Episode 8 – Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture

Sep 29th, 2009 | By | Category: Podcast

Tim Troutman interviews Matt Yonke on his recent lead article entitled “Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture.”  The audio is a bit choppy around the four minute mark but that clears up pretty soon.

 

To download the mp3, right click here.

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  1. Greetings again, my friend. Having listened to the above I wanted to ask a question that stems from my comments on the previous post.

    To recap we both agreed that the Church has always believed that the Bible is the word of God because the Spirit attests to it. This is what Calvin said and he points to Saint Aquinas and Saint Augustine and others to show this (I’m not going to interact with the Sproul comment, looks horrible to me, but I haven’t read the source for it and I’ve mentioned before how I have not been impressed with the use of quotes on this site).

    So let’s say there is a Protestant that isn’t clueless and that Protestant responds with the historical understanding that the Bible is the word of God because the Holy Spirit attests to it.

    Do you consider it your job to inspire anxieties and doubts about this and insist upon the need for another reason to believe or would you be content with this answer?

  2. Hey Remy — Good to hear from you again. Thanks for listening to me talk about my article!

    To recap we both agreed that the Church has always believed that the Bible is the word of God because the Spirit attests to it.

    Easy there cowboy. We agreed that the Spirit attests, but if you revisit that original exchange, we didn’t come to agreement on how? Are we talking burning bosom or leading the Christ-ordained-succeeding-from-the-Apostles Epsicopacy type of Spirit attestation? If the latter, sure, if the former or some variant on that, then no, we’ve still got some work to do there. And, of course, we would insist that Calvin used St. Augustine to prove a lot of things St. Augustine didn’t actually teach or believe, so we’ve got some work there as well. But pressing on, you asked:

    So let’s say there is a Protestant that isn’t clueless and that Protestant responds with the historical understanding that the Bible is the word of God because the Holy Spirit attests to it.

    Do you consider it your job to inspire anxieties and doubts about this and insist upon the need for another reason to believe or would you be content with this answer?

    Well, we’re back to how the Spirit is attesting here, but do I consider it my job to inspire anxieties? No, certainly not. I do consider it part of my job in writing on this site to make such Protestants as are interested ask questions about the parts of their system of the belief that need questioning. The underpinnings of the canon is a chief among these.

    But the goal is not to inspire anxieties and doubts for their own sake, but rather that they might lead to the fullness of the faith which subsists in the Catholic Church.

    I’d like to get a little deeper into what we mean by the Spirit attesting, though, as we seem to be talking past each other at the moment.

  3. The Spirit bears witness to the word of God the same way that the Spirit attests that we are the children of God. Our hearts have been given the Spirit as a guarantee.

    I honestly don’t see how you can say this isn’t enough without undermining the very Scriptures you seek to approve of or without falling into the idea that the Church establishes the Bible.

    You said “Tobit is inspired not because the Church says so; the Church says so because Tobit is inspired.” I don’t want to get into it over the Apocrypha, but I’m going to assume that the Church did that because the Spirit attested to it. Otherwise, how did the Church know that the Bible was inspired unless the Spirit attested to it?

  4. Remy,

    The issue is not whether or not the Holy Spirit attests to the Scripture. The issue is to whom does the Spirit attest as to the Scripture? Is it the Christ ordained ecclesiastical authority or individual believers? You seem willing to grant to the latter what you are not willing to grant to the former. Certainly Westminster hedges its bets about the role of the Church in the establishment of the canon (WCF 1.4-1.5), “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church” and “We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture”. The upshot is, the WCF does an end run around ecclesiastical authority concerning the canon.

  5. Remy,

    I’m assuming you don’t mean that the Spirit attests to my spirit that Sacred Scripture is the word of God, so that’s how I know Scripture is the Word of God, and Scripture attests to your spirit that Scripture is the Word of God, so that’s how you know Scripture is the Word of God, and on down the line, right? We do agree that this isn’t being attested anew every time someone becomes a new Christian, right?

    We’re contending that the Spirit attests to the Church, a visible entity that has its roots physically traceable to Christ, whose Mystical Body she is. That’s how every individual Christian can have certainty of the canon.

    But as a Protestant you’re plagued with the problem of Churches. Which one is truly attesting Christ to the individual Christian? We obviously have our answer in the certainty of the Papacy and the Apostolic succession. But when faced with different and conflicting canons all claiming to be validated by the Spirit, where would you guide someone seeking the true canon and on what basis?

  6. I don’t believe in churches. I believe there is one church, the body of Christ. You might believe in churches, the Roman church, the Orthodox church, the Protestant church. With that understanding I could see how anxieties and doubts would drive you to needing something else to provide certainty, but I don’t have that view of the church and thus I don’t have those anxieties.

    So I see our argument as being over where certainty comes from. I point to people, the church, and you point to a doctrine as providing certainty. I say the Spirit attests to people and not to documents.

    I would think the Orthodox would share my confusion with your position.

  7. Remy,

    Catholics insist on epistemological coherence; you can write that off as “anxieties”, but unless you can produce a substantial argument as to why the canon would be trustworthy when the Church that selected the canon was untrustworthy, or as to how, as Matt said in the interview, the sole infallible basis for your religion could rest on something that might ultimately be flawed (as Sproul believes), then you do not have any ground on which to stand.

    And if you have a specific case where this site has misused a quote, please let us know so that we can correct it.

    As to Churches, we believe in only one Church, as it states in the creed, and Protestant communities are not churches.

  8. Tim,

    Epistemological coherence? You wanna trot that argument past an intro to philosophy book sometime?

    As for “sole infallible basis” I don’t really know what to say. I mean, it doesn’t sound like you’re talking about Jesus. But you should probably be talking about Jesus here. I think it’s really really dangerous to separate the Church from Jesus.

  9. Remy,

    “Epistemological coherence” is not an argument. There are a few philosophy professors around here that have taught intro to philosophy classes and my ego is half-tempted to take you up on your advice, but that won’t really help the conversation. For the sake of progress, I’ll assume that your implication is correct and that this phrase (not argument) is really stupid. Here’s a better one: Catholics insist on consistency, and as with all things – coherence, within our epistemology. If you think Catholics are wrong about this, please explain why you think that one’s epistemology can be inconsistent and or incoherent. But I’m sure you’ll agree with me now that I’ve cleared up what I meant.

    I mean, it doesn’t sound like you’re talking about Jesus.

    You are correct, I was not talking about Jesus.

    I think it’s really really dangerous to separate the Church from Jesus.

    We are in agreement here, I don’t think any one should do that.

  10. Tim,
    I apologize for not spelling things out, I did mean that the argument for your “epistemological coherence”
    needs to be trotted out in front of a philosophy book. I think language works that way, but for your sake I’ll keep things simple. I suppose what you’re saying is “given our assumptions the RC’s circular argument is far more tidy than the Protestant’s circular argument”. If that’s what you meant then despite my disagreement on that point, I don’t feel the need to address the issue any further.

    But I’m am glad that you insist on consistency and that you don’t want to separate the church from those baptized into Christ. Really, if you grant that I’m content to let my other disputations slide.

  11. Remy,

    I suppose what you’re saying is “given our assumptions the RC’s circular argument is far more tidy than the Protestant’s circular argument”.

    I never said that your argument was circular, and I certainly don’t think that ours is circular. I wouldn’t believe our argument if I thought it was circular.

  12. Matt Yonke asked: “But when faced with different and conflicting canons all claiming to be validated by the Spirit, where would you guide someone seeking the true canon and on what basis?”

    Remy answered: “I say the Spirit attests to people and not to documents.”

    So, does this mean such books like those of James, Hebrews, Revelations, amongst a select group of others, can rightly be tossed out of the New Testament canon, as some have supposed?

    Luther himself wanted to expel books such as Esther, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation.

    Moreover, who exactly are the right people?

    When Christ said:

    Matt. 18:17-18 “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    Just precisely who was He referring to?

    It’s very difficult to believe that this could mean any number of Protestant churches since most, if not all, contradict the other.

    For example, there are those Protestant churches who believe abortion isn’t murder and, even further, is wholly acceptable.

    While there are those which believe that it is murder and a great evil to be extinguished.

    Surely, they can’t both be right now, can they?

  13. Remy, I suppose the question is whether the witness of the Spirit is immediate or mediate. Upon what evidence would you say that the witness is one or the other?

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