I Confess That I Have Sinned…

February 26, 2009

It seems that of late, God is determined to make of me what He wills, and the process can be rather painful. I spent last night crying because I had hurt someone with a stray comment. My comment was nice to someone who was mean to them, and could be seen as encouragement for it. Besides wounding one of God’s precious creatures, I destroyed months of build up in dialogue and mutual respect. My retarded notions that anything I can say would help anyone came crashing down over my head. Why such a big reaction to what may seem to others like a tiny incident? Because I actually care. I care how what I say affects people.

In my last blog post, I said “We never know the effect our words may have on others.” This is true in the negative sense as well, and I was not careful enough. The most painful part for me is the realization that although what we say can affect others negatively, I can never say something so that I affect someone in a good way. If anything I do helps another, it is not my work, it is God’s work alone. Sinful creature that I am, it’s a miracle if God chooses to use me for His work, but I must never presume to do such a thing under my own power. This is my pride crumbling from under me.

This past week, I also had an encounter with a rather hostile group of people. They praise learning, intelligence, and academia. With the thin excuse that maybe my academic achievements might qualify me to be heard by them, I took the opportunity to flaunt what I have always been proud of. I was force fed my pride back to me on a platter. It’s a hard thing to swallow.

I don’t know if I have the heart to continue in a work that I know myself to be claiming for my own rather than God’s. Perhaps I should take time off from blogging this Lent. I know I should skip the rest on my reading list and go straight to Come Be My Light. Mother Teresa seemed painfully aware every step of the way that she could do nothing, that only God could work through her. It’s a good lesson for me to learn.

So I ask everyone to pray for me. Please pray that God may utterly destroy this pride I cling to and instead turn my heart to Him alone. Pray that He will check me when I could hurt one of His precious creatures and lead me instead in brotherly love.

Hope is Not Always Deferred

February 24, 2009

Spending time in the blogosphere, I find a lot of people set in their ways and unwilling to listen. It becomes very discouraging sometimes. I grow to believe that what I say doesn’t matter, that it won’t make a difference, and nobody ever changes anyway. Then I tell myself: Don’t listen to Screwtape!

Your words can encourage and inspire the work of the Holy Spirit in others. I know this, because it has happened to me, to my husband, and to so many converts and those contemplating conversion here online. This is the beautifully written conversion story of Patty Bonds. I cried reading through it because so much that she says ressonates with me. It’s beautiful to see Christ’s Church embraced and Christ known deeper and more fruitfully. Don’t despair. We never know the effect our words may have on others.

To be fair, I will post James White’s reaction to her conversion. Both are worth reading.

On Grace and Free Will

February 22, 2009

Throughout history, the Catholic Church has struggled to convey the balance necessary between grace and free will to her children. The Church Fathers repeatedly dealt with such issues against the Pelagians and the Manicheans. Again at the Reformation, Martin Luther accused the Church of preaching a gospel void of grace and teaching salvation earned by their own merit. He claimed that the good works and free will taught at the time debased the grace of God, even in our ability to turn to Him and seek salvation. Since Luther was a learned professor and monk, I must assume he knew the Church never actually taught in such a way despite what individual Catholics may have done or believed. I then must take all that he said to mean the practices alone of the Church encouraged the attitude he condemned. Yet in decrying these practices, he made the same mistake as heretics before him and affirmed grace to the point of denying free will. He lost the balance the Fathers so carefully struggled to maintain.

Below I will let the Church Fathers in their own beautiful words describe this fine line between grace and free will as maintained by the Catholic Church throughout history. I will also include excerpt from the Councils of Orange and Trent and the Catholic Catechism showing the official teachings on these issues.

The Church Fathers on Grace and Free Will

I have stolen the title of my compilation from Augustine’s book On Grace and Free Will. He says about his own book:

There are some persons who suppose that the freedom of the will is denied whenever God’s grace is maintained, and who on their side defend their liberty of will so peremptorily as to deny the grace of God. This grace, as they assert, is bestowed according to our own merits. It is in consequence of their opinions that I wrote the book entitled On Grace and Free Will.

Now if faith is simply of free will, and is not given by God, why do we pray for those who will not believe, that they may believe? This it would be absolutely useless to do, unless we believe, with perfect propriety, that Almighty God is able to turn to belief wills that are perverse and opposed to faith.
[Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, Ch. 29]

As far, then, as lay in our power, we have used our influence with them, as both your brethren and our own, with a view to their persevering in the soundness of the catholic faith, Which neither denies free will whether for an evil or a good life, nor attributes to it so much power that it can avail anything without God’s grace, whether that it may be changed from evil to good, or that it may persevere in the pursuit of good, or that it may attain to eternal good when there is no further fear of failure.
[Augustine, Letter to Valentinus, No. 215:4]

The freedom of the will is not destroyed by being helped, it is rather helped because it is not destroyed. He who says to God: ‘Be thou my helper,’ confesses that he wishes to carry out what is commanded, but asks help of Him who gave the command so that he may be able to do it.
[Augustine, Letter to Hilary, No. 157, 2:10]

Now for the commission of sin we get no help from God; but we are not able to do justly, and to fulfill the law of righteousness in every part thereof, except we are helped by God. For as the bodily eye is not helped by the light to turn away therefrom shut or averted, but is helped by it to see, and cannot see at all unless it help it; so God, who is the light of the inner man, helps our mental sight, in order that we may do some good, not according to our own, but according to His righteousness.
[Augustine, On the Merits and Remission of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Bk. 2, Ch. 5]

For if any of those who are present should think to tempt God’s grace, he deceives himself, and knows not its power. Keep your soul free from hypocrisy, O man, because of Him who searches hearts and reins. For as those who are going to make a levy for war examine the ages and the bodies of those who are taking service, so also the Lord in enlisting souls examines their purpose: and if any has a secret hypocrisy, He rejects the man as unfit for His true service; but if He finds one worthy, to him He readily gives His grace… For as a writing-reed or a dart has need of one to use it, so grace also has need of believing minds… As then it is His part to plant and to water , so it is thine to bear fruit: it is God’s to grant grace, but thine to receive and guard it. Despise not the grace because it is freely given, but receive and treasure it devoutly.
[Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechitical, Lecture 1:3]

“No man can come unto Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw Him.” (Jn. 6:44) The Manichæans spring upon these words, saying, “that nothing lies in our own power”; yet the expression shows that we are masters of our will. “For if a man comes to Him,” says some one, “what need is there of drawing?” But the words do not take away our free will, but show that we greatly need assistance. And He implies not an unwilling comer, but one enjoying much succor.
[John Chrysostom, Homilies on St. John, No. 46:1]

And if by grace, it will be said, how came we all not to be saved? Because ye would not. For grace, though it be grace, saves the willing, not those who will not have it, and turn away from it, who persist in fighting against it, and opposing themselves to it.
[John Chrysostom, Epistle to the Romans, 18:5]

The skill of God, therefore, is not defective, for He has power of the stones to raise up children to Abraham; Matthew 3:9 but the man who does not obtain it is the cause to himself of his own imperfection. Nor, [in like manner], does the light fail because of those who have blinded themselves; but while it remains the same as ever, those who are [thus] blinded are involved in darkness through their own fault. The light does never enslave any one by necessity; nor, again, does God exercise compulsion upon any one unwilling to accept the exercise of His skill. Those persons, therefore, who have apostatized from the light given by the Father, and transgressed the law of liberty, have done so through their own fault, since they have been created free agents, and possessed of power over themselves.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk. 4, Ch. 39]

Church Documents and Official teachings on Grace and Free Will

The following are excerpts from the Council of Orange and the Council of Trent and the Catholic Catechism. They show that the Catholic Church does not teach nor has ever taught that humans can merit their own salvation or earn their way to heaven through works. At the same time these documents affirm with the Church Fathers that what we do matters, we have ability to reject God’s grace, and we can do His work through His grace therefore not all that we do is sin.

The Canons of the Council of Orange

CANON 6: If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

CANON 9: Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark of divine favor when we are of a right purpose and keep our feet from hypocrisy and unrighteousness; for as often as we do good, God is at work in us and with us, in order that we may do so.

CANON 18: That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.

CANON 20: That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.

CANON 23: Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.

The Decrees of the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent

Chapter 5: The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.

Chapter 8: And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed; to wit, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.

Chapter 10: They, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified, as it is written; He that is just, let him be justified still; and again, Be not afraid to be justified even to death; and also, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. And this increase of justification holy Church begs, when she prays, “Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope, and charity.”

Chapter 16: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord; for God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name; and, do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward. And, for this cause, life eternal is to be proposed to those working well unto the end, and hoping in God, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Jesus Christ, and as a reward which is according to the promise of God Himself, to be faithfully rendered to their good works and merits… Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ.

Canons of the Council of Trent

CANON 3: If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

CANON 4: If any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.

CANON 5: If any one saith, that, since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.

CANON 9: If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

CANON 10: If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.

CANON 11: If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

CANON 24: If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

CANON 25: If any one saith, that, in every good work, the just sins venially at least, or-which is more intolerable still-mortally, and consequently deserves eternal punishments; and that for this cause only he is not damned, that God does not impute those works unto damnation; let him be anathema.

CANON 31: If any one saith, that the justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal recompense; let him be anathema.

CANON 32: If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

Excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.

Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life.

Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent.

Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:”

God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of “eternal life” respond, beyond all hope, to this desire.

Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord’s words “Thus you will know them by their fruits” – reflection on God’s blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.” The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts.”

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

Announcing my Husband’s Blog: Bread of Life

February 22, 2009

Chris has started a blog, Bread of Life. His first post is up 🙂

My Ecclesiastic Past in Excrutiating Detail

February 19, 2009

I often make reference to the bad experiences that I had as a Protestant, so it’s only fair that I detail what those experiences were and what I make of them now. Keep in mind, although I know that not all Protestant churches are as self-glorifying, nonsensical, and downright un-Christian as some of the churches I’ve attended, I believe that the foundation of Protestantism, that is the rejection of earthly authority combined with a reliance on an individual’s spirituality or intelligence (either your own or that of the pastor or theologian you esteem), naturally and necessarily gives birth to this kind of Christianity. That said, I warn everyone, this is a long ‘un.

The first church I remember attending was a Word of Faith church when I was about four years old. The only things I really remember from that church are the orange tic-tacs the pastor’s wife used to give me and this really odd experience in Sunday school. A visiting guitarist told us that we had to speak in tongues as evidence that we were really saved and had the Holy Spirit living in us. I was encouraged to just open my mouth and start talking in my private tongues language. I could not and would not. As a result, for years I thought my salvation was in jeopardy. Recently I told my mom about this and she was horrified, wondering why I had never said anything earlier. Then she related an experience with that church that I don’t remember. At some point I no longer wanted to attend my Sunday school class, so my mom came in with me to see what was wrong. She found the Sunday school workers were rebuking the kids in the name of Jesus when we did something wrong! My mom took this up with the pastors and they stopped. Already, by the age of five, I had experienced abuses in Protestantism from individuals using their own interpretations.

We moved, and so joined an Assembly of God church. The only thing I remember from this church is that I wasn’t given the role I wanted in the church production. I remember I wanted a dancing part, but my sister warned me not to try for it since she knew the daughter and friend of the Sunday school leader would get the part. I stubbornly refused and tried to be a dancer. I ended up as an extra angel while my sister was proved right. Although this isn’t of great theological import and nepotism is a human frailty, it occurs again and again in different Protestant churches. It makes you see a little wisdom in mandatory celibacy for priests. This church split when the AG board wanted to appoint one pastor and half the congregation wanted another one. My family left with the schismatics, but we moved again soon after to join the church that would be the bane of my adolescence.

I will mention specifics with regard to this church, because I don’t know if the breadth of the issues involved can be understood otherwise. After our move, we joined Metro Christian Fellowship (which was previously called Kansas City Fellowship and then Metro Vineyard Fellowship) because my uncle went there. This church was led by Mike Bickle, a good man on the whole, but highly inexperienced and easily misled. He was under John Wimber and closely involved with Paul Cain and the Kansas City Prophets. The goings on in this church are hard to describe for anyone who has not seen them, but I’ll do my best.

There is a charismatic Pentecostal end times revival movement which believes that a recent renewal of the gifts of the Spirit has occurred after an extended period in history during which they were absent. These gifts include speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, etc. This particular movement has been dubbed “charismatic renewal” by Hank Hanegraaf and is familiar in the sensationalism of those like Benny Hinn. For a full history of its sordid past, I recommend Hank Hanegraaf’s Counterfeit Revival. The character of those involved is decidedly not Christian and the basis of many of their beliefs are heretical. For example, William Branham rebaptized his followers in the name of Christ only and denied the Trinity. Metro Christian Fellowship was deeply mired in charismatic renewal revivalism and intimately connected with Joel’s Army and Latter Rain beliefs.

Joel’s Army (Joel 2) is the army that God will raise in the end times to be victorious over those who oppose God’s church – literally in battle. The Latter Rain movement emphasizes a restoration of Christ’s church in the end times. They believe the five fold ministry of prophets, apostles, teachers, pastors, and healers as well as the unity of the church will be restored in the last days for a “great harvest of souls”. There are also other beliefs that did not come into my experience as much so I will not belabor those points here. All in all, theology didn’t really enter into things at Metro. Everything was very experience driven. They would call on the Holy Spirit in order to “experience” God in a personal way. They claimed God was “loving on” His church and filling them up with the Spirit to get them ready for end times revivals and trials. They repeatedly encouraged people to abandon reason and so open themselves up more to the Holy Spirit. This “experiencing the Spirit” manifested as uncontrollable laughing or crying, being “slain in the Spirit” or falling flat on the ground unmoving, strange demonstrations such as barking like a dog, convulsing, visions, miraculous healings that I never saw, and prophetic words that were never verified, among other things. I went to the private school under this church for a year, and they occasionally stopped classes to accommodate the “movement of the Holy Spirit”. I can remember a classmate of mine describing a vision she had of a beautiful flower, although later she admitted faking it.

Although many people do admit faking it, there are many that are sincere in these manifestations. They either sincerely experience nothing, like I did, or they sincerely experience the more bizarre behaviors. Of course, as a young person who was told that this was the power of God, it didn’t occur to me that there could be another explanation. An alternate explanation is that these people worked themselves up into a frenzy. They repeat phrases, verses, and songs over and over waiting for the Holy Spirit until people start manifesting. I think the brain is wired to slip into an altered mental state when you concentrate in such a suggestive way. The effects are similar to those of kundalini awakenings brought on by Hindu gurus. To be clear, as I have been misunderstood before, I am not suggesting that these Christians tapped into their shakras and experienced awakening. I am suggesting that in both cases people abused their bodies and minds in such a way as to induce an altered mental state that may be physically, mentally, and emotionally damaging. For more information on these practices, I again recommend Counterfeit Revival.

I don’t know what to think about the authenticity of the Holy Spirit moving in such a manner and whether or not God touches people through such practices. God moves in mysterious and frightening ways, like at Pentecost, and He is certainly capable of prostrating us forcibly in His presence. But He never moves in a useless or detrimental way. I do know that in my experience, and in those associated with this particular movement (like the Toronto Blessing, the Pensacola Outpouring, or the most recent Lakeland Revival), sensationalism has been used to gain an audience rather than edify the body of Christ. It has been used for renown, financial gain, and personal satisfaction. As a result, Christians focus less on Christ and more on the spiritual superstar on stage and the fantastic experiences they’re chasing. Christians end up feeling abandoned, used, misguided, and distrustful from broken promises while the superstars move on to their latest ministry project. Two banners used to hang at Metro, one said “Passion for Jesus” and the other “Compassion for People” and both mission statements fell short. Little pastoring and fellowship occurs in the charismatic end times revival scene. That does not sound like God’s work to me.

Whatever the origin of such manifestations, I abstained from them. I was determined not to prevent God from doing such things with me, but never to force it. As a result, nothing happened. It’s strange. I felt less spiritual than those around me who performed and were prophesied over. There was an uber-spiritual in-crowd at Metro which they liked to call “forerunners”, usually staff members and their families, and it was understood that they were really spiritual and God was doing something in their lives. I grew to despise them and yet still felt inferior to them for some reason. I was an every day Christian, and as such did not fit in. There was little room in the missions of this church for those who just go to work and school, go home, and do so for the Lord. Never was a sermon preached on how to live like Christ. With such little content to find there, my sister and I began skipping out on the sermons, which could run nearly two hours in length, and opted instead to visit the nearby McDonald’s or hang out on the train tracks. I drifted further away from church, aided by a youth ministry with ever-changing leaders leaving to fulfill their own private mission. It didn’t help that the pastor’s sons would have keggers on Saturday night and try to lead us all in the Spirit of the Lord on Sunday morning.

We were perpetually promised revival, miracles, and greatness and it all fell flat. I remember once tagging along with my parents to a home group focused on growing in the prophetic. There was a woman there who was prophesied over. She was told that her desire to be a leader instead of a follower, and to not be just another one of God’s sheep, would be fulfilled. I was about ten years old at the time, and I can remember thinking, “What’s wrong with just being God’s sheep? We can’t all be leaders. They’re just telling her what she wants to hear. I don’t want to be a leader. I want to be His sheep.”

My attendance lagged until Mike Bickle left Metro Christian Fellowship starting the International House of Prayer in an effort to revive the old practice of “contemplative” prayer. He repeatedly praises the Catholic Church for their prayerful practices, which he is often criticized for doing because, as we all know, nothing good can come from Catholics! His contemplative prayer bears little resemblance to the traditional Catholic prayers though. There is a difference between repeated prayers during which you contemplate God’s glory and His mysterious and put forth your petitions, and repeated short phrases or verses that are chanted while you clear your mind and try to force the appearance and manifestation of the Holy Spirit. So I believe the kind of contemplative prayer committed at IHOP is tailored by repetitiveness to induce hyper-suggestible states like those seen above. When Mike Bickle left for IHOP, Metro Christian Fellowship split three ways. There was a remnant that remained “Metro Christian Fellowship”, another group left with Mike to attend the church at IHOP, and a third group dispersed but a majority of these joined Christ Triumphant Church, or CTC.

I feel violated by the things that happened at Metro, because nobody stopped it. There were no leaders that said “This is not of God!” or kept the church grounded in reality. There was no tradition that said “Return of the gifts? They didn’t go anywhere!” There was no one to correct the pastors, because Protestants have done away with earthly authority. There is nothing protecting Christians from such abuses. The Bible was used to back up everything these people had to say, and so it was proved to me first hand that the Bible can be misused to support ungodly things and its meaning can be twisted to attain the ends of those who interpret it. I can’t just escape to Catholicism out of reaction to a bad experience. However, these bad experiences prove to me that Protestantism invites abuses by the very nature in which it began – that is, the spirit of self-reliance and skeptical inquiry which bucks authority.

After the congregation at Metro dispersed, my parents went searching through several churches to find one that was “alive” with the Holy Spirit and was a “good fit” for them. Among these was a Word of Faith church I attended only once. For a time, my parents settled at CTC, but my brother, sister, and I refused to go to any church as insincere and flamboyant as Metro. In an effort to lure us back, they tried to find a more conservative atmosphere. This led them to a non-denominational, start-up church that began meeting in the local theater until they gained enough of a following to fund their own building. At this time, Chris and I were engaged, so he had the privileged of attending there for a time. Then, a man from Metro started his own church (a fourth spin off), and my parents have settled there. Although this final church has refrained from the flamboyant end times revivalism found at Metro, the formula is the same: upbeat music for an hour, allowing for the Holy Spirit to guide them, and an hour from the pastor on his latest personal revelations. I do like this pastor, he even married my husband and I, and he preaches more on the every day level than the revivalists, but I felt that there was something fundamentally lacking. I don’t think God’s church should look like a personal effort on the part of the pastor, which is what Protestantism has become. The vitality of a church depends on the pastor’s preaching and ability to gain a following. From a lack of oversight, experience, and unity, Protestants have lost their effectiveness. The “word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword” (Heb 4:12) and it should not be ineffective.

Going back in my story to shortly after Metro scattered and while my parents church shopped, I left town for college. For a time, I avoided churches altogether and it was just “me and my Bible under a tree”. I never believed God wants us to be self-sufficient and so I eventually built up the courage to find a “good church”, though I was incredibly gun shy after the mess I had been through. I started rather small, and attended a start-up church near my college. The atmosphere was stale and I felt like crawling out of my skin rather than returning the plastic smiles of those around me. I then attempted an Assembly of God church that a friend of a friend took us to. First we went to the young adult Bible study, which wasn’t bad. Then we went to the Sunday service, though I should probably call it a Sunday exhibition. Their services were televised and the church was so massive that they had giant television screens so the people in the back could see. Not only that, but there was a camera crew roaming around on stage getting power shots of the pastor and worship team. That was more conducive to worshiping the pastor than to worshiping God.

I ended up in another Assembly of God church that was much more conservative. The pastor at this church was a good speaker and had his doctorate in physics to boot. I loved being able to relate to his off the wall references and intellectual approaches to things. I attended the Young Adults group, befriending a couple really great girls and we formed a Bible study. I was in a relatively good place when I met Chris, and wasn’t expecting to be derailed from my new found security.

Through my investigations into history, theology, Catholicism, and Protestantism, I now believe that my experiences were the inevitable result of the fundamental principles of Protestantism. Hilaire Belloc wrote countless books discussing this including Survivals and New Arrivals and The Great Heresies. He believed that Protestants took the Catholic teaching that Scripture is God-breathed and turned it against the Church, elevating Scripture to a thing worthy of worship, therefore initially practicing Bible literalism and self-reliance, which necessarily led to self-contradictions and self-worship, which then devolved in not knowing who to believe and what the Bible meant at all. He believed the next step is a completely subjective religion, neo-Paganism, of which we see the fruits every day. Belloc lived and died before the charismatic renewal movement, and I wonder how he could see, over 75 years ago, that people would begin to ignore even Scripture and rely on their personal experience of God to lead them.

Catholicism 101: Do whatever work is before you for the glory of God

February 18, 2009

James Swan has just yesterday posted an article entitled “Steve Ray Reinvents Protestant Spirituality” on James White’s blog, Pros Apologian. He asserts that the concept of living a daily spiritual existence, in which every mundane task like diaper changing is done for the glory of God, is “Protestant theology 101”. I find his assertion strange, especially since it is that very aspect of the Catholic Church that I find to be most beautiful and true.

Even a superficial look at the Catholic way of life shows an emphasis on doing whatever work is before you for the glory of God. Opus Dei, began by JosemarĂ­a Escriva, is a Catholic society dedicated to “Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace” (also a title of a Scott Hahn book). Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium declares the Catholic’s Universal Call to Holiness. Mother Teresa expounded the idea of working every day for the love of God with her actions, but also says, “There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.” and, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” Further back in time, in the 1600’s, we see Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk who wrote Practice of the Presence of God, saying such things as “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.” and, “People seek methods of learning to know God. Is it not much shorter and more direct to simply do everything for the love of Him? There is no finesse about it. One only has to do it generously and simply.”

Also, there is a contemporary of Luther, St. Francis de Sales who wrote Introduction to the Devout Life. He says: “It is… an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state. Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.”

My mind boggles that someone can fail to see this ordinary devotional life in Catholicism, especially since my experience of Protestantism has focused on the exact opposite, in which everyone strove to attain places of honor and get recognition for their own glory rather than God’s. Regardless of what Luther taught or intended, the post-denominational Protestants speak little about striving to serve God in the small things, and are more about winning souls for Christ. Although the Catholic Church meets every individual where they are at and encourages ordinary devotions, they still hold in high regard the sacred life of the devoted religious.

You can see where Swan is coming from, though, that is the medieval perspective of Martin Luther. He says, “Martin Luther joined the monastery because he was serious about his soul and being truly spiritual” which isn’t strictly true. Although from a pious family, the reason Luther joined a monastery is because, fearing for his life during a thunderstorm, he made a vow to God that if he lived he would become a monk. Luther preached on “the sacredness of every calling, whether one was a cobbler, blacksmith, or mother. Whatever one does, one should do to the glory of God”. This is worthy preaching. However, Luther took this too far when he went on to condemn monastic life as useless and believed it was a vain attempt to merit your own salvation. His biography describes the impact of his preaching on monastic life, so that monks were freed from their vows “to take up useful occupations” and those who remained monks were urged to be useful as well in “preaching, physical labor, and caring for others”. (Luther the Reformer: The story of the man and his career, p 179-180)

Luther says: “Hence direct all the good you can do and your whole life to the end that it be good; but it is good only when it is useful to other people and not to yourself… If you find a work in you by which you benefit God or his saints or yourself and not your neighbor, know that such a work is not good.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:36]. This is plain wrong and appears to be the foundation of the infamous Protestant work ethic that has led to unbridled competition in capitalism and threatens to destroy the free citizen (see Belloc’s Crisis of Civilization). At the foundation of this admonition to be useful to others is the rejection of the Catholic mantra “life matters”.

If we are only good when we are useful and productive, then our life as a thing in itself has no value. Then the elderly, disabled, or unborn are easily disposable “for the good of the many”. Take it a step further and we see a scene forming from the Twilight Zone’s “The Obsolete Man“. Someone may object that I’m being overly dramatic and that Protestants themselves do not condone the destruction of life, truth, or beauty. However, I still maintain that this is the underlying attitude in Luther’s attack on monastic life. We see the fruits of this in post-Reformation Protestant culture. Liberty and quality of life has become more important than life itself and the sacred is no longer recognized.

Also, this attitude prioritizing usefulness and rejecting the sacred led to the pillaging and destruction of medieval churches in the Reformation revolts as well as the seizure of the Church charities that were placed in the public chest for the poor. This echos a familiar tune:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. (Matthew 26:6-10)

There is honor due our Lord, and it cannot be forsaken in favor of a lesser commandment. God is honored when people sets themselves apart for His service, and like Christ says above, they do a beautiful thing for Him. The Old and New Testament both bear witness to the consecrated lives of different individuals. Nearly all the Old Testament prophets lived consecrated lives, but Samuel in particular is a good example. From before his birth, he was promised as a nazirite to God, destined to live set apart and to dwell at the temple solely in service of the Lord (1 Samuel 1). In the New Testament, John the Baptist lived in the wilderness and ate locust and wild honey so that he might prepare the way for the Lord (Mark 1:1-8). Even Paul advocates remaining single to “live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:35) How can this be considered a bad thing, and how can anyone deny the deeper relationship with God that is found through perpetual prayer and devotion to God?

When Luther rejected the monastic way of poverty, chastity, and obedience, he destroyed the sacred. He undermined the beauty and truth of the Christian way of life, and failed to see the immense value of the prayers of the religious and example in a life set apart. It seems when the innate value of life and the holiness of God are misunderstood, we not only fail to treat God as he should be treated, but also fail to treat others with the reverence we should. As a Protestant, Mother Teresa’s saying “each one of them is Jesus in disguise” was a foreign concept to me. I was told we should be Christ’s light, not that others are like Christ to us. When you lack a piece of the truth, the entire system comes crashing down.

I don’t believe that Luther intentionally did these things or could have known where his reform would lead. He was motivated by a fundament misunderstanding of the Catholic faith. He initially approached it from the perspective of avoiding Hell rather than doing all for the love of God. He obsessed that his sins no matter how small always separated him from God’s perfect righteousness, a righteousness he hated (Luther the Reformer, p. 87-88), and he could never do enough to merit his salvation. In this he was right, since there was no love motivating even the smallest work he did, of course nothing he did would please God in the slightest. Swan promulgates Luther’s misunderstandings by saying “For a Roman Catholic, one must become perfectly spiritual in order to become justified. The soul must become objectively pleasing to God to merit heaven.” This misses the mark and distorts and amplifies only a small portion of the gospel.

There is no need to be “perfectly spiritual” to be justified. Catholics believe they are justified by grace through faith, and by virtue of our baptism. They believe we can do nothing to merit our justification, but that “justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). They teach that faith gives fruit in love, and those who love God keep his commandments, though imperfectly, which does not jeopardize their salvation. They also believe that in adhering ourselves to the divine will, we continue our justification in that we become more like Christ and sanctified. Perfect sanctification is desired to the point of necessity in order to stand before a holy God, which is attained in this life or in Purgatory. They do not believe that you can be saved in Purgatory, but that only those who are saved already are cleansed of earthly attachment to be made holy and fit to stand before a righteous God.

“We are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification.” [Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. 8]

They, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified, as it is written; He that is just, let him be justified still; and again, Be not afraid to be justified even to death; and also, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. And this increase of justification holy Church begs, when she prays, “Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope, and charity.”
[Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. 10]

“For, whoso are the sons of God, love Christ; but they who love him, keep his commandments, as Himself testifies; which, assuredly, with the divine help, they can do. For, although, during this mortal life, men, how holy and just soever, at times fall into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial, not therefore do they cease to be just.” [Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. 11]

Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ. Neither is this to be omitted,-that although, in the sacred writings, so much is attributed to good works, that Christ promises, that even he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones, shall not lose his reward;
[Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. 16]

It’s no wonder that people like Swan, who see an entirely different Catholic Church than I do, feel the way they do about it. There is no way to make them see what I do, and so my only option is to proclaim the truth and be satisfied that my duty has been done. People may listen, they may not, or they may do as I have done and file away conversations and tid-bits that come back to haunt me when my experience testifies a different truth than the one I have held. Also, I can take a lesson from the subject matter at hand, and give every testimony and blog post up as service to our Lord and for His glory.

The Church Fathers on Tradition

February 16, 2009

I have been asked to show the tradition of the Church Fathers as the infallible source of truth outside of the Scriptures. So I have compiled a lengthy list of quotes that demonstrate this tradition consisted of a living Church ruled by Apostolic successors, was to be believed and obeyed as if it was the voice of God itself, contained truth not found in Scripture but harmonious with it, and that Scriptures cannot be understood apart from this tradition. I would encourage everyone to read the complete works or at least chapters in the works pertaining to tradition, heretics, and Scriptures, especially Irenaeus’s Against Heresies and Tertullian’s The Prescription Against Heretics. Catholic teachings are not only consistent with the view of tradition as seen below, but are consistent with the view of Scripture as seen in Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Volume III. Although the sola scriptura may be consistent with the latter, it is decidedly not compatible with these views of tradition.

The following quotes define the tradition of which the Church Fathers speak as being the living Church, which transmitted Apostolic tradition through Apostolic succession. They assert this tradition as something to be obeyed as if you are obeying Christ himself.

Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: I say unto you, That you are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. Since this, then, is founded on the divine law, I marvel that some, with daring temerity, have chosen to write to me as if they wrote in the name of the Church; when the Church is established in the bishop and the clergy, and all who stand fast in the faith.
[Cyprian, Letters, No. 33]

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to the perfect apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch. 3]

Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Ch. 26]

In the same way all should respect the deacons as they would Jesus Christ, just as they respect the bishop as representing the Father and the priests as the council of God and the college of the Apostles. Apart from these there is nothing that can be called a Church.
[Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Trallians, Ch. 2]

Let all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father, and the priests, as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Apart from the bishop, let no one perform any of the functions that pertain to the Church. Let that Eucharist be held valid which is offered by the bishop or by one to whom the bishop has committed this charge. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.
[Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ch. 8]

The following shows that the Church Fathers indeed believed truth was transmitted through tradition, even truth beyond that found in Scripture and in every practice that was handed down through the succession of the apostles.

Therefore it is the Catholic Church alone which retains true worship. This is the fountain of truth, this is the abode of faith, this is the temple of God; into which if anyone shall not enter, or from which if any shall go out, he is estranged from the hope of life and eternal salvation.
[Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Book 4, Ch. 30]

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. Revelation 22:17 For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch. 4]

I desire you therefore, in the first place, to hold fast this as the fundamental principle in the present discussion, that our Lord Jesus Christ has appointed to us a light yoke and an easy burden, as He declares in the Gospel: Matthew 11:30 in accordance with which He has bound His people under the new dispensation together in fellowship by sacraments, which are in number very few, in observance most easy, and in significance most excellent, as baptism solemnized in the name of the Trinity, the communion of His body and blood, and such other things as are prescribed in the canonical Scriptures, with the exception of those enactments which were a yoke of bondage to God’s ancient people, suited to their state of heart and to the times of the prophets, and which are found in the five books of Moses. As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may be understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by the apostles themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most useful.
[Augustine, Letters, No. 54]

Here is an amusing and sarcastic exasperated exposition of Tertullian against heretics believing that they found the truth after error had been believed for an interval. It shows that tradition was used to determine truth, since truth was more likely transmitted closer to the Apostles time rather than later.

In whatever manner error came, it reigned of course only as long as there was an absence of heresies? Truth had to wait for certain Marcionites and Valentinians to set it free. During the interval the gospel was wrongly preached; men wrongly believed;… Else, if not wrongly done, and to no purpose, how comes it to pass that the things of God were on their course before it was known to what God they belonged? that there were Christians before Christ was found? that there were heresies before true doctrine? Not so; for in all cases truth precedes its copy, the likeness succeeds the reality.
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 29]

These quotes find the Church Fathers believed this tradition to be consistently and trust worthily transmitted through the Church. They are expounding the certainty of truth in tradition, that it will not go astray, and that we as Christians should trust it. In effect, they describe what may be seen as infallible Apostolic tradition.

From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for no man knows the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him. Matthew 11:27 Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any other than the apostles, whom He sent forth to preach— that, of course, which He revealed to them. Now, what that was which they preached— in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them— can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles founded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves, both vivâ voce, as the phrase is, and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches— those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth.
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 21]

Grant, then, that all have erred; that the apostle was mistaken in giving his testimony; that the Holy Ghost had no such respect to any one (church) as to lead it into truth, although sent with this view by Christ, John 14:26 and for this asked of the Father that He might be the teacher of truth; John 15:26 grant, also, that He, the Steward of God, the Vicar of Christ, neglected His office, permitting the churches for a time to understand differently, (and) to believe differently, what He Himself was preaching by the apostles,— is it likely that so many churches, and they so great, should have gone astray into one and the same faith? No casualty distributed among many men issues in one and the same result. Error of doctrine in the churches must necessarily have produced various issues. When, however, that which is deposited among many is found to be one and the same, it is not the result of error, but of tradition. Can any one, then, be reckless enough to say that they were in error who handed on the tradition?
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 28]

But [it has, on the other hand, been shown], that the preaching of the Church is everywhere consistent, and continues in an even course, and receives testimony from the prophets, the apostles, and all the disciples— as I have proved— through [those in] the beginning, the middle, and the end, and through the entire dispensation of God, and that well-grounded system which tends to man’s salvation, namely, our faith; which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth, as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth also.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch. 24]

Now all these [heretics] are of much later date than the bishops to whom the apostles committed the Churches; which fact I have in the third book taken all pains to demonstrate. It follows, then, as a matter of course, that these heretics aforementioned, since they are blind to the truth, and deviate from the [right] way, will walk in various roads; and therefore the footsteps of their doctrine are scattered here and there without agreement or connection. But the path of those belonging to the Church circumscribes the whole world, as possessing the sure tradition from the apostles, and gives unto us to see that the faith of all is one and the same, since all receive one and the same God the Father, and believe in the same dispensation regarding the incarnation of the Son of God, and are cognizant of the same gift of the Spirit, and are conversant with the same commandments, and preserve the same form of ecclesiastical constitution, and expect the same advent of the Lord, and await the same salvation of the complete man, that is, of the soul and body. And undoubtedly the preaching of the Church is true and steadfast, in which one and the same way of salvation is shown throughout the whole world.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Ch. 20]

These quotes shows the relationship between Scripture and tradition as seen by Tertullian. It seems to be the same as the relationship described in the modern Catholic Church. Not only are they harmonious, transmitting the same truth of salvation, but also Scripture is lame without the true rule of faith to interpret it. It’s interesting that when there was dispute in tradition, many of the Church Fathers (like Irenaeus in Against Heresies) resorted to the Scriptures as a common accepted rule of faith, but Tertullian rejected this method on the grounds that people with different traditions would have different interpretations of Scripture.

Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures… “With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?” For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions.
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 19]

Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, as many as walk according to the rule, which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures;
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 37]

Where diversity of doctrine is found, there, then, must the corruption both of the Scriptures and the expositions thereof be regarded as existing… What we are ourselves, that also the Scriptures are (and have been) from the beginning. Of them we have our being, before there was any other way, before they were interpolated by you… One man perverts the Scriptures with his hand, another their meaning by his exposition.
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 38]