Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Watch Your Language

Quoth Aristotle:

We must also define the errors that occur in problems. They are of two kinds, caused either by false statement or by transgression of the established diction. For those who make false statements, and say that an attribute belongs to thing which does not belong to it, commit error; and those who call objects by the names of other objects (e.g. calling a planetree a ‘man’) transgress the established terminology.

[Topics, II, 1]

If we use words in non-standard ways, we inject into any conversation the likelihood of confusion and misunderstanding. The charitable man will recognize this, and will avoid doing it for the sake of his listeners. We ought to be careful to use words correctly—that is, in the established way that they are ordinarily used. If we care about clarity, and if we care about not putting stumbling blocks in the way of our audience's comprehension, we really have no alternative.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's not just leftists who can be lazy

Here's an interesting post from Mark Steyn relating to the ridiculous habit of some on the left end of the political spectrum to dismiss Limbaugh, Coulter, et. al. as not really taking seriously what they say.

The assumption of bad faith is the first refuge of the lazy leftist: "Why, my position is so obviously the only rational one that yours can only be an act! You cannot possibly believe what you say about climate change/health care/Islamic terrorism! Clearly it can only be explained by the check from your puppetmaster!"

But it's not just the lazy leftist; as we've seen before, lazy anti-Catholics can resort to the same nonsense. "If they were honest, they'd come to the same conclusions as I do!" Uhh...sure.

But it's not just lazy leftists or lazy anti-Catholics, either. It's just plain intellectual laziness. It's much easier to dismiss those who disagree with such ad hominem nonsense than to actually consider why it might be that they have different views than I do. And I mean that first person pronoun. I have done this too. Let's be honest, folks: we don't know why the other man believes what he does. We don't know his heart. Heck, we don't even know our own hearts very well, and we have 24/7 access to them! How foolish then it is for me to pretend that I know another man's heart (and consequently why he believes what he does).

Let's cut the other guy some slack and presume that he's actually acting in good faith, even if we don't understand it. That doesn't mean he's right; it just means treating him with charity. It means applying the golden rule. The Pontificator was completely right with these rules.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Trent on Justification - Canon Four

Number Four of the Council of Trent's Canons on Justification relates to condemning certain errors related to man's free will.

If any one saith, that man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.

It seems to me that this is directed at least in part against the error of what some Protestants call monergism in our justification: the false notion that God requires nothing of a man with respect to his justification. While it is certainly true that God alone justifies us by his grace (as we have seen many times), and that we can do nothing to merit our justification, this is not the same as to suppose that we have nothing to do with respect to it whatsoever. God does not save us against our will. Justification is not something that the Lord does to us as though operating upon something inert.

There is a certain ineluctable sense in which even the Protestant error of "sola fide" necessarily operates in this same dogmatic atmosphere, because having faith – even on the Protestant's definition thereof – is a human act, and as such involves an act of the will. To deny this fact while at the same time insisting that we are saved "by faith alone" as though this having faith is not really a human act is flatly incoherent.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Trent on Justification - Canon Three

In Canon 3 on Justification the Council of Trent deny that we can do anything on our own by which to move God to give us the grace of justification.

If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

This follows from Chapter V of the Decree on Justification, which we discussed here. We cannot save ourselves, but neither does God save us against our will. We cannot merit the grace of justification, but rather God justifies us by his grace.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sadly, TF is mistaken

See here.

One proviso must be kept in mind throughout this post. Like me, TF is pseudonymous, and he scrupulously resists revealing personal information about himself. That of course is his choice, as it is likewise mine. What I say in this post (or in any other one) concerning whether TF is subject to Catholic Canon law is based upon the presumption that he was not baptized in the Catholic Church and/or has never been in full communion with the Catholic Church. If that presumption is mistaken, then of course my observations would be incorrect with respect to him, though still valid with respect to the vast majority of Protestants today. It seems reasonable to suppose that this is a valid presumption based upon personal interaction with him and based upon what I have read of his writings. I could be mistaken. [EDIT, moments after posting: "personal interaction" is poor choice of words, since it suggests I know who TF is in real life and have interacted with him personally. I don't, and I haven't. I meant simply to refer to my interaction with him by way of blogging and by way of "conversation" with him in various comboxes - RdP]

First, he has mistaken the sense of Canon §96:

By baptism one is incorporated into the Church of Christ and is constituted a person in it with the duties and rights which are proper to Christians in keeping with their condition, insofar as they are in ecclesiastical communion and unless a legitimately issued sanction stands in the way.

He quotes this so as to defend his false claim that he is subject to the anathemas of Trent by virtue of the fact that he is baptized. Baptism is insufficient to make one subject to canon law. That this is so is entirely clear from the canon quoted above. Baptism is a necessary condition for one to be "constituted a person [in the Catholic Church] with the duties and rights which are proper to Christians in keeping with their condition," but it is not a sufficient condition. This fact follows from what follows next in the canon: "…insofar as they are in ecclesiastical communion and unless a legitimately issued sanction stands in the way."

But TF is not – so far as we know – in ecclesiastical communion with the Catholic Church. He has never suggested otherwise; in fact, in the post above, he affirms that he is not ("I am not, however, in full communion with Rome"). But if he is not in ecclesiastical communion with the Catholic Church, he does not meet the second necessary condition presented by Canon §96. Consequently he is not, for purposes of Canon Law, a "Juridic Person," and therefore is not subject to the requirements of that law. Period. End of Discussion. Unfortunately it probably will not be the end of the bizarre longing held by TF and others to view themselves as condemned by the Catholic Church. Whatever. Knock yourselves out, gentlemen (and ladies).

But if Canon §96 is insufficient, perhaps we ought also to look at §11.

Merely ecclesiastical laws bind those who have been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, possess the efficient use of reason, and, unless the law expressly provides otherwise, have completed seven years of age.

TF has not stated whether he was baptized in the Catholic Church. Presuming that he was not, he fails the first condition for identifying those who are bound by "merely ecclesiastical laws." The second condition is an alternative to the first: "or received into it." TF has not stated whether he was ever received into the Catholic Church. Presuming that he was not, he fails the second condition presented by §11. But failing these two, we need not consider the other conditions presented there: the man who was neither baptized in the Catholic Church nor received into it is not bound by Catholic ecclesiastical laws.

But if Canons §96 and §11 are not enough, perhaps we ought to consider §205 (to which TF appeals in denying that he is in full communion with the Catholic Church):

Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance.

TF is not joined by the bonds of Catholic Church's ecclesiastical governance. This is clear from §11.

TF rants:

RdP appears to lack this rather fundamental understanding of the scope of Rome's claims regarding herself. She claims for the pope a recognized headship over the Roman Catholic Church but an unrecognized headship over all those who have been validly baptized. That's part of the Roman Catholic Church trying to call itself the "catholic church." The "catholic church" by definition includes within it all Christians, and Rome recognizes as Christians all those who have been validly baptized.

RdP doesn't lack this understanding at all. What is lacking is TF's grasp of the fact that there is a difference between being understood to be in "imperfect communion" (the description used in Unitatis Redintegratio §3 and in Dominus Iesus §17) and one's being reckoned subject to canon law. One who is not subject to that law does not enjoy its privileges, he is not subject to its duties, and he is not subject to the sanctions attached to those duties. Above all, it ought to be obvious that one rather glaring aspect of Protestants' imperfect communion with Christ's Church is that they are not subject to her canon laws.

I don't know any other way to say it, nor how I could make it clearer; and barring some new information coming my way I'm no longer inclined to try.

That TF's opinions on this subject are badly clouded may be demonstrated from this snippet. In response to my appeal to a previous post of my own, TF claims:

RdP's link is to a prior occasion on which he attempted to argue with me about whether Rome considered the Reformers to be Christians.

Uh…No. That's not what the post was about. Don't take my word for it; read it for yourself. I said in the third paragraph:

The error here is in supposing that the condition of Protestants today is the same as that of heretics 500 years ago.

Seems pretty clear to me: the post concerns whether Protestants today are subject to the anathemas of Trent (as were the "Reformers"). Later in the same post I observed:

So: the fact that one is a Protestant today does not imply ipso facto that one is a formal heretic. [emphasis in original]

Still later, I said:

Now the case would be different for those who - as Catholics back in the 16th century - abandoned the Catholic faith for Protestantism. As Catholics, their heresy would have been both formal and material, and so far as I can tell they would have been subject to the condemnations of Trent.

Please note how I say that the "Reformers" of the 16th century who were Catholics that abandoned the Catholic Faith were subject to Trent's anathemas. Far from suggesting that they weren't Christians, I affirmed then (and do now) that they were! If they weren't Catholics, they could not have been subject to Trent! So TF has misrepresented things rather badly by suggesting the argument was over whether Calvin and others were Christians; no, the discussion had to do with whether modern Protestants are subject to the same anathemas that Calvin and others would have been.

Perhaps TF has problems digesting the idea that someone subject to an anathema should be called a Christian. Of course they should. They must be. Heretics are worthy of the name by virtue of the fact that they were/are members of the Church who subsequently fell into heresy and were condemned by ecclesiastical courts as heretics. What makes one Christian is Baptism, and that cannot be erased. In any case, nowhere in that post do I suggest that the "Reformers" weren't Christians.

In "reply" to my saying that his beliefs have been condemned by the Catholic Church (to the extent that his beliefs are actually false and under formal condemnation), TF splits microfibers:

What is interesting is that Trent's anathema (at least the one I've already discussed) is not against particular beliefs, nor even against particular statements but against the people who make those statements. RdP seems to have missed this fact in his analysis.

Apparently TF lost track of what words mean. This can be expected from Humpty Dumpty. :-) What is really interesting is that TF seems not to be willing to accept the rather blindingly obvious fact that those who would have been condemned under canon 33 actually believed what they were saying. Do we really have to be so pedantic as to insist that it would have been these false beliefs that made them subject to the anathema? Sheesh.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trent on Justification - Canon Two

In Canon I on Justification, the Council of Trent condemns the error of supposing that man may attain justification on his own apart from grace, as we observed previously. In Canon II, the Fathers of Trent reject a similar error.

If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.

God does not give us grace so that we can be justified by our own efforts.

It seem pretty clear, in light of these first two canons, that if the Church condemns the idea that we can be justified by our works apart from grace, or that we can be justified by our own actions if God helps us, that there is no remaining sense in which it can be said that we are justified by anything that we do – with or without grace. Hence we must say that we are justified by God's grace, or not at all. This is completely in keeping with what the Decree on Justification teaches in §7. So much, then, for the canards of the Church's enemies who say that she teaches otherwise. We are saved by grace. Period.

Trent on Justification - Canon One

Having completed a review of the Decree on Justification, it's time to move on to a consideration of the canons issued by the Council of Trent related to justification. I know that I've taken my eye off the ball in varying measure at times during this series, which I began with the intent of showing that Trent's teaching on the subject does not contradict St. Thomas, but confirms it. Hopefully, though, it ought to be clear (though I haven't frequently pointed it out, admittedly) that the two are not in opposition at all, but rather agree with each other.

As I begin a review of the Canons of Trent on Justification, it's worth pointing out that when we read them, the Decree must be kept in mind as a necessary context for understanding them. It won't do for us (or our adversaries) to rip a canon out of context in order to satisfy some pet theory other.

If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema. [Canon I]

It appears that two errors are condemned here: first, that man can be justified before God by virtue of his own works as informed by natural law ("done through the teaching of human nature"), and secondly that he can be justified by works of the law apart from the grace of God. There is no way that we can merit justification in and of ourselves by anything that we do. To the contrary, if indeed it can be said that we merit that, it's only by virtue of the righteousness of Christ which God infuses into us, as we saw in relation to §16 of the Decree on Justification. Hence we see that legalism is positively and explicitly condemned by Trent, so that the canards vented by various enemies of the Church are overturned. We are saved by grace, and no Catholic may rightly say otherwise.

Trent on Justification - Chapter Sixteen

§16 is the final chapter of the Decree on Justification, and it addresses not so much justification itself, but what follows from it: having been justified by Christ, what then?

Before men, therefore, who have been justified in this manner,-whether they have preserved uninterruptedly the grace received, or whether they have recovered it when lost,-are to be set the words of the Apostle: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord; for God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name; and, do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward.

Having been justified by the grace of God through Jesus Christ – as the Decree makes clear is the only way that one may obtain justification – we ought to live lives of obedience to God; and God rewards these good works.

And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you he shall not lose his reward. [Mt. 10:42]

Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that you shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance. [Col. 3:23-24]

Do not therefore lose your confidence which hath a great reward. [Heb. 10:35, quoted above in §16 of the Decree]

For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work and the love which you have shown in his name, you who have ministered and do minister to the saints. [Heb. 6:10, quoted above in §16 of the Decree; note that because justice has to do with paying what is due to another, the clear implication is that some sort of reward has been merited]

Many (Most?) Protestants don't like to concede this, but the simple fact is that what Christians do has a bearing in eternity.

Now it is at this point that the most adamant enemies of the Catholic Faith will start stamping around and braying "Legalism!" But when they do this, they have stopped reading much too soon; indeed, one wonders if they stop deliberately at this point. Because the Fathers of Trent continue:

And, for this cause, life eternal is to be proposed to those working well unto the end, and hoping in God, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Jesus Christ, and as a reward which is according to the promise of God Himself, to be faithfully rendered to their good works and merits. For this is that crown of justice which the Apostle declared was, after his fight and course, laid up for him, to be rendered to him by the just judge, and not only to him, but also to all that love his coming [2Tim 4:7-8 – RdP]. For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God,-we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace: seeing that Christ, our Saviour, saith: If any one shall drink of the water that I will give him, he shall not thirst for ever; but it shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto life everlasting. Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ.

[Emphasis added]

That righteousness in Christians that God rewards is not their own as though it came from themselves, as Trent says; rather, it comes from God, so that God is rewarding that which he himself has given. This might be familiar to longtime readers of this blog (if such actually exist! Ha!), since it is exactly what St. Augustine says about the matter of God rewarding our merits:

[W]hat else but His gifts does God crown when He crowns our merits?

Coincidence and Anathemas

Someone is planning a series on the Council of Trent. It might be amusing to suppose this is more than a coincidence, but given the spotty nature of my own posts on the subject I'm reluctant to accept credit or blame for the idea. Nevertheless, as opportunity and interest presents itself I'll probably offer some sort of review here.

For example, TF claims that he is under the anathema of Trent. But unless he is or was formally Catholic, this is flatly impossible. I do not understand the seeming fondness of some Protestants for wanting to be condemned by the Catholic Church. Perhaps it is some sort of projection issue: these folks despise the Catholic Faith, and so maybe they think that naturally Catholics or the Church ought to despise them in turn. Their protests notwithstanding, it's just not so, as I've said before. This fact does not mean that Protestant error is no longer reckoned to be erroneous. On the contrary: Trent has in no way been rescinded (of course). It simply means that most Protestants today are incapable of being the subject of any Catholic anathema whatever, because they do not meet a fundamental condition: they have never been Catholic. If he wishes to say that his beliefs have been condemned by the Catholic Church, then he would get no argument from me (to the extent that his views are in fact false and actually under formal condemnation).

In the same post (linked above) where he erroneously claims to be anathematized, TF also says (with regard to Canon 33 on Justification):

Perhaps it is only me, but it seems to me that the folks at Trent realized that what they were doing was dishonoring to God and to the glory of the merits of Christ. Canon 33 is the sort of canon that does not help to define dogma but is instead a sort of "shut up and don't criticize us." It is totally superfluous to the other canons. After all, one could not very well both accept Trent's teaching and simultaneously claim that the glory of God or the merits of Jesus Christ are derogated from by them.

[As an aside, TF is accumulating a history for supposing that general councils act in bad faith. It's one thing to disagree; it's another thing entirely to presume that those with whom one disagrees must be acting in bad faith. But I digress].

TF is not alone in presuming bad faith on the part of others; it's a trivial way to dismiss those who disagree with you. For my part, I think, given the historical context, that Trent's concern in this canon was legitimate. Calvin's standard for pronouncing judgment on the Councils was that "there must be nothing derogatory to Christ;" he suggested (that's putting it mildly) that the Catholic doctrine of "derogates from the dignity of justification." That's just two examples from a quick bit of googling; the point, of course, is that it seems to me the Fathers of Trent in canon 33 are rather obviously addressing charges made against Catholic teaching by the Protestants. But it is an error to say such things: the true doctrine of Justification in no way detracts from God's glory. The very idea is absurd. Hence it's fitting to condemn such a false idea.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Trent on Justification - Chapter Fifteen

§15 of Trent's Decree on Justification addresses the fact of mortal sin in opposition to Protestant error.

In opposition also to the subtle wits of certain men, who, by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained, that the received grace of Justification is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost; thus defending the doctrine of the divine law, which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins; from which, with the help of divine grace, they can refrain, and on account of which they are separated from the grace of Christ.

To be sure, one may lose the grace of justification if he loses faith; but this is not the only sin by which one may lose salvation. The Fathers of Trent appeal to Galatians 5 here.

I say then: Walk in the spirit: and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh: For these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest: which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.

The Christian may not live however he pleases. He is a servant of Christ, and if he loves Christ, he will obey him (John 14:15). But if we do not obey him in such things as St. Paul enumerates in Galatians, then we betray the fact that we do not really love him. As we've seen, though, by God's grace we may avoid such sins, and by his grace we may be restored if we do stumble into them.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Trent on Justification - Chapter 14

We have previously seen that our justification is wholly the work of God. In §14 of the Decree on Justification, the Council of Trent teaches us that this is likewise so for those who fall from grace and seek restoration. More recently we've observed that the Council warns us against presumption with respect to a merely fiduciary idea of faith, predestination, and perseverance. The fact is that we may indeed fall from grace; and by grace we may be restored to God's good favor.

As regards those who, by sin, have fallen from the received grace of Justification, they may be again justified, when, God exciting them, through the sacrament of Penance they shall have attained to the recovery, by the merit of Christ, of the grace lost. [Emphasis added]

God does not leave those who may fall without hope. By his grace in Christ they may be restored to fellowship with him.

There are some points regarding this chapter that are worth taking note of. First: we are restored to God through the Sacrament of Penance or Confession (now commonly called the Sacrament of Reconciliation):

For, on behalf of those who fall into sins after baptism, Christ Jesus instituted the sacrament of Penance, when He said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

The mere act on our part of confessing our sins does not merit our forgiveness, as this passage makes clear. Rather, our sins are forgiven by Christ in the sacrament.

Secondly, the sacrament of reconciliation remits the guilt and eternal punishment of our sins, but not necessarily all the temporal punishment – for which we resort various penitential acts:

[H]ence it is to be taught, that the penitence of a Christian, after his fall, is very different from that at (his) baptism; and that therein are included not only a cessation from sins, and a detestation thereof, or, a contrite and humble heart, but also the sacramental confession of the said sins,-at least in desire, and to be made in its season,-and sacerdotal absolution; and likewise satisfaction by fasts, alms, prayers, and the other pious exercises of a spiritual life; not indeed for the eternal punishment,-which is, together with the guilt, remitted, either by the sacrament, or by the desire of the sacrament,-but for the temporal punishment, which, as the sacred writings teach, is not always wholly remitted, as is done in baptism, to those who, ungrateful to the grace of God which they have received, have grieved the Holy Spirit, and have not feared to violate the temple of God.

Finally, it's important to point out that not the sacrament only but even the desire for it may be sufficient to receive the grace promised in it, as seen in this passage. This should not be a comfort for the man who delays the day of his repentance, but for those who through no fault of their own are unable to receive the sacramental absolution, though they do in fact desire it. So much for the silly claims of those who wrongly suppose that an innocent failure to receive a sacrament is worthy of punishment. Here again we see that it's not what we do that matters: rather, it is what God does.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Trent on Justification - Chapter Thirteen

In our last episode, the Fathers of Trent warned us against presumption with regard to predestination. In §13, they warn us against presumption with respect to perseverance.

So also as regards the gift of perseverance, of which it is written, He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved:-which gift cannot be derived from any other but Him, who is able to establish him who standeth that he stand perseveringly, and to restore him who falleth:-let no one herein promise himself any thing as certain with an absolute certainty; though all ought to place and repose a most firm hope in God's help. For God, unless men be themselves wanting to His grace, as he has begun the good work, so will he perfect it, working (in them) to will and to accomplish. Nevertheless, let those who think themselves to stand, take heed lest they fall, and, with fear and trembling work out their salvation, in labours, in watchings, in almsdeeds, in prayers and oblations, in fastings and chastity: for, knowing that they are born again unto a hope of glory, but not as yet unto glory, they ought to fear for the combat which yet remains with the flesh, with the world, with the devil, wherein they cannot be victorious, unless they be with God's grace, obedient to the Apostle, who says; We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh; for if you live according to the flesh, you shall die; but if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.

It's not, as they say, that God is an uncertain rock on which we may stand. Far from it! Rather, it is we who are uncertain, and they demonstrate this fact from Scripture.

"Wherefore, he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall" (1Co 10:12). Does this make a lick of sense unless the Christian can indeed fall? To what purpose the warning if he cannot fall?

"Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but much more now in my absence) with fear and trembling work out your salvation" (Php 2:12). Does this make a lick of sense if Christians need not fear in some way concerning his salvation nor "work out" their salvation? To what purpose the admonition if they need not do so? This isn't to say that we have to live in terror, obviously, but it likewise doesn't mean that we can blithely go our merry way.

"But in all things let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in tribulation, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in prisons, in seditions, in labours, in watchings, in fastings, in chastity, in knowledge, in longsuffering, in sweetness, in the Holy Ghost, in charity unfeigned,…" (2Co 6:4-6). Why does St. Paul exhort them to perseverance in such things if their perseverance is assured?

"For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live" (Rom 8:13). Why does St. Paul warn the Roman Christians against a life according to the flesh if their perseverance is assured?

To the contrary: if we fall, it is our own fault; God gives his grace for perseverance to those who seek it. That perseverance may not be easy; we may have to live it through tribulations and distresses and stripes and prisons. But God's grace to help us will be there, if we ask him.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tradition is Inescapable

The question is never whether we will have theological traditions or not. The question is always, "What theological traditions shall we hold?" It's an inescapable concept.

We shouldn't have to be this pedantic, but let us consider what exactly "tradition" means:

the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way; a long-established custom or belief that has been passed on in this way.

It's pretty standard practice for theologically conservative Protestants to deny that they hold to any traditions. They do this not because they do not hold them but because they condemn the Catholic Church for holding to Sacred Tradition.

Consider the example of the Reformed theological tradition: how do people come to be Reformed? Oh, there might be some relatively few who bootstrap their way "in" from scratch, but for the vast majority, the way it happens is: they get taught by Reformed people who learned the Reformed tradition from other Reformed, who learned it from other Reformed, etc. … all they way back to Calvin & Co. This learning might come by way of hearing sermons, or it might come by way of reading Reformed books. The effect is the same: "the transmission of [Reformed] customs or [Reformed] beliefs from generation to generation." Tradition!

Now the Reformed might like to say that their views are based upon "sola scriptura". Funny, but that's what the Baptists say, too. That's what the Lutherans say. Ditto the Methodists and Pentecostals: a proliferation of theological traditions, all of which get passed down from generation to generation. In fact, even the very denial of tradition on the part of some is usually…wait for it…a tradition!

It's inescapable. The only question is: whose Tradition? I submit that there is only one satisfactory answer to that question: namely, the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church, which has been preserved from the Church's very founding.