Saturday, February 6, 2010

Msgr. Pope comments on the Protestant Solas

Check it out here.  The basic premise of his essay is found in the following introduction:

There are a lot of “Solos” sung by our Protestant brethren: Sola Fide (saved by faith alone); Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone is the rule of faith); sola gratia(grace works alone). (See the Protestant Logo to the right). Generally one ought to be suspicious and careful of claims that things work alone. It is our usual experience that things work together in harmony with other things and are interrelated. Very seldom is anyone or anything alone.

The problem of the “solos” emerges, it seems to me, in our minds where it is possible to separate things out. But the fact is, just because we can separate out something in our mind does not mean that we can separate it in reality. Consider a candle flame for a moment. In my mind I can separate the heat of the flame from the Light of the flame. But in reality I could never take  a knife and put the heat over to one side and the light off to the other. In reality the heat and light are inseparable, so together as to be one.

I would like to respectfully argue that it is the same withthings like faith and works, grace and transformation, Scripture and the Church. We can separate all these things out in our mind but in reality they are one. Attempts to separate them from what they belong to lead to grave distortions and to the thing in question no longer being what it is claimed to be. Rather it turns into an abstraction that exists only on a blackboard or in the mind of a (geeky) theologian.

1 comment:

whw said...

I'm afraid these paragraphs don't tempt me to read the remainder of the article. Msgr. Pope gets off on the wrong foot with me with his first
sentence. He begins a critique of some basic Reformation doctrines with a sentence that is flippant,
verging on the snide. The tone conveys a value judgment, too:
Protestants insist on singing solos; *we* sing together,
which is clearly how it *should* be done.

Msgr. Pope's candle analogy is unfortunate. His final sentence, "In
reality the heat and light are inseparable, so together as to be one,"
is simply, physically, inaccurate. Heat and light are distinct, separate physical entities. You see the light from the candle because photons travel from the candle to your eyes. You feel the heat from the flame because molecules in the flame with high enthalpy (roughly translated, heat energy) transfer some of that enthalpy to molecules closer to you as described in the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Light can travel through a vacuum; heat cannot. If heat and light were really one, we would not find examples of heat without light (the warm breath of another person on our face) or light without heat (fireflies). Thus a flame
is really a counterillustration for Msgr. Pope's argument: it generates two separate physical phenomena, heat and light, which when experienced simultaneously, can seem like one: not one phenomenon whose division is
necessarily artificial.

Finally, after asking permission to "respectfully argue," he states that separation of the pairs of unities he proposes exists "only on a blackboard
or in the mind of a (geeky) theologian." (I suppose the non-geeky theologians agree with him?)

I suspect I'm not part of Msgr. Pope's intended audience, and I'm sorry to be so negative about this post. One reason it bothers me to the point of commenting is the continuous respect I've been accorded by 'Ready' himself and other Catholic brethren. Another is that I find Pope Benedict's teaching on "fide sola" (referenced elsewhere in this blog) much more compelling in terms of both tone and logic.