Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Calvinist Confusion & Contradictions Concerning Election, Valid Baptism, & Whether Catholics are "Brothers in Christ" or Slaves to Satan

[originally uploaded on 17 February 2001]

One Calvinist's words (at the end) will be in green. John Calvin's words will be in blue.

* * * * *

It is very difficult for Catholics to figure out what Reformed, Calvinist Christians believe about us and our baptism in particular, with so many conflicting opinions floating around. Who are we to believe? Seeking certainty and "magisterial authority" (insofar as such a notion exists at all) within the Calvinist framework, I eventually inquired as to John Calvin's own opinion, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. But alas, various Calvinists I know seem to reject some of Calvin's teaching in this regard. So in the end it must regretfully be concluded that there is no certain answer, or one which all Calvinists will agree upon.

This confirms once again that the attempt to find or determine "orthodoxy," even within any particular Protestant denomination, seems doomed to failure from the outset. Are Catholics Christians or sons of darkness, according to "orthodox" Calvinism? The answer hinges upon the resolution of this "problem." There are certainly many Calvinists who do not regard Catholicism per se as a Christian institution, let alone a Church. Whether they constitute the majority I know not.

I continue to maintain that the things Protestants agree upon are either those doctrines which they hold together with us, or those things in Catholicism which they universally detest (which they have long since cast off as "heretical"). Beyond that, I have found, in my long experience dialoguing, that it is virtually impossible to find unanimity of opinion. The following example is a case-in-point.

Calvin, in his Institutes, III.2.15-16,24, apparently teaches a personal assurance of one's own saving faith.  Calvin speaks of a "full and fixed certainty," "full assurance," "sure confidence in divine benevolence and salvation" (15), "assurance of his salvation," "fruit of great assurance" (16), and "indestructible certainty of faith" (24).

Times without number, I myself have been judged as "outside the fold," not of the elect, unregenerate, unsaved, not born again, etc., simply because I am a Catholic Christian, and especially since I once was a Protestant (Arminian), and am therefore now a wicked "apostate" or "traitor" in the eyes of these self-anointed judges and inquisitors. The classic example was on the Reformed List, a major Internet e-mail discussion group (consisting of about 175 members at the time), which I joined in early 2000, hoping for some intelligent conversation (and not seeking to convert anybody myself, or to "proselytize").

When I was straightforward and honest about my beliefs and intentions in joining, a firestorm immediately broke out - the sky fell down -, and I was called every name in the book, mercilessly attacked personally, and subjected to the most Pharisaical, wicked (and utterly groundless) condemnation of my inner motivations and heart I have ever seen in 20 years as a committed Christian (half of them as an evangelical Protestant). I lasted all of two days before I was kicked out by the moderator. But I had already - in disgust and severe disappointment - decided to leave

One person posted to the list that I was "definitely" damned (since I was an "apostate"), and should not even be prayed for. So much for not knowing who is in the elect or not. Now one might say he was a lone voice, or a fringe character within Reformed circles. If so, very few others on the list (none that I recall in my short stay there) rebuked or excoriated him for his abominable denigratory remarks; strange indeed if what he was saying went directly against Calvin's own teaching (not to mention elementary biblical charity). So the confusion continues, and the Catholic observer (and recipient of such malicious hostility) may be excused if he is a bit confused about Calvinist / Reformed "orthodoxy" in this regard.

Recently, I critiqued an anti-Catholic tract by a pair of Calvinists, both "orthodox" Presbyterian pastors. I informed them of the critique, and offered them space on my website for a rebuttal, and inquired if they would like to get together sometime for some group discussion on Catholic-Protestant issues (since they live in my state - it turns out, about 70 miles away). Neither showed the slightest interest in answering my reply to their tract. One was at least cordial and invited me to his office to talk sometime, when I was in his area. The other, however, minced no words in expressing what he thought of me:

I noticed you referred to me as a brother in Christ - I do not regard you as a brother in Christ at all. You are enslaved to the popish whore. You are a member of the synagogue of Satan. You should turn from your idolatry to the Living God of Scripture through Christ alone.
Is this reasonably construed to be an assertion that I am not "in Christ"; therefore presumably not of the elect? It certainly reduces me to a sub-Christian infidel, reduced to rank idolatry, "enslaved," following Satan, etc. Close enough, in my book, and - it seems to me - a distinction without a difference (if indeed he would even distinguish the categories).

It so happened that another Reformed pastor, whom I met on the Reformed List, who has remained on friendly terms and exchanged many brief e-mails (albeit not with much "meat" or content), is friends with a fourth Reformed pastor, who lives about 15 miles away from me. He kept urging me to visit the local pastor and engage in "ecumenical" discussion. The catch, however, was that the pastor who wrote the stinging words above, I discovered, is featured on the local pastor's website, so that it was reasonable to assume that they held similar views about my spiritual estate (or, at any rate, the non-Christian status of my Church).

Well, the local pastor wrote in a letter that he has "assurance" that he is of the elect (given by the Holy Spirit). Then he denied that he could be absolutely sure "who else" was on the list (thus implying again, that he did possess absolute assurance about himself). Yet he could be "99.9% sure" about some others, who give evidence in their "lives" and "attitudes" of their regeneration, and hence, election. I responded in a personal letter:

So you can't be absolutely sure, but 99.9% sure about others, and absolutely sure about yourself. This seems to me like a practical certainty and pretty much a distinction without a difference. Your friend [the one who wrote the stinging words against me] is even more sure than you are (about myself, anyway), and far less cheerful and diplomatic :-). [Name], a Reformed fellow with whom I have had two enjoyable dialogues (I forwarded this letter to him also), told me that Calvinists can't know who is in the elect. So who am I to believe?

. . . I want to know whether you think I am on it [the list of the elect] or not, with that 99.9% assurance you say you have, even concerning others who show forth Christian fruit to your satisfaction.

. . . Catholicism is either a Christian religion or not. [Name] obviously thinks not. [Name] and [Name] say that at least our baptism is valid, and that I am therefore "in the fold" in that sense, if no other. What do you say?

. . . If you disagree with him, then what is the "official" Calvinist view on these matters, or does no one know? Not that internal Protestant contradiction and doctrinal relativism ever surprises me.
A few days later, I wrote to three of these men, after the friendly acquaintance tried to achieve a certain rapprochement. I had entitled my previous letter "Am I Saved or Not?" This question was then described by my friendly acquaintance as "relatively irrelevant." I replied:

It is not at all. One doesn't establish an atmosphere for constructive, ecumenical dialogue by immediately dismissing the other's heartfelt concern as "relatively irrelevant." This is exactly what I am talking about. I have to meet your terms for the discussion and the very category I belong to before I even set foot in the house. I have to (in effect) admit up-front that whether I am a brother in Christ or not, or a Christian, or regenerate, is "irrelevant." That is no ecumenical discussion at all. And it is an extreme insult to me (and I think it is intellectual suicide also, on your part); therefore I refuse to countenance it, as a matter of principle, not personal pique . . .

[This] is not a dialogue at all! I have (true) dialogues with people of every stripe on my website, as [Name] well knows. But the great majority of them don't start out with, and presuppose, an insult which denies the very thing I am. If I am not a Christian, it is inaccurate and improper to speak of such a meeting as "ecumenical." It is not; it will degenerate into a preaching/evangelization session, and I will have no part of that. I'm interested in Christian dialogue as equals, not superior-to-subordinate.
Then my friend stated that both Catholics and Protestants ought to follow the example of Calvin and the Catholic Cardinal Sadoleto, who had tea at Calvin's house, after they had engaged in their famous written debate. To do that would help achieve "real ecumenical progress," so he claimed. I responded:

As (I believe) you yourself have stated or at least implied, Calvin accepted Sadoleto's place in the Body of Christ by virtue of his baptism, if nothing else. Rev. [Name], on the other hand, has flat-out denied that I am a brother in Christ. Since Rev. [Name; the local pastor] has not denied that he agrees with this, and since they are close comrades (by the looks of the latter's website), I must conclude that he feels the same way. So if you are correct about Calvin's view of Catholic baptism, they are not even in accord with that. Therefore (if so), your attempted analogy to Sadoleto does not apply at all.
Then my friend mentioned how Dutch Catholics and Calvinists had dialogued in Japanese concentration camps in Indonesia during World War II. And I wrote:

Yeah, I suppose it took such horrid conditions to make the Dutch Calvinists wake up from their self-delusion and realize they were incarcerated with fellow Christians. Meeting (and being subjected to, in this case) true non-Christians has a profound way of showing stubborn people how much they really have in common. How sad that Rev. [Name] cannot see this, and that he continues to lie about my Church and one billion members of it. Satan triumphs with such division. Divide and conquer. Is it any wonder that the Christian Church as a whole has been so ineffective in changing the culture around us and stopping such hideous evils such as abortion, etc.?

. . . . Go preach to your brothers, my friend (they'll obviously listen to you a lot more than they would to me), since Calvin stated in his Institutes IV.15.16 (McNeill / Battles ed., Phil: Westminster Press, 1960), that:

. . . Such today are our Catabaptists, who deny that we have been duly baptized because we were baptized by impious and idolatrous men under the papal government . . . baptism is accordingly not of man but of God, no matter who administers it. Ignorant or even contemptuous as those who baptized us were of God and all piety, they did not baptize us into the fellowship of either their ignorance or sacrilege, but into faith in Jesus Christ, because it was not their own name but God's that they invoked, and they baptized us into no other name. But if it was the baptism of God, it surely had, enclosed in itself, the promise of forgiveness of sins, mortification of the flesh, spiritual vivification, and participation in Christ.

Calvin's biographer Francois Wendel writes (probably referring to this very passage):

The Anabaptists repudiated the baptism that they had received at the hands of Roman Catholic priests, on the ground that the latter were unworthy and unable to confer true baptism. Calvin replies that what matters is that we should have been baptized in Christ, and that notwithstanding any errors or unworthiness in him who administers baptism the divine promise is fulfilled towards us.
[Calvin: The Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, tr. Philip Mairet, New York: Harper & Row, 1963 (orig. 1950 in French), pp. 322-323]

Besides, I did not receive Catholic baptism in the first place. I was baptized in a Methodist church as a child, "and" in the Assemblies of God (full immersion) as a 23-year-old in 1982. I received "conditional baptism" when I became a Catholic in 1991, but I had already been truly baptized in 1958.

So I am indeed a brother in Christ, according to Calvin (over against Rev. [Name] ). John Calvin states in Institutes IV.15.1:

Baptism is the sign of initiation by which we are received into the society of the church, in order that, engrafted in Christ, we may be reckoned among God's children.

And in IV.15.3:
But we must realize that at whatever time we are baptized, we are once for all washed and purged for our whole life . . . we may always be sure and confident of the forgiveness of sins . . . For Christ's purity has been offered us in it [baptism]; his purity ever flourishes; it is defiled by no spots, but buries and cleanses away all our defilements.
Then I appealed to the Bible also, in an attempt to show that my five Calvinist friends' opinions were utterly incoherent and at odds with each other (as well as with Calvin):

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? . . .

(2 Corinthians 6:14-16a; KJV)
I pressed my point to its logical conclusion:

In verse 17 Paul commands Christians to come out from among them. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-13 he enjoins believers not to company with (among others) idolaters, and with such a one no not to eat, and to put away from yourselves that wicked person.

So, clearly, either Calvin was violating this Pauline injunction by having Cardinal Sadoleto over for tea and crumpets, or else he did not regard him as in such a lowly category. If the former, then Calvin acted wrongly, even wickedly (as he wantonly violated a biblical command). If the latter, then Rev. [Name] acts even more wickedly, as he slanders an entire Church and myself as a committed adherent of that Church. Which is it?

I rest my case. You can't have it both ways. Calvin himself says that I have, by virtue of baptism:
1. "forgiveness of sins"
2. "mortification of the flesh"
3. "spiritual vivification"
4. "participation in Christ"
5. "received into the society of the church"
6. "engrafted in Christ"
7. "reckoned among God's children"
8. "washed and purged for our whole life"
9. "sure and confident of the forgiveness of sins"
10."Christ's purity has been offered us in it [baptism]"
11."his purity ever flourishes; it is defiled by no spots, but buries and cleanses away all our defilements"

One might also add that I myself could conceivably have rightly applied Romans 16:17-18a (KJV):

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly . . .
It is surely "causing division" to read people right out of the Christian faith, and Paul takes a dim view of people who rend and divide the Christian Church.

I shall now undertake a brief overview of Calvin's views in his Institutes concerning election, salvation, and church discipline, and see if we can arrive at a fuller understanding of Calvin's belief concerning how the state of another person's soul (even a lowly Catholic "idolater" enslaved to the "popish whore") is to be discerned by someone other than God, Who alone knows all things and reads hearts without mixture of error or prejudice.

. . . we are not bidden to distinguish between reprobate and elect - that is for God alone, not for us, to do . . .


We must thus consider both God's secret election and his inner call. For he alone "knows who are his" [II Tim. 2:19] . . . except that they bear his insignia by which they may be distinguished from the reprobate. But because a small and contemptible number are hidden in a huge multitude and a few grains of wheat are covered by a pile of chaff, we must leave to God alone the knowledge of his church, whose foundation is his secret election. It is not sufficient, indeed, for us to comprehend in mind and thought the multitude of the elect, unless we consider the unity of the church as that into which we are convinced we have been truly engrafted.


Of those who openly wear his badge, his eyes alone see the ones who are unfeignedly holy and will persevere to the very end [Matt. 24:13] - the ultimate point of salvation.


It is . . . not our task to erase from the number of the elect those who have been expelled from the church, or to despair as if they were already lost. It is lawful to regard them as estranged from the church, and thus, from Christ - but only for such time as they remain separated. However, if they also display more stubbornness than gentleness, we should still commend them to the Lord's judgment, hoping for better things of them in the future than we see in the present. Nor should we on this account cease to call upon God in their behalf . . . let us not condemn to death the very person who is in the hand and judgment of God alone; rather, let us only judge of the character of each man's works by the law of the Lord. While we follow this rule, we rather take our stand upon the divine judgment than put forward our own. Let us not claim for ourselves more license in judgment, unless we wish to limit God's power and confine his mercy by law. For God, whenever it pleases him, changes the worst men into the best, engrafts the alien, and adopts the stranger into the church. And the Lord does this to frustrate men's opinion and restrain their rashness - which, unless it is checked, ventures to assume for itself a greater right of judgment than it deserves.


I therefore conclude that John Calvin leaves the determination of who is and is not elect up to God, excepting assurance of the individual, given by the Holy Spirit and the presence of a living faith.

Where does that leave our zealous Reformed pastor friend, so sure that I am not his "brother in Christ"?

Further discussion with another Calvinist friend, who wrote
in response to the above:

If you ever find a Reformed list where Catholics are respected as brothers in Christ, and actually engaged in rational discourse, by all means let me know. That would be fun.

I don't know why you think this is hard.

Because I am given conflicting opinions all the time: mostly anti-Catholic. Do you want me to assume that most Calvinists are ignorant of their own teachings, and so cannot be taken at face value?

Well, this is what I do with Catholics :) Call one of the Presbyterian pastors you mention on this page and ask them where to find doctrinal authority in their church. They'll tell you Westminster Confession and the decisions of the General Assembly. Call one of the reformed Churches, they'll tell you the Belgic Confession and the Synod. You want to know the Presbyterian position on baptism? Read chapter 28 of the Westminster Confession, or ch. 34 of the Belgic Confession (they teach the same thing). Calvin is highly respected, obviously, but the Institutes don't have official authority (though doctrinally they present the same position on baptism as Westminster and the Belgic confession).

Why, then, does this confusion (or misinformed opinion) about the status of the Catholic Church seem to be the status quo in Reformed circles?

(Which makes me wonder what the point of your page on Calvin and supralapsarian is - no Reformed confession endorses supralapsarianism, and most implicitly approve infralapsarianism.

My argument was that Calvin espoused it; if not explicitly, then, I think, by strong logical implication, as indeed many other Calvinists whom I cited, seemed to believe. And many not so sophisticated Calvinists do as well, I would say.

So why ask Calvinists to defend Calvin on a point at which most Calvinists disagree with Calvin?

Just for fun, I guess. :-) Originally, though, that paper arose from the Theology List, when I was challenged as to factuality (and whether or not I knew anything at all about what I claimed) by a Calvinist on the List. As usual, I was being insulted by my esteemed Calvinist brethren (and I do have a significant respect for them; that was only half tongue-in-cheek). This was my response.

I disagree with Augustine's teaching on double predestination, though I'd still call myself an Augustinian).

Well, he didn't teach that, as far as I know (certainly not as Calvin did), so I don't think you disagree with him in the first place!

I will look at the Westminster Confession, when I get in the mood some night and run out of things to do. But my main point was the confusion of "Calvinists" as a group of people, not "Calvinism" or Reformed Christianity as an official position as set down in Creeds and Confessions. I was curious that there was so much confusion (as my title itself indicated). That is a somewhat different issue than simply "what official Calvinism holds on thus-and-so."

On to the next point in that page, determining who is elect (assurance of one's own salvation is a different issue). As [Name] no doubt showed, the Reformed position is that no human being can know with certainty whether another person is truly one of the elect. This is just Augustinianism - there are many wolves within and sheep without, as he put it. But this does not mean if someone curses Christ and lives a life of gross sin, all I can do is shrug my shoulders and say, maybe he's saved, maybe he's not. He's not. Perhaps this person is actually elect and in the future will come to faith, but at that moment I can say, he's not saved. For some, an ex-evangelical who converts to Roman Catholicism may be the equivalent of this person. I don't agree with the criteria they use, but in principle there is nothing inconsistent in saying, "I don't know the with certainty if this person is elect, but this person isn't a Christian."

This is what I understand is the "mainstream" position, but again, if so, why is it so little understood? Is Reformed catechesis as bad as ours? God forbid! I hope not!

Don't get me started on this. Contrasting the biblical literacy and catechetical instruction of Presbyterian and Reformed Christians - even just last century, to say nothing of the 17th century - is like night and day. Admittedly, probably not as bad as it is in some denominations, but still depressingly bad.

But I'd say a lot of what you've encountered is just that everyone's an expert. I'd imagine you've met a few people who have read a few issues of Catholic Answers and half-dozen books who think they're ready to answer any question on Catholicism. I certainly know plenty of Presbyterians who think this way (lots of R.C. Sproul, no Calvin or Turretin), even though many of their views are holdovers from what they may have learned in fundamentalism or broader evangelicalism.

Saying you shouldn't be prayed for is of course nonsense, but you shouldn't take this kind of attitude as representative of Calvinists . . .

Yet I saw no one rebuke it on that board, and there were 175 people there. Why should I not think it is "representative" in such a bizarre, scandalous scenario, repeated now several times on a number of different lists and boards? That's just a rhetorical question, mind you; I don't think Reformed as a class are that dumb (and wicked). It troubles me, however, that anti-Catholicism is so extreme among those whom I actually regard as the most sophisticated and respectable Protestant theology and worldview.

I'm very troubled that I can't seem to find a single list where I can simply interact with Calvinists without all this frustrating and insulting baggage inevitably coming in, spoiling everything. I was so extremely disappointed and shocked by that list. You say this is not "mainstream" - why, then, can I not find a board where this sort of thing is not allowed? Don't you find that odd?

Hey, imagine how troubling it is that a Calvinist can't find a single list to interact with Calvinists without some nutcase dominating the discussion with goofy, simplistic opinions. Why do you think I'm off the Reformed list? Too many goofballs calling me a heretic for not giving complete affirmation to whatever their pet doctrine is. I sent an email to a friend not too long ago asking if he know of any decent lists for Reformed theology, and he had no suggestions. That's not to say there's nothing - there are good specialty lists, on biblical theology, the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, etc. - but not much good in terms of open discussion lists. But I found the same think in Orthodox and Catholic lists.

For a while I was on a few Orthodoxy lists, and many told me, don't take what you see here as represtantive of Orthodox churches in the real world. This was good advice - the internet is dominanted by the "True Orthodox," old calendar, etc. folk. For Reformed churches, the situation isn't quite as extreme, but similar - the extremes are much more vocal than the mainstream.

So that is an analogous process. Why is that? Why would the ecclesiological simpletons and "exclusivists" so dominate such venues?

Well, here's my theory, cynical as it may be - those with no real involvement in their church, family, community, etc. spend all their time online arguing. That's not to say everyone on the internet is a nut - obviously I wouldn't make such a statement in an email, and I know a number of solid people through the internet. But for some - I suspect it's either email lists or off to the mall to babble at strangers.

Just find me one respectable list; that's all I ask! :-) Even then, I will have a lot of trepidation. My trust will have to be earned the hard way, after that lamentable experience I had on Reformed List. Seeing is believing.

Catholics are nowhere near as confused about the Christian status of Protestants as a whole, as Reformed are about our status as a Christian institution. The ancient seed of Vatican II ecumenism goes back at least as far as Augustine's acceptance of Donatist baptism, if not back to Jesus' treatment of the Roman centurion, the Samaritan woman at the well, and other such biblical indications. Ecumenism did develop very rapidly in this century, though; no doubt about that.

Finally, there isn't an official Reformed position on the status of Catholics and the Catholic church. Why should you insist there must be one?

I thought there was! Now I am confused again (sigh). I guess you were just referring to baptism per se above, not Catholic baptism. Well, this would more than adequately account for the confusion, then, wouldn't it?

Certain denominations have had offical positions. The CRC. . . has a position against re-baptizing those baptized as Catholics, which is an implicit recognition that the RC church is not a false church. And Hodge wrote the article I mentioned before in part to get the Presbyterian Church to have an official position on RC baptism (incidentally, keep in mind Hodge wrote this before Vatican II, in the context of 19th century Roman Catholicism, which was, I think it's fair to say, pretty hard-line. I think it's especially interesting how irenic Hodge is, relatively speaking, about Trent). But of course there are some who think the RCC is utterly corrupt.

You know that Rome hasn't made an official pronouncement on every issue under the sun.

No, but it is pretty important, in my opinion, to know whether someone is a "brother in Christ" or not. Thinking the contrary obviously produces many undesirable, uncharitable, and unbiblical results (from my ecumenical Catholic perspective, and high concern for Christian unity insofar as possible, anyway).

I agree it's important, certainly more important than a lot of the nonsense people argue about in synod meetings. I suspect at some point soon some attention will need to be given to it, even if it is just pastoral advice on cooperation with Catholics on social issues.

Though there isn't an official position, the general consenus including Calvin, his successor Beza, and his successor Turretin, 19th c. American theologians Charles Hodge and John W. Nevin, J. Gresham Machen etc. all held that the Roman Catholic Church, while not a pure church, is nevertheless part of the true, visible Church of Christ on earth. . . (you'll find far less recourse to notions of an invisible church in Reformed writings than Catholics usually assume). Now, of course many Reformed Christians probably don't know Turretin's, or Hodge's, view on this and haven't read their arguments. At one time I didn't, and since I hadn't thought through the issue, probably would have disagreed with them. But so what? Your opinion of Calvinists is far too high if you expect them to know every point of their theology and history in detail.

No, no. I don't expect that at all. I am never surprised at ignorance (including my own, on the many occasions I discover it with regard to yet another tidbit of knowledge I didn't yet know). Again, what shocks and scandalizes me is the frequency and intensity of the anti-Catholicism, along with the confusion, given that (as you say) the "general consensus" is actually more ecumenical. I'm delighted to hear that the "consensus" is in that direction, but it's distressing to know that so few Calvinists (by appearances, anyway, and maybe the Internet is a bad sampling) seem to be aware of it.

"General consensus" of the most influential theologians, I should clarify, not the general consensus of Ian Paisley.

I observe the conflicting opinions on the ECT statements, e.g., with R.C. Sproul and D. James Kennedy on one side, and J.I. Packer and Charles Colson on the other: Calvinists all.

Yes, all Calvinists... but if you went around the world and asked Reformed Christians whether they agreed with J. I. Packer or D. James Kennedy, what do you think they'd say? I suspect it would be, Packer or who? And I haven't read much Sproul recently, and I know he's been very critical of ECT, but you wouldn't categorize him as an anti-Catholic, would you? He's always seemed much more knowledge and balanced than someone like James White.

A friend of mine told me recently that Harold O. J. Brown (professor at Reformed Seminary, among other things) has quit teaching seminars on soteriology, because he's convinced that evangelicals just don't understand Catholic teaching on soteriology. He's probably right.

But then I suppose I shouldn't ever be surprised by Protestant chaos and confusion, come to think of it.

Yes, be more consistent in your polemical gripes. But that's part of my complaint - until Rome does some serious housecleaning (like excommunicating Ted Kennedy, for a start - a man most confused and chaotic evangelical denominations would bar from the Communion table), pointing out Protestant chaos doesn't carry much weight.

I guess my dismay has to do directly with my growing admiration of the better, more respectable aspects of Calvinism as I have come to understand it over time, thanks to people such as you, who take the trouble to more carefully explain the positions.

If you put your faith in Christ for your salvation, I (and I think Calvin with me) would make a judgement of charity (though Calvin would no doubt blast you for being baptized three times).

LOL Just "twice" (conditional being a different category). If one comes to believe in adult baptism, shouldn't they follow their conscience? That's all I did in 1982. But my real baptism was in 1958 (short of the Methodist minister being a flaming liberal or Unitarian or something, in which case it would be 1982, but not 1990 in any event; that was just dear old Fr. Hardon [RIP] being very careful and "making sure." He almost drowned our first two sons in baptism, making sure they got well-baptized . . . :-).

I agree with you that - doctrinally, one goes to the official documents. I've believed that for 20 years now, since my days as an evangelical cult researcher, where this was stressed, for obvious reasons. And it is common sense. But that wasn't exactly what I was driving at in my critique of Calvinists. Asking (rhetorically) "why are Calvinists so confused, generally speaking, about Catholicism?" is not the same thing as saying "Anti-Catholicism is the official stance of Calvinism, as indicated in its Creeds."

No, they're very different questions. The first is sociological, the second is theological. And there are a variety of reasons for the first. Here's my take on them:

1) Fundamentalists aren't just becoming Catholics or Orthodox. Many are becoming Presbyterians or Lutherans, but they often carry with them certain strong anti-Catholic views.

2) The U.S. has always had a strong strain of anti-Catholicism. That comes in part from the Puritans, though really their "anti-Catholicism" was actually more directed at the Church of England and it's hesitancy to reform as much as the Puritans would have liked (not that they were big fans of the Pope, though).

3) More specifically, the South has had a strong strain of anti-Catholicism, and the Southern Presbyterian church especially. Hodge wrote his article on Rome as a visible church as part of a debate with James Henley Thornwell, the most prominent Southern Presbyterian theologian, who rejected the validity of RC baptism (he also misunderstood the confessional view of baptism in the Reformed confessions, but that's another story). Guess what the origins of the Presbyterian Church in America, the church home of probably at least half the people on the Reformed list?: Southern Presbyterian.

4) Turretin, Hodge, Westminster, etc. set forth nuanced views on the topic. For example, the WCF (in the original, deleted by about every Presbyterian denomination today) states that the Pope is the antichrist. But this does not mean that simply because there is a pope, the church he leads is a false church. It also states that there has never been a time (including pre-Reformation) when the true, visible church did not exist on the earth. That's not a contradiction, but it does take some explanation of the nuances, and the theological minimalism that is popular among Christians today doesn't like nuances much.

And of course, there is such a thing as anti-Protestantism. I had a discussion with a woman who runs a Catholic book store in Iowa, who simply did not, would not, believe that I could be pro-life, because I was a Presbyterian.

Turretin??!! One citation [Name] gave me sure didn't appear that way, but then, I guess there are nuances there too.

I probably shouldn't have included Turretin in the list, since he is much more negative in his evaluation than the others. Yet, there's always a nuance in Turretin. He does deny that Rome is a true church, period. Yet, he then goes on to affirm that it can "relatively and improperly" be called a Christian church, because there are true Christians in it, that the true form of the sacraments have been preserved, and that there is true teaching on "Christian and evangelical truths." So the question is, what does he mean by "improper." I think it means inadequate, not full, but this does not mean false. And with Calvin, who defined a true church as a group of baptized Christians gathering to hear the Word of God and partake in the sacrament, could affirm there were true congregations in the otherwise corrupt RCC.

By the way, I think Turretin also has the best formulations of faith and justification. It couldn't be affirmed by Catholics, I don't think but it is probably less shocking than more extreme formuations: faith alone does not justify, but only faith justifies; the coexistence of love with faith in him who is justified is not denied, but its co-efficiency or cooperation in justification." "The question is not whether solitary faith - that is, separated from the other virtues - justifies, which we grant could not easily be the case since it is not even true and living faith; but whether it alone concurs to the act of justification, which we assert: as the eye alone sees, but not when torn out of the body."

Well, thanks for the good discussion. I would appreciate any more information in this regard, just for my own education, and so I can point this out to Calvinists who are uninformed of the "general consensus" of their own tradition (I'm sure they'll love me for that!).

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