Archive for the ‘Bible, Tradition and Interpretation’ Category


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Michael Bird (a Reformed Baptist, by the way) on Signing the Cross. Is there good, evangelical rationale for why signing the cross is looked down on? If not, then why is it practically non-existent in evangelical/reformed circles? If so, what is the reason?

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Thanks to Matthew Mason for bringing up this quote in his discussion on Wright’s view of justification (bracketed comments his):

Calvin (Insts, III.xi.10):

“We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body [NB this makes justification an ecclesial doctrine!] – in short, because he deigns to make us one with him.”


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Here is a guest post by Dr. James Palmer, professor at CEP, the Anglican Seminary in Chile. He has a first class degree in Theology from Durham University and an MPhil and PhD from Cambridge. His interests include Biblical and Systematic Theology, Hermeneutics, Doctrinal Development and Roman Catholic Theology.

I hope you will find his thoughts as helpful and thought-provoking as I did. The emphases are his, and I’ve coloured the catechism citations brown, to distinguish from His own comments.


Protestants often have the same attitude to the Roman Catholic Church as the audience of a pantomime has towards the baddie: lots of booing and cries of “he’s behind you”. This is unfortunate. I´ve been reading the 1992 Catechism and am enjoying it a great deal, in fact the last thing I enjoyed this much was written by the Greek Orthodox priest John Behr (the three currently available volumes of his Formation of Christian Theology series). The majority of the objectionable parts of the catechism are unsurprisingly related to the doctrines of authority and salvation, but there is much which is really very good. Here are two interesting bits:

This on the meaning of the ascension

659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”531 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.532 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.533 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand .534 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.535

Sadly this is preceded by the horrible paragraph 645;

645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.508 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.509 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.510

This has the unspoken goal of allowing transubstantiation, but it seems a complete distortion of the biblical teaching to suggest that Jesus appeared “in the guise of a gardener”. It seems to fit better with the tenor of NT teaching that the resurrection body is somewhat different to the earthly body (1 Cor 15:35ff), but not unstable in the way the catechism suggests.

This on the life and work of Christ as being the work of the Spirit:

727 The entire mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the fullness of time, is contained in this: that the Son is the one anointed by the Father’s Spirit since his Incarnation – Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
Everything in the second chapter of the Creed is to be read in this light. Christ’s whole work is in fact a joint mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.


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Here are a few quotes from Chadwick’s book on Augustine, regarding his ecclesiology. Please note how Augustine sees the relationship between the Scriptures, the Sacraments and the Church. A lot of this is a summary of previous posts.

I post on this, because Anglicanism has been called “Reformed Augustianism, (I agree) and I believe Augustine’s views are very close to those of the Magisterial (and english) Reformers, and should be looked at, since it seems most present-day protestant churches have a rather confused ecclesiology.

Very informative, though don’t take this as a “blanket” endorsement (emphasis mine).

Unity, Catholicism and Sacraments

[…] the parables of the kingdom (Matt. 13) taught the in the Lord’s field both wheat and tares should be left until the harvest of the last judgement. Therefore, no scandal could ever be sufficient ground to introduce division and to leave the one Church. […]

Among the signs of a true believer Augustine specified that he would always love the Church, warts and all […] the errors of individual bishops could not bring pollution on a community or upon episcopal succession. The grace of God did not depend for its efficacy on the personal sanctity of the individual minister, but on whether he did what God commanded to be done and thereby showed himself aware that in his sacramental action the whole Church is acting. For every act of the Church is catholic, universal. The sacrament is Christ’s, not the minister’s personal property, and salvation is always and throughout the work of God, not of man. Therefore a sacrament of baptism bestowed by an orthodox but schismatic priest must on no account be repeated. Baptism has stamped the soul with a decisive once-for-all seal, just as Christ died once-for-all to redeem. Admittedly, baptism given in schism could not be fully a means of grace until the recipient had been reconciled to the Church.

Apostolic succession mattered to the African Catholics too, for it was the external form that helped to safeguard the sacred tradition of apostolic teaching and sacraments.

However, in the context of the Donatist controversy note this comment:

Donatist language about the ordained ministry as the supreme guarantee of their sacraments seemed to Augustine to presuppose a much too clericalized notion of the Church. The ministry had a very necessary service to perform. Ordination was a sanctification of the Holy Spirit. It was self-evident that the presidency at the Eucharist should be given to those commissioned by ordination for this work. No one (except heretical sects) dreamt of lay presidency. But Augustine never thought of the Church as consisting in the clergy. The ministry was subordinate, a service. The continuity of the Church in the apostolic faith had its instrument and sign in ministerial order […] when Augustine looked for the authentication of the truth of the gospel he looked to the faith of the universal Church.”


[Augustine] expressly denied that holy Scripture represented the sole medium of divine revelation (S 12.4); but it represented the principle of authority which seemed central to Christian belief in a divinely given way of salvation for an ignorant and lost humanity. The authority of the Bible and Church rested on reciprocal support. Usage in the churches had determined the limits of the canon. Bible texts established the divinely constituted nature of the Church.

He made the observation that many heretics start from a mistaken or partisan interpretation of Scripture and, because they are both clever and proud, are reluctant to correct themselves. “It is part of a catholic disposition to express the wish to accept correction if one is mistaken” (DEP ii.5).”

Henry Chadwick. Augustine (1986, Oxford University Press)

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Cosmin sent me this great quote:

Hermeneutics is not a tidy, administrative process, going from point to point with syllogistic clarity. It meanders. It detours. It waits, sometimes in puzzlement, sometimes in wonder. But always it has a target. The Scriptures are not provided to feed our gossipy curiosity or legislate our barnyard morals: they examine our lives and invite our faith.”

Eugene H. Peterson, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1978 ) p 129

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… I may be going postmill. I’m not 100% sure, but I find Doug Wilson quite convincing, here (right click to save).

But I’ll pray (and think, and read) about it a bit more.

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