Arminian Chronicles: How reliable is the Catechism?

pedra sepulcral cristã das catacumbas de Domit...Image via WikipediaHere is another reponse from my friend but now it is on the relibility of the Catechism of the Catholic Church I will of course, respind in kind:

Arminian Chronicles: How reliable is the Catechism?

I claimed, and still do, that sola scriptura is not responsible for all the doctrinal disagreements between Protestants that my friend and CatholicNick had listed. Rather, I cited varying presuppositions, degree of education, study, spiritual maturity or the sinfulness of the individuals involved as other drivers of doctrinal disagreements. My friend disagreed and reasserted that sola scriptura is the reason. But I had offered an argument, regarding intra-Catholic disagreement regarding free will and predestination. He responded by saying:

The main problem here is the seeming assumption that these matters must be defined in an “either/or” fashion rather than “both/and.” Catholic teaching on matters such as these is often both/and, for example, the Catechism addresses the relationship of freewill and predestination by stating:

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28; Psalms 2: 1-2). For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness. (Matthew 26:54; John 18:36; John 19:11; Acts 3:17-18) (Catechism of the Catholic Church 600> 

Freewill and predestination are not in opposition because of the nature of God, we humans only perceive that they are opposed due to the limits of our own understanding.”

This I think only extends the problem. First, the statement in the Catechism is not sufficient to resolve the dispute between Catholic Molinists and Catholic Dominicans. Molinists define freedom in terms of contra-causal power. Bob is able to choose chocolate or vanilla. He is not causally determined to one or the other. Dominicans disagree – they assert God’s concurrence with Bob determines what he will do, such that he cannot do otherwise.
It’s one or the other; it cannot be both. The both/and distinction only works when the two do not contradict each other – if there is a contradiction you must use either/or. We are either free in a Molinist sense or we are not and the catechism does not resolve this dispute.
Second, the Catechism states “to God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy”. This echoes Thomas Aquinas’ ‘eternal now’ doctrine. Certainly, Catholics have disagreed with this. Occham and Molina come to mind off the top of my head. The counter argument is that if God views April 1st as now and I don’t, then my perspective is wrong. It’s impossible for April 1st to be now and not now simultaneously. If God thinks April 1st is now, then it’s now. So my view that April 1st is future is God playing an April fool’s joke on me by making me think it’s future when it’s actually now.
Now I think the ‘eternal now’ doctrine is wrong, but my point isn’t to argue that. For my present point, it’s enough for me to note that other Catholics have disagreed with it as well. And it doesn’t seem to matter that they do, because 1) the Catechism is fallible and 2) in this case the Catechism is not underwritten by supposed infallible documents. So the Catechism can’t resolve this one.
But what about cases in which the Catechism is underwritten by supposed infallible documents? My friend uses the example of the Mass. Well, first off, if we limit the scope to only issues Rome has infallibly defined, we pair the list down quite a bit – I am guessing only a handful of items would remain. And that would go to my original point that most of the theological disagreements were not caused by sola scriptura.
The remaining items that are infallibly defined by Rome (and not also by scripture) are all examples of Rome causing division where scripture does not, because infallible definitions are affixed with anathemas.

Posted by Godismyjudge

Well how reliable is the Catechism? Very reliable. Although the Catechism in and of itself is not infallible, much of the content is infallible. Some items are subject to change as the document does touch on many disciplines and present understanding of certain theological concepts which the Church has yet to define (she defines when necessary). Nevertheless, because the document comes from the Universal Church and contains a summary of Catholic teaching, every Catholic is bound to adhere to it. This is nothing new. This is a matter of authority.
Now when it comes to predestination, it remains a mystery. And as a mystery we are not privy to full comprehension of it unless God reveals it to us. The Church’s infallible teaching on the mystery of predestination is with concern to the differing schools of thought is summed up the the Catholic Encylopedia as:

Owing to the infallible decisions laid down by the Church, every orthodox theory on predestination and reprobation must keep within the limits marked out by the following theses:

  • At least in the order of execution in time (in ordine executionis) the meritorious works of the predestined are the partial cause of their eternal happiness;
  • hell cannot even in the order of intention (in ordine intentionis) have been positively decreed to the damned, even though it is inflicted on them in time as the justpunishment of their misdeeds;
  • there is absolutely no predestination to sin as a means to eternal damnation. Guided by these principles, we shall briefly sketch and examine three theories put forward by Catholic theologians.

Thus there is no reason for divisions among the Faithful so long as they adhere to what is taught infallibly by the Church. Adhering to the what the Church teaches keeps one from going outside of the boundaries of Christian revelation. So in the case of Molinistic and Thomistic schools of thought, the reality is that a Catholic can look and take a side or not because either theory must adhere to the above.
The Church also infallibly teaches that God is outside of time and space. This is only right as He is the Uncaused Cause – the Creator of all and that includes time. Time or the concept thereof is a creature of God, a creation and as such, when speaking of our world, we are only subject to time.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah (RSV) 55:8-9)

Again, my friend cites the Church’s excommunications as more a cause of division that the man-made doctrine of Sola Scriptura, whereas I reply by reiterating what I stated in my previous response, these divisions already exist and come to light when one chooses against Christ and Church. Another point I wish to make concerns my reference to “either/or” and “both/and.” Once more, there is a misconception that the Church must infallibly decide every debate that comes before her or wells up within her. This is simply not the case. The Church will make an infallible proclamation when necessary and necessarily when and on what any person or groups deem as important and timely.
For example, many would like to see Mary infallibly proclaimed as the Mediatrix of All Graces. Well, as it stands, the present Pope does not see the need to do this. Why? Because this already Biblical and historical (infallible) teaching concerning the role of Mary in salvation history is not an issue that presently requires such a formal declaration. In fact, doing so may actually cause more problems not because the teaching on Mary fallible or in contradiction with Scripture but rather because this Truth is hard to swallow for many Christians outside the Church and thus may hinder the more important efforts of brining all the sheep back into the One Fold, Who is the Fullness of Truth.

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