A few answers to Questions called Irrefutable. Well, Questions as such are not refuted. They are answered. But arguments are. Both answered and sometimes refuted./HGL
Answering the Challenge of Steve Rudd
First of all, his question is essentially the question of Bossuet. That French Bishop, of the city and diocese Meaux – adjective Meldensic – asked if Lutherans could prove themselves the one true Christianity from the Bible without defending Calvinists, if Calvinists could do it without defending Lutherans or Zwinglians, if Anglicans could do it without defending either Lutherans or Calvinists and so forth. The Protestant answer to this challenge has chrystallised into Fundamentalism: saying that the divisions between the named and between even Baptists and Child Baptisers among Protestants are non-Fundamentals. Among Fundamentals they put Bible, Bible of 66 books, Bible alone, and Rejection of Romanism on other grounds, such as rejecting what they suppose its superstitions.
There are Calvinists who reject that and say you must be a strict Calvinist to be saved.
It is sometimes allowable to learn from adversaries.
OK, if Ho Chi Minh is totally cynic with civilians, taking a village hostage to force it to force a woman to become a human bomb trapping French or US troops, obviously it is not a good thing to learn such cynicism towards civilians from Ho Chi Minh. But I have sometimes wondered if Catholics and Orthodox cannot learn a thing or two from the Fundamentalist (as opposed to Integral Calvinist) approach.
Steve Rudd is giving Catholics and Orthodox a similar challenge as the one Bossuet gave the Protestants a few centuries before Fundamentalism. Actually Pope Pius IX in his syllabus of errors in a way encourages this. He condemns the position
18. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church.—Encyclical “Noscitis,” Dec. 8, 1849.*
There is no indication directly in the syllabus (Noscitis et nobscum or Nostis et nobiscum does not mention the Orthodox, but only Italian contemporary adversaries of Catholicism: Socialism, Communism, Protestantism**) there that the same applies to Orthodox. Chèvetogne was encouraged by Pope Pius XI to engage in limited Roman-Russian ecumenism, until he later – Mortalium Animos – insisted even Orthodox must return to the true Church, i e are not already and still in it. Lumen Gentium and Benedict XVI both place the Orthodox higher as close to truth than Protestants. His predecessor’s rival claimant Gregorio XVII of Palmar de Troya had received a revelation with Our Lady – purportedly! – saying the Orthodox were close and would soon be united. Catholics without a Pope, commonly known as Sedisvacantists, have some of them/us proposed a Council for Traditional Remnants of Catholics and Orthodox Churches. Catholics – private laymen and in private conversations – of the Lefèbvre Traditionalist School have spontaneously said about former Swedish subjects in Russian captivity or under Russian occupation converting to Orthodoxy: “at least that is better than Protestantism”.
So here is the challenge of Rudd:
26. Name one sure way or method, that a new believer in Christ, can know that the Orthodox church is the one true church. (The challenge: make sure this method cannot apply also to the Roman Catholic church.)
27. Name one sure way or method, that a new believer in Christ, can know that the Roman Catholic church is the one true church. (The challenge: make sure this method cannot apply also to the Orthodox church.)***
Well, did Bossuet give you a similar challenge? Why not give a similar answer to you as the Fundamentalists are to his?
But before doing so, let us note that this might be objectively as unacceptable as the Fundamentalist answer is according to a Calvinist. So, maybe a new believer really has to choose between Rome and Orthodoxy and cannot have both: but even if that is true, at least the wrong choice between the two would for not only an atheist but even a Protestant be a step in the right direction. Note that steps in the right direction may prove finally to be traps.
I did however set out to state to myself the doctrinal prerequisites for Catholics and Orthodox both being the one true Church.
In Christology there is the Nestorian position which at least according to Church Historians says that in Christ there is not just two natures, but two persons. There is the Monophysite position which at least according to Church Historians says the opposite: there is not just one single person, but one single nature. And there is the Chalcedonian position which states that Christ is one Person, the Eternal Son of the Father, Second Person of the Trinity being the very same person as Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah of the Jews, but with two natures, which cannot be separate because they are natures of a single person, but cannot mix either, His divine nature remaining divine, His human nature remaining human.
In the Chalcedonian and main party of the Apostolic Churches, there are mainly two positions that collide as Nestorians and Monophysite collide. Papism – the typical Roman Catholic position when most colliding with Orthodox – saying your bishop has to be in communion with and obeying the Pope of Ancient Rome for your communion with him to be salvific. Since otherwise your bishop is a schismatic. Photianism – the typical Greek Orthodox position when most colliding with Roman Catholics – saying your bishop must not believe the Holy Ghost proceeds from both Father and Son for your communion with him to be salvific. Since otherwise your bishop is a heretic. There are two ways of combining them, one of which contradicts itself due to historic circumstances. The Popes of Ancient Rome have since Florence Council at least said that the Holy Ghost proceeding from both Father and Son is an obligatory dogma, without believing which you cannot be saved. If they have eased up a bit lately, that does not mean there were no centuries when there would have been logically impossible to have a bishop who was neither Schismatic according to strict Papism nor Heretic according to strict Photianism. So saying Papism and Photianism both oblige is contradictory.
Saying however that neither is strictly necessary is not. There are Latin Roman Catholics who quite believing the eternal procession of the Holy Ghost to be from both Father and Son, do not strictly believe the Pope of Ancient Rome must at every moment be adhered to in communion and by obedience. Bossuet is one example, he was a Gallican. Jansenists are another example – they are heretics about freewill, like Calvinists, but they examplify this position. The Little Church said that Pope Pius VII became an Apostate by crowning Napoleon I. If you have seen the painting, you know he did not. Napoleon took the crown out of the Pope’s hands and crowned himself before – moment recorded in the painting – crowning his wife. Pius VII only looked on. But Little Church theologians have claimed Pius VII and subsequent Popes are apostates and that communion and obedience is therefore no longer possible. Logically that means, they are not strict and necessary parts of the Divine Constitution of the Church. Sedesvacantists take same take on Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, except Palmarians who limit it to the last three, and some other who might limit it to the last two. They also say there is a time in the Church – right now – when obedience to the Pope of Rome is not possible for a Christian. Therefore, logically, that it is not always obligatory. Abbé de Nantes qualified recent Popes as being “material but not formal Popes” – like corpses being material but not formal men. They are nothing totally other but there is an essential thing lacking. A corpse is not alive as a man, and to abbé de Nantes recent Popes are not alive as Popes. Mgr Lefèbvre has taken the right to resist a Pope who is thoughtlessly attacking the Church by a bad decision – confer St Paul resisting St Peter, Galatians! – to neither disobeying nor actually and effectively obeying Popes that are “habitually thoughtless” through a bad doctrine which nevertheless cannot be judged as heresy because no one has a right to condemn the Pope and the position as such has not yet been condemned.
But if Photianism does not oblige, Roman Catholics are not outside the Church for believing filioque, and if Papism does not oblige, it is not for not obeying the Pope that Orthodox would be so either.°
This is the case, such as it is at best, for a Cathodox mirror of Fundamentalism.°
There are some hickups, hinges and quirks, though. Try to live that position – I have – and Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox may ruin your life, some by excommunications, others by treating you as a visionary who has to be a true prophet in order not to be a false prophet. But for my part, I claimed to have understanding, not prophecy, nor the duties that go with prophecy. This has not been respected.°
Another one is this: both Catholics and Orthodox accept Nicean Council of the Iconoclastic controversy, second in that city, seventh ecumenic council. It states that Pope and other Patriarchs of the Pentarchy have a right to convoke a Council. But not only the Pope, the other Pentarchs also convoked the council of Florence. So, Orthodox logically would have to accept Florence as valid, Photianism as illicit and Papism as compulsory. They answer by saying it was a council made in political duress. But their main reason for rejecting it is – Photianism. Saying the Pope Eugene IV and the Council were Heretical.
So, no, one cannot safely recommend this third option. I cannot, at least. But that does not mean that they do not share lots of common ground on which to answer the questions by Steve Rudd.
° I have made my choice and am Catholic, accepting, provisorically, Pope Michael as the true Pope.
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