To Pope or Not to Pope?

40A

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A fair point, particularly because that I what I genuinely hope is about to happen within Catholicism. That grapevine has been allowed to grow far out of control, and the good grapes - which make up the majority - are being chocked out by the bad.
And as I've told you, this isn't only specific to the Catholic church.
 

HornsWin

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I know, I am posting from a Catholic source - that source being the Coming Home Network, which is a collection of accounts of converting to Catholicism either from a position of non-belief, or else from other Christian denominations, or else coming back to Catholicism after taking a detour.

With that said, here is a point I have tried to make before. Seems I am not the only one who has asked these questions:"My studies, under the direction of an expert on John Calvin and Trinitarian theology, concentrated on early Church history, in particular the pre-Nicene Church. The fruit of this work would culminate in a senior thesis: “Grace in the Theologies of Clement of Rome and Tertullian of Carthage: A Correlative Synthesis and Analysis.” The premise was simple, and by this time had been significantly influenced by Reformed theology: If the Church was corrupt at the Reformation and was worth completely “throwing off,” the germ of corruption had to show up early for it to grow into the “tree” of corruption that Luther and the other Reformers railed against.

At least, that was my assumption. It seemed reasonable that if, after 1,500 years of Christian history the Church was to start over, then the product had to be bad from its beginning. You fix a broken car but you replace a lemon. I look back now and wonder “why would I, rather than the early Church, have a more accurate interpretation of Scripture and the mind of the Apostles?”

Here is the man's testimony: https://chnetwork.org/story/the-eucharist-will-satisfy-the-longing-heart-conversion-story-of-brent-stubbs/
 

PFD

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I know, I am posting from a Catholic source - that source being the Coming Home Network, which is a collection of accounts of converting to Catholicism either from a position of non-belief, or else from other Christian denominations, or else coming back to Catholicism after taking a detour.

With that said, here is a point I have tried to make before. Seems I am not the only one who has asked these questions:"My studies, under the direction of an expert on John Calvin and Trinitarian theology, concentrated on early Church history, in particular the pre-Nicene Church. The fruit of this work would culminate in a senior thesis: “Grace in the Theologies of Clement of Rome and Tertullian of Carthage: A Correlative Synthesis and Analysis.” The premise was simple, and by this time had been significantly influenced by Reformed theology: If the Church was corrupt at the Reformation and was worth completely “throwing off,” the germ of corruption had to show up early for it to grow into the “tree” of corruption that Luther and the other Reformers railed against.

At least, that was my assumption. It seemed reasonable that if, after 1,500 years of Christian history the Church was to start over, then the product had to be bad from its beginning. You fix a broken car but you replace a lemon. I look back now and wonder “why would I, rather than the early Church, have a more accurate interpretation of Scripture and the mind of the Apostles?”

Here is the man's testimony: https://chnetwork.org/story/the-eucharist-will-satisfy-the-longing-heart-conversion-story-of-brent-stubbs/
Stubbs' "germ of corruption" theory is interesting, but, for me, ultimately unsatisfying.

First, as it regards the Church as an organization, his tree analogy breaks down quickly. It does not logically follow, as Stubbs suggests, that a tree that is discovered to be infected was infected from its nascence. As a son of the piney woods, I know all too well that a previously (and originally) healthy tree can become infected by an outside pathogen. See, e.g., pine beetles, blight, root rot, cankers, etc. In fact, we know this to a truism of all living organisms in our natural world, us included.

It seems to me that Stubbs is orchestrating an ends-oriented argument to suggest that Luther, the Reformers, and all Protestants, by questioning the Catholic Church's spiritual authority, are essentially questioning the spiritual authority of Peter, Paul, the Disciples, the Apostles, and the original Church. As a Bible-believing Protestant, I reject this notion. I believe in the veracity and sanctity of the book of Acts as much as any Catholic.

If we return to Stubbs' "germ of corruption" theory, it seems to me that it begs the following question: when did the pathogen(s) first infect the tree? We've certainly seen the historic symptoms of the disease, ranging from minor symptoms like politics, pride, arrogance, greed, and materialism to gaping wounds like the Inquisition, indulgences, and sex crimes. [And, as I've said many times, we Protestants have far from unclean hands when it comes to many of these symptoms. They've just rarely been as institutional and systemic as the examples seen in the Catholic Church.]

Which brings me to my second point. What is the pathogen that underlies all these symptoms? It should be obvious to any Believer that the answer is sin. When we view the Church not as an organization but as a collective of people, we ought easily understand that the parts are all inherently defective. Not by design, but originally from manufacture. The Church, as the body of Believers, is a sum of its sinful parts. Reminds me of one my favorite theological quotes: "God uses His broken children. They're the only ones He's got."

So, any religious organization that centralizes too much power in the hands of inherently sinful people, and insulates those sinful people from accountability from their sins, seems destined to stray from not just God's plan, but also from the tenets of the early Church (from whom you say Catholics derive their model). This is how we end up with distinctively Catholic sins like the Crusades, the Inquisition, indulgences, etc. And with distinctively Protestant sins like televangelism and prosperity doctrine. And universal sins like sex crimes, legalism, materialism, emotional manipulation, etc.

Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door because he recognized that the tree had become infected by the original sin of its constituent parts. What you have called the worst thing to ever happen in the history of the Church appears to me to be little different than the Old Testament prophets like Elijah and Isaiah, who called God's people to turn from their sin and to remember who (and Whose) they were.
 

PFD

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On a related note, @HornsWin, I think your point about sin--and, more particularly, we as Believers having a sufficiently grave appreciation of and hatred for sin in our own lives--is a good one.

Here's today's Denison Forum entry from Dr. Jim Denison, former pastor at Park Cities BC and current professor of theology and philosophy at DBU:

https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/daily-article/sinful-states-us/

A new study has compared America’s fifty states using forty-three indicators of immorality. The data set ranges from violent crimes to excessive drinking to gambling disorders.

Unsurprisingly, Nevada ranks first, primarily because of “greed” and “lust.” Florida comes in second because of “jealousy,” “lust,” and “vanity.” The rest of the top (or bottom) ten in order: California, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, and Arizona. The least sinful states in order are Vermont, Maine, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Idaho.

Sin may be measured collectively, but it is committed personally. And it never stays secret.

A Minnesota man was eating a hot dog at a hockey game last month. He wiped his mouth with a napkin and tossed the remains in the trash. Authorities then used DNA on the napkin to tie him to an unsolved murder from 1993.

In similar news, DNA from a genealogical database has led authorities to arrest a Colorado man for the murder of an eleven-year-old girl in 1973. Last fall, DNA evidence led to an arrest in a 1997 murder.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in the Jussie Smollett case say they have the $3,500 check used by the actor to pay two brothers to stage his assault last month. Smollett was arrested yesterday for allegedly filing a false report about the January 29 incident. After paying a $10,000 bond, he was released and is due back in court on March 14.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson alleged yesterday that the brothers’ motive for helping Smollett was money. “There was never a thought in their mind that we would be able to track them down,” he added.

Scripture warns us: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

Why temptation is so tempting today
There’s something about temptation that causes us to think this warning doesn’t really apply to us. We will get away with it. No one will know, no one will be hurt, no consequences will follow. Or so we think.

Here’s why the temptation to yield to temptation is especially tempting in our culture.

Our post-Christian, relativistic society has jettisoned the concept of absolute truth and morality. In such a worldview, “sin” is a subjective idea rather than an objective reality.

What the Bible calls a “baby” (as when Elizabeth’s “baby leaped in her womb,” Luke 1:41), Planned Parenthood calls a “product of conception.” What the Bible calls “men committing shameless acts with men” (Romans 1:27), our culture calls “marriage equality.”

As a result, sins are no longer objectively sinful. It’s easier for Satan to tempt us to sin if we don’t believe in sin.

“There is no such thing as the devil”
It’s also easier for Satan to tempt us to sin if we don’t believe in him. A Barna survey found that nearly 60 percent of American Christians believe the devil “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.”

An article in Psychology Today was blunt: “There is no such thing as the devil, just as there is no such thing as fairies, imps, or goblins. The two largest religions in the world–Christianity and Islam–teach that there is a devil. And they are wrong. There is no evidence for such a thing. Not a shred. It is simply something that germinated from the unscientific, irrational minds of early humans.”

Of course, that’s just what the devil wants us to think.

(For more, please watch Does Satan exist?, the most recent YouTube video from our new series, “Biblical Insight to Tough Questions.”)

The two categories of sin
The first step in defeating temptation is to admit that sin exists and the tempter is real. The second is to understand his strategy.

In essence, there are two categories of sin.

The first includes those temptations you and I can defeat in our ability. For instance, I happen not to be susceptible to illegal drugs. (I’m not boasting–there are other temptations to which I am far less immune). You can name sins that are easy for you not to commit.

The second category includes those temptations you and I cannot defeat in our ability. When we face these attacks, we need to turn immediately to God for help, knowing that “he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey” (Mark 1:27).

Here’s the problem: Satan seeks to mask these temptations so that we think they belong to the first category. That way, we’ll try to resist them in our strength rather than turning to God for his help. Satan wants to draw us into spiritual quicksand a foot at a time until we are trapped.

The solution is for us to take all temptation immediately to God, asking for his strength to refuse. Here’s how: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Submit and you can resist. Resist and you will win. Every time.

If you think you’re getting away with sin
Let’s close with two additional life principles.

One: Satan is playing the long game.

When we defeat him with God’s help, he will bring this temptation against us again later. He wants us to think we didn’t win the victory since we’re facing the same temptation.

After Jesus defeated him in the wilderness, the devil “departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). He does the same with us. Every time we face temptation, even the same temptation, we must “submit” and “resist.”

Two: The time to repent is now.

If you think you’re getting away with sin, you’re not. The enemy might be waiting until you climb further up the ladder so that your fall will hurt even more people as you plummet down.

“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19) is a present-tense imperative, an ongoing command for each of us.

Is it relevant for you today?
Now, I recognize that Dr. Denison is just a Protestant. And, even worse, a Baptist. [Just messin' with you.]

But wouldn't you agree that this is a Scripturally authentic and appropriate perspective on sin?
 
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Shane3

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Stubbs' "germ of corruption" theory is interesting, but, for me, ultimately unsatisfying.

First, as it regards the Church as an organization, his tree analogy breaks down quickly. It does not logically follow, as Stubbs suggests, that a tree that is discovered to be infected was infected from its nascence. As a son of the piney woods, I know all too well that a previously (and originally) healthy tree can become infected by an outside pathogen. See, e.g., pine beetles, blight, root rot, cankers, etc. In fact, we know this to a truism of all living organisms in our natural world, us included.

It seems to me that Stubbs is orchestrating an ends-oriented argument to suggest that Luther, the Reformers, and all Protestants, by questioning the Catholic Church's spiritual authority, are essentially questioning the spiritual authority of Peter, Paul, the Disciples, the Apostles, and the original Church. As a Bible-believing Protestant, I reject this notion. I believe in the veracity and sanctity of the book of Acts as much as any Catholic.

If we return to Stubbs' "germ of corruption" theory, it seems to me that it begs the following question: when did the pathogen(s) first infect the tree? We've certainly seen the historic symptoms of the disease, ranging from minor symptoms like politics, pride, arrogance, greed, and materialism to gaping wounds like the Inquisition, indulgences, and sex crimes. [And, as I've said many times, we Protestants have far from unclean hands when it comes to many of these symptoms. They've just rarely been as institutional and systemic as the examples seen in the Catholic Church.]

Which brings me to my second point. What is the pathogen that underlies all these symptoms? It should be obvious to any Believer that the answer is sin. When we view the Church not as an organization but as a collective of people, we ought easily understand that the parts are all inherently defective. Not by design, but originally from manufacture. The Church, as the body of Believers, is a sum of its sinful parts. Reminds me of one my favorite theological quotes: "God uses His broken children. They're the only ones He's got."

So, any religious organization that centralizes too much power in the hands of inherently sinful people, and insulates those sinful people from accountability from their sins, seems destined to stray from not just God's plan, but also from the tenets of the early Church (from whom you say Catholics derive their model). This is how we end up with distinctively Catholic sins like the Crusades, the Inquisition, indulgences, etc. And with distinctively Protestant sins like televangelism and prosperity doctrine. And universal sins like sex crimes, legalism, materialism, emotional manipulation, etc.

Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door because he recognized that the tree had become infected by the original sin of its constituent parts. What you have called the worst thing to ever happen in the history of the Church appears to me to be little different than the Old Testament prophets like Elijah and Isaiah, who called God's people to turn from their sin and to remember who (and Whose) they were.
Very well said. The infection started, imo, when Constantine started the process of marrying government to the church. Because of the power and prestige that resulted from that Roman marriage, it appeared to be a victory for Christianity. Unfortunately that power has been horribly abused many times throughout the centuries, as we all know.
 

cincomom

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Stubbs' "germ of corruption" theory is interesting, but, for me, ultimately unsatisfying.

First, as it regards the Church as an organization, his tree analogy breaks down quickly. It does not logically follow, as Stubbs suggests, that a tree that is discovered to be infected was infected from its nascence. As a son of the piney woods, I know all too well that a previously (and originally) healthy tree can become infected by an outside pathogen. See, e.g., pine beetles, blight, root rot, cankers, etc. In fact, we know this to a truism of all living organisms in our natural world, us included.

It seems to me that Stubbs is orchestrating an ends-oriented argument to suggest that Luther, the Reformers, and all Protestants, by questioning the Catholic Church's spiritual authority, are essentially questioning the spiritual authority of Peter, Paul, the Disciples, the Apostles, and the original Church. As a Bible-believing Protestant, I reject this notion. I believe in the veracity and sanctity of the book of Acts as much as any Catholic.

If we return to Stubbs' "germ of corruption" theory, it seems to me that it begs the following question: when did the pathogen(s) first infect the tree? We've certainly seen the historic symptoms of the disease, ranging from minor symptoms like politics, pride, arrogance, greed, and materialism to gaping wounds like the Inquisition, indulgences, and sex crimes. [And, as I've said many times, we Protestants have far from unclean hands when it comes to many of these symptoms. They've just rarely been as institutional and systemic as the examples seen in the Catholic Church.]

Which brings me to my second point. What is the pathogen that underlies all these symptoms? It should be obvious to any Believer that the answer is sin. When we view the Church not as an organization but as a collective of people, we ought easily understand that the parts are all inherently defective. Not by design, but originally from manufacture. The Church, as the body of Believers, is a sum of its sinful parts. Reminds me of one my favorite theological quotes: "God uses His broken children. They're the only ones He's got."

So, any religious organization that centralizes too much power in the hands of inherently sinful people, and insulates those sinful people from accountability from their sins, seems destined to stray from not just God's plan, but also from the tenets of the early Church (from whom you say Catholics derive their model). This is how we end up with distinctively Catholic sins like the Crusades, the Inquisition, indulgences, etc. And with distinctively Protestant sins like televangelism and prosperity doctrine. And universal sins like sex crimes, legalism, materialism, emotional manipulation, etc.

Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door because he recognized that the tree had become infected by the original sin of its constituent parts. What you have called the worst thing to ever happen in the history of the Church appears to me to be little different than the Old Testament prophets like Elijah and Isaiah, who called God's people to turn from their sin and to remember who (and Whose) they were.

Well said.
 

HornsWin

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On a related note, @HornsWin, I think your point about sin--and, more particularly, we as Believers having a sufficiently grave appreciation of and hatred for sin in our own lives--is a good one.

Here's today's Denison Forum entry from Dr. Jim Denison, former pastor at Park Cities BC and current professor of theology and philosophy at DBU:

https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/daily-article/sinful-states-us/



Now, I recognize that Dr. Denison is just a Protestant. And, even worse, a Baptist. [Just messin' with you.]

But wouldn't you agree that this is a Scripturally authentic and appropriate perspective on sin?
I got my master's from DBU and spoke to Professor Denison several times (this was back when I was still trying to be a Protestant, and not very long ago). I don't agree with everything he has to say, but he is a respectible fellow.

That is a fine persepctive on sin, though I prefer the following:

Unfortunately, I didn't hear that sort of honesty in any evangelical church, summer camp, youth group, or Bible study I attended in my 30 years of living the evangelical thing. What I heard was a lot of, "You're a sinner, and I'm a sinner, but don't worry because God forgives." Cheap grace, in other words. And before you jump to say I must not have attended any good churches, know that my experience ranges from typical FBC churches (Georgetown, Belton) to non-denom wannabe mega churches (Stonegate - Midlothian), to super cool mega churches (Austin Stone).

The same whitewashed, relaxed, easy to swallow gospel is found all throughout the Protestant church, and it spread more every year. Why do you think Christianity, and particularly evangelicalism, is growing in places like Africa and South America? Because they know what living a real life is about. They are not immune from real suffering, and they are not insulted from it by all the ephemeral crap we dream about. They have a much clearer view of who God is and what God wants. They live in places where the separation between the physical and spiritual world is thin. And because of that they live their lives as if sin is real, and as if it really does matter what one does in their daily lives (not just what one believes or, worse, "feels").

Say what you will about Catholicism. I know there are some of you at least who view it as barely Christian at best, and heretical at worst. But the practice of confession - vocalizing your sins to another living person, and not just saying, "Yeah, I fell into temptation," but actually naming your sins takes a lot out of you. I doubt it makes not sinning any easier, but it brings home the weight when you tell another person just how awful you are yourself. Try to stay proud when you regularly admit how often and how easily you turn your back on God.

So, while I agree with Professor Denison, I also see cheap grace abounding.
 

HornsWin

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So, any religious organization that centralizes too much power in the hands of inherently sinful people, and insulates those sinful people from accountability from their sins, seems destined to stray from not just God's plan, but also from the tenets of the early Church (from whom you say Catholics derive their model).
Very well said. Can you back this up scripturally? And a small corrective: Catholics don't derive their worldview from the early Church. Catholicism is the early church, as it was founded by Christ (examples already given).
This is how we end up with distinctively Catholic sins like the Crusades, the Inquisition, indulgences, etc. And with distinctively Protestant sins like televangelism and prosperity doctrine.
Don't forget centuries of Protestant persecution of Catholics for the sin of being not Protestant.
 

HornsWin

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Stubbs' "germ of corruption" theory is interesting, but, for me, ultimately unsatisfying.

First, as it regards the Church as an organization, his tree analogy breaks down quickly. It does not logically follow, as Stubbs suggests, that a tree that is discovered to be infected was infected from its nascence. As a son of the piney woods, I know all too well that a previously (and originally) healthy tree can become infected by an outside pathogen. See, e.g., pine beetles, blight, root rot, cankers, etc. In fact, we know this to a truism of all living organisms in our natural world, us included.

It seems to me that Stubbs is orchestrating an ends-oriented argument to suggest that Luther, the Reformers, and all Protestants, by questioning the Catholic Church's spiritual authority, are essentially questioning the spiritual authority of Peter, Paul, the Disciples, the Apostles, and the original Church. As a Bible-believing Protestant, I reject this notion. I believe in the veracity and sanctity of the book of Acts as much as any Catholic.

If we return to Stubbs' "germ of corruption" theory, it seems to me that it begs the following question: when did the pathogen(s) first infect the tree? We've certainly seen the historic symptoms of the disease, ranging from minor symptoms like politics, pride, arrogance, greed, and materialism to gaping wounds like the Inquisition, indulgences, and sex crimes. [And, as I've said many times, we Protestants have far from unclean hands when it comes to many of these symptoms. They've just rarely been as institutional and systemic as the examples seen in the Catholic Church.]

Which brings me to my second point. What is the pathogen that underlies all these symptoms? It should be obvious to any Believer that the answer is sin. When we view the Church not as an organization but as a collective of people, we ought easily understand that the parts are all inherently defective. Not by design, but originally from manufacture. The Church, as the body of Believers, is a sum of its sinful parts. Reminds me of one my favorite theological quotes: "God uses His broken children. They're the only ones He's got."

So, any religious organization that centralizes too much power in the hands of inherently sinful people, and insulates those sinful people from accountability from their sins, seems destined to stray from not just God's plan, but also from the tenets of the early Church (from whom you say Catholics derive their model). This is how we end up with distinctively Catholic sins like the Crusades, the Inquisition, indulgences, etc. And with distinctively Protestant sins like televangelism and prosperity doctrine. And universal sins like sex crimes, legalism, materialism, emotional manipulation, etc.

Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door because he recognized that the tree had become infected by the original sin of its constituent parts. What you have called the worst thing to ever happen in the history of the Church appears to me to be little different than the Old Testament prophets like Elijah and Isaiah, who called God's people to turn from their sin and to remember who (and Whose) they were.
You know that at the time of the 95 theses, Luther still had every intent and desire to remain apart of the Catholic Church, right? That might be the start of the Reformation, but it was not his intent when he did that to fracture the body of Christ. That came later. And as I have acknowledged (as well as hundreds of better men and women than me across the centuries), Luther wasn't wrong in his theses. Where Luther erred was in continuing to press his complaints into the realm of heresy (the solas, denial of the Pope, etc.). Interestingly, one heresy he is not guilty of is Marian adoration. He took her, I believe, to his grace, as did Calvin if I recall correctly.
 

PFD

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I got my master's from DBU and spoke to Professor Denison several times (this was back when I was still trying to be a Protestant, and not very long ago). I don't agree with everything he has to say, but he is a respectible fellow.

That is a fine persepctive on sin, though I prefer the following:

Unfortunately, I didn't hear that sort of honesty in any evangelical church, summer camp, youth group, or Bible study I attended in my 30 years of living the evangelical thing. What I heard was a lot of, "You're a sinner, and I'm a sinner, but don't worry because God forgives." Cheap grace, in other words. And before you jump to say I must not have attended any good churches, know that my experience ranges from typical FBC churches (Georgetown, Belton) to non-denom wannabe mega churches (Stonegate - Midlothian), to super cool mega churches (Austin Stone).
It's not my place to determine what makes a "good church." It sounds as though you consistently heard the Gospel taught at these churches, but you've decided in hindsight that they were heavy on grace and light on truth.

You're certainly entitled to that opinion. And it might be a sound one. My only attempt at a retort would be that, for much of the latter half of the 20th Century, too many evangelical churches were heavy on truth and light on grace (at least as it pertained to outsiders). So, what you experienced may have been an over-correction (which is not an excuse but merely a possible explanation).

The same whitewashed, relaxed, easy to swallow gospel is found all throughout the Protestant church, and it spread more every year. Why do you think Christianity, and particularly evangelicalism, is growing in places like Africa and South America? Because they know what living a real life is about. They are not immune from real suffering, and they are not insulted from it by all the ephemeral crap we dream about. They have a much clearer view of who God is and what God wants. They live in places where the separation between the physical and spiritual world is thin. And because of that they live their lives as if sin is real, and as if it really does matter what one does in their daily lives (not just what one believes or, worse, "feels").
Wait, what? You're arguing against your own point, here.

If those Third World folks truly understand sin better than we--and I'll entertain that proposition with you--then why would they flock to evangelical Protestant churches instead of the Catholic Church?

I tend to disagree, BTW, with your theory about why faith is growing in places like Africa. Our church supports and participates in several ministries in Africa. Our members routinely travel to volatile places like the D.R. Congo. Our senior pastor likes to remind us how his fellow African pastors will tell him how fervently that their congregations pray for us, because it must be difficult to have faith when we have such material blessing. Isn't that something?

Say what you will about Catholicism. I know there are some of you at least who view it as barely Christian at best, and heretical at worst. But the practice of confession - vocalizing your sins to another living person, and not just saying, "Yeah, I fell into temptation," but actually naming your sins takes a lot out of you. I doubt it makes not sinning any easier, but it brings home the weight when you tell another person just how awful you are yourself. Try to stay proud when you regularly admit how often and how easily you turn your back on God.

So, while I agree with Professor Denison, I also see cheap grace abounding.
Serious question (and one of my most sincere problems with Catholicism): what is the Scriptural basis for confession to and through a priest, rather than directly to God Himself?

Many Protestants, myself included, will tell you that we appreciate the emotional toll of confessing sins to another person by virtue of accountability through members of our community. So, I get what you're saying about having to admit your faults to another person.

But the idea that you can be absolved of sin simply by works--by repeating (mindfully or mindlessly, as the case may be) a rote set of words and lines--has never struck me as Scriptural or spiritually meaningful.
 
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PFD

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Very well said. Can you back this up scripturally?
I'm not sure what exactly you're asking me to "back up Scripturally."

If you're asking me to support, using Scripture, my proposition that sinful men with too much power and too little accountability will inevitably corrupt a faith-based organization, then look no further than Jesus's chief antagonists during His earthly ministry: the Pharisees.

They sacrificed the Jewish faith at the secular altars of legalism, pride, materialism, and political power. Sound familiar?

And a small corrective: Catholics don't derive their worldview from the early Church. Catholicism is the early church, as it was founded by Christ (examples already given).
Is this the part of the discussion during which we're simply going to make conclusory statements and pretend that they're arguments? If so, then I missed the cue.

Don't forget centuries of Protestant persecution of Catholics for the sin of being not Protestant.
That saw cuts both ways. Do you, as a Catholic, really want to start tallying up the casualty rate among people who have been killed or oppressed for not submitting to your brand of faith?

Ultimately, neither side of the Catholic/Protestant debate has clean hands or any reason to be proud of its history in this regard, so scorekeeping seems pointless.
 
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HornsWin

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I'm not sure what exactly you're asking me to "back up Scripturally."

If you're asking me to support, using Scripture, my proposition that sinful men with too much power and too little accountability will inevitably corrupt a faith-based organization, then look no further than Jesus's chief antagonists during His earthly ministry: the Pharisees.

They sacrificed the Jewish faith at the secular altars of legalism, pride, materialism, and political power. Sound familiar?



Is this the part of the discussion during which we're simply going to make conclusory statements and pretend that they're arguments? If so, then I missed the cue.



That saw cuts both ways. Do you, as a Catholic, really want to start tallying up the casualty rate among people who have been killed or oppressed for not submitting to your brand of faith?

Ultimately, neither side of the Catholic/Protestant debate has clean hands or any reason to be proud of its history in this regard, so scorekeeping seems pointless.
Good morning!

I asked you to back up your claim scripturally partly tongue-in-cheek because as a Protestant, you believe that scripture is the sole rule of faith, and that all truth is scripturally breathed. You used the Pharisees as an example of a morally corrupt institution, despite the fact that the Pharisees and the Vatican are two very different things. The Pharisees were the religious authority, while the Vatican is the governmental authority of the Vatican City, which is itself a state, not a religious institution. So again I ask if you can provide scriptural evidence of a religious organization that centralized power to its own moral corruption. For the record, I'm sure you can, but the point I am trying to make is that all through this train wreck of a thread your fellow Protestants have criticized me for not providing scriptural evidence for my beliefs and contentions - even though I have provided it in abundance - while also failing to provide much, if any, scriptural evidence to back up their own claims, instead falling back on a "Well isn't it obvious as Christians?" defense, not dissimilar to the one you provided just now. If scripture is your sole rule of faith, then I would expect you to appeal to it constantly.

If the Gospels and the Book of Acts are what you consider "conclusory statements", then yes, I guess this is that part of the discussion. When Jesus called Peter "The Rock" and said that upon this rock I will build my Church, and when Jesus said to Peter - and only to Peter - that he was to receive the Keys of the Kingdom, and when Peter presided over the early councils, which all believers held as authoritative, and when... and when... and when... Now, again appealing to scripture, can you show me where God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit ever said or even indicated that his idea for his Church was something that was fragmented, with hundreds of different and conflicting beliefs?

I agree, scorekeeping is pointless, so why did you bring up Catholic aggression in the first place? I was following your lead.

It's not my place to determine what makes a "good church." It sounds as though you consistently heard the Gospel taught at these churches, but you've decided in hindsight that they were heavy on grace and light on truth.

You're certainly entitled to that opinion. And it might be a sound one. My only attempt at a retort would be that, for much of the latter half of the 20th Century, too many evangelical churches were heavy on truth and light on grace (at least as it pertained to outsiders). So, what you experienced may have been an over-correction (which is not an excuse but merely a possible explanation).



Wait, what? You're arguing against your own point, here.

If those Third World folks truly understand sin better than we--and I'll entertain that proposition with you--then why would they flock to evangelical Protestant churches instead of the Catholic Church?

I tend to disagree, BTW, with your theory about why faith is growing in places like Africa. Our church supports and participates in several ministries in Africa. Our members routinely travel to volatile places like the D.R. Congo. Our senior pastor likes to remind us how his fellow African pastors will tell him how fervently that their congregations pray for us, because it must be difficult to have faith when we have such material blessing. Isn't that something?



Serious question (and one of my most sincere problems with Catholicism): what is the Scriptural basis for confession to and through a priest, rather than directly to God Himself?

Many Protestants, myself included, will tell you that we appreciate the emotional toll of confessing sins to another person by virtue of accountability through members of our community. So, I get what you're saying about having to admit your faults to another person.

But the idea that you can be absolved of sin simply by works--by repeating (mindfully or mindlessly, as the case may be) a rote set of words and lines--has never struck me as Scriptural or spiritually meaningful.
What I heard was a slant on the gospel, because I attended a Protestant church. It was not an authoritative interpretation, but a subjective one because that is the best that Protestantism can offer. What Catholicism teaches, it has taught for 2000 years, handed down by the Apostles, who recieved it directly from Christ. That is authoritative, and I prefer authoritative teachings that are difficult to adhere to over subjective teachings that send me home with a smile on my face.

I'm actually not arguing against myself here, because the point I was making in that paragraph was me throwing you a bone. You and I agree - western materialism is an infection in the world of Christian faith, and my larger point has always been that Protestantism, more than Catholicism, shows signs of severe decadence and susceptibility to western materialism. Catholicism, for all of its failings in recent generations, has kept God at the center of the mass. Catholics have an altar to God at the front of the chapel. Protestants have a baptistry. One is dedicated to God, the other is dedicated to the individual. Is being a Christian about serving and attending to the Living God, or about getting saved? Which is the endpoint of the life of faith?

Ill address your question about confession in its own post.
 

HornsWin

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Serious question (and one of my most sincere problems with Catholicism): what is the Scriptural basis for confession to and through a priest, rather than directly to God Himself?

Many Protestants, myself included, will tell you that we appreciate the emotional toll of confessing sins to another person by virtue of accountability through members of our community. So, I get what you're saying about having to admit your faults to another person.

But the idea that you can be absolved of sin simply by works--by repeating (mindfully or mindlessly, as the case may be) a rote set of words and lines--has never struck me as Scriptural or spiritually meaningful.
So, the last point first. Being "absolved of sin" "simply by works", by repeating "a rote set of words and lines". A few pushbacks to this:
  • Absolved of sin: The priest does not forgive our sins. Before a Catholic goes to confession, be brings his sins before God in an examination of conscience. It is in this prayer that we are forgiven and reconciled to God. We must, however, be reconciled to the Church. In confession, we are brought back into the fold. Absolution of sin is the action that should always accompany the prayer for forgiveness.
  • Simply by works: absolution does not come "simply" by "works", either in the sense that it is simple, or in the sense that it only comes through works. Scripture is replete with examples of men and women accompanying their repentant words with actions. Scripture even says that a faith without works is dead. Abraham was a man of faith and it was counted to him as righteousness, right? Bt read about Abraham and you will see a man who was always working for God. When God told him to sacrifice Isaac, he went to do it. That was a three day journey, he bound Isaac with rope, he built the fire - that was all work. He prepared sacrifices for God - that was work. He followed God's direction, even when it seemed directionless - that was work. The outworking of faith is work. Faith and righteousness are not, nor were they every intended to be some inward facing thing.
  • A rote set of words and lines: Hmm. The Lord's prayer? The various creeds, which were recited by all Christian denominations until about a century ago? Are those all just "rote sets or words and lines"? If so, I would expect you to say that they have no meaning.
Now, to your larger question, I am going to take the following approach.
  • First, you might point out 1 Tim. 2.5, which reads, "... there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ."
    • The Lord does want us to come to him when we fall into sin. He wants to bring us forgiveness so much that he gave the apostles the power to forgive sins. This power given to the apostles and their successors does not come from within them but from God. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus gave the apostles authority over unclean spirits, the authority to heal, the authority to raise people from the dead, et cetera. No Christian assumes that these powers came from the men themselves, since God is the one that has chosen to use them to manifest his power and mercy.

      In the words of Paul, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18). The apostles and their successors are merely ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), bringing his forgiveness to the world through the sacraments and the message of the gospel. If God has chosen to bring his message of forgiveness to the world by means of sinful, human ambassadors, why would he not be able to give these messengers the power to forgive and retain sins? And why would this not be a natural way for Jesus to extent his merciful presence on earth for all generations?

      If Jesus has set up a way for us to draw near to him and receive his grace, why should we prefer another route? We would be like the three-year-old with his father who, in a rush to get home from the store, begins to run. "Let me pick you up," the father offers. The child says, "No, Dad. I’m fast. Just watch me." It takes them much longer to get home because the child’s pride prevents him from accepting his father’s help. Likewise, God does hear us when we ask for forgiveness, but it is dangerous and often prideful to stay away from what the saints call the "medicine box"—the confessional. Why would a person wish to overcome their sins alone when they have the God-given power of the apostles’ successors at their disposal?
  • So, where is the sacrament of Confession found in scripture?
    • As soon as Jesus rose from the dead and earned salvation for us, he brought his apostles a new gift. After speaking peace to them, he said, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21). Just as Jesus was sent by the Father to reconcile the world to God, Jesus sent the apostles to continue his mission.

      Jesus then breathed on the apostles. This is a verse that is often passed over, but it has extraordinary significance because it is only the second time in all of Scripture where God breathes on anyone. The other instance was at the moment of creation, when God breathed his own life into the nostrils of Adam. This should tell us that something of great importance is taking place. Upon doing this, Jesus said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:22–23).

      Notice that Jesus is not simply commissioning the apostles to preach about God’s forgiveness. He is not saying, "Go tell everyone that when God forgives men’s sins, they’re forgiven." In using the second person plural you, Jesus is telling his apostles that by the power of the Holy Spirit he has given them the power to forgive and retain the sins of men. Having the power to forgive and to retain sins implies that the apostle knows what a person’s sins are, which in turn implies oral confession. Otherwise, how is the apostle to know what to retain or forgive?

      In the same way that Jesus gave his apostles other supernatural powers (such as raising men from the dead), he gave them power to absolve sins (raising them from spiritual death). In Matthew 9, we read that Jesus forgave a paralytic and then healed him so "that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Matt. 9:6)

      After he exercised this power as a man, the crowds glorified God for having given "such authority to men" (Matt. 9:8, emphasis added). Notice that Matthew indicates this power to forgive sins had been given to men, and not simply to a man.
  • Doesn't confession of one's sins imply that Christ's work was insufficient? The Bible says that if I believe in the Lord, I will be saved.
    • The passage you referred to is Acts 16:31, which reads, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." Sounds pretty simple. However, the Bible says much more about salvation and forgiveness. Jesus repeatedly affirmed that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven (Matt. 6:15). When Jesus breathed on the apostles in John 20, he gave them the power to retain sins. But if one’s salvation is contingent upon nothing other than a verbal profession of faith, then there is no reason why Jesus would given any man the power to retain sins. In the midst of all of these passages what we need to be careful of is that we do not camp out on one particular Bible passage without consulting the rest of Scripture.

      It is because of the work of Christ that we obtain forgiveness. All Christians can agree on that. What needs to be discussed is how that forgiveness comes to mankind. When Ananias spoke to Paul in Acts 22:16, he said, "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16). Later in the New Testament, the forgiveness of sins is tied to the sacrament of the anointing of the sick (James 5:13–15). Just as these Biblical practices are channels of God’s forgiving grace, the sacrament of confession does not add to or take away from the finished work of Christ. It is evidence of the finished work of Christ in our midst.
  • How can Catholics claim that confession to a priest is an apostolic tradition?
    • Consider the following early Christian writings from the first five centuries (not a comprehensive list):

      "Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure" (Didache 4:14, 14:1 [A.D. 70]).

      "[Regarding confession, some] flee from this work as being an exposure of themselves, or they put it off from day to day. I presume they are more mindful of modesty than of salvation, like those who contract a disease in the more shameful parts of the body and shun making themselves known to the physicians; and thus they perish along with their own bashfulness"(Tertullian, Repentance 10:1 [A.D. 203]).

      "[The bishop conducting the ordination of the new bishop shall pray:] God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . pour forth now that power which comes from you, from your royal spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and which he bestowed upon his holy apostles . . . and grant this your servant, whom you have chosen for the episcopate, [the power] to feed your holy flock and to serve without blame as your high priest . . . and by the Spirit of the high-priesthood to have the authority to forgive sins, in accord with your command" (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 3 [A.D. 215]).

      "Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.’ Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? ‘Whose sins you shall forgive,’ he says, ‘they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men" (John Chrysostom, The Priesthood 3:5 [A.D. 387]).
I would add only this. When Christ talks about imparting his powers and authority, e.g., forgiving sins, raising the dead, etc., to whom does he do this? It isn't to all of his followers. It is only ever to the apostles, and even then it isn't always to the entire cohort. When the Holy Spirit comes down at Pentecost, who is present to receive it? The apostles (Acts 2.1-31). When Christ talks about giving the Keys of the Kingdom, to whom is he speaking? Peter (Matthew 16: 13-20). (For interesting reading on the symbolism of keys in scripture, consider also Isaiah 22, Revelation 3). Jesus even says, when asked by the apostles why he speaks in parables, that "the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven is given to you, but not to them." Very clearly, God has no problem in creating a sort of inequality in authority even amongst his Church. If he designated certain knowledge of the kindgom of Heaven for s select few, why would he allow something as important as the confession of sin to be received by anyone?
 

PFD

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Dallas
Good morning!

I asked you to back up your claim scripturally partly tongue-in-cheek because as a Protestant, you believe that scripture is the sole rule of faith, and that all truth is scripturally breathed. You used the Pharisees as an example of a morally corrupt institution, despite the fact that the Pharisees and the Vatican are two very different things. The Pharisees were the religious authority, while the Vatican is the governmental authority of the Vatican City, which is itself a state, not a religious institution. So again I ask if you can provide scriptural evidence of a religious organization that centralized power to its own moral corruption. For the record, I'm sure you can, but the point I am trying to make is that all through this train wreck of a thread your fellow Protestants have criticized me for not providing scriptural evidence for my beliefs and contentions - even though I have provided it in abundance - while also failing to provide much, if any, scriptural evidence to back up their own claims, instead falling back on a "Well isn't it obvious as Christians?" defense, not dissimilar to the one you provided just now. If scripture is your sole rule of faith, then I would expect you to appeal to it constantly.
I never mentioned the Vatican or distinguished between religious and political leadership. That's your rhetorical artifice.

The moral corruption of the Jewish leadership--as you know, they were a theocracy, such that there wasn't much of any distinction between their faith and their politics, subject to Rome as they were--is well established in Scripture.

As I said earlier, they were among Jesus's primary foils during His earthly ministry. It was the Sanhedrin that "tried" Him and demanded that the Romans execute Him.

You know all these things. So, why are you pretending that they aren't in Scripture? If you want to argue against the analogy to the RCC, then do so, but don't be obtuse.

If the Gospels and the Book of Acts are what you consider "conclusory statements", then yes, I guess this is that part of the discussion. When Jesus called Peter "The Rock" and said that upon this rock I will build my Church, and when Jesus said to Peter - and only to Peter - that he was to receive the Keys of the Kingdom, and when Peter presided over the early councils, which all believers held as authoritative, and when... and when... and when... Now, again appealing to scripture, can you show me where God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit ever said or even indicated that his idea for his Church was something that was fragmented, with hundreds of different and conflicting beliefs?
The early Church was fragmented. From its incipience. Much of Paul's Epistles are dedicated to unifying Believers in the various and widespread locales in terms of their doctrine and their practices.

But nowhere does Paul call for, or even suggest, the kind of bureaucracy or the kind of centralized power and authority that we've seen for the past 17 centuries of the RCC.

You refer often to Peter in your arguments, but you seem to disregard Paul as often as necessary. Which I find odd in a discussion of the early Church, since Peter was the minister to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles (i.e., everyone else).

Is this something that is widespread among Catholics, to deify Peter and to trivialize Paul? I seriously doubt it.

I agree, scorekeeping is pointless, so why did you bring up Catholic aggression in the first place? I was following your lead.
I gave historical examples of how sin corrupted purportedly faith-based organizations. I don't believe that any of my examples pitted Catholics against Protestants. You, and only you, took the conversation in that direction.

But, help me out. Other than in the United Kingdom, and perhaps some small scale examples in the New World, are there really any other historical examples of Protestants persecuting Catholics on account of their faith?

What I heard was a slant on the gospel, because I attended a Protestant church. It was not an authoritative interpretation, but a subjective one because that is the best that Protestantism can offer. What Catholicism teaches, it has taught for 2000 years, handed down by the Apostles, who recieved it directly from Christ. That is authoritative, and I prefer authoritative teachings that are difficult to adhere to over subjective teachings that send me home with a smile on my face.

I'm actually not arguing against myself here, because the point I was making in that paragraph was me throwing you a bone. You and I agree - western materialism is an infection in the world of Christian faith, and my larger point has always been that Protestantism, more than Catholicism, shows signs of severe decadence and susceptibility to western materialism. Catholicism, for all of its failings in recent generations, has kept God at the center of the mass. Catholics have an altar to God at the front of the chapel. Protestants have a baptistry. One is dedicated to God, the other is dedicated to the individual. Is being a Christian about serving and attending to the Living God, or about getting saved? Which is the endpoint of the life of faith?

Ill address your question about confession in its own post.
Here we go again. More conclusory statements. Protestantism is "subjective" because that's all it is and can ever hope to be. But Catholicism is "objective" because the institution has existed for millenia.

You might consider picking up a dictionary and refresh yourself on the meaning of those words--"subjective" and "objective"--because, as Mandy Patinkin's character Inigo Montoya famously said in The Princess Bride, I do not think they mean what you think they mean.

Here's a hint--just because one organization interprets something one way, even for a long time, does not make it "objective."
 
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HornsWin

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So, why are you pretending that they aren't in Scripture?
I'm not. I am only asking that you provide scriptural evidence. Saying, "Yeah, they're there," is not evidence. That is an uncited reference.
You refer often to Peter in your arguments, but you seem to disregard Paul as often as necessary.
The title of this thread, and the overriding purpose of this thread, is to discuss the Papacy. Seeing as Peter was the first Pope, it seems like focusing on Peter would be a necessity.
But, help me out. Other than in the United Kingdom, and perhaps some small scale examples in the New World, are there really any other historical examples of Protestants persecuting Catholics on account of their faith?
Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the US of A, Brazil, Colombia, France, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Prussia, Serbia, Ukraine, Bangladesh, China, Japan, North Korea and Sri Lanka have all seen anti-Catholicism rise to the level of persecution.
Here's a hint--just because one organization interprets something one way, even for a long time, does not make it "objective."
Ok. Christians believe that the scriptures hold the Truth, God's word given to men. Protestants, being Christians, obviously believe that. But there are tens of thousands of Protestant denominations. Which one's are true and which ones are not? More importantly, how is that determined? Because amongst the many Protestant denominations there are bound to be scriptural contradictions that are taken by their respective believers to be absolutely true. And, presumably, these denominations were inspired by the Holy Spirit to break from their previous tradition to start the new one. But if that is the way one determines the truth in Protestantism, individual interpretation of the Holy Spirit, then yes, that is absolutely subjective. There are no uniform Protestant teachings, therefore there is no authority beyond the individual, who is ultimately responsible for determining what he or she believes in true.

Now compare that to this: "I was born in a male's body, but I know that I am really a female." That sounds crazy, right? There should be some underlying objective sense to determine one's sex. Yet, you believe that God in his infinite wisdom wants to leave man's interpretation of truth and, by extension his very salvation up to his own fallible mind?

Or think about it like this. The founding fathers fight the Revolutionary War and they win. Huzzah! We are free from the grips of the British Empire. Then the founding fathers are like, ok, you guys now figure out whatever works best for you and that will be the law, even if it contradicts your neighbor's preference. You'll figure it out. Silliness. So they came up with a system of laws and, more, an infrastructure to uniformally enforce them. And what's more, they devised a way for them to be interpreted authoritatively. Why, then, would God send his son to die for our sins, thereby offering us salvation, and then say that it's now up to us to understand everything? Even when Christ was on earth in the flesh, the Apostles still had trouble understanding his teaching.

What's more, Christ said he came not to abolish the law, but to uphold it. Presumably, he means that the things that came before the incarnation were fundamentally good, if institutionally corrupt. So perhaps it was not the Jewish system of government that was corrupted or flawed, but rather what those in charge had turned it into. We know from the Book of First Samuel that God would prefer to be our king, rather than having an earthly king. But in a kingdom, there is a very distinct hierarchy. No kingdom, i.e., a monarchy, ever allowed for independently governed fiefdoms with their own interpretation of the laws.

Finally, I am going to appeal to nature, because nature is God's creation. When you look at the natural world, there is an order to everything, from leat to greatest. Nature is inherently unequal, but everything points to the thing that is one level or order greater. And everything is connected. All of creation connected in some way or other. That is God's doing, becuse that is God's way. The first thing he did was bring order to the chaos of the void, because he brings order to chaos. Now, in what way does a perpetually fractured, divided, and at times even contentious church point to God? What hallmarks of the Almighty does that exhibit? You said that the early church was fragmented. Yes, it was! You might say it was a bit chaotic. But if you read the history of the early Church, if you read the Church Fathers, the ante-Nicean Fathers, what do you see? You see the Church slowly coming together under the direction of the Holy Spirit. How can we be sure it was under the direction of the Holy Spirit? One indication is that heresy was taken seriously. The one I always go to is Arius. He taught that Jesus was created, not begotten. This violated Church teaching, i.e., belief, and after much wrangling, it was pronounced as a heresy thus denounced. There was no allowance that Arius may go and form his own denomination based on his difference of belief. He was expelled, period. How could that have happened if not under the direction of the Holy Spirit? But you see, it also shows that even those who believe that they are acting under the influence of the Holy Spirit, which is what Protestants believe allows them to discern truth from falsehood, can be mistaken. There has to be a higher means of interpretive authority than the individual, and that is the Church.
 

PFD

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Dallas
So, the last point first. Being "absolved of sin" "simply by works", by repeating "a rote set of words and lines". A few pushbacks to this:
  • Absolved of sin: The priest does not forgive our sins. Before a Catholic goes to confession, be brings his sins before God in an examination of conscience. It is in this prayer that we are forgiven and reconciled to God. We must, however, be reconciled to the Church. In confession, we are brought back into the fold. Absolution of sin is the action that should always accompany the prayer for forgiveness.
  • Simply by works: absolution does not come "simply" by "works", either in the sense that it is simple, or in the sense that it only comes through works. Scripture is replete with examples of men and women accompanying their repentant words with actions. Scripture even says that a faith without works is dead. Abraham was a man of faith and it was counted to him as righteousness, right? Bt read about Abraham and you will see a man who was always working for God. When God told him to sacrifice Isaac, he went to do it. That was a three day journey, he bound Isaac with rope, he built the fire - that was all work. He prepared sacrifices for God - that was work. He followed God's direction, even when it seemed directionless - that was work. The outworking of faith is work. Faith and righteousness are not, nor were they every intended to be some inward facing thing.
  • A rote set of words and lines: Hmm. The Lord's prayer? The various creeds, which were recited by all Christian denominations until about a century ago? Are those all just "rote sets or words and lines"? If so, I would expect you to say that they have no meaning.
Now, to your larger question, I am going to take the following approach.
  • First, you might point out 1 Tim. 2.5, which reads, "... there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ."
    • The Lord does want us to come to him when we fall into sin. He wants to bring us forgiveness so much that he gave the apostles the power to forgive sins. This power given to the apostles and their successors does not come from within them but from God. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus gave the apostles authority over unclean spirits, the authority to heal, the authority to raise people from the dead, et cetera. No Christian assumes that these powers came from the men themselves, since God is the one that has chosen to use them to manifest his power and mercy.

      In the words of Paul, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18). The apostles and their successors are merely ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), bringing his forgiveness to the world through the sacraments and the message of the gospel. If God has chosen to bring his message of forgiveness to the world by means of sinful, human ambassadors, why would he not be able to give these messengers the power to forgive and retain sins? And why would this not be a natural way for Jesus to extent his merciful presence on earth for all generations?

      If Jesus has set up a way for us to draw near to him and receive his grace, why should we prefer another route? We would be like the three-year-old with his father who, in a rush to get home from the store, begins to run. "Let me pick you up," the father offers. The child says, "No, Dad. I’m fast. Just watch me." It takes them much longer to get home because the child’s pride prevents him from accepting his father’s help. Likewise, God does hear us when we ask for forgiveness, but it is dangerous and often prideful to stay away from what the saints call the "medicine box"—the confessional. Why would a person wish to overcome their sins alone when they have the God-given power of the apostles’ successors at their disposal?
  • So, where is the sacrament of Confession found in scripture?
    • As soon as Jesus rose from the dead and earned salvation for us, he brought his apostles a new gift. After speaking peace to them, he said, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21). Just as Jesus was sent by the Father to reconcile the world to God, Jesus sent the apostles to continue his mission.

      Jesus then breathed on the apostles. This is a verse that is often passed over, but it has extraordinary significance because it is only the second time in all of Scripture where God breathes on anyone. The other instance was at the moment of creation, when God breathed his own life into the nostrils of Adam. This should tell us that something of great importance is taking place. Upon doing this, Jesus said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:22–23).

      Notice that Jesus is not simply commissioning the apostles to preach about God’s forgiveness. He is not saying, "Go tell everyone that when God forgives men’s sins, they’re forgiven." In using the second person plural you, Jesus is telling his apostles that by the power of the Holy Spirit he has given them the power to forgive and retain the sins of men. Having the power to forgive and to retain sins implies that the apostle knows what a person’s sins are, which in turn implies oral confession. Otherwise, how is the apostle to know what to retain or forgive?

      In the same way that Jesus gave his apostles other supernatural powers (such as raising men from the dead), he gave them power to absolve sins (raising them from spiritual death). In Matthew 9, we read that Jesus forgave a paralytic and then healed him so "that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Matt. 9:6)

      After he exercised this power as a man, the crowds glorified God for having given "such authority to men" (Matt. 9:8, emphasis added). Notice that Matthew indicates this power to forgive sins had been given to men, and not simply to a man.
  • Doesn't confession of one's sins imply that Christ's work was insufficient? The Bible says that if I believe in the Lord, I will be saved.
    • The passage you referred to is Acts 16:31, which reads, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." Sounds pretty simple. However, the Bible says much more about salvation and forgiveness. Jesus repeatedly affirmed that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven (Matt. 6:15). When Jesus breathed on the apostles in John 20, he gave them the power to retain sins. But if one’s salvation is contingent upon nothing other than a verbal profession of faith, then there is no reason why Jesus would given any man the power to retain sins. In the midst of all of these passages what we need to be careful of is that we do not camp out on one particular Bible passage without consulting the rest of Scripture.

      It is because of the work of Christ that we obtain forgiveness. All Christians can agree on that. What needs to be discussed is how that forgiveness comes to mankind. When Ananias spoke to Paul in Acts 22:16, he said, "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16). Later in the New Testament, the forgiveness of sins is tied to the sacrament of the anointing of the sick (James 5:13–15). Just as these Biblical practices are channels of God’s forgiving grace, the sacrament of confession does not add to or take away from the finished work of Christ. It is evidence of the finished work of Christ in our midst.
  • How can Catholics claim that confession to a priest is an apostolic tradition?
    • Consider the following early Christian writings from the first five centuries (not a comprehensive list):

      "Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure" (Didache 4:14, 14:1 [A.D. 70]).

      "[Regarding confession, some] flee from this work as being an exposure of themselves, or they put it off from day to day. I presume they are more mindful of modesty than of salvation, like those who contract a disease in the more shameful parts of the body and shun making themselves known to the physicians; and thus they perish along with their own bashfulness"(Tertullian, Repentance 10:1 [A.D. 203]).

      "[The bishop conducting the ordination of the new bishop shall pray:] God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . pour forth now that power which comes from you, from your royal spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and which he bestowed upon his holy apostles . . . and grant this your servant, whom you have chosen for the episcopate, [the power] to feed your holy flock and to serve without blame as your high priest . . . and by the Spirit of the high-priesthood to have the authority to forgive sins, in accord with your command" (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 3 [A.D. 215]).

      "Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.’ Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? ‘Whose sins you shall forgive,’ he says, ‘they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men" (John Chrysostom, The Priesthood 3:5 [A.D. 387]).
I would add only this. When Christ talks about imparting his powers and authority, e.g., forgiving sins, raising the dead, etc., to whom does he do this? It isn't to all of his followers. It is only ever to the apostles, and even then it isn't always to the entire cohort. When the Holy Spirit comes down at Pentecost, who is present to receive it? The apostles (Acts 2.1-31). When Christ talks about giving the Keys of the Kingdom, to whom is he speaking? Peter (Matthew 16: 13-20). (For interesting reading on the symbolism of keys in scripture, consider also Isaiah 22, Revelation 3). Jesus even says, when asked by the apostles why he speaks in parables, that "the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven is given to you, but not to them." Very clearly, God has no problem in creating a sort of inequality in authority even amongst his Church. If he designated certain knowledge of the kindgom of Heaven for s select few, why would he allow something as important as the confession of sin to be received by anyone?
With all due respect, this is a roundabout and logically unsatisfying defense of confession through a priest, as opposed to confessing one's sins directly to God or to a member of one's Christian community.

As God would have it, our pastor preached on the importance of community this morning. Not surprisingly, he leaned heavily on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's authoritative treatise, Life Together.

Here's a pertinent excerpt:

"Does all this mean that confession to a brother is a divine law? No, confession is not a law, it is an offer of divine help for the sinner. It is possible that a person may by God's grace break through to certainty, new life, the Cross, and fellowship without benefit of confession to a brother. It is possible that a person may never know what it is to doubt his own forgiveness and despair of his own confession of sin, that he may be given everything in his own private confession to God. We have spoken here for those who cannot make this assertion. Luther himself was one of those for whom the Christian life was unthinkable without mutual, brotherly confession. In the Large Catechismhe said: 'Therefore when I admonish you to confession I am admonishing you to be a Christian'. Those who, despite all their seeking and trying, cannot find the great joy of fellowship, the Cross, the new life, and certainty should be shown the blessing that God offers us in mutual confession. Confession is within the liberty of the Christian. Who can refuse, without suffering loss, a help that God has deemed it necessary to offer?"
So, as I said before, I get the concept of confessing my sins to my Christian brothers and sisters. Accountability is an important part of Christian community which, unfortunately, has been too often disregarded by modern Protestant churches (for whom authenticity was a real problem for much of the late 20th Century).

BTW, I was surprised that your defense of priestly confession didn't even touch James 5:16, which seems at least somewhat oauthoritative on the subject:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
This passage doesn't appear to make any mention of the need for a priestly intercessor in confession. Instead, it's addressed to the Chrisitian laity.

Moreover, one of the great commentaries on the book of James--The Epistle of James by 19th Century scholar Joseph Mayor--notes the following in reference to James 5:

The practice of auricular confession was not made generally obligatory even by the Church of Rome till the Lateran Council of 1215 under Innocent III., which ordered that every adult person should confess to the priest at least once in the year. In all other Churches it is still optional."
If true, then this means that priestly confession was not a practice of the early Church, does not trace back to Peter, Paul, or any of the Apostles, and only became a "mandatory" practice of the RCC in the Middle Ages, at a time when the Church eagerly denied Scriptural access to the laity.

If I'm wrong on this last point, then please enlighten me.
 
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HornsWin

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With all due respect, this is a roundabout and logically unsatisfying defense of confession through a priest, as opposed to confessing one's sins directly to God or to a member of one's Christian community.

As God would have it, our pastor preached on the importance of community this morning. Not surprisingly, he leaned heavily on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's authoritative treatise, Life Together.

Here's a pertinent excerpt:



So, as I said before, I get the concept of confessing my sins to my Christian brothers and sisters. Accountability is an important part of Christian community which, unfortunately, has been too often disregarded by modern Protestant churches (for whom authenticity was a real problem for much of the late 20th Century).

BTW, I was surprised that your defense of priestly confession didn't even touch James 5:16, which seems at least somewhat oauthoritative on the subject:



This passage doesn't appear to make any mention of the need for a priestly intercessor in confession. Instead, it's addressed to the Chrisitian laity.

Moreover, one of the great commentaries on the book of James--The Epistle of James by 19th Century scholar Joseph Mayor--notes the following in reference to James 5:



If true, then this means that priestly confession was not a practice of the early Church, does not trace back to Peter, Paul, or any of the Apostles, and only became a "mandatory" practice of the RCC in the Middle Ages, at a time when the Church eagerly denied Scriptural access to the laity.

If I'm wrong on this last point, then please enlighten me.
You asked and I responded. Nothing I say is going to be good enough, but I am still happy to answer any questions you might have. From now on, I am just going cut directly from the Cathechism. If you still want to disagree, I will let you disagree with 2000 years of scholars and priests who have studied an unbroken line of teaching that traces its origin directly to our Lord.

I must ask, though, what makes Bonhoeffer's Life Together authoritative? As a Protestant, isn't the only authoritative work the Word of the Lord?
 

HornsWin

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You know what, I am officially bowing out of IT for a while. I'm too hot with a lot of stuff going on in my real life, you guys don't deserve my scorn, and right now I'm offering nothing to anyone. Should anyone have any parting shots or well wishes, get them in tonight because I'm going dark at 12:01a.
 

PFD

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Dallas
I'm not. I am only asking that you provide scriptural evidence. Saying, "Yeah, they're there," is not evidence. That is an uncited reference.

The title of this thread, and the overriding purpose of this thread, is to discuss the Papacy. Seeing as Peter was the first Pope, it seems like focusing on Peter would be a necessity.

Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the US of A, Brazil, Colombia, France, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Prussia, Serbia, Ukraine, Bangladesh, China, Japan, North Korea and Sri Lanka have all seen anti-Catholicism rise to the level of persecution.

Ok. Christians believe that the scriptures hold the Truth, God's word given to men. Protestants, being Christians, obviously believe that. But there are tens of thousands of Protestant denominations. Which one's are true and which ones are not? More importantly, how is that determined? Because amongst the many Protestant denominations there are bound to be scriptural contradictions that are taken by their respective believers to be absolutely true. And, presumably, these denominations were inspired by the Holy Spirit to break from their previous tradition to start the new one. But if that is the way one determines the truth in Protestantism, individual interpretation of the Holy Spirit, then yes, that is absolutely subjective. There are no uniform Protestant teachings, therefore there is no authority beyond the individual, who is ultimately responsible for determining what he or she believes in true.

Now compare that to this: "I was born in a male's body, but I know that I am really a female." That sounds crazy, right? There should be some underlying objective sense to determine one's sex. Yet, you believe that God in his infinite wisdom wants to leave man's interpretation of truth and, by extension his very salvation up to his own fallible mind?

Or think about it like this. The founding fathers fight the Revolutionary War and they win. Huzzah! We are free from the grips of the British Empire. Then the founding fathers are like, ok, you guys now figure out whatever works best for you and that will be the law, even if it contradicts your neighbor's preference. You'll figure it out. Silliness. So they came up with a system of laws and, more, an infrastructure to uniformally enforce them. And what's more, they devised a way for them to be interpreted authoritatively. Why, then, would God send his son to die for our sins, thereby offering us salvation, and then say that it's now up to us to understand everything? Even when Christ was on earth in the flesh, the Apostles still had trouble understanding his teaching.

What's more, Christ said he came not to abolish the law, but to uphold it. Presumably, he means that the things that came before the incarnation were fundamentally good, if institutionally corrupt. So perhaps it was not the Jewish system of government that was corrupted or flawed, but rather what those in charge had turned it into. We know from the Book of First Samuel that God would prefer to be our king, rather than having an earthly king. But in a kingdom, there is a very distinct hierarchy. No kingdom, i.e., a monarchy, ever allowed for independently governed fiefdoms with their own interpretation of the laws.

Finally, I am going to appeal to nature, because nature is God's creation. When you look at the natural world, there is an order to everything, from leat to greatest. Nature is inherently unequal, but everything points to the thing that is one level or order greater. And everything is connected. All of creation connected in some way or other. That is God's doing, becuse that is God's way. The first thing he did was bring order to the chaos of the void, because he brings order to chaos. Now, in what way does a perpetually fractured, divided, and at times even contentious church point to God? What hallmarks of the Almighty does that exhibit? You said that the early church was fragmented. Yes, it was! You might say it was a bit chaotic. But if you read the history of the early Church, if you read the Church Fathers, the ante-Nicean Fathers, what do you see? You see the Church slowly coming together under the direction of the Holy Spirit. How can we be sure it was under the direction of the Holy Spirit? One indication is that heresy was taken seriously. The one I always go to is Arius. He taught that Jesus was created, not begotten. This violated Church teaching, i.e., belief, and after much wrangling, it was pronounced as a heresy thus denounced. There was no allowance that Arius may go and form his own denomination based on his difference of belief. He was expelled, period. How could that have happened if not under the direction of the Holy Spirit? But you see, it also shows that even those who believe that they are acting under the influence of the Holy Spirit, which is what Protestants believe allows them to discern truth from falsehood, can be mistaken. There has to be a higher means of interpretive authority than the individual, and that is the Church.
This seems like a long-winded argument for institutionalism.

As a general rule, there's nothing wrong with seeking order. Order is good. Order makes people feel better, more secure.

But "order" in the hands of unchecked sinners produces ordered sin.
 
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PFD

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You know what, I am officially bowing out of IT for a while. I'm too hot with a lot of stuff going on in my real life, you guys don't deserve my scorn, and right now I'm offering nothing to anyone. Should anyone have any parting shots or well wishes, get them in tonight because I'm going dark at 12:01a.
Vaya con Dios, amigo.
 
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