Saturday, April 24, 2010

Three Reasons Why I am Not a Roman Catholic

One poster asked me to give three reasons why I am not a Roman Catholic. Since I try to answer all questions I am asked by my readers, I will briefly explain why I will not join the Roman Church.

1. The denial of Sola Fide
This is the most important reason why I have not and will not ever join the Roman church. As a Lutheran I see it as the center of the Biblical gospel. Trent erred in defining justification as a process and anathematizing its Biblical formulation. Justification is clearly judicial. Paul contrasts "justification" with "condemnation." Justification, being the opposite of condemnation, is clearly a legal term. It means "not guilty" and as Paul in Romans 4, quoting David defines it, the non-imputation of sin, as well as the counting of righteousness. Paul also uses it in the past tense in Romans 5:1 and other places, denying the understanding of justification as a process.

2. Unwritten tradition as a source of authority
I do not see scripture teaching that there is another source of authority which is unwritten and carried on by an infallible magisterium. This is problematic because several of these "traditions" are contradicted by scripture itself. Also, just as clearly, several traditions now claimed by the Roman Church are the opposite of teachings in the fathers. For example, the immaculate conception, now a "dogma of the church" was condemned by Pope Galacius. The Roman Church has not stayed consistent in defining its own infallible tradition. This is why Trent could anathematize Protestants while Vatican II refers to them as separated brethren. This is also why the entire medieval tradition of purgatory as involving an actual period of time can be contradicted by the current Pope. There is simply no consistency.

3. The sacrifice of the mass
Simply put, I believe the doctrine of the re-sacrifice of Christ or "representation of the once for all sacrifice" or however one wants to put it, is a denial of the nature of Christ's atonement. The book of Hebrews makes the point that what is greater about the New Covenant as opposed to the Old is that the propitiatory sacrifice is once for all, and cannot be repeated. The text is clear, and to explain that it is the same sacrifice now as the one on Golgotha is just to skate around the issue and ruin the author's argument.


Nick said...

Hi Jordan,

You gave three good reasons, here are my brief responses:

1. You say: "Justification is clearly judicial." While it's sometimes used in judicial contexts, it really isn't 'strictly legal' by any means. Romans 4 is an important section in this regard because I don't see anything primarily legal about it, quite the contrary. For example, when Paul brings up Psalm 32, it is speaking of "forgiveness," which is hardly a legal concept.

2. You said: "I do not see scripture teaching that there is another source of authority"
This really goes hand in hand with affirming Sola Scriptura, to which a Catholic would say is unscriptural.
As for the examples you gave, I'd have to see more info on the Pope Galacius argument (esp if he officially 'condemned it'). The issue of calling Protestants heretics and separated brethren isn't a contradiction because neither are mutually exclusive. The former was emphasized earlier because that's when the Reformation happened, the latter is emphasized now because the large majority of Protestants were born into Protestantism and thus don't carry the level of guilt the original Protestants do. This is the distinction between formal and material heresy.

3. You said: "the doctrine of the re-sacrifice of Christ or "representation of the once for all sacrifice" or however one wants to put it, is a denial of the nature of Christ's atonement."
Those are very different constructs listed. A re-sacrifice is clearly wrong and not what Catholics teach, but that can't be conflated with re-presentation of the one sacrifice. The third Ecumenical Council (at Ephesus) explicitly affirmed this, and Lutherans do at least give some credence to the early Ecumenical Councils. The fact Scripture describes Christ as described as the Passover Sacrificial Lamb clearly links to the Last Supper, and Paul even draws a clear parallel between pagan sacrifices and the Eucharistic altar in 1 Cor 10:14-22.
On the flip side, I see a serious problem with the Lutheran view of the Atonement, namely Penal Substitution. Lutherans teach justification can be lost (e.g. David in Romans 4:6-8, cf Smalcald 3:3:43), and rightly so, but this conflicts with Penal Substitution.

I welcome any clarifications or comments to anything that's been said.

Jordan Cooper said...

1. I don't see how forgiveness is not a legal concept. Not counting one's sins against him is the primary meaning of justification in the Reformation understanding, along with the imputing of righteousness (Rom 4:8)Forgiveness would identify justification as an act of the Father taking away the sins of His people, not the infusing of grace into the soul.

2. The two examples I gave of changing tradition in the church are by no means isolated. I could name several others. The very fact that Robert Sungenis and Raymond Brown can lay claim to the same "infallible tradition" shows me that the variety of opinions under the Roman system are no less than with those who accept sola scriptura. The problem with your explanation of Trent is that the statements themselves do not make these qualifications. They are for "anyone who believes" x,y, or z, not simply those of that time period.

3. I think that the distinction between "re-sacrifice" and "representation of the once for all sacrifice" is a weak distinction. Earlier Roman Catholics clearly talked about the mass as a re-sacrifice. If this is a representation of the once for all sacrifice, wouldn't this have come up in the book of Hebrews? Surely the Jews reading this book would have been thinking, "but Christ's sacrifice needs to be repeated (or represented) in the mass as well." Surely he would have at least addressed this question.
I don't see how the Lutheran view that a man can fall away from the faith denies penal substitution. Christ took our punishment upon Himself. This however, needs to be accepted by faith for it to be efficacious to the individual. Thus if one loses faith, the means of receiving these benefits is lost.

Nick said...

1) A judge - acting in a strictly legal manner - cannot 'forgive', he can only convict or acquit based upon one's guilt. As for 'not counting sin', the Greek and Hebrew term for 'count' actually doesn't work the way Luther mistakenly thought it did.

2) I'm not sure I follow your point on 2A, because regardless of who the Catholic is they must stay within the 'parameters' of defined doctrines. Their opinions may vary, as long as they're within the 'parameters'. As for 2B, I might not have been clear. The condemnations of Trent apply then and now. However, a condemnation doesn't take full effect unless one knowingly is denying a Catholic doctrine. Since most Protestants today were born Protestant and thus didn't defect from the faith, they are guilty materially, not formally. The Catechism of Trent even makes such a distinction: "a person is not to be called a heretic as soon as he shall have offended in matters of faith; but he is a heretic who, having disregarded the authority of the Church, maintains impious opinions with pertinacity"

3A) I'd have to see some specific quotes on Catholics who taught the Mass to be a 'resacrifice'. Trent explicitly denies this. I see a huge difference between representing and re-sacrificing, just as there's a huge difference between sacrificing the passover lamb to put it on doorposts each year versus partaking and calling to mind each year that one Passover night. Again, the Council of Ephesus and 1 Cor 10:14-22 indicate the Mass is a sacrifice.

3B) If someone takes the punishment, that punishment cannot in the future be *also* inflicted upon another. If Christ took the death penalty for someone's sin, that sinner cannot likewise receive the death penalty. To have God punish Jesus and punish the sinner for the same sin would be a huge abomination. To me, this is one area where Lutheranism is espousing a pretty obvious and significant logical contradiction. And I'm not making this up, this is one of the primary issues Calvinists object to against Lutherans.

Jordan Cooper said...

1. The whole point is that God as a just judge forgives by imputing our guilt to Christ and His righteousness to us. I still don't see how forgiveness cannot be a legal concept. λογίζομαι does not mean impute? According to who? How come all Greek lexicons I look at tell me the same thing? Joseph Fitzmeyer, a Roman Catholic, clearly takes this as the meaning of the term.

2. My point is that there are not really strict perimeters, as is claimed, to be Roman Catholic. Much of what Karl Rahner taught, for example, clearly denied so much earlier teaching.

3. I know this is a primary issue in Calvinist/ Lutheran discussion. I used to be a Calvinist. I completely disagree that penal substitution is necessarily a Calvinistic doctrine. You can read several things I have written on this very topic.

Nick said...

1a) Regarding the "imputing our guilt to Christ and Christ's Righteousness to us," I can say with a clear conscience that I see this nowhere taught in Scripture. Paul uses 'logizomai' (Greek: reckon/impute/count/etc) about 30 times, but never does he use it when speaking of our sin to Christ or Christ's righteousness to us. To do so is projecting one's presuppositions onto Paul, when Paul was well aware of the term and didn't deem it proper to ever speak like that.

1b) Forgiveness has no place in a courtroom, for it's not a judge's prerogative to show mercy; he can only condemn or acquit. To pardon is incompatible with strict justice.

1c) The Greek term logizomai can mean 'impute' - but my point was Luther *misunderstood* the way this works. Logizomai is essentially a *mental calculation* about something, looking at the situation and forming a conclusion (rightly or wrongly). Luther thought logizomai meant something akin to "transfer X to Y," but that's not how the term is used in Scripture. For example, look how the Bible uses it:

Rom 3:28 "Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."
Here Paul is making a mental calculation about the situation, recognizing the *fact* that justification is by faith apart from the Law. No transferring is going on, Paul is merely recognizing the actual status of the situation.

Romans 8:18 "For I consider [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
Here Paul mentally recognizes the fact that our present life is nothing compared to Heavenly glory. He is not transferring, only recognizing the actual nature of the situation.

Thus, when Scripture says "sin is not logizomai," it means God doesn't see sin there anymore (because sin was truly eradicated). This has nothing to do with sin being 'transferred' and in fact an impossible range of meaning for logizomai.

2) I would have to see some examples. If anyone denies a dogma (which cannot change) of the Catholic Church, they're acting outside the parameters of orthodoxy.

3) I would enjoy reading some of your comments on Penal Substitution, especially in regards to how you explain how Jesus *already* took the punishment for sin X while leaving open the possibility of the Judge *also* punishing the Christian for sin X. I honestly don't see how there is any justice (or Biblical basis) in such an arrangement.

Jordan Cooper said...

You cannot simply say that because Paul did not write "Christ's righteousness is imputed to us" that he did not clearly teach the concept in other words. Putting together the concepts in verses like Romans 4:3, Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 1:30 and Philippians 3:8-9 make a very clear cut case for the doctrine of imputation.
Yes the judge can forgive if the judge is God and the subject is man. Romans 4 clearly discusses forgiveness as part of "crediting righteousness" and "not counting" sin against someone.
Your arguments for the Greek term are completely irrelevant. Luther did not believe that the term means "transfer x to y", nor does any serious Protestant theologian. It simply means "impute." It does not mean transfer. No one argues this way. Just because it is often true that what is imputed is actually the case with that thing (i.e. Phineas being credited with righteousness) does not mean that it can be used in no other context. If the term has to be used to describe the actual situation, what does Romans 4:5 mean? The man who is ungodly is counted as righteous. How can an ungodly man be counted as being righteous if the imputing must necessarily refer to something that is already true.
Before the comment is even made, I must say that this is no legal fiction. Being imputed as righteous is a reality, because there is a real mediator, a real representative who has really kept the law and paid for its penalty.

Jordan Cooper said...

As for specific examples of changing and contradictory traditions, here are a few:
-purgatory being an actual place with actual time
-Pope Gelasius explicit rejection of the bodily assumption of Mary (I was mistaken in saying the immaculate conception before, I apologize)
-Pope Gelasius argued that it was necessary to receive the Eucharist in both elements, though later tradition rejected this
-Titles for the Roman Bishop condemned by Gregory were later used for the Roman Bishop
-Newman's development hypothesis rejects much of the argumentation necessary in upholding traditions used in earlier councils which claimed "unanimous consensus of the fathers"
-Cyprian's statement that there is no salvation outside of the church is rejected by the "anonymous Christian" idea proposed by Karl Rahner
-The tradition claims sacraments as the only necessary means of obtaining God's grace. Rome now claims that even those who have never been baptized can receive salvation.

There are several more.

Nick said...

Hi Jordan,

I'm not denying Paul could have used other words to espouse the concept of "Christ's Righteousness" - but the burden is on the Protestant to demonstrate that when Paul uses a term like "righteousness" it must be "Christ's Righteousness" as opposed to any other possible meanings of 'righteousness'.

Looking at the 5 passages you cite, only one of them even mentions the term "impute" - Rom 4:3 - and that text is under dispute by us - so to say they 'clearly' make case for imputation is quite a leap. Just taking one of those texts, Phil 3, and reading in it context (3:8-11) I say it's espousing the exact opposite of imputation.

You objected to my claim on imputation meaning "transfer" and said "It simply means 'impute'". This is ambiguous. What do *you* mean by "impute," and what's an example of using it in a sentence??
Here's an example I'd use: If I accuse Bob of cheating on his wife, I'm imputing adultery to him. I had better be right (that Bob is really a cheater), else I'm grossly in error.
Now how would this play out in the "faith imputed as righteousness" situation go? God would impute the quality of righteousness to the act of faith, else God would be calculating in error.

You then mention the locus classicus for your claim: Romans 4:5
The main problem here is that too much weight is put on this passage with too many assumptions supporting it. It's simply dangerous to build one's theology upon a single verse.
Now, lets examine some specifics here:

(A) You said "The man who is ungodly is counted as righteous," but the actual phraseology is "justifies the ungodly, faith credited as righteousness". These two phrases are not necessarily identical in meaning.

(B) You're assuming the term "ungodly" means "unrighteous," but that's not necessarily true. Paul could have simply used the term "unrighteous," negating 'righteous' in this case, but he didn't. The term he used was a negated form of "worshiper", and thus more akin to "non-worshiper" (especially in regards to not worshiping according to Jewish Law standards). The "non-worshiper" (from the Jewish point of view) is none other than the Gentile, and thus Paul would be saying "God justifies the Gentile." This fits with Paul's theme/context (that God is also the God of the Gentiles, and justifies the uncircumcised, 3:27ff). To Judaizer ears, Paul would be uttering blasphemy, God justifying the (second class) Gentiles?...and worst of all Paul calling Abraham a 'non-worshiper' (justified *before* being circumcised 4:9ff)!

(C) Even if "ungodly" means 'sinner', you'd have to assume "justify" here were a bare declaration. But we both know it's not, and that it includes forgiveness, thus it can be rendered "God forgives the sinner [who genuinely repents]." This would fit perfectly with Romans 4:7-8 and a similar situation of Luke 18:9-14.

(D) The term "justify" ("declare righteous") is not a synonym for "impute righteousness" - 'declare' and 'impute' are not the same. If the passage is rendered "God declares righteous the unrighteous," you have a problem, namely God's honor is at stake, for that is a flat out injustice/contradiction. If you argue the man is truly forgiven and a real righteousness is set to his account, then God isn't really "declaring righteous the unrighteous" anymore, but rather "declaring righteous the righteous".

As you can seen, these are no small details, and each point introduces things that potentially invalidate your appeal to this text.

Nick said...

I'd also like to comment upon the list you gave of supposed discrepancies between Catholic teaching of one time compared to another:

-purgatory being an actual place with actual time

I know of no such Catholic document where such details are specifically stated.

-Pope Gelasius explicit rejection of the bodily assumption of Mary (I was mistaken in saying the immaculate conception before, I apologize)

A specific citation would be required for me to evaluate this both in regards to whether it was even said and whether or not it was being formally promulgated.

-Pope Gelasius argued that it was necessary to receive the Eucharist in both elements, though later tradition rejected this

Again, a specific citation is necessary for me to properly evaluate it. Did he really say this? If so, was he speaking of 'necessary' in regards to doctrine or regulatory practice (e.g. the Apostles in Acts 15 forbade eating food sacrificed to idols as a regulatory practice, yet Paul says the practice itself is not intrinsically evil in 1 Cor 8).

-Titles for the Roman Bishop condemned by Gregory were later used for the Roman Bishop

I'd have to see specific quotes here as well. I assume you're speaking of the "Universal Patriarch" comments, in which Gregory was condemning both the title and the false appeal to it by Constantinople.

-Newman's development hypothesis rejects much of the argumentation necessary in upholding traditions used in earlier councils which claimed "unanimous consensus of the fathers"

I'm not even sure what this is saying, specifics please!

-Cyprian's statement that there is no salvation outside of the church is rejected by the "anonymous Christian" idea proposed by Karl Rahner

I'm not sure what the proposition of Rahner is, nor if it's even orthodox (and Rahner isn't the Magisterium).

-The tradition claims sacraments as the only necessary means of obtaining God's grace. Rome now claims that even those who have never been baptized can receive salvation.

This would depend on just what you're saying, and I can't read your mind. Tradition has never said the Sacraments were absolutely necessary, and Trent and popes and fathers have explicitly said the proper "desire" to receive the sacrament can grant the same graces as if the actual sacrament were really used.

Joe Heschmeyer said...


I hope you'll forgive me butting into an old debate, but I'm fixated on your arguments against Tradition.

If I may, let's separate the general from the specific.

Your general thesis is that there's no separate source of authority, Tradition. I think we should be careful to note that what we Catholics mean by "separate" is like what we mean by saying there's information in Luke that's not in Mark. We're not suggesting one or the other is ignorant, or has something to hide. They simply paint a fuller picture when viewed together. So if you're imagining it as one public Gospel (Scripture) and one private one (Tradition), you're imagining it wrong.

As for Scriptural support, I see clear Scriptural support for the notion of unwritten authority in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, and so on.

Besides this, if unwritten Tradition cannot be a source of authority, by what authority do you hold that there are 66 (and only 66) Books of the Bible? What written Scriptural Tradition tells you this? Your own Luther, couldn't figure out if James, Revelation, 2 Peter and the like were Scriptural, and a number of early Protestants kept to the Deuterocanon, at least for a time. By what authority do you reject those other Books, if not unwritten authority?

So we can't know the Biblical canon without "unwritten" Tradition, because the Bible doesn't include an infallible Table of Contents (besides this, not a single Church Father used a 66-Book Bible). Without a Bible, from your perspective, there's no authority at all.

So it seems to me that either Scripture and Tradition are both right, or you have total religious anarchy.

On the specifics, I was surprised that someone with your level of learning made the mistakes I see: For example, who is "Pope Galacius"? And where did he ever condemn the Immaculate Conception?

I suspect you're probably referring to Pope Gelasius, and his condemnation of De Transitu Virginis. But that was a fake Gospel claiming to describe the full details of Mary's Immaculate Conception and early life, just as numerous false Gospels claimed to detail the childhood of Christ, or the lives of the Apostles. Denying one version of the Immaculate Conception as a fraud doesn't deny the Immaculate Conception anymore than denying the "Infancy Gospel of Thomas" denies that Christ was an Infant.

As for Purgatory and the "anathemas", those fallacies have also been answered many times before. Vatican II was quite clear on why Protestants today don't "inherit" the sin of schism. So no contradiction there. In general I think you should try harder nex time to find out what Catholics actually believe before condemning them next. In Christ,