Before we get kicked off here today, I'm engaging Stuart Wood on the topic of limited atonement at the D-Blog. I promised him I would link here at TeamPyro to that exchange, and there you go.
Phil: Stuart is very concerned that you yourself read that exchange. Please take note.
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you - if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.I had one thing I was going to write about today as we take baby steps in Titus, but given Dan's post yesterday, I'm going to go a different direction today for one purpose only: to eliminate any free time any of you have for the next 24 hours.
See: Dan popped open the Catholic Apologetics can of worms, and in God's sovereignty it turns out that we have a very interesting statement here from Paul who, we would all agree, was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he wrote to Titus.
And it turns out that Paul told Titus to "appoint elders in every town as I directed you".
One of the things I find striking here is that Paul did not instruct Titus to establish priests is every town in order to set things right -- Paul told him to appoint or establish "πρεσβυτέρους" in every town.
Now, you can interpret that word a lot of ways, but let me suggest something to you: it is a lot more than a stretch to interpret that word to mean, “infallible interpreter of the word”. And here’s why I say that – Paul is here warning Titus to establish elders who are inherently trustworthy, not in whom will be invested some supernatural funny hat which makes them unquestionable and inherently unable to err.
And notice further: that if we roll through Paul’s instruction to Titus, it is required of the elder to “hold firm to the word as taught”, not invested in him – meaning he has an obligation to conform to the apostolic teaching – and not that the elder has the authority or reshape or reinterpret the word as he sees fit.
Now, here’s the Catholic rebuttal to this statement:
That’s a misrepresentation of the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the magisterium, because of course no individual priest is infallible in and of himself. He is tasked with holding true to the doctrines as-taught and promulgated by the Pope and the Bishops. So in actuality, we would agree with you that this passage calls for the local priest to be a trustworthy man.
But here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church actually says, right in the prologue, paragraph 9:
The ministry of catechesis draws ever fresh energy from the councils. The Council of Trent is a noteworthy example of this. It gave catechesis priority in its constitutions and decrees. It lies at the origin of the Roman Catechism, which is also known by the name of that council and which is a work of the first rank as a summary of Christian teaching. . . ." The Council of Trent initiated a remarkable organization of the Church's catechesis. Thanks to the work of holy bishops and theologians such as St. Peter Canisius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Turibius of Mongrovejo or St. Robert Bellarmine, it occasioned the publication of numerous catechisms.That the current CCC thinks so highly of Trent also ought to give anyone reading this little post a wake-up call to those who think that Trent is a sort of historical artifact. But my point is not really that your local priest is an unreliable man – he is probably as reliable as the average non-Catholic preacher in any local congregation of about the same size as the parish of the priest we are comparing to. Which, you know, whatever. That’s really a meta-objective of this series – to convict guys like that of what they need to get after for Christ’s sake.
My point is actually that Paul wasn’t building an organ of infallible transmission in calling Titus to call trustworthy men: he was instructing Titus to establish elders who would be a hedge against the natural tendency of men to corrupt the teaching of God’s word.
Paul doesn’t give Titus the authority to “draw fresh energy” into what was taught to him, nor does he really advise that the elders do such a thing, either. Paul thinks that elders have a duty not to innovate the word, but to remain faithful to it. That’s a far cry from what actually happens in the Catholic Magisterium – and you have to admit that if the bishops and priests of Catholicism are the true children of the common faith between Paul and Titus, they ought to be doing at least the basics of what Paul here instructed Titus to make sure that they do.