Does the Bible "establish doctrine" and "govern practice" in the Church?

In a combox comment below, Pastor Weedon said:

The Lutheran Church is a community of faith, as also the Roman Church is. The difference between the two communities has to do, above all, with their approach to the Sacred Scriptures and whether these Scriptures are sufficient for the establishment of the Church’s dogma and to govern her practice.

The question that needs to be asked is this: Regardless of whether the Scriptures are held to be all-sufficient or not, is it possible that in the Christian community (or in any particular Christian community) the Sacred Scriptures themselves are able to “establish the Church’s dogma and govern her practice”?

Tell me, when did a book–even a book filled to the gills with the Word of God as surely the Scriptures are–ever, on its own, establish beliefs or govern practices?

It always has been and always will be the people who have the power/authority in any given community who do the establishing and the governing. This may or may not be done on the basis of what they read in the Scriptures.

And, in my experience, what one reads in a book depends to a very great degree on what is already in your head when you read it. In this respect, I cannot see that either Lutherans or Catholics differ one jot.

Imagine two Christian communities setting out separately to “establish and govern” according to purely “Scriptural” principles apart from any human tradition.

I can absolutely guarentee you that these two communities would, probably sooner rather than later, emerge as quite different in their character. And that in fact they would probably each denounce the other as being “unscriptural”.

So it comes back to the guys (or girls) with the power. In the Church there must be people who have Christ’s own authority to “establish and govern”. Because although the Scriptures must always be their inspiration, their guide and their rule, the Scriptures will never do their job for them.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Does the Bible "establish doctrine" and "govern practice" in the Church?

  1. Christine says:

    I can absolutely guarentee you that these two communities would, probably sooner rather than later, emerge as quite different in their character. And that in fact they would probably each denounce the other as being “unscriptural”.

    And isn’t that exactly what happened after the Reformation morphed into its more radical forms?

    So it comes back to the guys (or girls) with the power. In the Church there must be people who have Christ’s own authority to “establish and govern”. Because although the Scriptures must always be their inspiration, their guide and their rule, the Scriptures will never do their job for them.

    Exactly. It happened to all the various Lutheran (and other Protestant) bodies and sadly it is happening now within even the most conservative ones, including the LCMS.

    Christ gave his commission to human beings, not to a book. I love Sacred Scripture, it is my daily spiritual refreshment. But the Body of Christ needs flesh.

  2. Chris Jones says:

    I hesitate to disagree with my friend Fr Weedon, but I will have to disagree both with him and with you in this instance.

    It depends on what you mean by “establish.” If “establish” is being used as a synonym for “decide” or “develop” or “deduce,” then it is not given to the Church to “establish” anything, whether from the Scriptures or otherwise. The dogma of the Church is not established either by the Church or by the Scripture, but has been given to us once for all, to be handed down intact, neither adding anything nor taking anything away.

    And if “establish” means to confirm or to strengthen and make certain, then again it is neither the Church nor the Scriptures that do that. It is the Holy Spirit Who is our guarantee, the Seal of the revelation. (This, of course does not mean apart from or independently of the Church — see Augustana V.)

    The question is how we interact with “dogma.” If that interaction is to “establish dogma from Scripture” by the operation of human reason upon Scriptural data, that is no better than (and indeed, little different from) the Roman Church’s drawing of new dogmas out of “tradition” under the guise of “development.” In reality, we are not called to “establish” new dogma — whether from Scripture or from tradition — but simply to hand on what we have received.

  3. William Weedon says:

    David et al.,

    My intent in speaking of Scripture establishing dogma was simply to state via shorthand the contention of St. Thomas Aquinas (and before him of St. Augustine):

    “Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): “Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning.”–St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8

    This attitude of the angelic doctor fully comports with that of the great 4th century fathers who argued explicitly that doctrine must be demonstrable from the Sacred Scriptures for it to be held as truth in the Church.

  4. Past Elder says:

    Great leaping Judas in a belfry.

    In the church there must be people who have Christ’s own authority … And how do you know that? That is a logical conclusion. Which is not to say it is true, simply logical. So what is the test. Logic? The difficulties in a common interpretation of a text have been spoken of since Plato and before. Experience confirms this. Literature is often great precisely to the extent that a text admits of all sorts of readings. Who is to say, which one? There must be an external authority. Logically, yes. So then what. There are bishops in succession from the Apostles headed by the one in succession from Peter because there logically has to be or else we descend into a cacaphony of interpretations with no final answer as to which is correct?

    There is no difference whatsoever between saying here is the interpretation I accept because I think it is right and here is the interpretation I accept because I think the person(s) whose interpretation it is is/are right.

    So we have Protestants who believe as if the Bible fell out the sky and everything else fell into place around it, and Catholics who believe as if there was this Church and then everything else derives from that.

    And what’s more, the real deal is the guarantors guarantee absolutely nothing. The only difference between the Catholic world and the Protestant world is that in the latter you form your own church or synod over doctrinal matters whereas in the former you believe and do whatever you please and stay in the same church because the church is the only thing really believed in anyway.

    That one can find all manner of doctrine and practice in one big church and all manner of doctrine and practice in a bunch of smaller churches is no difference whatsoever, at all, in the least, and to any extent.

    Or to put it another way, the only reason why the Catholic world remains for the most part in one church and the Protestant world fractures is not because of the inadequacy of Scripture but because the Catholic world adds a pagan derived institutional deification which Protestantism does not share which keeps all the warring elements in one superficial fold under a geriatric grid in period costume.

    Once again, for the RCC, all about an institution. All about itself.

  5. Schütz says:

    I will answer Chris, William, and Terry all on the basis of the wonderful conclusion to Christine’s comment: “The Body of Christ needs Flesh”.

    1) To Pastor Weedon I reply:

    I accept fully both St Thomas and St Augustine on the matter. Not surprisingly, it points to the fact that you continue to misunderstand the relationship of Scripture and Tradition in the Catholic Church. Certainly the writings of Scripture are accepted as inerrant by the Catholic Church. The Church also accepts that it is possible that the Doctors of the Church (nb. as individuals) could and occasionally did err in their teaching BUT that on the whole their teaching is more probable than not. One would need to prove (presumably by means of the opinions of Councils and of other doctors of the Church) why this or that particular interpretation of scripture by this or that particular father was in error. I do not think that Aquinas was countenancing the idea that the Fathers of the Church AS A COLLECTIVE WHOLE erred in any matter, but only as individuals.

    The Catholic Church is convinced that every teaching she promulgates as binding upon consciences can be demonstrated from Sacred Scripture. The question is whether or not it is necessary that every aspect of every particular doctrine must be demonstrated from Sacred Scripture ALONE, or whether or not is is legitimate to defend a given teaching as “demonstrated by Scripture” if it can be shown to be supported by Scripture and congruent with the direction of Scriptural teaching. I believe you must concede that it is in fact the latter, for, as Newman makes quite clear in his “Essay”, even the formulation of the “demonstration” from scripture must, of necessity, go beyond the statement of scripture itself. The act of teaching is, in any case, a complex matter, to do with the subject, the context, the teacher, the student, the language, etc. etc. All of these things can be said to be “outside” scripture, such that no teaching can be said to be based on Scripture “alone” as if to say there were no external referrants. In other words, “the body of Christ needs flesh”. Just as the Divine Word was not the Divine Word ALONE, but the Divine Word and the Human Flesh, so too scripture must be “enfleshed” in the world before it can be said to be “teaching”. None of this diminishes the authority of sacred scripture, nor elevates any writing of the Fathers to the same status as that of scripture. But it does show a rather more nuanced relationship between both than you allow, Pastor.

    2) Chris, you need to ask yourself “Does not the Body of Christ need Flesh?”. You say that the Holy Spirit is the one who encourages. Of course–but how? Does he not encourage through “the mutual consolation of the brethren”, to use Martin Luther’s felicitous phrase?

    Furthermore, revelation is truly a given. New revelation is excluded. But the great difference between Catholics and Protestants is that Catholics (like the Orthodox and ancient Church) locate the fullness of Divine revelation not in the Scriptures but in the Word of God made Flesh, ie. in Jesus Christ himself. He is the Truth. He is Revelation of the Father. The writings of the apostles and prophets witness to Christ in a superlative way–dependably and without error.

    Vatican II declared: “The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ” [DV 4]. Nevertheless, the Catechism adds, “even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.” This is historically and demonstrably true. The work of theologians is to reflect on the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ. The authority of the Church is to declare which of these reflections are valid and which are invalid.

    And so when you say “The dogma of the Church is not established either by the Church or by the Scripture, but has been given to us once for all, to be handed down intact, neither adding anything nor taking anything away”, you use the word “dogma” inaccurately. What you mean is that the REVELATION is given once for all to be handed down intact. But the process of “handing down” is what we call “Tradition”, and what we call “Dogma” is a declaration of which tradition is true and correct.

    Your argument that we do not “develop” dogma but must hand it on as we received it unchanged sounds a little like the argument of the Arians against the use of the (unscriptural) word “Homoousias”. In fact, by rejecting legitimate “development” one can in fact become a heretic! For development arises as an idea (itself revealed in the Scriptural witness) is reflected upon by the body of Christ in the concrete ENFLESHED circumstances of life and history.

    The Body of Christ needs Flesh!

    3) Past Elder’s comments I can dismiss with one statement: There IS a body of Christ in the world–his body which is the Church–a fact which you seem to either deny or ignore. Until you accept this fact, there is little point in me pointing out once again that the “body of Christ needs flesh”.

  6. William Weedon says:


    Perhaps, but I do treasure the witness of the Fathers of the Church; I find it untenable that their witness confirms the current teaching of Rome in her elevating of ancient theogoumena to the status of divinely revealed dogma. You have frequent recourse to Newman; I do not buy his entire line of argument of development and hence growth of the doctrinal corpus. The faith of the Church is the faith of the Apostles; and the Apostles under the Holy Spirit’s influence wrote for us an inspired record of what they believed and what they taught and the Church is bound to this record in her teaching. To quote another Father on this very matter:

    “What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).

    The citation is all the more remarkable because of the use RC and Orthodox Apologists make of St. Basil’s words in *On the Holy Spirit* to demonstrate the exact opposite of what the above quote says. But the solution is rather apparent that the citation in *On the Holy Spirit* is dealing with Christian liturgical practices – most of which, indeed, are NOT written; but not with divinely revealed dogma, for which St. Basil tells us to stick to the Holy Scripture without subtraction or addition.

  7. Beatus Vir says:

    Pastor Weedon,

    I am curious as to whether you really believe that Aquinas and Augustine hold to your sola scriptura position. If so, how do you account for several instances where they appeal to Tradition and the infallibility of the Church?

    A Catholic can affirm what you quote from Aquinas without denying what you deny. This touches on the very crux of the differences between Lutherans and the Catholic Church. It is a matter of smallness and largeness in ones system of thought.

    I’m not accusing Lutherans of being stupid, small brained, or narrow minded. Please don’t take this as an insult.

    My argument here is that in Catholic thought, one can embrace what the Fathers say about the Holy Scriptures along with what they say about the Church, Tradition, and infallibility, whereas, for in the Lutheran system, they are contradictory. In the same way, a Catholic can look at your quotations of the Fathers, by which you defend sola fides, and agree with them, at the same time, embracing those statements of the Fathers where they say the faith by itself is not sufficient for salvation. For Lutherans, St. John Chysostrom will be self-contradictory on salvation by faith, but for a Catholic both sides of his argument are complimentary and can be affirmed. We can see Peter, and his successors, as first among equals, without seeing the terms “first” and “equal” as being contradictory. A Catholic can embrace both Paul and James on Justification, but the Lutheran is left with a difficulty or inconsistancy to resolve.

    All this said, it is beside the point that David is making, which I think you have failed to address. Is it really true that Sola Scriptura without anything else is authoritative? The LCMS, for example, once opposed the suffrage of women in the congregation based on Scripture alone. Now it does not. Once the Lutheran Church was opposed to birth control, now it is not. Once the LCMS was against life insurance based on Scripture along, now you have Thrivent. The LCMS opposes the ordination of women based on Scripture, and yet all it takes is 51% at the next convention, and the LCMS will hold that that Scripture now allows it. If you really hold to Sola Scriptura, how is that you can remain in a synod where, in point of fact, the final authority is the synod in convention, or perhaps more accurately, whoever reigns in the purple palace?

    But the problem for Lutherans is even larger than what must be endured as a member of a synod, but what exists in the confession as whole. Take the issue of Infant baptism, as an example, which a Lutheran believes is proven by Scripture alone. And yet I think it is impossible to deny that there is another guiding principle at work in how Lutheran arrive at Infant Baptism.

    The reality is the biblical foundation for infant baptism is not as strong as one claims when you consider the standard proofs. As a Lutheran, you argue Infant Baptism based on 1) Peter’s Pentecostal sermon: “the promise is for you and your children”; 2) Our Lord’s commission to “baptize all nations”; 3) Our Lord’s “Let the children come unto Me”; 4) The typological connection of OT circumcision and NT baptism, in view of Paul’s discussion in Colossians; 5) references in Acts to whole families being baptized; and lastly 6) the universality of sin and the rational deduction that infants too are in need of Baptism. And yet, any Lutheran who tries to argue Infant Baptism with their protestant friends who deny Infant Baptism (and also hold sola scriptura), realizes that he is unable to make his arguments persuasive. For in the case of Peter’s sermon, one can argue that Peter was refering to “descendents” or “older children”; “all nations” may only mean that both Jew and Gentile are to be discipled; “Let the Children come” can, it may be argued, be considered incidental because it lacks any contextual evidence that our Lord was talking about Baptism. The circumcision argument can be countered by pointing out that only boys and not girls were circumcised. The references to whole households in Acts may or may not have included Infant, and it can further be argued that “whole households” is a figure of speech and should not be taken literally, and lastly, one can counter the “Infants need baptism because they are sinful” can be dismissed as an argument from human reason and not from Scripture. On the other hand, the Baptism will cite his biblical proofs. How does one determine which Biblical texts apply to Infant Baptism, and which are merely incidental or non-applicable?

    Both the Lutheran and the Baptist arrive at contrary conclusions regarding Infant Baptism, each holding to Scripture Alone. But in point of truth, each is following his own tradition, being guided by something other than Scripture alone. Does not Luther himself confess this when he says that he did not invent Infant Baptism, but recieved it from Tradition?

    And more than this, if Sola Scriptura is all that you claim it to be, Pastor Weedon, my friend, why do you go at such lengths to defend your position by quoting the Fathers? Why the Catalog of Testimonies? Why the theological method of Martin Chemnitz? Why do you need the Confessions? Perhaps you are more of a Roman Catholic than you think and your system of thought is larger than you realize or are willing to admit.


  8. Christine says:

    everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).

    From STUDIA PATRISTICA VOL. XXX, Leuven 1997:

    Basil the Great portrays the Mother of God as the protectress of virgins(5), of whom she becomes an archetype.

    Of the Cappadocian Fathers, Gregory of Nyssa worked most of all on the establishment of the typological references(6) of the Mother of God.

    The importance of homiletics for the formulation of doctrine as the establishment of the living experience of the Church may be attested in the example of the homily delivered by Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople, in the presence of his adversary Nestorius, in the great church of Haghia Sophia, in 428 or 429, in which the Virgin is referred to as the All-Holy and Ever-Virgin Theotokos, the Mother of God(7).

    Note the years — 428 or 429.

    Were the Cappadocians sinning ??

    A prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas:

    O most blessed and sweet Virgin Mary,

    Mother of God, filled with all tenderness,
    Daughter of the most high King,
    Lady of the Angels,
    Mother of all the faithful,

    On this day and all the days of my life,

    I entrust to your merciful heart my body and my soul,
    all my acts, thoughts, choices,
    desires, words, deeds,
    my entire life and death,

    So that, with your assistance,

    all may be ordered to the good
    according to the will of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. …

    From your beloved Son. ..

    request for me the grace to resist firmly
    the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. ..

    My most holy Lady,

    I also beseech you to obtain for me
    true obedience and true humility of heart

    So that I may recognize myself truly

    as a sinner–wretched and weak–
    and powerless,
    without the grace and help of my Creator
    and without your holy prayers. ..

    Obtain for me as well,

    O most sweet Lady,
    true charity with which from the depths of my heart
    I may love your most holy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
    and, after Him,
    love you above all other things.

    Grant, O Queen of Heaven,

    that ever in my heart
    I may have fear and love alike
    for your most sweet Son. ..
    I pray also that, at the end of my life,


    Mother without compare,
    Gate of Heaven and Advocate of sinners. ..
    will protect me with your great piety and mercy. ..

    and obtain for me, through the blessed and glorious Passion of your Son (emphasis mine)

    and through your own intercession,
    received in hope, the forgiveness of all my sins.

    When I die in your love and His love,

    may you direct me
    into the way of salvation and blessedness.

    Amen. “

    Pastor Weedon, the doctrinal/dogmatic/liturgical/devotional life of catholic christianity is not so easily separated, even by the Angelic Doctor or the great Cappadocians.

    It’s also hard to believe Past Elder was once Catholic if he really thinks that Catholics today remain so for the sake of an institution, rather than Christ the head of his mystical body.

  9. Beatus Vir says:

    Pastor Weedon,

    Your citation of Basil illustrates the point I am making. I can affirm what he says at this point, and also affirm what he says in On the Holy Spirit. They are not contradictory to Catholics.

    “But we do not rest only on the fact that such is the tradition of the Fathers; for they too followed the sense of Scripture, and started from the evidence which, a few sentences back, I deduced from Scripture and laid before you.” (On the Holy Spirit, 7:16)

    “The one aim of the whole band of opponents and enemies of “sound doctrine” is to shake down the foundation of the faith of Christ by levelling apostolic tradition with the ground, and utterly destroying it. So like the debtors,—of course bona fide debtors—they clamour for written proof, and reject as worthless the unwritten tradition of the Fathers.” (On the Holy Spirit, 10:27)

    “In answer to the objection that the doxology in the form “with the Spirit” has no written authority, we maintain that if there is no other instance of that which is unwritten, then this must not be received. But if the greater number of our mysteries are admitted into our constitution without written authority, then, in company with the many others, let us receive this one. For I hold it apostolic to abide also by the unwritten traditions. “I praise you,” it is said, “that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you;” and “Hold fast the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word, or our Epistle.” (On the Holy Spirit, 29:71)

    “Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learnt the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents.” (Basil, on the Holy Spirit, 27:66)

    We can play a game where you quote the a Father, and I counter with the same Father. The only difference is that I can affirm both your citations as well as my own, and will not be forced to conclude, by the smallness of my categories, that the Father are a) scizophenic, b) lacking intelligence, or c) pliable to mean whatever one wants them to mean.

    Of course, it you really wanted to wow me, you would prove Sola Scriptura from the Bible itself, and proceed to show me from the Bible itself, without the authority of the Church, which books are, and are not, canonical. (I know these objections are old hat, so you really should have no problem giving a persuasive argument.)


  10. William Weedon says:


    The approach taken in the Lutheran Symbols towards tradition and Scripture differs from that taken in other Protestant traditions, as I suspect you know. The Lutheran position has a default “yes” position toward tradition, with the “no” kicking into play only when the tradition is manifestly in opposition to the Sacred Scriptures; i.e., a false development. Thus, a Lutheran does not approach infant Baptism in anywhere near the same light as a Baptist, because we don’t approach tradition or the Scriptures in the same way. Luther’s famous words about infant baptism clearly demonstrate what I’m talking about here:

    “I did not invent it [infant baptism]. It came to me by tradition and I was persuaded by no word of Scripture that it was wrong.”

    “Baptism did not originate with us, but with the apostles and we should not discard or alter what cannot be discarded or altered on clear scriptural authority.”

    “Were child baptism now wrong God would certainly not have permitted it to continue so long, nor let it become so universally and thoroughly established in all of Christendom, but it would sometime have gone down in disgrace….. He has not so upheld the papcy, which also in an innovation and has never been accepted by all Christians of the world as has child Baptism, the Bible, faith, or the Lord’s Prayer…”

    “You say, this does not prove that child baptism is certain. For there is no passage in Scripture for it. My answer: that is true. From Scripture we cannot clearly conclude that you should establish child baptism as a practice among the first Christians after the apostles. But you can well conclude that in our day no one may reject or neglect the practice of child baptism, which has so long a tradition, since God actually not only has permitted it, but from the beginning so ordered, that it has not yet disappeared. For where we see the work of God we should yield and believe in the same way as when we hear his Word, unless the plain Scripture tell us otherwise.” (AE 40:254)

    Luther here evidences the use of what some have called “the catholic principal.” It shows up throughout the Lutheran Symbols when the Lutherans speak of the Sacred Scriptures AND the fathers, the canons, the creeds. The meaning of “sola Scriptura” for a Lutheran, I would posit, is not that the Tradition is rejected, but that it is critiqued by the Sacred Scriptures and that whatever in the Tradition is contrary to them is to be recognized as inauthentic or false development and should be set aside.

    And that, Christine, is where I’d place the prayers you cite to the saints; and I’d put in the same category the 4th century practice of holding off baptism to the death bed – the same great fathers screwed up on that too, and I think you all would admit that that was a serious misstep.

    The Fathers want to be teaching nothing but what is in Sacred Scripture. And they invite those who hear and read their writings to CRITIQUE their writings on that basis. When a Lutheran exercises that critique, he is accused of “picking and choosing” from the Fathers (and when a RC or Orthodox does the same thing from the other direction, the response is that individual fathers are not infallible…).

    One last note, Dan, as a Lutheran I don’t expect a Father who has not lived through a given controversy in which the church’s language was sharpened on some point to speak consistently with the way the Church learned to speak AFTER that controversy. Thus, we all excuse language that sounds monophysitic in St. Cyril of Alexandria; and I excuse language that sounds Pelagian in those Eastern fathers who really didn’t have much of a clue about what the West was struggling with in rejecting both Pelagianism and semi-pelagianism; or one thinks of how sometimes St. Justin Martyr would speak in ways that the later Christological controversies deemed unacceptable. In short, anyone who studies the fathers grants that the language grows in precision, but what it is seeking to be precise about is the content of the faith written for us in the Sacred Scriptures.

    On the women’s ordination question – a 51% vote you say could alter that. I would disagree. When the Missouri Synod changed her position on insurance or dancing or whatever, you did not have a position grounded in the Tradition to which she was reacting. But the Symbols confess that we are to receive nothing contrary to the Sacred Scriptures or the catholic church – and there is unanimity in the tradition that women may not hold the position of presbyter in the Church of Christ. And the tradition has always so understood the teaching of the Apostles regarding this. Of course, if your infallible pope were to wake up one morning and realize that the Church has been in error on this, he’ll simply change it. And it won’t even need a majority vote if he decides to issue the decree ex cathedra; though he may do it more subtly as Rome has done of late when she contradicted the earlier popes up through the mid 20th century on the question of evolution.

  11. William Weedon says:


    They are old hat and I’ve said for years that Sacred Scripture teaches us to value Tradition; and Tradition teaches us that doctrine is established in the Church by Scripture alone. Kinda neat the way that works, eh?

  12. Christine says:

    But the Symbols confess that we are to receive nothing contrary to the Sacred Scriptures or the catholic church – and there is unanimity in the tradition that women may not hold the position of presbyter in the Church of Christ.

    Yes, Pastor Weedon, the Symbols do confess that. And the tradition may be unanimous on that.

    The Daystar folks in the LCMS seem to disagree.

    I saw the same subtle changes when I was still attending the ELCA. Year by year, convention by convention changing votes on this or that issue resulted in definite shifts to the point where the ELCA now views herself as a Christian Church “in the Lutheran tradition”.

    As regards Papal infallibility, we all know how seldom it has been exercised.

    And evolution? The Church doesn’t have a “teaching” on evolution per se. Evolution is a scientific hypothesis, and the Church is not in the business of teaching scientific hypotheses. What the Church does teach on is Scripture and the deposit of faith, and in the 1950s Pope Pius XII issued a preliminary finding that certain versions of biological evolution do not appear to conflict with what is found in the sources of revelation. A Catholic is thus morally permitted to believe in those forms of evolution.

    Personally, I think Teilhard de Chardin had some great theories.

    None of this makes me question the teachings of Genesis about creation, humanity or my need for a Redeemer.

  13. William Weedon says:

    Said another way, one needs to be careful of treating all those who claim “sola Scriptura” as meaning by the expression the same thing. The Lutheran meaning of the phrase is really defined in our Symbols as this:

    “God’s Word shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel can do so.” [The language David objected to in the initial post] SA II,II, 15

    But Tradition is NOT limited to the articles of faith; it embraces a great many things of which the overwhelming part has to do with liturgical practices (as the citations you gave from St. Basil show). Indeed, I do not dispute St. Basil’s point: take away these other things and the Gospel itself would suffer mutilation by becoming only information. It’s not just that. As Elert so perceptively noted, the Evangel has an “Ansatz” – an impact in this world. And Tradition is like the splash of that rock into the pond. If the rock doesn’t splash, truth is it’s only an idea of rock and not a real rock. Lutherans, unlike the Baptists and such, embrace the splash the Gospel has made across the centuries. Hence our Symbols are clear that the stuff not contrary to the Gospel as confessed in the Scripture is not rejected among. Not the mass. Not vestments. Not the sign of the cross. What does get tossed is whatever cannot be shown to come from that splash – what contradicts the free gift of life that God has reached us in His Son, as testified by the Sacred Scriptures.

  14. Christine says:

    Not the mass. Not vestments. Not the sign of the cross.

    I’m sorry, Pastor Weedon, but not one — I mean not one — Lutheran congregation I ever attended referred to its worship services as the mass. Oh, its on the books “Symbolically” speaking but my Lutheran mother would have been astounded to hear the term used. There’s still that little matter of the Eucharistic canon. It just ain’t the same.

    Vestments? Some Lutheran pastors use them, some don’t but I always understood that to fall under adiaphora anyway. And the Sign of the Cross?

    Not in any congregations I attended save for the Catholics attending who were married to Lutherans.

    Not essential to worship, to be sure — but a definite break from the catholicity of the early centuries.

    I also don’t think that either Aquinas or Basil would think of themselves as “screwed up” on the matters you quote.

  15. William Weedon says:

    You just need to come visit some of the parishes in Southern Illinois, Christine. I’m sure your mother would be utterly scandalized – I shudder to think WHAT she’d say about the statues above the altars in these parts. And numerous folks signing themselves with the cross at the Holy Eucharist! Chanting and chasubles and adiaphora enough to send a romophobe hightailing it to the other side of the Mississippi River (remember, we’re the side that Stephan ended up on!). :)

    I don’t think you’d experience worship done according to LSB (as it is in many an LCMS parish) a “break” from the early centuries; though you’d definitely find it a break from the Polka Masses the Romans enjoy putting on!

  16. Beatus Vir says:

    Pastor Weedon,

    Now which is it: Sola Scriptura or Scripture plus that tradition that is not contrary to Scripture. For the later position, is not Sola Scripture, but Prima Scriptura.

    You said, “They are old hat and I’ve said for years that Sacred Scripture teaches us to value Tradition; and Tradition teaches us that doctrine is established in the Church by Scripture alone. Kinda neat the way that works, eh?” Are you then saying that sola scriptura is not taught in the Bible, but you arrive at it through tradition. Is that not self-refuting?

    How I feel for you in trying to embrace a tension, that is bursting at the seams. It need not be so, my friend. You are not far from the kingdom of God.

    Perhaps you may modify your catholic principle to mean Scripture and that tradition which is in harmony with Scripture. But that isn’t really what Luther was saying, or Urbanus Rhegius, either. Well, the Catholic Principle hardly had a Consensus among your colleagues, anyway.

    But it really doesn’t work, does it? What one sees as contrary to scripture is for another seen as in complete accord. Semper Virgo. The difference between Catholics and Lutherans is that we have only one pope.

    Regarding the Invocation of the saints, do Lutherans reject it because:

    A) It is contrary to Scripture.
    or B) It is not in harmony with Scripture.

    What, there is a C) It is not *commanded* by Scripture, thank-you Dr. Melancthon. But did they really have to change the words of LSB #679? At least verse 2 of #670 can be sung again… (But this is getting sidetracked)

    Infant Baptism meets options A) and B). Not Contrary to Scripture, in harmony with Scripture. Oh-oh, it is not C) commanded by Scripture. Poor Melancthon will always be that weird uncle that no one wants to talk to at Lutheran family reunions, but unfortunately he always stands by the keg!

    Infant Baptism/Invocation of Saints. Goose/Gander. Except the Invocation of saints has a stronger patristic witness than Infant Baptism, as you know.

    Apart from the tension that presents itself with your catholic principle on the theorectical level, in practical application, it has the same problem that our baptist friends have with sola scripture. Who decides which verse of Scripture are applicable, and which incidental. Who decides whether I Cor. 3:15 speaks of purgatory, or not. Who decides whether Mt. 16:17 speaks of a Petrine office, or not? Who decides whether Acts 1:15ff speaks of apostolic succession, or not?

    Who has the final word in critiquing whether a Church Father is faithful to the Scriptures or is following a false development of doctrine?

    This is the point that I believe David is making. At least Catholics have only one Pope.

    Finally the claims of the Lutheran Symbols, to wit,

    “our churches dissent from the church catholic in no article of faith”

    “nothing has been received among us, in doctrine or in ceremonies, that is contrary to Scripture or to the church catholic.”

    “no novelty has been introduced which did not exist in the church from ancient times”

    And so on, may make for good slogans, but they simple are not historically or theologically true.

    The Church Fathers did not deny purgatory, the invocation of saints, the sacrifice of the mass, apostolic succession, the Petrine Office, the holiness of Mary, but affirmed them. (Even if they were not fully developed or matured at first. The Fathers cannot be shown to be supportive of Sola Fides, without dealing with there statement to the contrary. Patriarch Jeremias II thus rejects the Lutheran Doctrine based on the Fathers in his letter to Turbingen. The honest Lutheran may claim their teaching disappeared immediately after Paul until Luther discovered it. But then, there goes the slogan.


  17. William Weedon says:

    About the canon – and lack thereof in Lutheran Churches – this is actually rather of a piece with some patristic and medieval thought about the Sacrament. I’d remind you of how in the Summa, Thomas quotes Ambrose:

    On the contrary, Ambrose says (De Sacram. iv): “The consecration is accomplished by the words and expressions of the Lord Jesus. Because, by all the other words spoken, praise is rendered to God, prayer is put up for the people, for kings, and others; but when the time comes for perfecting the sacrament, the priest uses no longer his own words, but the words of Christ. Therefore, it is Christ’s words that perfect this sacrament.”

    If St. Ambrose is right, as clearly Aquinas thinks he is, then the Lutheran approach which also allows the words of Christ to “perfect this sacrament” is not a problem. And much of the rest of the content of the canon is contained in our Prayer of the Church, which immediately precedes the preface (the other items that St. Ambrose mentions).


  18. William Weedon says:


    Don’t feel sorry for me, for there’s no tension there that troubles me one bit. I feel sorry for a Romanist, however, for I’m sure the tension with what Scriptures teaches must be unbearable.

    I adhere to “sola Scriptura” – an ablative – BY Scripture alone we hear the certain voice of God addressing us, condemning us in the Law and resurrecting us in the Gospel. By Scripture alone we know the will of God and His counsels for our salvation.

    It is quite like we say about sola fide. We ARE saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves NEVER is alone, it always has its fruits, good works. Similarly with the sola Scriptura. The Sacred Scriptures alone are the deposit to which we turn for the doctrine of the Church; but they are never alone, for they have borne faithful fruit throughout the centuries in which we rejoice.

    About the invocation of the saints, we reject it because we believe it is contrary to the Sacred Scriptures in that they teach us to invoke none but the Blessed Trinity. “Call upon ME in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and you shall glorify ME.” “I am the Lord; my glory will I give to no other.” And His glory is hearing our prayer and granting it in mercy.

    The Church fathers teach purgatory (when they do) not as a state but as cleansing of imperfections and in such a sense the Lutheran Symbols do not reject it. But they do reject the Roman trafficing in indulgences, in masses (especially those for the dead), and in general in turning the grace of Christ into something from which to derive earthly profit.

  19. William Weedon says:

    One last comment and I’ll promise I’ll shut up (for a while!):

    This Lutheran has NO intention of becoming Roman or Orthodox; I believe that the Lutheran Symbols express exactly the same faith articulated in the Sacred Scriptures. I know the comments are meant kindly “not far from the kingdom” or whatever, but know that they are really an insult to all of us who believe that the Church lives from the receiving end of God in the means of grace. When the Church is put at spot #1, it become an idol, and that’s what I fear has happened to many who convert from Lutheranism to the Roman or Orthodox jurisdictions. I have no intention of doing so and I wish that folks would stop implying that that’s where I’m headed. No way, no how. If I once thought along those lines, I no longer do and I’m rather glad that neither Rome nor the East hold any enticement to me in the least. I’ll take the poverty of the Lutheran Church with her pure confession anyday.

  20. Christine says:

    Pastor Weedon,

    I’m smiling as I write this, but truly, I’ve never been to a Polka Mass. The Polish parishes my husband grew up in were as traditional as they come. The ceiling dome in the parish church where he was baptized, Immaculate Heart of Mary, has a mosaic of the Agnus Dei surrounded by the classic symbols of the four evangelists that takes one’s breath away. In Catholic ecclesiastical art Jesus never comes alone, always with his friends (and to be fair I have seen some beautiful ecclesiastical appointments in Lutheran churches, but there is much more variation, e.g. some Lutheran churches don’t display the crucifix or employ statuary, etc.).

    Yes, I’m afraid my mother wouldn’t quite see it the way you do — being descended from the Salzburger Lutherans who left Austria to settle down in East Prussia they would not have wanted to have anything to do with chasubles, stautes, or any kind of “Romanizing” (in their eyes) influence. Catholic was Catholic and Lutheran was Lutheran and one didn’t mix the two.

    On the other hand, after the War when she settled in Bavaria the local Lutheran Church was a beautiful gothic edifice that had belonged to the Catholic Church before the Reformation, complete with many “Catholic” appointments that were retained out of respect for their antiquity. Kinda ironic, I’d say!

    One of the things I love about being Catholic is that although every parish has its own particular “flavor” I am always at home wherever I go. There are some “givens” one finds in any Catholic parish, liturgically, artistically and devotionally. I remember my Catholic Dad telling me something to that effect when I was small.

    I didn’t understand it then. I do now.

  21. Christine says:

    And one last comment, PW, and I promise I’ll bow out for today.

    I did not become Catholic because I place the Church above Jesus Christ. I hear the same Scriptures you do.

    I became Catholic because it was the only way for me to become truly catholic (and PE would state it in just the reverse).

  22. Past Elder says:

    Bloody right I would.

    I’m not about to quote and counter-quote church Fathers and church furniture to prove my point. Pastor has in fact already made it, but in much more pastorally sensitive terms than those to which I am accustomed, being no pastor but a past elder and recovering academic.

    Also sprach Der Vorsteher:

    There is no difference whatsoever in saying I believe this because I agree with it and in saying I believe this because I believe in the authority which says it.

    The Roman Catholic cannot see what the institution has become in his system, precisely because of what it has become in his system.

    To the Roman, Roman beliefs about the Roman church do not place the church above Christ because the beliefs about the church are seen as beliefs about Christ.

    One cannot believe in Jesus as Christ in the flesh and reject the body of believers he has established or the gifts he has given that body. This is simply the flip side of why other Christian communities cannot be called church in the true sense — while not wanting to or thinking they have done so, they reject and even do not believe exist some of the constituent integral elements which Christ has given, such as the teaching authority and the enduring Petrine ministry, therefore insofar as they do not hear them, they do not hear Christ, and in hearing them, they would hear Christ. The place of the Church is the place of Christ. If the Church has that place it is because Christ has that place.

    Or so I used to think. Hey, how come none of you raging Papists used the one I liked best in those days — when Saul got knocked off his horse, what did God say, you are persecuting my church, no, he said you are persecuting ME, thereby showing the essential identity of Christ and his Church.

    Some of the earlier comments exhibit this same sort of circle. To be blunt: it’s great to say revelation is complete, but then again it’s not explicit or completely understood, and that explicitness or more complete understanding is where we come in, the “church” supplying that.

    In that way, nothing ever contradicts anything, black is a more fully understood white, white a blackness made more explicit. Of course there are many such versions current in the “church”, all of them claiming correctness.

    Ah yes, what the “church” REALLY teaches! The Spirit of Vatican II is the real Vatican II; no it isn’t, documents of Vatican II are the real Vatican II and an organic outgrowth of what came before; no it isn’t, the documents of Vatican II preserve a superficial outward similarity while denying inner essentials. Take your pick. What, no you don’t, the church only REALLY teaches one of these, even if the church teaches all of them variously.

    The fact is, the Roman world is as mutltiform and internally incongruent and even incoherent as the Protestant world — with one great exception, the “church” which must at all costs be that to which one understands oneself to be faithful.

    And in the end — and this is what I did not see for a very long time — all these parties are wrong and it matters not in the least which “wins”, as what all of them share and what holds them to-gether is this institution above all, glorified, deified, not understood as its god because it is God, not understood as replacing Christ because it is Christ, which is exactly how it came to be its own god and how it came to replace Christ.

    Or in the words of a much abler theologian than I am, I would say — they’re just men, David.

    The Lutheran has a different relationship to the Bible than the rest of what are called Protestants, who are always trying to get us to be like them, and unfortunately sometimes we oblige. The Lutheran has a different relationship to the Church than the rest of what are called catholic, who are always trying to get us to be like them, and unfortunately sometimes we oblige.

  23. Beatus Vir says:

    Pastor Weedon,

    I am sorry about the “not far from the Kingdom” comment, no insult was intended, and tongue was in cheek. Thank you for putting the best constuction on it and being gracious with regard to it.

    Since this topic is about authority, tradition, and Scripture, I think that it is interesting because you read Ps. 50:15 as forbidding our calling upon the saints to pray for us. Frankly, I’m befuddled and amused.

    It doesn’t say “call upon me *alone*.” But “call upon me.”

    If my friend leaves a message on the answering machine, “Hey Dan, call me tonight.” Am I really to conclude that it is his intention to disuade or forbid me to call anyone but him tonight?

    If my house is on fire, should I not call 911 because God said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble?”

    When your parishioners bring to you request for prayer at mass, do you chastise them and say, “The Lord saith, ‘Call upon ME in the day of trouble’ therefore, you should not call upon other Christians to pray for you.”?

    When Catholics ask our Blessed Mother Mary to pray for us, or the saints, we are not making them rivals to our one mediator Jesus Christ, to whom, in fact, they are praying.

    But I would like to dig a little deeper in how you make your argument and draw your conclusion. You have quoted a verse of Scripture which belongs in both of our canons. I pray those words at least weekly, and I am sure that they are part of your lex orandi as well. The point is that this is not some obscure little verse tucked away in some minor prophet, but it is well known. Yet in all the years I have known this verse, never once did it occur to me that it was telling me not to invoke the saints. Nor did this interpretation ever dawn on me during the 12 years I was a Lutheran Pastor (although I didn’t invoke the saints). Far from it. or me, invoking the prayers of the saints, are part of how I call upon God in the day of trouble, which is, every day. I ask my Christian friends and family to pray for me, my priest, the saints in heaven, and I myself pray. Why? Because I believe in the communion of saints, and am part of the mystical body.

    But lets dig a little deeper into this argument, because we are talking about authority and Scripture and how one arrives at doctrine. I would suggest, my friend, that you arrived at the conclusion that forbids invoking the saints, not by scripture alone (abl. case) but by your tradition, and that your tradition is what has influenced you to interpret the Scriptures the way you do. It is your tradition that causes you to regard one verse as applicable to the conclusion, and other verses to be inconsequential. You don’t arrive at your conclusions by Scripture alone any more than I do. But I have the honesty to admit it, that I follow Scripture, Tradition, and the Majesterium, which are in accord with one another.


  24. William Weedon says:


    My approach to Sacred Scripture is OF COURSE shaped by the ecclesiastical tradition of which I am a part. I’d never deny that. I notice, however, you didn’t deal with the Isaiah passage, which speaks of God not giving His glory to another. Earlier in another thread on David’s blog I cited an example of where such prayers to the saints end up – and it was FAR from asking Mary to pray for us. It was asking Mary to DO for us what we ought only ask from the Lord. I’m not sure if you were a participant in that or not – but it’s down below somewhere. To this Lutheran it appears that when Roman Catholics or Orthodox Christians use the “just like asking you to pray for mer” they are being disingenuous. You would never ask me to “make you worthy” of the Lord’s body and blood; to enlighten the mental eyes of your heart; to quicken you who are dead in sin; to give you humility and contrition of heart and meekness in your thoughts. NEVER would you ask such things of me or any other pilgrim of the Church militant. Why then would you agree with asking them of any member of the Church triumphant, including the Holy Theotokos, instead of asking them of her Son and our Lord?

  25. Past Elder says:

    Somewhere — and that where I think is in Babylonian Captivity, but I may be wrong and I’m not going to get up and look it up — Luther wrote that the chief danger from the invocation of the saints, which per se is not bad, is that it so easily and so often obscures the mercy of Christ, as if he had to be persuaded to act benevolently toward us and had not alreasy done so in his Death and Resurrection.

    Now, I say this more in reaction to the sort of stuff I used to say myself than to “beatus vir”, but really, all this stuff about 911 calls and voice messages reminds me of the sort of stuff my kids come up with to try to get something they want rather than stick to the reason I said no.

    Sooner or later, all Catholic argumentation rests on one point alone, the authority of the church.

    That’s why the liberals don’t leave — there is the church first, last and always, no less than the traditionalist or the conservative, they simply differ on what constitutes church and the exercise of the teaching authority thereof. But that there is a church with apostolic teaching authority, they are una voce.

    So you have a world as diverse and mutiform as Protestantism, but under the illusion that it is not because of the common kool-aid of “church”.

    I too used to say, you guys function from tradition as much as I do, but mine comes from the Apostles rather than sixteenth century Europe.

    We do not hold to the Book of Concord, for example, because it makes more explicit what was heretofore not explicit, because it offers a fuller understanding of what was heretofore not so fully understood, but because it accurately states the doctrine of Scripture.

    Now, one may disagree on whether the BOC does state the doctrine of Scripture, and right here and now it is not my point to say it does (though indeed it does), but to say accepting something on the basis of its stating no more and no less than Scripture is rather a different thing than accepting something because it develops, clarifies, makes more explicit or better understood what is in Scripture.

  26. LYL says:

    Lord, love a duck swimming sideways ten times! (Just trying to keep up with PE).

    David, you have the patience of a Saint, I swear!

    Now, my idea of ecumenism is to stand here and say, “any time you good folks wish to (re)join the One True Church, we’ll be here.”

    FWIW, I’m not sure it’s really possible to deduce the Trinity from the face of scripture alone, is it? Or the Incarnation? Isn’t that why there were so many heresies over these issues? And why there still are (think “Jehovah’s Witnesses”)?

    I don’t see how anyone could come to the conclusion just from reading scripture for the first time, that there is such and entity as the Trinity and such a reality as the Incarnation.

    So, how do we know these things? The Church says so. How do we know the Bible is inspired? The Church says so. And how do we know which books are even in the Bible? The Church says so. I just don’t see how protestants get around these issues.

  27. LYL says:

    “…such AN entity…”

  28. Past Elder says:

    Drag me through the streets!

    Absolutely we know these things from the church. The church was real clear on the matter. It said, among all these writings out there, here are the ones that are inspired and upon which you can rely.

    And then quit relying upon them.

    Sola Scriptura is simply two words to express the call for the church to be true to her own book!!

    Raise my rent.

  29. William Weedon says:


    I think you attribute to “sola Scriptura” that which Lutherans do not. As I said before, let me say it once again: for us this means that the Church’s dogma is founded in the divine Words of Scripture, and that what cannot be demonstrated from them cannot be put forward by the Church as divine teaching. Simple as that.

    The Fathers very clearly expended their efforts at “proving” the doctrine of the Trinity by arguing that it IS taught and clearly taught in the Sacred Scriptures.

  30. Beatus Vir says:

    Pastor Weedon,

    I will answer your argument from Isaiah in the same way that I answer your argument from Ps. 50. Asking the saints to pray for us no more diminishes God’s glory, than asking the Ladies Aid to pray for you. God is glorified when we pray to Him, and when the saints pray to Him. Asking the saints to pray to Him, is asking them to glorify God.

    I wasn’t paying attention to the other discussion. But I found the prayer you mentioned to the Theotokos. My answer depends on how charitable I am feeling toward those of the Eastern Schism. I may, for example, simply say that I believe much of Eastern theology and prayer is wrong. Or less charitably, I may say that I consider it an abuse, but an abuse in the prayer to the saints doesn’t take away from proper use. Neither can I say that that the practice of Catholics been free from superstition or abuse through the ages. But what does that prove? Abusus non tollit usus.

    Or we may be charitable toward our Christian brothers and sisters in the East, as much as it kills us to do so. I don’t think it is fair to accuse the Antiochian church of elevating Mary to the level of God, taking their doctrine on the whole. Again, being charitable, perhaps we may understand them as saying that Mary does those things in the prayer through her intercession to God, or by having been the vessel by which Christ came into the world. It is also poetry, so I think taking it less literally may be in order. I certainly don’t see this prayer as a reason to accuse the East of idolatry. Do you? I could accuse you of the same for singing LSB 454:4.

    But lets refrain from making this a discussion about the invocation of the saints. I brought it up as an example pertaining to the discussion on establishing articles of faith by Scripture alone.

    Lutherans dismiss the invocation of saints it lacks a command, promise, or example in Scripture. But here’s the thing, infant baptism also lacks a Scriptural command, promise, or example.

    I appreciate that you go a step further and say the invocation of saints is *contrary* to scripture, but the Apology doesn’t go this far and I have pointed out the absurdity of your exegesis on the two citations you provide.

    Again, Lutherans say that Scripture alone is what establishes articles of faith. Is not Infant Baptism an article of faith?

    You can’t really say “By Scripture Alone”, when in fact you mean Scripture and Tradition (under certain circumstances.)

    Get what I’m saying?

  31. William Weedon says:

    Yes, I think I get what you are saying; but I disagree with it. It is as absurd sounding to me as my exegesis is to you. :) You must have been a Lutheran (I am assuming); are you familiar with Chemnitz’ treatment of the kinds of traditions in the Examination of the Council of Trent? I think he does a bang-up job there of showing that Lutherans accept all kinds of tradition without in any way jeopardizing our commitment to sola Scriptura when it comes to the establishment of the Church’s dogma. I think the problem is YOU’VE got in your head an idea about what sola Scriptura means that is a caricature of what Lutherans have meant and mean by it. Infant Baptism is not a dogma; it is an apostolic practice, witnessed to in the tradition and wholly congruent with the dogma of the Sacred Scriptures on Baptism itself. Invocation of the saints is a practice, however, that was not taught by the Apostles (do any of the fathers claim it was?) and that came into the Church especially after the time of Constantine and that has had the actual effect of turning people away from God as though He could be propritiated through His saints and is not already full of love and ready to give to us all good through His beloved Son, who is THE propitiation.

    I do not regard the East as intentionally fostering idolatry in their prayers to the saints, but if we understand as a God that to which we turn in every time of need and that in whom we take refuge and from whom we look for every good, the Eastern prayers to the Blessed Virgin skate dangerously, dangerously close. As the SA say: “Besides, we have everything better in Christ.”

  32. William Weedon says:


    You wouldn’t happen to be the Dan I knew at St. Michael’s and with whom I shared many a good memory, would you? I just heard that that Dan had swum the Tiber, and the light just clicked. Is this YOU?

  33. LYL says:

    I think you attribute to “sola Scriptura” that which Lutherans do not.

    That is entirely possible, Pastor Weedon, I do not claim any expertise in such matters. Thankyou for the clarification. I was not particularly wishing to attack Lutheran beliefs of those of protestants in general, rather, I was phrasing questions which show *me* why there must be some kind of Church authority when it comes to Christian doctrine. These are the kinds of questions which ended up keeping me firmly in the Church, when I was being challenged on a regular basis by my protestant friends to “come out of her.” Basically, I have never seen a good reason to do that.

    PE, I do not think the Catholic Church has done as you say it has done. I do not believe the Church has ignored the scripture she declares to be The Word of God. I have not seen such a thing.

  34. LYL says:

    “…OR those of protestants in general…”

    Drag me through the muddy street on my face sideways ten times! I hate typos…

    (I am going to have to use “preview” more often).

  35. Past Elder says:

    The Catholic regard for Scripture reminds me of Nietzsche’s (the only philosopher worth reading) characterisation of the Wagnerian’s regard for Wagner — they honour him by finding him similar to themselves.

  36. LYL says:

    Utter rubbish!

  37. Schütz says:

    Well, guys, thanks for playing. This has simply got to have been the very best example of debate that I have ever read in the combox of any post–on this blog or any other!

    You will note that I have posted some of the choice bits in the main body of the blog, and I encourage you to continue the discussion there, since this post will soon fall off the main page.

    But, for the record, I will simply say, Pastor W., that in this list you have several times argued for the “This is all that is necessary, so this is all that should be done” approach:

    1) in relation to the eucharistic prayer (all that is necessary is the words of institution)

    2) in relation to the invocation of saints (why invoke the saints when we have “everything better in Christ?”)

    Really unworthy arguments, Pastor W. Christianity has never been about doing the bare minimum.

    And you know what I really love about God? He can share his glory with his people without it in the least inhibiting or diminishing his own glory. He ain’t selfish, you know! It isn’t a case of us giving glory to others which rightly belongs to him. No! He gets in before us and shares his glory with others!

  38. William Weedon says:


    I think you miss the point. The point is not about “the minimum” but about what accomplishes the consecration. St. Thomas Aquinas, citing a passage he believed came from St. Ambrose, says that the actual words of Christ accomplish this. It’s not about “fullness” or “minimalism” but about what the Angelic Doctor taught on the question. About the invocation of the saints, you again miss the point. For the SA argue that even if it were NOT dangerous (which it surely is), the fullness of what we have in the Scripture is given us completely in Christ Himself. Though I rejoice in the members of the mystical body as my beloved brothers and sisters in Him, I do not ask them to grant me repentance, to enlighten my mind, etc.

  39. Christine says:

    From the Book of Tobit:

    12 5 I can now tell you that when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented and read the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and I did the same thing when you used to bury the dead.

    13 When you did not hesitate to get up and leave your dinner in order to go and bury the dead,

    14 6 I was sent to put you to the test. At the same time, however, God commissioned me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah.

    15 I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.”

    Now, really. God has no need for an angel to “read” anyone’s prayers to him, does he?

    But then, Lutherans don’t have the same approach to the Deuterocanonical books as Catholics. For us, it’s Scripture. And we believe in the intercessory power of the angels and saints who stand in the presence of God.

  40. Schütz says:

    That’s really neat, Christine. I had never noticed that passage before. Thanks. It goes straight into the kitbag!

  41. Christine says:

    For the SA argue that even if it were NOT dangerous (which it surely is), the fullness of what we have in the Scripture is given us completely in Christ Himself.

    Not really.

    It wasn’t until the Council of Ephesus that the early Church concluded that Mary was not only the Mother of Christ but verily the Mother of God in response to the heresies of the times. The Spirit guiding the Church into all truth.

    Scripture never calls Mary the Mother of God. The genius of that declaration was that it explicitly supported the divinity of her Son.

    A very catholic principle.

  42. William Weedon says:


    Are you implying that we DON’T believe in the intercessory power of the saints and angels who stand before God? Surely not. You know that we TEACH that they intercede for us; and the intercession of the angels is found not only in Tobit, but also in Zechariah.

    But note what the angel SAID in Tobit. Not that he had prayed to the angel or asked his intercessions, but that the angel presented the intercession that was made to God. Bit different from invocation of the angel or saint!

  43. William Weedon says:

    The whole matter of the deueteros is worth exploring on its own. Have you examined the fathers teaching on this? Worth while. A place to start is with that man whom Johann Gerhard called the church’s greatest theologian: St. Gregory of Nazianzus. He basically lists the so-called “Protestant” canon (minus Revelation) and then notes: “If there is anything else besides these, it is not among the genuine.” Similar story with St. Athanasius.

  44. Christine says:

    Are you implying that we DON’T believe in the intercessory power of the saints and angels who stand before God? Surely not. You know that we TEACH that they intercede for us; and the intercession of the angels is found not only in Tobit, but also in Zechariah.

    No, I am not implying that. I well remember the commemorations observed in my Lutheran days.

    But for Catholics and Orthodox the Communion of Saints, united by Holy Baptism, are one church and one body who pray for each other, whether in heaven or on earth.

    And I don’t find your argument about Tobit convincing. If Raphael presents the prayers of Tobit to God, then Raphael has first heard those prayers and the “veil” between heaven and earth is not quite as unbending as Protestants would have us believe.

    Raphael also says that God commissioned him to heal — what was it you said about God not giving his glory to another ??

    As far as the canon of Scripture goes, I will bow to the Magisterium of the Church. Both the Fathers (and Luther, for that matter) struggled with various aspects of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *