Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 Thoughts On Carl Trueman's Best Attempt To Remain Non-Catholic

10. “A key part of the book's argument is the apparent anarchy created by the Protestant emphasis on the perspicuity of scripture.” You don't say, Carl! How's about giving us an answer, instead of pretending that the "problem" was invented at the last Catholic Answers confab.

9. “Perspicuity was, after all, a response to a position that had proved to be a failure: the Papacy.  Thus, to criticize it while proposing nothing better than a return to that which had proved so inadequate is scarcely a compelling argument.” The fact that rival claimants to the Papacy proved so disruptive proves the opposite point, no? He either has jurisdiction, or he doesn't, and never did. If he does, he does, and no amount of human weakness changes it. This is why the moral objection to the Catholic Church falls flat in any century: it argues for conversion, not for starting over.

8. "Empirical fact: The Papacy as an authoritative institution was not there in the early centuries. 
Never mind.  Put together a doctrine of development whereby Christians - or at least some of them, those of whom we choose to approve in retrospect on the grounds we agree with what they say  - eventually come to see the Pope as uniquely authoritative." Is 190 early enough? The fact that a saint thought it prudent to try to talk the Holy Father down from rashly excommunicating some people for celebrating Easter on the wrong day makes the point well enough: no one doubted he had the power. I'd dare you to find a recognizable orthodoxy in the first 1000 years without the Bishop of Rome. Good luck.

 7. "Empirical fact: The Papacy was corrupt in the later Middle Ages, building its power and status on political antics, forged documents and other similar scams. 
Ignore it, excuse it as a momentary aberration and perhaps, if pressed, even offer a quick apology. Then move swiftly on to assure everyone it is all sorted out now and start talking about John Paul II or Benedict XVI.  Whatever you do, there is no need to allow this fact to have any significance for how one understands the theory of papal power in the abstract or in the present."  The Pope could kill a man in cold blood tomorrow (may it never be!) and I'd still be Catholic. Because it's the Church. You sound like a Donatist.

6.  "Empirical fact: The Papacy was in such a mess at the beginning of the fifteenth century that it needed a council to decide who of the multiple claimants to Peter's seat was the legitimate pope.  
Again, this was merely a momentary aberration but it has no significance for the understanding of papal authority.  After all, it was so long ago and so far away." Again, doesn't this make the Catholic case a million times stronger?

5. "Empirical fact: The church failed (once again) to put its administrative, pastoral, moral and doctrinal house in order at the Fifth Lateran Council at the start of the sixteenth century.  Forget it.  Emphasise instead the vibrant piety of the late medieval church and then blame the ungodly Protestants for their inexplicable protests and thus for the collapse of the medieval social, political and theological structure of Europe." All sin stands as a rejection of God's pastoral guidance, including schism.

4. "Perhaps it is somewhat aggressive to pose these points in such a blunt form. Again, I intend no disrespect but am simply responding with the same forthrightness with which certain writers speak of Protestantism. The problem here is that the context for the Reformation - the failure of the papal system to reform itself, a failure in itself lethal to notions of papal power and authority - seems to have been forgotten in all of the recent aggressive attacks on scriptural perspicuity.  These are all empirical facts and they are all routinely excused, dismissed or simply ignored by Roman Catholic writers. Perspicuity was not the original problem; it was intended as the answer.   One can believe it to be an incorrect, incoherent, inadequate answer; but then one must come up with something better - not simply act as if shouting the original problem louder will make everything all right. Such an approach to history and theology is what I call the Emerald City protocol: when defending the great and powerful Oz, one must simply pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." It is aggressive, but it's also lame. Every convert on Earth has had to contend with this coming from his own mind. You think you're going to enlighten us with the truth the Papal Mind-Eels don't want us to know?

3. "As Dr. Gregory brings his narrative up to the present, I will do the same. There are things which can be conveniently ignored by North American Roman Catholic intellectuals because they take place in distant lands. Yet many of these are emblematic of contemporary Roman Catholicism in the wider world. Such, for example, are the bits of the real cross and vials of Jesus' blood which continue to be displayed in certain churches, the cult of Padre Pio and the relics of Anthony of Padua and the like (both of whom edged out Jesus and the Virgin Mary in a poll as to who was the most prayed to figure in Italian Catholicism). We Protestants may appear hopelessly confused to the latest generation of North American Roman Catholic polemicists, but at least my own little group of Presbyterian schismatics does not promote the veneration of mountebank stigmatics or the virtues of snake-oil." Translation: I am a rationalist. Your theology of participation freaks me out, so I'll insult you as an idolater, rather than question my own position.

2. "Still, for the sake of argument let us accept the fideistic notion that the events of the later Middle Ages do not shatter the theology underlying the Papacy.  What therefore of Roman Catholic theological unity and papal authority today? That is not too rosy either, I am afraid.  The Roman Catholic Church's teaching on birth control is routinely ignored by vast swathes of the laity with absolute impunity; Roman Catholic politicians have been in the vanguard of liberalizing abortion laws and yet still been welcome at Mass and at high table with church dignitaries; leading theologians cannot agree on exactly what papal infallibility means; and there is not even consensus on the meaning and significance of Vatican II relative to previous church teaching. Such a Church is as chaotic and anarchic as anything Protestantism has thrown up." Translation: You have been lax in using the ecclesiastical authority that I'm currently rejecting, so I feel justified in rejecting it.

1. Basically, none of these reasons have changed. Carl Trueman feels the need to put it out here, probably because so many people are realizing the Reformation Emperor has no clothes. But if God did it or said it, or set it up, (that is, the Catholic Church) it's only a matter of time, before I jump in the boat, if I desire to have a part with Christ. 


Timothy R. Butler said...

Re: 8 *cough* Eastern Orthodoxy *cough*

Jason said...

You might take an allergy pill or something for that. :) Seriously, though, the only way the claim is credible is to say that anything true in the Eastern particular Churches that was there prior to the schism would remain after it, unless it was discarded or forgotten. So, your point eludes me.