Saturday, September 29, 2007

Augustine on Scripture

"Consider, moreover, the style in which Sacred Scripture is composed,—how accessible it is to all men, though its deeper mysteries are penetrable to very few. The plain truths which it contains it declares in the artless language of familiar friendship to the hearts both of the unlearned and of the learned; but even the truths which it veils in symbols it does not set forth in stiff and stately sentences, which a mind somewhat sluggish and uneducated might shrink from approaching, as a poor man shrinks from the presence of the rich; but, by the condescension of its style, it invites all not only to be fed with the truth which is plain, but also to be exercised by the truth which is concealed, having both in its simple and in its obscure portions the same truth. Lest what is easily understood should beget satiety in the reader, the same truth being in another place more obscurely expressed becomes again desired, and, being desired, is somehow invested with a new attractiveness, and thus is received with pleasure into the heart. By these means wayward minds are corrected, weak minds are nourished, and strong minds are filled with pleasure, in such a way as is profitable to all. This doctrine has no enemy but the man who, being in error, is ignorant of its incomparable usefulness, or, being spiritually diseased, is averse to its healing power."

-Augustine, On Christian Doctrine II:9

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Uncertain Infallibility

Not only can Catholics not provide a list of infallible teachings, they appear to not always be sure if a particular teaching is infallible or not. One such example is the debate a few years back over JPII's apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Latin for On Ordination to the Priesthood) is a Roman Catholic document discussing the Roman Catholic Church's position requiring "the reservation of priestly ordination to men alone." This Apostolic Letter was issued from the Vatican by Pope John Paul II on 22 May 1994....Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was not issued under the extraordinary papal magisterium as an ex cathedra statement, and so is not considered infallible in itself. There is, however, a case for its contents to be infallible under the ordinary magisterium, as this doctrine has been held consistently by the Church. In a responsum ad dubium dated October 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that the teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was to be held definitively, as belonging to the deposit of faith. In 1998, this was clarified slightly (in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Doctrinal Commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem) to state that the teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was not taught as being divinely revealed, although it might someday be so taught in the future... Wikipedia

Since the issuance of the apostolic letter, however, reactions from some quarters have served to cast doubt on the definitive character of the papal teaching. The nature of this dubium concerned the question whether or not the teaching set forth in the letter belonged to the deposit of faith (depositum fidei). Conceivably, some warrant for the doubt may be found in the Pope's letter itself.

So if a Roman Catholic cannot identify all of the infallible teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and at times is not sure whether a given doctrine is infallible or not, where is the certainty that an infallible authority is suppose to provide?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Catholic Quotes on the Bible

"But the Bible is more than a human book; it is a divine book having God for its author. God produced it by giving the supernatural charisma of inspiration to certain writers, and willed their inspired writings to belong to the deposit of truth which is the teaching Church's spiritual patrimony, to be administered by her for the religious enlightenment and eternal salvation of souls. The Church is, therefore, the supreme interpreter of the sacred volumes.

-A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1951 (pg 9)
with imprimatur and acknowledgment of Pope Pius XII

Friday, September 21, 2007

Augustine on Scripture

"And hence it happened that even Holy Scripture, which brings a remedy for the terrible diseases of the human will, being at first set forth in one language, by means of which it could at the fit season be disseminated through the whole world, was interpreted into various tongues, and spread far and wide, and thus became known to the nations for their salvation. And in reading it, men seek nothing more than to find out the thought and will of those by whom it was written, and through these to find out the will of God, in accordance with which they believe these men to have spoken...But hasty and careless readers are led astray by many and manifold obscurities and ambiguities, substituting one meaning for another; and in some places they cannot hit upon even a fair interpretation. Some of the expressions are so obscure as to shroud the meaning in the thickest darkness. And I do not doubt that all this was divinely arranged for the purpose of subduing pride by toil, and of preventing a feeling of satiety in the intellect, which generally holds in small esteem what is discovered without difficulty....Nobody, however, has any doubt about the facts, both that it is pleasanter in some cases to have knowledge communicated through figures, and that what is attended with difficulty in the seeking gives greater pleasure in the finding.—For those who seek but do not find suffer from hunger. Those, again, who do not seek at all because they have what they require just beside them often grow languid from satiety. Now weakness from either of these causes is to be avoided. Accordingly the Holy Spirit has, with admirable wisdom and care for our welfare, so arranged the Holy Scriptures as by the plainer passages to satisfy our hunger, and by the more obscure to stimulate our appetite. For almost nothing is dug out of those obscure passages which may not be found set forth in the plainest language elsewhere."

-Augustine, On Christian Doctrine II:5-6

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Catholic Quotes on Salvation

"Here I repeat what I wrote to the Fifth Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences: 'Although the Church gladly acknowledges whatever is true and holy in the religious traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam as a reflection of that truth which enlightens all people, this does not lessen her duty and resolve to proclaim without failing Jesus Christ who is ‘the way and the truth and the life'... The fact that the followers of other religions can receive God's grace and be saved by Christ apart from the ordinary means which he has established does not thereby cancel the call to faith and baptism which God wills for all people'".

-John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia

Monday, September 17, 2007

Recent Posts on Beggars All

Here are some of my recent posts over at Beggars All:

Catholics on JWs

Infallibly Interpreted Scripture

Army of Mary

Not Saying Much with Flowers

Catholic Gospel for Muslims

When Catholics Represent Christianity

Catholic Piety vs Superstition

Catholic Quotes on the Bible

"It is the teaching of the Church that the Old Testament Scriptures were transferred to her ownership by Christ himself in view of her position as the new 'Israel of God' and the heir of the Old Testment promises; and that the New Testament Scriptures being written within the Church by some of its members for the benefit of all (or more precisely, within the society of Catholic Church by Catholics and for Catholics), are likewise her exclusive property, of which she is the absolute Owner, Guardian, Trustee and Interpreter."

-A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1951 (pg 8)
with imprimatur and acknowledgment of Pope Pius XII

Friday, September 14, 2007

Catholic Quotes on Salvation

"For those too who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and are not recognized as Christians, the divine plan has provided a way of salvation. As we read in the Council's Decree Ad Gentes, we believe that "God in ways known to himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel" to the faith necessary for salvation (AG 7). Certainly, the condition "inculpably ignorant" cannot be verified nor weighed by human evaluation, but must be left to the divine judgment alone. For this reason, the Council states in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes that in the heart of every man of good will, "Grace works in an unseen way.... The Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery" (GS 22)...

...This affirmation of the Savior's "uniqueness" derives from the Lord's own words. He stated that he came "to give his own life in ransom for the many" (Mk 10:45), that is, for humanity, as St. Paul explains when he writes: "One died for all" (2 Cor 5:14; cf. Rom 5:18). Christ won universal salvation with the gift of his own life. No other mediator has been established by God as Savior. The unique value of the sacrifice of the cross must always be acknowledged in the destiny of every man.

...For those, however, who have not received the Gospel proclamation, as I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, salvation is accessible in mysterious ways, inasmuch as divine grace is granted to them by virtue of Christ's redeeming sacrifice, without external membership in the Church, but nonetheless always in relation to her (cf. RM 10). It is a mysterious relationship. It is mysterious for those who receive the grace, because they do not know the Church and sometimes even outwardly reject her. It is also mysterious in itself, because it is linked to the saving mystery of grace, which includes an essential reference to the Church the Savior founded.

..Religions can exercise a positive influence on the destiny of those who belong to them and follow their guidance in a sincere spirit. However, if decisive action for salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit, we must keep in mind that man receives his salvation only from Christ through the Holy Spirit. Salvation already begins during earthly life. This grace, when accepted and responded to, brings forth fruit in the gospel sense for earth and for heaven.

...What has been said, however, should not lead to the conclusion that her missionary activity is less needed in these situations--quite the contrary. In fact, whoever does not know Christ, even through no fault of his own, is in a state of darkness and spiritual hunger, often with negative repercussions at the cultural and moral level. The Church's missionary work can provide him with the resources for the full development of Christ's saving grace, by offering full and conscious adherence to the message of faith and active participation in Church life through the sacraments."

-John Paul II, General Audience

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Catholic Quotes on Salvation

"The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation."

-Redemptoris missio

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fallible Certainty: Answers to jswranch, Part 3

Finishing up with jswranch’s comment on The Canon: Fallible Certainty post (see part 1 and part 2)…

I am not going to answer all of jswranch’s remaining comments because they are all basically the same objection that I mentioned in my Part 2 reply. His main assertion is that without an infallible organization on earth to declare what is or isn’t God’s Word, we cannot trust what scripture says because we do not infallibly know it is scripture. Apparently faith in God is not good enough, we need to have faith in an infallible organization of men to provide the certainty that RC’s demand.

Let me just briefly answer some of jswranch’s final thoughts:

Can we be infallibly certain an infallible book even exists? We cannot.

But apparently we can be infallibly certain that an infallible organization of men exists. Please, explain that one.

-If we deny that God established an institution of fallen, sinful human beings to infallibly teach the Gospel and the scriptures to us because they are fallen, sinful persons, can we believe that the Holy Spirit used fallen sinful human beings to even write infallible, inerrant books? No.

Huh? I haven’t seen anyone make that argument. The question is not COULD God create an infallible organization, the question is DID he.

Here are jswranch’s final 2 comments:

-(See above) Assuming FCIB (fallible collection of infallible books), does a source we can be dogmatically certain of exist by which we can know that there is such a thing as a bible? No. Assuming FCIB, we cannot be certain there is such a thing as the Bible. If you disagree, site a source we are certain of. A response such as a quote from lets say 2 Tim 3:15, begs us to state that we cannot be infallibly certain 2 Tim belongs in scripture. Can we say with certainty that we know scripture even exists or is inerrant from any source such as Acts 2:42? No. Why? Because we cannot be infallibly/dogmatically certain Acts is scripture.

-Can we be infallibly certain Jesus rose from the dead? No. First, we have already established that we cannot be infallibly certain of anything. Second, we do not infallibly have any source that tells us He did rise from the dead. Some books tell us he rose, but we are not certain those books are actually scripture, therefore we cannot be certain he rose from the dead if FCIB is true.

I am not going to answer these here as they boil down to the same issue – how does an infallible organization change anything? How can you ever infallibly prove that God established an infallible organization of men to infallibly validate the infallibility of scripture? How can you not see that problem?

I really cannot see how your objection, jswranch, can be chalked up to anything but a lack of faith. Seriously, I cannot even follow your logic – I would expect these kinds of objections from an atheist. To answer you I would have to start from the same point I would with a non-believer, and I don’t have the time right now to type all that out.

I may or may not come back to these last items in the future as they are very revealing of the Roman Catholic mindset. For now I'm done.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fallible Certainty: Answers to jswranch, Part 2

Continuing with jswranch’s comment on The Canon: Fallible Certainty post (part 1 here):

(Original post in italics, jswranch’s comment in bold, my reponse in regular type)

-It serves to make the Christian aware of the fact that she walks by faith, and not by sight... Are we shown doubt in the Bible? One of my favorite verses: [Mk9:23-24]
These throws me. I cannot be certain that the book of Mark belongs in scripture, however I can be certain of my salvation in Christ because the biblical book of Mark tells me so...??!! This seems to conflict. To answer, "Are we shown doubt in the Bible?" I say, no, but we cannot be certain Mark belongs, therefore we can doubt this verse belongs.

-Without doubt, we are sure. With surety, it is not faith....
Hebrews 11:1... Romans 8:24

If there is no room for doubt, it is not hope, and it is not faith.
?? Ok we can be certain of the correct status of our surety, faith, hope, and doubt based on books we cannot be sure are scripture. Heck, we do not even know who wrote Hebrews. Isn't this circular logic?

I am just going to lump these two comments together because the logic is the same. This is the basic Catholic argument of “how can I believe anything the scripture says if I can’t know infallibly that scripture really is from God”. This is probably the favorite Catholic argument to swing back around to no matter where the discussion started.

As I see it, Catholics cannot believe that the Bible is the Word of God unless an infallible, earthly organization tells them so. What I find so odd about this argument is that Catholics can believe the Catholic Church is the Church of God without an infallible, earthly organization to tell them so (except the RCC itself, but that is completely circular).

So without giving my own answer for how I can know that the Bible is the Word of God without an infallible Church to tell me so, I must ask of jswranch or any other Catholic, how can I know that the Catholic Church is the infallible Church of God without another infallible organization to tell me so? If I can't know that the Bible is true without an infallible organization to tell me so, how can you know that the RCC is true without an infallible organization to tell you so?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Vicious Circularity

Gene Bridges made a great summary of the circular reasoning by many Catholics over on Beggars All:

Vicious circularity is usually a bit more roundabout than this bare-bones outline. For example, this is how a Roman Catholic will often argue for his faith:

“How do you know that the Catholic Church is not an apostate church?”

“Because the Church is indefectible.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because Christ has promised us that the gates of hell will not overcome the church.”

“Haven’t the Popes made mistakes?”

“Only when expressing a private opinion, and not when speaking ex cathedra.”

“How do you know when a Pope is speaking ex cathedra or not?”

“If he made a mistake, he was not speaking ex cathedra.”

“Is it not possible for your church to commit apostasy?”

“No, for the true church is indefectible.”

“How do you know that your church is the true church?”

“Because she has never fallen into heresy.”

“How do you know she’s never fallen into heresy?”

“Because Christ has promised us that the gates of hell will not overcome the church.”

If you think this is a parody of Catholic reasoning, just read some of exchanges with Roman Catholics.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Fallible Certainty: Answers to jswranch

Jswranch left a rather long comment on The Canon: Fallible Certainty post which was really just pointing to a post Ellen made where she worked off another post on Parchment and Pen. I believe jswranch was mostly responding to Ellen’s post, but starting with the initial post that spurned Ellen’s may have brought some clarity.

All that said, let me try to briefly answer some of jswranch’s objections.

(Original post in italics, jswranch’s comment in bold, my reponse in regular type)

The smoke screen of epistemological certainty that seems to be provided by having a living infallible authority (Magisterium) disappears when we realize that we all start with fallibility...

Why? Just because I am fallible does not mean the HS didn't institute an infallible institution to do its will. Wasn’t Moses the infallible teacher anointed by God to instruct His people in truth?

No, the HS didn’t institute an infallible institution because nowhere in scripture is such a thing ever mentioned. The point of the epistemological argument is that an infallible organization can never provide 100% certainty because the followers are still fallible.

I believe this plays out in two ways. First, your personal fallibility means that your determination that the RCC IS an infallible organization instituted by God is a fallible decision. You can never be 100% certain that you are correct. Second, even if there were an infallible, visible organization, you can never be 100% certain that you will properly interpret what they have to say because you are still fallible.

The Catholic position is really no different than the Protestant position. We each have our own infallible authority (for Cats the magisterium, for Prots the Bible), but neither can be 100% certain that their source of authority is true since our own personal decisions are fallible. After that, neither can be 100% certain that we are understanding/interpreting the words/directions of our authority properly because again, we are fallible. Instead we must go with the highest amount of certainty and this is where Protestants pull ahead (from an epistemological POV).

So the point is that the whole need for an infallible, earthly organization is not only unscriptural, but it really doesn’t solve anything. Because of personal fallibility, you can never have 100% certainty.

As far as Moses being the “infallible teacher”, really? Is this the new Catholic apologetic argument to try to read an infallible leader into the Old Testament? Moses was not infallible, so this really doesn’t affect anything.

I’ll continue with this later…

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Catholic Quotes on The Bible

"A competent religious guide must be clear and intelligible to all, so that everyone may fully understand the true meaning of the instructions it contains. Is the Bible a book intelligible to all? Far from it; it is full of obscurities and difficulties not only for the illiterate, but even for the learned...The Fathers of the Church, though many of them spent their whole lives in the study of the Scriptures, are unanimous in pronouncing the Bible a book full of knotty difficulties." -The Faith of Our Fathers

Monday, September 3, 2007

Find Me Here...

I have been invited to join the new team format at Beggars All, one of my favorite blogs.

James runs a great blog with lots of great posts (look through his archives) and top-notch commenters. I am very under-qualified to join this arena, but look forward to interacting with a larger audience.

I am not sure yet how I will split my time, but I hope that my commenters/visitors here will join me at Beggars All, especially jswranch.

You can find my first post here - just an introduction.

Catholic Quotes on the Bible

"Through Luther, although Calvin seems to have been the first to announce Monobiblicism clearly, the Bible became the arm of the Protestant revolt. A dumb and difficult book was substituted for the living voice of the Church, in order that each one should be be able to make for himself the religion which suited his feelings."

-A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1951 (pg 11)
with imprimatur and acknowledgment of Pope Pius XII