Sunday, August 26, 2007

James White's 10 Questions For Discernment

Reformed Baptist apologist, Mr. James White, recently shared 10 questions any so-called Protestant should answer before considering converting to Catholicism. Since I am in his target audience, I pulled up my socks and tried answering these questions. Forgive the length, but Mr. White wasn't able to keep his questions short (lest he should miss a chance to preach):

10) Have you listened to both sides? …Have you actually taken the time to find sound, serious responses to Rome's claims, those offered by writers ever since the Reformation, such as Goode, Whitaker, Salmon, and modern writers? I specifically exclude from this list anything by Jack Chick and Dave Hunt.

Yes, and who are Chick and Hunt, and why are you excluding them? Now I’m curious!

9) Have you read an objective history of the early church? I refer to one that would explain the great diversity of viewpoints to be found in the writings of the first centuries…?

Yes. Well, only one or two that are objective, and several that are very biased in favor of their Reformed authors. I have yet to read a Catholic history of the early church. Maybe I should, so I know I'm listening to both sides! (Actually, no one can write an objective history - the non-Christian academician will write as an agnostic seeking to debunk the Mystery of Christ, and the Protestant or Catholic will be biased to their own position.)

8) Have you looked carefully at the claims of Rome in a historical light, specifically, have you examined her claims regarding the "unanimous consent" of the Fathers, and all the evidence that exists that stands contrary not only to the universal claims of the Papacy but especially to the concept of Papal Infallibility? How do you explain, consistently, the history of the early church in light of modern claims made by Rome? How do you explain such things as the Pornocracy and the Babylonian Captivity of the Church without assuming the truthfulness of the very system you are embracing?

I believe I have looked carefully. I do not know what Mr. White means by “unanimous consent”. If he means that 100% of church fathers have to believe something for the Catholic claims to be valid, that would give, ex post facto, a limitless veto power to any one father (who would not have realized he was wielding this power when he wrote). I do not know if he means Papal Infallibility the way I have read it defended. I do not know what remains to be explained about the Pornocracy et al. The Catholics claim that the church is not free from sinful people; they say the Church is semper reformanda.

7) Have you applied the same standards to the testing of Rome's ultimate claims of authority that Roman Catholic apologists use to attack sola scriptura? How do you explain the fact that Rome's answers to her own objections are circular? For example, if she claims you need the Church to establish an infallible canon, how does that actually answer the question, since you now have to ask how Rome comes to have this infallible knowledge. Or if it is argued that sola scriptura produces anarchy, why doesn't Rome's magisterium produce unanimity and harmony? And if someone claims there are 33,000 denominations due to sola scriptura, since that outrageous number has been debunked repeatedly (see Eric Svendsen's Upon This Slippery Rock for full documentation), have you asked them why they are so dishonest and sloppy with their research?

I have applied the same standards to all my analysis, thank you for asking. Regarding circular logic, I believe the ‘Romanist’ would say that Christ promised us that he would give his Holy Spirit, and the Book of Acts records this very event. This, and Christ’s commissioning of the Apostles should give us some reason to believe that their claims to authority could be valid, certainly valid enough to identify which texts this same Holy Spirit inspired. Rome’s claims do not nearly produce harmony. Many walked away from Christ when he explained that His flesh had to be eaten for salvation. Rome’s criticism (in observing the factionalism of Protestantism) is that our claim that the Bible is a sufficient sole rule of faith has been disproved by reality, as we are in such wide disagreement on its interpretation, even in essential matters. There may not be harmony, or even obedience in Catholicism about the use of, say, the Pill (an abortifacient), but at least everyone understands that their Church has spoken against it. Incidentally, and speaking of essentials, I believe Calvin would say that Mr. White's Reformed Baptists are not part of the true church, since they do not properly attend to the Sacraments.

6) Have you read the Papal Syllabus of Errors and Indulgentiarum Doctrina? Can anyone read the description of grace found in the latter document and pretend for even a moment that is the doctrine of grace Paul taught to the Romans?

I just pulled these documents up, thank you. I do not understand what point was sought to be made by the first, so need elucidation. The errors refuted by the Pope are, e.g., that the philosophy of Relativism is not in accord with Christianity. No surprise. Regarding Indulgences and Paul’s doctrine of Grace, this textual criticism does not account for the Catholic defense that Indulgences are able to relieve only temporal punishment. Eternal punishment is cured by Christ’s grace alone (Cf. Paul's doctrine of grace taught to the Romans).

5) Have you seriously considered the ramifications of Rome's doctrine of sin, forgiveness, eternal and temporal punishments, purgatory, the treasury of merit, transubstantiation, sacramental priesthood, and indulgences? Have you seriously worked through compelling and relevant biblical texts like Ephesians 2, Romans 3-5, Galatians 1-2, Hebrews 7-10 and all of John 6, in light of Roman teaching?

Yes, still weighing them, thank you. I have read those passages in light of Rome’s teachings, and continue to pray about this. These are hard passages that could be taken different ways. I am poorly qualified to judge individually what they mean. This reading makes me doubt the sola Scriptura claim of the perspicuity of scripture.

4) Have you pondered what it means to embrace a system that teaches you approach the sacrifice of Christ thousands of times in your life and yet you can die impure, and, in fact, even die an enemy of God, though you came to the cross over and over again? And have you pondered what it means that though the historical teachings of Rome on these issues are easily identifiable, the vast majority of Roman Catholics today, including priests, bishops, and scholars, don't believe these things anymore?

Second point first, so many people doubt. As all of John 6 made clear, many of the disciples, people who walked with Christ and heard him directly, doubted and walked away. Judas did not believe his teachings. The O.T. Jews, entrusted with the very Oracles of God (Rom. 3:2) did not believe (but this does not disprove the Abrahamic faith!). So no surprise that many Catholics do not believe their Church even if it is (hypothetically) right. How many use the pill? It’s still an abortifacient, so an evil sin.

First point second, of course we can all die impure even though we come to the cross over and over again. 1 Cor 11 seems to support such a possibility nicely – if you eat of the flesh in an unworthy manner, you are eating judgment on yourself! I think this question mischaracterizes the re-presentation theology of the mass. But Mr. White may be more of a eucharistic scholar than I am.

3) Have you considered what it means to proclaim a human being the Holy Father (that's a divine name, used by Jesus only of His Father) and the Vicar of Christ (that's the Holy Spirit)? Do you really find anything in Scripture whatsoever that would lead you to believe it was Christ's will that a bishop in a city hundreds of miles away in Rome would not only be the head of His church but would be treated as a king upon earth, bowed down to and treated the way the Roman Pontiff is treated?

I have considered it, and I don’t like it one bit. The Catholics would say Mr. White confuses “holy father” with “Heavenly Father” here. I note the use of "father" and "fathers" in Stephen's speech in Acts, incidentally. Regarding Rome, the early church testimony (like ~ 80 AD early) at least makes this a reasonable proposition. I do not find anything in scripture that tells me I have to find anything in scripture telling me it’s okay that the church was run the way it was run in the early centuries.

2) Have you considered how completely unbiblical and a-historical is the entire complex of doctrines and dogmas related to Mary? Do you seriously believe the Apostles taught that Mary was immaculately conceived, and that she was a perpetual virgin (so that she traveled about Palestine with a group of young men who were not her sons, but were Jesus' cousins, or half-brothers (children of a previous marriage of Joseph), or the like? Do you really believe that dogmas defined nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Christ represent the actual teachings of the Apostles? Are you aware that such doctrines as perpetual virginity and bodily assumption have their origin in gnosticism, not Christianity, and have no foundation in apostolic doctrine or practice? How do you explain how it is you must believe these things de fide, by faith, when generations of Christians lived and died without ever even having heard of such things?

This question is a sort of litany of doubt, perpetuating much confusion and clouding a clear ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. I think it is imprudent. The origin of these teachings is not within Gnosticism, and much of Marian teachings (if not all) developed as Christology developed to refute Gnosticism and other early heresies. I seriously believe the Apostles could have taught Mary’s perpetual virginity, if it was true. I would not have slept with the woman who carried the Christ in her womb if I were Joseph. Calvin and Luther believed this doctrine. Anyway, this litany of doubt raises only secondary issues to the primary issue of church authority.

And the number 1 question I would ask of such a person is: if you claim to have once embraced the gospel of grace, whereby you confessed that your sole standing before a thrice-holy God was the seamless garment of the imputed righteousness of Christ, so that you claimed no merit of your own, no mixture of other merit with the perfect righteousness of Christ, but that you stood full and complete in Him and in Him alone, at true peace with God because there is no place in the universe safer from the wrath of God than in Christ, upon what possible grounds could you come to embrace a system that at its very heart denies you the peace that is found in a perfect Savior who accomplishes the Father's will and a Spirit who cannot fail but to bring that work to fruition in the life of God's elect? Do you really believe that the endless cycle of sacramental forgiveness to which you will now commit yourself can provide you the peace that the perfect righteousness of Christ can not?

I was actually offended by the first part of this question. If I ‘claim’ to have ‘once’ embraced the gospel of grace (followed by Mr. White’s definition of what that means), how could I embrace a system that does not give the ‘peace’ of assurance of salvation? Would such a system have been right to assure Judas that his selection as an apostle set in motion that good work that would result in his salvation? I think the Catholics would teach that God’s elect are preserved by the Holy Spirit, but that the rebellious are damned. Why else would Paul beat his body into submission? Why was Paul so concerned with running the race with perseverance, lest he should lost hold of the prize (1 Cor 9:27)? This is not cut and dry.


Joseph said...


This blog entry is interesting. Thank you. Are you planning on going into further detail on your answers, say, a separate blog entry for each?

I had seen the excitement over White's questionaire floating around the blogosphere. I really wasn't interested in it enough to visit his site, since I was pretty confident it would be nothing more than one of his typical attacks on Catholicism. I'm glad you posted it on your blog; that's the only way I would have ever read it. Interesting stuff!

Thos said...

If I hear from another person struggling with the claims of the Reformation, I would be willing to write in more detail on these questions. But I don't hear from many people of my ilk. Seems like most folks have their mind made up... Am I the only person that thinks coming to a defensible position is harder than it looks?!

Anyway, thanks for the encouragement Joseph.

JP said...

No Thos, you are not the only one. There are some heavy claims made by the RCC that need much further investigating. I wish more folks from the non-RCC camp would admit to their, at times, weak defenses on certain matter. You are correct, some people are so anti- Catholic that they can not or they are unwilling to see the bigger picture. Though I am not a Roman Catholic, there is much to embrace and their is much mis- representation coming from the Protestant side. I did not care for James Whites smug questions.


Don't bother with his site, I have seen enough of Mr. White to be completely turned off. I have never seen someone so sure he is right in pretty much all theological matters.

Anonymous said...


I must confess, I am in the polar opposite situation. I am a Protestant convert to the Catholic Church who is now seriously questioning the Catholic Faith. I have been a Catholic for seven years now and have read all the "must reads," e.g., Rome Sweet Home; Faith of our Fathers; Surprised by Truth; Not By Scripture Alone; Not By Faith Alone; Not By Bread Alone; Jesus, Peter and the Keys; Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic; Evangelical Is Not Enough; Catholicism and Fundamentalism, etc., etc.

I have since moved on to more authoritative and substantial works on Catholicism, e.g., Henri de Lubac's Splendor of the Truth; Charles Journet's Theology of the Church; Margherita Guarducci's The Primacy of the Church of Rome; Miguel Garijo-Guembe's Communion of the Saints: Foundation, Nature, and Structure of the Church; several books from Ratzinger, etc. This is to say nothing of the fact that I am currently working on a BA in Catholic theology.

Catholicism is not what Catholic apologists paint it out to be, thos. In researching my doubts, which I have been doing since March and am still doing, I have come to the conclusion that Catholic apologists, professional and lay, are a mixture of grossly ignorant of the resources they are using, tragically blind to the truth that so much of their beliefs are erroneous, and flat-out liars and deceivers. I know that sounds harsh, but to be perfectly honest, I can put it no other way because I feel that I have been lied to in the worst way possible. My wife and I, like many a convert, went through Hell to become Catholic, and now we are gradually realizing that error of many Catholic doctrines.

Keep searching my beloeved brother in Christ. Think outside the box. Just because Protestantism is not 100% right does not mean that Catholicism is! The Catholic Church is not right by default! She, too, has failed! The Ecumenical Movement is an attempt to reconstruct both a fallen Catholicism and a fallen Protestantism. As Jaroslav Pelikan once stated in his book Riddle of Roman Catholicism, the Catholic Church needs Protestantism to ever remind her that she is not 100% right. But if your conscience is such that it cannot be Protestant, then look to the East my friend. Although Dr. White has helped me, it is from the East that I have received the most devastating arguments against Catholicism. They emphatically deny the dogmas of Purgatory, Treasury of Merit, Indulgences, Papal Supremacy and Infallibility, the cult of the Virgin (the East has a high view of Mary, to be sure, but it is a far cry from the Catholics' view. One of the most amazing experiences of late was when I was trying to explain to Eastern Christians -- I've been visiting the Cathedral recently -- what a "consecration to Mary" is!), and the inspiration of the Apocrypha.

It's interesting that just as there is a movement of Protestants who are converting to the Catholic Church, there is also a movement of Catholics converting to the Eastern Church. For starters I recommend Michael Whelton's Popes and Patriarchs: An Orthodox Perspective on Roman Catholic Claims. This book is a must read! Anyway, thos, I hope I have given you something to think about. If you would like to talk, please feel free to contact me. I start school on September the 5th, so I'll be pretty busy then (I finally got the courage to take Elementary Classical Greek!).

Joseph said...


Thanks for the affirmative. It's a huge temptation to pop over and peek, but I'll take your advice. It's good to see you blogging again. I hope your family is doing well.

Joseph said...


I can see your point about the blogosphere being thin on those actively searching, at least as far as I can tell. I can't speak for anyone but myself, however, I personally didn't have the desire to even glance at blogs until after my decision was made. I was always concerned that I would find nothing but opinions that may distort the truth that I was seeking. I spent all of my time with my nose in the Scriptures, Early Fathers' writings, books, and any other source I could get my hands on. I also spent more time in prayer than I had ever in my life. At the behest of my Russian Orthodox friend, I pulled off some prayers of the Eastern Church fathers (Saints and Fathers of both Churches) that I would use daily. I also started to pray the Hours when I had slow times at work (for a while I would skip the Hail Mary or any prayer to Her). Because of the words of Our Lord that make mention of the cleansing power of "prayer and fasting", I began to observe traditional fasting and abstinence. For months, if I had any questions regarding Church teaching I would ask my friends (one Russian Orthodox, the other orthodox Roman Catholic). We would have long debates and discussions. I entered RCIA and wasn't trilled at all by the team that was supposed to have answers. It would have been a serious struggle to stay if it had not been for two bits of advice from my Russian Orthodox friend: 1) Do not get discouraged when speaking about the Church with laymen who are not very knowledgeable. Especially if they fail to admit because of pride or vanity that they aren't adequately equipped to answer your questions. Remember that they are only laymen, not Teaching Authority (that advice can be extended to the blogosphere). When they fail in their duty to instruct or give you the wrong information, they are not representing the mind of the Church. Patiently listen to what they have to say, then have your questions answered by a knowledgeable and orthodox priest and do your own homework. Try not to judge them for their lack of knowledge even though they are in a teaching position, rash judgement is not inspired by Our Lord; 2) Whenever your soul is not at peace, you are under attack from evil spirits. The spiritual war is real. God brings only peace to your soul. Beware of sudden surges of passion, they, like rash judgements, are not inspired by Our Lord but by our enemy. How I wish I could do that today! Anyway, this advice was very important to me. One would think that by Kepha's post, Orthodox Christians are in opposition to Catholics. That is not true. My Russian Orthodox friend encouraged me on my journey to pursue Catholicism when, through many discussions, much studying, and prayer, I decided not to become Russian Orthodox. We are aware of our differences and our similarities. We both have Apostolic Succession and we both have the Sacraments. We both honor each others Patriarchs and Bishops. And, though Kepha is opposed to the authority of the Pope, he failed to explain that the Eastern Orthodox believe in obedience to the Successors of the Apostles as well. Orthodox Christians are under the same infallible three-fold authority as Catholics. The only difference, as far as authority goes, is that, though they recognize the Pope as the Successor of St. Peter, they don't believe he has univeral authority. They still believe he has authority over his See. So, one doesn't escape infallible authority by "looking to the East" as Kepha seems to imply. Humility and submission are prerequisites in both Churches. I apologize to Kepha if I misunderstood him. I would also like a clarification on what exactly Kepha was referring to when he spoke of the Church's lies.

I'm probably one of the few Catholic converts who refused to pick up a book by Scott Hahn, not because I don't like him, but because I was really scrutinizing Catholicism and I wasn't interested in the perspective of a convert. I still refrain from reading his material, largely because I'm sure there is nothing in it that I cannot find in the many tomes of Church documentation.

Anyway, here is a blog of a man who has just barely decided to pursue communion with the Roman Catholic Church. I haven't read it completely, but it's the closest I could find of someone actively questioning. I apologize if it is not what you are looking for:

Thos, one more thing. I'll only encourage you as much as you want to be encouraged. Your search for the Truth is exactly that: your search. I don't want to encroach on it or presume anything. If I can be of help, then I'll do my best. If I am pestering you, let me know and I'll disappear.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Kepha, why don't you give us some specifics as to what you think Rome has lied about?

As for purgatory, what are the "devastating" arguments against it?

I don't know any convert to Catholicism that wasn't tempted by the Eastern Churches. They have done a better job retaining their liturgy no doubt about that.

But one strong point for me against the Eastern Churches - is their lack of universality and their strong tendency to nationalize. I would never be fully accepted at any of the Greek Orthodox Churches here in Charlotte by the simple fact that I'm not Greek. Since there is no German Orthodox Church - I guess I'm just SOL if Rome is wrong. ;)

Thos said...

Thanks all for comments. JP, thanks for sharing, and do contribute often – you’re in an interesting spot! I’m going to post soon on “Burden of Proof” which will relate to your comment and things I’ve been thinking on lately. I think we’re seeing the same thing – a lot of irrational reactions to Rome where more discerning responses would be helpful (and concessions, where need be).

Kepha, your spot is interesting too. It is good that you are well read, but I have found that reading about conversions is of little worth after the first hurdle of realizing that the “other side” has reasonable points to make.

You said, “Catholic apologists, professional and lay, are a mixture of grossly ignorant of the resources they are using, tragically blind to the truth that so much of their beliefs are erroneous, and flat-out liars and deceivers.” This is a tall statement to make without support. I see the purposes of blogs as being for open discussion of thoughts. Discussion of feelings through this medium is of little benefit to anyone. If you have the time, could you spell out some of the reasons that lead you to make your statement? I am under no delusion that Rome or Orthodoxy would be a comfortable fit for my family (if I could ever get my wife to come with me), nor that their doctrines would be easy to accept. But for the sake of ecumenicity, let us be factually clear on all points we make. Having also read apologists on each side, I am not of the opinion that there is much lying going on – though perhaps eager exaggeration. I’d like to be persuaded by you.

You said Dr. White has helped you, and listed some tough doctrines. I find Dr. White takes a “litany of doubt” approach, where he hammers us over the head with things that seem difficult. I could do the same against my own Protestants, but that is not productive or healthful. It could lead to a spiral of doubt more serious than ecclesial affiliation.

Orthodoxy in this discussion is too much, but I do NOT believe it's some easy third alternative. Their beliefs are no easier to accept than Rome's, and in some instances harder. I'm sad to see people treat it like Rome Light. It's not fair to the Orthodox, and not fair to Catholics either. I disagree with Kepha's understanding of their views of Mary. I believe that much of what we Protestants believe to be Marian excess was actually cradled in the East and not the other way 'round. Remember the Orthodox are fond of saying "Most Holy Theotokos, save us!" They defend this with relevant qualifications, but my point is that an anti-Romanist should not feel better about life in an Orthodox church (from my understanding).

Again, look out for my post on Burdens of Proof – I think it will tie in nicely to both JP’s and Kepha’s sentiments.

Anonymous said...


I apologize if I have intruded into your spiritual journey. It is not my intention to bring you any trouble or difficulty. I just wanted to share a piece of my journey with you because I thought it would be helpful. joseph apparently wanted to counter my story with his own. Out of respect for the Holy Spirit's work in all of our lives, I will cease making references to my journey.

I would like to clarify some things regarding the East. The Eastern Church I have been visiting is a Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and the impression I have gotten from some of the members there and the choice of books in their bookstore is that although Rome has a very ecumenical attitude toward the East, the feeling is not necessarily mutual. That is to say, the East certainly wants to see the Church united again, but not at the expense of embracing all of the Roman dogmas that I have already mentioned (e.g. Indulgences) which they believe are heretical. Before I began looking to the East, I had always gotten the impression from Catholics that there was no big differences between them. The only real difference was their rejection of papal authority. Such a presentation of the East is either a blatant lie, act of deception, or gross ignorance. There are many more substantial things that divide the other Sees from the Rome See. Again, I highly recommend reading Eastern Orthodox writer Michael Whelton, especially his recent book, Popes and Patriarchs: An Orthodox Perspective on Roman Catholic Claims. Whelton gives a very good, concise overview of the major differences between the two.

joseph stated that:

The only difference, as far as authority goes, is that, though they recognize the Pope as the Successor of St. Peter, they don't believe he has univeral authority. They still believe he has authority over his See.

The East certianly believes that the Bishop of Rome "has authority over his [own] See" and no other; thus, they deny his claim to "universal authority." Contrary to joseph's assertion, however, the Patriarchs do not believe that the Bishop of Rome is the sole successor of Peter. I don't know where joseph got this information. I would definitely like to see the evidence, though. The East have a high regard for the Bishop of Rome, to be sure, for they consider him to be "first among equals." They are quick to point out, however, that this position is one of honor and respect. The East believes that ALL bishops are successors of Peter. This is, as is well-known, the Cyprianic view.

joseph, you wrote:

So, one doesn't escape infallible authority by "looking to the East" as Kepha seems to imply. Humility and submission are prerequisites in both Churches. I apologize to Kepha if I misunderstood him.

Where in my post did I give the indication that I am trying to "escape infallible authority"? Please cite me and explain this so I don't make whatever mistake I made again. I certainly do not want to convey this message, for this would entail me "trying to escape" the authority of Scripture! Again there is some muddling here. While the East believe the Seven Ecumenical Councils to be infallible, their understanding of this infallible authority is totally different from the Pope's. First, no council has to be validated by the Bishop of Rome's consent. Second, in order for a council to be valid the entire Church, clergy and lay people, must embrace it. It cannot be one or the other group. Interestingly enough, this view of the councils also factors into their understanding of the Liturgy, in that the East does not believe that the Liturgy can be celebrated by the clergy alone, unlike Catholics. The Laity must be present for a valid Liturgy to take place. But, getting back to my earlier point, once the entire Church has accepted the council, then and only then, has the Holy Spirit spoken, according to the East anyway. Again, this is a very different understanding of infallibility.

What do you mean by putting these two thoughts together, jospeh:

And, though Kepha is opposed to the authority of the Pope, he failed to explain that the Eastern Orthodox believe in obedience to the Successors of the Apostles as well.

A: kepha is opposed to the Bishop of Rome
B: kepha failed to explain the East believe in obedience to bishops

Are you trying to say that because I am opposed to the Bishop of Rome I failed to tell thos that the East believe in obedience to their bishops? If this is what you are saying, then I am sorry I gave the impression that I want to leave Rome for reasons of obedience. Quite frankly, it would be stupid to leave a church simply because one does not want to obey their leaders. The issue is that of Truth. It's unfortunate that my intense scrutiny as a Catholic of the Catholic Faith is viewed as a lack of "humility" and "submission." I guess the Eastern Patriarchs lack humility and submission too since they fail to obey the Bishop of Rome. Or perhaps it is the Bishop of Rome who lacks humility and submission to the Patriarchs of the other Apostolic Sees?

theo said...

For whomever might benefit from these blessings, I pray:

May our Lord continue to bless you in all acts of righteousness.

May His Gospel of truth permeate your quest to be ever more like Jesus Himself, who is the model and form of who we are called out to be.

May your every act for the Kingdom of God be made without guile.

May your witness be one of honesty and integrity.

May you always enter through the narrow gate, knowing that God will not be mocked; for just as all who enter over the wall are trespassers and cast out, so too are all who would witness to the "truth" via deception. They are imposters who work against the very Lord they claim receives their fealty.

Today if you hear His voice, may you harden not our heart!

With true fear of God who knows my own service to His kingdom is hindered by my own deceptively wicked human heart, I remain by grace your servant and brother in Christ,

Anonymous said...


I wish I would've seen your post before I posted mine! As it is, it took me quite a bit of time to post it and I must now attend to my newborn daughter. I might not be able to get to your request today. I apologize.

I cannot resist the temptation to make some comments about the East's view of Mary, though! The East believe things about Mary that are not acceptable to the Protestants, to be sure, e.g., her perpetual virginity and her heavenly intercession. However, it is the cult aspect that they lack. Perhaps it is different in different parts of the world, I don't know. In explaing to an Orthodox Christian the various aspects of the cult of Mary in Roman Catholicism, e.g., the scapular, the miraculous medal, the consecrations, all of which my parish practices with 100% fervor, he stopped me and said, "That is not a high view of Mary; that is a heretical view of Mary." From what I have gathered from my own experience and from the two men (one Baptist, the other Catholic) who are just now entering the catechumenate after years of studying Orthodoxy, these cultic aspects of mariology are non-existent in Orthodoxy. Even in the Eastern belief in the Dormition of Mary, it is not held to be dogma. The same goes with the sinlessness of Mary.

There is a former Reformed Protestant that I have been talking to who has been an Orthodox Christian for 8 years now. I think you will find his blog very helpful.

Also, I am currently reading Dr. Robert Letham's Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective. I highly recommend it. It doesn't have any of the polemical attitude that Dr. White has, but he certainly doesn't gloss over the differences either. I would also recommend Fr. Michael Pomazansky's Orthodox Dogmatic Theology.

Joseph said...


I'm apologize. In my post I was hoping I made it clear that I may have misinterpreted what you had said. There also wasn't anything deceptive in my post. I will clarify later today. I'm a bit busy at the moment so it may not be until this afternoon. Most of all, however, I want to keep peace. I wasn't intending to attack you.

Also, I truly wasn't trying to counter your conversion story with mine. I was trying to add a little depth and experience to my discussion. I assume you were doing the same. Please don't think I was trying to overshadow your story, that sincerely was not my intention.

I didn't mean to turn your blog into a battleground. Forgive me.

Anonymous said...

No, forgive me, both, Thos and Joseph. I should refrain from having this kinds of discussions until I have done further study. Right now I am convinced that Rome is wrong on many issues, especially her own claims of supremacy and infallibility. But I am still searching for the positive aspect to this conclusion, namely, who is right? I don't believe Rome is right by default, i.e., she wins because Protestantism is divided. God knows that Rome is just as divided by schools of thought fighting over what is infallible. Just look at the debate over the inspiration of the Bible! I am re-assessing the Reformation claims, as well as looking further into the East. I apologize for my passionate posts. As I mentioned before, my wife and I sacrificed quite a bit, as many do, to become Catholic. I do not regret it because Catholicism has helped me grow. Nevertheless, leaving does leave a bitter taste.

P.S. I think Dr. White's recent post on the 33,000 Myth is an excellant example of Catholic apologists either lying, being blind or deceiving others. Please don't misunderstand, 9,000+ denomations is still a lot! But it is far from 33,000.

Thos said...

Briefly, so I can work on my next post during a break in classes...

Theo, thank you for your words. They are truly (and always, it seems) edifying!

Joseph and Kepha - do not apologize to me. I say battle away, so long as you battle graciously. This is hard teaching! Kepha, thank you for adding substance to your earlier post. Your opinions on the cultic aspects of Catholic Marian devotion are valuable to me, and something I will weigh as I read more on Orthodoxy. Thanks for the book recommendations, but I've got to read the ones in the mail on Orthodoxy from Amazon already.

Letham is worth reading, but always read with a discerning eye! Think, How would his opponents counter this statement? It's an old law school trick.

I would not accuse the Steve Rays of the world of being liars based on their use of 33,000 denominations. He supports it with a citation. That the interpretation of his authority is debatable does not make him a liar.

I also note that even large amounts of overzealousness from large factions of Catholicism (even if it includes the Pope) - even if it is heretical - does not make their claims invalid. If they dogmatized heresy, we'd have a serious talking point. If all Catholics were obligated to believe in the church-approved Marian apparitions, I'd have stronger reservations. My understanding, though, is that while the church approves believers to believe in certain apparitions, no is required to believe in any of them. I'm going to venture the guess that the miraculous medal and other such things are similarly treated.

A standing question I have to one Catholic friend is How much would I be allowed to disbelieve and still be Catholic (for the sake of unity and participation in the sacraments)?

A close friend in Catholic seminary has told me several times that those Catholics with a strong Marian devotion are often the most faithful... Don't know if it's true or what it's worth, but I reflect on that from time to time.

Anonymous said...


Technically, the cultic aspects of mariology are not dogma. But ask yourself this question: What would happen if you joined a (orthodox) Catholic parish and revealed to the parishoners that you did not believe these things? Please don't think this is a hypothetical situation pulled out of thin air, so to speak. I belong to a (orthodox) Catholic parish, one that people travel hours to get to (no, it is not a Tridentine parish). On special anniversaries such as the Miraculous Medal, the priest and the altar boys stand in front of the altar and place a Miraculous Medal on each person's neck. Scapulars also are handed out regularly. The promises of Mary concerning those faithful who attend the first Saturday of every month for seven months is always in the bulletin. After babies are baptized they are then presented to a statue of Mary for the purposes of dedicating the child to Mary. The vast majority of sermons are somehow, someway tied to Mary and how she can help save us.

You friend is right, this is the life of the faithful Catholic, thos. Don't view Catholicism as abstract, theological dogma. Lex orandi, lex credendi! The way they pray is the way they believe. If what I have skeched is true, then the cultic aspects of mariology are a vital part of Catholic identity.

Imagine being in my parish, thos, and being the only family not going forward to receive a Miraculous Medal. Imagine being the only family in the parish that doesn't wear a scapular so that in case you die Mary can personally free you out of Purgatory. Imagine having to explain to the other parents why your family doesn't attend the First Saturdays. Imagine telling them that Mary as Co-Redemptix and Mediatrix of All Grace are not dogmas! Everything I have said regarding the cultic aspects of mariology is constituitive of belief in these dogmas!

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Well Kepha it sounds like your experience is more than just a bit out of the ordinary. It's absolutely nothing like mine and believe me I'd have the same reaction as you if it were. I have been to a number of parishes even in places like the Philippines and haven't seen this sort of thing happening. (Even while looking with a skeptical eye to find it)

Thos said...

These comments are so germane; just what I believe (humbly) one should be discussing when one tries to discern the proper constitution of the Church... I meant to say earlier to Kepha (as well as Joseph) that sharing personal experiences is nothing to apologize about - very helpful.

Kepha, I can imagine being in the pew seeing offensive things and not participating. If I were in my proper place, I can see writing letters to my Priest and Bishop complaining about sinful or heretical practices that I see. This would be hard. So would be converting. So would be remaining. I do not envy your position, but know that the church is worth fighting for - some reforms of the reformation (no matter how we view the whole) were worth fighting for (properly though). My local Catholic parish errs in a different way being "gay friendly" (I think in a different way than I would be loving to a gay person that visited my church.

GFF, I'm glad to hear your view that Jepha's experience is not normative. I've read enough to not be surprised though by his experience. Thanks all!

Joseph said...

Hello Kepha,

I have a few minutes. Hopefully I can spend some time clarifying a few things. I'm not trying to debate, so don't think that my quoting you is out of malice or that I'm trying to be deceptive. I may have a few points or questions that may appear like barbs to you, but, I assure you, I'm not trying to be aggressive, so, please be patient with me.

I need to comment on why I believed your post implied aggression. You used the term "liars" and "deceivers" to describe certain Catholics. You also used variants of the word "error" to describe the Catholic Church's doctrines and dogmas. Please understand that the use of such language to describe the Catholic Church is no different that any other anti-Catholic commentator in the world. They may take issue with several doctrines of the Church, but the heart of their hatred has to do with Papal Infallibility, an oft misunderstood doctrine. That doesn't mean that I'm accusing you of not understanding it, I have no idea what your level of knowledge is on this doctrine.

In all of your posts combined, you listed several grievances you have with Catholicism. I'm not going to be able to cover them all, and I'm certainly sure that I'm not going to be able to have any effect on your perceptions. In your second post you applied the word "heretical" to describe certain Catholic practices (I'll have to come back to this later). You seem to be very well read (though I don't consider Scott Hahn a Catholic superstar theologian myself), so, I'm pretty sure you have comfortably settled on what you believe are good reasons for your utter disdain of Catholic practices, dogmas, and doctrines. Therefore, I'm not going to try and convince anyone that what you've said is "incorrect". You believe it, that is fine. I must concentrate on what I said in my earlier post since you carefully dissected it. I want to make it abudantly clear that I did not deliberately omit any information in an attempt to deceive anyone. I also need to make it clear that I am not trying to convert anyone to Catholicism, so I have no reason to make my understanding of Catholicism attractive, either factually or artificially. I just have found Thos' blog interesting and enjoy posting on it. I enjoy his questions and the challenge of trying to answer them. So, for me, this isn't a battle to win (or save, however one wants to look at it) anyone's soul.

Before I begin discussing my post, I must point something out in yours. I believe this is important.

"[T]he impression I have gotten from some of the members [at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral I attend] and the choice of books in their bookstore is that[,] although Rome has a very ecumenical attitude toward the East, the feeling is not necessarily mutual. The Pope and the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs have both been visibly working to heal the wounds of the Schism. What you are describing here is the impression given by the parishioners and perhaps the priest of an individual Orthodox parish. Some Catholic parishes are not very charitable when discussing the rift between the two Churches either. This does not reflect the view of the Patriarchs and the Catholic Magisterium. That is to say, the East certainly wants to see the Church united again This is true, but not at the expense of embracing all of the Roman [Catholic] dogmas that I have already mentioned (e.g. Indulgences) which they believe are heretical Once again, you are implying that it is the Orthodox Church that views these dogmas as heretical. The Orthodox Church views the Catholic Church as schismatics and vice versa. You are suggesting that the Orthodox Church "Magisterium" has declared the Catholic Church heretical in Her teaching with this allegation and that is false. Before I began looking to the East, I had always gotten the impression from Catholics that there was no big differences between them I don't doubt that this is true, but once again you are speaking of the impressions from individual Catholics, not the Magisterium. The only real difference was their rejection of papal authority Once again, this is not the Magisterium talking and, therefore, it is misleading. Such a presentation of the East is either a blatant lie, act of deception, or gross ignorance Given that you are describing an attitude of individual Catholics, I think it would be unjust to call them liars or deceivers. Based on the admittedly horrible catechesis in the Church today, I would be more inclined to believe that these individual Catholics you had contact with were "grossly ignorant". There are many more substantial things that divide the other Sees from the Rome See This is true. I have never denied this. However, the Primacy of the See of Rome and the "filioque" clause are the major and original dividers of the East and West."

Now, I will attend to your critique of my post.

I wrote:
"The only difference, as far as authority goes, is that, though they recognize the Pope as the Successor of St. Peter, they don't believe he has [universal] authority. They still believe he has authority over his See."

You replied:
"The East certianly believes that the Bishop of Rome "has authority over his [own] See" and no other This is true, this I never denied; thus, they deny his claim to "universal authority." This is also true. I never denied this either Contrary to joseph's assertion, however, the Patriarchs do not believe that the Bishop of Rome is the sole successor of PeterThis is true as well. This I have not denied nor deceptively omitted. All bishops mysteriously have a bit of all the Apostles. However, it is the direct Successor of St. Peter that is designated and recognized by the bishop who sits in the See of Rome. The Church Fathers, even in the East before the Schism, fully recognized this. The See of Rome is alone designated as the See of St. Peter according to the Church Fathers. I don't know where joseph got this information. I would definitely like to see the evidence, though Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Early Fathers (not to mention the Authority of the Catholic Church, whom I am a part of). The East have a high regard for the Bishop of Rome, to be sure, for they consider him to be "first among equals." Why did they call him the first among equals? Because they recognize Rome as the See of St. Peter. They view him as the Prince of the Apostles, but, as my Russian Orthodox friend affectionately puts it, they believe that "the Church was built on Peter, Peter wasn't built on the Church". They do not deny that Rome is the See of St. Peter. They are quick to point out, however, that this position is one of honor and respect I have stated no different. The East believes that ALL bishops are successors of PeterI have not denied that they believe this. But, they do recognize Rome as the See of St. Peter. To deny it would be to deny Church history and Tradition. The Orthodox Church preserves Tradition and holds Her infallible just like the Catholic Church. This is, as is well-known, the Cyprianic viewSt. Cyprian was the only Eastern Father that I could find record of that did not look to the See of St. Peter, the Successor of the Bishop of Rome, as the head of the visible Church. This is debatable to an extent, but when one reads that St. Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople and greatest Father of the East, was exiled and became a Confessor because of his opposition to the empirical political pressures around him and his loyalty to the See of St. Peter in Rome, credence seems to be given to the Roman Catholic position. Of course, I realize that this too is up for debate and I'm willing to admit I'm wrong on Chrysostom if someone can show me where he did not believe in the primacy of St. Peter's Successor in Rome.

I wrote:
So, one doesn't escape infallible authority by "looking to the East" as Kepha seems to imply. Humility and submission are prerequisites in both Churches. I apologize to Kepha if I misunderstood him.

This was where I possibly misunderstood you. It seemed that you were using your denunciation of the primacy of St. Peter and his Successors as a way to appeal to Thos. Being a mistake on my behalf, your full reply is not necessary to repeat.

In your reply, however, you stated something interesting:

"Interestingly enough, this view of the councils also factors into their understanding of the Liturgy, in that the East does not believe that the Liturgy can be celebrated by the clergy alone, unlike Catholics. The Laity must be present for a valid Liturgy to take place."
The Roman Catholic Church has many different rites. There are many different liturgical forms. The Roman, Byzantine, Coptic, etc. The Eastern Catholic Churches still maintain an Eastern Divine Liturgy. The Church accepts all of these Liturgies as licit. She even believes that the Eastern Orthodox Divine Liturgy is licit. I'm not sure why you chose to bring this topic up. It simply doesn't hold sway in either direction.

This was also in your reply:
"But, getting back to my earlier point, once the entire Church has accepted the council, then and only then, has the Holy Spirit spoken, according to the East anyway. Again, this is a very different understanding of infallibility."
I think that has been established. I certainly have not ever denied that the Orthodox Church has a different view on Papal Infallibility.

I wrote:
"And, though Kepha is opposed to the authority of the Pope, he failed to explain that the Eastern Orthodox believe in obedience to the Successors of the Apostles as well."

You replied:
"Are you trying to say that because I am opposed to the Bishop of Rome I failed to tell thos that the East believe in obedience to their bishops?" No. This is not what I meant to imply. You actually had it right when you broke it into two sentences:

A: kepha is opposed to the Bishop of Rome You did state your opposition to the Successor of the See of St. Peter
B: kepha failed to explain the East believe in obedience to bishops
You did fail to mention that the same amount of obedience is demanded of the Patriarchs in the East

I thought what I wrote was fairly straight-forward. There were no hidden implications. Therefore, I don't find it necessary to discuss your response, since there was no need for it. I'm not saying that it is pointless, just that I didn't accuse you of anything beyond what was said above. And it was not a false accusation.

I'll discuss your other post a little later, but I will not return to this one, if you don't mind. We've milked this cow to the point that burgers are coming forth.

I would like to understand something. The Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs are taking an ecumenical approach to dialogue with the Pope and the bishops loyal to him. They do not view the Catholic Church as heretics, such as those individuals, and perhaps even your priest, in your parish do. If you take the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith document recently released by the Vatican and invert Catholic with Orthodox, that is how the Orthodox Church hierarchy views the Catholic Church. Our Church Authorities view each other's Church in exactly the same status: A true Church with a defect(s). We both have the Sacraments, Apostolic Succession, and valid Holy Orders. In fact, we can receive Holy Communion in each other's parishes (if allowed by the priest). So, your stance (I'm sure an emotional one at the time, due to your perception that I attacked you) that Catholic Church teaching consists of deceptive lies and heresies is in contrast to the view taken by your Church's Authority. Are you in a high enough position of authority in your Church to declare anybody else a heretic? Doesn't that put you in opposition to your own Orthodox faith? Are you truly showing obedience to your Church's Authority by holding those views of condemnation when your Church Authority doesn't? I think that the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I would disagree with you. In fact, I believe that all of the Eastern Patriarchs would disagree with you.

I'm not trying to be contentious, so please don't think that. I'll touch on your other points later. I don't disagree with everything you said. There are definite dogmatic differences between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. I have never denied that. That would be deceptive on my part.

I sincerely hope I haven't grieved you with this post, Kepha. I want to maintain peace between us though we may, and should be able to, disagree.


Anonymous said...

I had plans on typing something up, but this week looks to be busy for me so instead I will provide some old material of mine that is relevant to the discussion.

From: (a forum I am a member of)

The key is [I think], in practice, is a very laxed and lightweight papal jurisdiction. If we can agree in principle and allow the liturgical and customary diversity that in fact exists, with Patriarchs running the show in their own domain, with only minimal papal input, then we could accomplish some sort of reunion (contrary to some EO statements, this is how the relationship is between the 23 different rites and provinces that are in union with Rome). But I see a great deal of anti-Western prejudice (and there is anti-Eastern prejudice too, but I honestly don’t see this as much). Certain groups such as our own Traditionalists, Ultramontanist view of the Papacy (which Vatican I rejected),and the ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) and groups like that will may never go along, but they can't even agree with their own Orthodox brethren (sometimes denying valid sacraments even to them), so we can't let that stop us. Let them go their own way.

I’m not sure, but I think the Orthodox perspective on this is mixed, or so I perceive it. On the one hand, there are many Orthodox who have a knee-jerk response about this. On the other, I think history is more nuanced and mixed than either side in the often polemical discussion will readily admit. There are instances of the Pope sending letters, for example, to far away dioceses about things (eastern provinces to be precise), such as the infamous incident involving the disputed Easter celebrations in Asia Minor. The key question, it seems to me, is in what capacity the Pope was doing these things ... and this is where things get fuzzy between us. We see these incidents as a prototype for what eventually developed into universal jurisdiction, once communication methods and the like were sufficiently advanced so as to permit this to be a reality. The Orthodox Church sees these instances as brotherly admonitions (to which Hopko touches on), similar in nature to those issued by a number of other patriarchs from time to time to various other churches on various matters during the early church period. Of course, one would need to examine the tone and language used between the bishops of Rome and those outside of it.

Unfortunately some of the frustrations of some Protestants (both low and high churches) in the process of converting, is that the historical perspective, while important, is also somewhat limiting because each side in the debate (RC and EO) can look to various incidents, quotes, patristic passages and simply get nowhere in convincing the other side of the merits of its argument. Much of the reason for that is a different perspective on history ... RC's, on their part, tend to believe in the development of things, and so they look to the first millennium for seeds of what later developed, recognizing that the full-blown universal jurisdiction, as a canonical and/or dogmatic principle, was not fully understood by all at the time……Eastern Orthodox on the other hand tend to say that things now should not be any different than they were during the first millennium, and so they look to history for *models* of how things should run today. This is of course a major stumbling block.

This reminds me of St. Peter himself in Acts 1:20, the Church takes texts of Scripture (or historical documents) which may be obscure to many in the debate and clarifies them definitively and not necessarily waiting for everyone to be able to understand all of the issues at hand. “Fides quaerens intellectum” is the cry of the Church. EO's and Protestantism (as I see it) tend to go about it in the reverse. They look for the perspicuity of text, whether scriptural or historical and let it define the Church. While that is good (so far as it can take us), Christianity is/was a religion of the “people of God” and not a religion of a book or historical text. This made the world of difference to me in being able to see history within the context of development.

I wish I could sit here and tell everyone that there is an easy solution to all this, but even those that I think can be compromised, will not go easy. There is more I wanted to address but as I have lent my fingers and mind run amok, I will leave at this for now.


Thos said...

I dutifully note another blog (of one who converted to Rome - unlike me!) answering Mr. White's questions, WITH Mr. White's rebuttal, AND the author's counter to the rebuttal.


Joseph said...

Ok, thanks alot, Thos.

That was only the second time I've read anything from James White. I could only make it through the third question when I had to give up. I kept getting distracted by imagining my own Saturday Night Live skit. Allow me to share it with you:

White (as a roving reporter):
I'm here live at the Catholic Conversion Center to ask objective questions to recent Catholic converts as to why they left their Reformed faith for the Whore of Babylon. Here comes one now! Excuse me! Excuse me, sir!

Convert: Yes.

White: Hi, I'm James White, what's your name little one?

Convert: Um... Bob.

White: Ah, nice to meet you convert. I have a question for you. Oh, are you gonna cry? Are you gonna cry little convert?

Convert: Wha... huh?

White: Don't get all emotional on me. Look everyone! Look how emotional the convert is!

Convert: What's the question?

White: Did you even give your apostacy any thought whatsoever? Or did you just go with your feelings? Did your emotions carry you away like a fluttering little birdie on the wind? Huh? Does itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, convert have an itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, brain case all filled with mushy wushies? Huh?

Convert: What are you talking about? Of course I thought about it! I read the Early Fathe...

White: Ah! Ah! Heretic!!! Heretic everybody!!! Stupid dummy convert right over here! LOOK at how much smarter I am than YOU!


Joseph said...

Thos, I am so sorry! I swear I'm not trying to take over your blog! It's my pride, you see! I have to type! I have to let everyone know what I think!

There are no "problems" with Catholic Marian dogmas and the Orthodox Church, only amongst individuals. I have had lengthy discussions with my Russian Orthodox friend over this and I have learned quite a bit of it on my own when I was in my discernment phase.

Let me begin by roughly defining doctrine and dogma (these are my simple definitions):

1) Doctrine - accepted Church teaching transmitted to the faithful. Has its origin in Sacred Scripture and/or Sacred Tradition and promulgated by the Magisterium.

2) Dogma - a doctrine that has been elevated to a status that obliges the Christian faithful to believe it in order to stay in communion with the Church. This isn't a completely negative relationship with the Catholic though. The Catholic Catechism explains it best in paragraphs 88-95.

So, every dogma is a doctrine, but not every doctrine is a dogma. Confused?

Dogmas are: The Blessed Trinity, Original Sin, Jesus Christ's Two-Fold Nature, The Resurrection, etc.

Here are the Marian dogmas (if I miss any then I flunk my Catholic dogma course):

1) Mary is the Mother of God [God-bearer (Theotokos)] - Council of Ephesus 430.

By this time there was already a substantial amount of historical evidence of the veneration of the Mother of God. Of course, evidence is not necessary when one considers that it was an Apostolic Tradition, and, therefore, already doctrine. But, James White wouldn't agree with me on that. To make a long story short, Nestorius, the bishop of Constantinople, had declared that Mary could not rightfully be declared the Mother of God, that she was only the mother of Jesus' humanity. Not only did this go against an already accepted doctrine (teaching), but this was also in opposition to the Tradition and dogma that Jesus Christ, was both True God and True Man. Though His Humanity was apparent, it was never separated from His Divinity and vice versa. Do you see the Christological connection? If Mary is not the Mother of God, then Christ's Divinity was completely separate from His Humanity. That's how and why this doctrine became dogma. To prevent further error like that of Nestorius, who had been teaching that Mary was nothing more than the mother of Jesus' humanity. This is what needs to be understood about Marian doctrine and dogma. It is Christological.

2) The Perpetual Virginity of Mary - Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople 533.

Denying that the Mother of God was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus Christ would not only go against already established Tradition and doctrine, but would also threaten to diminish Christ's Divinity once again. Mary, as the New Eve, fully assented to the Will of God (unlike Eve, who led man into death by her assent to the her own selfish will at the temptation of the devil). After accepting the Will of God, having God conceived in Her womb (which, according to doctrine even at this time, was perfect and unspoilt by sin), would only be a tragic denial of faith in His Divinity by His Mother and St. Joseph if she and St. Joseph continued to defile her perfect vessel. No soul endowed with such a Grace to carry God within them could be able to turn back to sin, if they were ever in that state. That goes against Church teachings on Grace as well. Such a rebuke of such special Grace and a divine and intimate connection with God could only minimize the True Divinity of Our Lord, which is what the controversy was at the time. So, by Mary turning to concupiscence after the Virgin Birth, there would be a negative Christological impact. Not to mention this was already doctrine (teaching). It was just being threatened by up and coming heretics. Read St. Jerome's "Against Helvidius". Helvidius was a heretic who was teaching his own brand of sola scriptura in opposition to the doctrine (at the time) of Mary's Perpetual virginity. St. Jerome disproves his arguments using Scripture alone, of course through the eyes of Tradition and the Teaching Authority of the Church. This is also historical evidence that the Perpetual Virginity of Mary was doctrine well before it was promoted to dogma.

3) The Immaculate Conception - Promulgated by Pope Pius IX 1954

This, of course, was not only a papal decree, but it was also not the product of a Council. This doesn't matter to the Eastern Orthodox Church though, because the Schism had already taken place. So, any Councils held by the Roman Catholic Church or any Papal decrees were not binding (nor are they binding now) on them. However, this is doctrine (teaching) in both Churches. Here is where the difference between doctrine and dogma come in. One chooses to be out of communion with the Church by denying a dogma. Denying doctrine is troublesome, but it doesn't incur automatic excommunication. Not unless it is enacted by a Church authority (as far as I know). One other thing I must add, not every Orthodox Church adheres to this Tradition and doctrine. Some have a variant, which is, after Mary's "fiat", she was made Immaculate. Both Churches do agree that She was Immaculate (free from sin and concupiscence), in some cases the timing is different. This is not a "hurdle" for the two Churches as some might think. There are many Orthodox Christians who believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. It is an ancient Apostolic Tradition.

So, why did the doctrine get promoted to dogma? First, let me explain the Christological impact this has. Above, in the Perpetual Virginity dogma, I explained the necessity to understand that any reduction in the value of the "Vessel" impacts the Divinity of Christ. Don't believe me? Read up on the Arian, Nestorian, etc. heresies. Most Protestants that I know would not reduce the Divinity of Our Lord (though many don't quite understand the dogma of Jesus' two-fold Nature in its totality). The modernists today and those influenced by the enlightenment in the 19th century were the Arians and Nestorians of the Early Church. Trying their best to poke holes in Christology. Why? If they can do so successfully, Christendom falls. Christ is the center of Christianity. If they weaken the case for Christs True Divinity and True Humanity at all, then He is not God and the pagan Renaissance comes to fruition. No longer is man bound to their conscience. In the 1800s the Catholics, deceived by the Enlightenment and the Renaissance, and the enemies of the Catholic Church began to plot against what they saw was a chink in the armor of Christology. If Mary wasn't Immaculate, then She could not be the Vessel that carried God because all of the prophecies of the Virgin birth, the woman who would crush the serpents head, the types of Christ in the Ark of the Covenant and the Womb of the Tabernacle (even the Ark was typed as Mary's Womb), every Sacred Scriptural exegesis in regards to the perfect, undefiled Vessel that carried Christ God, the doctrines on Grace, the belief that an intimate relationship as bearing God, everything can begin to be attacked. And the enemies of the Church are always lurking as they have been since Her beginning. As I said, this was already a longstanding doctrine. It was promulgated because it was under attack by the secular world and the modernists. I don't know if I lost you, but I hope you can see the Christological impact of the Immaculate Conception. All of the above is my limited understanding of it. I am not a catechist.

4) The Assumption of Mary - promulgated by Pope Pius XII 1950

Simply all of the above dogmas lead up to the Assumption. Not to mention that this, as well, is an ancient Tradition and doctrine. The Eastern Orthodox call this the Dormition. Both Orthodox and Catholics have always believed that Mary was assumed into Heaven after She "fell asleep" or Her time came to leave this earth. As I've always stated in regards to this dogma, there are apocryphal writings that are not infallible but are accepted as genuine tools for catechesis and a reference to the Apostolic witness of the Assumption. This was made dogma because, like the Immaculate Conception doctrine one hundred years earlier, it was under attack by modernist Catholic and Protestant theologians. The ancient Apostolic Tradition is itself worthy to define this, in my opinion. However, many want the reason why this is dogma. My simple answer is that it has Christological impact as well. If Mary bore God, She must have been perfect. God is repelled by pride, the bedrock of all sin. Mary must have been perfectly humble in order for God to dwell in Her. Perfect humility is perfection. If She was without sin, perfect, then She would not suffer a) the pains of childbirth (which has always been the tradition of the Virgin Birth) and, b) bodily decay. Now there is another Christological aspect to this: Christ is True Man and True God. To be Divine, His Humanity had to be perfect, which it was. Though the devil tempted Him in vain, He never sinned. He fulfilled the Will of His Father at all times. So, His True Humanity followed His Father's (and His own as consubtantial with the Father) Commandments while He was Incarnate. No Christian can deny that and still remain a Christian. Well, on of His Commandments is "Honor thy Father and thy Mother". Jesus' Father was the First Person of the Holy Trinity, conceived by the Holy Spirit (Trinitarian Perfection). His Mother was Mary. Our Lord really took Flesh and walked amongst us. And Who's genetics would He have taken Flesh from? Mary. Who fed Our God from Her breasts? Mary. I could go into a litany of all of the places Mary was beside Her Son and His Apostles in Sacred Scripture, but you don't need me to. If Jesus Christ is God, and in His Humanity followed His Father's Will to Perfection, wouldn't He continue to Honor His Mother after it was Her time to leave this earth? Wouldn't He want us to honor Her as well? Not worship, but honor. He doesn't worship Her, He honors Her. If He left Her body, even in a state of incorruption, on the earth and did not bring it into Heaven, would that suggest that Elijah or Moses are more favored than the Woman Who gave Him Flesh? By Whom God entered the world for the Salvific act that all of the Patriarchs waited for in the bosom of Abraham? Thousands of years after the Fall of Adam, She was the One chosen before all Creation to be the Vessel that would carry God Incarnate. The logic fails to suggest that Moses and Elijah would be held in higher esteem than She. But, even without the logic, it was always Tradition and always doctrine before it was promoted to dogma. And, once again, it was to preserve the doctrine from modern-day attack that was determined to aim at Christology.

Sorry for the length. I doubt it was even a good description. I tried. The reason why I brought this to light was because I wanted to make it clear that the Marian dogmas are not contested so rigorously in the Eastern Orthodox Church as Kepha would have you believe. In fact, I believe the Feast of the Dormition is tomorrow in the Eastern Orthodox Church (15th for those following the Gregorian Calendar). Doesn't sound like they deny it to me!

Joseph said...

Yikes, I apologize to Kepha. Sorry, you weren't denying the Marian dogmas! Forgive me. Oh well, I hope you find the post helpful, Thos.

Anonymous said...


Have you read any works by Orthodox scholars, e.g., Alexander Schmemann, Georges Florvorsky, Kallistos Ware, etc.? Or Orthodox writers in general, such as Michael Whelton?

Joseph said...

Kepha, Out of the list you have provided, I've read some Kallistos Ware. I don't believe that makes me any more knowledgeable than anyone who hasn't.

Thos said...


Please substantiate your comment that reading Ware will make one no more knowledgable than not reading Ware. I'm about to read Ware, so want to know why you think it'd be a waste of time. Does he not have any substance? Does he confuse the reader? He's pretty highly regarded (or at least highly sold and read).

Joseph said...


I'm sorry. Ware is very good. I enjoyed the books that I read in part. I also recommend his writing. I meant no disrespect to him or his writings.

The sense of my argument was that reading Ware does not necessarily mean that one will have a greater knowledge of Orthodoxy than someone else who has sought answers from another source.

I also have a tendency to scrutinize modern writers. Often I am unfair, but, I have my own categorizations and opinions. I happen to place Ware in the same category as Scott Hahn. One can be a knowlegeable Catholic without ever reading a single page of a Hahn book. Likewise, one can be a knowledgeable Orthodox Christian without ever reading a single page of a Ware book. In my experience, the Orthodox Christians I have known have never read Ware, yet that does not mean that they are any less knowledgeable about their religion than those who have.

Perhaps I should have phrased it differently.

Joseph said...

I also don't think listing all of the books one has read to be evidence of their knowledge of the subject. I have read many books, but I feel no need of listing them to prove it. I'm rather tight with my recommendations, naturally, because I have my own opinions.

I often run into situations where someone will recommend a book as merely a way to authenticate one of their opinions when they find that they can't cohesively formulate anything that they think they read in them. This comes from not reading the subject matter objectively. If the point cannot be argued and the person asks me if I have read the book from which they have derived this point, I will lose interest.

Many Catholics do this with Hahn and many Orthodox converts do this with Ware. It is no different than someone who can use a calculator to perform a complex mathematical equation, but take the calculator away and they have no idea how to solve the problem. I prefer thought. I want to discuss matters cohesively, that is how I determine knowledge.

Thos said...


One quick note on your discussion of the Immaculate Conception: in discussing the Eastern Orthodox view, I believe it is important to note their general denial of Original Sin (at least in terms of original guilt, and I realize this is not universally agreed upon). They reach the same conclusions Catholicism (as I understand things) - that the vessel carrying the incarnate Word was 100% pure, but didn't have to address her original sin/guilt the way Catholics had developed that dogma.

Re: BOOKS! I've said I'm reluctant to note where I've read Hahn. I don't want to be called a Hahn-ian or Hahn-head. Nothing against him or his writing, I'm just reluctant. I read you loud and clear that Ware is breaking similar ground on the Eastern front. I also now understand your comment on why you can take or leave Ware (over and against other Orthodox writers) - thank you for the clarification.

Joseph said...


Righto! Thanks for the additional information. It will add clarity to anyone who happens upon our comments.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that one can gain a lot of accurate information from "other sources," e.g., talking to Eastern Christians. I myself have spent dozens of hours talking to Eastern Christians and have gained a lot from these conversations. But, as was pointed out to me, one must be careful that one is not going off of individual Easterners' opinions or views. Thus, authrotities matter quite a bit, and since the Eastern Church have no universal catechism, Eastern theologians seem to be a good place to go.

The theologians I mentioned are by no means "modern writers" or modern anything. These theologians are among the greatest that Orthodoxy has, and they were stationed in the greatest Orthodox seminary: St. Vladimir's, which is also a major Orthodox publishing house.

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is hardly an Orthodox equivalent to Scott Hahn. He book, The Orthodox Church, was recommended so many times when I visited the Orthodox cathedral. One of the priests and one of the deacons there told me that it is a must read. I must confess, I did not follow their recommendations. Instead I bought Michael Whelton's book and Orthodox biblical scholar John Breck's Scripture in the Tradition: The Bible and it's Interpretation in the Orthodox Church.

Joseph said...


You will enjoy "The Orthodox Church". It is a very good book.

Happy Feast of the Dormition.

Thos said...

We're probably not far from agreement on this book thing (you know, when people give a curriculum vitae of all they've read to prove their opinion establishing a given point is superior). Bottom line: reading is essential to discernment, but only as good as the quality of the reading multiplied by the quality of the writing (or some such similar mathematical formula). I look forward to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y reading my Ware when it gets here!!!

Thos said...

See here: for a nicely done comment on the very nature of James White's questions, plus responses.


Chad Toney said...

Thos...thanks for the link. I think many of my answers could be a lot better, but I enjoyed thinking through them and trying to give an honest answer to most.

Chad Toney said...

...and I just fixed the line where I called you a Catholic. Wishful thinking, on my part.

Thos said...


Thanks (I wondered when it was that I had decided to convert! Had I missed it?! Ha!)! I really did like your overall treatment of the very nature of these questions. Maybe I should try and ask ten Q's, and see if I can do better than White did...


Anonymous said...

Eastern Catholic has been a good answer for me. It enables me to affirm a lot of what the Catholic and Orthodox Church teaches, and to find new ways to view purgatory or other concepts that are more useful in the West. If you do not like a handful of Catholic ideas, it is possible they could be more acceptable when interprested from the East, and a lot of the Marian concepts and sacramentals and devotions you do not like are private revelation and not anything you have to believe or practice, and are not much a part of Eastern Catholic practice either.
The Orthodox still believe in similar thhings and have weeping icons and relics and basically believe that matter can b holy and used in miraculous ways like the miraculous medal.
The thing that troubles me as well are all the promises to those that perform such and such a task.
For me, Christian history can be inperpreted diferently regarding the papacy, but their is certainly enough universal consent to the idea of the primacy of Rome, even if they disagree to how much authority Rome has and how this looks. But for me, it is convincing enough that I want to pray for union, but remain united to Rome where the office of Peter is found. Since Christ seemed to single this out (and i am sure there are other interpretations)
I see it as essential to the church and feel like we benefit greatly from this office, even if it may need to be redefined or adjusted to find unity.
- Brian

Thos said...


I gather that you are Estern Rite Catholic; do you have a hard time finding Eastern Rite parishes?

How does that change the formularies to which all those in submission to the univeral jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome must accept? I don't understand how they could be submitted to the pope but can believe differently than what all others are required to believe.

Thanks for sharing; Peace,

Anonymous said...

Hello, thanks for taking me seriously. There are two Eastern Rite parishes near me, one Ukrainian and one Ruthenian (but other parts of the country probably do not have as many unfortunately). I like them both a lot liturgically. Now, I was hoping that maybe what I said would at least make you consider this option before leaving. However, I do not feel as capable of representing it to the questions you raise. You may want to invesitgate the Melkite church.
To be sure we still must affirm what the church teaches, but we can believe it from a different angle. Purgatory ia not referred to in the same way, and is more seen as a Thosis. The word never developed in the East. Original sin is understood differently (the the west can affirm what the East says about original sin, and we need to make this more clear. To be sure we still are Catholic and under the pope (but with more emphasis on the bishop, and trying to see how bishops are equal, even if Rome has more "authority"), but we can bring a more Eastern approach to these things, which means we do not talk of indulgences, use the word purgatory, we do not recite the filioque, or pray the rosary for instance and priests can be married. I hope maybe you will look into it more from some sources that are smarter than me. I just know it is refreshing to have this option ans someone who had a hard time choosing betwen Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Ultimately it was my view that I wanted unity with Rome that took me that way, I think in your case this may be the biggest problem but I hope you will ask more Eastern Catholics how they understand their faith. Here are some sources. A discussion forum you may really like that because their are plenty of Orthodox even clergy and converts from Catholicism who participate in the discussions and our goal really is to try to understand eachother better. and here is maybe a link that gives you some ideas Let me know if any of it at least interests you. Even if you leave the Catholic Church, I hope that this will at least give you a more friendly (to your tastes) version of Catholicism to dialogue with in your mind and with others.