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Evangelicals and Catholics, Not Together

posted by awelborn

There’s a quite interesting piece in the WSJ today about professor’s faith and religious colleges and universities.

The general point concerns some institutions’ determination to beef up their particular religious identity. Notre Dame is mentioned as committed and succeeding in this regard, and Boston College is noted:

At another Catholic school, Boston College, some administrators would like to hire more people committed to its religious mission, but its faculty has proved "particularly resistant," says a 2004 report by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. To achieve its goals, the college is contemplating establishing research centers on Catholic intellectual tradition and Catholic education. Georgetown University, also a prominent Catholic school, appointed its first vice president for mission and ministry, a Jesuit priest, in 2003.

Now, giving us Catholics an especially interesting portion to chew on here is the central story of the piece, which concerns a Wheaton professor who converted to Catholicism and…was fired.

Wheaton, like many evangelical colleges, requires full-time faculty members to be Protestants and sign a statement of belief in "biblical doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity." In a letter notifying Mr. Hochschild of the college’s decision, Wheaton’s president said his "personal desire" to retain "a gifted brother in Christ" was outweighed by his duty to employ "faculty who embody the institution’s evangelical Protestant convictions."

Mr. Hochschild, 33 years old, who was considered by his department a shoo-in for tenure, says he’s still willing to sign the Wheaton faith statement. He left last spring, taking a 10% pay cut and roiling his family life, to move to a less-renowned Catholic college.

It is worth noting that before coming into full communion, this professor was Episcopalian, signed the statement, and had no problem. Are Episcopalians sola Scriptura? I didn’t think so.

When he got his doctorate, Mr. Hochschild was offered jobs by Wheaton and a Catholic school — Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. Says Carol Hinds, a former Mount St. Mary’s provost: "He was a Protestant, but he was a faithful person. He could contribute to the mission." Feeling "in between" the two schools’ spiritual traditions, Mr. Hochschild chose Wheaton.

He signed Wheaton’s faith statement, which asserts that the Bible is "inerrant," meaning without error, and "of supreme and final authority." Wheaton President Mr. Litfin asked in a job interview how Mr. Hochschild understood that passage, according to their later correspondence. Mr. Hochschild said he agreed, but added that the Bible should be read in light of "authoritative traditions," an example of which would be church councils. Although that view is closer to Catholicism than evangelical Protestantism, the president approved the appointment.

Mr. Hochschild got on well with colleagues and students, and University of Notre Dame Press agreed to publish his revised dissertation. "He was excellent on every score," says Wheaton’s philosophy department chairman, Robert O’Connor.

Yet a question nagged Mr. Hochschild: Why am I not a Catholic? As he saw it, evangelical Protestantism was vaguely defined and had a weak scholarly tradition, which sharpened his admiration for Catholicism’s self-assurance and intellectual history. "I even had students who asked me why I wasn’t Catholic," he says. "I didn’t have a decent answer."

His wife, Paige, said her husband’s distaste for the "evangelical suspicion of philosophy" at the school might have contributed to his ultimate conversion. The Hochschilds say some evangelicals worry that learning about philosophy undermines students’ religious convictions.

During a 2003 academic conference at Notre Dame, Mr. Hochschild revealed his anguish to another attendee, a priest. The priest replied that Mr. Hochschild seemed, in his heart, to have already embraced Catholicism. Although he had taken Communion in the Episcopalian church, Mr. Hochschild realized after the conversation that he longed to "obey the Gospel commands to eat the flesh of Christ [as a Catholic]." Returning home, he signed up for a Catholic initiation class.

Aware of Wheaton’s Protestants-only policy, Mr. Hochschild recalls thinking he would probably lose his job. In September 2003, he told the philosophy chairman, Mr. O’Connor, of his intention to convert. Hoping Mr. Hochschild could stay, Mr. O’Connor notified the administration.

In general, Catholics believe the Pope is the final authority on religious matters. Protestants reject that authority and generally profess a direct relationship between the individual and the Almighty.

A months-long debate followed between President Litfin and Mr. Hochschild. They argued over whether the professor could subscribe to Wheaton’s faith statement, which faculty must reaffirm annually. Like most evangelical colleges, Wheaton bases its employment practices on such a document.

Wheaton’s 12-point statement doesn’t explicitly exclude Catholics. But its emphasis on Scripture as the "supreme and final authority" and its aligning of Wheaton with "evangelical Christianity" were unmistakably Protestant, Mr. Litfin wrote to Mr. Hochschild in late 2003. Because Catholics regard the Bible and the pope as equally authoritative, a Catholic "cannot faithfully affirm" the Wheaton statement, he continued.

Now, those of us who spend time kvetching about Catholic universities being drained of Catholic identity are obliged, it seems, to give Wheaton due props for seeking to maintain its identity. However, the move still grates, mostly because the fellow was teaching medieval philosophy, for pete’s sake.  I’m not saying that an evangelical Christian cannot teach this material, or that a Roman Catholic is automatically more suited simply because of his or her faith, but it seems to me that if you’ve bent enough to include courses that touch on, you know, Catholicism…how do you justify excluding Catholics from teaching?

Meanwhile, Wheaton hasn’t replaced Mr. Hochschild. One obstacle: Most scholars of medieval philosophy are Catholics.



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michigancatholic

posted January 7, 2006 at 9:59 pm


Because it’s a protestant school, they know what they’re supposed to believe, they know who pays the bills and they’re true to their mission.
We could learn from them how to stick to our own guns. We could at least admire their guts. We don’t have any most of the time.



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michigancatholic

posted January 7, 2006 at 10:00 pm


Besides, a high profile convert like that is a great thing. Reminds me of Newman. Wheaton’s loss. Our gain.



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Art Deco

posted January 7, 2006 at 10:00 pm


Justified thus:
1. There are likely others in the academic labor pool who capable of teaching medieval philosophy and are fully on board with Wheaton College’s institutional mission;
2. If there are not such, medieval philosophy is not an indispensible part of the curriculum;
3. That a comprehensive prohibition on the employment of those who are not Protestant Christians is more readily retained in the institutional memory and set of habits than a murkier qualified prohibition;
4. That there may be a sharply circumscribed number of sustainable equilibria in academic institutional life in our time: i.e. that you may have a choice of maintaining an institutional mission through somewhat crude decision rules or to see the institution decompose into a holding company composed of faculty of standard type who fancy themselves as the institution’s proprietors and who would be “particularly resistant” to any effort to restore the institution’s foundational purposes;
5. You cannot tell readily in advance whether you can establish a happy medium or not, so it is best to maintain risk-averse options.



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tcreek

posted January 7, 2006 at 10:30 pm


The Catholic Church requires a “statement of belief” as does Wheaton.
It is not enforced. Too extreme, I suppose.
The Code of Canon Law, Canon 833, Nos. 5-8
—-
The following are obliged to take an Oath of Fidelity and to make the Profession of Faith:
vicars general, episcopal vicars and judicial vicars; “at the beginning of their term of office, pastors, the rector of a seminary and the professors of theology and philosophy in seminaries; those to be promoted to the diaconate”; “the rectors of an ecclesiastical or Catholic university at the beginning of the rector’s term of office”; and, “at the beginning of their term of office, teachers in any universities whatsoever who teach disciplines which deal with faith or morals”; and “superiors in clerical religious institutes and societies of apostolic life in accord with the norm of the constitutions.”
Oath of Fidelity
I, N., on assuming the office __________ promise that I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church whether in the words I speak or in the way I act.
With great care and fidelity I shall carry out the responsibilities by which I am bound in relation both to the universal church and to the particular church in which I am called to exercise my service according to the requirements of the law.
In carrying out my charge, which is committed to me in the name of the church, I shall preserve the deposit of faith in its entirety, hand it on faithfully and make it shine forth. As a result, whatsoever teachings are contrary I shall shun.
I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the whole church and shall look after the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those which are contained in the Code of Canon Law.
With Christian obedience I shall associate myself with what is expressed by the holy shepherds as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith or established by them as the church’s rulers. And I shall faithfully assist diocesan bishops so that apostolic activity, to be exercised by the mandate and in the name of the church, is carried out in the communion of the same church.
May God help me in this way and the holy Gospels of God which I touch with my hands.
—-



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michigancatholic

posted January 7, 2006 at 10:41 pm


Anyone who works for the church should have to proclaim this in public. I’m sorry, but we have way too many fakes out there.



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Margaret

posted January 7, 2006 at 10:53 pm


I agree with Wheaton College and with the posters who think Catholic colleges and universities should have as much courage of their convictions.
It seems like the WSJ is just trying to promote a controversy.



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Elaine

posted January 7, 2006 at 10:58 pm


As I started reading the article this morning I got as far as the first sentence about the professor teaching St. Thomas Aquinas and had a strong suspicion where his part of the story was going.
I also wonder why being Episcopal wasn’t a problem – no Pope? But then why the ban on Orthodox, too? And how, knowing how the school intends the faith statement to be interpreted, he could still be willing to sign it. Perhaps he hadn’t worked out that issue yet.
I am pleased to see Catholic colleges and universities named as tryiing to bring more rigor and practicing faith back into their faculty. Hope they succeed.



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anonymous seminarian

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:36 am


“Because Catholics regard the Bible and the pope as equally authoritative…”
Huh? Where do they get this stuff?



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Kevin Jones

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:52 am


Who is stirring this pot? Did somebody seek out this professor, or did he seek out the media? This is an intra-Evangelical issue, too, so perhaps those Evangelicals aiming for academic respectability have adopted the guy as a cause celebre to break down old standards.
I sure hope the professor didn’t go whining to the press. Academic positions are hard to come by, but decisions have their consequences.
As described in the article, his rationale for assenting to the faith statement sounds horribly jesuitical–not a good impression. Best of luck to him, though.



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Peter Nixon

posted January 8, 2006 at 1:56 am


Well I don’t really feel I need to give Wheaton its props and I don’t think that Catholic colleges should follow Wheaton’s lead in firing professors who are not professing Catholics. I do believe that Catholic colleges need to do a better job “hiring for mission” as Peter Steinfels puts it in A People Adrift. And there are certain areas, like the theological sciences, where courses in Catholic theology (particularly those aimed at undergraduates) should generally be taught by Catholics. But the presence of Protestant (and Orthodox) theologians and scripture scholars in Catholic theology departments is not necessarily a bad thing. The reverse is also true.
Or–if you want me to put it more bluntly–any policy that would have deprived Notre Dame’s students of the presence of Stanley Hauerwas (who taught at ND for a number of years) is just blitheringly idiotic. One could say the same about a policy that would keep students at Baylor University from hearing the lectures of Luke Timothy Johnson.



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Jack2

posted January 8, 2006 at 2:12 am


“Because Catholics regard the Bible and the pope as equally authoritative…”
Huh? Where do they get this stuff?
Yea, exactly, in all my years of studying and teaching Catholic theology, both here and in Germany, I have never even heard of anything like that ever having been said by any reputable theological authority. Even among the most ultramontane folks, in my experience, to say that the pope and scripture are equally anything is totally off the wall. This opinion might come up in the comments of a blog somewhere; but it seems to be that it is in the realm of theological alien abductions.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 2:33 am


I cannot imagine that someone who doesn’t believe Catholic theology enough to convert to it would ever be qualified to teach it.
Re Notre Dame: I have a son who went there for 1 year before transferring to a public university. It was all I could do to get him to cross the threshhold of a Catholic church for years afterwards, no thanks to the crackpots and derelicts at Notre Dame, so don’t tell me about Notre Dame, okay?



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Nathaniel

posted January 8, 2006 at 3:04 am


I’m one of the Wheaton Catholics – that is, one of an ever-growing group of Protestant Wheaton students/alums received into the Catholic Church. The question of whether the prof, as an Episcopalian, really believed in sola scriptura is intriguing. From my experience, faculty at Wheaton hold a mix of views, many of which would not fit a strict interpretation of the Statement of Faith. Most of the dissent is overlooked (though, the year after I graduated, an anthropology prof was fired for teaching that humans evolved from lower forms of life). But the line has to be drawn somewhere, doesn’t it? Becoming Catholic was just going too far.



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fidens

posted January 8, 2006 at 6:51 am


Props to the professor for sticking his neck out, whatever his reasoning. I mean, it’s not exactly St Edmund Campion stuff, but he did take a pay cut…



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Fr. Brian Stanley

posted January 8, 2006 at 6:56 am


Yes, please, please, please do not tell Michigan Catholic about Notre Dame. Michigan Catholic’s experience is normative, everyone.
There, I hope everyone gets the message out, because everyone should know that the condition at Notre Dame is absolutely static, and that Michigan Catholic is all over this like white on rice. I’m sure that Michigan Catholic will share with us more normative pronouncements taken from canonized experience that does admit of nonconforming experiences, which must be dismissed out of hand. I can hardly wait for the oath of loyalty we will be asked to sign in which we pledge fealty to the experience of Michigan Catholic. Gee, where can I sign up for that?
By the way, that offer for a free copy of “A Rulebook for Arguments” is still on the table. The fallacy is called “The Hasty Generalization.” You really, really need to look at it, or to start using that philosophy degree.
I am not without sympathy for your son’s negative experience at ND. I’m an alumnus, a former CSC seminarian, and am thoroughly alienated from my alma mater. Yet, I am aware of many positive things happening there. The blogosphere is huge enough to convince me that my experiences there [and I had far more than your son, because I was with the Holy Cross Fathers for seven years] are not normative, and that the campus, and more important, the faculty has been changing, even *gulp* improving in some important places.



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Mimi

posted January 8, 2006 at 10:27 am


I went to Notre Dame, too, very recently, and was friendly with many graduate students in the philosophy department and the history department, where they have quite prominent evangelical scholars on the faculty, who drew, quite naturally, many graduate students in philosophy and history who were evangelical and who went on to teach at Wheaton or Calvin or other small liberal arts evangelical schools. One of the interesting points that someone made to me about this situation was that–like the story about this professor at Wheaton–there was some kind of irony or something a little troubling about the fact that Notre Dame, a Catholic college, was training a top-notch bunch of evangelical professors to teach at schools that would not be similarly open to the expression, training, or even the acceptance of Catholic professors and students, on their campuses.



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Fr. Brian Stanley

posted January 8, 2006 at 10:29 am


By the way, I agree with Mr. Nixon on teh topic of Stanley Hauerwas. I had Prof. Hauerwas for his course on the Papal Encyclicals, and I do not think you could get a professor who was more enamored with encyclicals than Prof. Hauerwas. And he got his students to look at them critically, and to see the Truth. Prof. Hauerwas would get excited about teaching these encyclicals to his students, and his enthusiasm would frequently provoke the Texan into some colorful language. He was very fond of John Paul the Great’s writing, and extremely loyal to the magisterium in this course [I can only speak of this one course that I had with him], and it made me an admirer of his. It was a sad day when he left for Duke. The same sadness for Prof. Robert Wilber, a Protestant church historian, who left ND for Virginia at the same time I think, and has since become Catholic. He was another of the “crypto-Catholics” there, who taught fidelity to the Church. Fr. McBrien had not a small role to play in their departures, as I recall, not that that would surprise anyone who regularly reads here.



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Tope

posted January 8, 2006 at 11:12 am


Fr. Brian and Peter Nixon -
I went to Duke as an undergraduate and was very impressed with what I heard of Hauerwas during my time there. A close friend of mine who took a number of classes with him tells me that many of his students end up converting to Catholicism after studying with him! A number of his students are now at Ave Maria (FL).



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 11:30 am


Well, Fr. Stanley, it’s not just me. I recently read the results of a study that showed that graduates of Catholic colleges are much more likely to have lost their faith in college than graduates of secular schools. And I don’t doubt it a bit.
It might be interesting to hear exactly how McBrien played a role in the departures of the instructors above. Did that occur in a vacuum, I wonder, or did unfortunate students have to observe the whole affair or even suffer it themselves?
When I recently decided to take some classes for enrichment from a Catholic school, I didn’t even give ND a shot, even though it’s within driving distance. No point. I’d have had to do more research to stay out of peoples’ classes than in them–in order to avoid the likes of McBrien and the Vagina Monologues and such folderol. I’m taking a few classes from Franciscan in Ohio–a far, far more suitable school if one is actually interested in Catholic teaching and not the “Catholic status symbol” which is ND.
Watching for 20 years and finally coming to a regrettable & sad conclusion after tons of data and lots of disappointment is not hasty generalization. In fact, failing to come to any sort of conclusion at all would have been negligent and unthinking, not to mention dangerous to my faith. A person can only stand just so much cognitive dissonance. The Church, after all, has always taught that even though she is a mystery, she is intelligible even if not comprehensible.
Being able to actually point out right and wrong on the basis of long-standing church teaching is not, contrary to some peoples’ goofed up ideas, a problem. The operable set of ideals that drives that sort of goofed up thinking is cultural, American cultural, in fact, and not religious in the Catholic sense.
As in, “Thou shalt not point out the truth, for the truth costs market share and makes people realize they are not gods. And then they become despondent and stop buying.”
Look up “obfuscation” in your little logic book sometime. Or rather, watch the USCCB convention for about 10 minutes and get a world-class example.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 11:32 am


It’s interesting, though, that there’s a pattern here. There is a decided preference here for “closet catholics” who are nominally non-catholic OVER “closet non-catholics” who are nominally catholic. That’s interesting.



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dymphna

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:30 pm


Good for Wheaton. They actually seem to want their professors to believe what they teach. I wish more Catholic schools would follow suit.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:37 pm


BTW, about that little marketing maxim:
“Thou shalt not point out the truth, for the truth costs market share and makes people realize they are not gods. And then they become despondent and stop buying.”
It only obtains logically if truth is a commodity among other commodities on a cost benefit analysis.
Is that all it is? You tell me.



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Fr. Brian Stanley

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:41 pm


No preference here, just more facts and less generalizing. The problem you have, Michigan Catholic, is that YOU want to draw things to a conclusion — and the script is still being written. You are willing to write off a whole lot of people. As a priest and pastor, I cannot afford to do that, and so I hold out in hope, I look for positive developments, and try to steer people into those positive developments. But with folks like you around, every time I try to get a positive word out to someone such as Rod Dreher, who is truly suffering and knows more about it that you and I put together, it doesn’t take too long for you to come around with some personal kerosene to pour on the fires of indignation. Unfortunately, it only causes heat, and not a lot of light.
By the way, I donate to Franciscan U. of Steubenville, too, and steer people over there as well. I know the orthodox places too. But you know, it wasn’t always the case there at Steubenville. There was a reform movement that caused Steubenville to become the fine school that it is today. If you want to give up on ND, that’s fine, and I understand it. But please get off the soap box on which you pretend to speak for all orthodox Catholics. I respect your experience, but your conclusions are not, thank God, the Church’s conclusions. I know BXVI has far more hope than you do, you might want to take a page or two from his script. Or is he an Obfuscator too?



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:55 pm


Fr. Stanley, Benedict XVI is not an obfuscator. Listen closely to him and you’ll hear the church speaking in all her beauty and glory. His words are compact.
Attempting to shield Rod from the truth won’t help him. He knows what he’s seen and he won’t believe you. He needs someone to listen to him as he struggles, purely and simply, because he must struggle through the ugliness of the times–a dark night of sorts, which you cannot take away by your own power.
He must cling to the truth while he reconciles the mystery of the Church (truth & love in one, never separated) and understands. It’s something most converts go through at some point or another, some more deeply than others. Rod has seen a lot so he has a deep crisis. He thinks and he thinks deeply because he’s still around. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s largely what God used to get him this far.
The danger, as always in these things, is that he will find a crutch or develop a pattern of avoidance of the truth.
Denying the truth never works. It’s throwing everything out for the sake of shutting up the confusion. It’s only human nature that wants things to be honky-dory even if not true. It’s not the way.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 1:02 pm


If you want to help people with these crises, teach them to pray and never stop, no matter what else happens. And listen, really listen.



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Linas

posted January 8, 2006 at 1:23 pm


I think this is an excellent example of the fact that to many, the whole ecumenical movement merely means that Catholics should move away from their beliefs.
It’s kind of like someone supporting racial intermarriage, as long as it’s not in their family.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 1:26 pm


I don’t like your example–at all–but many people misunderstand the ecumenical movement, yes.



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Julia

posted January 8, 2006 at 1:48 pm


Nathanial:
“I’m one of the Wheaton Catholics – that is, one of an ever-growing group of Protestant Wheaton students/alums received into the Catholic Church”
This is intriguing. Is there something that this group of Wheaton Students/alums have in common? Like a certain professor or academic subject or experience that is behind this?



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Fr. Brian Stanley

posted January 8, 2006 at 2:19 pm


Michigan Catholic,
You have a way of simplifying things I have written to mean something I have never intended. I mean, c’mon: when have I ever said things are “hunky dory?” I have ceded to you all the negatives you present, and do not deny them. I just affirm that there are positives out there, positive things happening in the Church, among the hierarchy, at ND, etc., which you do not want to acknowledge. Fine. Whatever.
And I have helped people by being realistic, by seeing the bigger picture, and not just focussing on the negative. I’m not denying the negative when I say, “Look here, here’s something positive.” And I have been of assistance to many people in similar crises, thank you. And I’ll stick to what works. And how many people have you brought back from the precipice?
I don’t avoid truth — I can’t afford to avoid truths, even unpleasant ones. But you seem to be very good at avoiding the positive ones.
I understand betrayal, more than you will ever know. And I am sure that I’ll encounter more betrayal before the Lord calls me home. But that doesn’t mean I walk away from the hierarchy, dismiss all the US bishops, write off most of the Catholic colleges, and stew in my own juices. In the study you cited in one of your posts, the one that indicated that people are more likely to lose their faith at a Catholic college than at a secular one, would seem to suggest that you should be studying not at Franciscan U., but at a secular school, if you take your cues from studies and polls. I don’t take my cues from studies and polls.
You are a great one for wielding the truths that are convenient for your cause, and overlooking the positive aspects, which makes sure we’re all inflamed with indignation.
I mean, what do you think about this? In your own diocese: Bp. Murray will be ordaining at least four men to the priesthood this spring. These men persevered in spite of all the negativity, all the scandal, and all the pessimism that the world has to throw at them. The Holy Spirit is at work, and it remains to be seen whether the kind of constant rat-a-tat-tat of pessimism that you have shared is more helpful to that work, or a hindrance. Would you say that this is a positive development, or is it just a dying gasp from a corrupt institution presided over by obfuscators and — what was the term you used about ND? — oh, yes, derelicts? Is language like this helpful? Is it even accurate? Or is it emotion, rooted in real pain? The latter, I think. The Church is in the midst of reform, and I am happy that this reform is coming. I understand from your POV that it can’t come soon enough.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 2:56 pm


Where did you get the idea I don’t see positives? Look up a couple of boxes at my comment about Benedict XVI. You don’t even talk to me on a regular basis, so you don’t know that.
I have not walked away from the hierarchy. If you really actually read what I wrote to you in another thread last night, you’d know that. The church is not split between the visible and the invisible. We need the heirarchy in the Body of Christ. It’s just that there are not very many heroes as you seem to maintain there are. I can name a very few decent ones-can you? God is in charge and we’ve been squeeking by for a while. It’s getting there even though it’s odious-looking to just squeeze by. Certainly you’re not going to try to convince me we’ve been on this wonderful winning streak for 40 years. At least I hope not.
And I don’t write off ALL the Catholic colleges. After all, I’m taking classes from Franciscan. Just not ND. The number of Catholic colleges who are actually teaching catholic doctrine is finally increasing after all this time, thank God. My degree is a good solid secular one; it helped to initiate my conversion because it posed me the questions that only the Body of Christ could answer. Thank God I didn’t have to confront a feminazi ex-catholic at some status symbol college. I might not have gotten this far. I am adding to my education and refining it by taking classes from a fine solid Catholic school, to understand better. Surely that’s not a problem.
I am very happy we have entered a period of reform. I danced through the corporate offices when Benedict was elected. My co-workers thought I was nuts. No apologies from me. In the end, it was not thought of badly. People learned something maybe from me that day. I try to be Catholic–fair and truthful. My joy was real.
But now is the time to lovingly collect and speak of truth, like the Pope does, not the time to yield to the dissenters one more time. Just good enough is NOT good enough, even in print.
There is a lot at stake here. Our people are ignorant and pragmatic. We have to be clear about where we are going, by looking at what the church has always taught, and by examining these things with great care, even though we don’t yet see it in front of us. God has given us great gifts but we must use them.
That might mean some analytical activity. It’s okay, really. Analytical activity is not your enemy.
BTW, who’s talking about individual cases now? And why the personal attack?



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Fr. Brian Stanley

posted January 8, 2006 at 4:23 pm


You can take it as a personal attack because you can read the first sentence of my previous post: you simplify my statements to mean something I don’t say and don’t intend. I’m not some silly pollyanna. But you have been pretty dismissive of all the bishops, and have basically told me that my insistence that there are some good bishops is for naught, and that it doesn’t matter or is of little relevance. Whatever. You poke and prod, make hasty generalizations, get called on them, and then ask, “why the personal attack”? You’ve not been attacked — you’ve been called out. And you still don’t respond to my question: is the ordination of four men in our diocese a good thing or a bad thing? Is it an omen of despair and further corruption from obfuscators and derelicts [your words, not mine]? You want to write in normative terms for all of us — please tell us what this might mean, from your POV.
You want to call a spade a spade, and want to make sure that we all know just how bad it is in the Church. Ok. We all know this, and the media will insure that we will continue to know this for the next several decades. Is it important that everyone know every detail of corruption before we start to point out what good things are happening? Your optimism is lost, as you lecture us about marketing, etc. I want to think you are an optimist, but, buddy, from your response to me, you sure come off as being on the cranky side of curmudgeon. And I really, really doubt that that kind of crankiness is going to be any more helpful to Rod Dreher and others like him than the simple-minded pollyanna you seem to think I am.



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Tom Haessler

posted January 8, 2006 at 4:56 pm


I’m not at all surprised that there are graduates of Wheaton being received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Wheaton has an excellent reputation academically and there’s a growing trend of evangelicals solidly formed in Scripture coming into the Church. My wife went to Calvin College (another excellent evangelical college in the strict Calvinist tradition) and had to read Calvin AND Aquinas on the Eucharist. At the time she was more impressed with Aquinas than Calvin, but kept a low profile. A seed was planted that bore fruit many years later with her being received into full Communion. She she’s her Catholicism as much richer fare than the Christianity of her initial formation, but she always speaks of the Christian Reformed Church with respect.
I’ve recently changed parishes and our new pastor is a former Protestant minister who converted to Catholicism. His homilies are very rich and he’s got marvelous communication skills. He comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. He also never bad mouths his former Church, but is deeply grateful for the fullness of Catholic truth. Only problem is he’s a workaholic and had a heart attack and then triple bipass surgery.



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austin

posted January 8, 2006 at 5:39 pm


One problem Wheaton probably has is with its alumna, who may not give any money if there is a Catholic presence on campus. There is so much misinformation about what Catholics believe among evangelicals. Even top evangelical scholars think that Catholics believe you must “work” your way to heaven. According to these reformed ministers, we can’t communicate personally with God since we think the priest is the only one who can do that. If we Catholics really believed that then we wouldn’t be Christians. Since the evangelicals are rarely corrected concerning their misunderstandings of Catholic belief, they think we aren’t Christian. I would like to see more Catholics correcting evangelical perceptions of our beliefs, but I don’t know how that can be done.



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Joe

posted January 8, 2006 at 7:10 pm


As a former Episc., I would say they are absolutely sola scriptura. I have found Catholics take it to mean scripture only, period. But most Protestants I know take it as scripture only… as in the only supreme authority. A key difference.



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titusonenine

posted January 8, 2006 at 8:58 pm


A professors firing after his conversion highlights a new orthodoxy at religious colleges

(From the from page of todays Wall Street Journal).
WHEATON, Ill. Wheaton College was delighted to have assistant professor Joshua Hochschild teach students about medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas, one of Roman Catholicisms fo…



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Ken

posted January 8, 2006 at 9:35 pm


As a former Episc., I would say they are absolutely sola scriptura.
Not quite. Popular Anglican teaching speaks of a “3-legged stool”. However, this is what Richard Hooker actually wrote:
“What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason over-rule all other inferior judgments whatsoever” ( Laws, Book V, 8:2; Folger Edition 2:39,8-14).
Thus, in order of precedence:
Scripture
Reason
The rulings of the Church (Tradition)
They are not equal. Of course, this ordering leads, I think, to the practical implementation of private judgement.



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Bellarmino

posted January 9, 2006 at 12:46 am


Tom Haessler is correct: if you visit those Catholic colleges in the U.S. which have doctoral programs in philosophy and theology (they’re not many–ND, Boston College, Fordham, St. Louis, Marquette, and I imagine a few others), you’ll find a fair amount of Wheaton alums who are getting Ph.D.s, as far as I understand from my work.
Some are converts, some are still Evangelical Protestants who want the Catholic tradition on the early Fathers. Herein lies the problem for Wheaton–they’re getting top-quality students who want to study with top-quality profs (Mark Noll is one of the finest Christian scholars this country has ever produced–ever), but in fields like this (medieval philosophy), the fullness of truth eventually does become apparent, and you end up with converts.
I don’t begrudge Wheaton its attempt to hold its identity, but Noll (who recently penned “The End of the Reformation?”) and his ilk are doing the kind of solid intellectual work that naturally leads Christians towards the true Church. And that, it seems to me, will continue to be a problem. For them.



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William

posted January 9, 2006 at 6:24 am


Episcopal belief is all over the place. It depends on who you talk to.



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hieronymus has a blog now

posted January 9, 2006 at 9:11 am


Looks like I missed the conversation this weekend. Just wanted to add – I know that guy. We had lunch together a few times at a mutual friend’s house before he left for St. Louis. He didn’t seem particularly upset by the whole deal.



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Jon W

posted January 9, 2006 at 9:20 am


This is intriguing. Is there something that this group of Wheaton Students/alums have in common? Like a certain professor or academic subject or experience that is behind this?
I’m another, Julia. When I was at Wheaton in the mid nineties, there was a group of us who were headed either to Rome or Constantinople. There wasn’t much of a common denominator to these in terms of professors or classes; we just saw the traditional church as the only that was preserving the faith in its fullness. My brother goes to Gordon in Massachusetts and is in the middle of a similar (but smaller) group. It seems a lot of Evangelical colleges have these.
What you have is profs and students with widely different intellectual and cultural concerns who vaguely sense that the answer they’re looking for is in the traditional church. They all see a lack of substance and sophistication in the evangelical tradition (artistically, culturally, politically, theologically, liturgically) and are looking for something better. That’s why Wheaton is awash in Anglican break-off churches who are attempting to inject some liturgy and stability into typical evangelical worship while remaining more faithful morally and doctrinally than the ECUSA et al, and why students love these. (Church of the Res was my halfway house.)
I applaud Wheaton for attempting to hold on to its identity and faithfulness to some sort of orthodoxy. The evangelicals don’t have a magisterium to call them back to faithfulness; once the damage is done, it’s very hard to reverse. (cf Harvard, Darmouth, Princeton, etc, etc, etc.) It’s probably wise of them to play on the safe side of the street (said the oh-so-pleased-with-himself papist).



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Christopher

posted January 9, 2006 at 9:23 am


William,
I would think you mean ‘individual’ Episcopalians’ beliefs are all over the place. The same is true of Catholics, though. (Sr Joan Chittester (sp?) anyone?) The big difference is that the Catholic Church has its beliefs fairly neatly defined, whereas the Anglican tradition prefers a bit more ‘wiggle room’. Sadly, this wiggle room keeps getting bigger, and is now a wiggle stadium. Guess that’s what happens when you chuck the Magisterium out the window.



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Charming Billy

posted January 9, 2006 at 9:56 am


I got a graduate degree in philosophy at St. Louis in the mid ’90s. At that time the trend of evangelicals coming to Catholic philosophy departments was just getting started, but friends who’ve remained in the program or keep in touch with the department inform me that if not most, then certainly many of the best students are often evangelicals.
I wouldn’t be suprised if it were easier to find a top notch Catholic grad student in a state or non-denominational private school than in a Catholic school. Or at least my old department seems to think so: St. Louis University has hired very few Catholic school grads in years; even in traditionally Catholic fields like Medieval philosophy.
When I began and ended the PhD program at SLU I was a lapsed cradle Episcopalian agnostic. (Spare me the “is there any other kind?” cracks.) But I’m happy to say that I’m now a practicing, orthodox Anglican.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but very little of what I was exposed to at SLU led me to consider Catholic seriously as an option — very little in the way of either teaching or personal witness. (Although the current mess in my church has led me to consider seriously, but finally decide against, conversion.) I am emphatically not knocking Catholicism, but I have to agree with many of the commenters here that what’s best and brightest about Catholicism is sadly lacking in many Catholic universities.



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Michael Kremer

posted January 9, 2006 at 11:01 am


I know Josh Hochschild too, having taught in the Notre Dame philosophy dept while he was a graduate student there. I have only good things to say about him. But this isn’t the place for a letter of reference.
But here’s an interesting observation: the webpage of the Wheaton philosophy department (from which Josh was dismissed after his conversion) shows that the faculty of seven holds PhDs from:
Louvain
Illinois
Pennsylvania
Notre Dame
Notre Dame
Fordham
Edinburgh
That’s four Catholic university PhDs out of seven. (Louvain, Fordham, Notre Dame, Notre Dame.) (see http://www.wheaton.edu/Philosophy/faculty.html)



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c matt

posted January 9, 2006 at 11:24 am


But most Protestants I know take it as scripture only… as in the only supreme authority. A key difference.
I suppose I will just never be able to understand the practical difference this makes. It seems, in the end, Protestants trade one Pope in Rome for hundreds of thousands of popes spread out all over the place.
To analogize a bit, its like saying we believe in the Constitution as the supreme law of the land (supreme authority). But we don’t need a Supreme Court (or its equivalent) to tell us what the Constitution means. So, in the end, it really does become every citizen a constitutional scholar, and every citizen a constitution in himself. I agree with you as long as I agree with you.



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gresham

posted January 9, 2006 at 12:25 pm


I am another whose journey to Rome began as a student at Wheaton (BA ’79, MA ’85) Why so many of us? Wheaton’s emphasis on integration of faith and learning is really very Catholic in its understanding of reason and revelation. Catholic schools could learn from them how to implement the perspective of Fides et Ratio across the curriculum. Also, there was a strong emphasis on history — I was required to take both the history of philosophy and theology (one year of each) as an undergraduate religion major. My encounter with the Church fathers in historical theology planted the seed that would eventually lead me to Rome. There was an emphasis on serving the “Christ and his kingdom” in both evangelistic and social outreach that is quite consonant with Catholic teaching. The way I was taught to do historical critical study of scripture from the perspective of faith is quite consistent with Dei Verbum and other Catholic magisterial teaching (I encourage my Catholic seminary students to read Evangelical biblical scholarship). The pervasive attention to Lewis, Tolkien and others at Wheaton formed my imagination in sacramental directions. A popular slogan at Wheaton was “all truth is God’s truth” and the goal of Christian higher education was presented as the integration of all truth into a coherent Christian worldview. By this concern for fullness of truth centered in Christ, Wheaton invariably starts many (I’m not sure how many) on a road leading to that fullness of truth found within the Roman Catholic Church.



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Anonymous Student Person

posted January 9, 2006 at 1:01 pm


I’m a theology graduate student at a big-name Catholic university. My first assignment? An analysis of Dei Verbum. There’s this misconception that every school that’s not Steubenville is out to indoctrintate that the pope is out of touch, the hierarchy is bad, and doctrine can be thrown out the window. The mostly Catholic faculty (and the mostly Catholic graduate student body)have a deep love of God and of the Church. There’s student-run morning prayer (Liturgy of the Hours), well-attended daily Mass (with music), and the general sensibility that theology grows out of the life of faith and not vice versa. I suppose the student body could be called liberal; there was great discontent aired in lunchtime conversations about the recent Instruction. However, it wasn’t an uproar of ‘this isn’t fair!’ temper tantrum. It was a reasoned concern that the Instruction blurred the distinction between homosexual inclination and homosexual activity set forth in the Catechism. (But let’s please not open that can of worms any further!). There’s a great concern for orthodoxy – no one wants to throw the councils out the window – but there is also the sense that doctrine develops, and must continue to do so if it is to survive. Which means, when you come right down to it, that ‘wishy-washy’ universities and michigancatholic and friends want the exact same thing: the continuation of a vibrant Catholic faith.



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Brigid

posted January 9, 2006 at 1:13 pm


[Rambling thoughts in front of the water cooler and perhaps a bit off topic, but...]:
I would be interested in Fr. Neuhaus’ and Chuck Colson’s thoughts.
Not that the firing of a professor at Wheaton means the “end” of their “Evangelical and Catholics Together” movement but it does show that its tough sell in some academic communities.
Are there other places where it’s hard for Evangelicals and Catholics to get together?
Also, I guess I am so amazed that such a personal decision as to what faith you profess within Christianity would be so important as to cause you to be fired? I mean, Catholics are Christians at Wheaton, are we not? Mark Noll’s recent book shows us at least that. In fact, some of them call some of us “evangelical Catholics.” How nice!
I mean, Wheaton’s definition of “evangelical” seems rather “lite” to me. I’ve got to believe this Professor Hochschild is for more “evangelical” than many of his colleagues?
Are they coming up with a new definition for “evangelical” that is a bit tighter than it was, say, ten years ago?
I would love to hear from the Wheaton grads about this…



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Ken

posted January 9, 2006 at 1:39 pm


Meanwhile, Wheaton hasn’t replaced Mr. Hochschild. One obstacle: Most scholars of medieval philosophy are Catholics.
Ah, the unintended side effects of a “NO POPERY!” position…
Even an Episcopalean (whose denomination has ordained out-and-out atheists) is preferable to a Romish Papist and his Satanic Death Cookies. It’s like something out of South Park.
And just what is “evangelical”? These days, it means Young Earth Creationism, Left Behind eschatology, and high-pressure altar calls between these Beginning and End.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 9, 2006 at 2:08 pm


Here is a question of fact concerning Wheaton College’s firing of Josh Hochschild. It was claimed that as a Roman Catholic, he could not sign a statement affirming the propositions contained in the Statement of Faith of Wheaton College (taken from the Wheaton College Statement of Faith on its web page, http://www.wheaton.edu/welcome/mission.html#faith):
WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life; and we believe that God created the Heavens and the earth out of nothing by His spoken word, and for His own glory.
WE BELIEVE that God has revealed Himself and His truth in the created order, in the Scriptures, and supremely in Jesus Christ; and that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.
WE BELIEVE that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and was true God and true man, existing in one person and without sin; and we believe in the resurrection of the crucified body of our Lord, in His ascension into heaven, and in His present life there for us as Lord of all, High Priest, and Advocate.
WE BELIEVE that God directly created Adam and Eve, the historical parents of the entire human race; and that they were created in His own image, distinct from all other living creatures, and in a state of original righteousness.
WE BELIEVE that our first parents sinned by rebelling against God’s revealed will and thereby incurred both physical and spiritual death, and that as a result all human beings are born with a sinful nature that leads them to sin in thought, word, and deed.
WE BELIEVE in the existence of Satan, sin, and evil powers, and that all these have been defeated by God in the cross of Christ.
WE BELIEVE that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, as a representative and substitutionary sacrifice, triumphing over all evil; and that all who believe in Him are justified by His shed blood and forgiven of all their sins.
WE BELIEVE that all who receive the Lord Jesus Christ by faith are born again of the Holy Spirit and thereby become children of God and are enabled to offer spiritual worship acceptable to God.
WE BELIEVE that the Holy Spirit indwells and gives life to believers, enables them to understand the Scriptures, empowers them for godly living, and equips them for service and witness.
WE BELIEVE that the one, holy, universal Church is the body of Christ and is composed of the communities of Christ’s people. The task of Christ’s people in this world is to be God’s redeemed community, embodying His love by worshipping God with confession, prayer, and praise; by proclaiming the gospel of God’s redemptive love through our Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth by word and deed; by caring for all of God’s creation and actively seeking the good of everyone, especially the poor and needy.
WE BELIEVE in the blessed hope that Jesus Christ will soon return to this earth, personally, visibly, and unexpectedly, in power and great glory, to gather His elect, to raise the dead, to judge the nations, and to bring His Kingdom to fulfillment.
WE BELIEVE in the bodily resurrection of the just and unjust, the everlasting punishment of the lost, and the everlasting blessedness of the saved.
Which of these affirmations must a Roman Catholic, faithful to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic church, deny? In other words, when Josh Hochschild claimed to be able to sign this stattement of faith as a Roman Catholic convert, which one of these propositions could he not affirm?



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Joel

posted January 9, 2006 at 2:13 pm


“Even an Episcopalean (whose denomination has ordained out-and-out atheists) is preferable to a Romish Papist and his Satanic Death Cookies. It’s like something out of South Park.”
“And just what is “evangelical”? These days, it means Young Earth Creationism, Left Behind eschatology, and high-pressure altar calls between these Beginning and End.”
Um, Ken, as a card-carrying evangelical, I’d say you’re pretty much out of the loop here. The issue at Wheaton (yes, I am another grad) is institutional identity, not anti-Catholic bias. The same decision would have been made had Josh become Orthodox. While vestiges of anti-Catholicism remain in some circles, most mainstream evangelicals have been profoundly influenced by JPII in the last quarter of the 20th century, such that very few that I know bear any resemblance to your anachronistic caricature.
The same goes for “Young Earth Creationism, Left Behind eschatology, and high-pressure altar.” I don’t have a single evangelical friend or acquaintance who believes that stuff. Sure, plenty of right-wing evangelicals do, but to portray all evangelicals in that light is both inaccurate and uncharitable.



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Kevin Jones

posted January 9, 2006 at 2:56 pm


This part of the statement is, I think, incompatible with Catholic belief:
the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.
For Catholics, the church is the supreme and final authority on earth and the authority of the Scriptures is a function of the authority of the church.



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Jon W

posted January 9, 2006 at 3:09 pm


Are they coming up with a new definition for “evangelical” that is a bit tighter than it was, say, ten years ago?
No, Joel is right: it’s more about institutional identity than specifics of an affirmation of faith. Wheaton trusts that anyone claiming evangelical Protestantism is going to have a commitment to those doctrines they see (whether rightly or wrongly) as exclusive to evangelical Protestant Christianity. And it’s a good judgment. Like getting married, becoming Catholic puts you in an objectively different category even if your actual beliefs and attitudes don’t change. Your sworn commitments are changed forever.
(And Wheaton still asks students – and I’ll bet faculty, too – for verbal evidence of solid belief and trust in Christ, regardless of their institutional affiliation.)
FWIW, I never heard anyone advocating Young-Earth Creationism at Wheaton, though I find that phrase, “WE BELIEVE that God directly created Adam and Eve” (emphasis mine), amusing. There was a bit of a broohaha over evolution the year after I graduated, with a lot of the faculty refusing to sign (so I heard) a statement from the president endorsing Special Creationism. If they signed this, I’ll bet a lot of ‘em muttered, “Still, it moves.” :-)



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Christine

posted January 9, 2006 at 3:31 pm


Well, I suppose it’s a good thing I haven’t taken my cues from MichiganCatholic, because I went to Notre Dame Law School, and from my experiences there with devout professors and fellow students, I ended up being received in the Catholic Church. Attending that school was one of the best experiences of my life, and I offer thanks to God often for using that place to draw me into the arms of Holy Mother Church.



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Angela

posted January 9, 2006 at 3:37 pm


“WE BELIEVE that our first parents sinned by rebelling against God’s revealed will and thereby incurred both physical and spiritual death, and that as a result all human beings are born with a sinful nature that leads them to sin in thought, word, and deed.”
Well, affirming this would deny the Immaculate Conception, too.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 9, 2006 at 3:41 pm


***”This part of the statement is, I think, incompatible with Catholic belief:
the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.
For Catholics, the church is the supreme and final authority on earth and the authority of the Scriptures is a function of the authority of the church.”***
Not sure about all that. On the inerrancy of Scripture Dei verbum #11: “Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)
Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and WITHOUT ERROR that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).”
On the relation of Sacred Scripture to the Word of God, Dei verbum #10: “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church.”
On the relation of the teaching authority of the Church to the Word of God which is a unity of Sacred Tradtion and Sacred Scripture, again Dei verbum #10: “But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, (8) has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, (9) whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. THIS TEACHING OFFICE IS NOT ABOVE THE WORD OF GOD, BUT SERVES IT, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.”
On the Church claiming to be the final authority in judging INTERPRETATIONS of the Sacred Scripture and the Word of God, Dei verbum #12: “For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.”
The latter claims the authority to judge INTERPRETATIONS of Sacred Scripture and the Word of God. In conjunction with the former, I don’t see that any claim is made that the authority of the Church is in fact a higher authority than the Word of God itself, which Word of God is constitued by a unity of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.
So I am not convinced that a Roman Catholic faithful to the teaching authority of the Church cannot affirm the statement you point to.



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scotch meg

posted January 9, 2006 at 4:53 pm


Query for Joel:
I thought (from earlier posts on this topic) that Orthodox was OK? Why do you say it’s not?
FWIW, the denial of the Immaculate Conception seems more a problem than the relationship of Bible to Church…



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 9, 2006 at 4:58 pm


***”WE BELIEVE that our first parents sinned by rebelling against God’s revealed will and thereby incurred both physical and spiritual death, and that as a result all human beings are born with a sinful nature that leads them to sin in thought, word, and deed.
Well, affirming this would deny the Immaculate Conception, too.”***
Again, not really sure about that. It is clear that the “all” in “all human beings” there cannot be taken in the strictly formal logical sense of a universal quantifier that cannot admit of exceptions. Jesus Christ is a human being with a true human nature (see the earlier affirmation in the Statement of Faith), and yet it was not true of him that He was “born with a sinful nature that [led him] to sin in thought, word, and deed.” If it is to be taken with the formal logical sense, not admitting of exceptions, then Wheaton has a formally contradictory statement of faith.
Thus, interpreting the Statement of Faith charitably, the “all” there clearly must be taken in an informal sense that allows of exceptions, something like what Aristotle meant when he said of most universal statements that they are “always or for the most part.” “All human beings are capable of reproduction”=”always or for the most part human beings are capable of reproduction.” Insofar as the “all” has to be taken in that informal way, it does not itself exclude the Virgin Mary immaculately conceived.
So I am not convinced that a Roman Catholic faithful to the teaching authority of the Church cannot affirm the statement you point to.



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hieronymus has a blog now

posted January 9, 2006 at 5:56 pm


Thomas Aquinas:
If you twist and pull any creed enough, seek out connotations, second definitions, and unintended shades of meaning, it will eventually admit an orthodox explanation. But at least half of its points use language that is intended to distinguish the faith professed therein from that professed by the Roman Catholic Church. It’s a Protestant Creed, and any proper Protestant could tell you why its language indicates Protestant and not Catholic religion. It’s folly to pretend that it was intended to be anything else.



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Ken

posted January 9, 2006 at 6:00 pm


Also in today’s WSJ, about the middle of the front page:
BACKWARDS MASKING is back! New mp3 player software than can play mp3s backwards are apparently starting another panic about Satanic Backwards Messages (TM).



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Abigail

posted January 9, 2006 at 6:06 pm


I’m a ’98 Taylor U. grad who converted to Catholicism in ’04, and I know of a handful of others who’ve done the same thing — some to Rome and some to Constantinople — so all you Wheaton alums who’ve converted have some company.
I suppose I’d never really considered how my conversion affects my relationship with my alma mater, but I can’t imagine Taylor’s hiring policy would differ significantly from Wheaton’s. It saddens me to an extent, but I can certainly understand the reason behind it.



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brendan

posted January 9, 2006 at 6:56 pm


This is a very interesting discussion. First, let me say that I am impressed by Wheaton’s action not because I agree with the decision but because they have the integrity to stand up for the mission of their institution. They require all of their employees not just some to believe whereas Rome just requires a mandatum of theology profs. When Thomas Howard converted, he had to leave Gordon College-why, because he was a Catholic. Why



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Puzzled

posted January 9, 2006 at 7:50 pm


Wheaton ceased to be an Evangelical college at least 20 years ago. Most of the profs in the Bible department are Bultmanian liberals. Aa a Catholic, the fired professor was closer to Evangelicalism than many of the continuing faculty.



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Puzzled

posted January 9, 2006 at 8:34 pm


Austin,
How to change Evangelical perceptions of Roman Catholic teachings? Gently. With friendship. So much was accomplished back when we were all allowed to protest abortion clinics together. I’ve known professors who thought that ECT and The GIft of Salvation were excellent documents, but were afraid to say so, and had to take an opposite position publically, so that they would not lose their tenured positions. There is a reaction from some Reformed and Confessional Lutherans who insist that they know better than the Magisterium what the Roman Catholic Church believes. I’ve been unwise enough to try to enlighten them.
And I’ve known Roman Catholics who -did- think that they had to earn their way to heaven. I know a super gal who is solid, solid, solid, but I have also heard her say that she didn’t know if she’s make it to heaven. Some sort of cognative dissonance between works-righteousness of lay piety and actual Magisterial teaching? I don’t know. Unless she meant between purgatory first and no purgatory first, but she didn’t seem very happy.
Evangelicals and Roman Catholics -need each other-. And so Jesus prayed in John 17.
Mark Noll is not an evangelical. He is some sort of semi-Barthian, semi-Existentialist. He is not a good historical scholar when it comes to Evangelicalism. He has his agendae.
Jon W., would Franky Schaeffer have had any causitive effect on the existance of those groups in the 90s?
Billy, some of the best students from my alma mater out in Creve Couer went to Sloo for their more advanced degrees. Did you know Ann Coble, perchance? That is the same time frame.
c matt, you are as uninformed about Evangelicalism as most Evangelicals are about Roman Catholicism.
Brigid, Evangelical Catholics are those of us outsiders call ‘Lutherans’. Not the liberal apostate sort, but those liturgical, eucharistic evanglicals.
Evangelical is defined by the Lausane Covenant, and the Chicago Declarations on Inerrancy and Hermeneutics.
By which definition, many organizations that were evangelical 20 years ago, no longer are.
Joel, your evangelical friends aren’t evangelicals. And it is too bad. Having abandoned Creation and the Fall, they have no coherant exposition of the Cross, and will ultimately, probalby within a generation, come up with a different Gospel, as Hugh Ross has already done.
The Roman Catholic Church has made the -same mistake-, but there, tradition is a ponderous sea anchor.



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Bellarmino

posted January 9, 2006 at 8:46 pm


***I know a super gal who is solid, solid, solid, but I have also heard her say that she didn’t know if she’s make it to heaven. Some sort of cognative dissonance between works-righteousness of lay piety and actual Magisterial teaching?***
Uh, Puzzled, I would agree with your super gal friend. As, I think, most Catholics would. Wouldn’t any other response be an outrageous sin of presumption?



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 9, 2006 at 9:21 pm


Dear Hieronymus,
At the banquet tonight, I ran your remarks by Tom More. He said he didn’t understand your claims about “twisting” and “pulling” anymore any more than I do. He said rather cheerfully, “if I could find a way to sign, I would.” Augustine looked up from his pudding for a moment to remind me of his principle of charity in interpretation, namely, that unless a claim has been shown by the appropriate authority to contradict the rule of faith as taught by the Church it is to be allowed, and that in determining whether what someone has claimed contradicts the rule of faith, the claim is to be interpreted in the most charitable light possible so as to build up the body of Christ. His mouth was full, so I couldn’t quite make it out, but I think he said ““Whoever, therefore, thinks that he understands the divine Scriptures or any part of them so that it does not build the double love of God and of our neighbor DOES NOT UNDERSTAND IT AT ALL. Whoever finds a lesson there useful to the building of charity, even though he has not said what the author may be shown to have intended in that place, has not been deceived…” He said that he thought that what he said about Scripture ought also to be extended to the statements of others, mutatis mutandis.
If the Wheaton Statement of Faith is “clearly Protestant,” then it seems to me that you ought to be able to clearly point to the “clearly Protestant” elements of it. What exactly have I “twisted” and “pulled?” Do you deny that Catholics believe that Sacred Scripture is the final authority in all that it says? What authority do you think Roman Catholics claim is higher than the Word of God? Or do you think that Wheaton College formally contradicts itself in its Statement of Faith? That doesn’t seem very charitable to me.
Assuming, on the one hand, that you are a Roman Catholic, which assertion in the Statement of Faith do you deny? Which do you think you cannot affirm, for the clarity of its Protestantism, over against your faithful assent to the rule of faith taught by the Roman Catholic Church? Assuming, on the other hand, that you are a Protestant, are you really in a position to tell Roman Catholics faithful to the teaching authority of their Church what they do and do not believe?
I think it undoubtedly clear that the Statement of Faith is adopted by the Protestants at Wheaton. I think it also likely that they think it excludes Roman Catholics who are faithful to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. I think it even possible that they think it a “clearly Protestant” Statement of Faith. And I have little doubt that they “intend to distinguish the faith professed therein from that professed by the Roman Catholic Church.” But wishing doesn’t make it so. What is “meant” by a statement, and what is “intended” by the one who uses it, are quite often not identical, as when the first mate writes in the ship’s log, “the captain was sober last night.” What he means by writing it is one thing, and likely true. What he intends by writing it is another, and probably hurtful. It is not uncommon in language use to fail to communicate what we intend to communicate, because the meaning of the words we choose are inadequate to the task. Or do you think the question, “am I making myself clear,” is senseless in language because it is impossible to fail to communicate what you “intend” to communicate when you speak or write?
Again, assuming that you are a Roman Catholic, if a Protestant came up to you and asked you whether you believe in the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church,” knowing that this particular Protestant wrongly believes that you do not believe in the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church,” and “intends” by that question to profess a faith he does not believe you hold, would you deny that you believe in the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church,” because what he has asked you is “clearly Protestant?” Would you claim that what he has asked you is “clearly Protestant” because he is a Protestant, and he does not believe that you believe it, and you think he clearly wants to exclude you?
I guess I’m just not as interested as you seem to be in interpreting what some Protestants say and do in a bad light. In search of unity among Christians, I would like to put what our separated brethren say in the best possible light. That does not involve denying the unfortunate divisions that do exist between us. But it does involve accurately locating those divisions. (See my “Contra Errores Graecorum.”) If the Protestants at Wheaton College really do want to exclude Roman Catholics, it isn’t the fault of the Roman Catholics if they have constructed an instrument inadequate to the task. If Wheaton College would like to formulate a Statement of Faith that does in fact exclude Roman Catholics, then they should write one that Roman Catholics cannot actually affirm. They should ask Roman Catholics to deny things they cannot deny while remaining faithful to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. I’m sure I could suggest a few items.
In any case, if you think it is so manifest that the Statement of Faith of Wheaton College is “clearly Protestant,” I think you ought to be able to isolate the “clearly Protestant” elements of it, so that the rest of us could know what they are. Just which ones do you think are so “clearly Protestant” that a Roman Catholic must deny them, lest he or she be guilty of faithlessness to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church? If you cannot do this, your use of “clearly” is little more than a rhetorical stomping of your foot, and your claim about what is so “clearly” the case so much bosch.



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Sam Schmitt

posted January 9, 2006 at 10:07 pm


brendan wrote:
“First, as Catholics, we can believe that Adam and Eve are real persons in the literal sense or we can interpret it as a story about the fall without that belief.”
Actually, Pius XII taught that: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.”
He footnotes session 5 of the Council of Trent. I can’t see how these statements and those in the CCC nos. 374ff, which speaks of “The first man” is compatible with what you’ve said. The orthodox understanding of original sin makes little sense if one denies the existence of two individuals who were the “first parents” of the entire human race.



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Richard Sibbes

posted January 9, 2006 at 10:16 pm


*Mark Noll is not an evangelical. He is some sort of semi-Barthian, semi-Existentialist. He is not a good historical scholar when it comes to Evangelicalism.*
Puzzled, You’re not just puzzled, you’re hilarious.



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R

posted January 9, 2006 at 10:40 pm


“I’m a ’98 Taylor U. grad who converted to Catholicism in ’04, and I know of a handful of others who’ve done the same thing — some to Rome and some to Constantinople — so all you Wheaton alums who’ve converted have some company.”
I joined the Catholic Church in 2002 while a student at an evangelical college. My alma mater isn’t as high-profile as Wheaton or Taylor, but it’s very much in the same vein — a member of the CCCU and a Christian liberal arts college.
There is a small group of us who converted in our time at the college. A political science professor, a Calvin grad, joined the Church in 2000. He then sponsored a philosophy professor and his wife (one a Calvin grad, the other a Wheaton grad) in their journey into the Church in 2001. The philosophy professor and his wife sponsored me and another student as we joined the Church in 2002. Another professor sponsored a third student that same year. I then was the confirmation sponsor for a fellow student in 2004.
One student I know of joined the Eastern Orthodox Church during his time at our uber-evangelical school.
So, it’s a small group, but it’s one that is growing quickly. I’ve found that most of my fellow students who converted did so because they encountered the writings of the Doctors of the Church or of the late John Paul II. Evangelical colleges that are committed to exposing students to serious philosophy and theology will inevitably find, I think, that some of those students will move towards Rome or Constantinople.
As an aside, my alma mater does hire and promote Catholics. All it requires is adherence to a rather generic statement of faith. For that I am incredibly grateful; it was Catholic professors who first exposed me to truth.



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Jon W

posted January 10, 2006 at 6:57 am


Jon W., would Franky Schaeffer have had any causitive effect on the existance of those groups in the 90s?
I don’t mean to imply that there were “groups” existing in any organized way. Ironically, our respective journeys towards Rome or Constantinople tended to be quite individual; I don’t think there was a single figure who played an essential role in all of our conversions (though I’m pretty sure we were all reading C.S. Lewis, the Catholic Moses).
So at least for me Schaeffer was just one more name of an evangelical who’d found the traditional faith (and therefore existed more as evidence than a guide). What some of my friends who tended towards Constantinople might say, I don’t know.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 10, 2006 at 9:30 am


Dear Brendan,
1) As to Adam and Eve see the post by Sam Schmitt above. But in any case, that part of your own statement that says “we can believe that Adam and Eve are real persons” asserts that a faithful Roman Catholic can affirm the relevant part of the Wheaton Statement.
2) As to Baptism and faith: a) the Wheaton Statement does not use “merely” or “simply” as you do, and b) it is through baptism that we are “born again of the Holy Spirit”; but have you forgotten that baptism requires a confession of faith on the part of the catechumen, either in his or her own voice, or his or her sponsors’ and guardians’ on his or her behalf, in which it is confessed that the catechumen believes in the Lord Jesus Christ?
3) As to “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic,” I don’t see how what you say prevents us from affirming that “we believe that the one, holy, universal Church is the body of Christ and is composed of the communities of Christ’s people.” Which clause do you think Catholics deny–that the Church is the body of Christ or that it is composed of the communities of Christ’s people?
4) On biblical inerrancy, see my earlier comments including the passages from Dei
Verbum. Again, that we believe more does not imply that we do not believe as much.
5) On “Holy Tradition” see my comments about Dei Verbum on “Sacred Tradition.” And the Wheaton Statement of Faith only says of Holy Scriptures that “they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.” It does not follow from that claim that they say everything, saying, for example, those elements of the Word of God involved in Sacred Tradition. Consequently, they may be of supreme and final authority in all they say, without in any way being in conflict with what they do not say, those elements that are also part of the Word of God, namely Sacred Tradition. In fact, Dei Verbum makes it pretty clear that we cannot hold that there is a conflict between Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. From which it appears to follow that Sacred Scripture is indeed the “supreme and final authority in all [it] says,” since Sacred Tradition cannot contradict it, and the teaching authority of the Church is “not above it…but serves it.”
And a further point about the Immaculate Conception, apart from the logical point I made earlier. It ought to be no more difficult for us to believe the doctrine consistent with the Wheaton Statement of Faith than it is for us to believe it to be consistent with Scripture itself: “For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” (Romans 22-23) Just as our interpretation of that passage in Scripture must be judged by the teaching authority of the Church so as to be consistent with the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, so also, presumably, must our affirmation be of a statement like that found in the Wheaton Statement of Faith which looks to be little more than what is said in Romans.
And it is not the case, as Hieronymus claims, that any creed can be “pulled” and “twisted” to be made consistent with Catholic orthodoxy. The Calvin College Form of Subscription requires assent to, among other things, the Confession and Catechism of the Reformed Churches as well as the Canons of Dort. Among other things, these require assent, if I understand them correctly, to the proposition that there are only two sacraments.
I don’t know how anyone could “pull” or “twist” to get 2=7. So I don’t know how a Roman Catholic could sign their Form of Subscription.
As I explained to Hieronymus, I think that Wheaton could formulate a statement of faith that Roman Catholics cannot affirm. I just don’t see that they have actually succeeded in doing so.



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Tom R

posted January 10, 2006 at 4:45 pm


> “Which of these affirmations must a Roman Catholic, faithful to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic church, deny?”
The kicker is probably:
> WE BELIEVE that the Holy Spirit… enables [believers] to understand the Scriptures…”
I don’t see how the RC position on the role or authority of the Church could be reconciled with that.
Also, is there not some inconistency between (1) some commenters arguing [my paraphrase] “How intolerant to sack him! Did they think he would infect other staff and students with Popery?” and (2) others fondly reminiscing about how it was Prof XYZ who first started their journey home to Rome.
Ask yourself how you’d feel if a high-profile teacher at Ave Maria announced he’d become “born again”. He might use the same terms (“baptism”, “the Church”, “Apostolic Tradition”), but would understand them with different meanings that would be incompatible with what a serious Catholic believes.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 10, 2006 at 11:15 pm


****
The kicker is probably:
> WE BELIEVE that the Holy Spirit… enables [believers] to understand the Scriptures…”
I don’t see how the RC position on the role or authority of the Church could be reconciled with that.
****
Dear Tom R,
Assuming you are a Roman Catholic, do you really believe that if you accept the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church the Holy Spirit is incapable of rendering you able to understand Scripture? That’s what follows from your claim that the two theses are inconsistent.
There is simply no question that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that “the Holy Spirit…enables [believers] to understand the Scriptures.”
See Dei Verbum #2 “In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1;15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14-15) and lives among them (see Bar. 3:38), so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.”
And Dei verbum #5 “The obedience of faith” (Rom. 13:26; see 1:5; 2 Cor 10:5-6) “is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,” (4) and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him. To make this act of faith, the grace of God and the interior help of the Holy Spirit must precede and assist, moving the heart and turning it to God, opening the eyes of the mind and giving “joy and ease to everyone in assenting to the truth and believing it.” (5) To bring about an ever deeper understanding of revelation the same Holy Spirit constantly brings faith to completion by His gifts.”
Dei verbum #6 “As a sacred synod has affirmed, God, the beginning and end of all things, can be known with certainty from created reality by the light of human reason (see Rom. 1:20); but teaches that it is through His revelation that those religious truths which are by their nature accessible to human reason can be known by all men with ease, with solid certitude and with no trace of error, even in this present state of the human race. (7)”
And Dei verbum #8 ”the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (see Col. 3:16).”
But your comment suggests that you think the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church is inconsistent with that claim.
Of course, it is not true in general that teaching authority is inconsistent with the ability of those taught to understand. I myself am a teacher. When I teach, I presuppose that my students have been given by God the gift of intelligence by which they will come to understand what I intend to teach them. If I did not presuppose that, I would utterly fail in my task. When I teach my students I have the authority to do so. They pay thousands of dollars to be taught by me and my kind, in order to come to understand the subject matters we teach them. I trust that you yourself, or your parents, likewise pay or paid these exorbitant amounts of money in order to be taught. If the ability to understand is inconsistent with teaching authority, then all of my students and their parents are acting in a deeply irrational way.
Notice, not even considering their Statement of Faith, the whole existence of Wheaton College is predicated upon the thesis that teaching authority is not inconsistent with the ability of students to understand. If Wheaton College believes that it is inconsistent, then they are running a confidence game, and ought to be shut down.
When it comes to the teaching of the Word of God, certainly the Roman Catholic Church believes that its faithful members can, though the gift of the Holy Spirit, understand what God has revealed. That is the point of reading Holy Scripture in every mass, and preaching about it. There is simply no point to preaching/teaching if those who are listening are incapable of understanding what they are being taught. And in fact, the practice of most Protestants confirms the fact that they do not believe understanding Holy Scripture is inconsistent with recognizing teaching authority. They too listen to preachers. They too have catechesis and “sunday school.” I have yet to meet a Protestant who does not listen to preachers, or read books about Scripture in an effort to understand it better. They may not attribute as high a level of authority to those preachers and writers as Roman Catholics do to the magisterium of the Church. But they recognize their authority nonetheless.
And it is clear at Wheaton itself, in the very notion of the Statement of Faith, that they do not believe that teaching authority is inconsistent with the understanding granted by the Holy Spirit. They prefaced the Statement of Faith by referring to the ancient Creeds. That is to recognize the authority of those who wrote the creeds to state definitively what is to be understood about Christian faith. They themselves claimed the authority to teach a Statement of Faith to be adhered to by all of their community. The penalty for not accepting that teaching is expulsion from the community. There are Protestant denominations that are very low-creedal, and perhaps not creedal at all. But Wheaton certainly does not act as if teaching authority is inconsistent with the understanding given by the Holy Spirit. And they certainly do not assert in their Statement of Faith that it is inconsistent.
So I do not see how a faithful Roman Catholic has to deny the statement you point to. And the teaching of the Church in Dei verbum pretty clearly indicates that it is a statement a Roman Catholic ought to affirm.



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dave l.

posted January 11, 2006 at 1:30 am


I was raised a Catholic. Attended Catholic elementary & high schools in the 60′s. I am not what you would call a practising Catholic, but I still respect the institution and the strong family and community values that are inheirent in such an upbringing. One of my sons plays football for a another private college that is in the same conference as Wheaton. Through this relationship I have come to know a bit about Wheaton college and I hold them in the highest regard. In a world that has become enamored with concepts such as “diversity” over “unity”, “tolerance” over “responsibility”, “feelings” over “reality”, we must protect the rights of any religon to determine the make-up and direction of it’s own institutions. I myself never had the opportunity to attend college but when I see the quality of a secular education, I am distressed. A girl friend of one of my sons attends Illinois University. She (herself a liberal) told me that in one of her classes, 1/2 of the class thought that “Jew” was a derogatory term. While this in itself is not earth shattering, nor as outrageous as much of what we hear today, I would ask you to think about the ramifications of this bit of information. In a highly regarded state institution of higher learning, 1/2 of the students arrived at college believing that the word “Jew” was a racial slur! I would submit that the average student graduating from Wheation college has a far better and “diverse” education than the average Illinois grad. I would reinforce this opinion with the fact that Chicago Catholic high school graduates (with less expendature per student) out performs Chicago public school graduates in every academic criteria. This fact holds true throughout the country. I watched the confimation hearings today for Judge Alito. He was told by a democtatic Senator that “millions” of Americians would find his 1985 statement that Roe V Wade was not constitutial as “distressing”. He neglected to state that perhaps “millions” more might find it “comforting”. As I listened to his deflection of the effort to extract his beliefs on abortion, I thought “take a stand man” enough of this effort of hiding moral conviction as to not ruffle the feathers of the left. I have come to view this as appeasment. And history has been a clear lesson on as to what the consquences of appeasment are. So I believe it is not as important that what Wheaton college will lose (I believe it will lose nothing but will gain) by it’s strict adhearence to it’s policies, as it is that it be allowed it’s continued ability to define itself by it’s “unalienable” right to freely practise it’s beliefs. Something the “tolerant” left finds unacceptable.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 11, 2006 at 8:10 am


Dear dave l.,
I believe that Wheaton College has the right not to employ Roman Catholics. The simplest way for them to exercise that right is to have a policy that says, “Wheaton College will not employ Roman Catholics, whatever they believe.”
I don’t think, however, that they have the right to determine for Roman Catholics what they do and do not believe. If a Protestant tells me, a Catholic, “you Catholics worship Mary,” should my response to that be, “yes, you are right, since that is what Protestants believe Catholics believe?” If I should not accept that effort to determine for me what I believe as a Roman Catholic, why should I allow them to tell me that I do not believe as a Roman Catholic that Holy Scripture is the final authority in all that it says, or any other assertion in their Statement of Faith, despite the fact that the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is plainly that it is?
The firing of Josh Hochschild involved an effort to tell a Roman Catholic what he did and did not believe, despite the teachings of his Church. That is unjust.



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Richard Sibbes

posted January 11, 2006 at 9:25 am


“Thomas Aquinas” appears to have gotten this one right. I’ve yet to see anybody show that a Catholic can’t sign that statement.



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Ronny

posted January 11, 2006 at 10:43 am


Thomas Aquinas,
Your comments, especially Jan. 11 @ 8:10 a.m., are spot on.
Tom R., by the way, is not a Catholic, despite all the time he spends reading and commenting on Catholic blogs (mostly in an effort to show us the alleged error of our ways).



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Observer

posted January 11, 2006 at 10:45 am


Clearly Wheaton College and Thomas Aquinas have different interpretation’s of the meaning of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith, which shouldn’t surprise given that the understanding of the relationship of Scripture and Tradition has been a point of dispute since the 16th century – even (or especially) when similar or the same words are used.
I must admit though, I find his last statement ironic – it seems to me that Thomas Aquinas’ project has been precisely that – telling Wheaton what it believes.



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Jared

posted January 11, 2006 at 1:54 pm


Re. brendan’s post on Jan 9:
As a Gordon student in the middle of RCIA, I’ve been very interested in Tom Howard’s conversion. I’ve looked into that matter quite a bit and I can assure you that it wasn’t simply a matter of Catholicism being “incompatible with their mission.” Gordon has many other concerns to keep in mind and finances were indeed paramount in that situation. If Gordon had kept Howard on the faculty they would have risked losing 1/4 of their students; possibly more. It doesn’t take away from your point when you say “We can do better”, but Gordon’s reasons for getting rid of Howard were not that they were unwilling to compromise; they were more political and financial. Believe me, if they don’t think it will hurt them financially Gordon jumps at just about any chance it has at beefing up its “diverse” image.



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tom

posted January 11, 2006 at 2:53 pm


Well, I’m a Wheaton grad who was raised Catholic and became firmly convinced of the teachings of classic Protestantism during my time at Wheaton. I don’t mean this to sound nasty, but my mind boggles at the thought of converting to Catholicism after an education at Wheaton or Calvin.
I suspect I know what is happening, though, and it explains a lot of evangelical conversions to Eastern Orthodoxy, too, such as that of Frederica Matthewes Green. So much of evangelicalism today is so superficial and shallow, those seeking more depth to their religious “experience” (I hate that term, but I can’t think of a better one) are naturally drawn to the liturgy and rich intellectual and artistic traditions of the Roman Catholic church and, when it comes to the Eastern church, the rich liturgy and iconography.
But while I greatly admire the Catholic church’s commitment to the arts, to intellectual inquiry, to a culture of life and the like, they’re all secondary. The fundamental issue is that asked in the gospels: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Roman Catholicism and classic Protestantism give fundamentally different answers to the question of Justification.
I happen to think the Protestant (specifically the Reformed) answer to the question better aligns with Scripture.



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Tom R

posted January 11, 2006 at 3:11 pm


Ronny is correct, although my meagre efforts to show Catholics the errors of their ways is a drop in the bucket compared to Catholics showing other Catholics the errors of each others’ ways. Mostly I’m just a bemused bystander while the Pope’s loyal legions accuse one another of dreaded Private Interpretation and play “My favourite Pope is more infallible than your favourite Pope.”
T. Aquinas seems, to me, missing the fundamental distinction between claiming ordinary teaching authority and claiming infallible teaching authority. If I tell my students “The textbook says that ‘JFK was shot by Oswald’, and I say that this means ‘JFK was shot by Oswald acting on LBJ’s behalf’,” they can check this in the textbook. Indeed, they can check it in any number of textbooks. My students may disagree with me. Indeed, one day they may come to outrank me. One of my former high school teachers once enrolled (briefly) in a university subject I was teaching externally.
But if I claim to hold infallible authority, even if what I’m teaching appears to conflict with the textbook (either directly, or by making it out to mislead by significant omission), then my students can’t do that. It’s no longer “your own innate intelligence” that “enables them to understand the textbook”, but me.
Know, please, that my view on Wheaton’s right to Curranise Mr Hochschild is (as far as my fallen mind can tell) independent of the denominational oxen being gored. Also, I think an attainder-style ban singling out “Catholics” nominatim, rather than on “people whose theological allegiances mean they can’t mean what we mean by our Statement of Beliefs”, would be silly. Then you end up with the same problem as the UK Act of Succession, which bars Prince Charles marrying even a post-Vatican II “Papist” but leaves him free to marry a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Mormon. Who knows, a future Pope and Council might… well, not “repeal”, but “paste another Apostolic Constitution over” Trent, removing the conflict between Rome and Wheaton. The normal time-lag for Catholicism to catch up with the Reformation is 50 to 300 years, though (which is why none of you guys think I should be thrown in jail for converting to Protestantism, right?), depending on the issue.



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Jared

posted January 11, 2006 at 3:13 pm


Re. Tom,
Huh. The “New Perspective” on Paul is just one example I think of why Protestantism’s simplistic “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” question (and, that is, Luther’s) has been much too narrow and that in spite of its emphasis on having a personal relationship with Christ attempts to boil salvation down to mere formula.
I’m almost done with my undergrad at Gordon and, as a Bible major, if there’s anything that hasn’t been well-represented at Gordon it’s Catholicism.



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Tom R

posted January 11, 2006 at 3:22 pm


> “don’t think, however, that they have the right to determine for Roman Catholics what they do and do not believe. If a Protestant tells me, a Catholic, “you Catholics worship Mary,” should my response to that be, “yes, you are right, since that is what Protestants believe Catholics believe?”
I agree that particular dispute will end in deadlock. But it’s a dispute over semantics. There is no point Protestants telling RCs “You lot worship saints”, when RCs will answer “No, what we do is not ‘worship’.” A better Prot approach, more productive of getting at the real issues, would say: “Granting arguendo that it’s not de facto ‘worship’, is the role that Cathodoxy ascribes to Mary Mother of Jesus inconsistent with the role that Jesus Himself and His Apostles ascribed to her?” It’s common ground on all sides that Cathodoxy gives Mary a higher place in salvation than other Christians, even other saints in heaven, so putting aside the question of whether this amounts to “worship”, there can be a (reasonably respectful) debate about whether this place is higher than that given to her by Script- … err, by our clearest records of Apostolic teaching.



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Tom R

posted January 11, 2006 at 3:33 pm


> ‘The “New Perspective” on Paul is just one example I think of why Protestantism’s simplistic “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” question…’
Which is why Bishop Tom Wright is about to swim the Tiber, right? In fact, despite his “new” perspective, ie the old Cathodox perspective (“when Romans and Galatians mention ‘the Law’, they only mean the Mosaic Law”; so — are you willing to apply that to James too?), he remains a Protestant, albeit an Arminian one.
Look at Wheaton vs Hochschild this way. You guys are always mocking Protestantism for not having a clear teaching authority, and for being split among different sects. But now, when a Protestant body says “Here is a statement that every Bible-believing[*] Protestant can sign and really mean, but which a non-Protestant either can’t sign or can’t really mean”, and acts decisively to remove someone whom they believe can’t sign it and mean it… they still can’t get it right. If this were Ratzinger vs Kung, you’d be cheering R for his “strong doctrinal stance”, even if K were protesting as the Swiss Guards dragged him out the door that “But I still believe in the Catholic Church!”
[*] “Bible-believing” = to block the “Well, Spong calls himself an ‘Evangelical’ and he’s even more contemptuous of the Bible than Crossan is” gambit.



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Jared

posted January 11, 2006 at 5:06 pm


Actually, though I haven’t been following the discussion here all that closely, I prefer Wheaton sticking to its guns and firing the dude. I think that Gordon, likewise, made the right decision as a Protestant Evangelical institution by keeping the faculty protestant and having Howard resign. As a matter of principle such moves are necessary to keep the identity of the school. It makes sense to me.
However, while the overall decision was the one I think they should have made, I do take issue with Gordon’s other motives for reaching it. And it is an unfortunate thing that people like Howard must resign on the one hand yet on the other the school is more and more willing to hire the most liberal jack-ass of a professor as long as he claims some form of Protestantism and signs the S of F. I can’t say much about Wheaton, but that’s how it is at Gordon–often called Wheaton’s sister-school (or rival … same thing). When push comes to shove, the interpretation of statements that “every Bible-believing Protestant” can sign get real broad, real quick.



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mumbo jumbo

posted January 11, 2006 at 10:19 pm


These days, it means Young Earth Creationism, Left Behind eschatology, and high-pressure altar calls between these Beginning and End.
And precisely how is this different from Roman Catholics bowing and scraping before vague images of the Virgin Mary on bathroom walls and potato chips?



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 12, 2006 at 1:10 am


Observer writes:
****Clearly Wheaton College and Thomas Aquinas have different interpretation’s of the meaning of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith, which shouldn’t surprise given that the understanding of the relationship of Scripture and Tradition has been a point of dispute since the 16th century – even (or especially) when similar or the same words are used.
I must admit though, I find his last statement ironic – it seems to me that Thomas Aquinas’ project has been precisely that – telling Wheaton what it believes.****
1) On its face, nothing in Wheaton’s Statement of Faith excludes the role of Sacred Tradition in the understanding of Scripture. And if we take into account its preface relating it to “historic creeds,” it ceratainly appears to presuppose Sacred Tradition.
2) I have not in any way been trying to tell Wheaton what it believes. I seem to be one of the few who actually thinks they have clearly expressed what they believe in their Statement of Faith. I have presupposed that Wheaton means what it says, and taking Wheaton at its word, I have claimed that Roman Catholics can, and should assert that they believe the assertions made in the statements that Wheaton has very clearly asserted. Those who have been arguing against me don’t seem to be as charitable toward Wheaton. They have been arguing that Wheaton doesn’t really mean what the statements appear to mean. “No,” they say, “Wheaton means something other than the statements literally assert.” If there is an irony here, it is that those who are making this claim about Wheaton are attributing to a Protestant sect the position that statements made in plain English, in order to assert what those making them believe, do not really mean what they literally mean. I guess it is only Scripture that is to be taken literally. Not anything that Wheaton actually says in its Statement of Faith.
What an odd practice–to publish for the world to see a Statement of Faith, and yet claim that no one other than those who are stating it can understand it. But if no one other than those at Wheaton can understand it, can anyone not at Wheaton deny it?
2) You seem to be claiming that other beliefs held by many at Wheaton actually change the meaning of the statements that are asserted in the Statement of Faith. I do not deny that many at Wheaton, including, probably, many administrators, believe many things IN ADDITION TO what they stated in their Statement of Faith. I do not deny that those other things they believe are in conflict with many things that Roman Catholics believe. If those beliefs that do conflict with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church were stated in their Statement of Faith, I would claim no Roman Catholic could sign it. But they aren’t stated in their Statement of Faith.
As far as I can tell, Wheaton does not ask anyone to affirm those other beliefs. Suppose they started putting all those other beliefs that are supposed somehow to change the “meaning” of the statements they did include in their Statement of Faith. Wouldn’t that solve the problem? So why not do so? Do you think it might be because if they started to do that, they might have to fire more people at Wheaton, people who otherwise think themselves able to affirm the Statement of Faith they did publish, people who think they understand the Statement of Faith even though they do not believe everything believed by everyone around them? How much actual uniformity is there among the faculty and administrators on all these other beliefs that are supposed to lead to “different interpretations of the meaning of the Statement of Faith?” If I were to do a survey of the all the interpretations of the Wheaton faculty of the statements in the Statement of Faith, would I come up with a uniform set of “interpretations?” I wonder.
Does the Wheaton administration actually check on all of its faculty to make sure there is that uniformity of “interpretation,” in order to make sure that it is only the Catholics who are wrong in claiming to understand the Statement of Faith? Of all those other faculty, shouldn’t they ask, “yes but do you believe everything we believe that is not in the Statement of Faith, so that we can be assured that you actually understand it when you sign it?” And if they did this, wouldn’t they actually have to state those other beliefs so that the faculty could know what they are talking about? So then there would be a Meta-Statement-of-Faith?
But let’s make this easier. Suppose all the Statement of Faith said was “We believe in God the Father almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth.” I certainly would not deny that people at Wheaton believe many more things than that. But suppose that is all that it said. Why should I believe that all of those other beliefs change the meaning of that statement, so that only people at Wheaton can understand it, and affirm it? What an odd situation that would be. Only people who share all of their beliefs with the Protestants at Wheaton can understand and assert, “I believe in One God, the Father the Almighty, maker of Heaven and of Earth.”
If I believed that all those other beliefs change the meaning of that statement, I suppose that I would find it hard to believe that any Wheaton evangelical was serious in asking me whether I believe in “God the Father the almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth,” because that Wheaton evangelical believes that I cannot even understand the question. Well if I cannot understand the question, why is he asking me?
Considering the whole Statement of Faith again, is it rational to ask people questions you don’t think they can understand? Wouldn’t the Wheaton evangelical already have to believe that I am a Wheaton evangelical in order to be rational in asking me whether I assent to the Statement of Faith? But in that case, already believing that I am a Wheaton evangelical, why is he asking me to sign a Statement of Faith? Or let us suppose that some member of the Wheaton faculty comes to lose his or her faith. No doubt, he or she will have to leave the faculty. But insofar as he or she no longer believes what Wheaton evangelicals believe, does he or she cease also to understand the statements that he or she now denies? How can he or she deny them, if he or she cannot understand them. I confess, I think that the Wheaton College adminstrators are more rational than all of this would suggest.
In fact, the claim that Wheaton means something other than the statements plainly mean is proven false by the facts of the case. Consider one of the statements that it is claimed Roman Catholics don’t understand, namely, that Holy Scripture can be understood by any believer guided by the Holy Spirit. Those who have been claiming that Roman Catholics don’t understand this statement because of the other beliefs that Wheaton evangelicals have about Scripture, claim that it actually means something other than its plain sense. They claim that it means something like: everything in Holy Scripture can be understood by any believer guided by the Holy Spirit without the aid of any other authority. So it doesn’t mean what it appears to mean, but, rather, this something more that is unstated in the Statement of Faith.
That claim must be false. Josh Hochschild was allowed to sign the Statement of Faith as an Episcopalian. No one at Wheaton thought that he could not sign it, because he, as an Episcopalian, could not understand what it actually means. And yet what do Episcopalians believe? Well, among other things, they believe that Apostolic tradition is one of the famous three legs of the Anglican “three legged stool”, including also reason and Scripture. Hmm. Scripture is indeed described in Hooker’s account of these three principles as having final authority. And yet, when the sense of Scripture is not plain to the believer guided by the Holy Spirit, reason is to be employed in order to understand it. And when the sense of Scripture is still not clear, Apostolic authority and tradition is to finally judge of its sense. This three legged stool at least suggests that many Episcopalians believe there are passages of Scripture that will remain opaque to the individual believer guided by the Holy Spirit; it suggests that they cannot be understood simply by the individual believer guided by the Holy Spirit without the aid of Apostolic tradition.
If the relevant statement in the Wheaton Statement of Faith actually means that anyone guided by the Holy Spirit can understand the text apart from any other authority, why was Josh Hochschild allowed to sign it when he was an Episcopalian? Why did no one at Wheaton object that the Episcopalian Josh Hochschild didn’t understand the meaning of that statement? Was Wheaton wrong in hiring him when he was an Episcopalian? Did Wheaton itself not understand at that time what it means by that statement? Did it suddenly have a revelation of its real meaning, on the occasion of Josh Hochschild becoming a Catholic? Should it now, recognizing its error, or at least now finally recognizing what it actually means in that statement, fire all of the Episcopalians on its faculty?
I think not. But perhaps those of you arguing that the statements mean something other than what they state on their face do think they should all be fired.
No. Wheaton knew perfectly well what it means by that statement. It means what it says. And it knew perfectly well that the relevant statement does not exclude in its meaning those who believe that for believers guided by the Holy Spirit Apostolic authority may be necessary in order to understand Scripture.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 12, 2006 at 1:49 am


Tom R writes:
“T. Aquinas seems, to me, missing the fundamental distinction between claiming ordinary teaching authority and claiming infallible teaching authority. If I tell my students “The textbook says that ‘JFK was shot by Oswald’, and I say that this means ‘JFK was shot by Oswald acting on LBJ’s behalf’,” they can check this in the textbook. Indeed, they can check it in any number of textbooks. My students may disagree with me. Indeed, one day they may come to outrank me. One of my former high school teachers once enrolled (briefly) in a university subject I was teaching externally.
But if I claim to hold infallible authority, even if what I’m teaching appears to conflict with the textbook (either directly, or by making it out to mislead by significant omission), then my students can’t do that. It’s no longer “your own innate intelligence” that “enables them to understand the textbook”, but me.”
1) Nothing in Wheaton’s Statement of Faith refers to “innate intelligence.” Now who is telling Wheaton what it believes? I thought it was supposed to be the individual believer guided by the Holy Spirit. Are you now claiming that the Holy Spirit just is identical with the “innate intelligence” of the believer? I thought many Protestant’s believed that the whole point of enlightenment by the Holy Spirit is that the corruption of Original Sin is so thorough as to corrupt the intelligence of all human beings and render them incapable of understanding anything about God, including what Holy Scripture says. Are you now saying that the people as Wheaton claim it is by a believer’s “innate intelligence” that he or she can understand Scripture?
Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t want to tell Protestants, even at Wheaton, what they believe.
2) Bracketing the question of Scripture for a moment, you’ve actually done this with regard to all the things you claim to understand? Check them out on your own? Earth is spherical, not flat? It travels in an orbit around the Sun, rather than the Sun traveling in an orbit around the Earth? You do understand these things, right? Or are you a flat-earther and a geo-centrist?
Or is it that in principle you could check them out for yourself, so that even if you haven’t actually done so, you understand them because you could? How about the fact that with the Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln freed the slaves. You understand that, right? Have you checked it? Could you in principle check it?
But maybe the idea is that you could imagine checking it, if you had been present. So even if you can’t actually be present to check it, you now understand it because you could imagine doing so.
Well here’s my favorite: you understand who your father is, don’t you? To imagine checking that, you would have to imagine yourself being other than you are, namely, an observer at a conception, not the one conceived. If you claim to understand who your faither is, it looks like you’ve just got to grant to your mother a special authority you can never have. In fact, if you claim to understand who your father is, it looks as if it’s only because you grant to your mother something approaching infallibility. (I wish I could claim that example for my own. Alas it comes from Augustine, whose book I read.) I’d like to see the day when you say to your mother, “I don’t understand who my father is, because you have told me, and I have to believe you, and having to believe you prevents me from understanding it.”
3) You say you could check the book. No doubt if what you teach is “the book says Oswald shot Kennedy,” your students can look at their book, and see that you were telling the truth when you said, “the book says Oswald shot Kennedy.” But other than seeing that the book says, “Oswald shot Kennedy,” how is it that by simply looking at the book they understand what it means for the book to say “Oswald shot Kennedy?”
I would have thought that a teacher of history doesn’t teach his or her students what the book says, as any fool can look at a book and see what is written on the page. I would think that a teacher tries to help the student understand what is written on the page. I hardly think that a history professor thinks that his job consists in telling his students to look at a book and see that there printed on the page it says, “JFK was shot by Oswald.” But if in fact that is written on the page, how exactly do they determine from that statement on the page that you have spoken truly when you said that what the textbook means by “JFK was shot by Oswald” is “‘JFK was shot by Oswald acting on LBJ’s behalf’.” If the textbook actually says “JFK was shot by Oswald,” how do they look at that statement and conclude that it means “JFK was shot by Oswald acting on LBJ’s behalf,” other than you teaching them that that is what it means?
“What did you learn in school today, son?” “Well mom, my teacher said that when the book says ‘JFK was shot by Oswald’ it means
‘JFK was shot by Oswald acting on LBJ’s behalf.’ But when I looked at the textbook, all it said was ‘JFK was shot by Oswald’. And the teacher seemed to think that if I just looked at the textbook I would just see that he was right when he claimed that what it meant was “JFK was shot by Oswal acting on LBJ’s behalf’.”
I hope my students would think they were being gypped out of their tuition if all I was teaching them was that a book says “JFK was shot by Oswald,” but what the book really means is “JFK was shot by Oswald acting on behalf of LBJ” which you will understand if you just look at the book.
Any fool can see that Scripture says that God has a powerful right arm. But I fail to see how the practice of turning to Apostolic authority is a barrier to understanding that statement. Why do many Protestants, including those at Wheaton, affirm the creeds? Do the Protestant administrators at Wheaton think one can deny Chalcedon and understand Scripture? Maybe. But do they fire those other Protestants at Wheaton who think one cannot deny Chalcedon and understand Scripture?
4) But you think the claim to infallibility makes all the difference. Bracketing any misconceptions that may be in the air about the Doctrine of Infallibility, let’s just think about that for a minute. You do not seem to be claiming that teachers are barriers to understanding. You have granted me that. But you seem to be claiming something like this, “if a teacher is infallible, then that is a barrier to understanding what the teacher teaches.” Similarly, “if a teacher is not infallible, then that is not a barrier to understanding what the teacher teaches.” Now those strike me as really odd claims. They seem to imply claiming that you would rather have teachers who are more likely to be wrong. Who would you rather have teaching you math? A math teacher who never makes mistakes, indeed never could make mistakes, or a math teacher who makes mistakes? Remember we have bracketed any questions about the actual Doctrine of Infallibility, which is certainly not that the teaching authority of the Church never makes mistakes. We are simply pursuing your line of thought that it is infallibility as such that is a barrier to understanding. That strikes me as really odd. We ought to prefer stupider teachers to smarter ones, indeed, ideally smarter ones, because stupider teachers are less of a barrier to our understanding than smarter ones? So when the typical Protestant looks to a preacher or a book by some respected author to help him understand, not that Scripture says X, but what Scripture means when it says X, the Protestant is looking for those preachers and authors who are more likely to be wrong, rather than those authors who are more likely to be right?
You also say:
****“Look at Wheaton vs Hochschild this way…when a Protestant body says “Here is a statement that every Bible-believing[*] Protestant can sign and really mean, but which a non-Protestant either can’t sign or can’t really mean”, and acts decisively to remove someone whom they believe can’t sign it and mean it… they still can’t get it right. If this were Ratzinger vs Kung, you’d be cheering R for his “strong doctrinal stance”, even if K were protesting as the Swiss Guards dragged him out the door that “But I still believe in the Catholic Church!”****
A few points that make this analogy inapt:
1) the process of determining what Kung taught and its relationship to the teaching of the Church took approximately 20 years. Wheaton did not give Josh Hochschild the benefit of a few months, let alone 20 years.
2) Hans Kung did not claim to affirm what the Church teaches on the relevant issues of concern. He quite explicitly denied various assertions of the Church, and granted that he denied them, assertions that the Church said he must assent to in order to teach as a Catholic theologian. When it became clear, after a 20 year process, that he denied those assertions, and persisted in denying them, and refused to change, he was removed from his teaching position. Josh Hochschild did not deny or grant that he denied anything in the Wheaton Statement of Faith.
In short, Hans Kung said that the Church was wrong in what it proposed for him to believe. Josh Hochschild said Wheaton was right in what it proposed for him to believe. There is no comparison of the cases.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 12, 2006 at 1:58 am


Thomas Sibbes writes: “”Thomas Aquinas” appears to have gotten this one right.”
Doesn’t Thomas Aquinas get everything right?



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Dennis Martin

posted January 12, 2006 at 4:53 am


I’m coming to this late so I suppose few will read this. I am a Wheaton alum (’74), became a Catholic in 1993, teach theology at Loyola University Chicago.
The statement of faith is very generic because it was aimed at excluding liberal Protestants. It has specific language that no Liberal Protestant in the 1920s could have signed. The 1976 revision took this over. No one thought that Catholics would claim to be “evangelical Christians” because in Wheaton’s narrow world, no one knew any Catholics in 1976 (apart from charismatics, perhaps) and certainly had no first-hand knowledge of Catholic teaching documents.
The statement of faith in fact does not include anything a Catholic could not affirm. Thomas Aquinas is right about that.
What left a bitter taste in my mouth and I assume in Hochschild’s was what some posters have pointed out: Dr. Litfin told him that he (Litfin) knew that Hochschild could not sign in good faith because Catholics don’t believe what the statement says.
And secondly, he said that Wheaton had specified Protesantism in the preamble. But the preamble does not say “protestant”–merely “evangelical Christianity” with evangelical lowercased, so it does not even refer to the historic movement of that name. Had it read “Evangelical Protestant Christianity,” Wheaton could rightly have claimed that the preamble was the hermeneutic key to the rest of the document and thus “final authority” had to be read in a Protestant and not Catholic way.
But the preamble doesn’t state that and, furthermore, there is no unified “Protestant” way to read the document because some confessional Protestants assume an authoritative interpretation of Scripture beyond Scripture itself that is very close to the Catholic magisterium’s role while other Protestants have a minimal “magisterium” (Pastor Ray down at the Independent Baptist Fellowship).
Everyone agrees Wheaton ought to take steps to maintain its identity. I’m sure Joshua Hochschild agreed with that. But the problem was that the statement of faith does a lousy job of specifying what Wheaton’s identity is and when challenged on it, the school employed a high-handed “catholic” and magisterial, even papalist, approach giving an on-the-spot gloss as to the “true” meaning of the document, which itself was already an extra-scriptural authoritative gloss on scripture.
That would leave a bitter taste in my mouth if I were in Joshua Hochschild’s shoes.



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Dennis Martin

posted January 12, 2006 at 4:54 am


I’m coming to this late so I suppose few will read this. I am a Wheaton alum (’74), became a Catholic in 1993, teach theology at Loyola University Chicago.
The statement of faith is very generic because it was aimed at excluding liberal Protestants. It has specific language that no Liberal Protestant in the 1920s could have signed. The 1976 revision took this over. No one thought that Catholics would claim to be “evangelical Christians” because in Wheaton’s narrow world, no one knew any Catholics in 1976 (apart from charismatics, perhaps) and certainly had no first-hand knowledge of Catholic teaching documents.
The statement of faith in fact does not include anything a Catholic could not affirm. Thomas Aquinas is right about that.
What left a bitter taste in my mouth and I assume in Hochschild’s was what some posters have pointed out: Dr. Litfin told him that he (Litfin) knew that Hochschild could not sign in good faith because Catholics don’t believe what the statement says.
And secondly, he said that Wheaton had specified Protesantism in the preamble. But the preamble does not say “protestant”–merely “evangelical Christianity” with evangelical lowercased, so it does not even refer to the historic movement of that name. Had it read “Evangelical Protestant Christianity,” Wheaton could rightly have claimed that the preamble was the hermeneutic key to the rest of the document and thus “final authority” had to be read in a Protestant and not Catholic way.
But the preamble doesn’t state that and, furthermore, there is no unified “Protestant” way to read the document because some confessional Protestants assume an authoritative interpretation of Scripture beyond Scripture itself that is very close to the Catholic magisterium’s role while other Protestants have a minimal “magisterium” (Pastor Ray down at the Independent Baptist Fellowship).
Everyone agrees Wheaton ought to take steps to maintain its identity. I’m sure Joshua Hochschild agreed with that. But the problem was that the statement of faith does a lousy job of specifying what Wheaton’s identity is and when challenged on it, the school employed a high-handed “catholic” and magisterial, even papalist, approach giving an on-the-spot gloss as to the “true” meaning of the document, which itself was already an extra-scriptural authoritative gloss on scripture.
That would leave a bitter taste in my mouth if I were in Joshua Hochschild’s shoes.



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Tom R

posted January 12, 2006 at 8:18 am


Of the multiplication of Toms/ Thomases on this thread there is no end.



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Tom R

posted January 12, 2006 at 8:23 am


> “What an odd practice–to publish for the world to see a Statement of Faith, and yet claim that no one other than those who are stating it can understand it.”
Nicely put. Now what happens if you substitute “a Bible” for “a statement of faith”?
To me this controversy is amusing (apart from Bro. Hochschild’s lost 10%) because the usual positions are reversed: Catholics are arguing, “Well, if a visiting Martian ran the WSoF through a dictionary computer, it would seem to be syntactically compatible with Catholicism” while Prots are arguing “You know damn well what we meant when we wrote it! Don’t come along decades later and tell us we got it wrong!”



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 12, 2006 at 8:44 am


Denis Martin writes: “Everyone agrees Wheaton ought to take steps to maintain its identity. I’m sure Joshua Hochschild agreed with that.”
So does Thomas Aquinas.
“But the problem was that the statement of faith does a lousy job of specifying what Wheaton’s identity is”
Agreed 100%.
“The statement of faith is very generic because it was aimed at excluding liberal Protestants. It has specific language that no Liberal Protestant in the 1920s could have signed. The 1976 revision took this over. No one thought that Catholics would claim to be “evangelical Christians” because in Wheaton’s narrow world, no one knew any Catholics in 1976 (apart from charismatics, perhaps) and certainly had no first-hand knowledge of Catholic teaching documents.”
Yes indeed. Any number of Protestant friends, who are “Bible-believing,” have written to me to tell me that they could not sign it for any number of reasons.
The difficulty at Wheaton is not, as some have been arguing here, their inability to make clear statements of what they believe in their Statement of Faith. It is their ignorance of Catholic belief.
I wouldn’t want Catholic schools to take the same steps Wheaton has to strenghten their identity. But I certainly believe that religious schools should strenghten their identity. However, they should do it in a way that is just.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 12, 2006 at 9:43 am


Tom R., in the first part quoting me, writes: > “‘What an odd practice–to publish for the world to see a Statement of Faith, and yet claim that no one other than those who are stating it can understand it.’
Nicely put. Now what happens if you substitute ‘a Bible’ for ‘a statement of faith’?”
Well you get something like this: what an odd-practice-to publish for the world to see a Bible, and yet claim that no one other than those who are stating it can understand it.
Your point is?
I’m intrigued by your apparent comparison of the adminstrators at Wheaton to God Himself. No wonder you think they could not possibly be mistaken about what Josh Hochschild believes.
Who claims that the Bible was published for the world to see, and yet only those who stated it can understand it? Roman Catholics claim that guided by the Holy Spirit they can understand it. But they do not claim to have stated it.
When you make your statement above about the ability of Protestants to understand the Bible guided by the Holy Spirit, are you claiming that they also stated the Bible?
Tom R. also writes: “‘Catholics are arguing, ‘Well, if a visiting Martian ran the WSoF through a dictionary computer, it would seem to be syntactically compatible with Catholicism’ while Prots are arguing ‘You know damn well what we meant when we wrote it! Don’t come along decades later and tell us we got it wrong!’”
Wow. We Catholics have been called a lot of things. But Martians? I would have thought being a Martian was grounds enough to be fired at Wheaton. No need even to bring up the Statement of Faith. I can see the title of the book that you are planning to write on all of this: Catholics are from Mars–Protestants are from Earth.
I don’t know any Catholics who think that one has to run the WSoF through a computer. But I am intrigued by your suggestion that Wheaton makes declarative statements in English that most English speakers cannot understand, or at least English speakers who do not believe all of the other things believed by people at Wheaton that are not explicitly in the WSoF.
Speaking for myself, I think Wheaton was quite capable of making statements in English that don’t need to be run through a computer. I think they know enough about the English language to make statements in it that are readily understandable to ordinary speakers of English. I think they want to make such statements when they make a Statement of Faith. I think they want the world to know what they believe when they make that Statement of Faith, and that is why they make such a clear and understandable one.
Far from claiming that Wheaton “got it wrong,” I seem to be the one claiming they got it right.
If I am claiming anything controversial to some, it is that the statements that Wheaton included in its Statement of Faith are not the exclusive linguistic possession of the Christians at Wheaton and only those others who share the presumed unity of other beliefs that are not explicitly stated in their Statement of Faith. Others seem to be claiming that, “no, these statements are our exclusive possessions. They belong to us. You cannot even understand them, let alone assert them. You are not allowed to use our property. We speak a different language. You are Martians; we are Earthlings.”
But those statements, and their equivalents in other languages, are statements that have been affirmed by almost all Christians long before Wheaton came in to existence. And some Christians claim to have been asserting them for well over a thousand years.
Question: Roman Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary was conceived without stain of original sin. For the sake of argument, let’s assume you do not believe that statement, and would deny it, as well as an awful lot more of the things the Roman Catholic Church believes about the Virgin Mary, and perhaps other things about her relationship to Christ and the history of salvation. Do you understand the statement? Or is it beyond your ken, because of all those things believed by Catholics not explicitly stated in it that you do not believe? Do you, Earthling, need to run it through a computer for syntactic analysis before claiming to understand it?



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Ronny

posted January 12, 2006 at 1:07 pm


Know, please, that my view on Wheaton’s right to Curranise Mr Hochschild is (as far as my fallen mind can tell) independent of the denominational oxen being gored.
For the record, Joshua Hoschild’s situation at Wheaton is not at all analogous to what happened to Charles Curran at the Catholic University of America. Curran’s troubles started when he organized and signed a petition explicitly dissenting from church teaching while being employed as a professor in a program offering ecclesiastical degrees directly accredited by the Holy See. As time went on, he took additional steps to distinguish himself in opposition to Church teaching, which is the exact opposite of what Hoschild did vis a vis Wheaton’s statement of faith.
Furthermore, the time that lapsed between Curran’s initial act of dissent and eventual dismissal was a full 18 years, not a matter of months (similar to one of the notable differences between Kung and Hoschild already noted above).
Moreover, it is my understanding (someone correct me if I’m wrong) that a compromise was offered to Curran prior to or at the time his ecclesiastical faculties to teach theology were removed by which he would have been allowed to continue as a member of CUA’s faculty and teach, only he would be reassigned within the School of Theology and Religious Studies so that he would no longer be teaching courses approved for the ecclesiastical degrees offered within the program. He refused.
Hoschild would have been a lucky man had he been, as you put it, “Curranised.”



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Richard Sibbes

posted January 13, 2006 at 12:28 pm


Thomas Aquinas writes:
**Thomas Sibbes writes: “”Thomas Aquinas” appears to have gotten this one right.”
Doesn’t Thomas Aquinas get everything right?**
No. For starters, he got my name wrong. It’s Richard Sibbes.
Good Lord, this may be the real St. Thomas Aquinas. He keeps going, and going, and going . . .
Seriously, we should all be able to agree by now that Wheaton intended to exclude liberal protestants and Catholics (conservative and liberal) by this statement, but they did a lousy job with regard to the Catholics. There’s no reason a Catholic can’t sign WHAT IS WRITTEN in that statement. If Wheaton wants to prohibit Catholics in the future, they should add something like, “And I also believe the Pope is wrong about most of the important stuff.”
Unfortunately, liberal Catholics will still be able to sign Wheaton’s statement.



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Tom R

posted January 13, 2006 at 3:04 pm


> “Good Lord, this may be the real St. Thomas Aquinas. He keeps going, and going, and going…”
And I seem to have gotten his (?) goat, speaking symbolically and not literally of course. Getting into cyber-debate with someone who can match you with 100 words for every 10 you write is like seeing the Red Baron on your tail…
Right now I’m on holiday, with only intermittent internet access. TA, if you really want a reply, come back to this thread in late January, although it will probably be stone cold by then.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 13, 2006 at 5:27 pm


Richard Sibbes writes: “Thomas Aquinas writes:
**Thomas Sibbes writes: “”Thomas Aquinas” appears to have gotten this one right.”
Doesn’t Thomas Aquinas get everything right?**
No. For starters, he got my name wrong. It’s Richard Sibbes.”
So you didn’t get the joke then?



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 13, 2006 at 5:37 pm


Richard Sibbes writes: “Unfortunately, liberal Catholics will still be able to sign Wheaton’s statement.”
In the interests of peace with Tom R, I will say this: if there are Catholics who cannot sign the Wheaton statement, I suspect it is very liberal Catholics. I suspect many of them when asked would not sign on to either the innerancy of Scripture or the final authority of Scripture in all that it says. They might not sign on to the bodily resurrection of Christ, or the dead, the existence of Adam and Eve, and the existence of the devil. But then they wouldn’t be RCs particularly faithful to the teaching authority of the RC Church either. And what I have been arguing has been premised upon fidelity to that teaching authority.



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Richard Sibbes

posted January 13, 2006 at 5:44 pm


Ah, not at first. Why didn’t you just say, “You are Sibbes?”



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 13, 2006 at 6:17 pm


When it is being asserted of someone and his friends that they do not believe central tenets of the Christian faith, one might be forgiven for being clear, even if wordy, in defense of their faith. “One can never be too wordy in defense of one’s faith.” ‘Barry Goldwater’ Or something like that.
Being a fast typist helps too.



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Duane Litfin, President

posted January 14, 2006 at 12:22 pm


The best threaded discussion I’ve seen. Thank you for that. But still, little awareness shown of a book length treatment that deals with all the relevant issues (Duane Litfin, Conceiving the Christian College, Eerdmans, 2004), especially chapters 2, 10-11.
I don’t ask that you agree with us; only that you genuinely understand us, which is not likely to happen if you are depending on the popular media’s treatment. Consider the anti-Catholic spin so often apparent in the popular media and you will take my point. Reading so much of this coverage and the uninformed but dogmatic criticisms it has spawned, I’m constantly reminded of the old adage, “Often wrong, but never in doubt.”
We don’t mind being criticized, but the criticisms should be of the real thing, not the illusions generated by the secular media, especially in a thoughtful venue such as this one.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 14, 2006 at 2:38 pm


Dear President Liftin,
I appreciate your forthrightness in coming into this discussion, as well as your reference to your book.
If you have had a chance to read all of the entries here I hope you understand that:
1)I have not in any way challenged Wheaton’s right not to hire or employ Catholics. I certainly respect that right.
2) I have claimed that the statements Wheaton College places on its web page as constitutive of its “Statement of Faith” are statements that have been commonly affirmed by Christians for ages. In that regard they are included within the common heritage of Christianity.
3) As they are stated on Wheaton’s web page, they are statements that any Roman Catholic can affirm, as they are commonly taught by the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. I am often wrong, and often in doubt about many things. But I have little doubt that my Church teaches what is stated in the Statement of Faith as it appears on Wheaton’s web page.
4) My statement immediately above about it “being asserted of someone and his friends that they do not believe central tenets of the Christian faith” had more to do with my back and forth with Tom R. No disrespect was intended toward you personally or Wheaton College. I have tried to avoid commenting upon the firing of Josh Hochschild other than, in the first place, to ask to be shown that a Roman Catholic cannot affirm the statements published on Wheaton’s web page as they are stated there, and, in the second place, to argue with those here who claimed that a Roman Catholic cannot. If I have slipped somewhere along the line, and given offense to Wheaton, I apologize for that.



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 14, 2006 at 3:09 pm


Looking back over the extent of my comments here, I now see that in one specific instance I did in fact make a direct comment about Wheaton College’s firing of Josh Hocschild. In another instance, I made a somewhat less direct one.
They were both made in the heat of argument, despite my best intentions. A good reminder about the heat of argument, and what to avoid in it.
But for both I apologize.



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James Altena

posted January 16, 2006 at 8:58 am


This is my first visit to this sight. Two different points:
1) Most of the previous posts (at least before “Thomas Aquinas”) were heartily approving of Wheaton apparently standing its ground and wishing that more Roman Catholic colleges would do the same. For a different and to my mind more acutely perceptive take on the subject than anything posted so far, I herewith reproduce here the comments of Prof. S. M. Hutchins, a senior editor of the redoubtable “Touchstone” magazine (the one and only truly orthodox ecumenical publication, to which every thoughtful English-language Christian should subscribe: http://www.touchstonemag.com), from the magazine’s “Mere Comments” blog site. Hutchins received a Ph.D. as a Lutheran, passed through the ruins of the Episcopal Church, and now attends an Evangelical church in rural Wisconsin (though his theological views are nonetheless what one might call “extremely high church Protestant” — something like Fr. Neuhaus before the latter went over to Rome.)
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The Hochschild Affair
It may be that Wheaton College’s termination of Joshua Hochschild as a professor of philosophy because of his conversion to Roman Catholicism will eventually be looked upon as a terminus a quo in its departure not simply from Evangelicalism, but from Christianity altogether. I know this may sound hyperbolic, but if I am right in my belief that the deracinate Evangelical intellectual has only two well-marked paths of forward thought-movement open to him, the catholicizing or the liberalizing, this action represents an understandable but nonetheless ominous choice of the latter, and so a path out into the void.
To be sure, the vicissitudes of history may be expected to complicate the exeunt stage-left. Nor is it obvious on its face to the majority of the players in this drama that the action was symbolic of a deep and fatal ambiguity that links Evangelicalism with the fallen Protestant mainline, once evangelical itself. It appears that President Litfin did the right thing–or at least the properly Evangelical thing, as First Thing’s Joseph Bottum and others have remarked–in identifying his school’s statement of faith as Protestant and therefore as excluding Roman Catholic teachers. On the bright surface of things the hard but defensible decision was made. Dr. Hochschild was told to go his way not simply because his continued presence would offend a significant body of donors, but because Wheaton is a Protestant school and Dr. Litfin is a principled man.
A deeper problem for Wheaton, though, the problem of which the rejection is ultimately a symbol, is that in rejecting a Catholic in accordance with Evangelical principles, it has passively endorsed the continued tenure and influence of its liberalizing Evangelicals whose anti-Christianity Litfin and Wheaton, along with almost every major Evangelical institution, have admitted as fully Evangelical. The path to secularism–of which egalitarianism is the principal gate and adornment in our time, and successful resistance to which is our own day’s peculiar test of fidelity to the Christian faith in this part of the world–is being kept wide open by the more respectable sections of the Evangelical academy. Wheaton may be devoted to the Bible, but its interpretation is, among Evangelicals, falling into much worse hands than those of the Catholics. In valiant, Protestant resistance to the authority of the pope, Wheaton, with high principle and courage, is solemnly submitting to that of the devil.
I would be surprised if Wheaton will be able to survive as a Christian institution by force of the shame it will allow itself to feel for the illiberality behind this act. The ejection of a Catholic will provide yet another opportunity for liberals to express their contempt for conservative Christians, driving those Evangelical intellectuals who are petrified at the prospect of this disdain further than ever from their faith. They will oppose the ejection, and actions like it, not because they have any particular sympathies with Catholicism in general or people like Joshua Hochschild in particular, but because these stand, among the company they wish to keep, for the fundamentalism they above all things despise, and with which the Evangelical intelligentsia will do almost anything to avoid being identified.
The Evangelical progressives’ deep and abiding fear of the charge of fundamentalism by their secular peers will support the rejection of anti-Catholicism for the same reason it supports their rejection of Christianity’s patriarchalism. To the degree they are able to gain power in the Evangelical institution, the old-style, anti-Catholic Protestantism represented by President Litfin will be replaced by the new-style religion of the Evangelical egalitarian, which will welcome Catholics (of a certain type) with chortles of joy and wide-spread ecumenical arms. The problem with this is that the former, despite its strictures, is identifiably Christian while the latter, despite its emancipations, is not.
Posted by S. M. Hutchens at 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack (0)
——————————————
2) To comment on a previous post:
“As a former Episc., I would say they are absolutely sola scriptura.
Not quite. Popular Anglican teaching speaks of a “3-legged stool”. However, this is what Richard Hooker actually wrote:
“What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason over-rule all other inferior judgments whatsoever” ( Laws, Book V, 8:2; Folger Edition 2:39,8-14).
Thus, in order of precedence:
Scripture
Reason
The rulings of the Church (Tradition)
They are not equal. Of course, this ordering leads, I think, to the practical implementation of private judgement.”
Posted by: Ken at Jan 8, 2006 9:35:34 PM
————————
Ken, while I as a traditional “High Church” Anglican Catholic [separated from the apostate Episcopal Church for several years now] can see why you would draw your conclusion, it is nonetheless mistaken. You need to read Hooker in context. For Hooker, “reason” is not a faculty of private judgment that individually evaluates Scripture vis-a-vis (often against) Tradition, as it is for most Protestants. Rather, Hooker means “sanctified reason” or “right reason,” that has been sanctified by the “in-formation” of the Holy Ghost, which (contrary to many Evangelicals) is not an individualisitc experience but rather one’s personal participation in the corporate mind of the Church — Tradition as summarized in the “Vincentian canon” of St. Vincent of Lerins, of “that which has been believed at all times, in all places, by all men.” Thus “Tradition” is precisely the authoritative living embodiment and practice of Scripture as rightly apprehended by sanctified reason, and an indispensible mark of right reason is its conformity to Tradition. Hence Hooker’s point about the authority of the Church over-ruling private judgment.
In other words, Hooker’s order of Scripture-Reason-Tradition (rather than Scripture-Tradition-Reason that some Anglo-Catholics mistakenly attempt to impose on him) is a logical but not chronological order, as the relation between the three elements is reflexive. Every point of the Tradition was to human (as distinct from divine) knowledge originally a novelty. Thus the Tradition had to be formed by the application of sanctified reason to interpretation of the Scriptures. In that sense, Reason logically precedes Tradition, and that process continues whenever the Traditon is further explicated and amplified under the guidance of the Holy Ghost acting through the Church catholic. However, once the Tradition is initially established in its basics, it then in turn serves to shape, evaluate, and sanctify Reason.
Revisionist theologians frequently add “Experience” as a fourth leg to Hooker’s stool. (It should be emphasized that the common “3-legged stool” image distorts Hooker by implying that all three legs are of equal length. Hooker himself compared it instead to a 3-stranded cord, in which Scripture as the central base thread has Reason and Tradition entwined around it.) They then use individual experience to trump the other three legs and justify every piece of heresy and immorality. In fact, of course, Traditon already accounts for experience, being the systematic distillation of sanctified experience as formualted by the sanctified reason of the Church catholic under the judgment of the Holy Scriptures.
As with the Eastern Orthodox, then, where Hooker and those of us in the catholic wing of Anglicanism are separated from our Roman brethren is over the issue of whether the primacy of the Roman see as Rome has defined it is an authentic development of or profound deviation from the Vicentian canon of Tradition. That issue has been argued to death and I do not propose to debate it here. Perhaps the initiatives of Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI (both of them magnificent) to revisit the definition of papal primacy will open the door generations hence to the visible corporate reunion for which we all long.
– James Altena



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 16, 2006 at 10:54 am


Wow. And here I apologized for remarking twice, in a long discussion with many posts and in the heat of argument, upon the actual firing of Josh Hochschild, against my better intentions to avoid doing so. Now we have a cross-posting that describes Wheaton as submitting to the devil. Call me a Martian, but that’s a bit extreme.
The post also describes “anti-Catholicism” as an “identifiably Christian” position. I hope that is, in the terms my friends and I used to use 700 years ago, per accidens and not per se.
In any case, so that my claims are clear:
a) I do not dispute that Wheaton College has the right not to employ Roman Catholics.
b) I have asked to be shown that the Statement of Faith of Wheaton College as it appears on its web page is not something that Roman Catholics can assert. It does not follow that the statements are identifiably Protestant because identifiable Protestants assert them. No one has shown me that Roman Catholics cannot assert the statements as they appear on the Wheaton Web page.



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Duane Litfin, President, Wheaton College

posted January 16, 2006 at 12:47 pm


My thanks again to the participants on this thread for the seriousness with which these issues are taken and the spirit in which most comments have been offered. I would love nothing more than to engage each entry, as appropriate. But alas, my schedule will not permit more than a periodic dipping in of the toe.
“Thomas Aquinas” above affirms Wheaton’s “right not to employ Roman Catholics.” That is scarcely the way we would put it, of course, but I am grateful for his gracious affirmation of our need to hire for mission. I would only hope that we understand that “right” to be something more than a mere constitutional or legal right.
One of my frustrations in this discussion is that, as noted in an earlier post, I wrote an entire book designed to explore all of these issues, including Wheaton’s hiring policies (Conceiving the Christian College, Eerdmans, 2004). But one would hardly know it from the media reports or most of the responses those reports have generated. Even where the book has, as a matter of accuracy in reporting, received passing mention, none that I have seen have given it any real attention.
Be assured that I am not just trying to sell books here, but it is a matter of no little frustration to have a book-length treatment of the issues on the table for a year and a half now, only to discover that reporters or their respondents apparently couldn’t care less. They seem to prefer sound bite treatments over any substantive engaging of the larger issues.
If interested parties truly want to understand what we have done and why, a willingness to do a minimum amount of homework would seem to be in order. I don’t assume that readers of the book will automatically then fall into agreement with us, but they will at least come away with a fuller understanding of the real stakes for all involved in this matter.
As to the above appeal from “Thomas Aquinas” for an explanation of why a faithful Roman Catholic cannot also faithfully affirm Wheaton’s theological position, this too has been readily available. Please see the materials posted on Wheaton’s website:
http://www.wheaton.edu/welcome/response011006.html
One final observation: We have received very strong support since the appearance of the WSJ article from a number of deeply-committed Catholic respondents who realize that we at Wheaton take the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as seriously as they do. This they recognize and respect. It is our “cafeteria Catholic” respondents who seem to find what we have done so worthy of criticism. This observation at first seems counter-intuitive. Upon closer inspection, however, it makes perfect sense.



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James Altena

posted January 16, 2006 at 7:19 pm


To Thomas Aquinas:
Please re-read Dr. Hutchens’ comments. Perhaps its intent is clearer to me than to you because I have been reading his writings for years, and once corresponded with him briefly on a particular subject, so I know from whence he comes.
First, he did open by saying that some might find his comment “hyperbolic,” though he defends it.
Second, his suggestion that Wheaton, in firing Hochschild, is “submitting to the devil” is not meant pe se, but rather (as the thread of the entire argument shows) represents a signal stage (terminus ad quo) of a particular type of process and mindset that, if consistently followed out as it has been at other similar evangelical institutions (and Hutchens expects this to occur), will lead inexorably to the thorough-going de-Christianization of Wheaton. (A previous post above asserts that Wheaton effectively ceased to be solidly orthodox and evangelical some 20 years ago. I don’t know if that is true or not, but at least some folks think so.)
S similar observation applies to the comment about “Anti-Catholic Protestantism” as an “identifiably Christian” position. (I agree he could have expressed his intent here more clearly.) Anyone who has read Hutchens’ critiques of anti-Roman Catholic Reformed bigots such as R. C. Sproul knows that he has no truck with such stuff. Rather, his point is that both Protestants and Roman Catholics of past generations (e.g., Luther & Calvin vs. Ignatius Loyola), while holding profoundly condemnatory views of the other side that most of us today would deplore, nonetheless all held to a common core of Nicene creedal orthodoxy and had an identifiably Christian mindset, however imperfect that was due to ignorance, prejudice, and manifold other sins of our common fallen natures. That mindset is something quite other than that of modern theological revisionists.
Hutchens’ argument is that because evangelical colleges (apparently including Wheaton in his view) have admitted into the ranks of their faculty, and openly tolerate, liberal theological revisionists whose commitment to Nicene creedal orthodoxy is questionable at best, the dismissal of Prof. Hochschild did NOT represent a stand on evangelical Protestant principle vis-a-vis Roman Catholicism in the manner of previous generations. Rather, it evinced a reflection of the prejudice such revisionists show against truly orthodox Catholics — an “illiberal act” against someone the liberals classify as “illiberal.” The revisionists will then work this event to their advantage by playing on THE overriding fear of many evangelicals in academe — of being identified as “fundamentalists” and dismissed as bigoted rubes — to appear open-minded and tolerant by opening faculty positions to even more revisionists, ultimately including “liberal Catholics” — but never a seriously orthodox Roman Catholic such as Prof. Hochshild.
Dr. Hutchens may be proved wrong, but I suspect he is right in part because I spent enough years in graudate school observing precisely such subtle, devious and manipulative long-term power plays among faculty.
A minor correction to my previous post — Dr. Hutchens was never a Lutheran. He obtained his degree from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, but came out of a Baptist-Congregationalist background As an Episcopalian, he repeatedly sought ordination as a priest in the (thoroughly heretical) Diocese of Chicago, but was turned away due to his orthodox views.
– James Altena



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 16, 2006 at 10:25 pm


Dear James Altena,
My comments were tongue in cheek. An earlier post compared Catholics to Martians, and I was making light of that in humorously commenting upon the “devil” passage and the “identifiably Christian” passage.
If anything I might be accused of an oddly irenic aproach in being so determined not to let anyone other than the Roman Catholic Church tell Roman Catholics what they believe about the authority of Scripture. Thus, I have been arguing, to the surprise of many it seems, that the authority of Scripture in all that it says is a common heritage of Christianity, and not the sole possession of one community to the defined exclusion of another. Some might call such an irenic approach liberal. Irenic and also ironic given Wheaton’s historic ties to C. S. Lewis that the RC is using the teachings of the RC Church to defend a Mere Christianity position on the authority of Scripture.



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Richard Sibbes

posted January 16, 2006 at 10:59 pm


Pres. Litfin:
Thanks for joining in. I’ve looked at the book and at the web site, and both evade “Thomas Aquinas’s” question: “what is it about the Statement of Faith that a Catholic cannot affirm?”
Your answer seems to be that “everyone knows that Catholics affirm X & Y and our statement clearly and only affirms X.” But one who affirms X & Y is not denying X. Your statement should have specified “X & not Y” (where X is Scripture and Y is Tradition). But if you had said “X & not Y” you would have excluded lots of Protestants, especially Anglicans and Dutch Calvinists who come to Wheaton in droves. What’s so different about the way Anglicans can sign the statement and Catholics can’t?
I’m an Evangelical Protestant and it is clear to me that many Catholics can affirm the preamble and each and every proposition in the statement. I’d love to see evidence to the contrary.
Richard Sibbes
PS-Aquinas hardly seems to qualify as one of the “cafeteria catholics.” Sir, that’s a slur, and I think you owe him an apology.



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The Japery

posted January 17, 2006 at 11:18 am


I’m too principled for this church, too principled for this church, so principled it hurts

Another Pantagruelist stirring the pot! And at the outset I must vouch for Prof. Hochschild’s character of restraint. For over a year now I have been urging, nay, begging, the good Professor to allow me to stand as middle man…



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The Japery

posted January 17, 2006 at 11:44 am


I’m too principled for this church, too principled for this church, so principled it hurts

Another Pantagruelist stirring the pot! And at the outset I must vouch for Prof. Hochschild’s character of restraint. For over a year now I have been urging, nay, begging, the good Professor to allow me to stand as middle man…



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The Japery

posted January 17, 2006 at 11:46 am


I’m too principled for this church, too principled for this church, so principled it hurts

Another Pantagruelist stirring the pot! And at the outset I must vouch for Prof. Hochschild’s character of restraint. For over a year now I have been urging, nay, begging, the good Professor to allow me to stand as middle man…



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The Japery

posted January 17, 2006 at 11:50 am


I’m too principled for this church, too principled for this church, so principled it hurts

Another Pantagruelist stirring the pot! And at the outset I must vouch for Prof. Hochschild’s character of restraint. For over a year now I have been urging, nay, begging, the good Professor to allow me to stand as middle man…



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The Japery

posted January 17, 2006 at 11:57 am


I’m too principled for this church, too principled for this church, so principled it hurts

Another Pantagruelist stirring the pot! And at the outset I must vouch for Prof. Hochschild’s character of restraint. For over a year now I have been urging, nay, begging, the good Professor to allow me to stand as middle man…



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Thomas Aquinas

posted January 17, 2006 at 12:49 pm


In an effort to clarify the issues involved in this discussion, President Litfin directs readers to a particular web page at Wheaton other than that upon which the Wheaton Statement of Faith is to be found, for a better understanding of the issues involved and an understanding of what the Statement of Faith asserts. I am glad to see that at least one element of the media coverage of this affair turns out to be true, the only element I have been concerned with as relevant to the argument I have been making. The argument I have been making is not about the general idea of a college or university taking steps to hire for mission, which I believe is the general point of President Litfin’s book, an idea with which I have no quarrel. I have been concerned only with claims about what Catholics do and do not believe. It was reported in the media that President Litfin had made such claims. Now he has made clear that he has indeed done just that, by directing readers to the other web page at Wheaton College that is supposed to explain why a Catholic cannot sign the Wheaton Statement of Faith. That page, authored by President Litfin, clearly says what Catholics do and do not believe.
On that page he quotes a number of passages from the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church in order to derive two contrasting affirmations:
The Scriptures and Tradition, both as authoritatively interpreted by the
Magisterium, are our supreme and final authority.
The Scriptures alone are our supreme and final authority.
Not surprisingly, he identifies the first as the Catholic affirmation, and the second as the Protestant affirmation, and says that the two statements are jointly inconsistent.
Because some have complained about the length of my comments before, I will confine myself to two difficulties that I see with President Litfin’s claims about what Catholics believe.
The first difficulty concerns an ambiguity in President Litfin’s claim about the relevant part of the Wheaton Statement of Faith. On the one hand he says that it means or comes down to the proposition listed above as “Protestant.” On the other hand he says that the import of the relevant part of the Wheaton Statement of Faith is not actually the “Protestant” proposition listed above, but rather the historic Protestant rejection of the Roman Catholic Church’s claim to magisterial authority. This ambiguity runs throughout his discussion. The ambiguity is found explicitly in the expression of the “Catholic” proposition listed above. That proposition is about Scripture and Tradition. Though it mentions magisterial authority it is not about magisterial authority. A denial of it is not, thus, a denial of Roman Catholic claims to magisterial authority. And yet that is what President Litfin tells us is the import of the statement in Wheaton’s Statement of Faith.
In addition, I notice in President Litfin’s explanation of what Catholics believe on this matter that he only cites the statement in the Wheaton Statement of Faith about the final authority of Scripture in all that it says. I assume from this that President Litfin does not think the other eleven statements in the Statement of Faith cannot be asserted by Roman Catholics—the statements about the sovereignty of God, Adam and Eve, and so on. Presumably, they are all clear enough on their face and can be asserted as stated there. I claimed earlier that on their face all twelve statements are elements of the common heritage of Christianity. But it is clear from President Litfin’s discussion that Wheaton’s position is that there is one and only one of the twelve statements that is not clear on its face, and requires special interpretation, a special interpretation designed, it seems, solely to assure that Roman Catholics cannot assert it, since its “import” is to be taken to be the historic Protestant rejection of the claims to magisterial authority of the Roman Catholic Church. While it seems the statement on the authority of Scripture is the only statement of twelve in the Statement of Faith not clear on its face, President Litfin’s explanation of it as designed to exclude Roman Catholics and only Roman Catholics, tied as it is in its “import” to the historic Protestant rejection of Roman Catholic claims, is clear.
Unfortunately, it is not clear from President Litfin’s discussion how he understands the claim to magisterial authority in the Roman Catholic Church that he takes to be the target of the “import” of the relevant part of the Statement of Faith. In his explanation of what Catholics believe, he writes “we must allow the Catholic Church to speak for itself,” and then proceeds to quote from the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church passage #85, skipping passage #86, and then continuing to quote passages #87, and #88 on the authority of the magisterium in the interpretation of the Word of God. However, passage #86 that President Litfin skips in his exegesis of Roman Catholic claims to magisterial authority says, “[The} Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.” And yet President Litfin seems to claim that Roman Catholics believe the magisterium is an authority that is not subordinate to Scripture, an authority that Catholics appeal to in addition to the authority of Scripture, when he claims that Protestants by contrast appeal only to the authority of Scripture. He does this despite the fact that the Catechism plainly says magisterial authority is a service to the higher authority of the Word of God, not something in addition to it. According to the Catechism the authority of the magisterium to interpret Scripture is not separate from and in addition to the authority of Scripture, but, rather, subordinate to the authority of Scripture because the authority of Scripture is the authority of the Word of God Himself.
President Litfin must have read passage #86 when he read passages #85, 87, and 88. Its absence from his discussion is striking, since it clearly invalidates his line of reasoning in telling his readers what Roman Catholics do and do not believe about the role of magisterial teaching and its relation to the authority of Holy Scripture. And yet it is that line of reasoning and explanation that must be accepted if the Wheaton Statement of Faith is even to be understood as denying in the historic Protestant way the claims of Roman Catholic magisterial authority. In other words, it seems that those at Wheaton who do sign the Statement of Faith, in order to understand its “import” must also accept President Litfin’s particular understanding of Roman Catholic teaching; not their signing, but their very understanding of the Statement of Faith depends upon the accuracy of a particular explanation of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that does not include a significant element of that very teaching. If they do not accept President Litfin’s claims about what Catholics can and cannot believe, do they then not understand the Statement of Faith they have signed?
Finally, and this is the second difficulty, apart from any possible misunderstandings present in President Litfin’s exegesis of the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church and the role of magisterial authority in interpreting Scripture, the Wheaton Statement of Faith plainly does not say “The Scriptures alone are our supreme and final authority.” It says in the relevant part of the statement that Scriptures “are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.” Clearly these two statements differ in meaning. Compare:
The Wheaton Statement of Faith is fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all that it says.
The Wheaton Statement of Faith alone is our supreme and final authority.
Clearly one can affirm the first as true, (I suspect those who sign it do so), without affirming the second, since presumably the Wheaton Statement of Faith does not have authority over Holy Scripture itself in the lives of those who sign it at Wheaton. If one is true and the other false, they cannot mean the same thing; nor can the first even validly imply the second, if the first is true and the second false. Similarly, “Scripture is fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all that it says” does not mean or imply “Scripture alone is our supreme and final authority.” I don’t doubt that many Protestants at Wheaton believe the latter claim in addition to the former; but it doesn’t mean it or imply it, and it isn’t included in the Statement of Faith.
My reason for stressing this point is what I have maintained before: on its face that element in the Wheaton Statement of Faith, like everything else in the Wheaton Statement of Faith, is part of the common heritage of Christianity, not the exclusive possession of any particular community, neither the party of Cephas nor the party of Paul. (1 Cor. 1:10f)
As I wrote in earlier entries, I do not doubt that many at Wheaton would like its Statement of Faith to be something no faithful Roman Catholic could assert. I have little doubt that there are many things believed at Wheaton that no Roman Catholic faithful to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church could affirm; if those things were in its Statement of Faith no Roman Catholic could sign it. However, Roman Catholics can and do affirm that the Holy Scriptures are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say. Indeed, I believe, given the magisterial teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholics ought to affirm that claim, since the authority of Holy Scripture is the authority of the Word of God Himself.
I also don’t doubt that President Litfin has heard from deeply committed Catholics applauding Wheaton’s taking seriously Roman Catholic teaching. However, I doubt that upon a review of the teaching of the Catechism, including passage #86, or a rereading of Dei Verbum which the Catechism is simply quoting and restating, any of them would assent to President Litfin’s thesis that they believe as Roman Catholics that the authority of the magisterium is an authority distinct from and in addition to Holy Scripture. Rather they would affirm that it is an authority subordinate to and in service to the Word of God, an authority that is charged not with judging Holy Scripture, but, rather, interpretations of it.
President Litfin’s exegesis of the Catholic Catechism’s teaching on the magisterium and Holy Scripture ends with passage #100, the last passage just before the beginning of the section devoted specifically to Holy Scripture. Contemplating what they believe about Holy Scripture as expressed in that section, those Catholics would also likely find enlightening passage #104 that “in Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, ‘but as what it really is, the word of God.’ ‘In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.’” They would take into consideration passage #102, “through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely.”
And before denying that Sacred Scripture is trustworthy and the final and supreme authority in all that it says, they would reflect long and hard on the meaning of passage #103 from the Catechism, “for this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body.” “In order to reveal himself to men, in the condescension of his goodness God speaks to them in human words: “Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men.” “Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely: You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time “ (Passages #101-102)
They would recognize that they believe any denial that would divorce the Lord’s Body from His Word would mean breaking that table of the bread of life in two. That, by the way, is an element in the basis for the Roman Catholic Church’s position on intercommunion, a position that President Litfin oddly calls its “gate-keeper” authority. To provide this “gate-keeper” exegesis of magisterial authority, President Litfin skips fully 1300 intervening passages in the Catechism to arrive at #1395 and #1400 to tie them back to the passages that precede the account of Sacred Scripture itself. I grant that it is 1300 passages; but they are all there. Complicated as questions of intercommunion are, magisterial authority is not, as he seems to think, an authority that stands above either the Lord’s Word or the Lord’s Body as a “gatekeeper” allowing access to them only on condition that communicants bow down before magisterial authority as opposed to the authority of Scripture. It is, among other things, an authority in service to Roman Catholic reverence for the unity of God’s Word and Body, the unity of the Word Incarnate present before us in the Mass in the proclamation of Holy Scripture and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Upon careful recollection of what their Church teaches, they would recognize that President Litfin effectively attributes to them a belief that the authority of the Church is something distinct from and in addition to the authority of God, rather than His servant. What is stated in the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church makes it quite clear that for Roman Catholics to deny that Holy Scripture is the final authority in all that it says is effectively to deny the teaching of their Church that the authority of Holy Scripture is none other than the authority of God Himself. If they reflect for a moment or two, I doubt that they would do that.
I think there are other difficulties with President Litfin’s account of what Roman Catholics do and do not believe. I will not pursue them here. However, I still do not believe anyone has shown that a Roman Catholic faithful to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church cannot affirm the statements made in the Wheaton Statement of Faith as it appears on its Web page. I would also like to express my appreciation and respect for President Litfin’s entering into the fray of this conversation. I will likely not say anything more on this topic, as I must finish several projects.



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Dennis Martin

posted January 17, 2006 at 5:18 pm


Thank you, Doctorissimus Angelicus, for doing some additional homework and articulating so clearly why some of us believe that the Wheaton administration is engaged largely in damage control, not in an honest engaging of the issues at stake. The silence about CCC # 86 in the 1998 President’s Forum is deafening. Perhaps it’s an honest mistake. But if not, then it’s disingenous. Either way, it needs to be acknowledged and corrected by the Wheaton administration and, if Wheaton wishes to be exclusively Protestant, then the Statement of Faith needs to be revised. The alternative, an honest conversation with Catholics, would be far more fruitful, but at the very least, the Statement of Faith as it stands does not support the claims made about it and the effort to gloss it as supporting an exclusively Protestant mission, in the process, seriously misrepresent Catholic beliefs. This is an offense against Christian agape, if I read the NT correctly.



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Richard Sibbes

posted January 17, 2006 at 6:12 pm


Martin and Aquinas have stated the matter clearly and persuasively.
How about it, President Litfin? Why was #86 omitted? Can we expect an answer on this question?



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Duane Litfin, President, Wheaton College

posted January 17, 2006 at 6:55 pm


Apologies for an abbreviated response, but I must do this on the run.
To Richard Sibbes: Be assured that my reference to cafeteria Catholics was not a reference to Thomas Aquinas. He seems anything but.
As to the inherent conflict between the formal principle of the Reformation and what is in effect the formal principle of the Roman Catholic Church, surely it is not news to you that both of these positions express dissent from the other. If that contrast, captured in that profound sola, is lost on you, it has not been lost on generations of both Catholics and Protestants who have held fervently to the truth as they see it. See below for the key issue.
To Thomas Aquinas (and now Dennis Martin): You refer to our website and claim that there you finally discovered that, as reported in the media, Litfin “clearly says what Catholics do and do not believe.” But alas, you are mistaken. There is rather a large distinction to be made between (1) citing what the Roman Catholic Church publicly teaches, and which it expects faithful Catholics to embrace, versus (2) telling any or all Catholics “what they believe,” as if the issue was the internal state of Catholics. I have no idea what any Catholic believes and would not even attempt to address the question. But like everyone else, I can know what the Catholic Church officially teaches. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the stated purpose of the Catechism.
As to the rest of your latest posting, I can only say that you have missed the point. Of course I have read #86, but the reason I did not cite it on our website is that it is not particularly relevant to point I was making there.
It is specifically the gate-keeping role of the Magisterium that Protestants “protest.” No matter how sincerely the Magisterium works to fulfill the spirit of #86, and I credit it with the profoundest sincerity possible, Protestants, of whatever sort, remain unwilling to grant that “the task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.” Please note that I do no “exegeting” of the Catechism here; I’m merely quoting it. The Church apparently expects faithful Catholics to grant this gate-keeping role to the Magisterium, a point that was made winsomely but also unequivocally by Archbishop Cardinal George in our own Chapel.
Protestants, by contrast, of whatever sort, as I note on our website “hold in common that they deny that Christ has granted any such gate-keeping role to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. They thus refuse to acknowledge its conclusive authority as the sole authentic interpreter of God’s Word, typically preferring instead direct appeals to Scripture. When done appropriately, such appeals have always been informed by a deep understanding of how God’s people down through the ages (tradition, lower case) have understood the relevant passages. But in the end they remain appeals to Scripture, not appeals to history or to a Magisterium.” From this fork-in-the-road choice stem most of the other differences between Protestants and Catholics.
This is all pretty straightforward stuff: You grant the God-ordained gate-keeping role of the Magisterium, or you don’t. That is the watershed difference. My own take on it, and that of Cardinal George, is that we should not attempt to obfuscate this difference, but rather embrace it and then agree to disagree, agreeably. And then get on with things.
It does not offend me in the least that I as an evangelical Protestant would not be invited to join the pastoral staff of our local Catholic church, or even permitted to take Communion there. I understand exactly why the Catholic Church takes this position and I respect it for practicing what it preaches. No trashing of the Church in the face of this kind of excluson, no vituperation, no ad hominem attacks. Just respectful disagreement and a determination to continue celebrating all that we do in fact hold in common.



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Dennis Martin

posted January 17, 2006 at 9:47 pm


With respect, Dr. Litfin, your response boils down to saying that, “well, yes, in # 86 Catholics claim that the magisterium is instrinsic to Scripture and the servant of Scripture, but they don’t really live up to that. We Protestants know that they let the magisterium function as a “gatekeeper” extrinsic to Scripture.”
Do you understand how this sounds to Catholic ears? Once more you explain to us that we really don’t know our own minds, that we may say that the magisterium is subservient to Scripture but we are mistaken in that claim.
You are free to believe that we do that, but that is now “he said, she said.” Leaving it out the first time around was a fallacy in the argument you were making–the failure to accurately represent one’s opponent’s own argument. That you now respond by saying that it was irrelevant to your point (that it undermined your point would perhaps be fairer) because, in effect, you don’t think its true of us, is not an adequate response.
I have said all along that what angers me (and yes, I am getting just a tad angry) is not that (a) Wheaton wishes to maintain an Evangelical Protestant identity and believes (b) Catholic faculty would be injurious to that. (I think b is false but recognize that you believe it to be true and firmly support your prerogative to act in accord with what you believe to be true.)
Rather, my irritation arises from what seems to me to be a studied effort not to hear what Catholics themselves have to say about themselves. Any marriage counselor will say that the first step in conflict resolution is to let the other person be heard, not to overlay his expression of what he thinks or feels with one’s own convictions about what he believes, always to state, “this is what I believe, this is what I think. This is what I hear you saying, am I correct?” And then taking the other person’s corrections if he believes I have misheard him to heart. That does not mean that I must agree that his beliefs are right but I must acknowledge that he gets to state what he believes and thinks and feels and I cannot tell him what he thinks or feels or thinks.
As I have stated previously, serious differences exist between Catholics and Evangelical Protestants but they do not have to do with this article of the Wheaton statement. They have to do with the nature of sacraments, priesthood, indefectibility of the visible Church etc. But none of these are dealt with recognizably in the Statement
The differences do not have to do with salvation by grace alone through faith but do have to do with “through faith alone”–but that’s not in the Wheaton Statement and cannot be because relatively few Protestants today subscribe to that strict sola fide position anyway.
We Catholics don’t want to invade Wheaton College and teach there. We just want to be heard clearly for who we are–very evangelical, very Cross-and-Resurrection centered (at St. John Cantius parish last Sunday I heard a homily about salvation through the blood of Christ shed on the cross for our salvation that would have made Billy Sunday proud), very biblical–John Paul II’s Theology of the Body turns on minute attention to the individual words of Jesus when he responded regarding divorce in Mt. 19 and weaves Scriptures together (Mt 19, Gen 1-2, Rom 8:23) in the manner of the Church Fathers that would knock one’s socks off if he came at it with the pre-judgement that Catholics are not biblical. It’s a masterpiece of biblical theology addressing burning issues of our day: marriage and sexuality.
What harm could come from letting us speak for ourselves instead of being told we add another authority to Scripture? If Wheaton were in fact living out of a strict nuda scriptura, that would be one thing. Then I would agree, CCC 85ff would be a different approach. But in fact no one at Wheaton, not even the most biblicistic Bible Church folks, operate from nuda scriptura and no respectable Evangelical Protestant Bible professor would claim that they do.
Finally, the Wheaton College Statement of Faith is an interpretive gloss on Scripture. It just is. It undermines any claim of a nuda Scriptura approach at Wheaton. What we believe as outlined in CCC 85ff is no different than what the WSoF does. The only difference is that the Evangelical world has many different and conflicting magisteria with differing and conflicting levels of recognized authority that our claim that we have a unified magisterium.
This could have been and still could be an opportunity for Evangelical Protestants and Evangelical Catholics to learn from each other and come away strengthened in our common faith in Christ. It is not too late for that to happen.
Respectfully and fraternally yours,
Dennis Martin
History, ’74
Associate Professor of Theology
Loyola University Chicago



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Dennis Martin

posted January 17, 2006 at 10:01 pm


Again, with respect, Dr. Litfin, perhaps I can be more precise about the fallacy in your reasoning. You wrote in your most recent posting: “Protestants, of whatever sort, remain unwilling to grant that ‘the task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.’”
Now this is truly a difference between Protestants and Catholics. But it is a dispute not about whether a magisterial authority to interpret Scripture is needed by Christians and was authorized by Christ.
It is a dispute about which magisterium among many magisteria is the one Christ ordained. We Catholics do believe that the true Christ-ordained Holy-Ghost filled magisterium is that exercised by the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Protestants don’t. But they do have other magisteria which they believe are Christ-authorized and Holy Ghost guided and they disagree among themselves over these various magisteria. One of these magisteria, which is authoritative for Wheaton, is the Wheaton Statement of Faith.
The Statement does not say in its article on Scriptures what you wrote in your posting. That is, it does not say that “We Wheaton Evangelicals believe that Scripture is the final authority and no magisterium whatsoever serves the interpretation of Scripture” nor did it say “We recognize the necessity of Holy-Ghost-guided, Christ-authorized magisterial interpreters of Scripture but we do not recognze the Bishop of Rome to be such.” No, the statement is silent about these.



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Richard Sibbes

posted January 18, 2006 at 7:56 am


Well, clearly we’re coming to the end of this conversation, as all can see.
I appreciate Dr. Litfin taking the time to respond to the posters on this site, but his response still evades the fundamental issue.
Faculty at Wheaton College are not asked to sign a statement about the “formal principle of the Reformation,” the “gatekeeping” function of the magisterium, or the relevance or irrelevance of CCC#86. To introduce all of these criteria at this point is simply to evade the question of what is actually in the statement of faith which faculty are asked to sign.
When one signs a statement of faith, one signs what is written–not an unwritten, assumed interpretation of what that statement “obviously” means.
If anyone has committed an ad hominem, it is the Wheaton administration. It is a circumstantial ad hominem which assumes that Josh Hochshield can’t believe what he says he believes because he’s a Catholic (and we know what they really believe). In an introductory logic class this is called “poisoning the well.”



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Ronny

posted January 18, 2006 at 11:46 am


When one signs a statement of faith, one signs what is written–not an unwritten, assumed interpretation of what that statement “obviously” means.
This point is the one that has struck me the most in this conversation. While I can understand President Litfin’s frustration with the lack of attention to his treatment of issues related to the Wheaton Statement of Faith in his book or to his comments posted on Wheaton’s web site, I find it telling that the statement needs all of this extraneous exegesis in order to spell out exactly how it supposedly excludes Catholic interpretations. I think that it has been argued fairly convincingly by Thomas Aquinas and others that the Wheaton statement, taken on its own terms, fails to be as obviously and distinctively Protestant as Prof. Litfin claims it is. As an instrument to exclude orthodox Catholics, it seems by itself to be inadequate to the task.
Like others, my comments do not necessarily touch upon Wheaton’s right to hire and retain only Protestant faculty. That is a separate issue from the alleged incompatibility between the Wheaton Statement of Faith and Catholic belief.



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W. G. Ward

posted January 18, 2006 at 3:56 pm


Well, I have enjoyed Thomas Aquinas’ entries on this topic. I think it wise, however, for him to try to finish his unfinished works. Perhaps, however, I can pick up this particular unfinished work for him, in the form of a confession.
I confess to being utterly confused now as to what President Litfin wrote on the web page at Wheaton that he directed readers to in order to properly understand the Wheaton Statement of Faith.
I confess that when Thomas Aquinas used the phrase “what Catholics do and do not believe” I thought he was not talking about the “interior” and, to President Litfin, unknowable beliefs of individual Catholics, but using it in the common usage it has in such questions as “what do Catholics believe about abortion?” “What do Catholics believe about Mary?” Such a use is quite common in ordinary linguistic practice, and is ordinarily taken to refer to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and what it expects its faithful members to embrace. I took it to be consistent with Thomas Aquinas’ practice in pretty much all of his postings to refer to “Catholics faithful to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.” And I confess such a reading of his phrase would be consistent with the general Thomistic rejection of the Cartesian interiority and publicly unknowable character of mental states that seems to animate President Litfin’s agnosticism about what any Catholic believes.
I confess that I cannot understand why President Litfin directed readers to the web page that endeavors to defend “a long-standing policy which specified that all employees must be able to affirm the College’s Statement of Faith,” and to answer the question “could you please explain what there is in Wheaton’s faith statement that a Catholic could not sign,” if it is indeed the case that “[he has] no idea what any Catholic believes and would not even attempt to address the question.” Here is why I am plagued by this confusion: if the Wheaton Statement of Faith is in any way to be involved in the dismissal of a Roman Catholic from the faculty of Wheaton College, I do not understand how that dismissal could take place in a way that did not take into account any of the actual beliefs of that faculty member. Indeed, I don’t understand how the issue of that Catholic faculty member and his or her ability to sign the Statement of Faith could ever come up, if indeed President Litfin has no idea what any Catholic believes and would not attempt to address the question.
I confess that I do not understand how one assesses what someone does or does not “affirm” in professed and complete ignorance of that person’s beliefs. I confess to being perplexed by that problem in a context where the people involved are being asked to “affirm” statements that begin with “we believe.” But I confess that I too reject the Cartesian picture of unknowable beliefs that seems to animate President Litfin’s agnosticism.
I confess that I am surprised that President Litfin thinks that no one should take the web page to which he directed readers to be expressing what Catholics do and do not believe. I am surprised, since it is a web page expressing the need for faculty to “affirm” the Statement of Faith, and endeavoring to explain specifically why a Catholic cannot “sign” it. I did not realize that what one affirms or does not affirm, signs or does not sign, should not be taken to be an expression of what one believes or does not believe, even when the statements to be affirmed begin with “we believe.”
So I confess that when I look at the Wheaton Statement of Faith and see that each statement begins with “we believe,” I do not understand how it could be the case that when a Roman Catholic claims the ability to “affirm” a particular statement in the Statement of Faith, he or she cannot be understood to be affirming what he or she believes.
I confess that I am plagued by this question: is it only Roman Catholics who are unable to express their beliefs when they endeavor to “affirm” or “sign” statements that begin with “we believe?”
I confess that I am further plagued by the question of whether Wheaton’s Statement of Faith has anything to do with what any non-Catholics at Wheaton believe.
I confess to being confused about President Litfin’s use of passages #85, 87, and 88 of the Roman Catholic Catechism to establish what I thought, with Thomas Aquinas, was his point on that web page, namely, that Roman Catholics claim the magisterial authority of the Church is something other than and in addition to the authority of Holy Scripture, the denial of which is the historic Protestant dissent, and the “import” of the relevant passage in the Wheaton Statement of Faith.
I confess that I am confused because of President Litfin’s claim that passage #86 is irrelevant to that interpretation of those passages. I am confused, for it would now seem that #86 is little more than an unorganized, stylistically confused, intrusion and break in the otherwise natural flow of passages #85, 87, and 88, as President Litfin thinks the Church understands them, and intends to communicate them. I confess to being confused, because passage #86 denies what President Litfin takes the point of #85, 87, and 88 to be in establishing the basis for the historic Protestant dissent. It clearly subordinates the authority of the magisterium in judging interpretations to the authority of Holy Scripture itself.
I confess that I understand President Litfin to be asserting that the Roman Catholic magisterial claim, if true, renders, the relevant passage in the Wheaton Statement of faith false. In other words, he claims it is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that its own magisterial authority makes Holy Scripture not the supreme and final auhtority in all that it says. And yet passage #86 clearly denies the claim that the Church’s own authority is something superior to the authority of Holy Scripture. It clearly asserts that the magisterial authority is subordinate to the authority of Holy Scripture.
I confess to being confused by President Litfin’s apparent claim that passage #86 is little more than a kind of pious intention of the Church to limit its will to power, when President Litfin writes, “no matter how sincerely the Magisterium works to fulfill the spirit of #86, and I credit it with the profoundest sincerity possible.” Here, it seems, not even the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church can assert what it takes to be a fact, affirm what it believes to be the case and what it expects faithful members to embrace.
I confess to finding President Litfin’s appeal to the authority of Cardinal George odd. Fortunately Roman Catholics have a fairly nuanced understanding of the authority of their bishops in what they say and teach, and the “obsequium” that is owed to their statements in different places and occasions. (See Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church from Vatican II.) I will make no comment about what is expected of us when considering the comments of a Cardinal in a talk to an audience at a protestant college reported at second hand. But I cannot imagine that Cardinal George ever thought his comments in such a setting would be used to defend the thesis that the magisterial authority claimed by the Roman Catholic Church is something other than and in addition to the authority of the Word of God which additional authority is taken to be the basis by some for its “gatekeeping” claim.
I confess that if we are to play the game of tossing Cardinals around, and what they say in unofficial contexts, (didn’t Gimli say that nobody tosses a Cardinal?), I might throw out this:
“The magisterium of the apostles’ successors does not juxtapose a second authority to Scripture, but rather forms part of its very structure. This “living voice” is not meant to reduce the authority of Scripture, or to limit it or substitute it for something else. On the contrary, its mission is to ensure the unchangeability of Scripture, to guarantee that it will not be manipulated, to conserve intact, in the midst of disputes, its transparency, its univocal status. There is thus a mysterious mutual interaction. Scripture sets the measure and limits to the “living voice,” and the “living voice” guarantees that Scripture will not be manipulated.”
Not a “second authority,” not meant to “reduce,” “limit,” or “substitute” for. “Scripture sets the measure and limits to.” The Cardinal who wrote that was Josef Cardinal Raztinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, receiving an honorary degree from the University of Navarre, January 31st, 1998.
I confess that when Cardinal Ratzinger writes “Scripture sets the measure and limits to” the authority of the magisterium, I take him to be asserting that magisterial authority in its role as authentic interpreter of Scripture only has authority insofar as it recognizes the supreme and final authority of Holy Scripture itself, in all that it says, as its “measure and limit.” And that is precisely what the Wheaton Statement of Faith asserts in the relevant passage, and what President Litfin argues Roman Catholics faithful to their Church cannot “affirm.”
I confess that I worry President Litfin will take that statement not as an intended assertion of fact by its speaker of what he believes and affirms, but, rather, a pious intention that President Litfin is willing to “credit with the profoundest sincerity possible.”
I confess that I cannot imagine that Cardinal George intended anything he might have said to an audience at Wheaton College to be in conflict with the thought of Cardinal Ratzinger– not because one was the Cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and now Pope, but because of the actual character each man possesses, and because of the communion of apostolic succession that they share.
I confess that I cannot communicate to you how surprised I would be to hear that Cardinal George asserted anything that either was equivalent to or implied the denial of the following statement:
Sacred Scripture is fully trustworthy, and the supreme and final authority in all that it says.
Stranger things have happened. But extraordinarily surprised I would be.
Finally, I confess that I agree with Thomas Aquinas that no one has shown that a Catholic, faithful to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church, cannot “affirm” those statements that actually appear in the Wheaton College Statement of Faith, as opposed to those statements that do not appear in it.



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W. G. Ward

posted January 18, 2006 at 3:57 pm


Well, I have enjoyed Thomas Aquinas’ entries on this topic. I think it wise, however, for him to try to finish his unfinished works. Perhaps, however, I can pick up this particular unfinished work for him, in the form of a confession.
I confess to being utterly confused now as to what President Litfin wrote on the web page at Wheaton that he directed readers to in order to properly understand the Wheaton Statement of Faith.
I confess that when Thomas Aquinas used the phrase “what Catholics do and do not believe” I thought he was not talking about the “interior” and, to President Litfin, unknowable beliefs of individual Catholics, but using it in the common usage it has in such questions as “what do Catholics believe about abortion?” “What do Catholics believe about Mary?” Such a use is quite common in ordinary linguistic practice, and is ordinarily taken to refer to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and what it expects its faithful members to embrace. I took it to be consistent with Thomas Aquinas’ practice in pretty much all of his postings to refer to “Catholics faithful to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.” And I confess such a reading of his phrase would be consistent with the general Thomistic rejection of the Cartesian interiority and publicly unknowable character of mental states that seems to animate President Litfin’s agnosticism about what any Catholic believes.
I confess that I cannot understand why President Litfin directed readers to the web page that endeavors to defend “a long-standing policy which specified that all employees must be able to affirm the College’s Statement of Faith,” and to answer the question “could you please explain what there is in Wheaton’s faith statement that a Catholic could not sign,” if it is indeed the case that “[he has] no idea what any Catholic believes and would not even attempt to address the question.” Here is why I am plagued by this confusion: if the Wheaton Statement of Faith is in any way to be involved in the dismissal of a Roman Catholic from the faculty of Wheaton College, I do not understand how that dismissal could take place in a way that did not take into account any of the actual beliefs of that faculty member. Indeed, I don’t understand how the issue of that Catholic faculty member and his or her ability to sign the Statement of Faith could ever come up, if indeed President Litfin has no idea what any Catholic believes and would not attempt to address the question.
I confess that I do not understand how one assesses what someone does or does not “affirm” in professed and complete ignorance of that person’s beliefs. I confess to being perplexed by that problem in a context where the people involved are being asked to “affirm” statements that begin with “we believe.” But I confess that I too reject the Cartesian picture of unknowable beliefs that seems to animate President Litfin’s agnosticism.
I confess that I am surprised that President Litfin thinks that no one should take the web page to which he directed readers to be expressing what Catholics do and do not believe. I am surprised, since it is a web page expressing the need for faculty to “affirm” the Statement of Faith, and endeavoring to explain specifically why a Catholic cannot “sign” it. I did not realize that what one affirms or does not affirm, signs or does not sign, should not be taken to be an expression of what one believes or does not believe, even when the statements to be affirmed begin with “we believe.”
So I confess that when I look at the Wheaton Statement of Faith and see that each statement begins with “we believe,” I do not understand how it could be the case that when a Roman Catholic claims the ability to “affirm” a particular statement in the Statement of Faith, he or she cannot be understood to be affirming what he or she believes.
I confess that I am plagued by this question: is it only Roman Catholics who are unable to express their beliefs when they endeavor to “affirm” or “sign” statements that begin with “we believe?”
I confess that I am further plagued by the question of whether Wheaton’s Statement of Faith has anything to do with what any non-Catholics at Wheaton believe.
I confess to being confused about President Litfin’s use of passages #85, 87, and 88 of the Roman Catholic Catechism to establish what I thought, with Thomas Aquinas, was his point on that web page, namely, that Roman Catholics claim the magisterial authority of the Church is something other than and in addition to the authority of Holy Scripture, the denial of which is the historic Protestant dissent, and the “import” of the relevant passage in the Wheaton Statement of Faith.
I confess that I am confused because of President Litfin’s claim that passage #86 is irrelevant to that interpretation of those passages. I am confused, for it would now seem that #86 is little more than an unorganized, stylistically confused, intrusion and break in the otherwise natural flow of passages #85, 87, and 88, as President Litfin thinks the Church understands them, and intends to communicate them. I confess to being confused, because passage #86 denies what President Litfin takes the point of #85, 87, and 88 to be in establishing the basis for the historic Protestant dissent. It clearly subordinates the authority of the magisterium in judging interpretations to the authority of Holy Scripture itself.
I confess that I understand President Litfin to be asserting that the Roman Catholic magisterial claim, if true, renders, the relevant passage in the Wheaton Statement of faith false. In other words, he claims it is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that its own magisterial authority makes Holy Scripture not the supreme and final auhtority in all that it says. And yet passage #86 clearly denies the claim that the Church’s own authority is something superior to the authority of Holy Scripture. It clearly asserts that the magisterial authority is subordinate to the authority of Holy Scripture.
I confess to being confused by President Litfin’s apparent claim that passage #86 is little more than a kind of pious intention of the Church to limit its will to power, when President Litfin writes, “no matter how sincerely the Magisterium works to fulfill the spirit of #86, and I credit it with the profoundest sincerity possible.” Here, it seems, not even the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church can assert what it takes to be a fact, affirm what it believes to be the case and what it expects faithful members to embrace.
I confess to finding President Litfin’s appeal to the authority of Cardinal George odd. Fortunately Roman Catholics have a fairly nuanced understanding of the authority of their bishops in what they say and teach, and the “obsequium” that is owed to their statements in different places and occasions. (See Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church from Vatican II.) I will make no comment about what is expected of us when considering the comments of a Cardinal in a talk to an audience at a protestant college reported at second hand. But I cannot imagine that Cardinal George ever thought his comments in such a setting would be used to defend the thesis that the magisterial authority claimed by the Roman Catholic Church is something other than and in addition to the authority of the Word of God which additional authority is taken to be the basis by some for its “gatekeeping” claim.
I confess that if we are to play the game of tossing Cardinals around, and what they say in unofficial contexts, (didn’t Gimli say that nobody tosses a Cardinal?), I might throw out this:
“The magisterium of the apostles’ successors does not juxtapose a second authority to Scripture, but rather forms part of its very structure. This “living voice” is not meant to reduce the authority of Scripture, or to limit it or substitute it for something else. On the contrary, its mission is to ensure the unchangeability of Scripture, to guarantee that it will not be manipulated, to conserve intact, in the midst of disputes, its transparency, its univocal status. There is thus a mysterious mutual interaction. Scripture sets the measure and limits to the “living voice,” and the “living voice” guarantees that Scripture will not be manipulated.”
Not a “second authority,” not meant to “reduce,” “limit,” or “substitute” for. “Scripture sets the measure and limits to.” The Cardinal who wrote that was Josef Cardinal Raztinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, receiving an honorary degree from the University of Navarre, January 31st, 1998.
I confess that when Cardinal Ratzinger writes “Scripture sets the measure and limits to” the authority of the magisterium, I take him to be asserting that magisterial authority in its role as authentic interpreter of Scripture only has authority insofar as it recognizes the supreme and final authority of Holy Scripture itself, in all that it says, as its “measure and limit.” And that is precisely what the Wheaton Statement of Faith asserts in the relevant passage, and what President Litfin argues Roman Catholics faithful to their Church cannot “affirm.”
I confess that I worry President Litfin will take that statement not as an intended assertion of fact by its speaker of what he believes and affirms, but, rather, a pious intention that President Litfin is willing to “credit with the profoundest sincerity possible.”
I confess that I cannot imagine that Cardinal George intended anything he might have said to an audience at Wheaton College to be in conflict with the thought of Cardinal Ratzinger– not because one was the Cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and now Pope, but because of the actual character each man possesses, and because of the communion of apostolic succession that they share.
I confess that I cannot communicate to you how surprised I would be to hear that Cardinal George asserted anything that either was equivalent to or implied the denial of the following statement:
Sacred Scripture is fully trustworthy, and the supreme and final authority in all that it says.
Stranger things have happened. But extraordinarily surprised I would be.
Finally, I confess that I agree with Thomas Aquinas that no one has shown that a Catholic, faithful to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church, cannot “affirm” those statements that actually appear in the Wheaton College Statement of Faith, as opposed to those statements that do not appear in it.



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Duane Litfin

posted January 18, 2006 at 6:43 pm


A final posting.
Professor Martin insists that I am saying Catholics “don’t know their own minds.” But of course I have said nothing of the kind. The difference between merely quoting public statements provided for the express purpose of explaining the Church’s teaching, versus reading someone’s mind, is apparently lost on Professor Martin. The result is this oddity: For someone so opposed to putting words in other people’s mouths, he seems inordinately inclined to do just this in his portrayals both of me and of Wheaton College. He is quite willing to attribute to me what I neither said nor meant, and to tell Wheaton College what its own faith statement means.
But for the record, let me say unequivocally that I am fully willing to grant that Professor “knows his own mind.” But what does that get us? Despite all the huffing and puffing, this is not the issue. The issue is, Professor Martin, like any faithful Catholic, believes that the Magisterium is “intrinsic” (his word) to Scripture. Protestants do not believe this. Can I say this any more clearly? This is the issue, the root Catholic/Protestant difference from which stem virtually all the others, including those cited by Professor Martin.
So why the anger? It does not make me angry that Professor Martin disagrees with me. Why should it make him angry that I disagree with him? I am perfectly willing to have the Catholic Church tell me what it teaches about the role of the Magisterium, and to have Professor Martin say he believes that teaching. But it makes no sense to claim that my dissent from that view means that I am telling Catholics “they don’t know their own minds.”
“Intrinsic,” Professor Martin says. Good. Let’s go with that for one final try. The question then is, intrinsic, or not intrinsic? It’s a profoundly important fork-in-the-road theological choice, but simple enough for all that. One person says yes, another says no. This is the watershed difference between Catholics and Protestants. But one thing is certain: One cannot expect to be taken seriously if one’s answer is, “I believe it is both intrinsic and not intrinsic.” At that point, the rest of us will all be confused about what is or is not believed, so much so that we will be disinclined to hazard a guess. But we cannot be expected to credit an “I believe both” answer as sensible. (Which rather obvious conclusion is the core response to W. G. Ward’s long post above).
As to the issue raised by Richard Sibbes and Ronny (it is the same issue), their question is in the end an hermeneutical one and too complex to enter into here. I have addressed this issue at some length in my book, Conceiving the Christian College (Eerdmans, 2004), especially in chapter 10. Interested readers can find my thoughts in those pages.
To conclude this interchange, I will say only this. No one ever slapped a “no Catholics allowed” sign on Wheaton’s Statement of Faith. The Statement was never designed to keep Catholics out. It is designed rather to draw together a community of committed teachers who embody in their lives and work the historic formal principle of the Reformation. That this has the negative effect of making it impossible for a faithful Catholic (as defined, not by Wheaton College, by the Roman Catholic Church) to sign that Statement is surely my point. But the goal of the College is not the negative one of trying to keep someone away. It’s the positive one of valuing a Reformational answer to this core religious question and wanting Wheaton College to embody it with integrity.
Should the College all along have resorted to the more negative approach, so as to avoid the lack of understanding generated by the widespread theological illiteracy that has descended upon the Christian church and our secular culture? Would any reader be happier if Wheaton College, instead of talking forthrightly about what it is for – an evangelical Protestant take on these important issues – had from the beginning expressly staked out its identity as non-Roman Catholic, defining itself not by what it is but by what it isn’t? I should hope not. In any case, Wheaton has no intention of defining itself as not someone else.
The fact is, Wheaton has always been what it is today. Contrary to the WSJ article, the present decision had nothing to do with retrenchment. It was about living out with integrity the College’s long-standing identity, and the hiring policy required to maintain it. What we did stands in full continuity with the College’s century-and-a-half-old identity and practice. That our changing environment raises new challenges to that identity and practice is beyond dispute. But I confess it feels odd to have people posing these particular questions about the College’s construal of its own faith statement, as if we are lately introducing a novel and unduly restrictive interpretation that our predecessors would not recognize. What none of our predecessors would recognize is the argument that Wheaton should hire Roman Catholics on the premise that a Roman Catholic can sign Wheaton’s faith statement without conflict. That notion is truly novel, which is indicated by the fact that prior to the last decade or so it would not have entered anyone’s head, Catholic or non-Catholic, to offer it.
Thanks for permitting me this interaction.



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Duane Litfin

posted January 18, 2006 at 6:44 pm


A final posting.
Professor Martin insists that I am saying Catholics “don’t know their own minds.” But of course I have said nothing of the kind. The difference between merely quoting public statements provided for the express purpose of explaining the Church’s teaching, versus reading someone’s mind, is apparently lost on Professor Martin. The result is this oddity: For someone so opposed to putting words in other people’s mouths, he seems inordinately inclined to do just this in his portrayals both of me and of Wheaton College. He is quite willing to attribute to me what I neither said nor meant, and to tell Wheaton College what its own faith statement means.
But for the record, let me say unequivocally that I am fully willing to grant that Professor “knows his own mind.” But what does that get us? Despite all the huffing and puffing, this is not the issue. The issue is, Professor Martin, like any faithful Catholic, believes that the Magisterium is “intrinsic” (his word) to Scripture. Protestants do not believe this. Can I say this any more clearly? This is the issue, the root Catholic/Protestant difference from which stem virtually all the others, including those cited by Professor Martin.
So why the anger? It does not make me angry that Professor Martin disagrees with me. Why should it make him angry that I disagree with him? I am perfectly willing to have the Catholic Church tell me what it teaches about the role of the Magisterium, and to have Professor Martin say he believes that teaching. But it makes no sense to claim that my dissent from that view means that I am telling Catholics “they don’t know their own minds.”
“Intrinsic,” Professor Martin says. Good. Let’s go with that for one final try. The question then is, intrinsic, or not intrinsic? It’s a profoundly important fork-in-the-road theological choice, but simple enough for all that. One person says yes, another says no. This is the watershed difference between Catholics and Protestants. But one thing is certain: One cannot expect to be taken seriously if one’s answer is, “I believe it is both intrinsic and not intrinsic.” At that point, the rest of us will all be confused about what is or is not believed, so much so that we will be disinclined to hazard a guess. But we cannot be expected to credit an “I believe both” answer as sensible. (Which rather obvious conclusion is the core response to W. G. Ward’s long post above).
As to the issue raised by Richard Sibbes and Ronny (it is the same issue), their question is in the end an hermeneutical one and too complex to enter into here. I have addressed this issue at some length in my book, Conceiving the Christian College (Eerdmans, 2004), especially in chapter 10. Interested readers can find my thoughts in those pages.
To conclude this interchange, I will say only this. No one ever slapped a “no Catholics allowed” sign on Wheaton’s Statement of Faith. The Statement was never designed to keep Catholics out. It is designed rather to draw together a community of committed teachers who embody in their lives and work the historic formal principle of the Reformation. That this has the negative effect of making it impossible for a faithful Catholic (as defined, not by Wheaton College, by the Roman Catholic Church) to sign that Statement is surely my point. But the goal of the College is not the negative one of trying to keep someone away. It’s the positive one of valuing a Reformational answer to this core religious question and wanting Wheaton College to embody it with integrity.
Should the College all along have resorted to the more negative approach, so as to avoid the lack of understanding generated by the widespread theological illiteracy that has descended upon the Christian church and our secular culture? Would any reader be happier if Wheaton College, instead of talking forthrightly about what it is for – an evangelical Protestant take on these important issues – had from the beginning expressly staked out its identity as non-Roman Catholic, defining itself not by what it is but by what it isn’t? I should hope not. In any case, Wheaton has no intention of defining itself as not someone else.
The fact is, Wheaton has always been what it is today. Contrary to the WSJ article, the present decision had nothing to do with retrenchment. It was about living out with integrity the College’s long-standing identity, and the hiring policy required to maintain it. What we did stands in full continuity with the College’s century-and-a-half-old identity and practice. That our changing environment raises new challenges to that identity and practice is beyond dispute. But I confess it feels odd to have people posing these particular questions about the College’s construal of its own faith statement, as if we are lately introducing a novel and unduly restrictive interpretation that our predecessors would not recognize. What none of our predecessors would recognize is the argument that Wheaton should hire Roman Catholics on the premise that a Roman Catholic can sign Wheaton’s faith statement without conflict. That notion is truly novel, which is indicated by the fact that prior to the last decade or so it would not have entered anyone’s head, Catholic or non-Catholic, to offer it.
Thanks for permitting me this interaction.



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Dennis Martin

posted January 18, 2006 at 7:31 pm


Dr. Litfin,
“Catholics do not know their own mind” refers to the point that W. G. Ward made–not to the subjective mind of this or that Catholic but the official, collective, public “mind” of the Church. Our claim is that omitting # 86 in order to insist that we don’t really mean that the magisterium is not extrinsic to Scripture but serves it for the purpose of maintaing unity that would be lost without authoritative interpretation. You tell us otherwise. You are, of course, free to interpret our public documents, but then you really do have to listen carefully when we tell you that you have misinterpreted them.
The WSoF simply does not address this issue. Virtually all confessional Protestants (Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans) have official magisterial statements that they consider not to be extrinsic to Scripture but the servants of the proper unity-preserving interpretation of Scripture. On the existence of such authoritative interpretation there is in fact no difference between Protestants and Catholics. They differ on who or what represents the authoritative intrinsic-to-Scripture Holy-Spirit, Christ-authorized interpreter.
Some Free-Church or charismatic members of the Wheaton community may claim to believe in nuda scriptura, that nothing at all beyond the bare words of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s unction function in their groups as they read and understand Scripture. Such groups are radically splintered in such a way as to make the body of Christ scarcely recognizable, at least in our view. And in fact, they do have magisteria but because they do not acknowledge them, their own magisteria have no hope of preserving such unity as they currently might enjoy.
But that’s scarcely relevant to the Hochschild case because Wheaton does have and acknowledges an authoritative magisterium governing the interpretation of Scripture for Wheaton, and indeed, more than one layer: (1) the WSoF and (2) the gloss you invoke to interpret the WSoF. Again, prima facie, there is no difference at all between Wheaton’s practice and stated belief and Catholic stated belief and practice regarding how Scripture, which is the final authority for all of us, gets interpreted.
Rather, we do differ on whether the Bishop of Rome is that Christ-authorized interpreter or whether, for Wheaton, only the 1998 Glossa Ordinaria to the WSoF, posted on the website you referred us to and authored by you, is the finally authoritative Scripture-WSoF magisterium.
You are right that this is a huge difference overlaid on a huge similarity.
And now, remarkably, you have in your last post introduced yet a third layer of authoritative gloss on Scripture for members of the Wheaton community. Since the 1998 President’s Forum gloss on the 1978 WSoF apparently does not adequately lay to rest the disunity-causing confusion, you just now have invoked ancient Wheaton tradition and the fact that the idea that a Catholic could sign the WSoF in good faith is a novel idea that would not have occurred to generations of Wheaton faculty and students.
Novelty is a serious red flag for Catholics like us who value the ancient tradition of the Church. But for us, novelties are to be condemned when they deny settled teaching. Novelties that raise heretofore unimagined probing into the mysteries of the faith are an important way, we believe, the Lord stimulates his faithful people to understand things more deeply and faithfully develop the deposit faith given once for all to the Apostles.
The novel idea that a Catholic could sign the WSoF in good faith might be a gift from God resulting from new developments among both Catholics and Evangelicals, it might have arisen because old prejudices and misinformation about each other have been overcome, it might have other origins. But God often sends new things into our lives, both individually and collectively, to lead us to a new level of faithfulness to Him.
So I am glad to see that you share with us the belief that ancient practice and tradition is also authoritative and not extrinsic to Scripture and not unprotestant.
My frustration (anger) is probably the result of the same frustration you feel. We seem to be talking past each other. We have raised a number of points that you have not confronted directly.
It is clear, I think, that it’s not likely that we are going to start talking with each other anytime soon. That turns my anger to sadness, because I do think l’affair Hochschild could have served that purpose.
Perhaps someday it will. And that turns my sadness to hope.
Respectfully and fraternally yours in Christo Jesu,
Dennis Martin



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W. G. Ward

posted January 19, 2006 at 12:30 am


President Litfin says “But we cannot be expected to credit an “I believe both” answer as sensible. (Which rather obvious conclusion is the core response to W. G. Ward’s long post above).” Though I grant that my post was long, I have no idea what President Litfin is talking about in this sentence as responding to anything I wrote. I am not aware of any place where I suggested something like an “I believe both” answer. Just can’t see it. But as my post made clear in all its lenght, there are many things in what President Litfin has written that I cannot understand.
I will grant that President Litfin has provided evidence for the claim that the Roman Catholic Church claims to be the sole authentic judge of interpretations of Holy Scripture.
I will grant that President Litfin assumes that the statement “Holy Scripture is the supreme and final authority in all that it says” is equivalent to or implies the statement “there is no authority that can judge the interpretations of Holy Scripture made by Christians who appeal to the authority of Holy Scripture.”
However, that assumption of equivalency or implication between the two statements is plainly false. Consider by analogy: “the Wheaton Statement of Faith is the supreme and final authority in all that it says” and “there is no authority that can judge the interpretations of the Wheaton Statement of Faith made by Christians who appeal to the authority of the Wheaton Statement of Faith.”
Given that plain lack of equivalence or implication, President Liftin has provided no evidence whatsoever for the thesis that the Roman Catholic magisterial claim implies that Holy Scripture is not the supreme and final authority in all that it says.
President Litfin has thoroughly failed to address all of the evidence presented by various people here that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that its own magisterial authority is subordinate to, measured by, limited by, and in service to Holy Scripture in all that it says, and thus recognizes that Holy Scripture is the supreme and final authority in all that it says.
What the Roman Catholic magisterial claim consists in is not that it is an authority apart from, in addition to, or over the authority of Scripture. It is, rather, a claim to be an authority apart from and superior to the interpretations of individual believers, capable of judging those interpretations and the authority claimed by individual believers. That is the claim that President Litfin rejects. But, unless he identifies the interpretations of individual believers and the authority they claim for themselves with the very authority of Holy Scripture in all that it says, that claim of the Roman Catholic magisterium is manifestly not a claim about the authority of Scripture in all that it says.
President Litfin is makes an argument about the authority of interpreters into an argument about the authority of what is interpreted, and that is a fallacy.



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Ronny

posted January 19, 2006 at 10:24 am


Dr. Litfin,
Thank you for taking the time from your undoubtedly busy schedule to participate in this exchange. Despite our disagreements, I am sympathetic to the seriousness with which you appear to take Wheaton’s religious identity despite my sadness over such situations as the present resulting from Christian disunity.



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W. G. Ward

posted January 19, 2006 at 11:18 am


Second to Ronny. Dr. Litfin ought to be applauded for taking time out to engage those who have raised questions and arguments about the effectiveness and exclusivity of one way in which Wheaton tries to express that character, and how it results in a mischaracterization of what the Roman Catholic Church teaches.
I think all of those who have seriously engaged Dr. Litfin here have in one way or another applauded, and expressed their respect for Wheaton taking its religious character seriously.



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Grant Woldum

posted January 23, 2006 at 12:04 am


I have never posted to a blog before, but I feel compelled to add my perspective to this important discussion…. As a point of information I am a Catholic who reverted to the faith of my childhood along with my wife and four children who all converted from evangelicalism nearly 8 years ago. This being admitted the points I wish to add are:
1. Hopefully we can all agree on one thing – that is that Wheaton (along with all colleges & universities) have the right to hire and fire whatever faculty they deem necessary to carry out their mission and purpose. And hopefully we can all join together in praying that they will NEVER lose this right – though I fear it WILL be put to the test eventually if not already beginning to under the infant form of political correctness…
2. I applaud and support Wheaton for taking their mission and purpose seriously and then sticking to their guns to defend it in their eyes.
3. Having stated this AND being a fellow “evangelical Catholic” (for lack of a better term) as I presume Professor H to also be I am SADDENED to learn of Wheaton’s action BECAUSE I believe they have made a serious error in judgment that in the long term will HARM their achieving their mission and purpose much MORE than it now SEEMS to HELP. Why? Because
A) Professor H – as he has explicitly stated – supports the mission and purpose of Wheaton and was actively living this out as a faculty member in good standing – teaching the authentic Christian faith to his pupils at Wheaton, and his firing now leaves Wheaton’s students with ONE LESS professor who is committed to doing so, AND
B) now WITHOUT the specific knowledge and experience Professor H possesses, Wheaton now faces the unfortunate result that it is ‘dumbing down’ the overall plate of authentic Christian teaching and experience it has to offer its student body,including the risk that Professor H cannot be replace sufficiently.
4. As one who has visited Wheaton’s beautiful campus – my oldest daughter considered Wheaton but ended up elsewhere – I must also add that I find it SADDLY IRONIC that three of the English Christian writers that are profiled in Wheaton’s wonderful Marion Wade Center on campus – J.R.R Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis APPARENTLY would NOT be allowed to teach at Wheaton for the SAME reason as Professor H – this being that they ARE Catholic (or proto-Catholic as was Lewis).
5. Serious Christians everywhere – especially in academia – need to come to grips with reality:
A) the Catholic church is NOT going to go away,
B) the Reformation happened,
C) the devil is executing his divide & conquer strategy against us all now more than ever.
D) Therefore, instead of Catholics and Protestants pushing each other away or WORSE – ignoring one another – let us instead ENGAGE in SERIOUS and SINCERE dialogue with the purpose of faithfully and obediently living out the gospel – so that the WORLD will see our UNITY of mission and purpose and “know that we are Christians by our love” – something that is very difficult to see while we are parted.
All GLORY BE TO THE FATHER, AND TO THE SON, AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.



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John Duns Scotus

posted January 23, 2006 at 6:33 pm


There are plenty of medieval philosophy scholars who are not Christians, let alone Catholics. The notion that studying medieval philosophy will lead one to the “fullness of truth” seems fundamentally Gilsonian – seeing a pinnacle in Aquinas and all else prior as leading to him, and everything after as messing up the game. Gilson was a *fantastic* conveyor of medieval philosophy to the next generation; he was not, in my view, a good *historian*. The work of Scotus and Ockham, for example, are at least as philosophically rich and significant as Aquinas. And studying Ockham, in great detail, would more than likely lead one to Protestantism rather than Catholicism. (Please don’t reply with: “Yes, and so much the worse for Ockham…”)



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William Ockham

posted January 23, 2006 at 7:46 pm


Early on, it was said: “However, the move still grates, mostly because the fellow was teaching medieval philosophy, for pete’s sake. I’m not saying that an evangelical Christian cannot teach this material, or that a Roman Catholic is automatically more suited simply because of his or her faith, but it seems to me that if you’ve bent enough to include courses that touch on, you know, Catholicism…how do you justify excluding Catholics from teaching?”
Their classes cover history of philosophy; why should the content of the classes be relevant to who should be allowed to teach? Medieval philosophy courses address the philosophical questions, ideas, and methods of the medieval period of philosophy. That this will involve touching on Catholicism is incidental to the task of teaching and learning about medieval philosophy. Since there weren’t any Protestants back then (unless you want to try absurdly counting Wyclif or – worse – Augustine), what options would Wheaton have? Just dump a whole portion of philosophy that is philosophically and theologically rich?
Wheaton is willing to “bend” enough to teach Aristotle, so should they be willing to do a worldwide search for ancient pagan Greeks to teach ancient philosophy courses?
And the WSJ was quoted: “Meanwhile, Wheaton hasn’t replaced Mr. Hochschild. One obstacle: Most scholars of medieval philosophy are Catholics.”
Medieval philosophy is not the exclusive province of Catholics. Indeed, if one looks around at the top medieval philosophy scholars in the world (at schools such as Oxford, Cornell, Toronto, UCLA, Notre Dame, Colorado, and St. Louis) and junior scholars at a number of other schools, most of them are not Catholic; a good number of them are not even Christians (self-professedly). Perhaps the pre-eminent medievalist in recent times, Norman Kretzmann, was a Protestant.
While the sheer numbers might bear out the claim in the WSJ that most medievalists are Catholic, that is obviously not sufficient to establish the claim that Wheaton cannot find any non-Catholic Christian medievalists. And since many of the best scholars in the field are not Catholic, it might just be the case that at least some of their students will also not be Catholic. In that case, Wheaton would not need to “settle for less”.



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Alfredo

posted January 27, 2006 at 9:21 am


‘John Duns Scotus’ and ‘William Ockham’ [the bloggers, not the philosophers] seem eager to ‘liberate’ the study of medieval philosophy/theology from those damned Catholics. But they overplay their hand.
First of all, the claim that “the work of Scotus and Ockham, for example, are at least as philosophically rich and significant as Aquinas” is just plain laughable. For instance, the second part of the Summa Theologiae is unrivalled in its depth and detail by anything in the whole history of moral theory, not to mention Scotus and Ockham [the philosophers, not the bloggers]. Moreover, while it is at least arguable that Scotus belongs in the pantheon of the world’s greatest philosophers just on the basis of his incredibly rich natural theology, Ockham is important mainly as a naysayer rather than for any significant positive contribution he made to the Catholic intellectual tradition or to philosophy in general. (Hey, that’s ok; naysayers have a significant role to play, too.)
Second, despite William Ockham’s [the blogger, not the philosopher] protestations to the contrary, there is no bright future for de-Catholicized medieval philosophy on the current academic scene. (I am often told about how old and sparse the crowds are at American Philosophical Association sessions that deal with medieval topics.)
There is a future for medieval Catholic thought because, and only because, the Church herself will keep it alive, and on her own terms. The decline of the Catholic universities will make this harder, but we have it on pretty good authority that the Church is going to last for a very long time, and the present dark ages will be succeeded by better times, intellectually speaking.
In the meantime, let Wheaton be Wheaton and find someone to teach medieval thought who disbelieves (or believes in a distorted way) the saving truth that animates it.



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