Thursday, May 24, 2007

ReformedCatholicism Revisits 16th c. "Sacramentarian" Controversies: Lutheran Pastor Paul McCain Lasts Eight Days as "Contributor"

How rosey and sunshiney and glorious the future looked on 15 May 2007, with Lutheran (LCMS) Pastor Paul T. McCain welcomed into the lovey-dovey "Protestant Catholic" fold, with Kevin D. Johnson enthusiastically announcing:
I’m excited to announce the addition of Pastor Paul T. McCain–a Lutheran pastor–to our list of contributors at ReformedCatholicism.com. Pastor McCain’s comments have appeared here and there as time has gone on in discussions here and we’re happy to add another Lutheran to the cadre of contributors here.

Pastor McCain also runs another blog, Cyberbrethren. Check it out when you get a chance!
Welcome aboard, Pastor McCain, and we look forward to your continued contribution here!
Pastor McCain's Introduction followed on the same day. Fellow Lutheran Josh S. was also brought in around the same time (post on 15 May 2007). On 18 May, he posted When Lutheranism Was More "catholic" [little "o" in original) and The Great Breakthrough That Wasn't [a trashing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification].

He then produced Christ as far from the eucharistic bread and wine as heaven is from earth? on 18 May 2007, which has apparently proved to be his undoing, while Josh proceeded with his Catholic-convert-bashing Conversions to Rome (18 May 2007), in which instance Big Cheese of the Blog Kevin Johnson publicly (and most correctly) scolded him for an extraordinarily-bigoted remark about the intellectual suicide of all consistent Catholics, (followed by a like-minded rebuke by an Anglican), and Left (Behind?) at the Altar by Calvin (19 May 2007).

In the thread under the last-mentioned post by Pastor McCain, we see things start to unravel. I find this absolutely shocking, because everyone knows how much all Protestants love each other as "brothers and sisters in Christ" and how ultra-tolerant they are of the myriad doctrinal disagreements among them. We Catholics are constantly reminded that this is the case, and anyone can see it for themselves if they are only willing to look and see. So it is most surprising and disconcerting to observe an altogether typical endeavor in warm-fuzzy inter-Protestant cooperation for the sake of the true gospel, deteriorate in such an astonishingly rapid fashion.

But alas (--- sarcastic, satirical mode off now--- ), things went downhill rapidly, and on (ironically) the same basis that they did in the 16th century in the sacramentarian controversies: fighting over the proper interpretation and nature of the Eucharist. Protestants (quite often) can't handle such discussions now any more than they could then. I find this doubly ironic because I have managed, myself to have many perfectly amiable discussions with Calvinists and other kinds of Protestants on the Eucharist: even on Calvin's own view of it (one / two / three / four / five / six). But (LCMS) Lutherans and so-called "Reformed Catholic" Calvinists cannot do so for more than five days' time? Odd.

"Reformed Catholic" blog regulars very soon started to lash into the Lutherans. First, Peter Escalante goes after Josh (mistakenly addressed to Pastor McCain, as he later clarified):

You should be a little more careful about rehearsing Lutheran nostrums about the Reformed and their Christology: I am, as you may know, very sympathetic to classical Lutheranism, but it won’t do to just call the Reformed “Nestorian”, anymore than it serves to call Lutheran “Eutychian”. This is tired stuff, and easily put down.
Josh S. called Calvinists "Nestorian"? Wow! I don't even do that (my friend Jonathan Prejean often does, though). I do see some of those tendencies, however, in both Lutheranism and Calvinism. But are we to believe our blinded "papist" eyes???!!! Lutherans and Calvinists disagreeing about Christology???!!! What's the world coming to?

Rev. McCain replied on 18 May 2007:
I was responding to a person who suggested that the Luther view of the Supper was a violation of Chalcedonian Christology. I do regard Calvinism’s position on the human nature of Christ after His Resurrection to be Nestorian.
Wow. Am I to now overthrow all of my hopeful, optimistic, idealistic perceptions of the marvelous unity of all kinds of Protestants? They say stuff like this to each other? Another regular, Jonathan Bonomo, proved prescient in his prior suspicions:
I knew this conversation was immanent as soon as our Lutheran friends came on board for the conversation here. My only surprise is that it took this long!
The Lutheran refrain that the Reformed are Nestorian is, to the Reformed, mere self aggrandizing nonsense.

. . . So please, let’s not fall into the trap of throwing the heresy label around here too haphazardly. It is unjustified and I don’t believe this is what this site is about. I know your beloved Book of Concord encourages your anathematization of us, but please try to resist the urge.
Rev. McCain, circling the wagons, and perhaps knowing his time was short, decided to nuke the topic with a huge 10,477-word text dump (parts one / two). And they say I write (and paste) a lot . . .

Well, this was just too much. Rev. Kevin Johnson felt compelled to speak up at this point, lest the warm fuzzy "Protestant catholics R Us / can't we all get along?" unity and brotherly fellowship of his blog be corrupted:
To our Lutheran friends I would say this–we are happy to join with you in discussing various points of view regarding issues surrounding catholicity, theological history, and the like. But this is not the place to be submitting constant links to the Book of Concord and the posting of a large amount of proof-texts that on the whole are largely irrelevant to the very men you are discussing this with. I am hopeful to learn from your perspectives regarding many of these issues but if you guys are on a campaign merely to promote the Lutheran view without adequate discussion of other informed viewpoints I’m going to say take it elsewhere.
That was on 19 May 2007. I would say that from this point it was obvious that the ecumenical endeavor at ReformedCatholicism was doomed. The "honeymoon" had lasted no more than five days. How impressive. Recently, Josh S. and Rev. McCain had their own little spat with each other (since removed from Josh's blog). It had to do with some "irreverent" satirical video that some Lutheran students made and later retracted.

Rev. McCain then (on 20 May 2007) issues a smoldering rebuke of the Reformed perspective on the Eucharist and Christology, peppered with such descriptions as:
You may play all your little logical/rhetorical games you wish . . .

. . . Just a big mental game but not a reality, only a fiction created to avoid the text of Christ: This is my body. It is simply a spin-off of Zwinglianism, and as the Consensus Tigurinus proves beyond a shadow of doubt, finally Calvin and Bullinger were not that very different from Zwingli.

. . . The smug uncertainty about the possibility, and even necessity, that one must be, and can be, certain about doctrine seems to be a popular notion here on “Reformed Catholicism”. It is contrary to the Reformation that this site claims to represent, and it is by no means catholic either. In fact, it is highly sectarian.
It is post-modern relativism, nothing more, and nothing less, perhaps with some liturgical bells and whistles thrown in to create the feeling of “catholicism.”
And anyone who does not understand this point simply does not understand the Reformation, either Lutheranism or Calvinism.
OOOOOOH! Them's fightin' words! I'm on record for not caring much for the arguments or styles of either the RefCath crowd or Rev. McCain (and I have criticized and defended both broad positions in various contexts) , but I must say that the Lutheran is substantially correct here. It is not fundamentalism to simply interpret patristic texts at face value (in this instance, the Real Presence in the Eucharist).


Peter Escalante chimes in again:
You are beginning to say embarrassing things. If you wish to actually have an argument about specific texts and their interpretations, then by all means, let us do so: but if you wish to simply piously declaim and denounce, then there is no conversation at all; you haven’t even entered into an argument in that case, let alone won it.

. . . Your hermeneutical method seems hardly a method: it seems to work something like fundamentalist Baptist readings, so far as I can tell.

. . . You would do better to not rashly accuse others of “games” and relativism and disingenuousness: it is not very becoming, and not very impressive. I am appealing to you to attempt to understand the position of those who disagree with you, and handle controversy responsibly and charitably.
McCain fired back on 20 May 2007:
I was expecting this site to be a much more serious conversation about theology than it is, but I was sorely mistaken.
There is no “controversy” here. I’m asserting the position of historic, genuine Lutheranism and declaring Calvinism to be absolutely wrong. Why is that controversial?
Calvinism has always loved Lutheranism just as long as it doesn’t really confess Lutheranism.
Andrew, Ryan, and Jonathan Bonomo then issued scathing, mostly personal rebukes. The end was clearly near; the writing on the (computer monitor) wall. Rev. McCain himself definitively confirmed the sad break-up of the hopeful, short-lived blogging "marriage" in a remark over at The Boar's Head Tavern, on 23 May 2007 (which had recently kicked off Josh S!):
As for Josh. You should give the lad another go at the Tavern. He means well, even if he does get carried away, from time to time. He simply has the typical enthusiasm of youth. They still let him post over at Reformed Catholicism, but severed blog-fellowship with me for making a bit too much of Calvin’s views on the Real Presence. It was fun while it lasted over there. But this place is obviously more fun.
Pastor McCain thinks little of me, by the way (see this post and others in the same thread).

ADDENDUM:
Why Lutheran Polemicist Josh S. Was Removed From The Boar's Head Tavern

He was banned on 15 May 2007. I found all the following in a search over there for "Pirate" (his nickname):

David Lawrence Alexander (Catholic):
These citations you provide are not a means of clarifying your position, as they are not your position at all; they are a stick with which to beat your opponents over the head. That is the only purpose they have served so far. The only reason you get away with this manner of jesuitical sophistry, is out of the sympathy of your fellow Protestants. Any decent Catholic apologist on a LEVEL playing field (which this is not, or you wouldn’t be scaring off the Papists, UNTIL NOW…) would make quick work of you.
Moderator Michael Spencer, on 15 May 2007:
Pirate may be the most knowledgeable anti-Catholic debater on the web, certainly on the par with [name deleted.] I appreciate that, and would encourage the debate to continue at his pitiful little blog.
* * *

That's it.

Pirate: The word “brainless” just cost you the opportunity to be part of this discussion.
The scholar you want to be needs to move past that kind of trash talk.
* * *
If anyone is looking to get the standard reply on why I’ve removed Pirate, I’ll just print it here:
1) A long post from me before I let David in.
2) A short post from me today saying gear it down.
That’s called all the warning you are going to get for calling another fellow “brainless.”

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