Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Unity vs. Disunity - Round 2

Dr. White has responded (link to Dr. White's response) to some comments found at a Roman Catholic blog (link to source of comments).

Dr. White points out that Reformed Baptists worldwide are far more unified than Roman Catholics. He's right, of course. But he could have taken the matter further.

He's being far too fair to the Roman Catholics.

After all, the Roman Catholic approach is to contrast the unity within their sect to the unity among either "all other groups" or "all other groups of some particular category." They are not willing to compare themselves to Reformed Baptists (where they would lose the unity battle) but instead they try to compare themselves to a bundle of many different groups.

The Roman Catholic argument works for every group. Eastern Orthodoxy is far more unified than the collection of all groups that are not Eastern Orthodox. Anglicans are far more unified than the collection of all groups that are non-Anglican - or even all Protestants that are non-Anglican. And so on, and so forth. Reformed Baptists are more unified than all non-Reformed Baptists.

-TurretinFan

21 comments:

Rhology said...

That's why Svendsen always likes to compare rules of faith. Sola Scriptura vs Sola Ecclesia (ie, Scripture + tradition and infallible interpreter). His argument has served me well many times.

Sean and Stephanie said...

T Fan.

Thanks for interacting on Called to Communion lately. I Appreciate your thoughts.

Tim answers James White's criticism indirectly in the comments to Joey Henry.

"I think if you’ll slow down and think about some of these things, the answers will become apparent. The Catholic Church, if viewed as a set of her members, has less unity than probably any particular Protestant community. That is irrelevant for a couple reasons. 1. The doctrinal unity of the Catholic Church is not the collective opinion of all her members. 2. It is due to her other strength – Catholicity and her size that she has any ‘disadvantage’ at all regarding that part.

So we answer that the unity of Catholic doctrine is the unity of the singular voice (than which no greater unity can be conceived) of the magisterium and the peoples of the Catholic Church conforming to that truth. You are using a Protestant ecclesiology and a Protestant assumption of unity by which to judge the Catholic Church. Specifically, Protestants think that unity is a sort of democratic average such that if we all believe pretty close to the same thing, then we are united. But Catholics believe in sacramental unity wherein we are united under the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, sharing at one table, and believing one faith which was handed on to us by the apostles.

On your definition of unity, the members of Called to Communion are more united than the Catholic Church. But do you see why this is irrelevant to the question? (Not just because we’re not a church). But suppose we, like many Protestants actually have, decided to call ourselves a church and we elected a preacher, a few of us became elders, and we started preaching the word faithfully. We would be more united than the Catholic Church in the way that I take you to mean. But we wouldn’t be Catholic. We wouldn’t consist of 1.x billion people from all over the world and from every tongue and race. That is, a small group of white American males from Reformed backgrounds, mostly Thomists, similar age range, comparable economic structure, who have spent a lot of time interacting with each other, would naturally have a greater degree of unity than the entirety of the Christian Church which spans the globe.


Bryan also addressed it indirectly:

You are glossing the distinction between the teaching of the Catholic Church, and the belief of an individual Catholic. If you gloss that distinction, you make the Church herself out to hold contrary doctrines or incompatible doctrines. But the Church has only one faith, and none of her doctrines is contrary to or incompatible with any other of her doctrines. Those individual Catholics who dissent from any dogma of the Church, are in [at least] material heresy. Only in Protestant ecclesiology is it necessarily the case that a property of a particular Christian is ipso facto a property of the Church.

Father Longnecker also recently talked about Catholic member disunity as it relates to modernism which is helpful here.

Turretinfan said...

I do plan to respond to Tim's and Bryan's comments. Normally, I'd leave them in moderation until I had time for a response, but I am not sure when I have time to give a suitably complete response.

The short answer is that both Tim and Byran have tried to change the location of the goalposts. The response is that all churches who adhere to Sola Scriptura also have only a single infallible voice: the voice of Scripture. It is a unity possible even the absence of sacramental and hierarchical unity, and all the more remarkable as a result.

Sean and Stephanie said...

T fan.

I would respond by saying that the most 'united' church I know of going by your definition of unity is 'Aurura Road Reformed Church' in North Texas. The pastor is a former PCA elder who went splitsville with the PCA over some doctrinal issue. Aurura Road Reformed Church is comprised of two families. The other male member household leader is the other elder. They are members of an offshoot Reformed denomination, I think its called Covenant Reformed Churches in America or something like that.

Anyway, that church of two member families is the most united in doctrine, piety and practice that I know of... a lot more united than the PCA church that they left. Does that mean that Aurura Road Presbyterian Church bears the marks of the church?

natamllc said...

While answering some questions for Dr. White comes easy, so it is for me answering this question by him comes easy:::>

".... So how is it that our focus upon the Scriptures produces unity, while Rome's focus upon her traditions, her "living magisterium," etc., produces Nancy Pelosi, the Society of Pius V, Boston College, Gerry Matatics, and Catholics for Choice?....".

Here is a more abstract broadly asserted answer, first. You should easily pick up on where I will put my distinct answer by it then?

Pro 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
Pro 2:7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
Pro 2:8 guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.
Pro 2:9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;
Pro 2:10 for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
Pro 2:11 discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you,......>

.....< Pro 2:16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words,
Pro 2:17 who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God;
Pro 2:18 for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed;
Pro 2:19 none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.

It is and should be to the simple minded, such as I am, a fact that there are two women in the universal, general and catholic paradigm and public's discourse around the world these days, to which we ought all discern. That purpose is clearly to make way to the paths of Life instead of to the paths of the departed. You might say that is a "sink hole" wanting, "the paths of the departed"?

The one is the Wife of the Lamb. She it is King Solomon spoke of here:::>

Pro 3:13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding,
Pro 3:14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.
Pro 3:15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Pro 3:16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
Pro 3:17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
Pro 3:18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.


The other, for which these discussion are set forth, is the fallen Whore, Babylon, of which King Solomon wrote about and elucidated already above, cf Pro 2:16-19.

Now to each one, a simple minded soul will note, if they care too, is unified in their particular paradigm.

The Words of Scripture hold modest and extreme prominence here with regard to the words of King Solomon, there at Proverbs 2 and 3, do they not?


Let the reader take it bluntly, this is no easy fight and it is to the death.

Turretinfan said...

S&S:

We don't think that being unified is the mark of the true church ... but you are right - if it were, you'd look for something tiny and "pure" in the sense of having no internal dissent or discord.

We reject that as a criteria, but note that we are more unified than Rome is. So, if it were a true criteria, one would not pick Rome.

-TurretinFan

Sean and Stephanie said...

TFan,

OK. Glad we agree as this is not the unity we are talking about either.

Catholics believe in sacramental unity wherein we are united under the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, sharing at one Eucharist, and professing the one faith which was handed on to us by the apostles.

Having cleared that up, James White's argument does not apply to the position of the Catholic Church and what the Catholic Church claims about Her unity.

Turretinfan said...

Every congregation and denomination has those kinds of unity, however.

Sean and Stephanie said...

As does the Catholic Church. I've been PCA and I've been Catholic and don't see much of a difference.

I do admit that there are sadly many poorly catechized Catholics who may have only gone to mass on Easter or Christmas while growing up but otherwise are not involved with their faith at all. Many of these people still tick 'Catholic' in polls. And I know, from experience, that people outside of the Catholic Church zero in on that phenomenon and use it as proof that Catholic don't believe the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

However, there really is a 'silent' majority of Catholics who practice the faith, assent to the teaching of the church and study the faith.

Please stick around Called to Communion. Your comments add a lot of good to the discussion.

Turretinfan said...

I understand what you mean, S&S. Let me suggest that a better test of whether a church is a true church is whether the church teaches the faith of the apostles. If it teaches the same gospel that Paul preached.

I think you'll find that the PCA (for example) can show that its doctrines are apostolic and that its gospel is the same one that Paul preached.

The Roman Catholic church, on certain aspects of its faith, simply insists that folks trust it.

Let me give you an example: the bodily assumption of Mary. One doesn't find this in the Scriptures, and one cannot document this view among orthodox (as opposed to heretical) Christians in the first four or five centuries.

As far as the historical and Scriptural evidence go, we have no good reason to think this is the apostolic faith. Yet, Rome requires belief in this and makes acceptance of this novel doctrine an essential part of the faith.

It's one thing to require belief in the Nicene creed, which can be proved from Scripture, and which can be documented historically back to the apostles. It's quite another to require belief in the Marian dogmas, in the inspiration of the Apocrypha, in Purgatory, in Papal infallibility, and so forth, which cannot be proved either historically or Scripturally.

In the case of the PCA, you may in fact disagree with some of the doctrines that the PCA teaches. Nevertheless, I hope you can see that there is at least a reasonable argument from Scripture that their doctrines are the apostolic doctrines. Furthermore, I hope you can see that the doctrines they identify as essential are doctrines that are plainly taught in Scripture.

natamllc said...

I am having technical difficulties posting a followup post.

This is a test and need not be published!

natamllc said...

TF, you wrote: "....Let me give you an example: the bodily assumption of Mary....".

Amen to that!

Seeing I am more set with Scripture than I am with the dogmas of the RCC and the PCA, I would note, based on your words and what you developed with them afterwards, John's teachings:::>


Joh 19:25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Joh 19:26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"
Joh 19:27 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Now, settled reality is, these words are from the same Apostle who wrote this:

2Jn 1:3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love.
2Jn 1:4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

I have to assume John carried out that unique and peculiar mandate from Our Master and Teacher faithfully? That is, he cared for Mary to her dying day. There is no record of any undoing or lack of care rendered her historically. John tended to the Word of the Lord and faithfully carried that mandate out to care for Mary. Peter wasn't given that task. None of the other Apostles either. If any one of them received Marian doctrine from Jesus, you certainly would have read about it in some writing of theirs. And, equally and united, all of these Apostles of Christ would have embraced it and taught it as a part of the settled doctrines imparted to them by the Holy Spirit from Christ.

It is this same Apostle, though, that later on continued writing more words of doctrine with those words above cited that we now have and hold as canonized Sacred Writ. Please note that nowhere is there even a remote indication or inkling of Marian doctrine taught by John, who was given that responsibility for Mary's final hours of life, in making her as prominent a figure in this life as Our Heavenly Father and the Lord Himself were.

None of the other Apostles did! John isn't given any revelation about her in the Book of the Revelation when he declared Christ to the seven Churches.

Hmmmmmm? Why does the RCC then?

Saint John goes further and more precisely points away from Mary, not toward her when he instructs us this way:::>

2Jn 1:8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.
2Jn 1:9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
2Jn 1:10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,
2Jn 1:11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

So, what's a pupil to do, the Lord's disciple in this hour, one called into this equal sojourn on earth as the earliest Apostles, to make of those strong Words of Sacred Writ?

I will assert for myself, seeing you have already made it clear many times about it yourself, TF, what I make of Marian dogma. It is what Saint John makes of it or he makes of "any" teaching that does not hold water, that is, the blessed anointing of the the Holy Spirit with it; and one should take note of that and understand what John attributes to such teachings? It is, John instructs, "a teaching of wicked works"!


We are not in a fight here against devils, to get things right on earth. We are in a war here on earth to get the Truth right on earth as They are in Heaven! One's earthly life is not the primary focus on earth. Heavenly Life in us on earth is!

Remember the prayer Jesus taught us to pray? He taught: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven".

Having our eyes on this unity, so to speak, is living out our days on the earth for His Glory in Truth!

orthodox said...

I think dr white is comparing apples and oranges. If we were going to compare reformed baptist churches, who would we compare? I've seen churches with a reformed baptist statement of faith where not a single member could be considered Reformed. So if we are going to compare Reformed Baptist CHURCHES, or ones claiming to be so, do Baptists really win this argument? The argument was never about individuals. Obviously, all the people who believe X believe X.

Turretinfan said...

Orthodox:

I find your claimed experience unlikely.

Dr. White is comparing individuals within RC-ism to individuals within LBCF1689-ism (if we must put an -ism) on it.

That's a fair comparison, though a bit too fair, in my opinion.

-TurretinFan

steve said...

orthodox said...

"I think dr white is comparing apples and oranges. If we were going to compare reformed baptist churches, who would we compare? I've seen churches with a reformed baptist statement of faith where not a single member could be considered Reformed."

And what does it take to be considered Orthodox? What about nominal Orthodox church members?

orthodox said...

"I find your claimed experience unlikely."

I don't see why you would, unless you're living a sheltered life. Many protestant churches have long since ceased to promote their statements of faith that remain officially on the books. In fact, there is only a tiny proportion of protestant churches where you can even find any information readily available about what they claim to believe, unless you take the time to dig in the bottom drawer of the office to find their constitution.

"Dr. White is comparing individuals within RC-ism to individuals within LBCF1689-ism"

Oh, so its got to be specifically 1689 statement of faith? Not good enough if it is trinitarian calvinist baptist, they've actually got to promote the 1689 confession? Not good enough I suppose if you hold to the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. Why not just make it that everyone with the initials J.W. who lives in Phoenix, who owns a Mac and is balding is more unified that such and such a church? It's getting a bit ridiculous when Reformed Baptist is already one of the tiniest Christian confessions in the world.

"What about nominal Orthodox church members?"

Nominal members are not members in good standing. That's what nominal means, don't you know.

Turretinfan said...

Orthodox:

Dr. White gets to define his own terms, just as Scripture gets to define its own terms.

-TurretinFan

steve said...

orthodox said...

"Nominal members are not members in good standing. That's what nominal means, don't you know."

I see that you're one of those people who has difficulty following his own argument. So let's help you out with your own argument. You originally said, "I think dr white is comparing apples and oranges. If we were going to compare reformed baptist churches, who would we compare? I've seen churches with a reformed baptist statement of faith where not a single member could be considered Reformed. So if we are going to compare Reformed Baptist CHURCHES, or ones claiming to be so, do Baptists really win this argument? The argument was never about individuals. Obviously, all the people who believe X believe X."

Since you are speaking from an Orthodox viewpoint, there is, implicit in your statement, an invidious contrast between the specious unity of nominally Reformed Baptist churches and the true unity of the Orthodox church.

That is why I then posed this follow-up question:

"And what does it take to be considered Orthodox? What about nominal Orthodox church members?"

The point of my question, which was evidently lost on you, is that, by parity of argument, the same objection could be raised in reference to the Orthodox church. The parallel stands or falls together.

Now that I've had to connect the dots for you, so you have something more effective to offer than "that's what nominal means, don't you know"?

Sean and Stephanie said...

TFan.

Saying that Catholic doctrines aren't found in scripture but Reformed doctrines are found in scripture begs the question and simply pushes back the ultimate question of authority back to the start.

You don't see the assumption of Mary in scripture plain enough and I don't see Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide.

orthodox said...

Steve: you still seem to be comparing apples to oranges. You're comparing people who are Orthodox in name but not members of the Orthodox Church in good standing, with Churches who claim to be reformed baptist, but for which no members actually believe reformed baptist distinctives. i.e. you're comparing individuals with churches, which was my original complaint.

As I said, nobody ever questioned that all the people who believe X actually believe X. The Catholic argument is that there is no ecclesiastical unity in protestantism.

And as I said, and this is also aimed at your comment as well TF, yes JW can define an infinitesimally small number of people who he agrees with, but that isn't a great argument.

Turretinfan said...

S&S:

You've missed my point. There's not even a reasonable argument that the assumption is a Scriptural doctrine. Your church's own scholars admit it. There are reasonable arguments (whether you accept them or not) that Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura are Scriptural doctrines.

-TurretinFan