Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Michigan Master of Contemporary Christmas Carols: Alfred S. Burt

 
Michigan (particularly Detroit, where I grew up -- I still live just outside of it and go to church near downtown), is known for its many glorious musical traditions and artists: Motown, Bob Seger, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, Anita Baker, gospel music; it is even a current world center of electronic music.

But I'd venture to guess that few people are aware of the name of the greatest 20th century composer of Christmas carols, or where he came from. That man is Alfred S. Burt (1920-1954), who died tragically of lung cancer at age 33. He was born -- the son of an Episcopalian minister -- in Marquette, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Superior, and grew up in Pontiac, Michigan, which is about 20 miles north of Detroit (neighboring Auburn Hills hosts the Detroit Pistons).

His most famous composition is Caroling, Caroling (included on the famous Nat King Cole Christmas album). Some other fairly well-known Burt carols are Some Children See Him, The Star Carol, and O Hearken Ye. He wrote fifteen beautiful, haunting, spiritual carols altogether, in a span of just twelve years.

I don't know how it was elsewhere in the country during the late 60s and early 70s, when my sister and I were in junior high and high school and both involved in the music programs. But in Michigan (as would be expected) we frequently performed many of these songs in concert, either sung by choirs or in band arrangements. I played a medley of them in junior high band (on either trombone or baritone).

Alfred's father (according to the Alfred Burt Carols Website, maintained by the family), the Rev. Bates Gilbert Burt, pastor of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Pontiac, Michigan from 1922 till shortly before his death in 1948, started a tradition of including a new Christmas carol every year in Christmas cards. He did this from 1922 to 1941. Then his son Alfred continued this delightful custom from 1942 to 1954 (his father was the lyricist for five of the fifteen carols). The church organist, Wihla Hutson, who lived in Detroit and studied music at Wayne State University in the city (my alma mater), wrote the lyrics for eight of the Burt carols.

Alfred Burt took up the trumpet and later played in the Alvino Rey Orchetra. He majored in music at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (about 30 miles west of Detroit), and after his marriage to Anne Shortt in 1945, later settled in California. Several of his most famous carols were written in the last few months of his life when he knew he was dying. The beautiful Star Carol was, in fact, completed the day before he died (6 February 1954). He is buried in Marquette, Michigan, where he was born.

The Fifteen Carols

(dates, lyricists, lyrics, audio MP3 music samples, audio comments from Anne Burt, various recordings, Burt Christmas cards)

[the annual Burt Christmas cards are shown on the lyrics page for each carol with an asterisk in the listing of the lyricist]

[audio samples from the Burt website are from This is Christmas – The Carols of Alfred S. Burt: originally recorded in Hollywood in 1963 and digitally remastered in 1998; performances by The Voices of Jimmy Joyce of the original arrangements]

Christmas Cometh Caroling 1942 (lyrics by Fr. Andrew: an English Catholic priest) / Burt website music sample

*****

Jesu Parvule ("Poor little Jesus") 1943 (lyrics by Bates G. Burt*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

Recorded by: Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians

*****

What Are the Signs 1944 (lyrics by Bates G. Burt) / Burt website music sample

*****

Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind 1945 (lyrics by Bates G. Burt*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

*****

All on A Christmas Morning 1946 (lyrics by Bates G. Burt*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

Recorded by: John Williams/Boston Pops/Tanglewood Festival Chorus / Bing Crosby / Kenneth Jewell Chorale

*****

Nigh Bethlehem 1947 (lyrics by Bates G. Burt*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

Recorded by: John Williams/Boston Pops/Tanglewood Festival Chorus

*****

Christ in the Stranger's Guise 1948 (lyrics: An Old English Rune of Hospitality*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

*****

Sleep Baby Mine 1949 (lyrics by Wihla Huston*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

*****

This Is Christmas (aka Bright, Bright the Holly Berries) 1950 (lyrics by Wihla Huston*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

Recorded by: Julie Andrews with The London Symphony, John Williams/Boston Pops/Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Bing Crosby. Fred waring & the Pennsylvanians

*****

Some Children See Him 1951 (lyrics by Wihla Huston*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

Recorded by: Jack Jones, Kenny Loggins, Branford Marsalis/Harry Connick Jr., Andy Williams, John Williams/Boston Pops/Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Bing Crosby, Ed Ames, Evie, Don Ho, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians, James Taylor, Mannheim Steamroller

*****

Come, Dear Children 1952 (lyrics by Wihla Huston*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

Recorded by: Bing Crosby / Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians

*****

O, Hearken Ye 1953 (lyrics by Wihla Huston*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

Recorded by: Nat King Cole, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians

*****

Caroling, Caroling 1954 (lyrics by Wihla Huston) / Burt website music sample

Recorded by: Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole, Manhattan Transfer, Johnny Mathis, John Williams/Boston Pops/Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Kenneth Jewel Chorale, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians

*****

We'll Dress the House 1954 (lyrics by Wihla Huston) / Burt website music sample

Recorded by: John Williams/Boston Pops/Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Kenneth Jewel Chorale

*****

The Star Carol 1954 (lyrics by Wihla Huston*) / Anne Burt's comments / Burt website music sample

Recorded by: Aaron Neville, Simon and Garfunkel, Tennessee Ernie Ford, John Williams/Boston Pops/Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians

Discography

Burt website listing (presumably complete) of artists who have recorded each carol (+ most recent recordings).

The Albert Burt Christmas Carols Golden Anniversary Collection


***

Fictional Dialogue on Sola Scriptura With a "Reformed Catholic" Protestant

This is a new fictional dialogue that I wrote today.

[based (in spirit and tenor) mostly on the repeated mantra-like arguments of a former frequent "dialogue" opponent of mine, whose initials are TE. See my many past "dialogues" with this person on my Dialogues page]

CC = Catholic Catholic [i.e., in this case, myself]
RP = Reformed (Protestant) "Catholic" (green)

Past "Catholic" comments of mine from the old fictional dialogue on sola Scriptura will be in blue. Past "fictional Protestant" coments will be in purple.

*****

CC: Hey, how are ya?

RP: Okay, but I'm sick to death of how much you misrepresent Reformed Catholic beliefs.

CC: [astounded look] Huh??!! What did I do now?

RP: Oh, I'm thinking of that silly fake dialogue of yours with a "Protestant" on sola Scriptura . . . but of course I could mention many of your million and a half papers where you either distort what Protestants as a whole believe or act like there is no difference between your typical Anabaptistic Protestant and we Reformed Catholics. If you understood epistemology and had read (in Latin) the canon law of Sigmund of Engelbert Humperdinckburg (1092-1206), complete with glosses by Hugo of Yugo (1434-1448), then you would understand this. Instead you rely solely on the Great Infallible Oracle Newman who said that idiotic thing that torments - oops, I meant to say "bugs" - me to no end (that I have devoted my life to obsessively disproving): "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant". If I ever had the time to read Newman, I would rip his arguments to shreds.

CC: I see. Well, what can I do? I'd be glad to revisit the dialogue with you, to see how you would answer differently from my hypothetical Protestant. Is that fair enough?

RP: No, because you'll distort what I say, or edit it unfairly or something. I don't trust you. And I change my mind every six months anyway, so it'll be obsolete by then, but you will have it forever on your blasted website, and people will see the silly things I have said in the past.

CC: Then how about if you post it on your website, too, so you can edit it however you like? I'll even post a link to that on my posting. If you take it down, I'll agree to take my version down, too. Game?

RP: I've had enough of your "socratic dialogue" where everyone is expected to play by your rules or else you will pout and whine and go home. You act like you have a lock on Plato and Socrates.

CC: I'm just talking to you. People who disagree ought to talk to each other and try to reach a better understanding or resolution of their differences if possible. I prefer this method, but of course there are many other good ways to do it as well. I say that we should each post our versions of the conversation, so that no one can cry "foul". If you like, we can do an audio tape. I'm not scared of what might happen, and I promise to post everything before we start.

RP: It's still not fair. I have to have a way to flee for the hills if you ask a question that I can't answer, but you never allow me to have an exit strategy so I can save face and my superior view can always appear superior despite my refusal to ever fully defend it against critiques. You're so arrogant that you think conversations actually have to be followed through, and I don't have the time to do that. Even if I did, I have read so much that you would never be able to keep up with all this book knowledge I have accumulated. All you do is rely on second-hand scraps and the Great Irrefutable Triumphal Newman.

CC: What you do is up to you. You have claimed that I misrepresent both Protestant and "Reformed Catholic" views and (elsewhere) that I can't provide any answer to them. I deny it, and am willing to go through the matter with you point-by-point, to explain why your accusation is untrue. What else can you ask of me? For the last time: do you want to do this or not?

RP: Yes [dander now up and blood boiling but heroically subdued for appearance' sake].

CC: Good. So, then, I propose that we go through the past fictional dialogue. I'll give my original comments (represented by the Catholic in that dialogue), and you can answer differently if you think I misrepresented the Protestant. But first let me point out that when one is generalizing about Protestants, there are always exceptions to the rule, and this is understood. I tried to fairly represent what a typical Protestant (not absolutely every conceivable type of Protestant) might say; how he would argue.

Of course, the natural bias is towards the Catholic view, but I do try my best to present a plausible Protestant argument. After all, I used to be one myself, and made most of the same arguments I now critique. It's understood that there are more sophisticated Protestants who would answer differently and provide a better answer. That's why I am offering this opportunity to you. Okay; here we go:

Protestant (P): X is a true, biblical doctrine because it is biblical.

Catholic (C): According to which denominational tradition?

P: Ours.

C: How do you know your tradition is true, while others which contradict it are false?

P: Because we are the most biblical.

RP: No!!! See, now this is exactly what I mean. You make the Protestant out to be this know-nothing, Bible-only ignoramus.

CC: I don't see how. Protestants' last appeal is to the Bible, over against Tradition. It was Martin Luther who said at the famous Diet of Worms in 1521 (close paraphrase) "here I stand; unless I can be convinced by plain Scripture and reason I do not recant." Protestants (virtually all of them) DO appeal to the Bible, and we catch misery whenever we make an argument that doesn't include the Bible. It is not making them out to be "ignoramuses" to merely point out this obvious fact.

RP: The Protestant magisterial reformers also appealed to the testimony of Tradition. They didn't believe in this radical rationalistic notion of "Bible Only."

CC: I know that (and nothing in my fictional dialogue denies this, because it is understood to be a generalization). Yet Protestants do believe Scripture is the final and only infallible authority, right?

RP: Yes. Thank heavens you finally have figured this out after my educating you for six years.

CC: I always knew this. I knew this as a Protestant. My earliest papers as a Catholic back in 1991 made this distinction, as I have pointed out to you many times now.

RP: Don't confuse me with the facts! We are trying to be rhetorical, polemical, and sophistical here, and to portray your opinions in the worst possible light!

CC: Oh, sorry to mess up the plan. Occasionally I slip and some facts fall between the cracks of your rhetoric.

RP: Rhetoric is an honorable field of ancient classical Christian education. If you had read Cicero like I have you would know this.

CC: [laughing] I never denied that. I was using the word in the common, more derogatory sense [more smiles]. Anyway, moving on:

C: How do you know yours is the most biblical?

P: Because our exegesis is the most all-encompassing and consistent, and true to the clear teaching of Scripture.

C: But the other Protestant traditions claim the same superiority . . .

P: I must say in love that they are wrong.

C: How do you know they are wrong? I thought that Protestants were supposed to be tolerant of each other's "distinctives," especially in "secondary" issues, yet you are calling fellow brothers in Christ "wrong."

P: I am compelled to because they have a faulty hermeneutic and exegesis, and I must stand firm for biblical truth.

RP: C'mon, Dave; you have distorted the presentation again to a Bible-only mentality, by ignoring the role of legitimate Protestant tradition in the scheme of things. Calvin is always citing not only the Fathers but also classical writers. He was not ahistorical.

CC: Granted. But if you appeal to Protestant tradition (in the lesser, non-infallible sense of "the most biblically-based and honorable tradition" available among the options), you still must decide which Protestant tradition among many, right?

RP: No, because we are merely going back to the pure biblical tradition of the Fathers, and getting rid of the unbiblical Roman Catholic addditions. We're not these rebels you make us out to be, who have no respect for precedent whatever. You have to understand how rotten the conditions were in the medieval Church because of the oppressive, arrogant papacy, which usurped all power to itself and ignored the cries of all the great conciliarists (many of whom were semi-Pelagians, but we can easily overlook that if they help our cause of anti-papalism).

CC: You miss the point. As soon as Protestants disagree, they have to have some means to determine who is right and who is wrong (or that both are wrong; but logically-speaking, both cannot be right when they contradict each other). So what is that means or method?

RP: We simply go back to the fathers and the unbroken Christian tradition. See, if you could only figure out that we respect tradition, you wouldn't even ask these silly questions. But I understand why you answer in this way because you have mostly dealt with dough-head "reformed [Anabaptistic] Protestants" like Eric Svendsen and James White (whom I idolized for years, and imitated when I first tried to goad you into a live chat back in 1999 so I could kick your butt in debate, to prove that I was a man and valiant defender of White Orthodoxy and smarter than you are).

CC: Yeah, we finally had that "live chat" in late 2000 in White's chat room. I seem to remember you not holding to our prior agreement, apologizing to the crowd, and handing the chore of defending Protestantism over to your good buddy James White.

RP: I don't recall that . . .

CC: You wouldn't. We all repress painful, embarrassing memories, don't we? In any event, this "debate" did NOT turn out at all like you had hoped and prayed. Your potential Finest Hour turned out to be a mere Whimper and Retreat. And we have clashed ever since then, with few exceptions (not having anything to do with this encounter, of course; needless to say). But back to the topic at hand:

C: How do you know they have a faulty method of interpretation?

P: By Scripture and linguistic study, and the consensus of scholarly commentaries, and because R.C. Sproul said so [ :-) ]

RP: This is inaccurate! I would say because Peter Leithart, Andrew Sandlin, Alastair Roberts, Paul Owen, Kevin Johnson, and Douglases Wilson & Jones said so!

CC: Great, but the problem is: you are not Protestant Everyman. Not every Protestant thinks as you do, and many think the way this hypothetical Protestant does. What's wrong with that (in terms of the alleged "inaccuracy" of my presentation)?

RP: It doesn't present we Reformed Catholics! This is an outrage! After all, there are about 256 of us now, and we ought to be counted as representative of Protestantism as a whole.

CC: Yeah, you're right. I do owe you an apology. Hopefully, this clarifying paper can make amends for this horrendous and inexcusable oversight on my part.

C: But again, the others claim the same prerogative and abilities.

P: Then if they are wrong, they must be blinded by their presuppositional biases, or else by sin.

C: How do you know that?

P: Because they come to the wrong conclusions about the perspicuous biblical data.

RP: It is true that White, Svendsen, and their ilk show such blindness . . .

CC: You mean your former comrades-in-arms?

RP: [ferocious anger] I've paid a great price for disagreeing with them. You don't know anything about being lied about on the Internet.

CC: No, I don't. It must be terrible, huh? But then again, I have never been a former anti-Catholic and former anti-intellectual Protestant like you, so I wouldn't be able to relate.

RP: You act like White and his attitudes are the only Protestant options. You don't point out that there are those of us who are far more nuanced than that.

CC: I have done so many times, and am doing so again now. But a brief fictional dialogue cannot possibly cover all that ground. It's not required to, anyway. Every generalization has exceptions. Besides, when I wrote it ten years ago there were only 39 Reformed Catholics. Now y'all have impressively multiplied six-and-a-half times to 256. But let's cut to the quick. How do you know how to identify the perspicuous meaning of the Bible?

RP: I never discuss exegesis and hermeneutics.

CC: Why not?

RP: Because I don't know enough to do it. That's for the scholars.

CC: What becomes of Luther's proverbial "plowboy," then, interpreting the Scriptures on his own?

RP: That's a distortion: back to the radical Bible-only view again.

CC: It's not a distortion of classic or "magisterial" Protestantism; it's right from Martin Luther, whom you classify as a "magisterial reformer".

RP: Sure; but Calvin understood this better.

CC: Okay; how does he determine the perspicuous meaning of Scripture?

RP: By following the consensus of Christian tradition.

CC: Oh, so then he must have believed in episcopacy and papacy, right (as well as the traditional understanding of apostolic succession)?

RP: No.

CC: No??!! How could that be? After all, the papacy was a clear feature of Church government, at least in the West, where Calvin came from. Episcopacy is even more clearly an aspect of ecclesiology - accepted by the Orthodox as well. Apostolic succession was clearly the final court of appeal of the Fathers over against the heretics. No historian of Church doctrine (whether Kelly, or Oberman, or Pelikan, or Schaff, etc.) denies that for a second.

RP: Ecclesiology is not made clear enough in the Scriptures. Men of good will can disagree on that.

CC: So now you are back to the radical "Bible Only" outlook that you say you despise [big "gotcha" smile]? You claim that Scripture doesn't make it clear enough, yet nevertheless, you fall back on Scripture, rather than accept the very clear testimony of Church history. There's that bugaboo of Protestants and difficulties with history again . . . what a nuisance . . .

RP: You know, Dave, it is miserable dialoguing with you because you think you know everything, and you distort Protestant views, and refuse to be fair to us. I explain over and over how the Reformed Protestant view explains all of these questions you have, but you ignore that . . .

CC: Please, by all means, explain how it accounts for the difficulties just raised. This is your opportunity. I beg you to continue defending your view. How about if I give you $100? Naw, make that $1000. I'm sure I could raise that much from my friends, just to watch you participate in a dialogue and defend your view without losing it and flying off into the Hyper-Polemical Stratosphere, leaving everything unresolved yet again, for the umpteenth time.

RP: . . . and you go off on your endless tirades, citing Newman for everything you argue as if He Can Do or Say No Wrong, and is Next to God . . .

CC: I haven't cited Newman once here, to back up any argument I made (I only gave that one quote that I provided merely to make it known that you hate it so much).

RP: . . . ah, but you WANTED to. He was always in your mind . . .

CC: What is this? The "Willie Nelsonization" of apologetic discussion? LOL "YOu were always on my mind . . ."

RP: . . . because you despise Protestants so much and can't get any to talk to you at all and you think we're all anti-Catholic and that we are radical Enlightenment individualists and "rebels" because you are a self-appointed "apologist".

CC: Is that why the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., close adviser to Pope Paul VI and Mother Teresa, enthusiastically recommended my first book [one can read that here]?

RP: That means nothing. He was probably just a Newman nut like you.

CC: Well, being a Jesuit, he rather stressed St. Ignatius of Loyola and his Spiritual Exercises. I heard little from Cardinal Newman in the marvelous classes of his which I attended.

+ + + + + + + + + + +

RP: Don't change the subject! And don't bring in facts. That drives me nuts!!!!! Don't you know that I know more about your history, motivations, and opinions than you do yourself? After all, all you do is post outdated, ill-thought through broken-record Catholic apologetic propaganda. Nearly everything you write about Protestantism is utterly irrelevant to everything we Reformed Catholics are doing. Perhaps someday you'll get a new record and be able to actually join in a substantive conversation.

CC: That may be, but how about we get back to the subject: how Protestants resolve their differences and their relationship to this Christian consensus-tradition you refer to? How is that resolved with regard to ecclesiology (which is what I brought up as a problem for your point of view to grapple with)?

RP: I don't have time to spell it all out for those who are inordinately attached to the brilliant utterances of Cardinal Newman, or unrealistically convinced that they understand Christological metaphysics so well that all they have to do is throw terms around and they've won. I suppose I just shouldn't post at all. I have a life now, sorry.

CC: No, you should post! You should defend your view and demonstrate how it can provide plausible answers to the hard questions I have asked, and those from others. I encourage you; I beg you; I'll give you $1000 and an all-expenses paid trip to Cheboygan, Michigan, including the boat ride to Mackinac Island . . . please, PLEASE!!!! Just make it to the end of ONE dialogue without exploding in a fit of rage . . . that's all we ask, We'll never ask again, or make such a generous offer.

RP: We see self-styled "apologists" for Catholicism all the time, and particularly those who convert and then instantly start preaching the glories of their newfound "fullness of the faith." Been there, done that, so I know how it goes. Nevertheless, orthodox Catholic apologists need to stay on their own websites, because intelligent interaction with critiques of Catholicism requires a LOT more than memorizing Newman and learning to talk big about "the" Church.

CC: Yeah, I agree. You call for "intelligent interaction with critiques of Catholicism." I couldn't agree more. I try to make such responses all the time. But do you have no similar obligation to defend your views?

RP: I ceased engaging orthodox Catholic apologists (who are actually - egads!!! - confident in their beliefs and not always simultaneously fashionably tentative and temperamentally dogmatic like I am), some time ago on my own website, since it was clear that for the most part they weren't interested in anything but their little boxes construed in the most narrow way possible. But some of these folks (like you) won't return the favor of basically minding their own business and doing their own circle-running routine with equally narrow Protestant apologists. Some of them keep coming around reading my stuff and then purporting to refute it either in my comments boxes or on their own sites to which they gratuitously link.

CC: What a shame. Everyone knows that no one can refute Reformed Catholicism.

RP: That's right, and that's why I never try to defend it, because it can't be refuted, so why waste that time? If someone doesn't get it, they're just ignorant.

CC: But can we please get back to the subject of ecclesiology and the Protestant rule of faith? You already have the $1000 and the free trip to Cheboygan on the table. Now you gotta earn that!

RP: There are EXTREMELY SERIOUS problems with your way of carrying on discussions.

CC: You mean, like not staying on the subject or descending into personal attack? Sorry I fell into those things. I shall try my very best to do better next time. Now where were we after I got us off track?

RP: Please stop all the silly one-sided pontificating and actually have real discussions.

CC: What did I "pontificate" about? Please do tell.

RP: I'm a Protestant, but I guess it's just news to you that I'm not a "business as usual" Protestant, and you can't dispose of me with catenas of blustering from Newman, vague hand-waving about the "DNA" of Protestantism, and all the other comfortable grooves of polemics that have created so much ill-will between our communions for the last 500 years. It's time to grow up.

CC: I'm not trying to "dispose" of anyone. I had a few questions that I think your side needs to seriously consider . . .

RP: We don't subscribe to the theory of historical discontinuity that drives the Catholic propaganda about Protestantism that you promote. We aren't fazed by your Great Hero Cardinal Newman because he's not even in the same world of conceptual discourse as we are.

CC: Yeah, I know that; so how would you answer the questions I raised, then?

RP: Your historical apologetics, based as they are it seems exclusively in Newman, are simply irrelevant to what I do. None of the devices which you have gathered up from the writings of Newman have any relevance to my program, and indeed, because of the dogmatic fervor with which you hold to Newman, they merely make you incapable of even processing my program, much less intelligibly responding.

CC: I said already: Newman has played no part in this discussion at all.

RP: Sure he did. He's behind everything you write. The Newman-derived construct about "private judgment" which you rely upon as the foundation of your view of the work of the Protestant reformers is something which entirely misses the classical Protestant views, derived from Medieval catholic theology, of ministerial government and conciliar-based publicly-binding arbitration of disputes.

CC: Now that may get us back to the subject: ecclesiology (cuz you mentioned "government").
Thanks. Glad to be back there . . .

RP: Your apologetics are based on the need to create and exploit the purely angst-driven concerns of conversion mania.

CC: Huh? [dazed, befuddled, frustrated look - I would certainly be angry too if I weren't so nauseatingly familiar with this routine] Fiddlesticks! I actually thought we were back on the subject . . .

RP: An excellent example of this deep hermeneutical failure on your part is your "plain texts" approach to Scripture and history, for instance, which is a leftover hangup from your Evangelical days, and which constantly self-sabotages your interactions with other Christians.

CC: Well, if it's left over from evangelical Protestantism and the "perspicuity" of Luther and Calvin, I should think that you would rejoice in that, since it is a remnant from the days before my terrible apostasy into Unbiblical Catholicism. Perhaps I have a warped, stunted version of hermeneutics, but for all my faults, at least I discuss and write about Holy Scripture a thousand times more than you do. How ironic, huh? I stress biblical arguments and you stress (besides vapid, boorish, endless jeremiads) . . . what?

RP: You are a quirky Evangelical-ish conservative with narrow and rigid self-contained, self-justifying paradigms from which you cannot entertain the slightest doubt. You exude a Protestant Fundamentalist angst which has produced no end of historical caricatures and total failure to engage with different paradigms.

CC: Can we please get back to the subject? My shortcomings (which are many, but not usually what you think they are) can be the topic of another post . . .

RP: Your apologetics is the subject, because it can bring nothing to the table of intelligent discussion except shrill, childish, sectarian demands. These criticisms are just off the top of my head. You are as bad as James White, I swear. I have to get in that dig because I am still mad at myself for being stupid enough to idolize him, and mad at you because you were never so stupid. Why couldn't you believe the stupid things I have in the past so my constant projection-lecturing you about things you have believed for many years (as if I tell you something new) would be the remotest bit plausible?

CC: Well, folks, I tried. There you have it. We can all learn something from the above "discussion." Not sure what, but something . . .

*****

NOTE: "RP"'s words underneath the plusses (+ + + + +) heavily rely on recent actual quotes from this real person "TE" - found here.

A Fictional Dialogue on Penance

[written in 1995]

Calvin: You know, Joe, you Catholics ought to get rid of penance - punishing yourself to please God. Don't you know God has already forgiven you?

Joe: We would, Calvin, if the Bible allowed us to, but it teaches that there is a penalty to pay for sin in this life, too. For instance, David had to suffer terribly even though God had forgiven his sin (2 Sam 12:13-14).

Calvin: That's in the Old Testament, so it doesn't apply anymore. God is only merciful now.

Joe: That's just wishful thinking. In Malachi 3:3 God purifies His people "as gold and silver" to make them righteous. He hasn't changed His mind. In Hebrews 12:6-8 He still "chastens" and "scourges" his "sons." Jesus commands us to "take up a cross" if we want to follow Him (Mt 10:38, 16:24), and St. Paul wants us to compassionately suffer with fellow Christians (1 Cor 12:26).

Calvin: Well, God can discipline us since that is His prerogative, but the Catholic Church acts like it can give out penalties. Isn't that an abuse of love and Scripture?

Joe: No, not at all, since the Lord Himself gave St. Peter and the disciples the power and authority to "bind and loose" (Mt 16:19, 18:17-18). St. Paul imposes a penance for the well-being of a straying Christian (1 Cor 5:3-5). Later on, he issues an indulgence by lessening the temporal penance for sin of this same brother (2 Cor 2:6-11). This is all that the word "indulgence" means, despite all the rhetoric against it from Luther and Protestants ever since, absurdly implying that it winks at, or "indulges" sin!

Calvin: But Jesus suffered for us so we wouldn't have to, as it says in Isaiah 53:4-5.

Joe: He took away the penalty of eternal hellfire for those who obey His will and accept His work as our Redeemer, but not all suffering. That's a candy-coated gospel. In fact, in a sense, we even
participate in this Redemption, by our intercessory prayers and penitential acts and suffering. St. Paul repeatedly speaks of suffering with Christ, almost in a literal fashion (Rom 8:17, 2 Cor 4:10, Phil 3:10, and especially Col 1:24; cf. 1 Pet 4:1,13). He even considers himself an "offering" (2 Tim 4:6; cf. Ex 32:30-32).

Calvin: Man, you sure quote Scripture like a "Bible-thumping" Protestant! I've never seen a Catholic do that! I thought that all your doctrines were gullibly accepted on unquestioned authority and blind faith alone, from the nuns!

Joe: Well, I've gotten to know the biblical evidences for my beliefs because I've studied the Bible, Catholic catechisms and Catholic apologetic works, which give a biblical defense of Catholic doctrine, along with logical reasons and the history of Christian teaching on any given doctrine. Unfortunately, many Catholics settle for their childhood instruction in the faith and never progress or grow any further by reading and pursuing theological truth on their own.

Calvin: That's for sure, and many Protestants do the same. But on our subject, I still don't understand the purpose of penance. Why can't God just forgive and be done with it?

Joe: He could, but penance is for our benefit, due to our stubbornness and rebelliousness. Sin causes a disorder in the universe, and Justice requires that it be punished. You know, Calvin, even your own life is an illustration of this spiritual principle. You're in this jail, and have a broken arm and suspended driver's license due to the sin of drunk driving. This is your "penance," in a legal, secular sense.

Calvin: But I'm very sorry and the judge believes I'm sincere and will reform my behavior.

Joe: That's the whole point. You have "repented," but still a penalty must be paid for your own good and society's. Even though the judge likes you, he is bound by law to jail you for a time. That's how it is with God and sin, since He is perfectly holy. Purgatory continues the process after death, until finally we enter into Heaven, for which all our sufferings have prepared us (Rom 8:18, Heb 12:14, Rev 21:4).

Calvin: I still have trouble with this whole idea because it seems to me to be perverting the grace of God and making us do works in order to be saved (Eph 2:8-9). That's a losing battle because none of us can be good enough (Ps 53:3).

Joe: You're constructing a false dichotomy: Because God is perfectly good, therefore we cannot be good at all. But the Bible teaches that we can cooperate with God in our salvation, even though all grace and good always comes from Him (Eph 2:10, 1 Cor 3:9, Phil 2:13). Grace is entirely God's work, but that doesn't make us mere puppets or robots. The Council of Trent declared that:

Neither is this satisfaction so our own as not to be through Jesus Christ. For we can do nothing of ourselves; He cooperating strengthens us (Phil 4:13) . . . No Catholic ever thought that, by this kind of satisfactions on our parts, the efficacy of the merit and of the satisfaction of our Lord Jesus Christ is either obscured or in any way lessened.

(On the Sacrament of Penance, chap. 8, session 14, November 25, 1551)

A Fictional Dialogue on Purgatory

[written in 1995]

Paul the Presbyterian: Hey Dante! What is this nonsense about purgatory [spoken with a grimace] that you Catholics teach? Haven't you read that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8)?

Dante the Catholic: First of all, you're misreading that verse. Paul is saying only that he would rather be present with God in spirit than here in his body. Secondly, your interpretation wouldn't apply to those who are damned to hell, since they are not "with the Lord." Thirdly, why would you assume that to be in purgatory is to not be with God?

Paul: Well, I'm impressed. But still, you can't show me a single verse in the Bible which refers to a state in the afterlife other than heaven or hell.

Dante: Really? I hate to contradict you [smiles], but what about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16:19-31)? This is the Hebrew Sheol (Greek, Hades) since it includes both good and bad men. Heaven can't have sinners in it (Rev 21:27) and hell wouldn't have saved persons in it.

Paul: Ah, but this is just a parable. You can't construct a doctrine out of a story! You'll have to do better than that.

Dante: I disagree. Jesus wouldn't tell a falsehood about spiritual matters, even within a parable. This would be misleading. Besides, we're told that Christ preached to (apparently damned) "spirits in prison" after His death (1 Pet 3:19-20) and took the righteous dead with Him to heaven (Eph 4:8-10). This indicates a divided Sheol or Hades, with the righteous and the wicked: a third place or state.

Paul: Well . . . alright, you got me on that one. But no one could go to heaven until after Jesus' Resurrection, and then there were only two destinations after death.

Dante: No: Elijah went straight to heaven (2 Ki 2:11), and most Christians believe the same about Enoch (Gen 5:24). So there were two possibilities for the righteous then: Sheol or heaven, just as there are two today: purgatory or heaven, as Jesus strongly hints (Mt 5:25-26, Lk 12:58-59).

Paul: Okay, but what other verse can you come up with?

Dante: Well, Paul accepts prayers for the dead, which presupposes a purgatory, where dead men can still be assisted.

Paul: Come on! Now you're really off the deep end. Where?

Dante: In 1 Corinthians 15:29, Paul refers to people being "baptized for the dead." And he appears to pray for a dead man, Onesiphorus, in 2 Timothy 1:16-18.

Paul: What do you think he means by "baptisms for the dead?"

Dante: We think he is referring to acts of penance and prayers for the dead. "Baptism" is often a metaphor for suffering (Mk 10:38-39, Lk 3:16, 12:50), and Paul seems to have 2 Maccabees 12:44 in mind - a very similar verse which explicitly teaches the propriety of prayers for the dead.

Paul: But that's in the Apocrypha. We don't accept that.

Dante: I know, but if Paul is indeed referring to it, that's beside the point, and you still have to interpret Paul somehow. But there's more: Jesus speaks of sins being forgiven in the "world to come" (Mt 12:32), and three levels of judgment (Mt 5:22). These must be references to purgatory. Scripture oftens mentions a "fire" and a purging, cleansing process by which we become holy (Ex 19:18, Is 4:4, 6:7, Mal 3:1-4, 2 Cor 7:1, 1 Thess 4:3,7, 1 Jn 3:2-3, Heb 12:29).

Paul: But why would God want to torment us like that? What's the point? Why wouldn't He just forgive us and be done with it, since Jesus already bore all our penalties (Is 53:4-6)?

Dante: God is holy and perfect as well as loving, and this process is simply the way we must enter into His presence. Besides, it's much more merciful to allow people to be purged of their remaining sins after death as a prelude to heaven, than to condemn them to hell. Whatever the reason, God has revealed purgatory to us in the Bible. Paul talks about the "judgment seat of Christ" (1 Cor 3:11-15, 2 Cor 5:10), where our works will be "tested," after which some will be saved "only as through fire." In all essentials, this is precisely what Catholics mean by purgatory. Don't you believe in the "judgment seat of Christ," and that holiness is required to see God (Heb 12:14-15,23, Eph 5:5)?

Paul: Well sure, but it takes place quickly at the Judgment.

Dante: Okay, suppose I grant you that. Now we're only arguing about duration, a mere quantitative rather than qualitative dispute. Why quibble over details? We're not far apart.

Paul: Yes, but we don't think that this judgment goes on for thousands of years, with the sufferers losing all hope.

Dante: No one knows how long the process will take for any individual. Paul makes no indication. But all these suffering souls know they are saved and will go to heaven eventually. Purgatory is the vestibule to heaven, not hell. You believe we'll be zapped, and I think it'll take a bit longer. But there is agreement that some purging takes place.

Paul: Wow! I never thought of it in that way. But if the Bible teaches this, I can't disagree with it. Thanks, Dante!

A Fictional Dialogue on Infant Baptism

[written in 1995]

Zeke the "Jesus Freak": Hey Cathy, why do Catholics baptize babies? It's pointless since they don't know what's going on and can't repent, according to Acts 2:38 and Mark 6:16.

Cathy the Catholic: But where in the Bible does it specifically prohibit the baptism of babies?

Zeke: Well . . . I guess it never says that. But . . .

Cathy: But don't you only follow what's plainly taught in the pages of Scripture?

Zeke: It's a conclusion that follows from ideas that are clearly in Scripture. It's still a biblical doctrine.

Cathy: Ah! That's a big difference. Now we're both in the same boat, since the Bible doesn't explicitly teach about baptism of infants. We must make inferences. Catholics maintain that there are many strong indications of our view.

Zeke: Where? I've never seen any in 17 years of being saved.

Cathy: In Acts 16:15,33, 18:8 (cf. 11:14), and 1 Corinthians 1:16 it is stated that an individual and his "whole household" were baptized. It would be hard to say this involved no small children. Paul in Colossians 2:11-13 makes a connection between baptism and circumcision. Israel was the church before Christ (Acts 7:38, Romans 9:4). Circumcision, given to 8-day old boys, was the seal of the covenant God made with Abraham, which applies to us also (Galatians 3:14,29). It was a sign of repentance and future faith (Romans 4:11). Infants were just as much a part of the covenant as adults (Genesis 17:7, Deuteronomy 29:10-12, cf. Matthew 19:14). Likewise, baptism is the seal of the New Covenant in Christ. It signifies cleansing from sin, just as circumcision did (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6, Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25, Romans 2:28-9, Philippians 3:3). Infants are wholly saved by God's grace just as adults are, only apart from their rational and willful consent. Their parents act in their behalf.

Zeke: That's not possible. You have to repent and be born again in order to receive salvation, as John 3:5 says.

Cathy: It doesn't exactly say that. It says that one must be "born of water and the Spirit." Catholics, along with the Church Fathers such as St. Augustine and many Protestants (for example, Lutherans and Anglicans), interpret this as a reference to baptism, and a proof of the necessity of infant baptism.

Zeke: That doesn't make sense. Water here refers to the amniotic sac when a baby is born. Babies can't be born again. Jesus is contrasting natural with spiritual birth.

Cathy: Are you saying then that a baby can't be saved, and will go to hell if it dies before the "age of reason"?

Zeke: No, no, I would never say that. God is too merciful to let that happen to an innocent little baby.

Cathy: But you believe in original sin (1 Corinthians 15:22), inherited by all people from the Fall of Adam and Eve, right?

Zeke: Well, yeah. What are you getting at?

Cathy: Once you say that a baby can be saved, then clearly there is a justification for baptizing infants, since there are factors other than their own consent which enter into the question of their salvation. Thus, you have arrived at a more communal, covenantal view of salvation (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:14, 12:13), rather than the individualistic notion that many evangelicals have. The reality of original sin makes baptism desirable as soon as possible, since it removes the punishment and guilt due to sin and infuses sanctifying grace. This is why most Protestants through history, including Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Reformed, and Presbyterians, have baptized infants.

Zeke: Now wait a minute. Surely you don't believe that baptism actually does anything, do you? It's only a symbol.

Cathy: You evangelicals always seem to deny that matter can be a conveyor of grace, and too often frown on the idea of sacraments, which are physical, visible means whereby grace is conferred.

Zeke: We don't believe in those things because they're unbiblical. The Bible talks about the Spirit giving grace (John 6:63, Romans 8:1-10), not matter. Catholics are always getting weird about things such as statues, relics, rosary beads, the wafer of communion, and holy water. This usually degenerates into idolatry.

Cathy: I disagree. God Himself took on flesh in Christ. Paul's handkerchiefs healed the sick (Acts 19:12), as did even Peter's shadow (Acts 5:15)! Likewise, baptism is said to regenerate sinners. Acts 2:38 speaks of being baptized "for the forgiveness of your sins." 1 Peter 3:21 says "baptism . . . now saves you" (cf. Mark 16:16, Romans 6:3-4). Paul recalls how Ananias told him to be "baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16). In 1 Corinthians 6:11 Paul sure seems to imply an organic connection between baptism (washed), sanctification and justification, whereas evangelicals separate all three. Titus 3:5 says that "he saved us, . . . by the washing of regeneration." What more biblical proof is needed? Is this all to be explained as "symbolic"?

Zeke: I gotta run. I have some questions for my pastor . . .

[See the in-depth follow-up dialogue, stimulated by a critique of this paper: Dialogue on the Biblical Evidence for Infant Baptism and Baptismal Regeneration]

A Fictional Dialogue on the Real Presence in the Eucharist


 [written in 1995]


Thomas [Protestant]: Hey Joe, how can you Catholics believe that the communion wafer actually turns into the Body and Blood of Christ? Do you expect me to accept that?!

Joe [Catholic]: Because in this case, we are the ones who insist on taking the Bible literally. There is much to suggest the miracle we call Transubstantiation. For instance, in John 6:51-56, Jesus states five times that "whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life" (v.54).

Thomas: That's obviously symbolism. Jesus usually taught in parables, and He was often misunderstood, like when He said He would rebuild the Temple in three days (Jn 2:18-21).

Joe: Yes, Thomas, but when the Jews (v.52) and "many" of His disciples (v.60) objected, Christ merely restated His words forcefully, rather than assure them He wasn't speaking literally. He was so firm that many left Him (v.66). He could have easily prevented their confusion.

Thomas: One exception to the rule doesn't prove much.

Joe: It's not an exception. Jesus took great care to correct wrong impressions, when the hearers were open to receiving His words, such as in John 3:1-15, where Nicodemus didn't comprehend being "born again," and Matthew 16:5-12, concerning the "leaven of the Pharisees."

Thomas: Hmmm. That's interesting. Do you know of any other examples where Jesus simply repeated an unpopular teaching?

Joe: Sure, like when Jesus talked about His power to forgive sins (Mt 9:2-7), and His eternal existence (Jn 8:56-8). These are cases where He was talking with hostile listeners such as the Pharisees. Since Jesus knew everything, He knew who would reject His words and who would accept them, and acted accordingly. In John 6, then, it looks like the hearers understood full well what He was saying, but didn't want to accept it, rather than accepting it while misunderstanding that it was symbolic, as many Protestants maintain.

Thomas: But why should we just accept something without explanation? Isn't that expecting too much? Why does the Catholic Church make people believe stuff without giving the reasons for them - often things that seem unreasonable in the first place? I don't want to be gullible.

Joe: You and many other former Catholics may have had some bad and ineffective teaching along the way, but this doesn't prove that the doctrines of the Catholic Church are false. Reasons have been given for all its doctrines, and theologians have worked on and developed these for centuries. With a little effort, you could have found books on this subject and others which would have provided you with very good reasoning. I've talked to many people like you who have never read a single book defending Catholicism. But on the other hand reason can only go so far. After all, there is a thing called faith, too. You need to stop doubting, Thomas [Jn 20:24-31]! Jesus performed enough miracles to be trusted for the difficult things He said, such as "This is My body" (Lk 22:19). The Real Presence is no less believable than the Resurrection, Virgin Birth, walking on water, or the Second Coming - all supernatural physical events.

Thomas: You make some good points, but what about Paul? He doesn't talk about trans . . sub . . . What is it?

Joe: Transubstantiation. That's a 50 cent word which means, simply, "change of substance." I have to disagree about St. Paul. He sure seems to refer to some sort of Real Presence in 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 11:27, where he states that those taking communion ". . . unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." Is a man guilty of someone's "body and blood" if he desecrates a photograph (symbol) of them? The early Church concurred. All the Fathers, such as St. Ignatius (d.c. 110), St. Justin Martyr (d.c. 165), and St. Irenaeus (d.c. 202), strongly affirm the Real Presence. In fact, non-Lutheran and non-Anglican Protestants in the 16th century were the first Christian groups of any historical and lasting importance to think differently. Martin Luther himself believed in the Real Presence and read others who differed with him on this out of the Church.

Thomas: But a piece of bread is really Christ!? What sense does that make? Isn't that going a little bit too far!

Joe: We believe the substance of the bread has changed, while the appearance ("accidents") of bread remains. There are some partial parallels: That glass in your hand has H2O in two forms or accidents - ice and water, but both have the same substance. The food we're eating changes both substance and accidents when it is digested. Transubstantiation is hard to imagine, but nothing is impossible with God.

Thomas: Well, I guess I do need to read and study further. I'm not yet convinced, but if so many Christians, as you say, have believed this way, I can't simply dismiss it as nonsense. That would be kind of arrogant. I'll have to think about it - you've really challenged me. See ya later, Joe!


***

A Fictional Dialogue on Justification and Salvation

[written in 1995]

Martin [Protestant]: It baffles me, Joe, how you Catholics can believe you're saved by works, when the Bible says "whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Jn 3:16).

Joe [Catholic]: We don't. Let me explain. First of all, belief in Christ means also to obey Him. This is shown in passages where the opposite of belief is disobedience, such as in 1 Pet 2:7 and Jn 3:36, where "believeth not" (KJV) is often translated "does not obey." *

* e.g., NASB, RSV, NEB

Martin: But Paul says "by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works . . ." (Eph 2:8-9).

Joe: We Catholics agree that salvation is completely the result of God's grace. We condemned the heresy Pelagianism, which denied this, way back in in the 6th century.* However, the Bible doesn't separate the "works of faith" (Gal 5:6, 1 Thess 1:3, 2 Thess 1:11), preceded and caused by grace, from salvation. It only condemns self-righteous "works" done apart from grace and faith.

* 2nd Council of Orange, 529 A.D.

Martin: Aw, come on! You can't prove that from the Bible!

Joe: Quite the contrary, Martin! The Bible clearly teaches that "by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (Jas 2:24; cf. 1:21-27, 2:14-26). St. Paul tells us to "work out your own salvation . . . for it is God which worketh in you . . ." (Phil 2:12-13; cf. 1 Cor 3:8-9, 15:10). We will be judged after death based on our merit and works, which will determine our reward (Mt 16:27, Rom 2:5-13). But all our works derive their merit from Jesus' work on our behalf. Martin Luther introduced "faith alone," which is foreign to St. Paul and the Bible.

Martin: God merely declares us righteous, even though we're still sinners, since our righteousness is like "filthy rags" (Is 64:6). We can do nothing whatsoever to help save ourselves. Only Jesus' blood covering up our sin (Rom 5:9) accounts for anything in God's eyes.

Joe: Again, that's Luther's novel interpretation, because he denied our free will altogether. Our good works aren't worthless because they are derived, and flow from Jesus' work for us. Man didn't become a worm in God's eyes because of the Fall of Adam and Eve. This is another falsehood begun by Luther: that is, because God is absolutely holy, therefore man must be utterly evil. This is contrary to the biblical teaching that man was created in God's image (Gen 1:26-7). The Bible's whole thrust is that God makes us holy when we freely follow Him. When referring to God's removal of our sin, it uses words such as "cleansed" (1 Jn 1:7,9), purged" (Heb 1:3), "blotted out" (Acts 3:19), "wash away" (Acts 22:16), and "new creature" (2 Cor 5:17).

Martin: That's sanctification, not justification. Now you're mixing apples and oranges. Protestants strongly urge doing good works, but these cannot and do not have anything to do with salvation.

Joe: So works are sort of like "Brownie points" with God?

Martin: [laughs] Well, I think the Catholic view is much more like "Brownie points" than ours! We think that good works will get you more rewards in heaven, but they can't help you get to heaven.

Joe: I think St. Paul would disagree with that. He doesn't set up this false dichotomy between faith and works which Protestantism created. He says that Christians are simultaneously "washed, sanctified, and justified" (1 Cor 6:11; cf. 1:30), and that the "doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom 2:13). In Romans 5:18-19, he says that "justification" is being "made righteous," just as through Adam's disobedience, we were "made sinners." Since sin is actual, so is righteousness. Justification is not merely an external and legal declaration, but a real change. Luther was wrong.

Martin: But don't Catholics ever know that they've been saved (1 Jn 5:13)? Isn't that being in constant bondage?

Joe: The only assurance in Scripture is that of obedience (Mt 25:31-46, 7:16-27). There are many warnings against falling away from salvation (Gal 4:9, Col 1:23, 1 Tim 1:19, 4:1, Heb 3:12-14, 12:14-15, 2 Pet 2:20-21, Rev 2:4-5). For St. Paul, salvation is like a marathon (1 Cor 9:24-27). One must be disciplined and trained, lest he be disqualified and become a castaway on the Last Day. So salvation is a lifelong process, not just a matter of one-time repentance. St. Paul stresses this again and again.

Martin: Well, I must admit you've given me a lot of Scripture verses to ponder. I always thought that Catholics couldn't come up with any biblical support for their views, especially concerning salvation. If you guys don't believe in salvation by works, maybe we're not as different as it is made out, and are indeed brothers in Christ. That's really good news! Thanks for sharing this information with me.

Fictional Dialogue on Sola Scriptura

Catholics accept Church authority and a reliable, divinely-protected Tradition, whereas Protestants "pick and choose" which traditions are to their own particular denominational taste. This is arbitrary in two ways:

1) There is really no cogent, non-arbitrary method for Protestants to determine which tradition is true (e.g., NT Canon) and which is false (e.g., Marian doctrines);

2) The notion of "authority," where present at all in Protestant ecclesiology, is inadequate for the task of proclaiming "authoritatively" which tradition is true, and the grounds will be circular in any event:
Protestant (P): X is a true, biblical doctrine because it is biblical.

Catholic (C): According to which denominational tradition?

P: Ours.

C: How do you know your tradition is true, while others which contradict it are false?

P: Because we are the most biblical.

C: How do you know yours is the most biblical?

P: Because our exegesis is the most all-encompassing and consistent, and true to the clear teaching of Scripture.

C: But the other Protestant traditions claim the same superiority . . .

P: I must say in love that they are wrong.

C: How do you know they are wrong? I thought that Protestants were supposed to be tolerant of each other's "distinctives," especially in "secondary" issues, yet you are calling fellow brothers in Christ "wrong."

P: I am compelled to because they have a faulty hermeneutic and exegesis, and I must stand firm for biblical truth.

C: How do you know they have a faulty method of interpretation?

P: By Scripture and linguistic study, and the consensus of scholarly commentaries, and because R.C. Sproul said so [ :-) ]

C: But again, the others claim the same prerogative and abilities.

P: Then if they are wrong, they must be blinded by their presuppositional biases, or else by sin.

C: How do you know that?

P: Because they come to the wrong conclusions about the perspicuous biblical data.

C: Frankly, I would say that that is circular reasoning. But, even granting your contention for the sake of argument, how does an uneducated seeker of Christian truth choose which denomination is true to the Bible?

P: The one which is most biblical . . .

C: Now, don't start that again [smiling]. They all claim that.

P: Well, then, the one which is apostolic and has roots in the early Church.

C: Then the Fathers must be studied in order to determine who has the early Church, "apostolic" tradition?

P: Yes, I suppose so [frowning].

C: But what if it is found that the great majority of Fathers have an opinion on doctrine X contrary to yours?

P: Then they are wrong on that point.

C: How do you know that?

P: By studying Scripture.

C: So when all is said and done it is irrelevant what the early Church, or the Fathers, or the Church from 500 to 1500 believed?

P: Not totally, but I must judge their beliefs from Scripture.

C: Therefore you are - in the final analysis - the ultimate arbiter of true Christian Tradition?

P: Well, if you must put it in those blunt terms, yes.

C: Isn't that a bit arrogant?

P: Not as much as the pope and a bunch of celibate old men in red hats and dresses telling me what I should believe [scowling].

C: You make yourself the arbiter of all true Christian doctrine, down to the smallest particular, yet you object to a pope who makes an infallible pronouncement about every hundred years or so!!!! Most remarkable and ironic! I say you are obviously a Super-Pope, then.

P: You can say that if you like. We call it the primacy of the individual conscience.

C: So you think that your own individual opinion and "conscience" is superior to the combined consensus of hundreds of years of Church history, papal pronouncements, apostolic Tradition, Councils, etc.?

P: Yes, because if a doctrine is biblical, I must denounce any tradition of men that is otherwise.

C: For that matter, how do you know what the Bible is?

P: Well, I'll quote from John Calvin:

Scripture is indeed self-authenticated; hence it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning . . . Illumined by his power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else's judgment that Scripture is from God . . . We seek no proofs, . . . Such, then, is a conviction that requires no reasons . . . I speak of nothing other than what each believer experiences within himself.

[Institutes, Book I, chapter 7, section 5 / vol. 1, pp. 80-81 in Battles/McNeill edition]

C: That seems intrinsically unreasonable, by Calvin's own stated criteria. Yet you've attempted to give me reasons and logic throughout this whole conversation!

P: Faith requires no reasons. The Holy Spirit makes it clear.

C: Well, that's a whole 'nother ball of wax. But I would say that you would not know what NT Scripture was for sure, if not for the Catholic Church. Calvin's criteria is essentially no different than the Mormons' "burning in the bosom" as a justification for their beliefs. Besides, on what grounds do you trust Calvin, when he contradicts earlier Church Tradition? Scripture is not self-authenticating, in the sense of its determining the extent and parameters of itself. This is clearly shown in the divergences in the early Church on the question of the NT Canon.

P: There was a broad consensus among the Fathers.

C: I'll grant you that . . . very broad. But there is more than enough difference to require an authoritative decree by the Church to put the matter to rest.

P: But God guided those Christians specifically because His Word was at stake.

C: Oh? First of all, I'm glad to hear that you acknowledge the 4th century Church as "Christians." Many Calvinists and other Protestants think the Church was already off the rails by then!

P: Well, that's silly, because Chalcedon was a good Council, and that was held in 451. So was Ephesus in 431.

C: Good. So you agree that God guided the early Church. But not in all matters?

P: No, not when they talked about the papacy, Mary, bishops, the Real Presence, communion of saints, penance, purgatory, infused justification, baptismal regeneration, confession, absolution, apostolic Tradition, apostolic succession, and many other erroneous doctrines.

C: How do you know that?

P: Because those doctrines clearly aren't biblical.

C: According to which "clear" denominational tradition?

P: Ours . . .

C: [smacks forehead, then throws hands up and gazes toward the heavens, wincing in despair]

*****

And so on and so forth. Yet Protestants claim we are the ones with an epistemological problem!

Monday, November 21, 2005

My Respect for Protestants

One from the Archives: from 2001.

*****

Some people, after reading my apologetic writings, particularly in debate with Protestants, have concluded that perhaps I don't respect Protestants or consider them sincere. Nothing could be further from the truth. To acknowledge these very characteristics is exactly what ecumenism is about - what it presupposes right from the outset. I am careful throughout my writings to assert my great love and respect for my Protestant brethren. Even if I don’t state this where I could do so, I assure readers that it is always my assumption and opinion and state of mind.

Just because I may criticize (at times even excoriate) Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Protestant Reformation, or Protestant theology in general or in particulars, does not mean that I have negatively judged any individual person. That doesn't follow at all. I can't know a person's heart. How I view them individually as a Christian and disciple of Jesus is a quite different matter than disagreements as to theology.

I conducted an ecumenical discussion group at my house for four years. Near the end of that time, I did a survey, in which none of the Protestants or Orthodox (when asked) said that they had been offended in all that time. I think this speaks volumes, and I am very gratified by it. Certainly if I had been anti-Protestant, it would have come out in that survey.

Likewise, an evangelical Protestant who has since become a Catholic, read my conversion story in Surprised by Truth and picked me out of the eleven whose stories were included, to call on the phone, because (as she told me) she sensed I was not anti-Protestant at all (and this, in a story which recounts how I converted from Protestantism to Catholicism!). That indicates, I think, how highly I regard ecumenism and respectful fellowship, charity, and unity among Christians (based on John 17 and many other biblical exhortations).

Any impression that I am “anti-Protestant” in any way, shape, or form, concerns me very much, and I want to make sure this issue is cleared up. Criticism of ideas and certain beliefs is not intended at all to be personal or “hostile” criticism. I try my utmost to refrain from judging persons and hearts. I have had mine wrongly judged on several occasions and know first-hand how painful that is. I always strive to judge ideas but not people, sins but not the sinners. I'm sure I've failed at times like we all do, but that is my constant goal nonetheless.

I greatly admire and respect conservative, orthodox Protestantism. I once was an evangelical Protestant, and praise God for that experience, which was exceedingly beneficial to my spiritual advancement and theological education. I now consider myself an evangelical Catholic. None of my writings are intended as an attack on the personal integrity of any individual. I do strongly criticize the ideas of the Protestant Founders, however, because they were public figures who made momentous claims, so that they ought to be held accountable for their actions and effect on Christianity. I take pains to carefully distinguish between the person and their ideas.

Catholics can benefit greatly from much of Protestantism. I hope to show that the converse is also true. My goal is to build bridges of understanding among Christians of all stripes, who are brothers in Christ (John 17:20-23). Catholics believe that the fullness of apostolic Christianity resides in their Church, but this does not at all mean that great, profound amounts of truth and goodness are not to be found in other Christian communions as well. All validly baptized Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and ought to be accorded the proper amount of respect befitting that status, as well as charity at all times.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time at my extensive website, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism can easily, readily observe, I believe, my respect for Protestantism, by perusing the hundreds of Protestant links I provide. I think it is commonly understood online that a link (like a standard reference citation in a book) does not necessarily imply across-the-board agreement. I choose my links according to a substantial commonality with Catholic doctrine, on whatever subject the link is categorized under.

For example, a Protestant apologist or theologian defending the Trinity or the Resurrection of Christ, or presenting philosophical arguments for the existence of God or angels or the devil or heaven and hell (i.e., an evangelical Protestant who upholds traditional Christian teaching in these areas), will offer virtually nothing a Catholic would disagree with.

So why shouldn’t a Catholic utilize sites where we have common ground with our separated brethren, over against our secular, pagan culture? As Catholics, we are called upon to be ecumenical. We have no choice. Evangelicals have been doing a great job in the last generation, in the area of general Christian apologetics. Catholics are just now getting into that again. So I cherish and am thankful and grateful for all the excellent, helpful, worthwhile non-Catholic efforts which agree with Catholic and Christian theology and orthodoxy.

Many Catholic converts wrote excellent books and articles before they converted, which are used by Catholics all the time, because they are orthodox and eloquent: Newman, Chesterton, Thomas Howard, and Malcolm Muggeridge come to mind immediately. Other lifelong Protestants, like C.S. Lewis, and (to some extent) John Wesley, are very close to Catholicism in spirit and doctrine. In a strict, non-ecumenical point of view, on the other hand, a John Henry Newman sermon from 1839, no matter how brilliant and orthodox, would be considered "unorthodox," as would a Lewis essay on miracles, etc. Very few Catholic apologists (and I know scores of them) would agree with that approach. Truth is truth, wherever it is found, and our Protestant and Orthodox brethren have a lot of it, despite their many errors.

We need to stand with fellow Christians wherever we find common ground, so that we can affect our culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not be defeated by a "divide and conquer" strategy. Whether it's trinitarianism, the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, the inspiration of the Bible, or an opposition to homosexual acts, radical “unisex” feminism, pornography, physician-assisted suicide, abortion, or whatever, we have much in common, and we are called to rejoice in the truths that bind us.

Much truth can be found in, for instance, C.S. Lewis's writing (he remains my own favorite author), as in the writing of many Protestant (not to mention Orthodox) writers, clergymen, and apologists. Catholics are free to acknowledge, and rejoice in, truth. We are sharp enough (or should be) to discern the errors.

Should a Catholic refuse to read Cardinal Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine? After all, it was written in 1845 when the Venerable Cardinal was still an Anglican. Or should we look down our noses at the even earlier Parochial and Plain Sermons, from the 1830s - widely considered the most elegant sermons in the English language? Of course not. A hundred times no . . .

[present note: originally, I was making these responses due to the unecumenical sentiments of a well-known Catholic "traditionalist" who objected to my love of C.S. Lewis and other Protestant. He has now gone too far in the opposite direction to a sort of Catholic leftism, and chides me for being supposedly "unecumenical" because I do apologetics: the same old ridiculous false dichotomy that we often hear. Also part of this was a reply to a site which ranked Catholic websites for "orthodoxy" and which would lower one's rating due to links to Protestant materials. I wrote some letters to the latter webmaster and apparently convinced him, because my rating was restored to the highest level]

Most Catholics love and appreciate G. K. Chesterton. But should they eschew his classic work Orthodoxy, simply because it was written in 1908, some 14 years before Chesterton became a Catholic? No. Likewise, Malcolm Muggeridge was only a Catholic for the last eight years of his life (from 1982 to 1990)! Chesterton was only formally Catholic for the last fourteen years of his life (I’ve already been a member of the Catholic Church more than ten years myself!).

Muggeridge himself rejoiced in truth wherever he found it. In one of his last books, written as a Catholic, about his conversion, Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, he cites approvingly many non-Catholics (as he had always done in his writing), such as: William Blake (pp. 17, 45, 49, 69), Thomas Traherne (p. 20), John Milton (p. 35), John Donne (pp. 45, 145), Simone Weil (pp. 44, 51-52), George Herbert (pp. 74, 103-104), Alexander Solzhenitsyn -- one of his great heroes (pp. 75, 116-117), Nicholas Berdyaev (p. 88), Fyodor Dostoevsky (p. 98), Jonathan Swift (p. 145), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (p. 146), and Dr. Johnson (p. 148).

Concerning C.S. Lewis, what possible objection (apart from perhaps minor disagreements) would a Catholic have to works such as The Chronicles of Narnia or, say, The Problem of Pain, or Miracles, or The Screwtape Letters, or The Four Loves? Lewis had many Catholic friends in his inner circle - such as J.R.R. Tolkien (the author of Lord of the Rings). Many other Catholics are Lewis scholars and experts (Thomas Howard, Peter Kreeft, Walter Hooper).

Would any educated Catholic who knew their faith argue that Hilaire Belloc shouldn't have been best friends with G.K. Chesterton, or cite him as an influence, until the latter converted? Or that this friendship and admiration somehow proves his lack of orthodoxy? I trust that readers can see the sheer silliness of this "guilt-by-association" sort of "reasoning." It breaks down almost immediately upon examination.

It is true that C.S. Lewis rejected Catholicism, and even had (so it seems) a stubborn prejudice against it (one explanation advanced for that is his having been raised in Belfast – J.R.R. Tolkien has stated that Lewis actually admitted this prejudice to him in a private conversation). This doesn't mean, however, that he didn't accept many beliefs which we hold (indeed, this was in fact the case), or that his work is worthless. Lewis was highly influenced by Chesterton (he cited The Everlasting Man as perhaps the most influential book he ever read). Chesterton was arguably the preeminent Christian popular apologist in the first third of the century, right before Lewis hit the scene.

No properly-catechized Catholic denies that a non-Catholic will have error mixed in with his views. It is a matter of degree. Yet such a person might express himself on particular matters in an orthodox sense, and more eloquently than a Catholic. I think - again – of Newman's Anglican sermons in particular. John Wesley preached many sermons which would be of great benefit to Catholics, as he possessed almost identical beliefs with regard to things like sanctification, regenerative baptism, the perpetual virginity of Mary, Christology, etc.

Even anti-Catholic preachers like Charles Spurgeon or (today) John MacArthur, have many fine and beneficial insights to offer, for the discerning and careful Catholic reader or radio listener. Truth remains truth, even if it is surrounded by erroneous propositions and statements. We have reason to believe, for example, that the early Church was influenced by Jewish liturgics and sacred architecture. Does that mean that the early Church was therefore Jewish, or compromised, because it was influenced by a non-Christian religious group?

This applies to the New Testament also. It was clearly profoundly influenced by the Old Testament and "Jewishness" (just look at all the quotations), yet no one in their right mind claims that this is a compromise, or improper, because it is recognized that influences can be developed further, with some elements retained, and others rejected.

Likewise with C.S. Lewis's influence on myself. Could Lewis somehow cease to remain an influence on my thinking simply because I took a different ecclesiological path than he did? The entire argument is silly and insubstantial, and works only for someone who has presupposed an anti-ecumenical, quasi-Feeneyite mindset in the first place.

Ecumenism is a great emphasis in the Catholic Church today, especially with Pope John Paul II, and one stressed by Vatican II and the last several popes. What is ecumenism if not attempting to find common ground with our non-Catholic Christian brethren? Internet links are a very concrete way to do that, where there is commonality and agreement. My perspective is completely orthodox and proper within a Catholic framework.

There is far more good in conservative, traditional Protestant writings than bad. We are in the world; we ought to learn to interact with our theological opponents - not avoid them like the plague or pretend they are not there. We can't do an end run around the Church's desire for ecumenism and cooperation where possible. Error is all around us; we are told, that 70% of Catholics disbelieve in the Real Presence, and that 70-80% contracept. These are matters of infallibly defined dogmas and objective mortal sin. So the error is in our midst as well - though not on the level of official teaching, of course.

I have been accused, in particular, of “bashing” or “disliking” or even “hating” Calvinist, or Reformed Protestants. This occurs because I have written quite vigorously (as part of what I would describe as my “apologetic duty”) in response to virulently anti-Catholic factions within Calvinism. But this, too, is an inaccurate appraisal of my beliefs.

Actually, I have a rather high view of Calvinism and many Calvinists. I state this in several places on my website. I intensely dislike certain beliefs or strands of Calvinism (particularly supralapsarianism) - as I oppose all error -, but other aspects I highly admire: the scholarly approach, the more historically-oriented view, the retention of sacramentalism, the appreciation for Covenant theology, a superior ecclesiology to many evangelicals, a concern for self-consistency, a high view of the majesty and Providence of God, an exceptional and praiseworthy interest in theology and apologetics, the Lordship salvation view, emphasis on cultural and political aspects of Christianity and Jesus as Lord of all of life, etc., etc.

Francis Schaeffer was and is a huge influence on me, as were Charles Colson, J.I. Packer, G.C. Berkouwer and many other Calvinists. I often listen to R.C. Sproul on the radio and receive much benefit from him (I think he is a wonderful teacher). I have Internet acquaintances who attend John Piper's church. I visited a Calvinist pastor and his wife in another state in 1997. I have other Calvinist pastor friends. Many cordial debates with Calvinists are posted on my site. I could go on and on.

It is quite possible to seek to understand something better even if one largely disagrees with it (at least in the sense that it is not superior to Catholicism). Otherwise I couldn't have ever converted to Catholicism. I used to think it was much inferior to evangelicalism (though I never hated Catholicism either), but I actually took the time to learn more about it, and I was persuaded.

That is my attitude towards Protestantism in general. I continue to admire it, and believe that Catholics can learn much from it, for the simple reason that it possesses much Christian and biblical truth, and because individual Protestants (or even denominations) often excel (especially in practice) at particular aspects of the Christian life or theology (e.g., Bible study, prayer, outreach, teen ministry, fellowship) in a way that puts Catholics to shame.

I hasten to add that all of the foregoing would also apply in a general way to my view towards the Orthodox Church, in fact, even more so, as there is much more substantial agreement between Orthodoxy and Catholicism than between Protestantism and Catholicism. I presuppose this at all times, even while issuing strong critiques on individual issues on my website and in my conventional published writings.

The Christian apologist (of whatever stripe), by nature, writes about disagreements; he critiques, and defends and expounds upon what he sincerely and deeply believes are the “superior” views of his own party. But it is incorrect and improper to conclude from this obvious fact, that any given apologist totally lacks all humility, or “hates” or wishes to “bash” personally someone of a different persuasion, or an entire group.

There is a right way to disagree and a wrong way. We are to love at all times, but there are also occasions when we must disagree, in principle. The latter is not exclusive of the former, and indeed, it ought to always incorporate it, if we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of a disciple of Jesus Christ. We all fall frequently, of course, but the biblical guidelines for handling disagreements (doctrinal or otherwise) are clear and straightforward.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, who is Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

(Ephesians 4:15-16 – RSV)

Addendum (8 January 2003)

Examples on my website of my respect for, and agreement with various aspects of Protestant apologetics and theology are endless, and found at every turn, from my General Apologetics Page, devoted mostly to Protestants, to hundreds of Protestant links throughout, to the numerous Protestant links about the cosmological and teleological arguments (e.g., William Lane Craig, whom I am quite fond of), to my C.S. Lewis page (the 2nd or 3rd largest on the Internet, and very highly-regarded, judging by letters received - the evangelical magazine Christianity Today regularly recommends it when they have an article about Lewis), to Wesley links, the Anglicanism page, the Romantic and Imaginative Theology Page, to my Ecumenism page, the Heresies and Occult Page, which includes many links to Protestant cult-fighters (a class I used to be part of myself in the early 80s), to pro-life links, lots of Protestant links on the Bible, articles on the Trinity, Protestant links against theological liberalism; many many
positive letters received from Protestants, recorded on my site; two books of generic Christian apologetics (utilizing mostly Protestant references): Mere Christian Apologetics and Christian Worldview vs. Postmodernism. I even have links to Calvin's Institutes and Luther's works and Reformed, Lutheran, and other Protestant evangelical websites and blogs (see the sidebar on the right). I've spent literally many hundreds of hours on these parts of my website, and in promotion of ecumenism.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams on Homosexuality

[Abp. Williams' own words will be in green; emphases and colors added]

1) From: BBC Sunday Interview (2 March 2005):

Interviewer: Some of your critics have said you have decided to put unity before truth. In other words they say that Dr Williams the theologian holds a different view on these issues of homosexuality for example from Dr Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury. Is that true?

ABC (Rowan Williams): I have said that I do not think you can really separate unity and truth. Anything put forward within the church is one that is put forward for discernment, the discernment of the whole body as best as possible. So that I am not there to advance personal views or a private agenda. I am there to see what discernment the whole church comes to. If the whole church maintains its current discernment, well that is the church’s right, the church’s liberty.

. . . Interviewer. Do you think that a priest living in a loving, committed, and physically expressed same-sex relationship is living in sin?

ABC. The view of the communion, the view of the Church of England bishops as a whole, is that this is not something that the church can publicly recognise as acceptable. That is the view which as archbishop I must maintain.

Interviewer: And do you privately think that it is a question of living in sin?

ABC. Privately is privately isn’t it? I’ve seen that there is a case for thinking about our discipline. That’s been said. That’s been discussed. But the church has not changed its view on that.

*****

2) From: Religious Tolerance.org: "The Church of England and Homosexuality":

2002-JUL: Comments by the Archbishop of Wales, Rowan Williams: He attacked the current ban which prevents sexually active homosexuals from ordination. He noted that the church has accepted stable same-sex relationships within the laity but not the clergy. He said: "If the Church's mind is that homosexual behavior is intrinsically sinful, then it is intrinsically sinful for everyone. It is that unwillingness to come clean that can't last. It is a contradiction." He also stated that the Bible does not necessarily support a ban on committed same-sex partnerships. [see footnoted further reference]

. . . 2002-OCT: Conflict over the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: . . . The Reverend Richard Kirker, general secretary of the lesbian and gay Christian movement, welcomed Williams' support for homosexual rights. Kirker said: "Dr Williams' commitment to justice and dignity for all people including lesbians and gay men gives us great heart. Under his leadership homophobia will be challenged and intolerance rooted out."

Some conservative elements from within the Anglican Community are displeased with the selection of Williams. Most vocal among the opposition is "Reform", a conservative Evangelical network of more than 500 clergy and the Rt Rev Wallace Benn -- suffragan Bishop of Lewes. They said that they would not welcome Dr. Williams because of his "non-biblical" views. Reform has stated: "Even shortly before the appointment, he publicly said he is 'not convinced that a homosexual has to be celibate in every imaginable circumstance'." Williams has admitted ordaining as a priest a sexually-active homosexual. They have asked him to resign "for the sake of the Church's gospel witness and unity" unless he is willing to condemn any and all sexual behavior outside of a one-man, one-woman marriage. This, of course, would include sexual activity within a loving, committed gay or lesbian relationship. They have asked that he affirm and defend church teaching:

To "abstain from sexual relations outside holy [heterosexual] matrimony",

To support "appropriate discipline" where necessary and

To ordain only those who uphold and live by this teaching.

Rev Richard Kirker, spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said: "The presumptuous self-righteous tone of Reform simply beggars belief and will, I suspect, make them even more isolated than they already are in the Anglican Church."

3) Entirely predictably, Williams' internally-incoherent, relativist stance on homosexuality has been reflected in other issues, even as serious as the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Dr. Garry Williams, lecturer in Doctrine and Church History at Oak Hill Theological College, London, UK, wrote an in-depth study of Williams' theology. He wrote:

It is still less satisfactory that Williams seems to down-play the importance of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, even though he holds to it himself. In his volume Resurrection (London, 1982) he presents as competing alternatives an objective and a more subjective account of the event. He favours the former, but he writes that, even in the midst of that discussion, he is ‘not particularly concerned’ with arguing for the objectivist view. He identifies the very question ‘What happened to Jesus?’ as part of the trouble with the modern debate on the resurrection (p. 119).

This rather laissez-faire attitude in print twenty years ago lends credibility to more recent reports of comments made by the archbishop in America and Uganda concerning the permissibility of denying the bodily resurrection and the virgin birth (available online in the Virtuosity archives for August). If this evidence together represents the archbishop’s present thinking, then what he has said on these subjects may amount to little more than an advance promise to fail to exercise doctrinal discipline.

(No Good News: A Reply to Alister McGrath’s Assessment of Rowan Williams’s Theology)


Again, we see that Abp. Williams personally accepts the physical Resurrection, yet will allow himself to talk in these wishy-washy terms. With regard to homosexuality, however, he dichotomizes himself as a "personal theologian" vs. "bishop" with one side favoring same-sex partnerships and the other denying it because of the lack of worldwide Anglican consensus, which is hardly any different from the "pro-choice" mentality, in the opposite direction:

Abortion "Pro-Choice" Schizophrenic Mentality:

1. "I personally oppose abortion"
2. "I favor legal abortion every time"
[assumed premise: my personal views have little or no relationship to my public, public policy ones]

Archbishop Rowan Williams' Dichotomy on Homosexuality:

1. "I personally favor same-sex relationships as moral"
2. "I must, however, not impose my view (as bishop) on the church-at-large until there is consensus"
[assumed premise: my personal views have little or no relationship to my public, public policy ones]

Either one believes that consensus suggests truthfulness or one does not. The Catholic does. We believe that the Church Universal comes to conclusions because they are inherently true and orthodox. But apparently Anglicanism is perfectly comfortable with schizophrenic expressions such as this, where private judgment and a more conciliar, consensus view exist side-by-side in paradox, if not outright contradiction. If the larger view were true, and Williams accepted that, then he ought to modify his own view, in order to be in conformity with the larger one.

If the consensus view isn't true, on the other hand, then that should be irrelevant to Williams, and he should press ahead with his individual view, which he regards to be the truth. Either way, it is a contradictory mixing of Protestant private judgment and Anglican/Catholic/Orthodox Church-wide consensus or Tradition, as well as a mixing of liberal and traditional theology. The liberal mindset (both political and theological) is nothing if not internally contradictory and incoherent.