pope John Paul II right or wrong?

    In Christ Peace, John 

  • Schmenz,
    My blood bought brother,
    If there were no heinous acts then why did John Paul II speak of them?

    Please consider his words,

    Let us forgive and ask forgiveness! While we praise God who, in his merciful love, has produced in the Church a wonderful harvest of holiness, missionary zeal, total dedication to Christ and neighbour, we cannot fail to recognize the infidelities to the Gospel committed by some of our brethren, especially during the second millennium. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/homilies/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_20000312_pardon_en.html

    I’m not asking you to stop being Catholic or to not be proud of what Christ has done in your life.  I am asking that you at least take Pope John Paul II seriously.  If you want to ignore me that’s fine; but I’d encourage you not to ignore him.

    and please feel free to ask any question you want of me.  If you ever want to ask any questions about Lutheran liturgy or theology I’d be glad to visit with you,
    Pax, John 

  • schmenz

    Sir,

    I have not the slightest problem with ignoring Pope John Paul II’s infamous apologies to all and sundry.  The Popes words, which are not protected by the charism of infallibility, are merely his own opinions.  His apologies caused great scandal to the entire world (not just the Catholic world) because they were based on a false reading of history, a fear of the media, and his own personal failings.  Some have called his actions treasonous.   These apologies, like his scandalous Assisi meetings, his idiotic “theology of the body”, his appointments of villains to high ecclesiastical office, his fiddling while Rome burned, his lowering of the dignity of his Supreme Office by appearing in Jewish temples (and never once encouraging them to accept Christ) all highlight what was perhaps the most troubled papacy in history.

    The Church has suffered from weak, mediocre and downright awful Popes throughout its history, yet She survives.  She will survive him.  One day we will again have a saintly man occupying the Chair of Peter, a man of courage and holiness.  That we have not had such a man since St Pius X says more about us than anything else.

    Now again, sir, you have had two people refer you to books that will enlighten you.  Now we all know that we can lead a horse to water but not make him drink, nevertheless we have led you to water.  It’s up to you to take a drink of it.

  • Tomas de Torquemada

    First, the supposed horrors of the various inquisitions are just that — supposed; thoroughly antithetical to historical fact.  The charges made and abetted by, respectively, Protestant and Jewish “historians” are, at best, gross distortions and exaggerations; at worst, outright fictions and lies.

    Second, the prudential opinions, judgments, and pronouncements of a given pope are not “teachings”, and are not binding on the faithful.  The leaders of the Church since and because of the disastrous Second Vatican Council have tended to be weak-kneed, mealy-mouthed, and jibber-jabbering namby-pambies.  Sad to say, Pope John Paul II was anything but an exception to this distressing conciliar and post-conciliar rule.  His neurotic and self-indulgent apologizing was unwarranted, anti-historical, and most damaging to the Bride of Christ.  In addition, his tiresome mea maxima culpas turned my stomach — and my stomach doesn’t like being turned.

  • Tomas, my psuedonymous brother,

    Your stomach turning is not the highest concern for those who seek Jesus and truth.  Frankly it isn’t a surprise that your stomach should churn.  That’s your God given conscience moving you from complaceny of accepting Rome’s past sins into the main stream of the Chruch catholic today.  It is the old adam in you fighting against the new creation of our Lord Jesus Christ that churns as you hear the leader of the church of Rome seek to make make peace and confess the crimes of the past. 

    Follow his lead.  He sought in the way of Paul VI and John XXIII to bring the church of Rome closer to Christ.  Today Benedict XVI is coming towards the way of Jesus Christ the Son of God who preached on a Mountain not about power achieved through violence but of humility and peace.

    May the peace of God which passes all understanding decend upon you.  May His holy angels have charge over you that the evil one may not encroach upon you.  May you know the fullness of God’s grace and love for you and the whole world now and always

    Peace to you now and always, John

  • Schmenz my brother,

    You name historians as if they are the final authority; yet you claim to be Catholic right? 

    You speak so ill of John Paul II; and even if he was mistaken about the facts of history (which he’s not) he is still inviting you and the church of Rome closer to the way of Jesus: the way of peace and humility that he spoke of in a sermon on mountain than many popes of the 2nd millenia ever did.

    As I read you words I heard you beginning to embrace the logic of Jan Hus in his bold work DE ECCLESSIA.  Hus, 600 years ago faced this same conundrum, what to do with “weak, mediocre and downright awful popes”  Hus had 3 and then 4 popes to choose from, if you think our age is confused think again.

    Hus wisely turned to Christ and not to falible councils and their decrees either past or present.  Hus, like the true church has for 2000 years, clung to Christ.  We cling to him as the head of the church catholic just as the apostles did and just as we always have have.  We cling to Christ and Christ comes to us just as promised in the Word and the Sacraments not because we have some ecclesial endorsement of approval.  In Christ Hus found peace that this world can’t give.  Hus had that peace as the servants of the church in Rome killed him.  That same peace of Christ that passes all human understanding moved in the church of Bohemia brining evangelical revival while 4 different parties fought over the human insitution of the papacy.  Saddly Rome invaded to silence the Renewal of the Church. 

    In His good time Jesus the Light of Light opens us His Word. 
    On Sunday morning in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper may you join your voice with the whole church on earth: Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, Novus Ordo Catholic and more who’s names Christ knows that you and I don’t know.  May you know tomorrow morning the joy of singing with all your brothers and sisters in the church on earth together with the choirs of heaven in their unending hymn.. 

    I commend to you the works of Jan Hus.  Like the saints of old may you drink deep of Jesus’ the Word made flesh.  May God the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ bless you now and always.  May his angels have charge over you that the words of evil one will not prevail against you.  May he leave you with peace.

  • Tomas de Torquemada

    Are you serious?  No, don’t bother to answer; I already know the answer.  But I ask because I can’t recall the last time I read such prissy and arrant nonsense.

    By the way, I’m not at all fooled, let alone favorably impressed, by your precious and supposedly brotherly approach to those with whom you disagree.  That mendicant preacher, “peace unto you, brother”, attitude is almost always as phony as a three-dollar bill (think of Preacher in Davis Grubb’s “The Night of the Hunter”).  It certainly is in your case — your quaking fear and sneering hatred of the one true Church is as ugly as it is manifest.

  • Tomas, or whatever your name is,

    I am serious, you are my brother bought with the blood of the Lamb of God. The price Jesus paid on the cross to save those who believe is to high for this to be a matter anyone would treat lightly or facetiously.  Jesus taught His followers, “…love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:35) I will follow His Word and deal with all people with respect and charity.  

    You seem surprised that someone you disagree over a matter of faith would write to you online line with compassion and humility and not venom or wrath.  If I follow Christ which words should I choose?  Please answer that question, I’m curious to know what you think a Christian speaks like to another believer.

    Many people learn in their family and congregation how to deal with those they disagree with imitating Christ.  Following Christ’s example of charity and compassion as we deal with our parents, siblings, spouses, in-laws and children we learn most how to both disagree with someone and still care for those who we disagree with as people made in the image and likeness of God.

    I’m sorry to offend you by telling you this little sliver of the Good News; but I pray in time you will see the fullness of God’s grace not only for you; but for the whole world.

    May the peace of Christ be with you always.  John.

  • Tomas de Torquemada

    Ha!  I don’t a believe a word, you black-frocked mountebank.  Moreover, if one isn’t a Catholic, one isn’t a Christian.  Protestants are, by definition, heretics.  And those Protestants who refer, hands piously folded, to their fellow man as “brother” are annoying heretics.

    Your passport photo, I presume:

    http://thebestpictureproject.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/nightofthehunter11.jpg

  • Donald E. Flood

    John,

    It is absurd, heretical, and a violation of the “Law of Causality” to say that burning an obstinate, unrepentant heretic alive at the stake is intrinsically evil and/or unjust.  For to take such a position would be to deny the existence of Hell, an eternal fire, and/or to “declare” it as being something that is intrinsically evil and/or unjust, which would also be to deny the Perfect Nature of the One and Triune God, who was the One who created Hell, and what He has revealed to us through Scripture & Tradition as to how to avoid going there.  Of course, Sacred Scripture teaches us otherwise, from the words of the Apostle Paul:

    “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides
    that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.  As we said
    before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides
    that which you have received, let him be anathema.” (Galatians 1:8-9)

    Some translations of Sacred Scripture use the phrase “eternally
    condemned” in place of “anathema.”  Elsewhere, Saint Paul states,

    “To deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 5:5)

    “Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander, whom I have delivered up to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:20)

    Of course, Pope Leo X condemned the notion that burning heretics was intrinsically unjust:

    Condemned Proposition 33: That
    heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit. (Exsurge
    Domine)

    As for Pope John Paul II and what he did (and did not) say, consider the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which he, as the Sovereign Pontiff, promulgated:

    Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or
    obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to
    be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total
    repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission
    to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church
    subject to him.
    Can. 1184 §1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:

     1º notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;

     2º those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;

     3º other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.

     §2. If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed.
    Can. 1364 §1. Without prejudice to the
    prescript of can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic,
    or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication; in addition, a
    cleric can be punished with the penalties mentioned in can. 1336, §1,
    nn. 1, 2, and 3.

     §2. If contumacy of long duration or the gravity of scandal demands it,
    other penalties can be added, including dismissal from the clerical
    state.

    Pope John Paul II also affirmed the existence of Hell in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    1033
    We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But
    we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor
    or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who
    hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has
    eternal life abiding in him.” Our Lord warns us that we
    shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the
    poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in
    mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means
    remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state
    of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is
    called “hell.”

    He also affirms that excommunication from the Catholic Church is a grave sin:
    1463 Certain
    particularly grave sins incur excommunication, the most severe
    ecclesiastical penalty, which impedes the reception of the sacraments
    and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which
    absolution consequently cannot be granted, according to canon law,
    except by the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by
    them. In danger of death any priest, even if deprived of faculties for
    hearing confessions, can absolve from every sin and excommunication.

    So, by the “Law of Causality,” Pope John Paul II affirmed that heresy is a grave sin, which will send an individual to Hell forever if not absolved at the point of death.

    Pope Paul II also affirmed, at least implicitly, the practice of burning heretics alive at the stake:

    2283
    We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have
    taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the
    opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who
    have taken their own lives.This is the reason why heretics were burned as opposed to being beheaded, hung, etc., to give that person as much opportunity as possible for “final repentance.”While modern atheistic society would find much of the above to be absolutely repulsive (although, a number of atheists have admitted that the Inquisitions make perfect sense if Catholicism is, indeed, the One True Faith), if you take “sola scriptura” seriously, then heresy (which, in Latin, means “choice”) is a sin, which like murder, can send someone to everlasting damnation.  Just as Medieval Catholic society would punish those who would murder the body, so, too, they would punish those who were in a position to not only “eternally murder” their own soul, but the souls of others.Blessings,Don

  • It seems to me that Mr. Gonnella’s article is exceptional for pointing out so clearly just one of many reasons why the Christian faith cannot be held outside of the Catholic Church. The more I learn about the faith, and about the doubts opposing it, the more I’m convinced of the truth of the Catholic teachings, especially that they cannot be held and lived until one has already accepted them. Even then, there is so much more to learn. It’s too obvious once a person is already in the Church. It’s not easy to argue the reality of what our senses and minds have taught us. What’s missing in the opposing arguments is always the same thing: holiness.

    For example, here we have a Lutheran pastor, who admits he is an unlikely one, nevertheless inviting sheep from another fold to follow him instead, or, as a ‘getting to know you’ gesture, in case we’re not ready to break with Holy Mother Church just yet, to ask him any questions we might have. He has no qualms about accusing us of metaphorically harbouring criminals (inquisitors and ‘murderers’), and of being just another ‘denomination’ among many, perhaps the most hypocritical one. All the while, he ignores what the word denomination actually means. He’s a Lutheran, so how could he be expected to have learned this? I pity him and his sheep. They have nothing left to learn, because their doctrine is demonstrably shallow, and their churches and liturgy, empty shells.

    Even when they admit their own imperfections, which they confess to be caused by their fallen state, those admissions are always about things that aren’t even sinful. For example, hitting the ‘post’ button too soon, or making some other innocent mistake. So what? Who cares?

    Even if all the worst things that have ever been said about the faithful are true in many cases, it shouldn’t make a difference in our decision on religion. If we can’t explain why we follow a church that was descended from an apostle like Judas, then we’re in trouble already. If those outside want to offer the testimony of history to prove our corruption, why do they ignore the same testimony to prove our singular holiness? They reject the saints outright.

    All the while they do their utmost to goad us into impatience with them, with their ‘brother and sister’ inclusive language, their ‘thank you’s, and their shallow demonstrations of manners. You know, you can keep your manners and brotherly and sisterly love and still be a faithful Christian. You don’t have to resort to name-calling to prove your holiness, although sometimes it helps make a point that can’t be made otherwise! There were many saints who called people ‘offensive’ but appropriate names, perhaps early forerunners of Rush Limbaugh, in that one way. I myself am prepared to be addressed as the ‘sister in Christ’ of a Lutheran, but the moment someone objects to how I address them, I would hope I’d have the humility to treat them the way they’d like to be treated, as long as no sin is involved. Personally, I don’t disown someone just because they’re bad brothers. We’re all related through Adam and through Noah anyway. But I can see from the expressions on people’s faces if I’ve irritated them by saying, for example, ‘I’ll pray for you’, and I try to remember to not to do that again, to that person. I also try to make sure I don’t show my own impatience with people who irritate me. I try, but of course, I fail more often than not. But I do try. Lent is really hard. God bless Lent!

    I’m convinced, by the way, that our Lutheran pastor really does believe what he’s saying, poor thing. I wouldn’t call him a fake, although he has all the appearances of one. It’s hard for me to be charitable to someone who I think is a fake, and so I must resist that temptation, whether I want to or not! Especially if I don’t want to! God bless Lent! 

  • Donald,
    My brother. 
     
    This line of logic is that it presumes God needs help from humans to be God.  More to the point God alone creates faith.  We in the church are stewards of the mysteries of God, servants who spread God’s word (1st Corinthians 4:1)  Humans aren’t able alone to create faith through any means, faith is the right and proper work of God the Holy Spirit.  Because no human can create faith God sent His son into the world.  Consider Paul’s word to Titus 3:3-5 and remember what God has done for you and for all who believe saving you by faith. 

    God needs no help, through torture or murder, to create moments when people to come to faith.  This line of logic presumes Jesus is weak, but in truth Jesus weakness reveals his great strength.  This line of logic presumes God needs help to create time for people to come to faith.  God is the author of all time and in time God comes as He chooses.  God is able alone, through the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to create a saving faith in anyone of God’s own choosing.

    Fyodor Dostoyevsky explored this logic fully in his 19th century novella the Grand Inquisitor you can find it in Book Five of The Brothers Karamazov.  I commend it to you.  If you won’t read it consider Romans 6 to understand again what the Apostle Paul meant by speaking about our death to sin Romans 6:1-4, this is not metaphorical death it is the death of the old sinner and the beginning of a new creation who loves God and neighbor.   As you read Paul consider the subject of the each sentence.  God is the one working faith not any human or human institution.

    May God richly bless you with saving faith and peace in your spirit .
    Peace to you now and always, John

  • Then, by your own logic, your own ‘church’ is useless. I guess, by your logic, the God who seems to have left Adam to cultivate Eden was just humouring Adam. Perhaps a mother is only humouring her child when she accepts its help while she’s going about her work. What a miserable view!

    Dear Donald, what a great post! Thank you!

  • Astrid
    My sister in Christ,

    I’m a pastor who pledged in ordination not to give anyone false hope.  I stumbled upon this site a few months ago and was stunned to see such words.  I have replied publicly to public postings about matters of the Christian faith about which I disagree with many who have posted here.  I disagree with many here about the nature of the Church, salvation, and the way we ought to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ the Son of God born of the Virgin.  I have never hidden that disagreement; but I must not hide from you or any the grace and love of Jesus Christ who died to save sinners like me and you. 

    If you don’t believe me that’s fine, it matters not to me what you think of me or my denomination, what matters to me is Christ and His Word. 

    May the peace of Christ, a peace this world can’t give, order your heart and mind,
    John

  • Yes, I see you are stunned, and I do sympathize with your condition. I was stunned once myself, for many years. I’m still somewhat stunned, as many people could testify to. It’s not fun being stunned, and I wouldn’t wish to stun anyone. I hope you’ll overcome that. Your disagreements are obvious, and don’t need to be pointed out. I hope for you too. I hope you do have good will. You seem to want to bring hope to the world. That’s good. Thank you for your prayers for me.

  • John,

    As Pope Boniface VIII said in his Papal Bull Unam Sanctam, “Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John ‘there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.'”  Or, consider what our Lord said in addition to Boniface’s citation:

    “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth
    me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

    “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (John 20:23)

    The list, of course, goes on — what words could be clearer?

    As for punishing heretics with death, did not Our Lord also say,

    “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in
    me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:41, Luke 17:2)

    Blessings,

    Don

  • Donald
    my brother

    Who is Jesus speaking to in these passages?
    Is he only speaking to Peter?
    no, read the context of these passages and Jesus is clearly speaking to the 12 Apostles in Luke 10:16 and to ten in John 20:23 (and maybe others). 

    These are directions for all who would follow in Jesus steps not one group.

    Now look especially again at John 20:24-31 and the interactions between Jesus and Thomas.  Jesus didn’t come to settle a score with Thomas for his lack of faith but to reveal himself declaring peace.  This is the true character of God who loves us so much he’d die for the whole world.  May we imitate him.
    Peace to you now and always, John

  • Astrid,
    My sister,
      God doesn’t need any of our efforts, but God is capable of even using our work, even when misguided, to a good end.

      Look carefully at last chapter of Genesis.  Joseph told his brothers that what they have meant for evil God used for good Genesis 50:15-21.
    Peace to you, John

  • Tomas, what ever your name may be,
    You are my brother set free by Christ to live today.
    You are free to imagine me however you like or call me any name you like.
    And I will pray for you that Christ’s peace may decend upon you and that you will awaken to see the fullness of Christ’s church beyond the bounds of one denomination.
    Pax,
    John

  • Donald E. Flood

     John,

    Your PRIVATE interpretation of those passages of Sacred Scripture was taught and/or held by NO ONE prior to Hus.  Consider what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

    “Outside the Church there is no salvation”

    846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and
    Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth,
    is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way
    of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He
    himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and
    thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men
    enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved
    who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God
    through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

    847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

    Those who, through no fault of their
    own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who
    nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in
    their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of
    their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.

    848
    “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no
    fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without
    which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the
    obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”

    Note the “often repeated by the Church Fathers,” John.  Pray tell, John, why should I accept YOUR authority over that of the Church Fathers, who were the Successors to the Apostles???

    Blessings,

    Don

  • Donald,

    My brother, before you read any interpretter of scripture its a good idea to start with the Word of God on your own. 
    Jesus was clearly speaking to all the 12, if not to the 70, in Luke 10:16. 
    In John 20 in the upper room Jesus was speaking to every surviving apostle except Thomas on Easter evening. 

    You or any other person is free to argue that Jesus was speaking to Peter only but that argument isn’t based either in scripture or plain reason.

    Peace to you now and always.  John.

  • Then, by your own logic, we need neither the Church, or scripture, or good works. God bless you.

  • It’s too late to follow your advice and ‘start with the Word of God on (our) own’. Our Holy Mother taught us when we were still little. She knows best!

  • Astrid
    My sister
    Please don’t put words in my mouth or in Paul’s in anyone else.  God has chosen to use sinners to spread his Holy Word. 

    I’d encourage you to read Galatians 3 and Romans 5 and 6 to start off.  We need Christ and as the full gift of salvation by grace unmerited and unearned through becomes so much sweeter.  All the saints who share that Word with you are used by God, God never needed any human or human words, but God’ll use them.

    The great Swedish Theologian Gustav Wingren endeavored to answer your very question in his book the Living Word.  The great mercy of God was revealed first in Jesus and then by all who follow him.  God uses us, but he doesn’t need us, Jesus spoke of rocks shouting out.  If He needs to shout from the rocks to announce his saving love for you Jesus will do it.

    Peace to you now, John

  • I truly do sympathize with you, Pastor. It would be difficult for you to convert. I imagine you’d have a lot to lose. God bless you.

  • Astrid
    I’m not looking to convert or to convert you to Christ.  He’s saved us both already together with all who believe; that is the Good News plain and sweet.  All I wait for today is for you Astrid to join with Paul and all the saints set free not by works but by faith.  No doubt you’ve striven long and hard under the teachings of the law.  there is greater freedom for you still to find and when you do you’ll no such joy in the Lord. 
    Peace to you now and always.

  • oops,
    when you do find the full freedom of the gospel you will know such joy
    Peace and Joy,
    John

  • John,

    You really need to reread this article.  Where did the “Word of God” COME from, John?  How about the Christians who lived during the second century, John?  Who TAUGHT them the Gospel?  How about the Christians who lived during the first century prior to any New Testament writings?  Who TAUGHT them?  How about the many Christians during the first and second millennium who could not even read, John?  Who TAUGHT them??!

    Answer these questions, John.  You’re “interpretation” of Sacred Scripture is simply not that of the early Church.

    Blessings,

    Don

  • So now you’re a prophet too. Goodness, what a reputation you must have with your followers! I’d advise you not to hold your breath, but you’re free to, if you like. I don’t accept your advice on reading material. My Mother taught me not to follow strangers. 

    This conversation demonstrates why ecumenical ‘dialogue’, done the way it is today, with the idea that both sides have equal authority, is flawed. 

    Not only would you benefit from re-reading this article, but perhaps you wouldn’t do badly by by re-reading the posts. God bless you. 

  • TIM

    Pastor John, “You Gotta Be Kidding!” by Voris.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQZBukPUwAA&feature=related