Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hyper Calvinism, Bishops, and Christology

On this week's program I answered lots of listener questions. I read an argument against limited atonement, defined hyper Calvinism, answered some questions from Roman Catholics, and discussed the differences between Lutheran and Reformed Christology. Here's the program.

20 comments:

David Gray said...

I'm listening and you seem to indicate that the Reformed view of baptism is symbolic and Zwinglian. But Westminster teaches that when baptism is received in faith that baptism confers what it promises. You may want to argue with other aspects but that doesn't strike me as symbolic.

Jordan Cooper said...

I recognize that not all of the Reformed adopt a Zwinglian view of the sacrament. I didn't mean to imply that. However, I have found that a Zwinglian view is very prominent in many Reformed churches.

David Gray said...

>>However, I have found that a Zwinglian view is very prominent in many Reformed churches

I'm afraid that is true. Too often an infant baptism is the occasion for explaining that what we are about to do does not actually do anything. But Reformed ministers who do that are not being confessional.

Joe said...

Hi Jordan.

Thanks for the podcast and answering my question about Luther/faith alone.

So, from your study, you do see evidence of Luther's doctrine throughout church history, but not in as clear and explicit a form.

Observing a conversation on Beggars All, there is a David Waltz, who is very well read and I respect his input. He claims that many Protestant patristic scholars like "McGiffert, Richardson and Torrance believe it is a mistake to read the Reformation understanding of justification back into Clement of Rome; and second, even if one were to allow that the anachronistic reading of Clement is the correct/valid one, it would be an anomaly, which was ignored for nearly 1,500 years."

Just wondered if you had any commentary on anything that David is claiming?

Thanks.

in Him,

Joe

Nick said...

Regarding your Catholic comments on the office of Bishop, I don't see any way one can accept Luther as a church authority without also claiming apostasy of the visible church from at least Nicaea onward. The idea that the ecclesiology until the time of Luther was simply an ad hoc and non-essential is simply not credible. This is why I think ecclesiology is a huge, huge problem for the Protestant side, because they're forced to ecclesial relativism. So I'm stunned you say (34:30) we should have the office of bishop for order and historical continuity, as if this office can just arise at will and just disappear without any issue. The million dollar question is, is the office of bishop an essential to ecclesiology?

Next the issue of Sola Fide in the Church Fathers. I'm glad you begin by saying Luther taught Sola Fide "much more clearly" than anyone in the early Church, since this sets the stage for just how much in darkness the Early Church was on this most crucial doctrine. This is especially true when Luther admits in his "Tower Experience" that Augustine barely understood the doctrine and Luther falsely tries to co-opt On the Spirit And Letter as a key work. The idea that it's good enough to say a father here and there made some high remark about faith shouldn't be a comfort at all, nor should you be saying "the fathers were not Lutheran or Presbyterian or Catholic," for that makes the Patristic Christianity a denomination that no longer exists!

Jordan Cooper said...

Joe,

David Waltz is correct that certain Patristic scholars don't see sola fide in Clement or any other Patristic sources. I find this to be incorrect. I interact with Torrance's arguments on the subject (which are the most in-depth and serve as the backdrop for others who follow this line of thought) in my upcoming book from Wipf & Stock. Some writers, like Thomas Oden, have argued that all of the fathers taught sola fide. Both of these approaches are wrong-headed in my opinion.

In my view, certain writers clearly teach Luther's view of justification. This can be found in Clement, the Epistle to Diognetus, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Hilary, and Marius Victorinus. There are also certain strands of thought which play into Luther's view of justification, such as the monergism of Augustine, Prosper, and the Council of Orange, as well as the doctrine of the communication of attributes between the believer and Christ. This is common especially in the medieval period, in writers such as Bernard of Clairvaux, John Tauler, and John Gerson.

Jordan Cooper said...

Nick,

Regarding your first question, no I don't think that the episcopacy is essential to the nature of the church. The church is defined by word and sacrament, not by its ecclesiastical structure. This is evident, especially in the fact that elder and bishop were originally the same office, as is testified to in the Pastoral epistles and the writings of Jerome. The office of the bishop came about as something beneficial in a specific historical circumstance. I think that it was a good development and I would like to see it restored. Lutherans don't, however, claim that there is one divinely mandated form of church government as is the case in the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian traditions. I'm not sure why I would have to think that the church was apostate since Nicea because of the episcopacy if I believe that it is a good and helpful form of church polity.

Regarding your second question, my primary area of study is in the Patristic period. I have written a lot on the subject. I don't claim that the church was in terrible darkness on the subject of justification as you claim, in the Patristic period. It is a fact that in church history, doctrines are formulated more clearly and precisely as those doctrines are the subject of controversy. For example, the statements of many of the 2nd-3rd century apologists on the Trinity would be regarded as subordinationist if they were repeated after Nicea. Some of the same writers might also be considered Pelagian or semi-Pelagian if judged by the councils of Ephesus or Orange. I don't see why the doctrine of justification would be any different. Even from a Roman Catholic point of view, it must be admitted that several essential doctrines took years to be formulated in the way the modern church explains them. You won't find a detailed description of the representation of Christ's sacrifice in the mass in the early church. That took some time to develop.

The quotes which I use to defend sola fide in the fathers are not "high remarks about faith" but are statements in which faith and works are contrasted in the context of justification, and justification is ascribed to faith rather than works. And regarding Augustine, his writings do have many of the central elements of a Lutheran understanding of salvation. In "On the Spirit and the Letter" Augustine talks about the Law as that which kills. It points man to his inability to fulfill God's Law. This drives man to grace where he receives a righteousness from God apart from works, and is then able to begin to love God and neighbor, though still struggling with sin. That contains a lot of the essential elements of Luther's theology even though this righteousness is imparted, rather than imputed, in Augustine's view.

When I say that the fathers were neither Presbyterian, nor Lutheran, nor Roman Catholic, I am simply stating a fact of history. The fathers have different views from one another on a great variety of subjects. Sometimes they agree with Lutherans, sometimes they agree with Rome. For example, Jerome, Athanasius, and Melito of Sardis don't have the apocrypha in their canon, whereas Augustine does. This is the case with all sorts of doctrines. It is historically naive to argue that there is a universal consensus of the fathers that agrees with any particular tradition. That's why Newman came up with the developmental hypothesis in the first place.

Joe said...

Hi Jordan.

Thanks for the feedback! When I read Clement and Diognetus I too clearly see justification affirming Luthers understanding...and really cannot see how it could be any clearer. I am really looking forward to your book! When is it coming?

Do you have a specific list of works that support our view, other than the scriptures of course. :)

I know you listed some in podcast, and I was trying to write then down, but was just wondering if you had a recommeded reading list on this issue? Assume it will be in your book....but until then.

Thanks for all your work!

in Him,

Joe

Jordan Cooper said...

Joe,

I'll put a reading list together and post it on the blog. Regarding my book, it will come out some time next year. Right now, I need $600 to pay for an editor, which I don't have. I'm trying to get donations, but haven't had much luck. If you would like to see it sooner, you could help by donating on paypal. If that doesn't happen, it will be a couple months before I will be able to pay for an editor. I am currently waiting for a call to a congregation and am without a job until then.

Joe said...

I will donate what I can Jordan...though it is not even close to the $600 you need.

Will certainly pray for a call! And for others to donate as well.

In Him,

Joe

Jordan Cooper said...

Thanks Joe, I'm not expecting anyone to donate the whole amount. Every little bit helps.

Joe said...

Right...I figure as much, I just did not want u to get your hopes real high on account of me.

Joe said...

I do apologize for my ignorance, but I cannot find anywhere on your blog here to donate....

Please remind me on how to do so.

Thanks.

In Him,

Joe

Jordan Cooper said...

It's on the contact page of my site, but I really need to add something to my blog.

Nick said...

Hi Jordan,

If episcopacy is not essential to the nature of the Church, then what form of polity is? It's impossible to envision a visible Church with an undefined polity, for that doesn't give anyone any definite marks to look for, particularly in times of dispute. The fact you and I cannot go to a common arbiter nor hold a common Council is a tragic fact and one that never existed in Church history until Luther. This is why I cringe when I hear some Protestants say Church polity is a "non-essential".

Having elder and bishop as the same office doesn't necessitate the episcopacy is not essential, and I'd argue quite the contrary. It rather proves that's the Church's ecclesial backbone. This is because there is still hierarchy, including a hierarchy among bishops. This is only solidified since Nicaea, with no sign or grounds for this to suddenly disappear forever at the fiat of Luther. The point is, nowhere in history, scripture, fathers do we see an approach of someone starting their own Church on their own conditions and ditching the entire ecclesiology of the whole Church.

As for the whole notion of doctrinal development and Sola Fide, I think that's dangerous argument because this doctrine was supposed to be plainly taught in Scripture (i.e. not as complex as the Trinity by any means), and it was never mentioned in any Ecumenical Council. This is really not true of any other doctrine.

To merely look for quotes that say faith and works are contrasted is what I mean by "high remarks about faith," since they don't automatically pose any problems for the Catholic view, but in fact can be quite compatible. The Spirit&Letter is an excellent example for you admit it shows a solution against works of the Law that ultimately isn't the Lutheran solution. So it is not enough by any means to find faith-vs-works talk in the Fathers and conclude they were preaching Sola Fide as Luther understood it.

Jordan Cooper said...

Nick,

No form of polity is essential in defining the church. Polity is flexible, as is evident in the fact that the early church adopted the synagoguel structure at first, with the local church being ruled by elders, then utilized only one pastor, and eventually differentiated between pastors and bishops, which then was further divided between bishops and archbishops, etc. The church is defined by word and sacrament, not a specific polity.

You say that the episcopacy is a necessary mark for the presence of the church. But what does this ultimately solve? Many churches have an episcopal polity and are in Apostolic Succession such as: the Coptics, the Eastern Orthodox, the Nestorians, the Anglicans, the Old Catholics, many Lutherans, etc. You are left to decide which group is the correct one, and must do so by looking at the doctrine of each of these church bodies.

You said, "The fact you and I cannot go to a common arbiter nor hold a common Council is a tragic fact and one that never existed in Church history until Luther."

That is not true. There was no common council in the church between East and West after 1054. The Irish church and the Ethiopian church were not in contact with the rest of the Christian world for hundreds of years, and thus were not available for an ecumenical council. The coptic church was not able to participate in Ecumenical councils.

You say, "The point is, nowhere in history, scripture, fathers do we see an approach of someone starting their own Church on their own conditions and ditching the entire ecclesiology of the whole Church." Luther didn't do that either. He assumed the continuation of the Episcopacy; he did not set out to start a new church.

"As for the whole notion of doctrinal development and Sola Fide, I think that's dangerous argument because this doctrine was supposed to be plainly taught in Scripture (i.e. not as complex as the Trinity by any means), and it was never mentioned in any Ecumenical Council. This is really not true of any other doctrine."

I think that it was taught in the early church, as I have said. And I also think it is clearly taught in Scripture. That doesn't mean that there can't be further clarification on issues throughout church history. And as I keep saying, Roman Catholics do believe in doctrinal development. You have to if you are going to be honest with the historical evidence. And to say that justification is the only doctrine which was not discussed at an ecumenical council prior to Trent is patently absurd. Was the bodily assumption of Mary discussed at an Ecumenical Council before the Reformation? The immaculate conception? Papal infallibility?

Faith and works are contrasted in these quotes regarding justification as in: we are justified by faith and not works, or something to that extent. Look at Clement of Rome, Ambrose's treatise On Jacob and the Happy Life, or Chrysostom's commentary on Galatians.

Nick said...

I would distinguish between polity being flexible (and even capable of development) with polity having no essential features. You cannot even have word and sacrament without an established polity, since historically the sacraments only took place within an episcopal structure.

St Ignatius of Antioch in 110AD said: "See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid."

This mentions polity as going hand in hand with the sacraments, and Ignatius even makes the Bishop-Priest-Deacon distinction. For Luther to do things without the permission of his bishop is a direct violation of St Ignatius' instructions. I don't see how you could say Luther "assumed the continuation of the episcopacy" when he was not a bishop himself, nor were many of his members, nor do I believe Lutheranism today retains this office.

There were Ecumenical Councils after 1054 (e.g. Lyons, Florence), but the EO backed out of them. That Catholicism has been able to still hold Councils while nobody else can is a very strong argument that Catholicism is the One True Church. It makes no sense to me to say the Church was able to have Ecumenical Councils at one point but suddenly completely lost the ability to do so.

The Assumption and Immaculate conception are ultimately secondary dogmas, far far behind the centrality of the Trinity and Sola Fide. All I'm saying is that something so huge and so central as Sola Fide both did not get mention in the Ecumenical Councils and had no clear and consistent Patristic tradition behind it, and that's not something to take lightly.

And whenever it comes to Patristic proof texting, as a general rule of thumb, if both sides can affirm a given quote, then it serves as no positive proof for one side's unique doctrine. So when it comes to Clement of Rome, nothing in that quote is uniquely Lutheran/Protestant. I've not read Ambrose' tretise on Jacob, and it's been a while since I've read Chrysostom on Galatians, so I'd have to read up to see the merits of those specific quotes. That said, I do know Ambrose and Chrysostom taught many things incompatible with Sola Fide and Protestantism.

Jordan Cooper said...

Nick,

Ignatius does hold the Episcopal office in high esteem, as he should. This is all done for the sake of order in the church. However, I don't think that the quote you provide necessarily supports a Roman Catholic view of the episcopacy. I don't think that Ignatius views the Episcopacy as absolutely essential to the church. For example, he makes no mention of the bishop when writing to the church at Rome which would be rather strange if he held to a developed doctrine of the Papacy. I recognize that this is an argument from silence and does not absolutely prove the point, but it does raise some questions.

No, Luther wasn't a bishop, nor did he claim to be. However, that doesn't mean that the episcopacy itself didn't continue in the Lutheran church. It often did, as did many elements of the medieval church including some monasteries which became Lutheran.

Regarding the Eucharist and the episcopal office, I think Ignatius is talking about doing things in good order within the church, not being schismatic. The idea of Apostolic Succession in the early church is used primarily to support apostolic teaching as opposed to the gnostics. It doesn't seem to have the same sacramental significance that it does in the later middle ages.

I don't consider any councils after 1054 to be ecumenical. I know that you do, because you are Roman Catholic. But missing an entire half of the church does not an ecumenical council make. For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I am much more sympathetic to Eastern Orthodox theology than Roman Catholic. I find Lutheranism in many ways to be more compatible with the Eastern tradition.

I still don't buy your claim that sola fide had to be taught in an ecumenical council for it to have importance. In many ways, I think that sola fide is just an outgrowth of Cyril's Christology, and the anti-Pelagian stance of the councils of Ephesus and Orange. You would have to read my upcoming book to see why I think that is the case.

I hate Patristic proof texting. Too many people, both Protestant and Catholic, take isolated quotes from certain fathers to prove whatever point they want to make. That's why I have done some in-depth study and examination of some of the relevant quotes in my writings. Unfortunately, a blog like this isn't going to be the place where I can get into as much deep discussion. I want my better work to see publication rather than to be lost in cyberspace.

Anyway, thank you for your interaction. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to listen to what I had to say and interact with my arguments. This will be my final word on the subject in this post, since I have to get on to doing other things. But please do continue reading and discussing. God bless.

Steve Martin said...

If the fingertips of certain people touching certain other people are required to make the gospel effective, then the work of Christ on the cross for sinners was in vain.

It's just another add-on to Christ. The Word, alone, contains all the authority and power needed to create and sustain faith in those who hear it, and by God's grace, believe it.

Joe said...

Nick said: The Assumption and Immaculate conception are ultimately secondary dogmas, far far behind the centrality of the Trinity and Sola Fide.

Me: I certainly would agree that the IC and assumption are secondary, and probably untrue even...but they are still dogma in the eyes of Rome, right? They are required to be believed, or potential loss of salvation at worst or excomm at the very least.

If I have this correct, and please correct me if I do not...then that really seems to go against what you are arguing for here on this point.

in Him,

Joe