Sunday, August 26, 2007

Principles of Catholic apologetics

The following reproduces a response I gave on Energetic Procession:

It seems that Sungenis noted the same monothelitism in White's position, and the creatio ex nihilo point is another one that I had in mind when I pointed out that White is granting too much to Mormonism. He's more or less a sitting duck for the arguments of Blake Ostler (note that the linked article is direct evidence of an LDS apologist making the very same argument you suggest could be made by open theists). It's hardly a coincidence that Mormons view Jewish anthropomorphism as philosophically normative; that appears to be what sola scriptura entails.

I can't say that I see much merit in the more general suggestion of how Catholics should argue with Protestants. The primary refutation of sola scriptura is that it is absurd as a matter of natural theology and that its conclusions deny certain conclusions of natural theology. The filioque is not a matter of natural theology. The arguments for the filioque merely show that it is consistent with reason, not that the filioque is true (which is why it's a misrepresentation of the Western filioque to confuse it with the dialectically based philosophical argument).

Sure, it might demonstrate inconsistency in the methodology to show that Protestants accept things that they oughtn't, but the Catholic concern is primarily the acceptance of truth, natural or revealed, so our goal is to demonstrate contradictions with what is real, not general internal critiques of someone's methodology. We care far more about people being wrong than why they are wrong. I couldn't care less what someone's "worldview" is, because reality renders one's "worldview" irrelevant for matters of metaphysics and natural theology. Reality is what it is, and everyone knows it regardless of their private conceptions.

The fact that intelligent people disagree simply demonstrates the human capacity to conceive of the unreal, which is precisely why demonstrating internal inconsistency is a wild goose chase (one that I thought Godel would have ended by demonstrating its hopelessness). The only thing that demonstrates truth or falsity is denial of actual knowledge about reality, period. Conversely, if one is willing to accept a contradiction, one can be consistent in proving all sorts of untrue things, so the problem is not inconsistency, but untruth. Since Protestants lack formed faith (hence, knowledge of most revealed truths), all I can do is show a denial of what they know or should know by natural reason or that an argument from natural reason that they make is invalid or unsound. Beyond that, I simply have to wait on the grace of God.

For that same reason, I find the reliance of historical Protestant confessions or other Christian confessions equally fruitless. Because Protestant faith is typically unformed, I have no idea whether they actually believe any of those propositions by faith, and I suspect that in most cases, they believe things inconsistent with them. So why would I make an argument based on their belief on the filioque when I honestly think that they don't believe it (or at least, don't believe it according to any coherent concept)?

I'm amenable to the suggestion that the denial of any doctrine of faith (including the Assumption) by someone who hasn't even justified his own argument for selecting doctrines of faith is absurd. But it seems a great deal more straightforward simply to point out that he started from a contradiction, such as holding Scripture as the ultimate epistemological authority.

14 Comments:

At 11:01 PM, Blogger TJW said...

Hello Jonathan

Is there a technical way to distinguish between different types of authority? Say, for example, (1) is a leading expert in a field, (2A) is a constitution and (2B) is a judge. It's accurate to describe all three as 'authorities' but are there words that assist in distinguishing between them? Example (1) is 'authority' in the sense that he or she has expertise that can be reasonably relied upon, whereas examples (2A) and (2B) compel obedience. And (2A) is an authority, in the legal sense but it's not the same kind of legal authority as (2B) because (2B) makes determinations whereas (2A) can't actually 'determine' anything by itself.

I guess what I'm asking for is how do I draw a distinction between all these types of authority without having to explain what I mean each time? For example, is it correct to call (1) 'expert authority' and (2) 'legal or jurisdictional authority'? I could probably find out how each is referred to in the literature but I don't have the time at the moment to go through and learn the relevant philosophy and political theory.

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

tjw:
I had a very productive discussion with Dr. Tim McGrew, a well-regarded Protestant epistemologist, on that same subject here

I would argue that there is an equivocation between persuasive authority and binding authority, and within binding authority, another distinction between formal authority and material authority. Persuasive authority is simply what one believes because one suspects that testimony is reliable based on someone else's knowledge or reasoning. Binding authority possesses normative authority for pronouncing on the state of some or another thing according to formal system. Binding authority consists of formal authority (i.e., human beings invested with authority in some of their acts, so that what they issue in their formal capacity has binding force) and material authority (i.e., the body of previous law created by such authoritative acts, such as the Constitutions, statutes, or binding judicial decisions). Your term "determine" is apt for the acts of a binding authority, because it gives some definite form and decides the boundaries.

My argument was essentially that, for anything to function as a binding authority, it must actually be able to bindingly resolve every dispute coming under the auspices of the formal system. That means, ultimately, that if any interpretation of any material authority can be disputed, there has to be some human authority that has the power to finally resolve it, even if that power isn't exercised. Otherwise, in the end, all you have is persuasive authority, and the hope that there is actually an answer to be had if reasonable people simply exercise their God-given reason.

The problem I see with sola scriptura in that regard is that there is no good cause for granting authority to Scripture in the first place, so there is never more than merely probable and rebuttable warrant for any particular conclusion drawn. And unlike the case of science, there's no good cause for thinking that exegesis of Scripture produces knowledge in the first place, because unlike science, its normative standards aren't justified by first principles. Thus, I don't see any reason for hope that rational investigation of Scripture produces any definite answers, and I don't see any reason to think that Scripture can function even as a persuasive authority.

One can do what conservative Evangelicals do, which is a bare, unjustified assertion of properties like inerrancy, wholeness, etc., of Scripture, which is effectively to conjure a normative authority out of nowhere. This is basically saying that Scripture is a binding authority, but as a text, it can't be anything more than a material authority. And just as with any material authority, you run into the difficulty of the system being unable to function if there are any legitimate disputes within the confines of the system or indeed even to decide what the confines of the system are. There's no appeal, no process by which decisions or definitions can be given that are not merely persuasive; it's a legal system with no courts and no authority, which is just anarchy. And as I said earlier, persuasive authorities are meaningless if they can't be justified by first principles, and they rest on areas where judgment can legitimately differ even if they are so justified.

From my perspective, that means that there is literally no hope for sola scriptura as a truth-seeking activity; it has no way of arriving at definitively true theological propositions. Every allegedly divinely revealed conclusion is only as good as its weakest normative link, and there is not even a coherent way of defining what the normative principles are. Unless God has invested some definite class of people with formal divine authority (and there might be legitimate disputes of judgment as to who those people are, but one has to at least think that there are such people), the situation for arriving at theological truth outside of natural theology is hopeless.

That is a good and sufficient reason for presuming that ANY form of divine revelation also includes the appointment of definite individuals with the power to resolve these matters. One might question exactly WHICH group of people it is, and that is essentially the quarrel between Catholics and Orthodox: what sort of authority is necessary? I am obviously persuaded by the notion that the papacy has formal superiority and the right of appeal in all cases of disputes, even if it was not exercised of necessity until later. The Orthodox believe that consensus of the orthodox bishops. I would argue that even consensus has to have a formal measure, and that communion with Rome serves as the formal metric for eligibility of bishops to participate in the formal process with binding results. But in either case, it is simply a question over the nature of formal authority in the system, not a denial that there is such a system.

Internal disputes over formal authority are not uncommon in any system (look at various constitutional crises in American history, for example), but at least the common commitment to produce some consistent practice with what has gone before provides some hope for a binding resolution. If you don't grant at least that there CAN be such resolution, then there is no possibility of there being any such thing. Protestantism could not have resolved the Great Western Schism, for example, because the identification of a Pope by Constance would not have resolved anything. Conversely, when the identification of a Pope did succeed, then it became quite plain that the Pope's authority was quite independent of the Council of Constance's limited authority to identify the Pope. The point is that without a commitment to a system of formal authority in the first place, such disputes can't even be resolved with any sort of continuity in principle.

That's a long answer, but this is a complicated issue that has received little of the consideration it deserves.

 
At 3:28 PM, Blogger TJW said...

That answered my question. Thanks for taking the time to reply. I'll have a look through your discussion with McGrew soon.

 
At 4:15 PM, Blogger Tim Enloe said...

Jonathan,

How I am curious what you understand the term "sola Scriptura" to mean and / or entail. Do you make any allowances for, say, the distinction between Evangelical "Bible Onlyism" and what is found in such statements as Chapter 31 of the Westminster Confession regarding the binding ministerial authority of Church councils, even in matters of conscience.

Also, I do wish you'd take more care in how you speak of Scripture in relationship to humans knowing truth. Even assuming the falsity of sola Scriptura as you do, you surely do not want to talk of Scripture in a manner that runs clean contrary to the Fathers and the Medievals, who never once at any time ever even remotely implied that reading Scripture does not result in knowledge of God. I can only assume you're doing something more sophisticated than just reacting against the positivism of Evangelical apologists, but I really do think you should take more care in your language. Holy Scripture is not just a collection of books like any other. Whatever is "Scripture" is, as Jesus reminded the Pharisees, the very voice of God speaking to them.

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Do you make any allowances for, say, the distinction between Evangelical "Bible Onlyism" and what is found in such statements as Chapter 31 of the Westminster Confession regarding the binding ministerial authority of Church councils, even in matters of conscience.

It's possible that there could be some concept of ministerial authority, although it would be difficult to understand how such authority could be revisable for matters of theological truth. If they have the authority to say "this is a matter of definitive theological truth," then it's not clear to me how they could ever later say that it was otherwise. On the other hand, if they can simply say "this is a matter of theological truth to the best of our knowledge," then it's not clear what basis there would be for the decision being binding, since there's no clear finality. I confess that I don't know how to conceive of a binding authority whose decisions are not final, and with respect to theological truth, I see no way that a final, binding decision could logically be revisable. That was one of the thorns in Protestantism that Perry never did manage to extract, and I don't know how to do it either. If there is one problem that I think Protestantism must solve, it is this one.

Also, I do wish you'd take more care in how you speak of Scripture in relationship to humans knowing truth. Even assuming the falsity of sola Scriptura as you do, you surely do not want to talk of Scripture in a manner that runs clean contrary to the Fathers and the Medievals, who never once at any time ever even remotely implied that reading Scripture does not result in knowledge of God. I can only assume you're doing something more sophisticated than just reacting against the positivism of Evangelical apologists, but I really do think you should take more care in your language. Holy Scripture is not just a collection of books like any other. Whatever is "Scripture" is, as Jesus reminded the Pharisees, the very voice of God speaking to them.

To be clear, the reason that Scripture speaks as God is because there is a knowable relation between God and the reader that precedes and justifies Scriptural authority. A mere assertion is not a justification; one can't say "The Holy Spirit witnessed to me" unless there is some knowable way of verifying this. Likewise, one cannot simply assert that Scripture is inerrant, infallible, perfect, etc., because there is no knowable basis for saying so. The Fathers and Medievals knew Scripture was true, because they knew of their real relation to the Body of Christ in the Church.

And BTW, I think they would and did maintain that reading Scripture does NOT result in knowledge of God when the person reading Scripture is heretical, schismatic, or otherwise disordered. Scripture is obviously not relevatory to the atheist or the non-Christian, so there is nothing in the text itself or anything else discoverable by mundane means that renders Scripture revelatory. Calvin's notion that God accommodated Himself to human expression in Scripture strikes me as completely inconsistent with what the Fathers and Schoolmen believed about the spiritual content of Scripture. As far as I can tell, that's not divine revelation at all; it's treating Scripture as a mere collection of books extrinsically linked together by some randomly asserted and unjustified hermeneutical principles. So again, my difficulty is that I don't understand how the normative authority of Scripture can be justified without a knowable divine witness behind it. Otherwise, Scriptural authority is just a matter of judgment about what is more or less just a collection of books. That doesn't seem to be what the Fathers or Schoolmen meant by theological knowledge.

I apologize if that analysis seems reflexive or dismissive, but the language is accurate. I do not think there is any basis for thinking that Scripture, viewed as a collection of mere books authored by whomever, teaches theological truth on that account. I think that is exactly how most Protestants view Scripture, as a collection of books in which God just happens to have written what He needs us to know for anyone who will bother to read them carefully.

 
At 6:09 PM, Blogger Tim Enloe said...

Ok, I was just interested in clarifying the terms being used. As with the other thread I commented on, it seems rather pointless for me to continue talking in the absence of a more defined (refined?) grasp of the metaphysical and epistemological principles being relied upon.

Thanks for the explanation.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Joseph said...

Jonathan,

Check out this classic:

**“The problem I see with sola scriptura in that regard is that there is no good cause for granting authority to Scripture in the first place, so there is never more than merely probable and rebuttable warrant for any particular conclusion drawn.”**

"Well, I suppose we should at least commend Jonathan for his candid infidelity. For him, the Word of God has no intrinsic authority. For him, the Word of God has no inherent credibility. Whatever authority we credit to Scripture is a purely secondary and derivative authority which is conferred on Scripture by some extrinsic locus of authority."

WOW, good one Steve. My undergraduate philosophy professor used this (on the first day of class in an introductory course) as a textbook example of sloppy thinking among Christians. Why is the Bible the Word of God? Because it says so. Why trust the Bible? Because God wrote it. How do you know God wrote it? Because the Bible says so...etc...etc...etc...

What in the world can it mean for Scripture to have "intrinsic authority" or "inherent credibility?"

Joseph

 
At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Interlocutor said...

Why is the RCC the church that gives Scripture its divine witness? Because it says so. Why trust the RCC? Because it says so. How do you know the RCC is divinely ordained? Because it says so...etc...etc...etc...

Does the RCC have "intrinsic authority"? If it does, how is that determined differently than someone's claims for the same for scripture?

I freely admit I am probably butchering Jonathan's thinking in the following as I am not trained as he is but perhaps I can convey something in the mess -
As Steve brought up, a common Protestant objection to the issues Jonathan raises is the precedent set in the OT. His claim is apparently that one should not consider any church as plausible that does not claim some type of infallible authority (ability to make irreformable judgments on dogma). Any other form of the church is incoherent.
From his previous post, this model was achieved in the OT because God was directly interacting with his people on earth with the ark and angels and prophets speaking for God and so forth. I just want to know where the OT equivalent or shadow of the RCC magisterium that grants scripture "divine witness" existed during the entire OT-era - what was the ongoing institution (not just isolated events - once the prophet left, were the believers just left hopeless again? Why was the leadership in Jesus' day mishandling Scripture?) that was continually granting divine witness to the OT scriptures? He seems to imply that you could only plausibly believe in sola scriptura if you believed the copy of the bible in your hand was not just a copy but actually of divine origin - that would give it the divine witness which would give it power. So apparently OT believers would be unable to believe in the Ten Commandments if a fellow believer wrote them down or orally communicated them to him; he would have to personally read the original tablets themselves.

I'm just confused as to how the arguments he's putting forth are consistent with the OT model as well as why the issues he raises with Scripture's authority cannot be also raised with the RCC or any other church claiming infallible authority.

 
At 2:20 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Joseph:
What in the world can it mean for Scripture to have "intrinsic authority" or "inherent credibility?"

It means nothing; it's nonsense. It's like saying that Scripture contains a square circle.

Interlocutor:
Does the RCC have "intrinsic authority"? If it does, how is that determined differently than someone's claims for the same for scripture?

Easy: because it does the acts of God. Scripture is not an agent that can perform divine acts. When I'm making a claim about the Catholic Church, I am pointing to specific, real acts and saying "God did that particular thing." I don't see Scripture bestowing the Holy Spirit in baptism, forgiving sins in the name of God, confecting the Body and Blood of Christ on an altar, etc. I've experienced miracles worked by the Church, actual, concrete instances of God's work. Most Protestants not only don't have this; they don't even claim to have it. What they claim is that the Holy Spirit told them something in their hearts or whatnot, and frankly, I don't believe either that He did or that there is any real way to know that He did. If there are no acts of God being performed by a church, if they are mere works of human obedience, then there is absolutely no reason to have faith in whatever they preach.

You can't rationally have faith in anything but divine acts, not accounts of divine acts, not description of divine acts. You personally have to have experience of some concrete divine act for you to have faith, because faith is a cognitive faculty.

The problem is that people have such a sorry concept of what knowledge is these days that they think that improper knowledge (what you believe because someone tells you) is proper knowledge. It isn't. You only know what you yourself have experience, and most of what you think you "know" has not been verified by experience and doesn't count as knowledge at all. Faith is like knowledge; it's not something you can have by belief in what someone tells you.

I just want to know where the OT equivalent or shadow of the RCC magisterium that grants scripture "divine witness" existed during the entire OT-era - what was the ongoing institution (not just isolated events - once the prophet left, were the believers just left hopeless again? Why was the leadership in Jesus' day mishandling Scripture?) that was continually granting divine witness to the OT scriptures? He seems to imply that you could only plausibly believe in sola scriptura if you believed the copy of the bible in your hand was not just a copy but actually of divine origin - that would give it the divine witness which would give it power. So apparently OT believers would be unable to believe in the Ten Commandments if a fellow believer wrote them down or orally communicated them to him; he would have to personally read the original tablets themselves.

Not necessarily personally read them but have some direct experience of them. The Ark containing the tablets, for example, was constructed according to direct divine instruction, so knowing the Ark would provide sufficient basis for faith (one might reasonably move from that basis to the authority of the priests, for example). The point is that there has to be something real, tangible, sensible, in which faith can perceive God's act, for faith to be rational. And yes, the Israelites were by and large hopeless between these divine interventions, and often God deliberately deprived everyone (apart from a remnant) of any sort of divine guidance as punishment for disobedience.

The OT is essentially a model of failure. It shows how precarious the relationship with God was before Christ, which shows precisely the enormous benefit that the Incarnation has gained for us. No matter what God gave them, the Israelites spurned it. Ten Commandments (cf. Ex. 32:26-28)? The Ark? The Law (cf. 2 Kgs. 22)? A king? A temple? They could have had faith in all of these shadows of Christ, but the point was that nothing ever worked, there was no "ongoing institution" because none of these things could provide a sure basis for the faith of the Israelites. That's why the Pharisees didn't know the Scriptures; the Scriptures are useless for those who don't know God through faith (Matt. 22:29). That passage is not saying "you should have known the Scriptures;" it's saying "you should have known what would have made the Scriptures useful for you."

That's the whole point; we expect the Christian faith to be an improvement over this. We expect that the Christian Church will be self-sustaining in a way that Israel was not. We expect the object of faith to be superior, and indeed, it is the Body of Christ Himself. If God were simply going to leave us with Scripture, we'd actually be worse off than even the Israelites. That seems counterintuitive at best.

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger Joseph said...

Jonathan,

Excellent points. One must take into account the ways in which dynamic has changed in terms of how God relates to man under the two covenants. Under the Mosaic, God spoke to his people through some intermediary means, be it Torah or through the prophetic office. Under the New coveneant, since the Church is the Body of Christ, God does not have to communicate information about himself to his people by external means. The way I see it, most of protestantism seems to follow God the way the Israelites followed Torah, without a change in how this dynamic is effected by the *Incarnation* and the Cross/Resurrection.

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

I see it the same way, and one wonders what Emmanuel is supposed to mean if that is true. What it really comes down to is sorry philosophy. Calvin believed that the Ascension meant that Christ wasn't "here" anymore, but at the right hand of the Father. That's a particularly incompetent (and indeed Nestorian) read of the hypostatic union that basically kills any real possibility of divinization. If you read St. Cyril of Alexandria, for example, it would contradict his entire notion of salvation.

 
At 12:45 AM, Blogger Tim Enloe said...

Ok, I don't have to know Zubiri or any of the Thomistic works you've been reading to ask this question. You say that "knowledge" isn't knowledge if it isn't empirically gained, via experience. Any other "knowledge" claim just isn't "knowledge" at all. Well:

One of my old apologetics teachers taught me that a major problem with strong forms of empiricism is that they can't empirically verify their assertion that all knowledge is empirically-based. Just as positivism's verification principle cannot be verified by its own standard, neither can empiricism's claim be verified by its own principle.

So, Jonathan, I'm afraid that my ignorance of Zubiri and sophisticated Thomist metaphysics notwithstanding, I have to play devil's advocate here and ask you if you have empirical-experiential verification that no one else has (or can have) forms of knowledge--particularly related to Scripture--that are not empirical-experiential. You rather doubt, you claim, that anyone has an internal witness of the Holy Spirit as Calvin speaks of regarding Holy Scripture, but I guess it's pretty easy to just gratuitously deny what you gratuitously assert.

I'm afraid you're going to have to empirically prove that no one does have (or can have) knowledge of Scripture and of God that does not conform to the expectations of your empiricism. And here's where, I think, you're going to find yourself in a nice neat little circle--just like the Reformed presuppositionalism you criticize.

 
At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Interlocutor said...

"Easy: because it does the acts of God. Scripture is not an agent that can perform divine acts. When I'm making a claim about the Catholic Church, I am pointing to specific, real acts and saying "God did that particular thing." I don't see Scripture bestowing the Holy Spirit in baptism, forgiving sins in the name of God, confecting the Body and Blood of Christ on an altar, etc."

You keep saying, it seems, "how do we KNOW scripture has authority if sola scriptura is true" and then you just throw these statements out which the same question could easily be asked - "how do we KNOW these are acts of God, how do we KNOW the church claiming to do this in God's name is in reality actually doing this in God's name".

"I've experienced miracles worked by the Church, actual, concrete instances of God's work. Most Protestants not only don't have this; they don't even claim to have it. What they claim is that the Holy Spirit told them something in their hearts or whatnot, and frankly, I don't believe either that He did or that there is any real way to know that He did."

So how is there any real way to know that you've actually experienced these miracles or for me to believe you did?

"If there are no acts of God being performed by a church, if they are mere works of human obedience, then there is absolutely no reason to have faith in whatever they preach."

Baptism, the Lord's Supper, the preaching of the gospel are works of God, I would say.

"You can't rationally have faith in anything but divine acts, not accounts of divine acts, not description of divine acts. You personally have to have experience of some concrete divine act for you to have faith, because faith is a cognitive faculty."

Isn't regeneration (either a Reformed notion or baptismal regeneration) a concrete divine act? Isn't preaching the gospel a divine act? Many divine acts occur outside of the RCC, or if they are not really divine, how do you know this and how do you know the RCC is actually performing divine acts.

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Tim:
So, Jonathan, I'm afraid that my ignorance of Zubiri and sophisticated Thomist metaphysics notwithstanding, I have to play devil's advocate here and ask you if you have empirical-experiential verification that no one else has (or can have) forms of knowledge--particularly related to Scripture--that are not empirical-experiential. You rather doubt, you claim, that anyone has an internal witness of the Holy Spirit as Calvin speaks of regarding Holy Scripture, but I guess it's pretty easy to just gratuitously deny what you gratuitously assert.

I'm afraid you're going to have to empirically prove that no one does have (or can have) knowledge of Scripture and of God that does not conform to the expectations of your empiricism. And here's where, I think, you're going to find yourself in a nice neat little circle--just like the Reformed presuppositionalism you criticize.


I think I have a relatively easy out; I'm claiming knowledge of a thing outside myself, and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit isn't. The basic tenet of Thomist metaphysics is that there is no such thing as self-caused knowledge; nothing can be known based on the operation of the intellect itself, because the intellect can't be the source of its own act. The internal witness of the Holy Spirit is either a claim that one can know something by the intellect's own act (which is absurd) or a claim that the intellect's act itself is supernatural. So far as I understand it, the claim of internal witness is not a claim of believing something that is beyond the capacity of human intellect to believe, unlike the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity claimed by Catholicism.

Interlocutor:
You keep saying, it seems, "how do we KNOW scripture has authority if sola scriptura is true" and then you just throw these statements out which the same question could easily be asked - "how do we KNOW these are acts of God, how do we KNOW the church claiming to do this in God's name is in reality actually doing this in God's name".

Ya gotta have faith. That's the only answer there is. There's a supernatural faculty that you either have, or you don't, and if that supernatural faculty is working as it should, you'll know. Not to be obtuse, but that's just part of faith being a gift of God and not a natural entitlement.

So how is there any real way to know that you've actually experienced these miracles or for me to believe you did?

If you mean apart from faith, then there isn't. You might form a probable judgment on the matter, but even then, you wouldn't actually know. Apologetics is about removing rational objections, not doubts.

Baptism, the Lord's Supper, the preaching of the gospel are works of God, I would say.

I agree with baptism, provided that one perceives its capacity as a supernatural act. The others are within human capacity, and thus, they aren't supernatural acts and aren't "works of God" in the sense that I meant.

Isn't regeneration (either a Reformed notion or baptismal regeneration) a concrete divine act? Isn't preaching the gospel a divine act? Many divine acts occur outside of the RCC, or if they are not really divine, how do you know this and how do you know the RCC is actually performing divine acts.

I believe that there are divine acts performed outside the Church, including baptism in Protestant churches and all seven Sacraments in the Orthodox churches. I don't believe that most Protestant churches use these as the basis of other doctrines, and it's unclear to me whether they even could coherently do so given the lack of the fullness of the faith (all the proper proximate objects of faith).

 

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