A Reply to XH Turned into a Post

It’s because I need more content here and because I’m too lazy to create more original stuff! You can see the original post and the discussion on my other blog here. I wanted to put a few more links into this one and put it out for more general consumption. I’m still working my way into the particulars, but I think most Christians will benefit from a little more reading on the subject. And yes, I am trying to be nice.

XH, no matter what I say or what I’ve said, I do want you to know that I appreciate your thoughtful participation in these discussions. You have consistently forced me to dig deeper and reach further in order to parse out what my beliefs really are, as well as educate myself. You have aways exasperated me in your pronouncements and your own statements of belief, which causes no small amount of irritation. You vex me. It has taken me some time to parse out why that is.

Probably the biggest source of conflict betwixt us, is your adherence to an orthodoxy that is contrary to basic protestant belief. In order to determine that, I had to boil out the essentials of protestant belief and once I did that, I saw more clearly what the trouble was. I found it by looking up the five solas of the Protestant reformation.

1. Sola Scriptura – By scripture alone. In many respects, you seem to abide by this, but you do take a Roman Catholic approach where they say scripture can only be interpreted through apostolic tradition. Your comments above readily show a commitment to the primacy of apostolic tradition in interpreting scripture. I do not subscribe ot this as you do, hence much of our conflict. You have your reasons for this. You and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this because there is a feud over this which spans generations. We will not solve it here.

2. Sola Fide – By Faith alone. Since this is an extension of sola #1, we will not find much agreement here. I say we are *declared* righteous by God. You say we are *made* righteous by God. Faith either yields justification and good works, or faith and good works yield justification. More simply, either you are saved by faith alone or you are saved by faith + works. You argue and operate from the second hence your final declaration above. We will not find agreement here, XH.

3. Sola Gracia – By grace alone. Our salvation is something that is totally unmerited by us sinners. God is the sole actor in in the grace that saves us and we can not act on our own behalf to earn more grace. There is no meritocracy in regards to salvation. That doesn’t mean there will not be rewards in Heaven, but salvation is not contingent upon our merit. This is in direct contradiction to the second half of your first comment above. No wonder you drive so many of us bonkers. You have us believing that you are a protestant, when in fact you do not adhere to its most fundamental tenets! You have your reasons. Is it reasonable for me to accept that two rational and intelligent people can come to two different conclusions on this? I am not saying we are both correct. I’m saying that we may agree to disagree. (If you follow the link, you’ll see that the Catholic, Lutheran and Methodists have actually found some common ground on this issue.)

4. Solus ChristusChrist Alone. This is the belief that there are no mediators between God and man save for Christ Himself. This is the fundamental belief in the priesthood of the believer. By all of your assertions above which seem to buttress the argument for apostolic succession and apostolic authority, this is a fundamental difference between us. We are not going to agree on this, XH. In your eyes, I am a heretic and destined for eternal damnation in the fires of Hell because I cling to this heresy. You have your reasons for believing as you do, but I do not agree with them because I have counter arguments arguing the opposite. I have tried to make them before, and may do so again. But this argument is about 450 years old. It will probably outlive both of us.

5. Soli deo gloria – glory to God alone. The apostles and the saints could do nothing apart from God and His grace. According them special privileges or status based on their merits or their works goes against this principle. The apostles were agents of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is the same Holy Spirit that empowers each of us. We don’t need to venerate them, we need to give credit to God. In this respect, I don’t see you having any special issue here, XH, but I might be wrong. I’m not going to try to point out differences where none may exist. You and I may find common ground here.

But based on the discoveries here, it does beg the question as to how you legitimize your membership and affiliation in your own congregational denomination. Because it seems to me that you routinely argue and teach directly in opposition to 4 of the 5 basic tenets of Protestant belief. Your denomination was a break away from other more established protestant denominations and it suffers from divisions and schisms even more petty than those things we’ve discussed here!

You’re a smart guy, XH. Maybe even brilliant and gifted in this area. I have no doubt that you will be fast tracked into the leadership of your congregation and perhaps your denomination on a regional or even national level. Your solution to the ills of your church is to work hard in order to become a leader in authority so that you can compel your flock to conform to your teachings. Instead of breaking away, you force a slow bend. The founders of your outfit must be spinning in their graves!

What you are teaching here, is heresy to what they believed. You aren’t submitting under the authority of your elders, you are simply biding your time while introducing these ideas incrementally! It’s the old frog-in-the-kettle trick where you gradually increase the heat so no one even realizes that they are being burned. You can do this precisely because you are gifted and intelligent, and probably quicker on the uptake than those folks who are supposed to be in authority above you. And you are respected. That’s probably your biggest asset, because people will frankly forget a lot of what you teach them but they will remember your good character. And that is the way I want to finish this, because there are certain parts of this that might look bad on you. I don’t see it that way. I respect your sincerity and the legitimacy of your motives. You want to do what is right by those you care about. Got it. You have some very rational reasons for believing what you do, supported by both scripture and tradition. Got it. So do I.

I’m not willing to call you evil, despite your heresy and the error of your ways. Can you forgive me?


16 Responses to A Reply to XH Turned into a Post

  1. xianhusband says:

    It’s late, so I’ll be quick.

    Sola scripture: not a concept found in the scripture and is counter to the teachings of scripture itself. Hence, Peter could talk about how the ignorant misinterpret the letters of Paul “as they do all scripture.”

    Sola fide: Completely contrary to everything taught in the New Testament. The only place the words “faith” and “alone” are found together is in James 2, where it says, “So we see that a man is justified by what he does, and NOT by faith alone.” The same attitude is also behind the entire book of Romans and book of Hebrews.

    Sola Gracia: Nobody disagrees with this. What they disagree with here is the insinuation that, because salvation is by grace and not by works then what you do does not matter. Which, again, is contrary to the entirety of the New Testament and the words of Christ Himself, “Not everyone who says to me “Lord! Lord!” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of the Father who is in heaven.”

    And, of course, there is the book of Romans which clearly and unambiguously teaches that apostasy, intentional sin, rebellion, etc all result in the loss of salvation. There is no “once save, always saved” presented in the New Testament. Hebrews teaches against it in every chapter.

    Solus Christus: Christ appointed the 12 and, according to the gospel writers, He Himself is the one that named them “Apostles.” That word means something. In the Greek world that was the name for the ambassador of a king that had the authority to speak for Him. Something that would obviously be necessary in a world without instantaneous communication. Well, with Christ in heaven, the same role was necessary here. And so he appointed them. The power and authority implied by their name was confirmed by Him when He told them that what they bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and what they loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

    This is why the canon of scripture was based on the Apostolicity of the writings. That is why Apostolicity was always, from the beginning, the sole determiner of orthodoxy. That is why it is clear that one cannot be a discipline of Christ without first being a disciple of His Apostles. He chose them for that role. To ignore them and their teaching is to ignore the clear and express will of the Lord.

    Ephesians 2:19,20 is clear here: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.”

    Foundation of who??

    Soli deo gloria: Of course it is all for His glory. But somehow you tie that into some sort of charismatic assertion of being individually spirit-led. Which is not something God ever promised. Do we have the same Spirit? Yes. Do we have the same gifts from the Spirit? Not at all. I Cor 12. God empowered the Apostles and prophets of the 1st century with a power not given to anyone since. The power of revelation. The power of inspiration. The power to reveal the Truth of God. We still have the Spirit, but we do not have the miraculous outpouring of said Spirit in the same way.

    I Cor 13:8, “Love never fails, but where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

    God doesn’t direct you the way He did Paul. God doesn’t direct anybody today the way He did then. That is by His plan. Just like in Exodus: God inaugurated His new chosen people through power, but then expected them to live after that with the continued witness of what He had done before, because He ceased to act in the world in the same way.

    With the basic point, as I said before, that in a world without Apostles to lead, prophets to guide, and miracles to confirm, you can’t play anywhere near as fast and loose as you can in a world with them. In a world without them you have to be more careful and explicit and organized or everything important falls apart.

    You don’t want to live in the world of Judges where, “There was no king in Israel, so everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” That is not a statement of anything good. In such a situation people always end up the same place — doing what is right to them, not following God. Read Judges. How long after God’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt and His divine assistance in conquering the land did it take Israel to forget Him and go their own ways? Not long.

    None of these major points you are making — at least as you are making them and the essential points against me you are pulling out — are found in scripture. Which is interesting considering that “sola scriptura” was one of them. Not surprising as Protestant theology is completely internally contradictory. Ultimate respect for the scriptures implies a lot of things as our New Testament canon was selected and complied and codified by the 4th and 5th century church. The more authority you give the canon, the more absolutely you are trusting that church and the Apostolic tradition they used. In addition, the primary criteria for inclusion in the canon was Apostolicity because it was always understood that the Apostles were the authoritative gate-keepers of God’s revelation. We only know Christ at all through them. To argue against the necessity of bowing to their authority while also claiming to believe “sola scripture” is so self-contradictory as to be meaningless.

    Further, the foundational principles of salvation by faith alone and once-saved-always-saved completely contradict all three sets of authorities: scripture, Apostolic teaching, and church tradition. It is a set of ideas that do not pre-date the 16th century. By your own standards of what is authoritative, these things are wrong. Not just wrong, but totally antithetical to the witness of the Apostles as communicated both through scripture and tradition.

    This is obvious. Which is why Protestant groups always both de-emphasize the intellectual understanding side of faith in favor of sheer meaningless emotionalism and reduce the content of doctrine down to “God loves you!” as if there is nothing else there. That is also why Protestant groups always have a tendency towards charismatic expressions. That has always, since it first appeared in the 2nd century, been a substitute for institutional authority and therefore a justification for rebellion. Those God put in charge said to do A. But you want to do B, but have no justification for rebellion. So, you claim to be “led by the Spirit.” Charism and institution are both authority structures that do not co-exist, and the one is always faked as an excuse to ignore the other. And when the doctrine one wants to teach is so obviously contrary to everything that was always taught before, you NEED justification. You need some way to justify the clear break with everything that was taught before, of ignoring everything taught by those selected by God, and for doing your own thing that is completely antithetical to it. The only possible answer is “the Spirit told me!” even when He didn’t. It’s comfortable and makes one conscience stop screaming. So people do it.

    As for me, well, this post ultimately isn’t about me. It is about you trying to justify yourself in the face of the witness I represent. We can talk about me later.

  2. xianhusband says:

    Edit: the beginning of paragraph 5 should say, “book of Hebrews” not Romans

  3. FTN says:

    I feel left out that you didn’t answer any of my issues over here, XH.

  4. Desmond Jones says:

    Very interesting, XH. I find myself nodding in vigorous agreement pretty much all the way down. . . until the penultimate paragraph, and your comments on ‘charismatic expressions’.

    I certainly understand the dynamic you describe, of ‘the Holy Spirit told me’. And I’ve seen that quite obnoxiously in action, many times over.

    But, of course, any ‘charismatic’ or ‘pentecostal’ Christians will trace their origins back to the very beginnings of the Church, as described in Acts 2 & 10, and I Corinthians 14.

    The Montanists of the late 2nd & early 3rd centuries are certainly a ‘problematic’ instance of ‘charismata’ being misused. But to say that ‘charism’ is ‘ALWAYS faked as an excuse to ignore’ legitimate church authority. seems gratuitously general.

    Just as I have experienced obnoxious abuse of ‘thus says the Lord’, so I have also seen and experienced it in service of Truth and the Church. Perhaps my experience in the Catholic charismatic movement is separate and distinct from what you say about Protestants (altho I’m not really inclined to claim that). But I do think it is interesting that, in the 40 years or so of the Catholic charismatic movement, the strong trend has been toward greater orthodoxy, and a firmer adherence to Tradition. 40 years ago (in the wake of the Second Vatican Council) Catholic charismatics were pretty ‘loosey-goosey’, but within a decade or so, charismatic Catholics definitely leaned strongly in the direction of orthodoxy and faithfulness to Apostolic teaching.

  5. xianhusband says:

    FTN: give me a break, dude! I write a comment or two and then Digger decides to do round two of his public crucifixion of me. I’ve got a bit more on my hands, right now. Have a little patience.

    Because what I put up above in these comments was a bit brief to cover these issues in depth, I put some posts about this stuff up on my blog with more to come.

    And, Des, I’ll address these other issues there.

  6. diggerjones says:

    I’m trying to be nice XH. But yeah, it is about you as much as it is about me. You appeal to a theological and intellectual argument and I appeal to a personal one. You are high church and I am low church.

    We are not going to agree. I think that is the main reason I put this out there, because we do differ in substance as well as style. It just shows what happens when two pricks meet! To me, the relationship is central to everything else. You and I can argue philosophy and theology and the particulars of this or that, but if we end up slicing each other’s intestines and putting Bible pages in each other’s mouths, what good is that?

    I’m not going point-by-point on your reply, so I hope that doesn’t come off as being too flip. I appreciate the trouble you’ve gone in piping in.

    Desmond, I wondered if you would find anything to object to in XH’s reply! Even in the Catholic tradition, there is a lot of room for “personal revelation.” I’m thinking of 16 years or so ago, right here in Georgia there was the lady who claimed to get personal revelations from the Virgin Mary. People came to her farm by the bus load. I don’t recall if she was excommunicated for heresy or not. But what kind of institution exists without charism? It would be a pretty cold one, IMO. Pretty dead.


  7. Desmond Jones says:

    Well, see, ‘personal revelation’, such as it is, can be submitted to legitimate Church authority. It isn’t in-and-of-itself subversive and schismatic. Most all of the religious orders had their origins in one or another saint receiving a ‘call from God’; many of them pretty darned ‘charismatic’. As always, the question becomes, what do you do with that? You can put it into the service of the Church, or you can set up your own little ‘personal empire’. And therein hangs the tale. . .

  8. diggerjones says:

    I’m trying to get away from here so I can eat lunch!

    But I did want to agree with your “personal empire” sentiment. At some point it might seem that I advocate breaking away and starting your own thing. And that is simply not true, because I don’t and I have not. I think that there should be enough diversity out there, one should be able to find something they like without spinning off their own.

    On the other side, if I am a Christian and have professed my faith in Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection, am I not already a member of the body? This is where we get into trouble because someone is going to start saddling me with various preconditions, like circumcision, a special diet, special mandatory festivals, washing my hands after I pee, and all sorts of other oppressive rules. Where does it end?

  9. FTN says:

    My apologies, XH. I wasn’t trying to be flippant up there… I know you’ve got a lot of stuff to reply to!

    Digger, as you said, I’m already a member of the body of Christ. So all this talk of “leaving the Church,” or “splitting from the Church” is baffling to me. I’m doing no such thing! I *am* the church, as are my brothers and sisters, and I still think everyone is misusing the term.

  10. xianhusband says:

    It’s not misusing the term, because the word “church” is from the Greek word (through Gothic actually and then into English) for “community”. You cannot say you are part of the community by breaking off from it to start your own community. Community means more togetherness than that.

    Which is the problem with the belief in sola fide. No, professing belief in Christ is NOT enough, as even the demons believe. And shudder. It requires action.

    Part of the required action is unity — as expressed by Paul in I Cor 1 as “all speaking the same thing.” Should there be diversity so that “one should be able to find something they like”? God forbid it! We are called to be one. To be unified. To all speak the same thing. Doctrinal diversity is anathema. Lack of conformance to both orthodoxy and orthopraxy damns.

  11. FTN says:

    Breaking off to start my own?

    80% of the institutional church is no more of a “community” than a college calculus class is a “community.” Just because it MEANS community doesn’t mean it IS a community. Digger’s 16 points he mentions here do very little to form a community. You were always one of the biggest critics of our churches! One minute you are saying all of our mainline protestant churches are wrong, then you say we can’t leave! Or do you really mean, I can leave, I just have to join yours, or be damned?

    It’s great you’ve found plenty of “community” in your local church, that’s fantastic. It just seems odd you would say that church means community, but when I say I’m desiring more true Christian community than what I see existing currently, that it’s damning and putting my soul in peril.

    For someone who espouses it so, I’m rather perplexed by your lack of community and your lack of unity.

    I’m baffled that my desire to help my brothers and sisters, to be helped, to serve people in the community, and to worship intimately with my friends has evolved into something bad.

    Is there room for any more talk of love in all of this discussion? That’s what I began my original blog post on, and any talk of it in and out of “the church” seems to have flown out the window long ago.

  12. xianhusband says:

    And what about all the other people you are leaving behind? You love them so much that you are abandoning them?

    Christian love — the love talked about in I Cor 13 — is not the same thing as friendship. It’s not “I like you, so we’ll hang out.” It is doing for others what they need, through the sacrifice of self.

    If things are so bad where you were that you feel you have to leave, then isn’t that bad for those left behind? I mean, leaving behind the question of whether or not where you were can be considered “church” in the absolute sense, what about everybody else? Shouldn’t those who both see things wrong and are motivated to do something about it help the others, instead of just abandoning them and leaving them to whatever it is their fate will be?

    Christian love, like Christian unity is a God-centered thing, not a man centered thing. Christian fellowship was always, from the beginning, far more devotional than it was social; and found it’s fullest expression in the giving of oneself. Acts 2 and following, having a common purse and all that.

    To say, “The church isn’t giving me what I need” and then leaving is missing the entire point of church. One should be asking not “what does this church give?” but instead, “what does this church need?” Not where do you get the most, but where can you give the most.

    That is why schism is always wrong. God didn’t have to tell you to love and be in unity with those you like who think like you and agree with you. He said, to have unity across those boundaries, through mutual communion with Christ Himself. It is those you left behind that you are told to love and serve, not those you took with you.

    Besides which the entire idea of going off on your own and starting your own thing and still calling it “church” makes a mockery of what the Apostles built on Pentecost and following. It misses the point of the whole thing.

  13. FTN says:

    Who on earth am I leaving or abandoning? What are you talking about? Where did you get any of that from anything I’ve written?

    Everything you’re saying I’m doing is the opposite of what I’m talking about. I’m TOTALLY talking about loving and serving those “not like us.” I think you underestimate me, my friend.

    And don’t worry, XH. We aren’t calling what we’re doing “church.” After how we’ve trampled that word for so long, I’m kind of glad we’re calling it something else.

  14. diggerjones says:

    We still got that guy in Luke 23:40-43. Sola Fide right there. The only thing we might add to faith is a confession of sin and repentance, since those elements were present in that context. The only thing he was doing at the time was suffering and dying. Kinda hard to do much else while nailed to a cross. So quick to damn, it is like talking to a member of the Taliban.

    I’m hesitant to even say what I’m thinking, but since I’ve already been relegated to the flames, what the hell?

    The modern church has been largely corrupted and co opted by the surrounding culture. It’s like now the best way to deal is to be *in* the church without being *of* it. That should set off all sorts of alarms, bells and whistles. It just sounds bad. But I want to escape the shallow, paganistic culture of going in order to see and be seen. We have enough problems with sin, that we do not have to create brand new categories and classes based on how good our attendance is at the potluck, fall festival, men’s Bible study and how many cupcakes I donate to the bake sale to raise money for the new church welcome mats.

    FTN, if you call yourselves the Five Awesome Guys or anything else, Jesus is still there with you. I have no idea what sort or how much formality exists, but you do see the trips and traps of trying to do anything on a regular basis. And that might be an early principle…resist the routine. I think a lot of us might have overestimated the scope of your group and it looked like you were ready to set up a compound somewhere, complete with wife swapping and automatic weapons! BTW, if you get to that point, email details.

  15. Desmond Jones says:

    FTN, I might be the only guy here who really ‘gets’ (I think) what you’re trying to do. And I’m looking forward to discussing it with you in more detail soon, maybe over a glass or two of Irish ale. . .

  16. […] post made by FTN, then a response by me with comments by Christian Husband (known here as XH). Then I responded with a post, and then Christian Husband responded with several posts, but specifically addresses Sola Fide […]

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