Contradictory Authorities – the Heart of the Catholic Problem

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One of the biggest attractions for newcomers to the Catholic faith is the expansive claims that Rome makes to its own authority. Catholic school children are taught – as I certainly was – that the Pope of Rome is the supreme authority of the church. Further, he has a primacy of jurisdiction and not merely honor and that he is the recipient of this power through an unbroken chain of his predecessors going back to St. Peter. And according to the First Vatican Council that this is the “manifest teaching of sacred scriptures” as the church has “always” believed. Pretty heady stuff to be sure and many unsuspecting converts or potential converts are apt to buy it.

Unfortunately, this is decidedly NOT what the Roman church has always taught or believed. In fact, in order to believe this line of thinking, today’s novice Roman Catholics will unknowingly deny or forget the history of their new denomination. As a more eloquent proof of that statement I recommend an exceptionalCrisis of Authority essay by Dr. Francis Oakley to which we will now turn.

It was Yogi Berra who wryly noted that “the past just isn’t what it used to be” and Professor Francis Oakley aptly uses this aphorism to set the stage for his scholarly analysis of the changeable history of the Roman Catholic Church.

Oakley begins by showing how Rome has rested her understanding of doctrine in a highly variable fashion. His first example is the work of John Henry Cardinal Newman (i.e. Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine) while much venerated in today’s Catholic world, shows an historic ignorance of the very idea of “doctrinal development” from earlier eras. Oakley continues by highlighting how Newman’s second “note”, entitled “Continuity of Principle” is not able to describe the types of “radical discontinuity” that exist in the teaching and application of Catholic doctrine. He then cites an example that was brought to the fore by the noted Catholic scholar, John T. Noonan. Judge Noonan has documented how the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception had moved the rhythm method from being “intrinsically evil” to officially approved. The fact that Catholics today can accommodate such a reversal in teaching is owing to the “empire that the present continues to exert over the past in so much of Catholic institutional thinking.”

But worse still,

Under certain circumstances, moreover, casual forgetfulness has betrayed a disagreeable tendency to mutate into a proactive politics of oblivion reflective of the Orwellian conclusion that if he who controls the past controls the future, then he who controls the present would be well advised to control the past.ii

This brings us to the current state of Catholic “forgetfulness” or “politics of oblivion” that is exercised with regard to the Church’s ultimate locus of authority. Although modern Roman Catholics are most likely familiar with the dictates of Vatican I with regard to Catholic authority, they are probably not aware of how those dictates contradict the Church’s history and Tradition.

Oakley puts the matter thusly:

The instance of radical doctrinal discontinuity in question is the great gulf that yawns between the position the general councils of Constance (1414–1418) and Basel (1431–1449) affirmed concerning the ultimate locus of authority in the universal church and that staked out in 1870 by Vatican I.iii

The Council of Constance was convened to resolve the problem posed to the Church by multiple popes and multiple papal sees. After the death of Gregory XI, the last of the French popes and the first to restore the papacy to Rome, Urban VI was elected. He proved to be violently unstable and physically abusive to those in opposition to him. So the Roman Cardinals removed themselves to the town of Anagni, declared Urban deposed and elected Clement VII in his stead. Thus began the Great Schism of the church with simultaneous Roman and Avignonese popes. The Council at Pisa (1409) tried to dethrone the descendants of both lines and add a third – or Pisan line – with its election of Alexander V. However, none of the popes stepped down so now the numbers of popes had actually increased! Alexander’s successor, John XXIII, under political pressure from the German King Sigismund of Germany and the cardinals, convoked the Council of Constance on November 5, 1414 to resolve the schism.

The Council was widely attended described by our author as “one of the most imposing of all medieval representative assemblies.” In short, nobody of that day would have cause to doubt the efficacy and authority of that gathering. In April of the following year, the Council published its famous decree, Haec sanctus synodus. That decree stated that the Council was a legitimate council which derived its authority directly from Christ. Furthermore, ALL Christians including the pope, were subject to it and future councils under pain of punishment. Acting on its generally accepted authority, the Council quickly deposed all three popes – Gregory XII (Roman), John XXIII (Pisan), Benedict XIII (Avignon) – and elected a fourth, Martin V of the Colonna family.

One interesting fact that will have a big impact on our discussion is that the last Roman pope, Gregory XII, as part of his agreement to abdicate, requested that he be allowed to end and reconvene the council by his authority. He felt it was improper for him to step down during a council convened by another pope. The council acquiesced and on July 4, 1415 the bull of convocation was read aloud, and Gregory resigned the papacy. Martin V was made the Pope of Rome by the Council. Every pope from that day to this is descended not from Peter, but from the pope appointed by this council.

Professor Oakley notes that the scholarship dealing with the complexities of the doctrine of conciliarism has blossomed greatly in the last century. But there appear to be three issues with regard to the contrast of Vatican I with Constance.

The first issue is the very schism itself.

The question it seems, is would a Roman Catholic in 1378, be able to distinguish between the Roman pontiff – Urban VI – and the newly elected pontiff – Clement VII? Oakley maintains that even those “intimately involved in the whole sorry chain of events” would be “in a state of “invincible ignorance” about which…was the true pope.”

The historical evidence, certainly, does not permit one simply to insist on the exclusive legitimacy of Urban’s title to the papacy (and, therefore, the legitimacy of his successors in the Roman line). If that claim is now enshrined in the current official listing of popes, it should be recognized that it has been advanced quite explicitly on theological or canonistic rather than historical grounds.iv

If the doctrine decreed by Vatican I was evidence of Divine effort, the teaching of Scriptures and of a supreme constancy, how would the schism have occurred at all?

The second issue has to do with the  claim that Constance was not a legitimate council until convened by Gregory.

That claim would tend to negate the force of Haec Sanctus synodus whereby Gregory agreed to abdicate. But Oakley points out that Gregory’s convocation was merely a polite accommodation by the Fathers of the Council in order to smooth the transition to the next pope. It was not a formality that could be confused with doctrine of any sort. Our author cites as further evidence the fact that the Council Fathers had received ambassadors from both Gregory XII and his rival, Benedict XIII as “official papal delegates” thereby displaying their lack of favoritism for Gregory. But more damning than all of that is the fact that today’s popes are descended not from the last “Roman pope” – Gregory XII – but from Martin V who was elected by the Council. What that means is that the claim of Vatican I to an “unbroken succession” from Peter is nonsense.

The third issue that presents itself is that of “conciliar theory itself”.

The high papalists have claimed that the theory was “heterodox in its origins and rapid in its demise” but history has not been kind to that position. Here Oakley turns to the work of Brian Tierney of Cornell University. Tierney showed that the actions of Constance had deep roots in the ancient history of the church, the canon law and from a “vast ocean of commentary” in the “twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.” And that it was not until quite recently – with the resurgence of the new high papalism – that conciliar theory has had any shadow cast on it at all.

The culmination of all this effort is put quite nicely by Professor Oakley:

I concluded, as a result, that we were confronted with an instance in which two legitimate ecumenical councils of the Latin church were in contradiction on a doctrinal issue concerning the very locus of ultimate authority in the church.v

The Nature of the Dilemma

So today’s Roman Catholic is faced with an unresolvable riddle. If the pronouncements of Vatican I are true – that the pope is the ultimate authority beyond which there is no other – then how to explain the fact that the power he assumes is derived from a council? If this “manifest teaching” with the church has “always” held wasn’t held from the 15th century to the 19th, how can we know which is the correct version? And attempting to rely on some sort of “development” theory falls short due to the law of non-contradiction and the nature of the understanding of Catholic doctrine at the time.

Of course, if the Roman Catholic Church cannot come to terms with the true source of its ultimate authority, how can it be trusted to speak authoritatively about anything? And how can it claim for itself any teaching authority when it so blithely ignores or misrepresents history? And how can the pope be trusted to proclaim his own “primacy” it is not truly “manifest” in the Scriptures or historically taught by the Church? How can today’s Catholic’s be under the anathema of believing that no one can go above the pope’s authority, when the very pope who declared the anathema has gotten his authority to do so from a Council?

It is not an easy problem but one that is entirely of Rome’s own making. She needs to come clean and confess that her claims do not stand the test of time and do in fact, change. And until she does, anyone who believes her claims to authority is a willing accomplice the “politics of oblivion”.

iOakley, Francis. “History and the Return of the Repressed in Catholic Modernity: The Dilemma Posed by Constance”. The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity. New York. Oxford University Press, Inc. 2011 Pages 29-56. Kindle eBook.

iiIbid., page 32.

iiiIbid., page 33.

ivIbid., page 40.

vIbid., page 47

How Roman Authority is the Bane of the Catholic Church

Crisis of Authority

One of the things which allures the unsuspecting to the Catholic Church is it’s claim to authority. In a world of constant change and sinfulness, one full of strife and discord, Rome’s claims can look very much like a safe harbor. So the emotional appeal that lures the unaware is understandable. However one must go beyond emotions and look at the claims themselves to see that they are, in a word, vacuous. Worse still, Rome’s authority actually hinders honest scholarship, damages the relationship between clergy and laity and actually undermines the sacraments.

So it was with great interest that I found a compilation of twelve articles by Catholic scholars that makes this case in spades.1 The anthology is edited by noted historians Michael J. Lacey and Francis Oakley and includes contributions by Catholic professors from the Louvain, Catholic University of America and Notre Dame, Catholic priests, nuns and canon lawyers and others with like specialties. They show with great aptitude how Roman authority has created a “crisis” for the modern Catholic church.

In the period ahead I would like to share with you several of these articles that I have found fascinating. The next will be a look at how the history of the church makes it impossible to identify what truly is the nature and justification for Rome’s claims to power.

From the Prologue

The editors make the observation that the locus of Catholic authority – the papacy – is at once more consolidated and powerful than ever…

As the church settles into the twenty-first century, students of Catholicism no less than Catholics themselves are confronted with a paradox regarding the authority of its central institution, the modern papacy: it is stronger than it has ever been, yet frailer than before…2

…and increasingly irrelevant to local Catholics.

The practice is up to them (local Catholics). They cannot be scared into obedience or shamed into piety, and they know it. They can leave if they like and return if they wish.3

That is to say, today’s Roman Catholics cannot be bullied by Rome the way Catholics have been in the past.4 Or said still another way is that Rome has none of the actual authority that it claims.

This is amplified by another essay which shows that in Rome’s authoritative written instruments – it’s encyclicals, catechisms and the teachings of its bishops – “more authority is claimed than accepted, and the gap is apparently widening.” (This is reminiscent of a like situation that existed in the French church until it’s 1801 Concordat with Napoleon. Papal bulls and encyclicals were not allowed to circulate in that country without the local bishops’ approval.) In a lovely turn of a phrase it is noted what a charade teaching has become in the Catholic church:

“A spirit of reciprocal pretense seems to prevail: “…you pretend to teach me, and I’ll pretend to learn.”5

“Pretend” authority aptly describes the extant environment for Roman Catholics.

There is no better example of this than Rome’s “authoritative” teaching on birth control and contraception. The unwarranted claim that Rome makes in its current teaching is rejected by the majority of Catholics for several good reasons. The first is that incontrovertibly contradicts earlier church teaching and actually permits what was previously – and “authoritatively” – proscribed as sinful!

John Noonan, for example, has recently traced the convoluted process whereby a pattern of behavior once denounced as contrary to nature has modulated across time into the routinely acceptable, whereas another such pattern, once taken for granted as unexceptionable, has come to be viewed as totally unacceptable, perhaps even “intrinsically evil.”6

What the editors are drawing attention to here – and what Dr. Noonan describes in scholarly detail elsewhere – is the “rhythm method” of contraception. Declared a sin for centuries by Rome’s authority, Pope Pius XII made licit for all Catholics. To borrow a phrase from Judge Noonan, this is typical of the “topsy turvy” nature of Rome’s pronouncements.7

Later in this volume we will hear from a professor at Roman Catholicism’s oldest university – the Louvain – explain how the meaning of the term “Magisterium” – which signifies the teaching authority of the Roman church – has devolved into whatever the current Magisterium says it is.

I am very excited to be sharing this work with you. It is obvious to any honest observer that the official Roman claims to authority over the Catholic church are merely a power grab and a charade. The fact that innocent people are still, today, swayed by them is all the more reason to bring the discussion into the open.

This fabrication deserves to be exposed and these Catholic writers have begun the work brilliantly.

Next we will begin with an old problem for Rome’s claims to authority – the Council of Constance.

1 Lacey, Michael J. and Francis Oakley, ed. The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

2Ibid. Kindle loc. 81

3Ibid., Kindle loc. 95

4The example of the mistreatment of John Courtney Murray, S.J as recently as the 1960’s is but one example.

5Ibid., Kindle loc. 162

6Ibid., Kindle loc. 670

7More detail can be found in Noonan, John T., Jr. Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists . Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986

What the Quran Teaches about Non-Muslims

The reason that treaties cannot be negotiated with Islam is that they teach that non-believers (in Islam) are the worst of creatures! (Surah 98:6) Why would you have to honor a commitment to one less than the lowest creature?

A Book Review in Several Parts: “From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church” by Francis A. Sullivan, S.J.

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A few years ago I began to study the Catholic faith in which I was raised. And the findings of that study were disturbing. Whereas we had always been taught that the Pope of Rome was the “Vicar of Christ” and one who is directly descended from St. Peter – in unbroken succession no less – who was the first bishop of Rome. And that was a “truth” that we were required to accept de fide, which means something foundational and beyond question. But the truth of the matter as I was to find out – and affirmed by any number of Catholic scholars today is that not only is that not true – it is not even possibly true. And so I had to ask myself how the Catholic Church could require me to believe something that is not true and make believing in it a requirement for membership and even for my salvation? Would Christ build His church on a lie?

And so it was with great interest that I came upon Francis Sullivan’s book cited in the title. My first reaction was skepticism because I wasn’t sure how Fr. Sullivan would approach this topic. Those two letters after his name – SJ – identify him as a Jesuit; one of the “pope’s men”. So I doubted very seriously whether his station in life would allow for him to make an honest assessment of the matter. But I was pleasantly surprised by his candor throughout the book while maintaining my disappointment at his conclusions the disunion of the two being fertile soil for observations I may make later.

The book is comprised of eleven chapters which cover the period from the Apostles to Cyprian and includes an introductory chapter outlining the nature of the issue and a concluding chapter inquiring whether the successors to the Apostles were so because of divine institution, or not.    The depth of Fr. Sullivan’s effort is such that this review must cover several parts.

The divisive nature of the Catholic stance on the episcopacy is acknowledged by the author in his introduction:

The question whether the episcopate is of divine institution continues to divide the churches, even though Christian scholars from both sides agree that one does not find the threefold structure of ministry, with a bishop in each local church assisted by presbyters and deacons, in the New Testament.[i]

And shortly thereafter he notes what historians now universally affirm that the development of the episcopacy “took place earlier in the churches of Syria and western Asia Minor, than it did in those of Phillipi, Corinth and Rome.”  And that not even Rome – whose later claims bind the consciences of its members to the contrary – had a bishop:

…but hardly any doubt that the church of Rome was still led by a group of presbyters for at least a part of the second century. [ii]

It is helpful at this early point to reflect.  What Fr. Sullivan has done so far is establish that the Catholic stance on episcopacy is a divisive issue, but for whom?  It is not divisive within the confines of Roman Catholicism which teaches its necessity.  Nor is it divisive within the ranks of Protestantism which proclaims its novelty.  I suspect that at this early point we may discern the working of the Holy Spirit in Fr. Sullivan’s heart such that he tacitly acknowledges that the true Church of Jesus Christ does not subsist wholly in the church of Rome.  In other words, he believes – at least implicitly – that Christ’s church exists truly beyond the bounds of Rome.  How else could this issue be divisive?

The author then does an about face as he lays out Rome’s case for the episcopacy.  Relying on the work of a 1998 conference of British bishops, Sullivan ties “eucharistic communion” with “ecclesial communion” seeking to justify Rome’s aberrant practice of “closed communion”.

There is a basic incongruity involved in regularly sharing the Eucharist in a church with which one is not in full communion, and in receiving it from a minister whom one does not recognize as one’s pastor.[iii]

But apparently Greek Orthodox priests can be considered “pastors” for Roman Catholics:

What justifies the sharing of Eucharist between Catholics and the Orthodox and other Eastern Christians is that they not only share the same faith with regard to the sacraments of Holy Orders and Eucharist, but also recognize one another’s Eucharist as fully valid, for those who celebrate it are ordained by bishops who stand in the historic apostolic succession.[iv]

But isn’t one justified in asking how a Roman Catholic can be bound by such a proclamation when the author has already shown that there were NO bishops in Rome for a century and a half after Christ?  Does Fr. Sullivan mean to say that Roman Catholics can only take communion from Orthodox bishops who are descended in the episcopacy from the early Eastern Church as he notes above?

Glossing over such obvious contradictions, the author digs deeper:

Belief that bishops are the successors of the apostles by divine institution grounds the Catholic insistence that episcopal succession comprises an essential element of the permanent structure of the Church, on which the validity of its sacramental ministry and the authority of its official teachers depend.[v]

Now this ahistorical insistence is not without its problems.  And to the author’s credit he is able to ‘fess up to one instance the implications of which undermine his assertions and the unresolved nature of which negates his premise:

In Sweden and Finland, however, the first Lutheran bishops were ordained by a man who had been a validly ordained Catholic bishop. To my knowledge, the Catholic Church has never officially expressed its judgment on the validity of orders as they have been handed down by episcopal succession in these two national Lutheran churches.[vi]

Have not these Lutheran churches participated in the “essential element of the permanent structure of the Church”?  Cannot these “validly ordained bishops” in “apostolic succession” administer the Eucharist just as a Roman priest?  The reason that Rome has not pronounced on this issue is obvious.  Any decision would undermine Rome’s position on the episcopacy and its necessity as laid out by Fr. Sullivan.

The author draws this chapter to a close with these obvious, of not contradictory observations:

Admittedly the Catholic position, that bishops are the successors of the apostles by divine institution, remains far from easy to establish… The apostles were missionaries and founders of churches; there is no evidence, nor is it at all likely, that any one of them ever took up permanent residence in a particular church as its bishop.[vii]

But isn’t the “Belief that bishops are the successors of the apostles by divine institution” the foundation for the “Catholic insistence that episcopal succession comprises an essential element of the permanent structure of the Church…”?  How can something that is “divinely” instituted and is an “essential element” of the “permanent structure” of the Church be hard to establish?  And how can Catholics “insist” on an office which allegedly rests on the Apostles none of whom ever held such office?

In closing, I hope to have whetted the reader’s appetite as mine was when I discovered this book.  The self-contradictory nature of Roman Catholicism is laid bare by the facts of history.  And in part of what makes these times so fascinating is that Roman Catholic scholars are now free to indulge in the miasma of Roman Catholic teaching.

Next time we’ll explore Fr. Sullivan’s analysis of the Apostles’ role in this fairy tale.

[i] Ibid. Kindle Loc. 37

[ii] Ibid. Kindle loc. 42

[iii] Ibid. Kindle loc. 74

[iv] Ibid. Kindle loc. 79

[v] Ibid. Kindle loc. 213

[vi] Ibid. Kindle loc. 98

[vii] Ibid. Kindle locations 217, 228.

Catholics to Beatify Sola Scriptura

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catholicyoungwomanFor the first time “on American soil” a saint is to be declared.  Apparently a 26 year old nun who died in 1927 was “holy” enough to merit this award.

But how utterly ironic that – contrary to the teachings of Rome during her lifetime – she discovered that the Word of God is “THE wellspring of wisdom and holiness.” (Emphasis added.)

Long before the renewal of Sacred Scripture, promoted by the Second Vatican Council, Sr. Miriam Teresa had discovered the Word of God as the wellspring of wisdom and holiness.

(http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2993)

What the Roman church now teaches is that “the Church….does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone.” (CCC 82)

So how is it that Miriam Teresa knew what she knew about the Word of God?  It was not the church of Rome which dissuaded people of her generation from reading the Word.  It was as John Calvin noted centuries ago, the work of the Holy Spirit:

“…our faith in doctrine is not established until we have a perfect conviction that God is its author.  Hence, the highest proof of Scripture is uniformly taken from the character of him whose Word it is…(And) our conviction of the truth of Scripture must be derived form a higher source than human conjectures, Judgments, or reasons; namely, the secret testimony of the Spirit.”  (Institutes, I.7.IV)

Apparently Miriam Teresa had that “testimony” of the Spirit.

But if she did, I wonder then what she would say about the effort to make her “holy” (i.e. beatified)?  Or that the Word of God denies that any are “beatified” i.e. made holy.  (Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:1-3, 53:1-3; Eccl. 7:20).  Or how she would feel about being put in God’s place so as to answer prayers.  Or how miracles wrought by God could erroneously be attributed to her for her glory?

As God raised up Calvin to remind us,

“… the mark of sound doctrine given by our Saviour himself is its tendency to promote the glory not of men, but of God (John 7:18; 8:50).  Our Saviour having declared this to be the test of doctrine, we are in error if we regard as miraculous, works which are used for any other purpose than to magnify the name of God.”

(John Calvin: Prefatory Address to His Most Christian Majesty, the Most Mighty and Illustrious Monarch, Francis, King of the French….; Institutes of the Christian Religion.)

Miracles attributed to a mortal like Miriam Teresa violate the very wellspring from which she drew her inspiration.  How ironic that Rome violates that wellspring in an effort to honor her and not God.

We must pray for an end to the idolatry of Catholic sainthood.

Halbig and Hammurabi and Sola Scriptura

Last week’s Halbig decision is an interesting application of the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura for today and is a prime demonstration why that doctrine is central to American life.

The question in Halbig was essentially whether a “magisterial” administration could redefine a written law contrary to its explicit text in favor of what the political hierarchy “meant” when the law was drafted.  Was the text supreme or was it just one leg in a multi-legged stool upon which a prince could sit while pronouncing the law’s meaning?

Providentially, Kevin Williamson at the National Review Online weighed in on Halbig with his article, “Halbig and Hammurabi” (www.nationalreview.com, July 27, 2014).  Hammurabi, it will be remembered is known to history as being (at least one of) the earliest  king to codify laws in written form.

Williamson reminds us of the importance of Hammurabi’s legacy:

The Hammurabic Code…represented something radical and new in human history.  With the law written down – with the law fixed – a man who had committed no transgression no longer had reaason to tremble before princes and potentates.  If the driver of oxen had been paid his statutory wage, if a man’s contractual obligations had been satisfied, and if his life was unsullied by violations of the law, handily carved upon slabs of igneous rock for all to see and ingest, then that man was, within the limits of his law, free.

And the implications are immense:

“The written law was the first real constraint on the power of kings.  An oral tradition is subject to constant on-the-fly revision.”

So the Court’s decision in Halbig was an affirmation on the restraint of kings.

Dr. Mereidth Kline has written a wonderful study entitled, “The Structure of Biblical Authority” (Euguene, OR; Wipf & Stock. Copyright 1989 by Meredith G. Kline) which traces God’s purposes in creating a society built upon written laws.  Kline shows how the ancient near east – including the Babylonia of Hammurabi – was moved to codify their laws in stone.  These ancient “covenants” specified the name of the king, his relation to his subjects and theirs to him, the laws that were to be followed and specific penalties for their violation.  One stone was typically placed in the center of town so that all could see it; another was tucked away for safe keeping in the event the first was damaged or lost.  This supports Williamson’s idea thoroughly.

This concept begins to become more interesting when one realizes that this is expressly the context into which God chose to codify His laws to the ancient Israelites.  Sometime about 200-500 years after Hammurabi (depending on which source you choose) God wrote His law in stone; one copy for the Israelites and one stored in the Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus 34)  That was His way of assuring the Law was being expressed in a fashion that would have been familiar to the Israelites.  And it would have been an entirely familiar thing to those societies among whom the Israelites lived.

But there is yet another fascinating part of God’s creation of laws written in stone that is fundamental.  And that is the extreme sanction against anyone seeking to change it.

Dr. Kline explains:

A feature of the covenant tablets of peculiar significance for their canonical character is the inscriptural curse, or what we may call the canonical sanction.  The tablet was protected against alteration or destruction by making such violations of it the object of specific curses…  Wherever it is found the inscriptional curse is somewhat stereotyped in content.  This is so both in respect to the techniques envisaged by which the text might be defaced or removed and with respect to the divine retribution threatened as a deterrent to any contemplating such transgression.” (Kline, p. 29)

How fascinating that God used that part of His creation as a model for the communication of His Law to the Israelites.

Consider Deuteronomy 4:2 –

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it.

…or Proverbs 30:6 –

Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

So this was an established principle centuries later when the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament:

“Do not go beyond what is written.”   (1 Corinthians 4:6)

Or when the Scriptures closes with just such an admonition.

Revelation 22:18-19  –

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll:  If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plauges described in this scroll.  And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God willt ake away from tath person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City….

So we readily see that the roots of Sola Scriptura – contrary to some claims of its modernity – is really an ancient doctrine.

So the Halbig Court affirmed principle that is thousands of years old and one that America’s Founders also affirmed.  Dr. John Eidsmoe’s study of early America produces this interesting fact:

Many, if not the vast majority of colonial Americans came from Calvinistic backgrounds.

The author goes on to show that by 1787 two thirds of Americans were “trained in the school of Calvin” and had come from “Calvinistic backgrounds.”  This resulted in seventy seven percent of the country universities being built on Calvinistic principles.  (Eidsmoe, John.  “Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers”.  Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1987. Kindle locations 82, 87).  With such a large Calvinistic influence the presence of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in the establishment of the laws of this country is self-evident.

So what happened in Halbig?  The court merely restated what the Apostle Paul taught us two thousand years ago:  “Do not go beyond what is written.”

Sola Scriptura at work today!

The Babylonian Captivity Of The Papacy – R. Scott Clark

Dr. Clark weighed in a topic about which I posted yesterday.  In this 600th anniversary year of the convening of the Council of Constance, his effort is very timely and can be read here.

The crux of the matter is put succinctly here:

 The Avignon crisis is just one of many examples from the history of the medieval church that illustrate the futility of seeking continuity, unity, and stability where they have never existed. The historical truth is that the Roman communion is not an ancient church. She is a medieval church who consolidated her theology, piety, and practice during a twenty-year-long council in the sixteenth century (Trent). Her rituals, sacraments, canon law, and papacy are medieval. The unity and stability offered by Roman apologists are illusions—unless mutual and universal excommunication and attempted murder count as unity and stability. Crushing opponents and rewriting history to suit present needs is not unity. It is mythology.

I commend his post to your reading.