Thursday, 24 January 2008
Question 37 - Comments from Mark Shea, Part 2
Mark Shea said some more things on his blog that you might want to respond to. Here is what I copied from someone who sent me the dialogue.
Shea: My purpose is not to disprove supercessionism, which I suppose to be a theological opinion that is certainly within the pale of orthodoxy (though I could be be wrong), but to defend my own "neither revoked, nor salvific" position as *also* within the pale of orthodoxy.
R. Sungenis: The problem here is that Shea has invented a new degree of doctrinal validity called the “pale of orthodoxy” for a doctrinal issue that has no “pale.” We are not discussing something the Church has not declared and defined, such as, whether Mary died before she went to heaven. If one believes she died and another believes she did not die, both views fit within “the pale of orthodoxy.” But whether the Old Covenant is still in force or not is a black and white issue. It is either revoked or not revoked. There is no in-between state. The revocation of the Old Covenant has been declared and defined, as I have clearly demonstrated in my essay [http://www.catholicintl.com/articles/The%20Old%20Covenant%20Revoked%20or%20Not%20Revoked%20for%20Culture%20Wars.pdf]. Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium have said that the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, is revoked. Conversely, there is not one authoritative source in Catholic history that says the Mosaic Covenant is still in force, and that is why Mr. Shea cannot cite any sources to back up his view.
The basic problem lies in Mr. Shea’s faulty understanding of Matthew 5:17-18. He thinks that because Jesus said “I did not come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill” this means the Old Covenant has not been revoked. It doesn’t. Considering that many other passages in the New Testament tell us that Jesus did, indeed, revoke the Old Covenant (Heb 10:9; 7:18; 8:13; 2Cor 3:6-14; Eph 2:15; Col 2:15), the interpretation of Matthew 5:17-18 has only one other solution. Jesus is simply telling us that He does not want to abolish the law and the prophets in the sense that He wants to fulfill them in the New Covenant, which is precisely the point I made in my essay. All the goals and aspirations that were delineated in the Law and Prophets will now reach their fulfillment in the New Covenant, but the Old Covenant does not have to be in force in order to do so. The Old Covenant’s principles live long after the Old Covenant itself is legally abrogated.
Mr. Shea is having difficulty seeing this truth because he does not understand the difference between the legal and the non-legal. Legally speaking, the Old Covenant is revoked, it has no force of law, it has no legal ability to bind us to its dictates. But in the non-legal sense, the Old Covenant is very much alive, because the principles of godly living embodied in the writings of the Law and the Prophets have found their resting place in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. Legally speaking, it is the New Covenant, not the Old, that will demand that the principles embodied in the Old Covenant are carried out and fulfilled to the letter. It is the New Covenant that has the legal jurisdiction, not the Old. The Old Covenant is like precedent setting case law. It serves as an example; it seeks justice, it helps in understanding the issues, but it has no legal authority in itself to determine the outcome of a court case.
Shea: That this is so is, I think, demonstrable from the fact that I got a letter from somebody in the USCCB commending me on the Tale of Two Covenants series.
R. Sungenis: This is precisely the problem. Instead of showing us from Scripture, Tradition and the official teachings of the Magisterium, Shea resorts to a letter from somebody that he doesn’t even name from the USCCB as his only corroborating source. Not only is this pretentious, but, as I point out in my essay, it is the USCCB that is one of the main culprits in this error. The USCCB is the institution that approved a statement in its United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (2006) on page 131 that says “the Mosaic covenant remains eternally valid” for the Jewish people. But where has the Catholic Church ever taught this? The United States Catholic Catechism cites no magisterial authority for its assertion. According to the authoritative Catholic sources I listed in my essay, however, the USCCB has made a heretical statement.
Moreover, the USCCB’s position on the Old Covenant is not the same as Mr. Shea’s. Mr. Shea insists that the Old Covenant is only in force to condemn, not to save. But we don’t find that significant stipulation in the USCCB’s catechism. The context of the USCCB’s wording is that the Old Covenant is salvific for the Jews. Here are the three sentences of the USCCB catechism on page 131. I have underlined the important statements:
When God called Abraham out of Ur, he promised to make of him a ‘great nation.’ This began the history of God’s revealing his divine plan of salvation to a chosen people with whom he made enduring covenants. Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.
The USCCB’s connection between “the divine plan of salvation” and the “covenant…through Moses” is unmistakable. As it stands, the USCCB has a totally different concept of the Mosaic covenant than Mr. Shea, yet some unidentified member of the USCCB believes he can send a letter of commendation to Shea nonetheless. Obviously, neither Mr. Shea nor the unidentified USCCB representative thought this thing through before they started congratulating one another. The fact is, both the USCCB’s version of the Mosaic covenant, and Mr. Shea’s version, are erroneous.
Shea: It is Sungenis who is charging all who disagree with him with heresy.
R. Sungenis: No, I am saying that those who go against declared and defined Catholic teaching that the Old Covenant is revoked are holding a heretical doctrine. According to the authoritative Catholic sources I have listed, this is a black and white issue. Either the Old Covenant is revoked or it is unrevoked. There is no quasi-legal existence for the Old Covenant.
Shea: I think Sungenis' claims are screwy and have already documented why in my series.
R. Sungenis: Shea doesn’t mention my name in his “series,” so he hasn’t “documented” any rebuttals to the arguments I have raised. I wish Mr. Shea would engage me, because it is important for the Catholic community to know the truth of this matter. Whether the Old Covenant is revoked or not revoked will have a huge impact on how we understand God’s relationship with the Jewish people and their future prospects for salvation. As it stands, Mr. Shea has made little more than cursory comments regarding the arguments I have presented against him.
Shea: Similarly, I think his geocentrism is screwy.
R. Sungenis: Geocentrism has nothing to do with this issue, especially since I have invited Mr. Shea, several times, to have a public debate about geocentrism if he believes it is “screwy.” As of this date, Mr. Shea has formally declined to debate. My feeling is, if one is not willing to accept an invitation to debate, then it is quite inappropriate to keep taking demagogic pot shots at your opponent. Obviously, Mr. Shea is attempting to win people to his side by implying that if Sungenis will believe in something as “screwy” as geocentrism, then we aren’t required to listen to what he is saying on the Old Covenant. My opponents do this all the time, so I’m not surprised to see Mr. Shea do it here.
Shea: But I don't think his particularly theory of supercessionism is necessarily heretical, just as I don't think geocentrism heretical.
R. Sungenis: But it is not my theory of supersessionism that is at issue. I don’t have a theory of supersessionism, since when it comes to Catholic doctrine I don’t depend upon or invent theories. Catholic doctrine is not theoretical, it is factual. The difference between Mr. Shea and me is that I back up everything I say from official statements of the magisterium, quotes from the Fathers and medievals, and numerous citations from Scripture. Apparently, Mr. Shea deals in theory, and that is why you will see no authoritative Catholic sources in his statements to back up what he claims about the Old Covenant.
Shea: I do think his investment in this issue is ultimately rooted to views on the Jews that are less than savory.
R. Sungenis: Mr. Shea doesn’t know what my motivations are, so it is highly inappropriate for him to make such idle speculations. Furthermore, I don’t know what “less than savory” views of the Jews are. “Savory” according to who? In any case, all my views of the Jews, whatever they may have been, have been removed from our website, and as of this date there is no official views on the Jews from Robert Sungenis unless it appears on our website and in published articles. So if Mr. Shea believes there are “unsavory” views of the Jews presently held by me, then he should list them for his readers instead of making sweeping generalizations so as to raise unsubstantiated suspicion in peoples’ minds. Mr. Shea has one task, and that is to prove his position that the Old Covenant has not been revoked.
Shea: Bottom line: I have nothing to prove. Sungenis has to prove that I'm a heretic. I'm not interested in trying to prove him one on this matter.
R. Sungenis: I never said Mark Shea is a heretic and I’m not out to prove he is a heretic. There is a big difference between one who is holding to a heretical idea and an obstinate heretic who has formally denied cardinal dogmas of the Catholic Church as judged by a Catholic tribunal. There were many popes, cardinals and bishops who inadvertently carried heretical ideas, but that doesn’t mean they were formal heretics. I believe Mark Shea is an upstanding Catholic who I consider a comrade in arms. Mr. Shea, as far as I know, leads a Catholic moral life. He condemns the same moral and religious atrocities that I condemn. We have much more in common with one another than we have differences.
R. Sungenis: I didn’t ignore Matthew 5:17 or Romans 7. I devoted four pages and 2,661 words to answering Mr. Shea’s claims on those passages. The problem is that Mr. Shea hasn’t read those pages or does not wish to interact on them with me. There are very simple explanations to his contentions.
Gregory: Of course it would not be considered detraction if it was determined that Dr. Sungenis was doing this for the common good.
Shea: Rubhish. Bearing false witness is not rendered okay bey saying, "He meant well when he did it." I notice you keep your identity conceal. Why might that be, "Gregory"?
Gregory: it seems that Mr. Shea needs to discuss the verses in question in order avoid contradiction and remain “within the pale of orthodoxy.”
Shea: No. I don't. I'm not on trial and you are not a bishop. Given that the a USCCB rep wrote me to commend me on the Tale of Two Covenants series, I will assume that the only people trying me for heresy anytime soon will be Sungenis and one of his lackeys (assuming you aren't just Bob writing in under an alias "Gregory").
R. Sungenis: It’s a shame to see Mr. Shea treat the issue in this manner. He makes daily entries on his personal blog criticizing many people and many issues and thus considers himself an important voice for the truth. But apparently, when the shoe is on the other foot and it comes to proving his theoretical position on a very important doctrinal matter, suddenly Mr. Shea claims that no one can make any demands upon him. Ironically, he props up an unidentified person from the USCCB as his only support, yet neither Shea nor the USCCB representative seem to understand that Shea’s view of the Old Covenant is diametrically opposed to that held by the USCCB catechism.
I rest my case.