Keith Mathison’s Reply

Feb 16th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

In November of 2009, Neal Judisch and I posted an article titled “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.” The article provoked a good deal of discussion, the comments now number over 1,200. Our article was a reply to Keith Mathison’s book The Shape of Sola Scripura, and focused on the distinction Keith makes between sola scriptura and what he calls “solo scriptura.”


Keith Mathison

In his book Keith argued strongly against solo scriptura, and endorsed sola scriptura as the rightful alternative. In our article, we argued that there is no essential difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura. The defining feature of solo scriptura is the retention by each individual of ultimate interpretive authority, but under sola scriptura, each individual likewise retains ultimate interpretive authority, even if that fact is somewhat hidden by forming associations of those sharing similar interpretations of Scripture and appointing officers among such associations.

Last year Keith assured us that he would write a reply. Today, he announced that he has completed his reply. It can be read at the following link: “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and Apostolic Succession: A Response to Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch.” A pdf version of his reply is available here. Take a look, and let us know what you think. I expect that in the coming weeks we will write a reply to Keith’s reply.

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  1. Honestly, right off the bat… I find it terribly disappointing. I’ve only made it through about half (not linearly, but reading through different sections), and am quite discouraged that this is the reply of a serious Reformed theologian after 15 months’ time… especially since I had enjoyed some of Keith’s writings on the Ligonier website (particularly “We Believe the Bible and You Do Not,” which would seem to be an apt article for Keith himself to review at this point) and thought he seemed like a generally careful thinker and writer. When I was a Protestant seminarian first seriously studying Catholicism (itself the result of a similar experience to Fred’s in comment #1211 on the original article), I was often frustrated by my professors’ unwillingness to dig into questions I had, which were routinely brushed aside without substantive engagement, including in their comments on my papers and journals written for their classes. I fared no better in private discussions with them or other students. I’ve thought for a while that this might be a symptom of being in a large and diverse ecumenical Evangelical school (Fuller), which was one reason why I was looking forward to reading Keith’s response. Unfortunately, from the portions I’ve read, it all seems to boil down to the same things seen from various Protestants in the comments of the original article, and in general fails to actually engage the article’s questions and arguments. Am I completely missing something? He appears to spend the entire response (or the half of it I’ve read thus far) simply asserting his opinions and interpretations of Scripture… the very things in question. I found his pseudo-authoritative talk of Renaissance-era “true believers” as opposed to the bishops who (obviously?) “abdicated their authority when they ceased to follow Christ” particularly stunning (40-41). I’ve been looking forward to reading something that would be challenging, that might have given me serious pause in deciding to become Catholic in my Protestant seminary days. All I see here is confirmation of my opinion that Protestantism is philosophically and theologically untenable. In fairness to Keith, after I’m through my comprehensive exams in the next month I hope to make a more thorough reading, but at this point… like I said. Disappointing.

    To refer to a bit early in Keith’s response: I’m not insulted by people challenging my beliefs, in fact I welcome it. I am somewhat insulted that this is presented as a serious response to what is, in my opinion, a very serious theological and philosophical critique of Sola Scriptura.

  2. This paragraph is key for two reasons. First, as Cross indicates, the inquirer is the one making the determination. In other words, even if Scripture were to play no part in the search, the element of subjectivity remains, and it is more significant than Cross and Judisch are willing to concede. If one takes a look at converts to Roman Catholicism as opposed to converts to Orthodoxy, it becomes clear that Cross and Judisch have submitted to an institution which they have determined is the Church Christ founded according to their interpretation of church history and apostolic succession – just as the convert to Orthodoxy has submitted to the institution he has determined is the Church Christ founded according to his interpretation of history and apostolic succession. Just as all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations, so too, all appeals to apostolic succession are appeals to interpretations.

    I think there are two parts to this: the first part is about Catholics being in the same epistemic ‘boat’ (this was a word used in the forums, which seemed like it would fit in nicely here). Neal made some remarks about this, in the thread, which I found interesting. He made a remark about distinction between first order and second order judgements. What I find interesting, however, is that Mathison’s remarks make me wonder if one way of thinking about second-order judgements, is thinking that they are the sorts of judgements which are supported by first- order judgements? Neal also had a ‘suggestive analogy’, that involved something like a comparison of two different views- where the different views could (at least) be differentiated by comparing the doxastic practices that each view contained (or implied). I think that this bears on what Mathison is saying.

    I think the second part, concerning ‘appeals’, is probably pretty important. To be honest, I did not know why (from the start) anyone would want to grant something like, ‘all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture’. First of all, I’m not sure what this statement would mean- for example, IF my interpretation is correct, then it’s true that I am appealing to an interpretation of Scripture- but I am also appealing to Scripture (afterall, my interpretation was correct). Was the original idea supposed to be someting like, all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture (and nothing else)?

  3. Following up from the previous thread:

    TF (#1217): As Wilkins helpfully reminded me (#1215), my citation from page 4 of Mathison’s response was not the first time he made an assertion like that. The first time, on page one, he said that the differences between sola and solo disappear only when one assumes the truth of Catholic ecclesiology. This is incorrect as my own experience and that of Wilkins show. Furthermore Bryan’s argument in IV. A. does not assume the truth of Catholic ecclesiology; in #8 it actually assumes that it is false, and I don’t think that the subsequent refinements (in the comments) made any change to that, did they?

    Consequently it seems that the first 30 pages of Mathison’s reply—which amount to a critique of Catholic ecclesiology—aren’t really relevant to what Bryan actually argued. So I’m inclined to agree with SB (#1 in this new thread): it is pretty disappointing to see the majority of a proposed response spent on matters that are effectively irrelevant to the argument at hand.

    Fred

    P.S. to Mike (#1213): Thanks for the clarification, and sorry that my quotation threw you off. :-)

  4. Fred,

    Those matters are not irrelevant. They are actually the most relevant issue because they are foundational to all else. These are the underlying assumptions of everything Bryan and Neal say in their critique. Bryan’s response to Michael Horton makes this very evident – which is why I mention it at the end of my response.

    Keith

  5. I am so happy to be reading the response at last! Thanks Keith. Unfortunately, in the second paragraph where you give the way you will defend your position…

    In defense of the claims of my book, I will argue that there is in fact a real principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura [FN1] with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority. I will suggest that the difference becomes invisible only when one begins by assuming the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church. This will require an evaluation of the Roman Catholic alternative that Cross and Judisch present.

    Uh oh, that won’t work! Perhaps the response is doomed, I hope not.
    There are plenty of people who come see the lack of difference between sola and solo who never even dip a toe in the Tiber! Many of them embrace solo! The difference (principled difference) becomes invisible upon examination of the supposed differences. The differences do not do what they claim to do, namely to give an objective authority to the reader of scripture. I am not sure why Catholicism (or EO or whatever) even enters into the discussion at that point. The sola/solo differences are a distinction without a real difference on its own merits, judged within its own framework. I personally know men who saw this lack of difference and embraced SOLO scriptura. They were unconvinced of the claims of Catholicism but saw the fundamental problem with sola scriptura. Catholic “rosary” colored glasses are not needed to see the flaw in sola scriptura Keith.

    -David Meyer

  6. SB,

    I agree, disappointing, but I haven’t yet finished it either. Lots of confirmation for me too.

  7. Hi Keith,

    Since Bryan’s argument in IV.A. of the original article (subsection: “The Argument”) assumes that apostolic succession is false (at point 8), please show how his argument there actually assumes that Catholic ecclesiology is true. I know that you consider your critique of Catholic ecclesiology to be important (and I think what you say in those 30 pages merits a response), but since Bryan’s actual argument explicitly assumes that apostolic succession is false (and, consequently, that Catholic ecclesiology is false, since apostolic succession is fundamental to it) I stand by what I said: those 30 pages are not relevant to Bryan’s argument.

    (Unless of course you show us how Bryan’s argument in IV.A. actually assumes the opposite of what it explicitly says in point 8).

    Furthermore—as Wilkins and I have both said (I in #1211 of the original thread, and Wilkins in #1214), and as SB (in #1) and David (in #5) point out here, we arrived at the same basic conclusion as Bryan’s paper does while we were Protestants. I can’t speak for the others of course, but I certainly did not assume anything about Catholic ecclesiology at the time I first realized this problem: I knew basically nothing about Catholic ecclesiology then. With all due respect, this is anecdotal evidence that your claim (namely, that Catholic ecclesiology must be assumed in order for the differences between solo and sola scriptura to disappear) is false.

    Peace,

    Fred

  8. Dr. Mathison,

    I have not read the reply yet but I share the concern which everyone is bringing up. It is perfectly possible that the Catholic Church is wrong about her fundamental claims while sola scriptura reduces to solo scriptura. e.g. The Eastern Orthodox Church could be the true Church or perhaps Hinduism is true. Both of those scenarios would be compatible with sola reducing to solo. For that reason, attempts to show the Catholic Church are wrong are irrelevant and do not show Bryan and Neal’s argument to be false.

    Also, for the record, CTC is not a Roman Catholic blog. Almost a third of the original founders are not Roman Catholic.

  9. Gents,

    Sorry about your disappointment, but I disagree. Without knowing all of your individual stories, what I see happen over and over again is Protestants concluding that there’s no difference (between solo and sola) because they’ve already started (consciously or unconsciously) to adopt some of the faulty presuppositions of Rome regarding the nature of the church.

    The distinction then gradually becomes invisible to them. When they fully convert to Rome, they have the full fledged system that makes it impossible to ever see the distinction again.

    I’m sorry all of you find it disappointing. When I started writing it over a year ago, it began with a response only to the criticisms of the solo/sola distinction. The farther I went and the more additional article by Bryan that I read, the more I realized, I couldn’t even address that issue without first addressing the primary underlying issue – namely the church. That assumption (that Rome is the Church Christ founded) underlies everything said in every paper Bryan has written that I looked at. I wouldn’t expect otherwise. But given that fact, it has to be addressed first.

    This became especially clear to me after reading Bryan’s response to Michael Horton. He makes it perfectly clear that the issue of the church’s identity is everything in these discussions. Thus the 30 or so pages I had to spend looking at it.

    For those who commented before finishing it, I do get to the solo/sola issue in the second half.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  10. Fred:

    With due respect, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Dr. Mathison simply assumes that Rome’s claims are wrong. His conclusion that Rome’s claims are wrong are based on an analysis of both the Scriptural and historical evidence.

    -TurretinFan

  11. Fred said: Since Bryan’s argument in IV.A. of the original article (subsection: “The Argument”) assumes

    Fred,

    Are you saying that the only way we can engage on the historic issue of sola scriptura is to follow the specific method of inquiry that Bryan and Neal outline? It seems to me that there are a number of ways to skin the cat here. Keith is, from what I’m seeing, bringing up matters which he believes are relevant to the overall question of sola scriptura. But if they are relevant they are relevant whether or not they follow the specific line of reasoning that Bryan and Neal utilize.

    My own position as I’ve posted here and elsewhere is that I don’t dispute the fact that sola and solo can collapse into each other. That is, an individual Protestant can become the ultimate interpreter of Christian Scripture and tradition either directly or indirectly as outlined in original article (the same holds true for the individual Catholic as I’ve noted). But if we concede this it does not mean that sola scriptura goes away, only that Bryan and Neal have a valid point.

  12. Keith,

    For what its worth, I cannot for the life of me find the argument you make (as opposed to the assertion) that:

    Those matters [Roman ecclesiology] are not irrelevant. They are actually the most relevant issue because they are foundational to all else

    Bryan’s dialouge with Michael Horton as well as the sections of the original Solo/Sola article where he and Neil present apostolic succession/Roman ecclesiology as the only viable alternative to Sola Scriptura are only offered AFTER the demonstration that solo/sola are reducible to the same thing on their own terms (i.e. they are offered as a way out of doctrinal relativism) .

    You keep insisting that it is only the preconceived (or in your latest remark-embyronically conceived)Roman ecclesiology which clouds the otherwise clear distinction between the Solo/Sola; but I have (so far) searched in vain through your response for the actual argument which supports that claim. All I can find are various assertions that IF Roman ecclesioolgy THEN Solo/Sola distinction fails; but IF non-Roman ecclesiology THEN Solo/Sola distinction succeeds. But where is the connecting argument for those coupling? Like others, I too came to a clear understanding that the distinction fails philosophically LONG before I ever dreamed of considering Rome. As others have already intimated, even if your lengthy critique of Roman ecclesiology were to succeed in a devestating way, I fail to see how that has anything whatever to do with the essential point of Bryan and Neil’s article. Or perhaps it is better put another way; how does being unaffected by a Roman pre-commitment positively contribute to exposing the principled distinction between Solo/Sola?

    I hope you will consider the possibility that we Catholics (especially as former Reformed Christians) do have the imagination necessary to place our selves – if you will – back in the shoes of Reformed ecclesiology when evaluating your defense of the Solo/Sola distinction. The fact is that many of us were in those shoes (with absolutely no knowledge or attraction to Rome) when we first came to the conclusion that the distinction, in fact, collapses.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  13. Without knowing all of your individual stories, what I see happen over and over again is Protestants concluding that there’s no difference (between solo and sola) because they’ve already started (consciously or unconsciously) to adopt some of the faulty presuppositions of Rome regarding the nature of the church

    This is not what happened with me. I concluded that there was no difference between solo and sola well before I began investigating the Catholic Church. Just saying.

  14. Dr Mathison,

    It is hard to read your article. The basis of most of its content is to analyze much of what the Roman Church claims. Unfortunately, you don’t ever dig into the basis of ‘their’ claims. All you seem to do is tell a different story and explain why that theory is possible…and in your opinion, more probable. For example, Claim 2.
    You write..
    “There is nothing in Scripture indicating that Christ appointed Peter to be the
    visible head of the whole Church and gave him jurisdictional primacy. In fact,
    what we do find indicates the opposite.”

    Obviously the Church must have some basis for their claim…both scriptural and traditional. Only taking the scriptural basis into consideration, you simply brush aside Matthew 16:18…
    “Today, Rome appeals to Matthew 16:18 and a few other passages to back up her
    claim, but it is worth noting that appeals to Matthew 16 in support of Petrine
    supremacy first appear in the middle of the third century in the disputes between
    Cyprian and Stephen.4 Appeals to this text did not begin earlier because the idea
    of Petrine supremacy itself was a late development.”

    This statement means that you believe Matthew 16:18 has no meaning. You simply brushed it aside. You didn’t even try the small pebble gymnastics. Its just disappointing that at the top you mentioned there is “NOTHING” in scripture indicating Christ appointing Peter. Matthew 16:18 makes it very clear. Even if one does not agree with the Church’s interpretation, you can’t say that there is “NOTHING” in scripture for indication.

    Your reason for ignoring Matthew 16:18 does not indicate anything about its ‘proper’ interpretation. Your explanation only indicates that the Church’s interpretation of the verse was not attacked until the middle of the 3rd century. Think about that….the office of Peter was not questioned for several hundred years.

    I would like to request you to rewrite your article with a bit more effort.

    In Christ,
    Zolton

  15. Ray,

    You wrote: “I hope you will consider the possibility that we Catholics (especially as former Reformed Christians) do have the imagination necessary to place our selves – if you will – back in the shoes of Reformed ecclesiology when evaluating your defense of the Solo/Sola distinction. The fact is that many of us were in those shoes (with absolutely no knowledge or attraction to Rome) when we first came to the conclusion that the distinction, in fact, collapses.”

    I’m not questioning your imagination or intelligence. It’s not the point of what I am saying. What I am saying is simply this: The arguments that Bryan and Neal use against the distinction all rest on a particular understanding of the nature of the church – because key to their critique of the distinction is the critique of my explanation of the church and how it relates to hermeneutical authority. It is impossible to address the solo/sola issue without first dealing with the question of the church. All of these issues are intricately tied together. This is why as part of their critique they insist throughout on the necessity of apostolic succession – an ecclesiastical issue.

    So, you said at the beginning of your comment: “Bryan’s dialouge with Michael Horton as well as the sections of the original Solo/Sola article where he and Neil present apostolic succession/Roman ecclesiology as the only viable alternative to Sola Scriptura are only offered AFTER the demonstration that solo/sola are reducible to the same thing on their own terms (i.e. they are offered as a way out of doctrinal relativism) .”

    But they are not reduced to the same thing *on their own terms.* The issues all tie together. Even when they address the solo/sola issue first, the church issue is involved.

    They chose to address the church issue AFTER the solo/sola issue. I chose to address is BEFORE the solo/sola issue. There was no way to do it otherwise without repeating the same thing about the church 100 times.

    Keith

  16. (re: #9)

    Anti-Catholic Protestant, who only knows ‘Catholic doctrine’ thru reading Luther et al:
    “Wait a second… there is in fact no principled distinction between solo and sola scriptura.”

    Reformed Interlocutor:
    “Ah, but it only appears to be so because you’ve unconsciously adopted Catholic ecclesiology.”

    I’m not sure how to interact with that claim, Keith.

  17. Keith,

    According to your reply:

    In section I.C., Cross writes:
    If the visible head of the hierarchy were plural, then the visible hierarchy would not be essentially unified, but at most only accidentally unified.

    [Keith]: This is mere assertion. It also implies an anti-trinitarian concept of unity. Christians confess faith in one God, a unity, yet this one God subsists in three persons, a plurality. If our God is the paradigm of what true unity, true oneness, is, then it is false to assert that unity cannot be expressed in or co-exist with plurality.

    I just want to note that this statement is ignoring the reality that within the trinity, although it is truly One–a plurality in perfect unity–the three persons of the trinity are nevertheless differentiated and distinct on the basis of relationship (not Being). The Trinity hold’s it’s absolute unity on the basis of Being and Essence, and that unity is manifest through the ordinate relationships between the three persons. The Holy spirit’s relationship to the son is not identical in order as it is to the father; neither is the Son’s relationship to the Holy Spirit identical in order as it is to the father. As the Creed says, the Son proceeds from the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the son; the Father proceeds from neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit, but both the latter have their unity in the Father, as He (the Father) is the Monad and point of origin of both the Son and the Holy Spirit. Just as in the relationship of marriage where the husband and wife are one flesh, and yet they differ according to their relationship to the other, the one being the active part and the other passive, respectively, so is the triune relationship. In relationship to the Son, the Holy Spirit is passive whereas the Son is active, and to the Father the Son is passive whereas the Father is active, and by virtue the Holy Spirit being passive in relationship to the son, He is likewise, therefore, passive to the Father. Thus we see the model of all relationship in the universe, and the equilibrium of the universe is dependant on all things being in proper relationship to all other things. Thus it is that Man was created in the image of God, Male and Female; active and passive. Marriages fail when this relationship is not realized, as when the woman seeks to rule her husband or fails to submit to him. The Church has necessarily been founded on the same model, and we should expect it to be so, for anything with two heads is a monster. Every member of the body must seek to establish himself in proper relationship to his more preeminent counterparts, according to the purpose and mission of the Church. Protestantism is inherently evil on the basis of it’s failure of it’s members to establish itself in proper relationship to the rest of the body according to the model of the Holy Trinity. If the Trinity is so ordered, we should not expect anything less from the Church. So, to find unity with Christ, and by consequence with the father, it is necessary to be united to the Church and realize your proper place in it. The spirit, form, and nature of Protestantism, it should be seen, is opposed to the nature of the Holy Trinity by virtue of it’s subversion of this model of universal order that it should receive therefrom through the Body of Christ, which is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church Christ founded.

  18. This cogent and persuasive rebuttal of the solo/sola scriptura article by Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch was worth the wait.

    I particularly appreciate the perspective that Scripture is the only authentic, authoritative, historically consistent, and objective record of Apostolic doctrine. Keith insightfully distinguishes between the inspired rule of faith (Apostolic doctrine), inscripturated in the first century, and later uninspired summaries of the rule of faith, e.g., at the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon. One could also distinguish between the infallible rule of faith (Scripture) and the fallible summaries of that rule of faith. Only God and His Word is infallible, or incapable of error (as Keith illustrated with his nuanced treatment of the dogma of the pope’s infallibility). These provide multiple objective, historical reference points for testing the interpretation of Scripture by both individuals and churches. Indeed, as Tertullian wrote, “Apostolic churches” are those which teach what the Apostles taught, summarized in the precursors of the Nicene Creed.

    Keith also does a good job of rebutting the charges of ecclesial deism; the implications and form of the visible church (yes, there are multiple branches growing from the True Vine, and they do not have to be grafted into the Vine through Rome); that the establishment of an ecclesiastical authority does not imply unconditional obedience to that authority; the inconsistency between Rome’s teaching on the “One” and “Holy” Church; the questionable dependence of indefectibility on infallibility; and the cogent critiques of the Roman version of apostolic succession, whereby offices in the church hierarchy were frequently bought and held by immoral men (notwithstanding Jesus’ instructions about how to recognize false prophets in Matthew 7 – do not such things “break the chain?”), etc. Particularly damaging to Cross’s argument for apostolic succession vs. sola scriptura is the statement: “If I ask the Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East, Old Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, or Anglican bishops (all of whom would claim to be successors of the Apostles), they would all tell me conflicting things.” Indeed, “all appeals to apostolic succession are appeals to interpretations.”

    I also appreciate Keith’s treatment of the “simplistic revisionary versions of early church history promulgated by Roman Catholic apologists but not by trained historians.” He is quite justified in saying: “Roman apologists would do well to stop talking about church history for a time and begin actually studying it because even as their own historians acknowledge, the presentations of history by the apologists are grossly oversimplified” (e.g., the revisionist version of the origin of the church at Rome). Many years ago I read Newman’s Essay on the Development of Doctrine and took up his challenge: “to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.” I can whole-heartedly agree with Keith’s assessment of the church fathers: 1) their interpretations of Scripture and Apostolic doctrine vary widely; 2) only a small minority agree with Rome’s interpretation of Matthew 16. As Keith says, “[W]hen Rome says something the apostles never mention is of the utmost importance, Rome’s claim to the apostolic faith is revealed for what it is.”

    I look forward to Bryan’s responses to Keith’s statements:
    1) “Cross is betting eternity that the bishop of Rome could never be one of these false teachers when there is absolutely zero evidence that the leadership of the local church of Rome is uniquely protected and abundant biblical and historical evidence that it is not.”
    2) ”Cross has taken a promise intended for the church as a whole and presumptuously localized it to Rome.”
    3) Cross and Judisch “submitted to the communion that agreed with their individual interpretation of Scripture, history, and tradition.”

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  19. Wilkins: “Anti-Catholic Protestant, who only knows ‘Catholic doctrine’ thru reading Luther et al:
    “Wait a second… there is in fact no principled distinction between solo and sola scriptura.”

    I deny this situation exists in reality. No anti-Catholic Protestant would even be aware enough of the distinction to deny it without being aware of some of the discussion about it, and that discussion *always* involves ideas about the church.

    Keith

  20. TF (#10):

    With due respect, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Dr. Mathison simply assumes that Rome’s claims are wrong.

    I did not say that he did. I said that he claims the solo/sola distinction disappears only on the assumption of Catholic ecclesiology. See #3 above.

    What Mathison said in his paper (you can see it on your own website, or on page 1 of the PDF) is:

    I will argue that there is in fact a real principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura [FN1] with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority. I will suggest that the difference becomes invisible only when one begins by assuming the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church. [emphasis added]

    That’s one thing we’re objecting to.

    The other (related) thing I am claiming is that Bryan’s formal argument assumes that Catholic ecclesiology is false, which similarly shows that Keith’s claim is false. I don’t remember you or anyone else having a problem with that particular point, either in the original form of the argument or in its various refinements in the comment box. Maybe I missed it in the 1200 comments though.

    Fred

  21. Keith, re:#19

    I can’t say that in the course of many years of Protestant life I never participated in discussions that involved ideas about the church, so I think I agree with you.

    What I don’t understand is how discussion involving ideas about the church in any way supports the idea that a devoted Protestant (or as Tim pointed out, Hindu) coming to understand that sola necessarily collapses into solo scriptura must necessarily have subconsciously adopted Catholic teaching.

    The appeal to a subconscious adoption seems incredible. I must be missing something really obvious, so I’ll bow out and think it through again.

  22. I deny this situation exists in reality. No anti-Catholic Protestant would even be aware enough of the distinction to deny it without being aware of some of the discussion about it, and that discussion *always* involves ideas about the church.

    Sure it would involve a discussion about the church. But would it always involve a discussion about Catholic ecclesiology? As a protestant I had many discussion about the church that did not reference Catholicism at all. It was not even on the radar. Sola Scriptora is historically related to the reformation. I knew that. Still I thought about it like it went right back to the apostles. It was not the way we started doing church at some point. It was simply the only way to do it. Nothing else was on the table.

  23. Andrew (#11):

    Are you saying that the only way we can engage on the historic issue of sola scriptura is to follow the specific method of inquiry that Bryan and Neal outline?

    No. But I would say that if Keith proposes to address Bryan and Neal’s specific argument, it does not strengthen his case to claim that their argument assumes things that it does not. He claims that their argument assumes Catholic ecclesiology (because, he says, that is the only way that the solo/sola distinction collapses). But their formal argument explicitly assumes that Catholic ecclesiology is false (because it assumes that apostolic succession is false).

    Peace,

    Fred

  24. Jared –

    That was a brilliant reflection on the Holy Trinity. Thank you so much. I would love to see one of the protestant participants in this discussion respond to it.

    Deacon Bryan

  25. Fred says, I would say that if Keith proposes to address Bryan and Neal’s specific argument…

    I have Keith’s paper open now and have only gotten part way through, but I think that he he is not trying to address all of the specific arguments that folks like you might like to see addressed, but is trying to bring up some assumptions that Catholics make that are relevant to the matter at hand. At the beginning of the comments section for the original article (#8 maybe) I tried to change the focus of the questions being asked on sola scriptura but got nowhere. My concern is that after another round of these discussions Catholics here come away with the conclusion that Mathieson (and other Protestants) have not addressed the specific concerns, and further concluding that sola scriptura is fundamentally flawed because Protestants cannot or will not address these points. So again, my point is that Bryan and Neal could have a valid point(s), but that the historical question of sola scriptura still has not been addressed.

    And I am glad to hear that you see that there are other ways to look at this important matter. Personally I feel that, while Bryan and Neal do raise some interesting and important points, there are better ways to address sola scriptura than what is outlined in their article.

  26. I didn’t see from Keith’s response which Protestant denomination or church I should go to, assuming that sola Scriptura does not reduce to solo Scriptura. What denomination(s) have the elders/presbyters that I should submit to, and how do I know?

  27. Fred #20. I apologize. I misread your earlier comment. Thanks for the correction.

  28. Mathison did, I think, say some things that were relevant to Bryan/Neal’s arguments. I think the main frustration, is that it would have been nice to see a response which was very focused on the philosophical question.

    It’s supposed to be a philosophical question about whether a certain paradigmatic approach to finding the meaning of a text leads to a certain epistemic condition. This epistemic condition is something like the sort of relation you have (mentally) to the meaning of the text. The idea, I think, was that it’s incompatible for you to claim that a certain paradigmatic approach is the one your are sticking to, while also claiming that you were not in the epistemic state that logically follows from the chosen paradigmatic approach. (for example, it would be incompatible for me to say that all moral assertions are assertions of opinion, and then for me to assert that murder is objectively morally wrong). [i'm not at all implying that anyone here is a moral relativist, it's just the first analogy I could think up.]

    And the epistemic condition was supposed to be a problematic one, or at least one that was not very good for certain reasons.

    Something like this is supposed to be the objection to Sola Scriptura. And the critique article was supposed to do something like show why it’s not the case that Mathison’s distinction between Sola/Solo distinguishes between two different approaches in a particular way; the distinction does not show us two views- one which results in the problematic epistemic condition, and one which doesn’t. Bryan and Neal’s article was supposed to show why both Solo and Sola lead to the same sort of consequence.

    And I think the other worry is that this philosophical question is supposed to be one which even an non-theist could ask, without theological assumptions. I think Matthison might be thinking something like the following- we’re all looking for the best way to find the meaning of Scripture. Its not the case that Roman Catholicism is true, and the non-truth of Roman Catholicism could be seen as one reason (among others) for seriously considering a certain paradigmatic approach (one that is unlike the Roman Catholic paradigmatic approach).

    Mark

  29. Deacon Bryan,

    You are welcome, as well as anyone else who may be blessed by it. It is very encouraging when people are blessed by what you do. Thanks for the compliment! :)

  30. Keith,

    On page 43-44 of the pdf version you say:

    The priests of Israel were an established ecclesiastical authority, but when they began following other gods, they lost their rightful authority. Those Israelites who refused to follow them and bow the knee to Baal should not be considered schismatics. The Protestants were in the same situation as the Israelites under the idolatrous priesthood. In both situations, the ecclesiastical authorities had abandoned the ancient faith.

    You also repeatedly make the claim that the Catholic Church is the one that abandoned the apostolic faith. I once believed similarly. Thomas Howard addresses the idea you put forth succinctly here:

    Rome’s opulence, her political machinations down through the centuries, her tyrannies and hauteur and self-assertiveness, not to mention the Dionysian romp in the Vatican in the Renaissance, what with Borgia popes and catamites and so forth: all of that is bad — very bad. The Catholic Church knows that. Dante, of course, had half of the popes head down in fiery pits in hell.

    Chaucer, contemporary with the Lollard Wyclif, but himself a loyal Catholic, is merciless — scathing even — in his portraiture of filthy and cynical clergy. St. Thomas More and Erasmus, contemporary with Luther and Calvin, were at least as vitriolic in their condemnation of Roman evils as were the Reformers ….But Israel was not less Israel when she was being wicked…The Church is in the same position in its identity as people of God. We have Judas Iscariot, as it were, and Ananias and Sapphira, and other unsavory types amongst us, but we have no warrant to set up shop outside the camp, so to speak…

    Evangelicals, in their just horror at rampant evils in Catholic history…unwittingly place themselves somewhat with the Donatists of the fourth century, who wanted to hive off because of certain evils which they felt were widespread in the Church. Augustine and others held the view that you can’t go that far. You can’t set up shop independently of the lineage of bishops…

    As far as the ancient, orthodox Church was concerned, nobody could split off… The problems of the Roman Catholic Church (sin, worldliness, ignorance) are, precisely, the problems of the Church. St. Paul never got out of Corinth before he had all of the above problems. Multiply that small company of Christians by 2000 years and hundreds of millions, and you have what the Catholic Church has to cope with. Furthermore, remember that the poor Catholics aren’t the only ones who have to cope.

    Anyone who has ever tried to start himself a church has run slap into it all, with a vengeance…Worldliness, second-generation apathy, ossification, infidelity, loss of vision, loss of zeal, loss of discipline, jiggery-pokery, heresy — it’s all there.

    – “Letter to my Brother: A Convert Defends Catholicism,” Crisis, December 1991, 23-24, 26

    I also want to ask a quick question – you argue that the monoepiscopy is not evident in the first generations after Christ and that it only emerged explicitly in the middle of the second century. My question is: Why do you accept the canon of scritpure since ,like the monoepsicopy, it is not clearly evident until several hundred years after Christ? What about the doctrine of the Trinity. Can you point to a clear affirmation of the Trinity as we understand it in the Nicene sense in the first century AD?

  31. Rather than tackling the philosophical issues involved, I think Keith’s main point was to direct everyone’s attention the claims of the Roman Catholic Church. If those questions cannot be answered, then it makes no sense to become Roman Catholic.

  32. I did manage to read the entire essay last night, and while Mathison did make some fair points, the whole time I was wondering how he could come down so hard on Rome’s historical claims yet not demonstrate how the early Church was “Protestant” in the way Mathison suggests. He essentially left a vacuum in the early Church, not letting Rome’s appeals stand, yet himself not wanting to appeal to the early Church for his own Protestant outlook.

    I think one ‘crack’ in Mathison’s foundation is that he almost arbitrarily terminates ‘uninispired summary tradition’ with the 2nd Ecumenical Council, and seems to ignore all the historical context around those Councils. For example, he obviously says the Council of Nicaea was valuable in some respects, but simply taking a look at the canons of this council, does it look more “Protestant” or “Catholic” overall? Looking at the manner the Council was called, who attended, and how matters were settled, I’d ask the same question. This is the kind of stuff he doesn’t take into consideration.

    Also, I was disappointed with Mathison’s caricature of the Roman position at many times, most notably his claim that there were already Christians in Rome before Peter got there, so Peter couldn’t have had succession or primacy there. This is simply a straw man and ignores the fact the Catholic position is that Roman primacy came about only when Peter got there and passed it on to a successor. Mathison conflates the city/community of Rome with the Petrine succession. And, ironically, Mathison does grant that ecclesial structures like Rome’s (and very much unlike Protestantism) arose by the mid-100s. He just claims this was a distortion of the actual Apostolic teaching. The problem is, this is less than a century after the Apostolic age, so Mathison is stuck between accepting the “monepiscopal form of church government” and saying the true biblical form of government virtually disappeared very early on and was lost for centuries. Just examining Canon 6 of Nicea on its face, we see the notion of a single bishop governing a firmly established notion. How can Mathison claim the Church went off the rails so severely while simultaneously putting so much weight and faith in the Nicene Creed?

    One of the most astonishing claims Mathison makes is on page 12 (which he repeats or rephrases various times in his paper):
    While it is important for Protestants to explain why they accept certain councils and/or canons and not others, Cross conveniently ignores church history here. This question is not as cut and dried as he would have his readers believe. The Church of the East accepted only the first two councils (Nicaea and Constantinople). The Oriental Orthodox Churches accepted the first three councils. The Eastern Orthodox Churches accepted the first seven councils. The Roman Catholic Church accepts twenty-one councils. Many of these councils were disputed for generations.[FN8] Regarding the canons, there are also disagreements.

    Notice that Mathison never gives the Protestant any place at this table. The “historical” Churches he lists above don’t include any Protestant denominations. Mathison also hides the fact none of these contenders look anything like Protestantism (e.g. they all strongly affirm Apostolic Succession). It’s grossly unfair for Mathison to go after Rome for claiming a place at the historical table when Mathison and Protestantism at large refuse to.

    The last point I want to make at the moment is Mathison’s notion of ‘uninspired summary tradition’, especially as it culminated in the Nicene Creed. This Creed is essentially focused upon the Trinity, and doesn’t touch upon many Protestant “essentials,” making it a seriously deficient summary. This makes a solO versus solA distinction one of degree and not kind. And, logically, Mathison can’t grant any *binding* authority to the Creed anyway, so again his distinction is artificial.

  33. Sean (#30),

    The question you ask of Keith is precisely my own. Thank you.

  34. The false claims regarding the monepiscopacy originating in the second century have already been addressed in the Holy Orders paper on our main page.

  35. Keith,

    Thank you for the response to our most (in)famous article. I take it from the material in your introduction that your intended audience was primarily the already-strongly convinced, not-testing-out-Catholic-lenses, Protestant Reformed crowd. In that case, I am sure that you will find a sympathetic audience. The rest of us, however, Catholic or Protestant, from the outside looking in, may still find some things of interest in your wide-ranging critique of the Catholic Church, which serves as a preamble to your defense of Sola Scriptura. In deference to the upcoming re-response from Bryan and Neal, I will confine myself to some brief remarks on three prominent aspects of the preamble part of your response:

    1. Your critique of Apostolic Succession seems to hinge upon the assertion (for which you cite the Catholic historian Fr. Sullivan) that the episcopate was an invention of the late second century, whereby St Irenaeus (et al) foisted a new ecclesiology upon the entire ecclesia. Tim Troutman has already addressed this claim in his article on Holy Orders. The subject warrants a lot of investigation in its own right. For now, suffice to say that those who fail to see the monarchical episcopate in the first few generations of Christian communities are generally guilty of the pretty obvious blunders of confusing monarchical structure with episcopal residence, and assuming that where multiple bishops/elders are in residence not one of them has the role of president.

    2. As has already been pointed out in this thread, your charge of ecclesial unitarianism overlooks the monarchy of the Father, within the Holy Trinity. This intra-Trinitarian relationship is reflected in Catholic ecclesiology on several levels (not to mention marriage), including the place of the Pope among his fellow bishops, the bishop or patriarch in his diocese / particular church, and the pastor in his parish. This leads me to my final remark:

    3. The Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches do indeed enjoy Apostolic Succession, which suffices to distinguish them as particular churches. So far as I can tell, Neal and Bryan were using “Apostolic Succession” with reference primarily to teaching authority. As you note, no individual bishop, other than the Roman Pontiff, can, of his own office, teach with the full authority of the Church. So in what way does Apostolic Succession in its “objective referent point of true doctrine” aspect operate? This aspect of AS is operative when the bishops teach as a college, especially in an ecumenical council, and when any individual bishop teaches in unity with this college.

    How can we tell when the bishops teach in essential unity–how do we distinguish “the college” and an ecumenical council from just any collection of bishops and a local council? The papacy is the only answer that holds up under historical and philosophical scrutiny. It was not always, at first, evident which councils were ecumenical, and which did not have such authority. Over time, however, the Church of the first millennium did come to recognize which of her councils were ecumenical, and it is incontrovertible that no council has ever been thus recognized that lacks the representation and ratification of the bishop of Rome. AS is an objective mark of the Church, extended in time and space, and the Pope is an objective mark of the college of bishops, teaching with the full authority of the Church.

    It looks as though your response, like the initial article, is generating a lot of interest. Thank you again for helping to keep the discussion going.

    Andrew

  36. Keith -

    I, too, appreciate you investing the time and energy into writing a response. Back and forth dialog between intelligent proponents of both views helps folks like me see how the two views match up.

    Much of what you say, particularly in the first part of your response, is of great importance. I look forward to seeing Bryan and Neal’s response. However, I share the concern already expressed by many on this thread that, notwithstanding your voluminous discussion of Catholic doctrinal claims, you have failed to support your thesis that an implicit commitment to Catholic ecclesiology blinds Bryan and Neal to the distinction between solo and sola scriptura. Of course, the structure of your argument is perfectly legitimate; it is perfectly acceptable to claim that an author’s thesis rests on suppressed premises he ought not to assume, given the context of the argument. But this kind of claim is only credible if one then goes on to show precisely how the author’s argument presupposes the alleged suppressed premises. What constitutes showing this? I think C. S. Lewis can help us out here.

    Now any concrete train of reasoning involves three elements: Firstly, there is the reception of facts to reason. These facts are received either from our own senses, or from the report of other minds; that is, either experience or authority supplies us with our material. But each man’s experience is so limited that the second source is the more usual; of every hundred facts upon which to reason, ninety-nine depend on authority. Secondly, there is the direct, simple act of the mind perceiving self-evident truth, as when we see that if A and B both equal C, then they equal each other. This act I call intuition. Thirdly, there is an art or skill of arranging the facts so as to yield a series of such intuitions which linked together produce a proof of the truth or falsehood of the proposition we are considering. Thus in a geometrical proof each step is seen by intuition, and to fail to see it is to be not a bad geometrician but an idiot. The skill comes in arranging the material into a series of intuitable “steps.” Failure to do this does not mean idiocy, but only lack of ingenuity or invention. Failure to follow it need not mean idiocy, but either inattention or a defect of memory which forbids us to hold all the intuitions together. (C. S. Lewis, “Why I Am Not A Pacifist,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Essays (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), pp. 65-6)

    Note Lewis’s third point. It is entirely possible in a given discussion that A implies C, but that A and C are sufficiently different to make the implication not immediately intuitable. In such a case, a good arguer will show precisely how C follows from A by introducing an intermediary premise, B–or however many premises it takes to make the connection from A to C intuitable.

    You have claimed that Bryan and Neal’s inability to see the distinction between solo and sola scriptura (the C term) follows from their implicit commitment to Catholic ecclesiology (the A term). Now it is theoretically possible that you are right: it is possible that as a matter of fact A does imply C, and that the only reason your critics are claiming it doesn’t is because they are ignorant of the connecting premise or premises. But if this is so, consider these two points. (1) If a great many people continue to fail to see the logical connection between A and C, this suggests that perhaps you have not adequately argued that A entails C (I do not say this suggests that A does not entail C, but only that you have not adequately argued the point by linking premises together in intuitable steps). (2) There is a very simple remedy: supply the suppressed premises. Merely repeating that “All of these issues are intricately tied together” (#15) does not show how or even that they are connected.

    Am I requesting that you reduce your argument to a bare-bones syllogistic form? Well, not really–although boiling down informal arguments into a formal structure often facilitates intuiting their validity or invalidity. And perhaps a great deal of misunderstanding could be avoided by giving us the formal structure of your argument (it might save you much time in responding to comments!). But it would be of great help for you at least to explain in very simple and clear terms precisely how a reliance on Catholic ecclesiology leads Bryan and Neal to miss the crucial distinction. Or, (because it is rarely enjoyable to repeat yourself) if you take yourself already to have done this in your article, perhaps you could direct me and others to the exact passage.

    Peace,

    - Max

  37. I’m waiting for a Protestant to step up and show why the Protestant outlook fits the outlook of the early Church far better than any other group’s claim (e.g. the Catholic Church). Often, what I end up seeing is the Protestant saying something to the effect: “The early Church was not Protestant…but neither was it Catholic!” How on earth does that suffice for an answer? If anything, one must conclude neither option is true in so far as neither is historical. The only ‘escape’ is to say history doesn’t really matter, which results in the unfortunate slippery slope of making oneself radically ahistorical and unreasonable in the end.

    Nobody is denying every person has to look at the evidence and come to some kind of informed yet fallible decision. The issue is whether one’s decision is truly credible Scripturally, historically, and logically or not. If a Protestant wants to concede they have no strong basis in the first 1,500 years of Church history, they’ve effectively ruled themselves out of contention. If they want to say the Christians of the Apostolic age didn’t practice Sola Scriptura (since the canon wasn’t finished yet), they’ve run into a logical problem (anachronism), and hurt their chances of contention. If 2nd Timothy 3:16 is the “strongest” proof they have for Sola Scriptura, they’ve bet the farm on a nuanced reading of a single bit of evidence. If they want to claim “ad fontes,” why do they shy away from analyzing in depth Biblical terms like “impute” (logizomai) and “atonement” (kaphar)?

    Not to bash, but it seems to me that Protestants have made their living off of “Majoring in the Minors” (as Dave Armstrong calls it) by focusing in only on small stuff, with the sole purpose of exploiting it, and then using that as an excuse to discredit Catholicism as a whole. For example, of the 266 Popes the Church has had, why is it only a handful receive any mention? Why out of 266 Popes does only Honorious get mentioned as a “heretic,” while missing the fact that leaves 99% of the Popes non-heretics (and even saints)? In Kieth’s response, he basically jumped from 75AD (no Popes, Peter rebuked by Paul) to 150AD (monoepiscopate in Rome) to 500AD (“heretic” Honorius) to 1400AD (“promiscuous” Alexander VI). Is that really a fair and rational look at the full history of the Papacy? There is nothing scholarly or fair about that, only special pleading.

  38. Dr. Mathison,

    Thanks very much for writing up your reply – I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you put into writing something well worth my time to read. I’ve finished it but frankly I’ll need to reread it at least once or twice to fully grapple with the arguments you propose.

    I am initially uncomfortable with your historical framework, however, and I would appreciate hearing your further thoughts on it. Frankly, you make many historical appeals throughout the course of your reply. I tried keeping track of them all, but couldn’t. Some of the larger ones which struck my attention were the lack of abundant historical evidence in favor of Roman ecclesiastical hierarchy (PDF pg 7), your final paragraph on pg 13, and your claim on pg. 22 that Rome “lost and corrupted and changed” its teachings over time (where losing and changing teachings are interpreted as a historical claim). There are other historical appeals throughout your response, of course.

    My concern is this: historical claims are always subject to future revision if and when further historical data is revealed, and so any theology which rests on “what happened” (historically) will be revisable if further historical evidence is uncovered. Bluntly, an implication of your argumentative paradigm seems to be that were sufficient historical data to be uncovered which supported Catholic historical assertions, you would be obligated to change churches. Writ larger, then, the paradigm you adopt seems to leave our theology at the mercy of whatever opinion historians hold at a given point in time.

    I suspect you anticipated this objection, however, which is why you argue that Catholic claims are not only inconsistent with history but also with Scripture. In the event that historical data were uncovered which strongly supported the Catholic church’s claims, then, you would assert that regardless of history, the Catholic church’s positions are not supported by Scripture and thus ought to be rejected. If such a move is a viable reply, though, your historical appeals appear otiose; why appeal to history at all if ultimately you would reject Catholicism even if it were historically sound for being contrary to Scripture?

    I hope I make my worries (relatively!) clear. As I said, I’ll continue rereading your reply with great interest, but would definitely appreciate any thoughts you have in this line of thought. Once again, thank you for writing a reply so well worth the time and effort necessary to understand it. :-)

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin :-)

  39. Several have commented that they saw the identity of sola scriptura and solo scriptura long before imagining the Catholic Church could be relevant to them. I am one, also. I recall something like 20 years before I became a Catholic seeing – and embracing – this identity. In particular, I embraced the idea – help by many Protestants – that in order to be a consistent Christian, one must see an absolute dichotomy between paganism and Christianity. I learned, in particular, from Francis Schaeffer (this was about 1972 – and I didn’t even whiff anything of the Catholic Church until 1992), that St Thomas had been the great ruiner of Christianity, because he brought in Aristotle. My Protestant mentors told me one of the great reasons that so many Christian commentators were wrong (i.e. did not agree with my mentors) was because they had been classically educated, studying Greek and Roman authors, instead of being purely educated in Scripture.

    It was only in process of reading history, reading (with a certain amount of guilt feelings) authors like C. S. Lewis, that I began, by sometime in the 1980s, to grasp something of the Catholic idea that paganism had been not the antithesis of Christianity, but in some ways its adumbration.

    jj

  40. Just want to chime in here and say that like the others have pointed out, as the whole solo / sola debate is something that is internal to Protestantism, it is not something that one needs to assume full blown Catholic ecclesiology at all in order for the distinctions to disappear. Just take a look at the arguments of western atheists, who by and large ground their atheism in a rejection of Protestant theological positions. Atheists are anti-ecclesial but they also see sola / solo as being the same thing — private judgment that offers no true means for verifying truth content. Atheists reject scripture as being true because they recognize that a text cannot norm itself, it must be interpretated according to an external standard yet Protestants say that scripture is interpretated privately according to an internal standard (Protestant’s norma normans). The difference between solo / sola is over whether or not their can be extra biblical norma normata (Creeds, Confessions, Councils, etc.), but regardless of the case the understanding of the interpretation of scripture is still the same — internal normation by private judgment. Atheist’s thus reject this position because it causes truth content to become unverifiable to the point that one accepts the “proper interpretation” based on “faith” rather than reason — which is precisely the argument that Protestants brought forth when the philosophers of the Enlightenment said that, having done away with the legitimate interpretative authority of scripture (the Church), one can no longer verify which Protestant community is teaching truth and which is not, the enterprise of Christianity is reduced to opinion and as such it is better to live one’s life according to reason instead of arguing over ones private judgment. The Protestant reply to this was to separate faith from reason and say, well if God gives you faith then you will believe correctly, to which the heirs of the enlightenment said that is nonsense and thus it is better thus, not being able to know if there are gods or not nor know the will of the gods, to simply act as if there were no gods and go about our lives trying to make the world progressively better. To which Nietzsche said that Christians killed God.

    As an aside, one of the biggest flaws to the solo / sola position is that it turns scripture into an idol. TurretiaFan here http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2008/10/norma-normans-vs-norma-normata.html clearly states that the idea Reformed view of scripture is direct quote “standard according to which all other standards are measured, and which has no higher standard against which it is measured”. If one believes that, then scripture is one’s god, for clearly scripture is the word of God (its actually the “word” of the Spirit — that is why it is inspiried — it is that which comes from the Spirit but is not the Spirit) but not the Word of the Father (the Son) nor the Father Himself in His person. Thus the Reformed position turns a book into a god. God must be greater than scripture and it must be God who is our ultimate standard to which all else finds its origin and teleological end. If scripture is its own norm, then Christ is redundant and the Trinity has no meaning and instead the reality of God’s person becomes seperated from our lives for we enter into contact only with the text, above which there is nothing else, and not into contact with God who is above the text of scripture. Calvery would have no meaning because justification would really be about accepting scripture as the norm of ones life not being transformed by the actual event of Calvery. No God must be the standard of scripture, the norming norm of scripture must be the life of the Spirit, scripture isn’t the fullness of revelation because Christ Himself in his very person is the fullness of the revelation of the Father.

  41. Dear Lojah (#18),

    Note that Newman did not say, “to be deep in history is to be Roman Catholic.”

    He just said “cease to be Protestant.” An Orthodox could also make Newman’s claim. My point (writing as a Catholic) is that these historical investigations of the early Church on matters such as sola scriptura probably don’t make for an wonderfully neat, open-and-shut case in favor of Rome vs. Orthodoxy, but they do lend very strong evidence against the Protestant construct.

    Best wishes

  42. Nick -

    You said: Just examining Canon 6 of Nicea on its face, we see the notion of a single bishop governing a firmly established notion. How can Mathison claim the Church went off the rails so severely while simultaneously putting so much weight and faith in the Nicene Creed?

    That is a good question.

  43. Keith Matthison,

    Your thesis seems to be something like the idea that people start with a faulty Catholic presupposition or set of them. But what of those (like myself) who are Orthodox who don’t start with the assumptions that you laid out? 1-10 are rejected by all of Eastern Christendom in general and the Orthodox in particular.How is that to be explained?

    Secondly, you argue against episcopacy and seem to define it in terms of a single bishop in a single locale. You are right to point out the scholarly consensus that there never was such an animal in the first century or so of Christianity. But the essence of monarchial episcopacy seems to be the following theses.

    The Apostles had the power to delegate their office and portions thereof.

    Ordination to an office was through the laying on of hands which transferred divine power and authority. (sacerdotal)

    The power to ordain was restricted to the apostles and specific presbyter/bishops.

    Consequently it seems that the heart of the monarchial episcopacy is a claim about the source of ordination, not a single person ruling in a given locale. There is no principled reason then why one couldn’t have a plurality of ordaining ministers in a given location or polis. As far as evidence goes we have virtually no substantial evidence for ordination by the two lower orders at any point in early church history. It also seems that your argument that the plausible claimants of apostolic succession all disagree only shows what all advocates of the position grant, namely that Apostolic Succession is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. Could you point to your argument showing that AS is not a necessary condition?

    And what are the individual “lampstands” in revelation that you appeal to? Are they a group of presbyters or some other office? A similar question arises for Diotrpehus. He could not be removed by the presbyters so it took an apostle. What office did he occupy then?

    As for your charge of ecclesiastical Unitarianism, I can’t see how it goes through or even if it does, how Reformed theology puts you in a position to level it. Byran’s argument turns on the unity of God in terms of simplicity. A necessary condition to preclude a plurality of deities is a simple divine essence. Likewise, a necessary condition to preclude a plurality of ultimately normative contradicting teaching offices is the simplicity of normative teaching office on pain of the possibility of plural contradicting teaching offices. Hence it seems that your objection of Unitarianism trades on a shift from Bryan’s claim about the necessary conditions for individual beings (a single deity, a singular normative teacher) to a claim about the necessary conditions for singular persons. ISTM that the only way out of the argument Bryan proposes is to deny the operative concept of simplicity.

    On the other hand, even if your objection were a good one I can’t see how A Calvinist can consistently make it. Unity doesn’t permit for real plurality in Reformed theology in the doctrine of God’s attributes for God has no inherent plural properties given their adherence to a more Augustinian gloss on divine simplicity. Your objection seems to leave the Reformed with the same kind of Unitarianism as you charge Rome with. The plurality of ultimately normative judges in Protestantism doesn’t make it any less ecclesial Unitarianism, it just multiplies the number of churches to do it.

    As for ecclesial Nestorianism, the use of Augustine as a backstop doesn’t seem to work. It would work if Augustine’s notion of the visible and invisible were that of the Reformers. And while it is the case that in some cases the categories between theological areas don’t always cross over from one to another, there are clear cases where they do, such as in the Trinity and Christology-Person/essence/will/intellect. Further, since we are united to God in the humanity of Christ, and the church then is the body of Christ, concerns about how humanity and Christ relate are germane. This is especially so since Adoptionists and Nestorians (such as Theodoret, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Diodore of Tarsus) all thought of the relation of Christ to the church as an extrinsic relationship, because they thought of the relationship between the two natures of Christ in that way as well. ISTM that even if Bryan’s argument didn’t go through, the concern seems legitimate and the comparison seems more apt than not, especially since Christology holds a controlling position in theology.

  44. Perry – There is no principled reason then why one couldn’t have a plurality of ordaining ministers in a given location or polis.

    Good point. Even today many larger dioceses have auxilary bishops in addition to their bishop.

  45. Perry R.:

    As to your first paragraph: your logical error is the one I was addressing (in error, apparently) to Frank above. Just because one doesn’t have Rome’s presuppositions doesn’t mean that one automatically reaches the correct conclusion.

    -TurretinFan

  46. Keith,

    I am possibly dull, but I’m still not getting the role that Roman ecclesiology, true or false, plays in the Solo/Sola critique. You have made the assertion:

    But they [solo/sola] are not reduced to the same thing *on their own terms.* The issues all tie together. Even when they address the solo/sola issue first, the church issue is involved.

    But how is that an argument? Exactly how is the extensive clarification concerning Roman Catholic ecclesiology over against Reformed ecclesiology related to a defense of any principled distinction between Solo/Sola? I really do want to grasp what you are saying so there can be fruitful, or at least, clear dialogue.

    Let me put it another way. Supposing ex hypothesis we grant that the terms in which you define the church are absolutely correct. What prevents one – starting from that basis – from evaluating whether or not there is (to use Bryan and Neil’s exact terminology) a “principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority”? That is EXACTLY how they proceed in their article, while explicitly stating in the very first moment of their critique that their secondary (and presumably logically unrelated) purpose was to show “that a return to apostolic succession is the only way to avoid the untoward consequences to which both solo scriptura and sola scriptura lead”. You have said that they chose to put the Solo/Sola analysis before the ecclesiological discussion; whereas you choose to put the ecclesiological discussion prior to the Solo/Sola analysis.

    The glaring difference between the two approaches, however, is that Bryan and Neil never claim that the order or fact of their “apostolic succession” discussion has anything whatever to do with the validity of their Solo/Sola argument – it is only offered as a remedy for the logical epistemic consequences of the independent Solo/Sola analysis – carried out on the terms by which YOU define the church. Yet, you continue to insist that the placement and fact of a critique of Roman Catholic ecclesiology plays some central role in supporting or making evident the fact of a principled difference between Solo/Sola with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority. Again, what is your explanation for the fact that you see this connection as a necessity, whereas Bryan and Neil (an many others) do not?

    That Bryan and Neil’s critique in no way relies on pre-supposed Roman Catholic assumptions can be shown from your own defense of your thesis:

    When you finally arrive at the point in your response where you begin to defend your thesis concerning the principled difference between Sola/Solo; you first refresh the reader’s memory concerning the heart of Bryan and Neil’s criticism of the Solo/Sola distinction. Your first argumentative foray is to show that their analysis is faulty – not because they are ecclesial Roman Catholics – but because they have misrepresented the terms by which you define the church. There is absolutely no argument there that insipient Roman Catholic ecclesiology is the reason for their misrepresentation. Are you suggesting that their Roman Catholicism makes it impossible for them to correctly evaluate your view? Here is what they say about your notion of the church, in which I can find no hint of Roman bias, only a real attempt to understand your position as developed in your book:

    . . . he defines ‘Church’ as wherever the gospel is found, because the early Protestants defined the marks of the Church as including “the gospel,” where the gospel was determined by their own private interpretation of Scripture.

    You immediately object that this statement misrepresents your view:

    It should be observed that this is not what I argued in my book. I defined the church in terms of the rule of faith, and I as an individual did not determine the content of the rule of faith Let me attempt to summarize again what happened in the first centuries and how it influences my argument about the rule of faith and the church

    Close attention to your language reveals that you are explicitly in the business of defining the church. You admit this occupation, but insist that the terms-by-which you do the defining are a “rule of faith” whose scope and content have not been determined by you. Yet you inform us that you are about to make an argument concerning how you determine just what that “rule of faith” actually is: the product of that argument being the very “rule of faith” by which you, in turn, define the church? How, then, have Bryan and Neil substantially misrepresented your notion of the church? Consider their assertion with the phrase “rule of faith” substituted for “Gospel”:

    . . . he defines ‘Church’ as wherever the [rule-of-faith] is found, because the early Protestants defined the marks of the Church as including [“the rule-of-faith,”] where the [rule-of-faith] was determined by their own private interpretation of Scripture.

    Surely, this is at least a very close approximation to your approach; though it also touches upon the “interpretation” of the “rule-of –faith” and not simply the subjective determination of said rule’s scope and content. I will touch upon that further point in a moment. First, however, I want to look closely at the actual argument by which you arrive at a determination of what that “rule-of-faith” actually is in terms of scope and content.

    You give a mini-history concerning the inscripturation of the apostolic doctrine, the development of declaratory creeds from their informal to formal instantiations; culminating in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed. However, along the way, you make a wide array of assertions which would naturally raise questions in the mind of any thoughtful person, whether atheist, Buddhist, Catholic or otherwise. Here are the most obvious questionable assertions with (I hope) thoughtful questions inserted:

    “In the middle of the first century, the apostles, began putting “X” in writing in all of its fullness. These writings were inspired by the Holy Spirit. This process of inscripturating “X” was completed before the end of the first century

    Questions:
    [Very few of the texts now recognized as the NT contain an author’s signature within the text itself. How do you know these texts were written by apostles? Were they all written personally by apostles? If not apostles who? How do we know that any non-apostle NT authors were authorized by apostles such that their writings represent genuine portions of “X”? Where do these presuppositions come from? Where can they be found in the rule of faith as you have described it?]

    [Where does the presupposition that all the fullness of “X” was put in written form come from? Where can this assertion be found in the rule of faith as you have described it?]

    [Where does this presupposition come from? As regards texts now recognized as part of the Christian NT, where can this supposition be found in the rule of faith as you have described it?]

    [In light of previous questions about the fullness of “X” being committed to writing, and the authorship of such writing not generally being listed in the text itself, where does this further presupposition about the timing of “X’s” written completion come from? Where is this assertion located in the rule of faith as you have described it?]

    “The earliest instances of formal official creeds occur around the end of the second and beginning of the third century with creeds such as the old Roman creed. These early creedal formulations appear to be different ways of stating the same language that had long been used in the baptismal interrogations, which themselves had always been uninspired summaries of “X.”

    Question:
    [What data gives you confidence that either the informal or formal “uninspired” summaries of inscripturated “X” are not distortions and/or accretions to “X”? Where can the data supporting that assertion be located in the rule of faith as you have described it?]

    “Over time, the language of these earliest declaratory creeds was supplemented with more material drawn from in-depth study of the inspired Scriptures in order to combat various heresies, with the most important result being the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed.”

    Questions:
    [How do you know such supplemental material was drawn only from inspired scriptures? Where can this assertion be located in the rule of faith as you describe it?]

    [What data gives you confidence that this “in-depth” study or exegesis which yields the NC creed is not a distortion and/or accretion of “X” such that one can confidently describe alternate 3rd & 4th century exegesis as “heretical? Where can data supporting this confidence be located in the rule of faith as you have described?]

    Now I am not asking you to respond to all of those presuppositional questions. I am pointing out that you are engaging in an obvious and extensive presuppositional project, as you work your way towards a final picture of the “rule of faith”. In short, you are defining the rule of faith which you then use as the “terms by which” you define the church.

    You conclude your mini-history argument with what appears to be your formal position regarding the church:

    Now I argued in my book that the church is defined in terms of “X” – the apostolic doctrine – found in its fullness in the inspired Scriptures, and in an uninspired “summary” form in the Nicene Creed. I did not define it in the way that Cross and Judisch have described.

    In fact, in many ways, Bryan and Neil’s assessment is more poignant than anyone at first imagined. You are actually involved in a two step subjectivist project. They easily identified the second step. First you are determining – by your argument and its attendant presuppositions – what “X” is (in terms of the textual scope of apostolic doctrine – as distinct from its theological interpretation) and then secondarily you intend to use the textual scope of “X” as the data source or “terms-by which” you “define” the Church. But all this shows is that your “sola” definitional/interpretive project is not only two-layers deep, but three. I grant that none of what I have just said addresses whether or not you can defend a real principled distinction between Solo/Sola; BUT, I very much think it shows that Bryan and Neil are perhaps being generous when they represent their own understanding of your notion of the church. Your clarification of your position only reinforces their basic notion; and in fact presents a target even more amenable to the remainder of their argument. Most importantly, what all of this shows (I claim) is that their Solo/Sola critique carries on perfectly well despite the fact that they are Roman Catholics. Again, even if your criticisms of Rome were true, and even if your “tu quoque” rebuttal carried through; it seems that their argument concerning the principled distinction between solo/sola with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority is in a position to proceed forward unhampered by your now-clarified ecclesiology – again irrespective of Roman Catholicism, its ecclesiology, doctrines or praxis.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  47. I was baptized and came to know Christ in a Southern Baptist church. The church explicitly stated that it held the Bible as the sole infallible rule of faith and sought to interpret it as best it could, but it fully recognized that 1) the pastors at my church were fallible and 2) the Southern Baptist Convention was just as fallible. Hence, each local congregation in the SBC was ultimately autonomous and could decide for itself its stance of moral and theological issues.

    But even further, my Baptist church, recognizing its own fallibility, knew that I as an individual member held ultimate interpretive authority as my fallible attempt at interpretation was quite possibly just as good (or bad) as that of the pastors of the church. So the church operated as a place to come and worship with fellow Christians and listen to teachings of the pastor, but then to take or leave those teachings as I saw fit. Go to a Baptist church and ask someone about this and it will come as no surprise.

    What would come as a surprise would be this notion that some group of churches–say, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church–somehow had authority to interpret the Bible and bind its interpretation upon the consciences of its members. How is it that a group of fallible pastors heading fallible churches that all get together and name themselves something (whether OPC or SBC or PCA, etc.) think that they have ultimate interpretive authority over the individual Christian with his Bible?

    So most Baptists I have known would also reject the argument made by Mathison that there is a principled difference between sola and solo Scriptura. In some sense I commend them because they are at least following their position to the logical conclusion that they hold ultimate interpretive authority and no church or group of churches (with its self-authorized “elders”) has any right to bind their consciences.

  48. I think one of the reasons people are talking past each other on this thread is that so few really understand sola scriptura. In fact, the way the article pits apostolic succession against sola scriptura is not necessary. The Anglican church practices both. Moreover, sola scriptura does not even cover how one interprets Scripture. Article 6 of the Anglican 39 Articles of Religion definessola scriptura thus:

    Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

    Nick shows his misunderstanding of sola scriptura when he asserts that the Creed does not touch upon many Protestant “essentials.” He seems to be confusing “distinctives” of various Protestant churches with “essentials” – which even the CCC identifies with the Apostles’ Creed (the baptismal creed, cf. CCC 188-193).

    The principle of sola scriptura is limited to where one finds what is necessary for salvation; not how one interprets what that source (Scripture) says. Arguments about particular interpretations of Scripture are simply beyond the scope of sola scriptura; the Reformers assumed that what was necessary for salvation was either clearly presented in Scripture or had been argued to a reasonable conclusion by Christians who had gone before them (why else would John Calvin teach the Creeds and make hundreds of citations from the church fathers in his Institutes)? The Reformers could in good conscience say the Nicene Creed because they saw themselves as following the doctrines of the Apostles, and thus, saw themselves as members of the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” (as they also recognized the Eastern Orthodox to be).

    As for what the church fathers wrote that relates to sola scriptura, Augustine went beyond what is “necessary for salvation” when he wrote:

    “. . . among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life.” On Christian Doctrine 2.9

    All sola scriptura basically claims is that what the Apostles taught as necessary for salvation has been preserved for all posterity in the Scriptures. The Scriptures alone are a sufficient source of all doctrine necessary for salvation. That’s it.

    The alternative to sola scriptura is to identify with certainty doctrines that the Apostles taught was necessary for salvation that cannot be found in Scripture. Newman’s explanation in his Essay @ 2.5.4.3, doesn’t help: “the holy Apostles would without words know all the truths.” What kind of epistemology links what the Apostles knew without words to the doctrines they taught?

    Because there are (fallible) interpretations of the doctrines necessary for salvation in the Creeds that can be compared with Scripture, there are multiple objective references for interpretations of these doctrines by either individuals or groups. Anyone can argue the merits or demerits of those interpretations. Since more than 1600 years of Christians have not found fault with the AD 325 Symbol of Nicea based on Scripture, I seriously doubt anyone will at this point. The interpretation of Scripture beyond what is necessary for salvation is another topic.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  49. A brief response to some of his arguments

    The Perfection of the Mystical Body:

    The Church is perfect in its divine aspect. Hence, we say it is perfect we are not referring to the individual members who are groaning in travail; nor is this what I believe was meant by the Fathers when they discussed the perfection of the Church.

    The Church’s perfection resides in its incorruptible and divine aspect. Yes, even the Pope can end up in Hell; but this is not a argument against its perfection. Rather, perfection exists in several aspects that can be elaborated on. Before discussing this, it may be necessary to mention that the Protestant view of the Church is a horizontal view –
    That is, the Church really is something that ends on earth and is only for those here presently. We can’t really refer to the next world as apart of the Church. (At least this seems to be how many of my Protestant brothers and sisters articulate it be with the possible notable exception of the Anglicans). This apparently implies that we have a strong division between this world and the next. In the next there is no Church. In this world, the Church is a body of individual believers guided by the Holy Spirit.

    As such, this also implies that the same Holy Spirit who connects those that live in Christ may not be connected to those in death. This is problematic. If the same Holy Spirit who lives in the souls of the faithful on earth exists, and it is precisely because of this Spirit they live united, then why is it that departed are not also connected to those living? Does not those who live in the next life also live united to the Holy Spirit? If they are united in a different way to God, can we then say it is a totally different Spirit which unites them?
    In other words, if the principle of unity is the Holy Spirit, then this implies that those on earth are linked to those in heaven – and thus apart of the Church. To suggest otherwise is to sever the Holy Spirit and make death a limitation of his activity.

    Now – what exactly is incorruptible and perfect?

    The Holy Spirit can’t be corrupted who is the soul of the Church. Sin can’t corrupt God, for if it did then God would be corrupted each time a human being would sin. The only corruption experienced is on the part of the one sinning not upon the one sinned against – God. As such, when human beings sin while God is living in their soul, God abandons the soul leaving it up for death. His activity remains perfect but the person destroys themselves with their own sin.

    Sacraments can’t be corrupted by man in the same way sin can’t corrupt God. They are infused with the divine power of God himself. As such, they can never be destroyed by any individuals sin. Either by the person ministering the sacrament or the person receiving. They reason for this perfection is due to the institution of Christ himself who infuses them with his power and life, which is the activity of the Holy Spirit.

    Truth – Infallibility is an incorruptible charism given to Peter. Its strength is in his institution as leader of the Church. Of course, this is the large contention of my Protestant brothers and sisters who suggest this as a later historical innovation.

    Miracles and Charisms:
    The miracles and charisms can’t be corrupted by the members of the Church. For God does not use perfect souls to perform them. If he waited for a perfect soul, there would no miracles performed by the early Church. We can see that God even can perform miracles through sinners as he did with Balaam.

    The angels, saints, Mother of God:
    These are in the next life and can’t be corrupted by the human sin currently in the Church. To suggest otherwise, is to weaken and question the power of God.

    Inspiration of Scripture:
    The inspiration of Scripture receives its authority and power from God. God does not receive his authority from Scripture. Meaning, it is God who infuses scripture with power. If he did not, then reading scriptures would be like reading a history book.

    Tradition:
    The tradition – the living voice of the Holy Spirit through time – is incorruptible.

    Human members are certainly corruptible and the human side of the Church is certainly corruptible – that is individual members are certainly corruptible. However, the members journey toward the perfect until they either fall away from her and into hell or journey to reach the perfection that is inherently contained in the nature of God.

    Mosaic Oral Law:

    He grossly misunderstands the Jewish framework for understanding scriptures. The sola scripturist really has no place in their system which has always seen the word of God contained in the oral Talmud as well as the written Torah. His understanding is a anachronistic understanding (influenced by Reformation) which is then applied to the Jewish religion. Almost every single Jewish scholar today and even then, did not interpret the Jewish faith on ‘sola’ position. They, like Catholics, view the word of God expressed in both written and oral tradition. Maimodes, [I have to look this up], I believe divided the oral Talmud into distinct sections. There were those things orally passed down by Moses, there were those things orally passed on by other inspired individuals to the Jews, and finally there was the ‘fence’ built around the Torah. The fence is what Christ was always criticizing as it was commentary by rabbis and scribes who added human traditions to the oral and written law of Moses.

    But no serious Jew would discount the tradition. The only evidence for this would be the Sadducees who were considered a heretical sect of Judaism; in that they denied fundamental tenets held traditionally by Jews.

    This is why the Jewish faith is really arguing for the Catholic position’s understanding of the word of God. Both Catholics and Jews today believe the word of God is the written scriptures and a living tradition. Tradition with a capital ‘T’ is considered on par and equal to the written word of God. In essence, for Catholics and Jews, the same word of God is both something written and something passed down in a tradition.

    Here is Paul’s reference to tradition: (2 Thess 2:15)
    “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”

    Sola Scriptura – Scholarship:

    It seems in my encounters with those in Protestantism a new type of sola scripturist is developing or really I should say has existed for a long time. I call it the ‘Scholar
    Scripturist’ – That is, ones scholarship and investigation personally determines the true interpretation of scripture. So that ‘Scholarship’ ultimately becomes the final authority on interpreting any text of scripture. Ultimately, this leads to the assumption that only an educated and well informed few, who have great historical insight and comparative analysis to Scripture, are the authority in interpretation. You can see his bias in the following sentence:

    “They were opposing a false interpretation of Scripture with the true interpretation. The results of their deep study of Scripture is found in the conciliar documents of Nicea and Chalcedon. (Fathers of Nicea)”

    His point is valid in that each person must discover the truth subjectively. And that between Protestants and Catholics is the same. Meaning, each person in their search for truth discovers this truth personally on an individual level.

    However, the Catholic diverges in object than the Protestant. Whereas the Protestant’s authority is always self contained, in that it really is not contingent upon what anyone else believes or professes about Christ; the Catholic, in stark contrast, submits his intellect to a visible Church precisely because his faith in Christ teaches him to do so.

    In the final scheme of things, the Protestant does not believe in mediation between God and the individual. God’s use of instruments – Pastors and the like – really only serve as imitatory examples but can’t really be said to absolutely or authoritatively teach anything about God. One is reduced to the slavish and fickle interpretation of their individual pastor or some nebulous body of congregates who know more of the bible because they went to school.

    Contrastingly, in Catholicism, a singular individual is given a power or charism of truth to help discern the truth of God. His power lies in searching out the truth of scriptures, and deciphering its meaning via guidance by the Holy Spirit; This power in invested in him at his ordination to the Papacy so that he does not lead the Church into false interpretations about Christ. And this power comes from Christ himself by way of the Holy Spirit. “I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven” Lest, even if you argue
    that the rock is Christ himself in Mth 16, you can’t deny that the next verse applies solely to Peter. “ the keys…” Compare this to Isaiah 22:22 in which Elakim the high priest is the sole authority for leading David’s kingdom when the king was absent.

    Ecumenical canons:

    He does not distinguish between disciplinary and doctrinal canons.

    Disciplinary canons address moral actions. Doctrinal canons address truth.

    Canon 2 of Chalcedon is a disciplinary canon because it is not teaching something regarding God and the faith. It is prohibiting what is inherently sinful and discouraging simony within the episcopacy.

    Hence, this is why the Church distinguishes between what is valid and what has license.
    God allows things which are sinful and licentious; while sometimes affirming their validity. Evidence of this exists in the law of Moses for the bill of divorce. God allowed for the ‘bill of divorce’ which Moses made valid; but the act itself was still sinful.

    28th Canon: – He simply misrepresents the 28th canon altogether

    The twenty-eighth ratified the third canon of the Council of Constantinople (381), and decreed that since the city of Constantinople was honoured with the privilege of having the emperor and the Senate within its walls, its bishop should also have special prerogatives and be second in rank, after the Bishop of Rome. In consequence thereof he should consecrate the metropolitan bishops of the three civil Dioceses of Pontus, Asia, and Cappadocia.

    God and apostasy: In OT

    “If that authority departs from God, it is no longer an ecclesiastical authority. The priests of Israel were an established ecclesiastical authority, but when they began following other gods, they lost their rightful authority. Those Israelites who refused to follow them and bow the knee to Baal should not be considered schismatics.”

    The Israelites, who were a faithful remnant, did not then abandon the covenant and the levitical priestly order. They suffered under the abusive authority.

    A better comparison is between the actions of the Samaritans and those of the Protestant Reformers. The lost 10 departed for the abuses of Solomon’s son and justified their departure based upon similar arguments of hierarchical corruption. They felt the taxes imposed by the son of Solomon were too excessive and on this basis formed their own system of sacrificial worship (a perversion of the true order). Yet, God did not affirm their infidelity but chastised them.

    Christ does not give authority to form a new order of worship based on corruption:

    He states: Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”
    (Mth 23:1-3)

    Herein Christ establishes a rule of dealing with corruption in authority figures. To listen to their words and follow them even if they themselves live in corruption. Don’t follow their sinful works which are in hypocrisy to the law of Moses but listen to their words which are in conformity to it.

  50. @Lojahw:

    Since more than 1600 years of Christians have not found fault with the AD 325 Symbol of Nicea based on Scripture.

    Tell that to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, mate!

    jj

  51. Lojahw #48,

    I’m not sure you understood me. My point was that for Protestants it’s not enough to affirm the Creed to be “orthodox” – all Christians do. The Reformation was over Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura, along with the doctrines that go along with them, which the Creed doesn’t touch upon in any clear and direct manner. Thus, Kieth’s claims regarding “uninspired summary of X” *culminating* in the Creed either leaves him with a Gospel without the Protestant distinctives, or a Creed which is gravely deficient on what the true essentials are (and preventing Catholics from being considered Christian by the Reformed end). [Side note: one could consider the line "one baptism for the forgiveness of sins" to implicitly refute/undermine Sola Fide]

  52. @Lojahw

    Anglicans throw a monkey wrench into the sola / solo debate because not only are Anglicans of divided mind on certain fundamental aspects of theology (low church vs high church vs broad church vs Anglo-Catholic) including scripture, you also have the concept of prima scriptoria being the dominate theological understanding. This is a very different concept.

    From Keith Mathison’s position it is necessary to pit apostolic succession against sola scriptura because apostolic succession creates an authorative body that is external and not dependent upon the scriptural text. (For example, Catholics don’t believe that the Pope is the Pope because scripture says so, we believe the Pope is the Pope because that is how Christ made His Church and scripture testifies to that fact.) If apostolic succession is true, then scripture is not the be all and end all but is something that testifies towards and points towards a way of life governed by the successors to the apostles (the Church). If apostolic succession is not true, then everything is dependent upon the text of scripture for the end of scripture is itself.

    The principle of sola scriptura is limited to where one finds what is necessary for salvation; not how one interprets what that source (Scripture) says.

    Ah but here is where you yourself get that wrong. Both sola and solo scripture limit how one interprets scripture. Both sola and solo state that that which norms the interpretation of scripture is scripture itself, not an external source. For Catholics, the norm for the interpretation of scripture is external — its God and His synergistic relationship with the Church, and the authorative interpretation of scripture is vocalized through the Magisterium of the Church.

    There is a two fold difference between the sola/solo position and the Catholic position: 1.) that scripture is normed by itself or an external norm 2.) that scripture is its own authorative interpretation or that the Church provides the authorative interpretation.

    The alternative to sola scriptura is to identify with certainty doctrines that the Apostles taught was necessary for salvation that cannot be found in Scripture. Newman’s explanation in his Essay @ 2.5.4.3, doesn’t help: “the holy Apostles would without words know all the truths.” What kind of epistemology links what the Apostles knew without words to the doctrines they taught?

    The Liturgy. Scripture does not contain the liturgy of the Church. There are fragments and allusions here and there but that only underscores that the Liturgy predates the writing of scripture (thus the regulative principle is false) and functions as that very thing which scripture points to (often writing about) and which itself is an external norm that is greater than the text of scripture. It is by the action of the liturgy that the Apostles know without words all the truths. You don’t need to have a giant book of all doctrine that is necessary for salvation when you are participating directly in that salvation. The scripture writers reflected upon their participation in salvation and the liturgy and it is their reflection that brings forth the scriptures (as far as the human element of the scriptural text goes). Scripture points towards the Divine Liturgy and the synergistic worship of God. The Liturgy is the obtainment of the promises of scripture for it is the eschaton breaking into the middle of time, even while at the same time the Liturgy contains the now-but-not-yet promises of the fullness of the eschaton. If you have the liturgy then you know all truths without words precisely because in the Liturgy one receives Christ who is the Truth and the fullness of revelation.

    BTW the Reformers did not see themselves as the followers of the Church Fathers. Early on yes, but later after trying to find support they get rejected as teachers of false doctrine. Luther especially goes on and on about how the Father’s corrupted the faith.

  53. @ Nick 51

    “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” to implicitly refute/undermine Sola Fide

    That depends on if one is Lutheran or Reformed. Luther did teach that baptism was the point of justification and thus did “forgive” sins (though not ontologically in a Catholic understanding — its the individual’s historical point of imputed justification). More properly of course Luther understood “forgive” as to mean “cover over”, thus metaphorically baptism, was the point when snow fell and covered the dung. The the phrase is not a problem for a Luthern, they just understand it completly differently. Reformed though reject baptism as being a historical point for justification as the application of imputed justification can take place anytime before or after baptism and is simply an unknown quantity in the life of a Reformed individual. Thus for Reformed the phrase is more “one baptism [that symbolises] the forgiveness of sins [which does not occure neccessarily at baptism]“. Hense Reformed worship services are very focused on assurances of salvation (to the point that it is a distinct part of the service) because no one has any historical proof that they have been justified. Catholic litrugy on the other hand has lots of baptismal symbolism in it in part to remind the people not to worry for they have been justified.

  54. @Lojahw:
    I look forward to Bryan’s responses to Keith’s statements: (my try)
    1) “Cross is betting eternity that the bishop of Rome could never be one of these false teachers when there is absolutely zero evidence that the leadership of the local church of Rome is uniquely protected and abundant biblical and historical evidence that it is not.”

    Many Protestants are betting eternity that their hand-selected “pastor” is not a false teacher. If the Bishop of Rome existing, despite all he has come up against (bad Popes, the reformation, schism, rebellion) to this day, and the Church existing in her splendor as the largest body of believers in the world-full of saints and sinners doesn’t mount to more than “zero evidence” from history and scripture, then he is being more than less than generous he is being grossly ignorant.

    2) ”Cross has taken a promise intended for the church as a whole and presumptuously localized it to Rome.”

    The Roman Church claims to be the worldwide headquarters of the Universal (Catholic) Church. Christ vouchsafed the gift of the Church and protected her until his return with the Petrine Office. Further, to acknowledge the Petrine Office is to believe Christ established a Church and gave its care to Peter. To reject that, it is reject communion with His Church. Through the Body and Blood of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar do we achieve the unity he seeks here for the “whole Church”.

    3) Cross and Judisch “submitted to the communion that agreed with their individual interpretation of Scripture, history, and tradition.”

    I hear this from Protestants a lot (I was one 2 years ago). What gets me is that it comes from the basic assumption that all one can ever get to, epistemically, is just that, namely one’s own “individual interpretation” of such and such. Really? Am I doomed to be caught in a Cartesian labyrinth, whereby I can never escape my own propositions? Doesn’t he believe that it is epistemically possible to go beyond interpretation and get to the thing itself? No, this is a Protestant move. As a Protestant, one is doomed to be stuck in his/her mind, because his/her religion only works as a web of propositions-a network structure of systematizing to death what is natural until it becomes unnatural.

    (Looking forward to their response, but I hope they don’t waste much time)

  55. Nick

    Thus, Kieth’s claims regarding “uninspired summary of X” *culminating* in the Creed either leaves him with a Gospel without the Protestant distinctives,

    Another excellent point.

  56. TF,

    I think your criticism turns on a straw man. Here is why. I didn’t claim that my counter example yielded the correct conclusion in terms of a position. That is an assumption you seem to be making about what I wrote. Rather his argument seemed to be that it was only by those assumptions could one conflate sola with solo. Assuming there is such a conflation, he owes us an explanation how it is possible to do so without those presuppositions. If those propositions are necessary conditions, as he seems to imply by the use of “only when” then the argument fails since we have clear cases where people do not begin with those assumptions and reach the same supposed conceptual confusion.

    So I wasn’t assuming that I arrived at the correct conclusion. Rather I was assuming his apparent argument that these were the necessary conditions for making a conceptual mistake. But he also thinks that other non-Catholics make the same mistake, so he is mistaken. It isn’t “only when one begins by assuming the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church.”
    If these aren’t the necessary conditions for making the conceptual mistake, then that adds to the reasons for thinking that it isn’t a mistake at all.

  57. #57 Nick wrote: on # 48

    the Creed does not touch upon Sola Fide & SS in a direct manner.

    Who said that a person had to believe the doctrines of Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura for salvation? These are examples of Protestant “distinctives,” but Protestants do not teach that a person will go to hell for not believing them. Christ teaches: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)

    The question of whether or not a particular doctrine ‘X’ taught or implied by Scripture was or was not included in a Creed does not prove that Scripture does not teach it. The scope of sola scriptura is limited to doctrines necessary for salvation.

    Nathan B wrote:

    From Keith Mathison’s position it is necessary to pit apostolic succession against sola scriptura because apostolic succession creates an authorative body that is external and not dependent upon the scriptural text.

    It is not necessary to pit apostolic succession against SS because the Apostle Paul teaches: “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” (1 Tim. 5:22) and “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim 2:2) and “Appoint elders [presbyteroi] in every city” (Tit. 1:5). What conflict do you imagine Scripture has with Apostles laying hands on (i.e., ordaining) others who in turn lay hands on other faithful men? The propagation of the office [presbyteros / episcopos] is taught by Scripture and thus does not conflict with Scripture.

    Both sola and solo state that that which norms the interpretation of scripture is scripture itself, not an external source.

    So what? Those who have positions of authority in the Church must be consistent with the Apostles’ teaching (cf. Gal. 1:8-9). Since the Scriptures represent what the Apostles taught, whoever does not agree with the Scriptures is condemned upon the word of the Apostle. Don’t try to take norma normans beyond its intended scope: what is not clear in Scripture cannot be used against another interpretation of Scripture.

    You also assert that the Liturgy teaches doctrines without words. So what doctrines necessary for salvation did the liturgy used by the Apostles teach that cannot be found in Scripture?

    BTW the Reformers did not see themselves as the followers of the Church Fathers. Early on yes, but later after trying to find support they get rejected as teachers of false doctrine.

    The above statement is a gross oversimplification and implies that the principles of sola scriptura defined by the Reformers changed. It is more accurate to say that some later Protestants were swept up in the Enlightenment, etc. and stopped following the principles laid down by the Reformers. The abuses of a principle do not change the principle.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  58. Lojahw,

    I read your statements on sola Scriptura, but having read all the Scriptures, I don’t recall reading the definition of sola Scriptura that you have laid out:

    sola scriptura does not even cover how one interprets Scripture. Article 6 of the Anglican 39 Articles of Religion definessola scriptura thus…The principle of sola scriptura is limited to where one finds what is necessary for salvation; not how one interprets what that source (Scripture) says. Arguments about particular interpretations of Scripture are simply beyond the scope of sola scriptura

    This all sound well and good, but what chapter(s) and verses make this definition. And if none do, how is this doctrine not just another extra-biblical tradition of men?

  59. Sean & Nick:

    Re:

    Thus, Kieth’s claims regarding “uninspired summary of X” *culminating* in the Creed either leaves him with a Gospel without the Protestant distinctives,

    The protestant “distinctives” are mostly negatives – rejections of serious errors. I’ll let Dr. Mathison speak for himself, of course, but I would be surprised if he thought that the uninspired summary was designed both to include all the essential truths and to exclude all serious errors both then existing and after-arising. The Scriptures may be up to that task, but how could an uninspired summary be expected to do that?

    -TurretinFan

  60. PR: I stand by my earlier comment. You have incorrectly analyzed KM’s statement. The fact that the same wrong conclusion can be attained by more than one way doesn’t undermine his point that in the case of Rome’s apologists the wrong conclusion is reached the way he has identified.

    In other words, KM’s point is not that the only way you can think he is wrong is by adopting Rome’s presuppositions. Instead, KM’s point is that if you adopt Rome’s presuppositions, you will think he is wrong. There are, however, other faulty presuppositions one could adopt that would likewise lead one to think that KM is wrong.

    Hopefully that clarifies my point.

    - TurretinFan

  61. TF (#60):

    You wrote:

    KM’s point is not that the only way you can think he is wrong is by adopting Rome’s presuppositions.

    See #20. Keith said, on page 1 of his reply:

    I will argue that there is in fact a real principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura [FN1] with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority. I will suggest that the difference becomes invisible only when one begins by assuming the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church. [emphasis added]

    Consequently Perry’s rejoinder is correct. Now I suppose that Mathison probably would agree with you, but that is not what he wrote.

    Fred

  62. TurretinFan says:

    KM’s point is not that the only way you can think he is wrong is by adopting Rome’s presuppositions.

    Whereas Mathison actually said:

    I will suggest that the difference [between sola & solo] becomes invisible only when one begins by assuming the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church.

  63. Oops I didn’t see that Fred wrote the same thing. I guess it is pretty obvious…

  64. ‘Turretin Fan”

    The protestant “distinctives” are mostly negatives – rejections of serious errors.

    The Creed itself was formulated in response to serious errors – Arianism. In fact, this is why councils are called: so that the universal Catholic Church can respond to serious errors. In Protestantism, on the other hand, when a faction believes that an error is being taught or believed they simply leave and start a new church (PCUSA to PCA for example). There are no councils. Nothing is bound for the whole world everywhere. In that way, the Council of Nicea sticks out for a Protestant who accepts the creed. The very fact of that the Council of Nicea actually was stands in contrast to the Protestant’s ecclesiology.

    Dr. Mathison said that “X” is apostolic doctrine and the creed was the uninspired culmination of ‘X.’

    Thus, a Protestant a distinctive, such as sola scriptura, was not included in the ‘culmination of apostolic doctrine.’

    Besides, sola scriptura is a much later development than the explicit papacy (in the monarchial bishop sense). Mathison even admits that the papacy was held by the church by the middle of the 2nd century. Sola scriptura, on the other hand is not explicit (nor implicit) in the thinking of the early church at all.

    Several publications by evangelicals have argued that the doctrine of sola scriptura was practiced, though implicitly, in the hermeneutical thinking of the early church. Such an argument is using a very specific agenda for the reappropriation of the early church: reading the ancient Fathers through the lens of post-Reformational Protestantis…Scripture can never stand completely independent of the ancient consensus of the church’s teaching without serious hermeneutical difficulties…”

    D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition & Renewing
    Evangelicalism

  65. Tim and Fred,

    The “only” is not intended to suggest something different from what I said. I don’t feel like arguing about it.

    -TurretinFan

  66. Sola scriptura, on the other hand is not explicit (nor implicit) in the thinking of the early church at all.

    Sean,

    This is a central point under contention. From the Protestant standpoint the belief in extra-biblical infallible tradition was not part of the thinking of the Early Church, certainly not explicitly but not implicitly either. As you may remember, this has been the subject of a great deal of discussion between Mike L and me where we agreed that our belief systems as they touch upon the locus of infallibility (and related matters) were part of the Catholic hermeneutic paradigm (CHP) and Protestant hermeneutic paradigm (PHP) respectively.

    But please, let’s not make the error or stating our paradigmatic assumptions as if they are established facts. The acceptance or rejection of elements of CHP and PHP are not matters of clear statements from the ECF’s. Your reasons for rejecting the Protestant position can just as easily be used for rejecting the Catholic position.

  67. TurretinFan,

    I don’t know what you mean. Are you saying that Mathison didn’t mean what he said above?

  68. Sean:

    KM is referring to the Apostles’ creed, not the Nicene Creed. Recall that he wrote:

    A summary of this core doctrine was taught to all new Christian catechumens. An examination of the relevant texts indicates that this catechetical summary looked very much like the Apostles’ Creed into which it later developed.[FN6]

    As for the remainder of your comments, Christianity managed to get by for three centuries, opposing heresies with[out] calling universal councils.
    -TurretinFan

  69. Granted that multiple paradigms could prevent one from seeing the truth of KM’s thesis, perhaps it would be easier to state which presuppositional framework allows one to see the obvious distinction between solo and sola.

  70. Lojawh: Since the Scriptures represent what the Apostles taught, whoever does not agree with the Scriptures is condemned upon the word of the Apostle.

    The Protestants that confess belief in the novelty of sola scriptura are divided into thousands upon thousands of sects that all think that they are interpreting the scriptures in agreement with the Apostles, and yet they are divided among themselves because their interpretations are in conflict with each other. That fact tells us something that cannot be denied, and that is this: we can know with absolute certainty that most (if not all) Protestants sects are NOT interpreting the scriptures in accordance with what the Apostles taught.

    Lutheranism and Calvinism are distinct religions that teach contradictory doctrine. You are a Lutheran, and Keith Mathison is a Calvinist, so presumably you believe your Lutheran sect interprets the scriptures correctly and Mathison’s sect interprets the scriptures in a heretical manner. I presume that you believe that Catholics, Southern Baptists, Second Day Adventists, etc. also interpret the scriptures in a heretical manner . Keith Mathison is quite correct when he writes this:

    All appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture. The only real question is: whose interpretation? People with differing interpretations of Scripture cannot set a Bible on a table and ask it to resolve their differences. In order for the Scripture to function as an authority, it must be read and interpreted by someone.

    Whose interpretation? That is the correct question. Why should anyone believe that your particular Lutheran sect correctly interprets scripture, when your sect doesn’t even claim that their interpretations are protected by a charism of infallibility? In short, how does a Christian theat desires to follow Christ and the teachings of the Apostles know when a particular sect is interpreting the scriptures in a heretical manner? I would ask Mathison the same question. How does Mathison know that his sect isn’t teaching heresy?

  71. @Lojahw #57

    Who said that a person had to believe the doctrines of Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura for salvation? These are examples of Protestant “distinctives,” but Protestants do not teach that a person will go to hell for not believing them.

    Oh really? I was told that and my friends were told that by a very wide selection of Protestant ministers, pastors, elders during our respective conversion processes. People lost family and friends. Protestants do in fact teach that a person will go to hell for not believing in the solas, or in the case of Reformed TULIP. Those things are not “distinctives” by a long shot, they are standards that must be adhered to.

    What conflict do you imagine Scripture has with Apostles laying hands on (i.e., ordaining) others who in turn lay hands on other faithful men? The propagation of the office [presbyteros / episcopos] is taught by Scripture and thus does not conflict with Scripture.

    Ordination and Apostolic Succession are not the same thing. SS is not in conflict with ordaining individuals but Apostolic Succession is. Apostolic Succession means that those who are ordained have a teaching authority that is not derived from the norms of scripture and as such the exercise of their office is a distinct and infallible norm for the Church and what it means to be a Christian. Put it this way, if you destroyed all bibles, Christianity would be destroyed for those that hold to SS because the singular standardizing norm for what it is to be a christian would be lost, but Christianity would still exist for those that have Apostolic Succession because the Apostolic Succession provides a external norm for what it is to be a Christian that is independent from the text of scripture.

    So what? Those who have positions of authority in the Church must be consistent with the Apostles’ teaching (cf. Gal. 1:8-9).

    The entirety of the Apostles’ teaching is not contained within the text of scripture. That is an assumption that you are making that is without grounds.

    You also assert that the Liturgy teaches doctrines without words. So what doctrines necessary for salvation did the liturgy used by the Apostles teach that cannot be found in Scripture?

    The action of the liturgy itself is not contained within Scripture. Scripture is a bunch of words that points beyond itself towards the eschatological action of the Liturgy. (being inanimate words, it cannot contain action and thus can only indicate but not actually teach and reveal what is contained in the liturgy). Further I am going to point out that we are not saved by doctrine but rather we are saved by the action which doctrine tries to express in human words.

    Here let me show you the action that I am talking about (well hear more than see, but I am sure in listening you can imagine the liturgical action)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6me2wFJsYs

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQckHXWer3U

    The above statement is a gross oversimplification and implies that the principles of sola scriptura defined by the Reformers changed. It is more accurate to say that some later Protestants were swept up in the Enlightenment, etc. and stopped following the principles laid down by the Reformers. The abuses of a principle do not change the principle.

    Actually the understanding of sola scriptura did change. That is obvious in Luther because he invented it and if you follow chronologically his writings you can see the definition take form after the Diet of Worms. Secondly you can see how Luther’s sola scriptura shifts and becomes solo scriptura as well as prima scriptura. Thirdly that there is even a sola/sola debate indicates that the definition of SS is not a fixed principle.

    When it comes to the Englightement, how do you know who develops the principle correctly and who is abusing it? You cannot and that is obvious because you talk about Protestant “distinctives” which is nothing more than an attempt to paper over deep theological and metaphysical divisions within Protestantism and make denominationalism palatable and have the appearance of unity. That in itself is a post enlightenment move and indicates to me that you are coming from a position that is “swept up in the Enlightenment” as you put it.

    Blessings!

  72. Commentary: notice the in-depth discussion and disagreement about what Mathison meant when he used the word “only.” This lends evidence to the necessity of interpretation of texts (a corollary of Mathison’s insightful remark that all appeals to Scripture are really appeals to someone’s interpretation of Scripture).

  73. TFan -

    KM also says:

    “And yet, Scripture was the standard to which the orthodox fathers appealed in their writings and in their arguments against heretics. They were opposing a false interpretation of Scripture with the true interpretation. The results of their deep study of Scripture is found in the conciliar documents of Nicea and Chalcedon.”

    -Page 45

    He was responding where the SS article says:

    But history does not support that notion. The Arians, for example, were not unintelligent. They argued from the Scriptures that Christ was the first of God’s creation, a lesser deity, and the highest of all created things. The Macedonians and Nestorians and Sabellians, etc. all argued from Scripture for their respective heresies. Resolving these disputes was precisely the primary purpose of the ecumenical councils. So the purpose of the ecumenical councils shows that Scripture alone was not sufficient to resolve the theological disputes.

    KM also says:

    In the second and third centuries, semi-formal declaratory creeds began to develop out of the catechetical system. If we compare the questions and answers in the baptismal interrogations with the earliest semi-formal declaratory creeds, it appears that these creeds evolved out of these summaries of “X” that were used for the training of catechumens.

    Page 36

    Seeminlgy he was not limiting the culimation of ‘X’ to only the Apostles Creed. He goes on:

    Over time, the language of these earliest declaratory creeds was supplemented with more material drawn from in-depth study of the inspired Scriptures in order to combat various heresies, with the most important result being the Niceno- Constantinopolitan creed.

    So – he treats the Nicene Creed as a natural growth of the earlier creeds which is a culmination of ‘apostolic doctrine.’

    You said, “As for the remainder of your comments, Christianity managed to get by for three centuries, opposing heresies with[out] calling universal councils

    Was Nicea not necessary?

  74. TF (#65):

    It’s fine if you don’t want to argue about it; it’s not your paper. :-) But Keith said “only”. Like I said, I’m perfectly willing to believe that he might want to revise the paper at that point, and I’d be willing to let him do it (as if he needs my permission! Ha!) But that is not what he said, and for you to say (in effect) that “only” doesn’t mean “only” doesn’t get him off the hook, and saying that it doesn’t matter is unwarranted.

    Fred

  75. TF,

    Standing by your point leaves my criticism of his argument untouched as it is framed. The truth or falsity of the conclusion reached is irrelevant, since the argument he employs is faulty. Those are not necessary conditions for reaching that conclusion. Nothing you’ve offered so far touches my criticisms.

    If his point was not that it is not the only way via those propositions, then he was wrong to say that it is “only when” those propositions are assumed can that conclusion be reached and so my criticism stands. The argument is not truth preserving. If what you write were true, he is talking out of both sides of his mouth. If the “only” is not intended to signal a necessary condition, I am not clear on how you are privy to KM’s intentions. And further, he doesn’t then seem to know then how to convey his intentions very clearly, in which case the argument needs to be reformulated, which again leaves my criticism untouched. The argument is ambiguous at best.

    Secondly, his argument cuts both ways, since if it is impossible to see the truth of his position apart from his presuppositions, then the most he could prove was that Catholic apologists and their Protestant counterparts are both begging the question against each other since their positions are incommensurable. And this cuts the legs out from under his own analysis, since his own analysis and evaluation of the evidence turns on his Protestant presuppositions. Consequently his entire argument, including his appeal to facts is one big case of question begging. I don’t see how that advances the argument at all. Moreover, Protestant presuppositions aren’t some theoretically neutral default position from which one begins their investigation.

  76. Lojahw,

    True enough about the conditions on salvation, but it is not true for the conditions on being a true church. The latter seems relevant to the point related to the Creed especially since Protestants define the Gospel in special reference to their distinctives.

    As for apostolic succession, your remarks would be germane if they didn’t turn on equivocations that permit a Protestant interpretation of ordination in the early church, especially when the same evidence that is touted against episcopacy also serves to falsify the thesis that the early church had in mind those Protestant notions concerning ordination and succession. As I pointed out already, we have no significant evidence of non-sacerdotal ordinational theory or that either of the two lower orders could ordain, which is the heart of the apostolic succession that Protestants reject.

    While it is true that the teaching of the Fathers must be consistent with Scripture, but that is not the relevant question. (And consistent with, and derived from aren’t the same concepts anyhow. The Hadiths are consistent with the Quran, but they teach a lot more than the Quran.) The relevant question has always been who is to function as a normative judge concerning the text for the whole church. And by praxis and teaching the early church carried that out via councils of bishops, which generally excluded the lower two orders and laymen. They did not endorse anything like the right of private judgment, that each man cannot be bound except by his own judgment.

    As for the Liturgical dimension, it isn’t necessarily a matter of theological difference between the Scriptures and the Liturgy, but of form and matter since the Scripture contains no formal theological statements, which is why Creeds functioned liturgically. If Scripture were formally sufficient, terms like homoousios would be unnecessary. Secondly, the liturgical use of books contained in it an implicit apostolic tradition of what works were to be normatively received by the church as apostolic and that is something not contained in Scripture since Scripture contains no formal canon.

  77. Fred: What I mean is that I think you’ve misunderstood what KM wrote, but I don’t see the point in spending the time necessary to prove it to your satisfaction. However, since you want to continue to make something of it, the high-level sketch of the explanation is that “only” there should be understood within its context and especially as further explained by the succeeding clause regarding the possibility of seeing the distinction if the Roman presuppositions are removed. It’s rather like someone saying that the distinction is invisible only if someone is wearing a blindfold, but if the blindfold is removed, they can see the distinction. Yes, it leaves out the possibility of the person having a welder’s mask on, or having thick cataracts, or having no eyes. However, those other possibilities are beside the point.

    -TurretinFan

  78. PR: My response to Fred can also serve as my response to you. You have not correctly interpreted KM’s words. – TurretinFan

  79. Devin:

    I think your observation should lead to a different conclusion, namely that one’s hermeneutical principle is vital. If one seeks to understand the author’s intent in his words, you will reach one conclusion. If you wish to find fault with the author, you may easily reach a different conclusion. One is a hermeneutic of investigation, the other a hermeneutic of suspicion or skepticism. It is the hermeneutic, not the author, that is to blame for such misunderstandings.

    -TurretinFan

  80. TF,

    The first three centuries of Christianity are not an apt comparison for a few reason. First, the majority of the heresies were external to the church in the main. This is so of docetism but even more so in the case of external religions like Manicheanism. Second, the church had not yet achieved the status of public toleration. Holding a council then would have been impossible in practice given its size and geographical scope in the 2nd and third centuries. Third, the earliest council is that of Acts 15 and I see no reason to think that it fails to qualify. Fourth, while for the Orthodox the council is the supremely normative judicial and teaching apparatus of the Church, this doesn’t imply that there aren’t any authorities below sufficient to do the job, such as patriarchial judgments. These were by and large sufficient to quash most heresies. In fact, this is how Arianism in its early stages was dealt with. It was only when it spread beyond the jurisdiction of Alexandria that an apparatus with wider scope became necessary. Fifth, there is no requirement to have an ecumenical council every so many years or every time a new heresy comes up. So the fact that the church didn’t have one since the time of say Acts to Nicea really has no argumentative force that I can see since it doesn’t imply any kind of support for Protestant distinctives.

  81. Tim: Hopefully my response to Fred also serves a response to your question to me. -TurretinFan

  82. TF (#77):

    Please identify/quote for us the “succeeding clause” in Mathison’s paper that justifies your interpretation. I see nothing that serves the purpose that you suggest in this paragraph from page one (as posted on your blog):

    Given the twofold purpose of the paper, my response to it will also be twofold. In defense of the claims of my book, I will argue that there is in fact a real principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority. I will suggest that the difference becomes invisible only when one begins by assuming the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church. This will require an evaluation of the Roman Catholic alternative that Cross and Judisch present. I will argue that a call to return to apostolic succession by Roman Catholics is problematic for a number of reasons. Because our understanding of both of these arguments is closely related to our understanding of the church and of the claims of Rome, I will address those claims first.

    Thanks.

    Fred

  83. TF – I now see what you mean but it would be so much easier to just admit that the phrase should have been worded a different way. If what he wrote is not what he meant then he shouldn’t have said it like that. No big deal, we all make mistakes like that from time to time. But if we are to evaluate his argument, we need to know what his argument is. And if what he wrote is not his argument, then that makes for a difficult task.

    We now have your opinion of what he meant to write, but until Keith Mathison comes out and explains that the wording in question was a mistake, I will continue to assume that he meant what he said as I expect everyone else will.

  84. TF,

    I dimiss the assertions you made that I misread KM. First, you haven’t demonstrated from the text that he meant something other than this was a necessary condition to seeing the distinction. I read the text all the way through now a few times.

    Second, the validity and soundness of his argument is not beside the point. It is the point. What are the necessary conditions for making the conceptual confusion? At best he’s only articulated some sufficient conditions.

    Third, I for one do not see a principled distinction between the two concepts. The only difference is in the intermediary subordiante authorities one posits and the other doesn’t. But those subordainte intermediary authorities boil down to the supreme judge, the individual. A bunch of leaky buckets gets you one big leaky bucket. In any case, I thought as much long before Bryan’s article or Matthison wrote his book. It is also a problem noticed in other Protestant writers of the last century, such as Davies, The Problem of Authority in the Continental Reformers. And I don’t have those assumptions and you’ve gone no distance in showing that my assumptions would theoretically preclude me from seeing it. The simplest way of showing that there is a distinction is to articulate what the discriminating principle in fact is, but so far I haven’t see what that is supposed to be.

    Is it that on sola the individual’s conscience can be bound by a judgment other than his own and on solo it can’t? Is there some tertium quid here that I am missing?

  85. Lojahw (#57)

    You said:

    Who said that a person had to believe the doctrines of Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura for salvation? These are examples of Protestant “distinctives,” but Protestants do not teach that a person will go to hell for not believing them.

    Those doctrines are considered “essential” by Protestants – if they’re not tied to a ‘pure and orthodox’ Gospel, then by your own admission the (Pretend) Reformers had no right to cause division in the Church.
    You can’t have it both ways: if a “distinctive” is akin to one’s pizza-topping preference, you can’t say a man is justified in divorcing his wife because she preferred the “wrong” toppings; if a “distinctive” is an essential component of the Gospel, then you must admit the most succinct (and dare I say ‘authoritative’) “uninspired summary of Apostolic doctrine” failed to include or address such essentials. In other words, a “distinctive” cannot be both divisive and optional at the same time.

    The question of whether or not a particular doctrine ‘X’ taught or implied by Scripture was or was not included in a Creed does not prove that Scripture does not teach it. The scope of sola scriptura is limited to doctrines necessary for salvation.

    You’re confusing issues now, and possibly even conflating solO and solA without realizing it. The linchpin for Mathison’s thesis (page 28) is that the only thing keeping solA from collapsing into solO is the addition of an “uninspired summary of Apostolic doctrine”. This “summary” “prevents” the Bible from being used as a ‘start from scratch, just me an my bible, rule of faith’ for Christians (“solO”). He makes this very clear many times, for example:

    Now I argued in my book that the church is defined in terms of “X” – the apostolic doctrine – found in its fullness in the inspired Scriptures, and in an uninspired “summary” form in the Nicene Creed. (p29)

    the rule of faith, the apostolic doctrine found in Scripture and summarized in the Nicene Creed – [is a] historically objective and verifiable set of propositions by which churches that are true branches can be identified (p30.).

    See that? The Nicene Creed is the most ‘authoritative’ summary and culmination of Apostolic doctrine used for identifying which bodies of believers are true Christians. Now that I think about it, this “summary” could very well be the closest thing to the elusive ‘list of essential teachings’ which all Protestants should have been able to come up with on their own due to Scripture’s formal sufficiency.

    With this in mind, Mathison is facing two serious problems:

    (1) Since the Nicene Creed doesn’t include Protestant “distinctives,” he must either forfeit any grounds for a Reformation (since the Catholic Church never denied the Creed and thus is a true church by his definition) – or – he must say the Creed failed to be a true summary and thus his thesis is a sham and no ‘essential’ difference between solO and solA really exists.

    (2) The very sources he appeals to for faithfully testifying to and even improving upon the “summary” taught doctrines abhorrent to Mathison – including some of the very false doctrines which his paper claims are foundational for the Catholic’s definition of the Church that prevents Catholics from seeing the solO/solA distinction.

    I believe these two points are what Mathison’s whole career and credibility (as a Protestant scholar) rest upon.

    TFan #59,

    You said:

    “The protestant “distinctives” are mostly negatives – rejections of serious errors. I’ll let Dr. Mathison speak for himself, of course, but I would be surprised if he thought that the uninspired summary was designed both to include all the essential truths and to exclude all serious errors both then existing and after-arising. The Scriptures may be up to that task, but how could an uninspired summary be expected to do that?”

    Whether ‘negatives’ or not, the ‘distinctives’ must either be decisive or optional. If decisive (and divisive), then the “summary of Apostolic doctrine” – the very thing preventing solA from collapsing into solO – failed it’s purpose and results in an inherent contradiction of Mathison’s thesis. If optional, then Mathison has no grounds for a Reformation.

    That said, I don’t believe affirming Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide or other important “distinctives” are “negatives.” For one, it’s epistomologically disastrous and contradicts the notion of “rule of faith” for Sola Scriptura to be a “negative” (for that puts the Christian in a sort of agnostic state as far as doctrine is concerned). Also, if the “summary” is focused upon the major heresy of Arianism, there’s no grounds to exclude the even older and just as devastating Apostolic heresy found in Romans and Galatians (Sola Fide) – such an inclusion should have been especially necessary since Protestants almost universally agree no Church Father taught Sola Fide (and thus were engulfed in a soul-damming heresy that swept through under the radar of the entire post-Apostolic Church). There are other such problems, but the above two examples make the point that such cannot (all) be “negatives”.

  86. @Nathan B

    The action of the liturgy itself is not contained within Scripture. Scripture is a bunch of words that points beyond itself towards the eschatological action of the Liturgy. (being inanimate words, it cannot contain action and thus can only indicate but not actually teach and reveal what is contained in the liturgy). Further I am going to point out that we are not saved by doctrine but rather we are saved by the action which doctrine tries to express in human words.

    At its deepest level and in so many different ways, the difference you have just articulated, goes to the root of this debate. Well done.

    Pax Christi!

    Ray

  87. PR: My comment was simply that the church got by and managed to call heresies “heresy” without an ecumenical council for nearly three centuries. The council of Acts 15 was a meeting of the church that was at Jerusalem, which wouldn’t qualify it as “ecumenical” by either EO or Roman standards. Moreover, traditionally Roman and EO folks refer to the seven or twenty-one ecumenical councils, not the eight or twenty-two.
    -TurretinFan

  88. TF,

    Still waiting on a response to comment #69. I see that you have been busy, though! Given your (plausible) construal of KM’s presuppositional provisio, it would be helpful to know which presuppositions one would have to adopt in order to see the obvious truth of KM’s thesis.

    Andrew

  89. Tim/Fred/Perry re: KM’s use of “only,” I’m quite confident that I’ve correctly discerned KM’s meaning, and I’ve provided as much analysis of the text in support of my conclusion as I think I need to. There are plenty of more pressing matters for me (and I assume for you). -TurretinFan

  90. Andrew:

    Maybe the answer is that one must adopt either the presuppositions associated with sola or solo in order to see the difference, but that doesn’t seem correct – since I think an atheist outsider might also be able to see the difference. I think it is mostly a matter of certain presuppositions getting in the way of seeing the difference, as opposed to other presuppositions enabling one to see the difference.

    -TurretinFan

  91. TF and los guys,

    It is not unusual for Protestants to overlook the Orthodox Churches. (Mathison mentions them as foils to Catholics in his article but doesn’t take them into account with the argument in question.) In this case, he was writing to try to rebut Catholics (of various Rites, including Latin), so it is understandable that his mind focused on Roman Catholics’ beliefs in order to try to demonstrate that they are bringing presuppositions to the table which make it impossible for them to see the true difference between sola and solo.

    But the Orthodox (of whom I understand Perry is one) come out of the blind spot and throw a curve ball at his attempt, making it necessary for him to change [some of] his arguments to account for the various Orthodox Churches. Any such changes weaken his arguments because they can no longer try to isolate Catholics as having certain problematic presuppositions–it turns out hundreds of millions of other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, yet also very ancient, have (different) problematic presuppositions that make them unable to see the sola/solo difference as well.

    I don’t expect Mathison to revise his article to account for the Orthodox Churches, but in not doing so, the existence of the Orthodox weakens this attempt to argue against the Catholic Church specifically.

  92. TF – Well I’ve got plenty of other things to do as well but as regards this thread and this discussion, the matter at hand is not a quibble. So in regard to this debate, no I don’t have anything more important to do. If you can’t support your claims and don’t want to admit that you’re wrong, that’s fine with me. You say you’ve provided the amount of analysis of the text that you think you need to, which doesn’t make sense because you didn’t provide analysis of the text; you just stated what you think he meant without explaining why anyone else should think that’s what he meant. No one here will mind if you don’t want to support your claims, and no one here is going to be fooled by you merely stating that you have.

    So while you go on to more important matters, the refutations of Mathison’s faulty argument stand until he retracts what he said and explains that he meant to write something else.

  93. What Tim said (#92).

    And I agree with Devin (#91) :-)

    Fred

  94. Tim: I’ve already supported my claim. I haven’t time or interest in supporting to an even further extent at this time. -TurretinFan

  95. TF,

    Okay.

    The presuppositionally-able to see the obvious truth of KM’s principled difference between Solo/Sola crowd includes everyone except the presuppositionally-disabled. Absolutely.

    Atheists. Fundamentalist Premil-sorts. TF and KM. Buddhists. Etcetera.

    The presuppositionally-disabled crowd includes, so far, Catholics and the Orthodox, and Protestants who later become one of these–i.e., everyone (so far) who has here claimed that there is no principled difference between Solo and Sola.

    At this point, though, I am wondering whether an atheist who critiqued KM’s thesis, and concluded that there is no principled difference between Solo and Sola, would not be reassigned to the second, presuppositionally-disabled group. After all, he might one day become Catholic, and then his disagreement with KM could be traced to an incipient Romanism.

    You can probably see where I am going with this. The meta-level designations and stipulations, while useful up to a point, can quickly turn into a thinly-veiled display of well-poisoning, while with a wink and grin we talk over the heads of those who challenge us, addressing instead those who already agree with us. And the home team, of course, is going to be more pleased with emotionally-driven assertions than with logical rigor, careful proportioning of claims to evidence, which includes appropriate qualifications to stated opinions, and so forth.

    After all, logic and scholarly care are really superfluous, since our opponents are precluded from getting the point anyway. Might as well step behind the curtain and puff Oz.

    That sort of thing, while common, can really hobble an otherwise interesting and potentially profitable discussion.

    Andrew

  96. Andrew: In fact, I don’t think that most EO theologians would have any problem with KM’s distinctions. PR doesn’t speak for the whole EO community.

    That said, the key is simply identifying what the obstacle is to accepting KM’s distinctions. In the final section of his article, KM lays that out and ties the first portion of his article back in as appropriate.

    Possibly some atheist would not see the distinction because to him this is all a tempest in a teapot amongst religious weirdos. Those would be very different presuppositions from the Roman presuppositions and would hinder perception of the difference for entirely different reasons.

    -TurretinFan

  97. TF – this is just table pounding. If you’ve supported your claim, it wasn’t here in this combox. Did you do it somewhere else? If so, where? If not, then everyone will continue to reject your unsupported claim – even if you have better things to do. Merely stating that you have demonstrated that Keith didn’t mean “only” when he said “only” is not enough. Stating that he meant something else (which is what you did) also fails to show that he, in fact, meant something else.

  98. Tim: See #77. – TurretinFan

  99. TF – 77 doesn’t show why anyone should believe that Keith didn’t mean “only” when he said it. As I already said, you merely stated that it should be read in a different way but did not show why it should be read that way. You said that context and further explanation would help us to understand that Keith’s argument was not accurately formulated but when asked to show that you just said you were too busy.

    You might be right that he didn’t mean what he said; everyone grants that. But we need him to say so and to retract what he said if we are to accept it. The text doesn’t appear to support your claim and you haven’t demonstrated it. You keep saying you don’t have time to argue about it. If you don’t have time to defend claims, then you should stop making them.

  100. Tim:

    No, my answer was not that he didn’t mean what he said. My answer was that if you read the word “only” in context, you’ll discover it is consistent with the explanation I initially provided to Fred and then again to Perry.

    Is my explanation of my position persuasive to you? Obviously not.

    And, of course, I reject your contention that I can’t point out what Dr. Mathison meant without committing myself to a lengthy defense of my position. Of course, however, it is not my blog. If I’m out of line for not providing a lengthy and detailed exegesis rather than very cursory and brief one I’ve provided, please accept my apologies.

    -TurretinFan

  101. TF,

    (I agree with your analysis in #77, by the way.)

    It is good to know that the Orthodox might have the capacity to see the obvious truth of KM’s thesis. I will add them to the first group. Right now, that only leaves Catholics in the disabled category.

    I did not see the obstacle (for Catholics, to seeing the principled distinction between solo and sola) specified in the paper. My guess is that it would have something to do with our belief in ecclesial infallibility. Also, I did not see the argument in support of the claim that Bryan and Neal’s critique of the solo / sola distinction logically depends upon specifically Catholic presuppositions.

    It bears mentioning Bryan and Neal’s (putative) disability does not entail that that their critique of KM’s thesis is logically unsound or invalid. Much less does it follow from our disability that KM’s thesis is true. It could be both that KM has just the right macro-presuppositions (and Bryan and Neal the wrong ones) and that KM’s putative distinction is unprincipled (and that Bryan and Neal have shown it to be so). This is certainly possible, unless, of course, KM’s thesis is among the things that have to be presupposed in order to see the (obvious) truth of KM’s thesis.

    Unless we want to assume that, then we might want to (re)focus on the arguments for and against the KM thesis, regarding the distinction between solo and sola.

  102. @Turretin Fan #79

    I must deeply disagree on your statement here that “one’s hermeneutical principle is vital”. If the interpretation of something is fundamentally dependent upon ones hermeneutic, then it becomes impossible to ever understand a thing as it is in itself — we would be forever caught in a trap of looking and understanding the world through lenses which we create in order to give meaning to what we experience. The lenses / hermeneutic thus becomes what is important , not the thing that is trying to be understood. This of course makes it impossible for one to ever come into contact with the person of Christ as they would be forever stuck behind their hermeneutic.

    I think that part of the problem that those who are reacting to what KM wrote that you yourself are not grasping is that not seeing a distinction between sola and solo scriptura is not predicated by their ecclesiology. One’s ecclesiology might (or might not) inform how they approach the sola / sola question but it is not the determining factor.

    You yourself here http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2008/10/norma-normans-vs-norma-normata.html indicate that the difference between Sola and Sola is that sola allows for extra biblical norma normata and solo doesn’t. However beyond that sola/solo utalize the bible in the same manner.

    FM appears to have a vested interest in ecclesiology, as an earlier work of his here http://www.the-highway.com/Sola_Scriptura_Mathison.html which takes apart solo scriptura and takes those communities to task that employ it as essentially turns Christianity into a non doctrinal ahistorical enterprise (my words not his). What I find interesting is that FM is seeing that there is a distinction between solo and sola based upon his own ecclesial understanding, yet he is turning around and saying that Catholics see no distinction based on a Roman ecclesial understanding (which is really a poor understanding because there are plenty of Catholics who are not Roman in their ecclesiology), yet Catholic apologists (such as Cross and Judisch) are not coming from a stand point of Catholic ecclesiology. It is also true that evangelicals from a solo scriptura position approach it based upon their own ecclesiology (which is only different in degree not kind from sola scriptura ecclesiology).

    Putting it another way, which I believe others have stated: Cross and Judisch are not starting from a Catholic ecclesial position when they wrote that sola / solo are not truly distinct from one and other. It is people that are trying to defend sola as being correct as opposed to sola, and vice versa that see that there is a distinction. When you don’t have a dog in the fight, then the distinction disappears. (This is why people who are on a converts path see no distinction — its not because they are closet Romans its because they have stopped trying to defend one or the other and are simply looking at the positions and their underpinnings from a more or less impartial stance).

    You yourself seem to see that as a possibility for what is actually going on.

    Maybe the answer is that one must adopt either the presuppositions associated with sola or solo in order to see the difference, but that doesn’t seem correct – since I think an atheist outsider might also be able to see the difference. I think it is mostly a matter of certain presuppositions getting in the way of seeing the difference, as opposed to other presuppositions enabling one to see the difference.

    I’d take your bet about the atheist. I really don’t think they would see a true fundamental difference between the positions and having talked with athiests on this, they don’t. They think sola scriptura is a joke and solo scriptura is the same joke only more crazy. Atheists are atheists largely because they don’t think that scripture is an infallible self norming norm.

    Blessings

  103. I feel it’s also necessary to add a final point which doesn’t seem to have been mentioned here but has been recognized elsewhere on CTC regarding the solO versus solA distinction: Given that the Creed is an “uninspired summary of Apostolic doctrine” (by KM’s own definition), how can an uninspired set of propositions function as “authoritative” for Christians who are ultimately and only bound to what is “God-breathed” – inspired (even formally sufficient)? What ever happened to “we must listen to God rather than men” that the Reformers championed? This really is a root-level problem for Mathison’s thesis.

    And now that I think about it, I think Mathison’s thesis is caught in a anachronistic trap of sorts: for the major Protestant standards such as the Three Forms of Unity, Westminster Confession, Book of Concord, etc, etc, never define Sola-Scriptura as Mathison does (i.e. contrasting it to solO by the addition of an uninspired summary Creed). Thus, Mathison is defining Sola Scriptura contrary to the Reformer’s and their faithful expositors themselves.

    Here are some interesting quotes I dug up that seem to directly refute Mathison’s thesis regarding the critical nature of a “summary” Creed for the rule of faith:

    -those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other [this rules out the need for a Creed, since a formal list should be possible], that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Westminster 1:7)

    -The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself [being uninspired, the Creed can't fulfill this task]: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.(1:9)

    -The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers [these previous two are precisely where Mathison says the Creed sprouted from and was developed by], doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture. (1:10)

    -All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith [directly refuting Mathison's claim the summary, esp via Nicene, is part of the rule of faith!], or practice; but to be used as a help in both. (Westminster 31:4

    -[ditto Westminster 1:7] (London Baptist Confession 1:7)

    -[ditto Westminster 1:9] (ibid 1:9)

    -[ditto Westminster 1:10] (ibid 1:10)

    -We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe, unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein. For, since the whole manner of worship, which God requires of us, is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures…

    Neither do we consider of equal value any writing of men, however holy these men may have been, with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value [making the Creed nowhere near the level of a rule of faith, and even something to be held suspect] with the truth of God, for the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself. (Belgic Confession, article 7)

    -This doctrine of the Holy Trinity, hath always been defended and maintained by the true Church, since the time of the apostles, to this very day, against the Jews, Mohammedans, and some false Christians and heretics, as Marcion, Manes, Praxeas, Sabellius, Samosatenus, Arius, and such like, who have been justly condemned by the orthodox fathers. Therefore, in this point, we do willingly receive the three creeds, namely, that of the Apostles, of Nice, and of Athanasius [this implicitly refutes the idea the Nicene is seen by these Protestants a summary of all Apostolic doctrine, confining it's importance to the Trinity]: likewise that, which, conformable thereunto, is agreed upon by the ancient fathers. (Belgic Confession, article 9)

    -We believe, that we ought diligently and circumspectly to discern from the Word of God which is the true Church [no mention of a "summary" Creed used in determining the true church], since all sects which are in the world assume to themselves the name of the Church. But we speak not here of hypocrites, who are mixed in the Church with the good, yet are not of the Church, though externally in it; but we say that the body and communion of the true Church must be distinguished from all sects, who call themselves the Church. The marks, by which the true Church is known, are these: if the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin: in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself. (article 29)

    Other Protestant resources I checked don’t come close to what Mathison proposes, and they respect the Apostles and Nicene Creeds simply because they are ancient and teach proper Trinitarian theology according to Scriptures (well short of being part of the “rule of faith”).

  104. Andrew:

    Suppose that someone thinks that a church isn’t exercising true authority unless they are exercising authority in the way that Rome exercises it. From that point of view, sola and solo are without any meaningful difference with respect to church authority. While KM’s points are significantly more nuanced than that (and I’d hate for my one line to be thought of as a summary of what he said), perhaps this example could serve as something that at least shows the plausability of KM’s thesis.

    -TurretinFan

  105. Tim:

    You know what, perhaps I’d be irritated if someone had provided as little support for their position on my blog, as I have provided here. So maybe I owe you more explanation in view of the Golden Rule. Let me try to make amends in this way.

    I offer for your consideration KM’s own comment:

    For example, as I mentioned above, if one assumes the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church, then the differences I allege between sola scriptura and solo scriptura become invisible. Likewise, if one does not assume the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church, the differences can be discerned.

    That comment specifically refers back to his “only when” statement a few paragraphs before (this one: “I will suggest that the difference becomes invisible only when one begins by assuming the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church. “). What he means (I contend) by “only when” is not that the Roman presuppositions are unique in their ability to prevent someone from seeing the differences, but that they are an obstacle that must be removed in order to see the differences.

    You seem to have interpreted his “only when” as meaning that the Roman Catholic presuppositions are a unique barrier – the only possible barrier, or something like that. As I have indicated above, I don’t think that’s what KM meant, and I’m fairly confident in that view of KM’s comments, even without contacting him to ask.

    Of course, we could ask him to comment on what he meant and resolve this – but I find it interesting that you seem already to have decided that if he agrees with me, he needs to retract his statement, rather than simply clarify it. It’s almost as though are persuaded that his statement itself can only be understood the way you have understood it.

    Then again, perhaps I have misunderstood you. In any event, I hope that this further comment from me discharges my duty to substantiate the comments I make here.

    -TurretinFan

  106. @ Ray Stamper #86

    Thank you kindly. People are missing the liturgy in all of this. SS ultimately creates a “man made” worship because how SS based worship is constructed is from the opinions of men and what they think is important and not important as they read the scriptures, which no where gives a full blown liturgy (the closest is Revelation but that is all in code) just fragments and pieces and bits of poetry and description. Even the Levitical liturgy is not in the OT. That the bible does not contain any order of worship should be quite telling that it is not the only norm for what it means to be a Christian. That and the blindingly obvious that we are called not to be readers and interpreters of a book but we are called to be actors and participators in a Divine Liturgy.

  107. TF- yes, that is a helpful addition. I should *retract* my request that Dr. Mathison retract his position rather than simply clarify it.

  108. TF,

    You wrote:

    Suppose that someone thinks that a church isn’t exercising true authority unless they are exercising authority in the way that Rome exercises it. From that point of view, sola and solo are without any meaningful difference with respect to church authority.

    I don’t see much more nuance in KM’s assertion to the same effect. There might be an argument bridging your first sentence (above) and your second sentence, but, again, I have not seen it, either from you or in Keith’s paper. In fact, the non-principled-distinction between solo and sola does not automatically follow from Catholic ecclesiology. There could, in theory, be a principled distinction (contra our article), but Protestantism still be wrong in fundamental ecclesiology. Thus, if KM, or anyone else, were to convince me that there is a principled difference between solo and sola, my own ecclesiology would remain unaffected. What would change is that I, while remaining loyal to Rome for biblical, historical and philosophical reasons, would cease to maintain that each Protestant is his own ultimate interpretive authority. That would not be a total victory, but it would be some ground gained in our mutual effort to find agreement in truth.

    Unfortunately, Keith has chosen not to try to persuade Catholics of his thesis. The route he has taken is more like what I described in #95.

  109. Dr. Mathison,

    Thanks for carrying forward the dialogue. As a suggestion: In my opinion, this debate is best approached through concrete instances of where Protestants differ from Roman Catholics. Now, over the past century and a half, theories of doctrinal development have become the mainstay of all that is unique to Roman dogmatics. So, if we’re going to put things in stark relief, it is helpful to pick developed teachings like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, and then examine why RCs receive these beliefs as dogma, and why Protestants don’t. The big issue about these is that they lack an historical tradition going back to the apostles. If you look at the Assumption, for example, the public evidence boils down to considerations like the following: Mary’s mortal remains haven’t been venerated, which is consistent with her bodily Assumption; also, many godly men have believed in the Assumption; also, it seems right and proper for Christ to have raised his mother to heaven (a reprise of the potuit, decuit, ergo fecit argument). Protestants should have zero problems with admitting that those evidences make the belief plausible, and admissible as a pious opinion. Where we draw a line is in saying the belief can’t be dogma, because is it was neither handed down by the apostles, nor is it necessitated by what the apostles handed down. The Church can therefore allow the belief, and can even recommend it to the faithful, but can’t impose it on them under pain of anathema. Doing that would, in Protestant eyes, be tantamount to admitting ongoing revelation by the back door, because a belief that before was only more or less probable becomes necessary solely by the Church’s act of definition. And then, if that happens, it has to be asked in what meaningful sense scripture is (even materially) sufficient, because verses like Ps. 132:8 provide only points of departure for Marian speculations. The gnostics, too, had scriptural points of departure for their speculations, and they too claimed the apostles taught their doctrines, but they said that to discover the truth from scripture you needed to lean on the authority and insight and private tradition of their special interpreters. The foremost challenge Protestants put to Rome should in that respect be the same that Orthodox put to her: what is the principled difference between what the RCC does in advancing her idiosyncratic dogmas and what the gnostics did in advancing their peculiar innovations? If the public tradition furnishes us only with points of departure and arguments ex convenientia (as Newman was willing to suggest even about the Trinity!), how is the Magisterium not going beyond the public tradition when it converts a probable belief into a necessary one?

    Kind Regards,

    John

  110. From the Response:

    If Jesus is standing before you and tells you something, the fact that you must interpret what He says in order to understand it does not mean that you have more authority than Jesus. But here is where the church comes into play and where one difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura can be seen. Imagine Jesus is standing before you and thousands of other believers, and imagine that he commands all of you to turn a certain direction and march to a certain city. Now imagine you turn right and start walking only to notice that everybody else turned left and started walking. If you are an adherent of solo scriptura, you aren’t going to pay any attention to what anybody else did. You heard what Jesus said. There’s no interpretation involved. If you are an adherent of sola scriptura, you are going to notice that everybody else started marching in a different direction and you are going to stop and ask whether you misinterpreted what Jesus said because you realize that interpretation is involved in all communication and that as a sinner, you might have misinterpreted what He said.

    This would have been good advice for John Calvin – except unlike other sinners who might possibly get some things wrong from time to time; he had perfectly identified the correct scope and content of “X”, as well as the correct interpretation of the meaning of the scope and content of “X” such that he saw clearly how 1500 years of episcopal/sacramental Christianity had gotten everything wrong since the very late date of 150 or so by way of ecclesial/doctrinal abberations which “evolved” (no Divine guidance allowed) out of a more primitive PCA-like primordial soup characterized by all kinds of natural internal chaos and conflict (or at least that’s how real scholars understand the facts of primitive Christian history as opposed to the “golden-age” naïveté of mere apologist like Joseph Ratzinger, Cardinal Newman, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, etc.)

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  111. John,

    Although your comment was addressed to Keith, I’d like to clarify some (what I take to be) debatable assertions. I appreciate the evident desire to engage Catholics on matters of doctrine, but I think that we have to be careful, in so doing, to recognize (explicitly, as much as is possible) controversial assertions.

    You present it as a matter of fact that:

    Now, over the past century and a half, theories of doctrinal development have become the mainstay of all that is unique to Roman dogmatics.

    This is partly true, but also partly misleading.

    Your claim is true in that, after Newman, Catholic theologians often appeal to “development” to account for Church dogma that is not explicitly formulated in the NT or early Fathers. Among Catholics, Newman’s thesis has generally (though this general recognition of his contribution to theology took some time to, ah, develop) been found to be persuasive and to have more explanatory power than alternative hypotheses (e.g., broad appeal to the disciplina arcani, or the thesis that the Church as whole systematically embraced false doctrines, created ex nihilo).

    However, your claim is misleading in that it glosses over the fact that it is also necessary to adduce some account of doctrinal development on behalf of those dogmas that Protestants retained from their Catholic forefathers, and not only for those doctrines that Protestants denied, and deny, as “peculiar to Rome.” As you note, Newman argues (persuasively, I think) that the Creed of Nicea is no less a development than the Council of Trent. Now, you may choose to contest this point, but that will require some historical argumentation to the effect that, e.g., we find the fully developed doctrines of Nicea (and Chalcedon, and whatever else you are prepared to accept) in “the historical tradition going back to the apostles.”

    Next, I want to address some claims made in the second half of your comment, following this assertion:

    Where we draw a line is in saying the belief can’t be dogma, because is it was neither handed down by the apostles, nor is it necessitated by what the apostles handed down. The Church can therefore allow the belief, and can even recommend it to the faithful, but can’t impose it on them under pain of anathema.

    If seems to me that this, and what follows, indicates that you are prepared to only accept, and that you are directing “the Church” to only teach (as matters to be accepted by faith), those doctrines that are stated (verbatim?) in Sacred Scripture, or else those doctrines that can be logically deduced from Sacred Scripture. Leaving aside the peremptory and imperative tone of the comments (by whose authority? …, and so forth), it bears mentioning that this sort of procedure would empty every creed and council of all intrinsic authority, since the reception of their teaching, by faith, could only be consequent upon independent investigation and proof (exegetically and/or logically). This goes back to the solo / sola (non-principled) distinction, and also leads to my final remarks.

    You wrote:

    The foremost challenge Protestants put to Rome should in that respect be the same that Orthodox put to her: what is the principled difference between what the RCC does in advancing her idiosyncratic dogmas and what the gnostics did in advancing their peculiar innovations?

    Bryan and Neal answered this is their article, and I summarized, and briefly brought out an implicit aspect of, that answer in comment #35, above. Here is the relevant bit:

    The Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches do indeed enjoy Apostolic Succession, which suffices to distinguish them as particular churches. So far as I can tell, Neal and Bryan were using “Apostolic Succession” with reference primarily to teaching authority. As you note, no individual bishop, other than the Roman Pontiff, can, of his own office, teach with the full authority of the Church. So in what way does Apostolic Succession in its “objective referent point of true doctrine” aspect operate? This aspect of AS is operative when the bishops teach as a college, especially in an ecumenical council, and when any individual bishop teaches in unity with this college.

    How can we tell when the bishops teach in essential unity–how do we distinguish “the college” and an ecumenical council from just any collection of bishops and a local council? The papacy is the only answer that holds up under historical and philosophical scrutiny. It was not always, at first, evident which councils were ecumenical, and which did not have such authority. Over time, however, the Church of the first millennium did come to recognize which of her councils were ecumenical, and it is incontrovertible that no council has ever been thus recognized that lacks the representation and ratification of the bishop of Rome. AS is an objective mark of the Church, extended in time and space, and the Pope is an objective mark of the college of bishops, teaching with the full authority of the Church.

    The short answer is that one important difference is the public, objective teaching authority of the bishops, in communion with the bishop of Rome. Those who reject these, the gnostics, the Arians, etc., are left to fall back upon their own ultimate interpretive authority, in discerning matters of doctrine, faith, opinion, and the like. These choose what seems good to them, and leave the rest as unwarranted (i.e., not recognized by *me* as sufficiently attested by the NT and previous ecclesiastical writers), idiosyncratic (i.e, other than what *I* hold to be the truth of the matter) developments.

    Andrew

  112. TF,

    If your claim was that the church got by without an ecumenical council for three centuries, this puts forward something that doesn’t move the ball down the field for anyone since all sides admit it.

    I can’t see why being limited to Jerusalem would preclude the Acts 15 council from being ecumenical. Last I checked lots of ecumenical synods lacked representation from other areas and were limited to a given locale.

    In general, the Orthodox do refer to seven councils, but that is for specific theological reasons. They also in authoritative documents at times refer to eight or nine councils as well. And this has been so for the last six centuries or more, going beyond Florence and Lyon.

    This is one good reason to think that I am in a better position to speak for my tradition, going on my second decade in it than your casual dismissal would suggest. And if I am not in a position to speak for Orthodoxy in any representative way, so much the more reason to think an outsider who has no special training or competence in it isn’t either. Consequently, I do think most Orthodox theologians would have problems with KM’s distinctions, especially given the uncontroversial fact that they all reject sola scriptura along with all protestant distinctives.

    Your example of an atheist seems not to be apt. The case of the atheist is a dismissal due to lack of interest, not on epistemic limitations due to paradigm presuppositions that preclude the possibility of seeing a conceptual distinction. The atheist’s dispositions dispose him to not want to engage the matter rather than a failure in evaluating concepts. What we need is a case of other presuppositions that are epistemically preclusionary. So far, we haven’t got one on the table.

    Even if your gloss of KM is consistent with what he said, mine is as well. So even granting your point, your attempt at a demonstration does not prove I am mistaken. It would only prove that the text could be read in both ways. Your argument then doesn’t probably pick out your reading to the exclusion of mine. Consequently it doesn’t provide a reason for thinking yours is correct. So, even at best, my criticism remains untouched. In context, it is as I said, his remarks at best are ambiguous.

    It also doesn’t follow that if someone thinks that a church isn’t exercising true authority if they don’t do so in the way Rome does that sola and solo are without any meaningful difference *because* of their view of church authority. They could hold those two beliefs without one being the ground for the other. Nothing I saw or recall from KH’s piece demonstrates that this can’t be so or that one holds an epistemically entailing position with respect to the other.

    As I pointed out above, the proffered difference between the two is between positing subordinate pen-ultimate intermediary authorities between the individual and an ultimately normative judgment in sola but not solo. But the presence of such authorities does not preclude and/or remove the individual’s judgment from being ultimately normative on sola relative to those subordinate authorities in the way it is on solo because the individual’s judgment is superior to them in terms of normativity on both views. This is why there is no principled difference. And none of that turns on thinking of church authority in one way or another.

    It turns rather on whether the individual’s normative judgment is ultimate or pen-ultimate on either sola or solo and in neither case is it the latter (pen-ultimately normative). The presence or absence of subordinate authorities doesn’t render it pen-ultimate.

  113. KM wrote,

    “A creed’s authority does not depend on anyone’s agreement with it. A creed’s authority depends on whether it is true to the doctrine of Christ and the Apostles. Creeds are a written form of the confession of faith of the universal church.” KM, PDF, 44.

    This seems to be part of the problem here. If the authority of the creed to bind the conscience of an individual extended only so far as the creed taught truly, then the individual could only be obligated to assent to it if they assented to its truth. Consequently all heretics who reject its claim to teach truly cannot be obligated to adhere to it. But this is false. They are obligated to adhere to it, even if they do not assent to its truth and even if they fail to meet the conditions on knowledge relative to its truth claim, even on Protestant principles it seems.

    And this is so because I can only be obligated relative to the truth of some claim if I know that it is true on KM’s view. But on the contrary, I can be obligated to adhere to a proposition even if I don’t know that it is true, as is the case of divine authority. I am obligated to adhere to something divinely taught even if I don’t know it is true.

    Second, if KM were right here, Reformation confessions would then be subordinate in authority to ecumenical creeds, but they aren’t. In fact, the authority is the other way around since the versions of the Creeds that the Reformed accept are not of the universal church, on pain of implicitly admitting Rome alone to be the universal church. And the interpretations of key doctrines expressed in the creed, such as the divinity of the Son, baptism, apostolicity accepted by them are not the original intent of its framers and those centuries afterwards. The Reformed then interpret the Creeds by the authority of their Confessions and not the other way around, which is their principle reason for rejecting the historical interpretation of Chalcedon for their own.

  114. PR:

    You know, I think I’ve lost track of why I brought up the issue of the absence of ecumenical councils in the first few centuries. I see where I brought it up, but I don’t see what it responds to in your previous comments. So, perhaps we have been on a rabbit trail there.

    As for whether EO theologians would agree with you – I don’t have further thoughts to add.

    As for whether the atheist analogy is apt, I agree that the reason would be different and I think I acknowledged that up front.

    I don’t see why you don’t think the definition of church authority can control the outcome of whether sola and solo differ with respect to church authority. Or perhaps we are talking past one another there.

    -TurretinFan

  115. John #109

    The reason why I do not think that Protestants are in a position to level the charge the Orthodox put to Rome is that Protestants also appeal to theories of doctrinal development to justify their distinctives, which from an Orthodox point of view renders them the other side of the same coin. They do not disagree on the necessity of doctrinal development relative to their distinctives, but how it is to be understood and adjudicated. We put the same charge to Protestants since sola fide is a later development and outside the public tradition.

    Second, the Orthodox adhere to the doctrine of the Dormition of the Theotokos, which in many respects is similar or the same as the Catholic dogma of the Assumption.

    Third, the public tradition is much wider for the Orthodox than Protestants and arguably for those Fathers who wrote against Gnosticism and their ilk. One of the key examples is the canon of Scripture. Protestants likewise justify their adherence to a formal doctrine of the Trinity and (the formal canon) in terms of development and arguments ex convenientia.

  116. Nathan:

    You wrote:

    I must deeply disagree on your statement here that “one’s hermeneutical principle is vital”. If the interpretation of something is fundamentally dependent upon ones hermeneutic, then it becomes impossible to ever understand a thing as it is in itself — we would be forever caught in a trap of looking and understanding the world through lenses which we create in order to give meaning to what we experience. The lenses / hermeneutic thus becomes what is important , not the thing that is trying to be understood. This of course makes it impossible for one to ever come into contact with the person of Christ as they would be forever stuck behind their hermeneutic.

    As long as one has a correct hermeneutical principle, one is fine. It’s something like color perception. If your glasses aren’t clear (but instead are tinted) your color perception will be off.

    -TurretinFan

  117. Mr. Preslar,

    Thanks for your comments. I am happy to provide historical argumentation; some follows below. As for my contention, the heart of it is this, that because apostolic tradition is public, the Magisterium cannot see farther into the tradition than, in principle, any of the faithful can see. Thus, if apostolic tradition leaves a belief only more or less probable, then a dogmatic definition cannot make the belief necessary. If a definition can effect that conversion, then a dilemma arises.

    First horn: Prior to the definition, the Magisterium and the faithful alike can only see that the belief is probable, viz. that it is in logical sequence (per Newman) with the earlier tradition, and thus congruent with it, but not necessarily implied by that tradition, i.e. not formally equivalent to anything within it. If this is so, then the Magisterium lacks warrant enough to define the belief, because the clergy who constitute the Magisterium can, like everyone else, only see the belief to be probable, not necessary.

    Second horn: Prior to the definition, the Magisterium can see that the belief is necessary, even though the public tradition suffices only to show it to be more or less probable. If this is so, the teachers can see more than, in principle, the faithful as a whole can see. This undermines the public character of apostolic tradition, and subtly introduces new revelation, because after the definition the scope of truths fully knowable by the faithful has increased.

    Newman appears to opt for the second horn, according to his February 15, 1868 letter to John Stanislas Flanagan:

    “I conceive then that the Depositum is in such sense committed to the Church or to the Pope, that when the Pope sits in St. Peter’s chair, or when a Council of Fathers & doctors is collected round him, it is capable of being presented to their minds with that fullness and exactness, under the operation of supernatural grace, (so far forth and in such proportion of it as the occasion requires,) with which it habitually, not occasionally, resided in the minds of the Apostles;—a vision of it, not logical, and therefore consistent with errors in reasoning & of fact in the enunciation, after the manner of an intuition or an instinct. Nor do those enunciations become logical, because theologians afterwards can reduce them to their relations to other doctrines, or given them a position in the general system of theology. To such theologians they appear as deductions from the creed or formularized deposit, but in truth they are original parts of it, communicated per modum unius to the Apostles’ minds, & brought to light to the minds of the Fathers of the Council, under the temporary illumination of Divine Grace.”

    The grace there posited puts the Magisterium in a privileged epistemic position relative to the faithful at large. Protestants rejects that idea, as do Orthodox, at least those like Fr. Behr at St. Vladimir’s. The trouble with the position is that it cuts against the grain of St. Irenaeus’ defense of the catholic faith. On that point, compare Denis Minns, OP:

    Irenaeus does not and cannot grant that the Church or the bishops or the teachers of the Church, as bearers of the tradition, can determine what the content of the tradition is. If a place in the apostolic succession confers authority to determine, discover or develop the tradition, then one need only claim such a place in order to be able to claim apostolic authority for whatever one teaches, which is just what the gnostics did. (Irenaeus: An Introduction, p. 137; cf. pp. 134ff, 150-1)

    As regards the Nicene Creed, Newman’s theory is superfluous, and it interprets the “development” worked out by the fathers in a way at odds with what they consciously understood themselves to be doing. Consider, for example, how St. Gregory the Theologian answered those who objected to calling the Spirit “theos” on the ground that the New Testament never does so explicitly:

    “Since, then, there is so much difference in terms and things, why are you such a slave to the letter, and a partisan of the Jewish wisdom, and a follower of syllables at the expense of facts? But if, when you said twice five or twice seven, I concluded from your words that you meant Ten or Fourteen; or if, when you spoke of a rational and mortal animal, that you meant Man, should you think me to be talking nonsense? Surely not, because I should be merely repeating your own meaning; for words do not belong more to the speaker of them than to him who called them forth. As, then, in this case, I should have been looking, not so much at the terms used, as at the thoughts they were meant to convey; so neither, if I found something else either not at all or not clearly expressed in the Words of Scripture to be included in the meaning, should I avoid giving it utterance, out of fear of your sophistical trick about terms. In this way, then, we shall hold our own against the semi-orthodox—among whom I may not count you.” (Or. 31.24)

    Contrast Owen Chadwick’s remarks on Newman’s test of logical sequence:

    “Newman’s language, and the historical examples which he offered, prove without a shadow of question that when he talked about the Church perceiving a logical sequence, he was not using logic in the sense in which the logicians and the mathematicians would use it. Logical sequence meant a vague but general intellectual coherence. This is so manifest to the reader of the Essay that I will give but one historical illustration of his meaning. ‘St Justin or St Irenaeus might be without any digested ideas of Purgatory or Original Sin, yet have an intense feeling, which they had not defined or located, both of the fault of our first nature and the liabilities of our nature regenerate.’ Whatever intellectual connection might be held to be perceivable between a feeling of liabilities of our nature regenerate and a full doctrine of purgatory, it is patent that this connection cannot be described as a logical connection in any sense which would satisfy the logicians. The ‘logical sequence’ of Newman is not the ‘logical implication’ of the scholastics, though the latter might be a part or aspect of the former. It means rather a subsequent perception of a harmony or congruity or ‘naturalness’ in the way in which ideas have developed.

    “**It is therefore essential to Newman to affirm that new doctrines have appeared, and not only new in the sense in which a child who knows that 2 and 2 make 4 does not yet know that 4 and 4 make 8.** By his language about the ‘idea’ and its ‘aspects’ he sought to avoid the notion of a continuing revelation. The original revelation is unique: it was given partly in explicit doctrines, partly in perceptions which were left to be subsequently drawn out into doctrines, these latter being like the thoughts of a man who suddenly perceives the truth of a new proposition, exclaiming ‘Yes, I believed that all the time but I did not know I did because I did not know how to put it like that’.” (From Bossuet to Newman, pp. 156-7)

    The starred sentence highlights the departure from St. Gregory, whose justification for calling the Spirit “theos” followed a stricter test than Newman’s congruence or naturalness. It should be noted as well that Chadwick is not satisfied that Newman has rebutted the charge of admitting continuing revelation. He concludes his study of the development theory with this sentence: “The question then for those who think Newman’s theology is Catholic, is this: these new doctrines, of which the Church had a feeling or inkling but of which she was not conscious–in what meaningful sense may it be asserted that these new doctrines are not ‘new revelation’?”

    That is the objection I have raised above.

    Newman’s supporters sometimes turn to Or. 31.26 to argue that Gregory anticipated the development thesis. There are two problems with that analysis: First, when Gregory says “theology,” he is speaking about progression in our understanding of theology proper, not progression in doctrine generally. Second, there is no reason to think Gregory has in mind anything more than reservation or accommodation in the language of scripture and of the Church. That is, the apostles did not say the word “theos” directly of the Spirit for the same reasons that prompted St. Basil not to use it directly in his treatise On the Holy Spirit. And just as St. Basil, though he did not use the very word, left no room for doubt that the Spirit is God, so too the apostles left no room for doubt that the Spirit is God.

    Richard Bauckham’s comments in Jesus and the God of Israel allow for a distillation of how Newman’s development theory works as an apology for Roman Catholicism:

    Broadly speaking, there seem to be two dominant ways of interpreting the development from New Testament Christology to the Council of Nicaea and beyond. The first sees the New Testament as containing, in embryonic form, the source of the development which culminated in the Nicene theology of the fourth century. In other words, New Testament Christology is moving in the direction of recognizing Jesus Christ as truly and fully God, but it was left to the theologians of the fourth century to bring such fully divine Christology to full expression and to find adequate ways of stating it within the context of a Trinitarian doctrine of God. Against this first interpretation, my argument has been that, once we understand Jewish monotheism properly, we can see that the New Testament writers are already, in a deliberate and sophisticated way, expressing a fully divine Christology by including Jesus in the unique identity of God as defined by Second Temple Judaism. Once we recognize the theological categories with which they are working, it is clear that there is nothing embryonic or tentative about this. In its own terms, it is an adequate expression of a fully divine Christology. It is, as I have called it, a Christology of divine identity. The developmental model, according to which the New Testament sets a christological direction only completed in the fourth century, is therefore seriously flawed. (pp. 57-8)

    In a nutshell, the Newmanites embrace the first interpretation, what one might call the more liberal one, and use it for a conservative end: namely, they try to put apparent innovations like Papal Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption on a par with the Incarnation and the Trinity as though all alike were only embryonic in the teachings of the apostles. They then object to a “Lesbian” application of the Vincentian Canon, and say there is no principled reason to accept the outworking of some of these embryonic doctrines while not admitting the outworking of other embryonic doctrines.

    Bauckham is not alone in rejecting that approach to the history of doctrine. The Orthodox want nothing to do with it, and Protestants should concur with them about this. But to do so, I agree that Protestants may need to give up pet developments. Much as some westerners embraced a premise of the Pneumatomachi when they began to use the filioque as an answer for why the Son and the Spirit aren’t brothers, Calvin too embraced a Eunomian premise when he said that to be truly God, the Son must be himself autotheos, because being ingenerate and not merely being uncreate belongs to the divine essence. Once, however, Protestants return to approaching theology as the Cappadocians and St. Irenaeus did, they will have no need for Newman-style developments or for quasi-gnostic justifications of them. For, they can then drop absolute divine simplicity and can stop trying to make perichoresis into a mere substitute for the monarchy of the Father, instead of a consequence of it.

    Kind Regards,

    John

  118. I’ve basically finished going through Keith Mathison’s reply now. One point that Keith makes I think warrants specific underscoring is over “the rule of faith” that Mathison refers to beginning on page 36. I remember that when I first read Bryan and Neal’s critique that I was a little puzzled as why they spent virtually all of their time speaking about sola scriptura as a matter which applies to the individual Christian and virtually no time speaking to the historic Protestant understanding of the concept of sola scriptura which (as Mathison points out in his original work) is the ultimate standard of faith and practice for the Church. My perception at the time was that Neal and Bryan must be misreading something that Mathison said, and now this critique of Mathison’s confirms that for me. Neal and Bryan seemed to take Mathison’s use of “rule of faith” to mean a guide for how we as individuals understand what the Scriptures are saying about the Church, and they then crafted a long critique of the sola vs solo positions based on this understanding. But Mathison speaks of the “rule of faith” as the guide for the Church as to where the true Church exists and he is trying to emphasize that in his reply here. It would seem that Bryan and Neal missed this pivotal point and it sounds to me that there is still some serious misunderstanding here what Mathison is getting at.

    You Catholic folks – If you get nothing out of this debate but a good understanding of what Mathison is speaking of on this one point you will do yourself a great service as you interact with your Protestant friends in the future. It sounded like some of you might have gotten bogged down in the first two-thirds of the document where Mathison is presenting some supporting material. Well, keep reading! The heart of the matter is in that last one-third of the document.

  119. Sean and Nick:
    Re:

    Just examining Canon 6 of Nicea on its face, we see the notion of a single bishop governing a firmly established notion. How can Mathison claim the Church went off the rails so severely while simultaneously putting so much weight and faith in the Nicene Creed?

    It’s unclear, guys, why you think that monepiscopacy is an example of “severe” going off of the rails, as opposed to slight going off the rails. And a slight error on this point is not particularly problematic for the Reformed position.

    Recall that the canon states:

    Let the ancient customs prevail which were in vogue in Egypt and Libya and Pentapolis, to allow the bishop of Alexandria to have authority over all these parts, since this is also the treatment usually accorded to the bishop of Rome. Likewise with reference to Antioch, and in other provinces, let the seniority be preserved to the Churches. In general it is obvious that in the case in which anyone has been made a bishop without the Metropolitan’s approval, the great Council has prescribed that such a person must not be a Bishop. If, however, to the common vote of all, though reasonable and in accordance with an ecclesiastical Canon, two or three men object on account of a private quarrel, let the vote of the majority prevail.

    But Canon 6 does pose big problems for the papacy.

    a) The biggest problem is the argument saying that the bishop of Alexandria should enjoy a privilege because the bishop of Rome enjoys it. That suggests a view of essential parity between the bishops of Rome and Alexandria. One wouldn’t argue that the bishop of Chicago should enjoy some privilege because the pope enjoys it. One would say that the bishop of Chicago should enjoy some privilege because the bishop of Dallas also enjoys it. In other words, one doesn’t argue that a lesser bishop should enjoy the privileges of a greater bishop, but that the two bishops of equal authority should have the same privileges.

    b) There is also a secondary problem, in that it is obvious that outside of Rome’s immediate vicinity, no one feels the least need to run the ordination of bishops past the bishop of Rome, or to make their ordinations in any way contingent on papal approval. Instead, the buck stops at the metropolitan (or in some cases, majority vote!). I think this is also an important problem for arguments suggesting that the early church held to a papacy, but it is secondary in that I think that Roman apologists will be more willing to concede this and attempt to harmonize it with a papal regime.

    -TurretinFan

  120. “A creed’s authority does not depend on anyone’s agreement with it. A creed’s authority depends on whether it is true to the doctrine of Christ and the Apostles. Creeds are a written form of the confession of faith of the universal church.” KM, PDF, 44.

    My own journey led me in quite the opposite direction. It became obvious to me, even when I was a Protestant, that every major doctrinal dispute in the first six centuries of the Church could not have been resolved by mere citation of Bible verses. Rather, it required an elegant and rationally defensible interaction between the text of Scripture and certain philosophical categories. So, for example, when the First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) asserts that the Church believes in “one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance [ek tēs ousias] of the Father,” and when the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) affirms that Jesus Christ is “the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards his divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards his humanity” and “at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being,” both councils are in fact employing philosophical terms of art—such as “substance,” rational soul,” “consubstantial,” “nature,” “subsistent,” and “perfect”—that provide a conceptual framework by which we may better understand the depiction of Christ in Scripture.

    Just as the rules of grammar are essential to reading Scripture even though these rules are not derived from Scripture, the philosophical categories integral to the creeds are essential for deriving theology from Scripture even though they are not themselves contained in Scripture.

    Although the Church employed both Scripture and philosophy in its settlement of the disputes at Nicaea and Chalcedon, they were only finalized ecclesiastically when a Church Council affirmed one side as orthodox and the other as heretical. For this reason, the Catholic Church sees these judgments as the result of the Church’s Magisterium, in its service as interpreter of Scripture, acting in its role as the authoritative arbiter on doctrinal matters.

    If you read not only the creeds, but the councils’ own canons, you get a sense that their self-understanding was not Protestant. It is clear that they did not see themselves as offering a mere summary of Scripture–as if they were publishing a systematic theology. Rather, it seems that they believed that they had the authority to make doctrinal pronouncements that were binding. (In fact, you can’t find one citation of Scripture in the Council of Nicaea’s canons. If I missed one, I apologize. But I can’t find any).

  121. TFan #119,

    The monepiscopacy of Canon 6 is of the highest form: Papacy and Patriarchate. So yes, that’s severely going off the rails for Protestant ears! (Also note that, among other “Catholic distinctives,” the Canons explicitly teach the three-fold distinction between deacon, priest, and bishop – something which Protestantism generally denies.) The point Mathison was getting at was that the notion of monepiscopacy was a poisonous error that began in 150AD and was the start of the sacerdotal system where priests and layman were subject to a genuine ecclesial authority anchored in Apostolic Succession and not the overthrowing of church leadership and self-appointment as in Protestantism. The first third of Mathison’s paper spends significant time commenting on monepiscopacy for this reason, especially as it relates to the Papacy (which Mathison tries to rebut by arguing the monepiscopacy was a distortion of the original collegiality of leaders in Rome).

    As for the rest of your comments,this article shows conclusively why Canon 6 of Nicaea supports the Papacy, and the comments you make fail to take into consideration certain details.

  122. There seems to be a problem with the above link in my post #121. Here is the corrected link for Why Canon 6 of Nicaea clearly supports the Papacy.

  123. Here is another seeming problem. KM states,

    “Cross should understand that the doctrinal categories that apply to one doctrine (e.g. Christology) do not necessarily apply to another doctrine (e.g. Ecclesiology).” P. 20

    “The concept of an invisible church does not eliminate unity as a mark of the Church. It simply does not define it in Rome’s selfserving way. Nor does it define unity in Rome’s anti-trinitarian way. It allows the Word of God to inform our understanding of unity. It allows the biblical doctrine of the Trinity to inform our concept of oneness.”
    P. 29

    Is this a superficial or apparent inconsistency? Why is it that categories taken from Christology can’t be used in ecclesiology, but categories relative to divine unity can be used in ecclesiology?

  124. TF:

    I think the atheist outsider, after reading the posts on this thread and the 1,200 posts on the thread before it, would conclude that the scriptures are sufficient in saying whatever somebody wants them to say.

  125. Devin,

    I love curve balls.

    John #117. Awesome. Email me plz.

    Andrew M,

    I am not Catholic and I am having trouble seeing where the supposed principled distinction is. On sola is the individual’s judgment ever pen-ultimately normative such as to be bound absolutely by these subordinate authorities or no?

    If not, then they are only normative for the individual as long as he assents to them on sola. The only difference is with respect to existence subordinate authorities and not in the nature of their normative power relative to the individual’s judgment.

    Also, his defining the church in terms of the rule of faith means that there was either many churches for the first three or four centuries or there was no church, for they didn’t all agree on what constituted the rule of faith, that is, the canon of scripture and they never came to all accept a Protestant canon.

    Likewise, the Apostles didn’t write down “X” in all of its fullness in Scripture since they left out the formal canon. That is at least one thing not in it. The contents of the rule of faith is not formally determined wholly by the rule of faith itself. And further (p. 38) KM asserts that no individual can come up with their own rule of faith today, since it is fixed in the scriptures. This is begging the question first and foremost. And secondly, the Protestants did so in their narrowing of the canon. And third, if the canon is revisable, why some new group can’t form their own canon is beyond me. To say that the rule of faith can be historically verified is a bit overblown. How does one verify say the canonicity of Ruth? Hebrews? So quite to the contrary, formally speaking, Protestants created out of the material in the preceding tradition their own rule of faith.

  126. TF:

    Antioch and Alexandria were important sees precisely because of their relationship to St. Peter (he himself was at Antioch and St. Mark at Alexandria). Pope Benedict writes about this in “God’s Word: Scripture, Tradition, and the Church.”

  127. While I have problems with Mathison’s assertion that once the Catholic mindset is dismissed, the distinctives between Sola and Solo Scriptura become visible; for the moment, I’ll accept TF’s explanation in #105. My comments here do not rely on whether or not they become visible if a certain set of assumptions are abandoned. However, since he starts by performing an analysis of certain claims the Catholic Church makes, I will begin my critique of Mathison’s article at that point.

    He does a fairly reasonable and accurate job of describing what the Church claims for and about herself. Then he provides a test for each claim and shows how the Roman Catholic Church fails each and every test. With each test failed, he concludes that the Church cannot be what she says she is. This would be wonderful if it weren’t for one thing. It is a strawman. And defeating a strawman shows nothing.

    What makes Mathison’s argument here a strawman? It’s that he is the one who defines what each test is. Who is to say that he got any of the tests correct or that they are truly objective? It can be shown that some of the tests are so far from being true measures of truth that if Mathison were to apply them consistently, he would have to reject some of what he considers within the canon of Scripture.

    Since a combox response could never sufficiently cover Mathison’s critique of the Catholic Church’s claims for herself, I’m going to limit my comments to one test — that Peter could not have been the first pope because he never acknowledges that he knows he is the in this position and that others (specifically Paul) deny his authority. Mathison objects that Peter does not even appoint his successor, so he could not have been the first pope. Yet, John Paul II did not appoint Benedict XVI. JP I did not appoint JP II. By example, it’s easy to see that a predecessor pope naming his successor is not a valid test for filling the office.

    That someone as intelligent as Mathison would use 1 Pet 5:1 as an indication that Peter viewed himself as being equal to and with no authority over any other presbyter is laughable. Does Mathison assume that when the President begins an address with, “My fellow Americans,” that he is now abdicating the Office of President and is now simply an ordinary citizen with no authority? I know that when my squadron commanders would assemble all of their officers and address us as “fellow pilots,” that they definitely were not relinquishing any authority over us. Simply put, to highlight an area of commonality does not negate any differences which are present.

    Furthermore, the very fact that Peter writes these “fellow presbyters” and provides them with instructions to follow indicates that he assumes at least some level of authority over them. So while he may be a “fellow presbyter” with them, Peter is not “just like them.” He has, and exercises, authority over them.

    Paul’s rebuke of Peter in Galatians is completely misunderstood. First, Catholics do not deny that popes can, have, and will sin; and should be appropriately corrected when they do so. It does not follow that to provide correction is to dismiss authority. But let’s look at this rebuke, but not limit ourselves to the sole event. Remember that Paul frequently makes the appeal to his audience, “Am I not an apostle?” Throughout his epistles he must consistently promote his status. It is almost like he fears that his readers do not accept his authority. Another element is the topic which was the cause of the rebuke was Peter’s judaizing. However, it’s important to remember that immediately after the Council of Jerusalem, when Paul was sent forth to teach that conversion to Judaism was unnecessary, he goes ahead and has Timothy circumsized anyway. Why? To smooth over relations with the Jews in the area. If Paul’s intent had been to show that even good people and leaders could fall into this sin, so the Galatians ought to be wary, he could have easily used himself as the example. After all, he refers to himself as the greatest of sinners.

    Instead, Paul chooses to write of his rebuke of Peter for the same sin. Using Peter rather than himself allows Paul to make the statement that he is important enough to correct someone with Peter’s authority and importance. It’s a repeat of his frequent appeal, “Am I not an apostle?” It confirms Peter’s authority.

    Finally, let’s assume for a moment that Mathison is correct and Peter does not know that he is the first pope, that he does not know when he is speaking with the charism of infallibility. Does this actually mean that he cannot be the first pope? Let’s take the same test and apply it elsewhere. In 1 Cor, Paul gives the Corinthians commands which he expressly states come from him, not from the Lord. He is unaware of the fact that the words of these commands would later be held as Scripture and therefore, by definition, from the Lord. Paul’s unawareness is the same as the unawareness that Mathison asserts for Peter. If this makes Peter unable to fulfill the office of the papacy and to act in limited circumstances under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in an infallible manner, then would not Paul also be similarly impaired from infallibly moving his stylus as he inked the letter to the Corinthians? A consistent application of this test would have Mathison rejecting 1 Cor as Scripture.

    I could provide more examples as a critique of Mathison’s argument, but the hour is late and I have written enough already. The bottom line is that because Mathison defines the test for each claim, he is able to rig the results so that they are in his favor. This reduces his position to basically saying that the Catholic Church is not what she claims, because he says she isn’t.

    Since I have a “day job,” that keeps me quite busy, it is very likely that I won’t be able to respond to those who disagree with me (nor to those who agree!). So I’m certain I won’t have the last word.

    Either way, the peace of Christ to all who read this.

  128. John,

    Without a theory of development, or of the special illumination of certain teachers in some circumstances, Protestants will have to give up more than would be possible so to remain (classically) Protestant. [The other option would be to admit that the Church ceased to exist, or was in a state of mass apostasy, for 1,500 years.]

    It seems to me that the public character of revelation is not undermined by the fact that not everyone has access to its full extent, or its full significance, at any one time.

    Of course the individual fathers, in their writings, adduced reasons, from Scripture and the earlier fathers, for their teachings. Theologians still do that today. Newman, as I recall, was not so much describing the way that any one father or theologian argued, as the overall picture of the history of doctrine, in such a way as is consistent with the “Idea” of the Christian Faith. No individual father claimed to be, or to himself speak as, the Church. So the evaluation of how one father argued cannot stand in for an evaluation of how the Church’s doctrine develops.

    I am not sure how to take Minns’s statement about “claiming” apostolic authority, in relation to the teaching authority putatively conferred by [sacramental] apostolic succession. Surely part of the purpose of the latter, as appealed to by Catholics, is that it *confers* this authority, in an objective, publicly-verifiable manner. If you are Catholic, you can’t just “claim” apostolic authority for what you teach. You have to teach as part of, and in accordance with, the college of bishops. As I wrote earlier, this is in part what distinguishes Catholics from those who claim to teach the true faith, but have no root in the Apostles. Thus, with Irenaeus, we rightly ask, not merely “What is your interpretation?” but “Who are you?”

    Andrew

  129. In the interest of keeping the # of posts from going exponential, I’ve combined several responses:

    Perry Robinson: (#76)

    the same evidence that is touted against episcopacy also serves to falsify the thesis that the early church had in mind those Protestant notions concerning ordination and succession. As I pointed out already, we have no significant evidence of non-sacerdotal ordinational theory or that either of the two lower orders could ordain, which is the heart of the apostolic succession that Protestants reject.

    Perry, the Scriptures which I quoted are consistent with ordination by other than bishops. There is no clear evidence that either Timothy or Titus were bishops, yet they were to “appoint” bishops/presbyters and cautioned about laying on hands.

    [The church fathers] did not endorse anything like the right of private judgment, that each man cannot be bound except by his own judgment.

    Nor did the Reformers. See Getting the Reformation Wrong by James Payton.

    If Scripture were formally sufficient, terms like homoousios would be unnecessary.

    The use of homoousios according to the bishops at Nicea served the same purpose as the Creed itself: to summarize what the many passages of Scripture teach about Christ. Your statement is mere assertion.

    the liturgical use of books contained in it an implicit apostolic tradition of what works were to be normatively received by the church as apostolic and that is something not contained in Scripture since Scripture contains no formal canon.

    Nathan B. #71
    You said you were told you were going to hell for not believing in the solas or the Reformed TULIP. I’m really sorry to hear that; I obviously disagree with anyone who holds that opinion.
    You wrote: “Apostolic Succession means that those who are ordained have a teaching authority that is not derived from the norms of scripture and as such the exercise of their office is a distinct and infallible norm for the Church and what it means to be a Christian.”
    I defer to Andrew McCallum’s comment: “please, let’s not make the error or stating our paradigmatic assumptions as if they are established facts.”

    Re: the Liturgy, the elements are indeed described in Scripture (prayers, hymns, sermons, baptism, the eucharist, etc.). I would caution, however, that expecting liturgical actions to assure salvation is no more efficacious than the Jews of Paul’s day expecting to be saved by circumcision.

    Re: changes in sola scriptura? Assertions are a dime a dozen: please give specific examples.

    Mateo: #70
    Please read post #48. Arguments about interpretations that do not relate to doctrines necessary for salvation are off-topic. You incorrectly identified me as Lutheran, and said: “I presume that you believe that Catholics, Southern Baptists, Second Day Adventists, etc. also interpret the scriptures in a heretical manner.”

    Sean Patrick:#??
    “sola scriptura is a much later development than the explicit papacy”
    How so? I quoted Augustine (Andrew McCallum responded well: “please, let’s not make the error or stating our paradigmatic assumptions as if they are established facts.”)

    Scripture can never stand completely independent of the ancient consensus of the church’s teaching without serious hermeneutical difficulties…” (D. H. Willians)

    Are you really saying that Scripture has no authority in any of the passages for which there was no “unanimous consent” of the church fathers? As Mathison states in his response, there is very little for which “unanimous consent” can be found among the church fathers other than Trinitarian theology.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  130. To Nick re: #103
    “. . . how can an uninspired set of propositions function as “authoritative” for Christians who are ultimately and only bound to what is “God-breathed” – inspired (even formally sufficient)? What ever happened to “we must listen to God rather than men” that the Reformers championed? This really is a root-level problem for Mathison’s thesis.”
    Did you not read Mathison’s explanation?

    Yet interpretation does not eliminate authority. If Jesus is standing before you and tells you something, the fact that you must interpret what He says in order to understand it does not mean that you have more authority than Jesus. … If you are an adherent of sola scriptura, you are going to notice that everybody else started marching in a different direction and you are going to stop and ask whether you misinterpreted what Jesus said because you realize that interpretation is involved in all communication and that as a sinner, you might have misinterpreted what He said. In any case, the fact that interpretation of Jesus’ words is necessary does not mean that those hearing and interpreting His words have more authority than Him.

    The authority resides with the primary source, not the secondary source which derives its summary of the rule of faith contained in Scripture. Whether you have the ability to comprehend the Scripture and/or the summary is another issue – but your understanding or lack thereof does not change the locus of authority.

    In your following blockquotes from the Reformed Confessions you posed a few questions:

    -those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other [this rules out the need for a Creed, since a formal list should be possible], that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Westminster 1:7)

    Your assertion does not follow: Scripture does not give a formal list in the kind of format you and many others want. The summary in the Creed serves that purpose.

    -All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith [directly refuting Mathison's claim the summary, esp via Nicene, is part of the rule of faith!], or practice; but to be used as a help in both. (Westminster 31:4

    There is no conflict between the Creeds being recognized as a fallible summary of the rule of faith found in the infallible Scriptures. The Creeds being secondary sources cannot supercede the primary source: Scripture.

    For, since the whole manner of worship, which God requires of us, is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures…

    “Written at large” is what Roman Catholics complain about: the Scripture does not present a concise summary as do the Creeds. An act of summarizing does not necessarily conflict with the primary source unless it distorts or misinterprets it. There is no intrinsic problem here.

    Therefore, in this point, we do willingly receive the three creeds, namely, that of the Apostles, of Nice, and of Athanasius [this implicitly refutes the idea the Nicene is seen by these Protestants a summary of all Apostolic doctrine, confining it's importance to the Trinity]: likewise that, which, conformable thereunto, is agreed upon by the ancient fathers. (Belgic Confession, article 9)

    How so? Since your Catechism teaches that none of the Creeds obsolete the earlier ones, why do you insist on a different rule for Protestants?

    Other Protestant resources I checked don’t come close to what Mathison proposes, and they respect the Apostles and Nicene Creeds simply because they are ancient and teach proper Trinitarian theology according to Scriptures (well short of being part of the “rule of faith”).

    This dovetails with Devin’s post (#58):
    Devin asked where Scripture gives the definition of sola Scriptura? Is it not just another extra-biblical tradition of men? Excuse me, Devin, but how is saying that the Scriptures teach what is necessary for salvation an extra-biblical tradition from men?
    “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40).
    Are you saying that the Scriptures don’t teach you to believe in Jesus for everlasting life?
    “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25)
    And, “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31).
    Need I go on quoting what Scripture teaches about salvation???

    Why do you assume that believing and confessing Trinitarian theology is not enough for salvation? (cf. Rom. 10:9)

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  131. Nick @ #85:
    “Those doctrines are considered “essential” by Protestants – if they’re not tied to a ‘pure and orthodox’ Gospel, then by your own admission the (Pretend) Reformers had no right to cause division in the Church.”

    Nick, it was the Pope who excommunicated Luther and caused the division in the Church – just as the Papal legates caused the division between East and West centuries earlier, not the other way around. Once the division occurred, Luther and others began to articulate the differences, including those which they sensed were irreconcilable. These differences included doctrines related to salvation that resulted from the paradigmatic differences related to the use of Scripture and tradition. So, your caricature is oversimplified and inaccurate.

    Thank you for bringing attention to the problem with my statement about doctrine ‘X.’ It should read: “The question of whether or not a particular doctrine ‘X’ that is taught or implied by Scripture was not included in a Creed does not prove that Scripture does not teach it.”

    Your assertions about Mathison’s “serious problems” are overstated:
    1) The grounds for the Reformation stand on the basis of the second part of the sola scriptura description in the Anglican Articles of Religion: “so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” Rome taught and continues to teach as necessary to salvation things which are not taught by Scripture.

    2) Your second point only makes sense if you assume “the very sources” you speak of to be infallible. Otherwise, it should be expected that people don’t agree with everything others teach. And, BTW – how many bishops at Nicea and Chalcedon taught that the bishop of Rome had universal jurisdiction or possessed an irrevocable charism of infallibility?

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  132. Francis B. #120
    Re: the bishops at the Council of Nicea:

    It is clear that they did not see themselves as offering a mere summary of Scripture–as if they were publishing a systematic theology. Rather, it seems that they believed that they had the authority to make doctrinal pronouncements that were binding. (In fact, you can’t find one citation of Scripture in the Council of Nicaea’s canons. If I missed one, I apologize. But I can’t find any).

    There is no dichotomy between publishing a summary of the teaching of Scripture on the Trinity and making “doctrinal pronouncements that were binding.” Did not Jesus say, “The Scripture cannot be broken”? To contradict or distort Scripture is to invite anathema. Moreover, the canons of the Council do not represent the complete record of the bishops’ proceedings, but Theodoret has preserved for us the following in his Church History:

    Note Constantine’s opening remarks to the Council:

    “For the gospels, the writings, and the oracles of the ancient prophets, clearly teach us what we ought to believe concerning the divine nature. Let, then, all contentious disputation be discarded; and let us seek in the divinely-inspired word the solution of the questions at issue.” (1.6)

    “The bishops all agreed … that the Son is by nature only-begotten of God, Word, Power, and sole Wisdom of the Father [1 Cor 1:24]; that He is, as John said, ‘the true God ,’ and, as Paul has written, ‘the brightness of the glory, and the express image of the person of the Father’ … They then, with still greater clearness, briefly declared that the Son is of [the same nature – homoousios] with the Father; for this, indeed, is the signification of the passages which have been quoted.” (1.7)

    The bishops describe the word, homoousios, as the “signification of the passages which have been quoted” – i.e., the word is a summary of the passages. Also, please note below the rejection of Arius teaching “since no passage of the inspired Scripture uses the terms. . . .”

    “since no passage of the inspired Scripture uses the terms ‘out of the non-existent,’ or that ‘there was a time when He was not,’ nor indeed any of the other phrases of the same class, it did not appear reasonable to assert or to teach such things.” (ibid. 1.11)

    The above description of the proceedings at the Council of Nicea are a perfect example of what the Anglican statement on sola scriptura says:

    Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

    As for the philosophical component in the Creed, don’t forget the words of the Westminster Confession, Articles 6 & 7 on sola scriptura:

    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men . . . All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them

    Since humans long before Christ used philosophical thought, use of it rightly belongs to the “due use of the ordinary means.”

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  133. Dr. Beckwith,

    I can journey part of the way with you. The rule of faith by which St. Irenaeus and others in the early Church interpreted scripture was not itself derived from scripture. It came from the oral preaching of the apostles, and summed up their message, giving the thesis as it were, and organizing this around the Triadic profession made at baptism.

    At the same time, early catholics like Irenaeus firmly believed that what the apostles preached is also what they wrote. That’s a basic catholic identity. Thus–although never derived from scripture–the rule of faith provides scripture’s thesis; for the message of scripture is one and the same message that the apostles both proclaimed orally and handed on to their successors and to all posterity.

    Because the rule or canon sums up the message of the apostles, it is a treasure to the Church, and provides a reliable and handy guide to the interpretation of the apostolic writings. Thus, by cleaving fast to the rule received at baptism, and by letting it guide our hermeneutics, we keep the apostolic faith in its integrity always before us, and so avoid making the apostles and prophets to contradict themselves.

    That last idea is key to understanding the trouble with Newman’s theory.

    Irenaeus did not believe he could demonstrate the gnostics’ errors only to people who already agreed with him, accepting the catholic and apostolic rule of faith. If he did, there would have been little use to arguing against the heretics from scripture, which is what the bulk of AH does. For, there would have been no common ground. However, because the heretics, ignoring the rule, interpreted scripture ad libitum, in a way that made it incoherent, Irenaeus could answer them by demonstrating the contradictions that their interpretations caused. The heretics created vicious dialectics, inevitably pitted what the scripture said in one place against what it said in another. And so, by bringing the contradictions into open view, the orthodox could decisively refute heresy. To that extent, the fathers’ approach to upholding tradition is genuinely apophatic.

    What’s problematic about Newman is that he surrenders the common ground on which the fathers confidently did battle against the heretics. He instead suggests (quite corrosively, I believe) that the scriptures may really be susceptible of an Arian or Macedonian interpretation, and says that to know for sure that those interpretations are wrong we must lean on the authority of the Roman Magisterium. That simply is not catholic by the standards of St. Irenaeus. For him, it is true, the bishops have substantial authority. They are both the teachers that Christ by the apostles set over the Church, and they are also, as such, the legitimate governors of the Church. But they don’t have a special epistemic function with respect to how the faithful access the tradition. For more on that, please consult Fr. Minns’ book cited in my previous comment.

    As a rough analogy, one can think of how the Supreme Court operates in our country. It interprets the laws and its interpretations are enforced because it has juridical authority. However, the Supreme Court serves no epistemic function, nor does it have privileged access to the contents of our legal tradition. That is why I can say quite assuredly that the rights “living constitution”-types discover are novelties. Even as a common citizen, I have the same access to the constitution that the Justices themselves do; and thus, I can in principle see for myself when they’re right and when they’re wrong.

    I would say Newman’s theory has the same basic pitfalls as the “living constitution.” Of course, it would be ridiculous to liken such beliefs as the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption, considered in themselves, to the travesty of justice that is Roe v. Wade. But the logic that lets the Magisterium definitively locate Mary’s Assumption within the depositum is eerily like the logic that allows the Supreme Court to discover a right to abortion in the constitution. Neither is necessitated by the original, public meaning of the source to which it is traced. And public meaning is precisely what St. Gregory the Theologian was getting at when he said, as above, “words do not belong more to the speaker of them than to him who called them forth.” In fact, it’s because St. Maximus the Confessor believed the same thing that he could take so bold a stand against the heretics in his time. He knew what the apostolic tradition said, and he knew the Patriarch was wrong, and he also knew (as he told his interrogators) that, even if Rome should cave (!), a faithful Christian had no choice but to reject all those who preached another gospel than the one the Church had received.

    To make this concrete, consider something James Gaffney, SJ, says in Vatican II: The Theological Dimension, p. 161-2:

    “…the present situation of Roman Catholic thought on our subject has almost as its most prominent aspect a paradoxical one. The paradox exists most conspicuously between the apparent implications of what the recent papacy has been doing in the realm of dogmatic definition, and what recent theologians have been saying about the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. On the one hand, as I have attempted to illustrate from the case of the Assumption, we do have dogma, infallible expression of the revelation, the affirmation of which is not clearly discoverable in Holy Scripture, nor even in an early consensus of the Church’s authoritative teachers. On the other hand, as appears from the writings of Congar, Tavard, Geiselmann and others, we also have historical evidence sufficient to persuade competent theologians that Tradition itself testifies to the doctrinal completeness of Scripture. If one accepts the dogma, as must all Catholics, and at the same time allows the cogency or at least plausibility of this historical conclusion, as do increasinly many Catholics, it follows logically that one at least probably must be able to know that a given doctrine is somehow in Scripture without at the same time being able clearly to locate it there. The Church may be said, in such a view, to interpret Scripture, in the sense that it makes known truths which Scripture contains but does not readily yield to its readers, but it must be confessed that this is to require the word ‘interpret’ to sustain a very special and unfamiliar nuance.”

    The trouble lies in finding a meaningful sense in which that nuance doesn’t match the nuance whereby the gnostics could claim to be interpreting scripture when they discovered the Pleroma in Our Lord’s sayings. According to St. Irenaeus, when the gnostics were refuted from scripture, they tried to play up ambiguities in support of their cause. They complained about the catholic interpretation of the scriptures, quia varie sint dictae, et quia non possit ex his inveniri veritas ab his qui nesciant traditionem, “because (they allege) the scriptures were spoken in a manifold way, and because the truth cannot be discovered from them by those who are ignorant of [their] tradition.” (AH, 3.2.1)

    Nobody can discover the Blessed Virgin’s Assumption in scripture in a straightforward sense, even if there may be typological hints to it, as in Ps. 132:8. Nor is there a tradition outside the bible and yet from the apostles that teaches it. If there are any doubts on that score, one need only consult the recent study by Shoemaker, or the articles by Holweck back in 1910 in the Ecclesiastical Review.

    The evidences for the Assumption boil down to the examples stated in my initial comment. And those evidences, I contend, whilst sufficient to make the belief plausible, fall short of constituting a true demonstration. Please don’t misunderstand what I mean by this. The public tradition is quite enough for the belief to be received as a pious opinion, and perhaps enough even for the Church to recommend it to the faithful, but it’s not enough to make belief in the Assumption something necessitated by apostolic tradition. Thus, to locate in scripture a belief like the Assumption or like the Immaculate Conception (or like Papal Infallibility, or the Filioque, or the Tridentine Soteriology) which it does not “readily yield,” one must, apparently, like the gnostics, rely on the authority and tradition of a special, privileged teacher, in this case the Roman Magisterium.

    To wrap this up, my honest opinion is that the peculiar dogmatic maximalism which the RCC has embraced constitutes a Gordian Knot which won’t be unraveled till the Magisterium adopts the Alexandrian solution by abandoning Roman pretensions to infallibility vis-a-vis the rest of the Church. Till then, though Roman Catholics and other Christians can (and should) work together in bringing Christ’s message to a dying world, the reunification of Christendom will, sadly, not be a real possibility.

    The road forward, if I am to suggest one, would have us return to the way the fathers approached apostolic tradition. And that’s why, though I’m not Eastern Orthodox, I can heartily recommend heeding what Fr. Behr, no mean scholar of the fathers, has said,

    It is not that the bishops, instituted by the apostles (who are not thought of as the first bishops, as they would be by Cyprian), automatically preserved the tradition of the apostles — the Gospel which the apostles delivered — but that they are bishops of the Church only to the extent that they do so, for the Church is founded upon the Gospel.

    More important is the fact that the content of tradition is nothing other than that which is also preserved in a written form, as Scripture — they are not two different sources. Tradition is not the accumulation of various customs, nor does it provide us with access to knowledge necessary for salvation that is not also contained in Scripture. It is the Gnostics, according to Irenaeus, who appeal to tradition for teachings not contained in Scripture.

    The community founded upon the apostolic Gospel, the Church, is also the community which has recognized certain writings as apostolic and as authoritative Scripture (and will eventually speak of a canon of Scripture). As there were many writings laying claim to apostolic status, the claim to apostolicity, however, was not itself enough to justify the recognition of a particular writing as Scripture. What was essential was the conformity of the writing to the apostolic Gospel which founded the Church, which has been preserved intact, and which had since come to be phrased in terms of a rule/canon of truth/faith. This also means that the apostolic writings are accepted as Scripture within a community that lays claim to the correct interpretation of these writings. Tradition is, as Florovsky put it commenting on Irenaeus, Scripture rightly understood. In Irenaeus’ vivid image, those who interpret Scripture in a manner which does not conform to the rule of truth are like those who, seeing a beautiful mosaic of a king, dismantle the stones and reassemble them to form the picture of a dog, claiming that this was the original intention of the writer (Against the Heresies, 1.8).

    It is not that what is claimed to be the picture of a king can be arbitrarily imposed upon Scripture — Scripture is fixed — it is “the ground and pillar of our faith,” as Irenaeus puts it, modifying Paul’s words, about the Church, to Timothy (1 Tim 3:15; although as Bart Ehrman has noted, parts of the text were modified during the course of the second century to produce a more ‘orthodox’ text). Scripture is that to which one must continually return, to be sure of the ground on which we stand.

    If tradition is essentially the right interpretation of Scripture, then it cannot change — and this means, it can neither grow nor develop. A tradition with a potential for growth ultimately undermines the Gospel itself — it leaves open the possibility for further revelation, and therefore the Gospel would no longer be sure and certain. If our faith is one and the same as that of the apostles, then, as Irenaeus claimed, it is equally immune from improvement by articulate or speculative thinkers as well as from diminution by inarticulate believers (Against the Heresies, 1.10.2). We must take seriously the famous saying of St. Vincent of Lérins: “We must hold what has been believed everywhere, always and by all” (Commonitorium, 2).

    From an Orthodox perspective, there simply is, therefore, no such thing as dogmatic development. What there is, of course, is ever new, more detailed and comprehensive explanations elaborated in defense of one and the same faith — responding, each time, to a particular context, a particular controversy etc. But it is one and the same faith that has been believed from the beginning — the continuity of the correct interpretation of Scripture. And for this reason, the Councils, as Fr. John Meyendorff pointed out, never formally endorsed any aspect of theology as dogma which is not a direct (and correct) interpretation of the history of God described in Scripture: only those aspects were defined as dogma which pertain directly to the Gospel. So, for instance, the only aspect pertaining to the Virgin Mary that was ever recognized as dogma is that she is Theotokos — “Mother of God” — for she gave birth to our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ — it is something which pertains to the Incarnation, rather than to Mary herself. Whilst individual theologians have speculated about other aspects concerning the Virgin herself, and her glorification, items not directly pertaining to the Gospel of Christ’s work of salvation, such as the Assumption and the Immaculate conception, have never been held to have the status of dogma in the Orthodox Church.

    Grace and Peace,

    John

  134. TF,

    While I agree that canon 6 is a problem for Rome, but it is also a problem for Protestantism. First it testifies to the wide scope of the non-Protestant nature of the Nicene Church. So even if it proves the falsity of Rome’s claim, it is also significant evidence that Protestantism was not the faith of the Nicene Church. Of course being Orthodox I think it testifies to the tertium quid between Rome and her rather unruly children.

    As for the monarchial episcopacy being only a slight going off the rails, here are some reasons for thinking that it isn’t so from a Protestant perspective. First, John Knox and no a few others didn’t take it to be, but a severe malformation of the church. His arguments and those of countless others Reformed writers should be kept in mind. Second, it speaks to the marks of the church since it is directly germane to church discipline. Third, episcopacy isn’t merely the triad of offices but the claim that the power to ordain is of the episcopate alone and so entails a sacerdotalism and this was most objectionable to the Reformers.

  135. Mateo said:

    Lutheranism and Calvinism are distinct religions that teach contradictory doctrine. You are a Lutheran, and Keith Mathison is a Calvinist, so presumably you believe your Lutheran sect interprets the scriptures correctly and Mathison’s sect interprets the scriptures in a heretical manner. I presume that you believe that Catholics, Southern Baptists, Second Day Adventists, etc. also interpret the scriptures in a heretical manner .

    Mateo, you’re very confused. Protestants don’t call each other heretics when we disagree. We don’t consider the areas of disagreement among ourselves serious enough to warrant that term. I’ve worshiped in Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, and been in Bible studies with many of the same, and have always been accepted as a brother in Christ. You’d do better to try and understand those who you disagree with before making grossly inaccurate statements such as this.

  136. KM writes: “The concept of an invisible church does not eliminate unity as a mark of the Church. It simply does not define it in Rome’s selfserving way.”

    ad hominem circumstantial.

    Even Gordon Clark spoke from the grave to point this out. :-)

  137. Steve G (re:#134),

    Most contemporary Protestants do not call each other heretics when they disagree. In this respect, however, most contemporary Protestants are quite opposed to the historic Reformers themselves. The Reformers did not see one’s position on baptism (infants or believers only) or the Eucharist (Real Presence of Jesus or not?) as being a “non-essential” matter. Baptism and the Eucharist were utterly essential matters to the Reformers. To the extent that most of today’s Protestants are different, they are taking a much more minimalist view of the Christian faith than did Luther and Calvin. Dr. David Anders writes of this phenomenon here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/how-john-calvin-made-me-a-catholic/

  138. John,

    There are good answers to your objection to development of doctrine, but this isn’t the thread in which to discuss development of doctrine. (A development-of-doctrine post will come in the future, God willing.) If we opened the discussion here to just anything related to Protestant-Catholic disagreement, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to engage in a focused and disciplined examination of anything; it would become merely a place to sound-off in a chaotic free-for-all, rather than a place to reason together carefully and fruitfully. So please reserve your comments about development of doctrine for our forthcoming post on that subject, and if you wish to participate in this present thread, please stick to discussing Keith’s reply. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  139. Steve G,

    Sorry– I was actually replying to your comment #135, not #134 (which is from Perry Robinson).

  140. Lojahw,

    I deny your assertion that the scriptures you mentioned are consistent with ordination by others than bishops. I deny it because your claim depends on the assumption that ordaining presbyters were equivalent with the Reformation notion of a presbyter. I don’t think they are. And I don’t think the Scriptures or the tradition support such a claim. And I don’t think you can provide a demonstration to that effect either.

    Further, I think there is textual evidence that Timothy and such were presbyter/bishops who alone could ordain, distinct from other presbyters. And I think we know they were bishops from some of the same sources that inform us that Matthew was written by Matthew the apostle.

    Second, if we are limited to the scriptures in the way you and KM employ them, we have to suppose that the biblical teaching of presbyters being an ordaining source was lost well before the end of the 2nd century as we have no substantial evidence of mere presbyterial ordination at that time or beyond. This isn’t even taking into consideration the Ignatian epistles which are quite monarchial or the Didache, Ireneaus, Polycarp, Tertullian and Hippolytus.

    Third, laying on of hands is not essential to ordination by Reformed lights, which is why the Presbyterians forbade it for a clean century to make sure the idea of a transfer of divine power died out. Even if succession came through the presbyterate, the Presbyterians lost it long ago.

    As for private judgment, if the Reformers taught no such doctrine then someone had better correct all the Reformed books by major Reformed theologians over the last four centuries that contain such a teaching, pace Payton. Take Charles Hodge for an example.

    ‘What Protestants deny on this subject is, that Christ has appointed any officer, or class of officers, in his Church to whose interpretation the Scriptures the people are bound to submit as of final authority. What they affirm is that He has made it obligatory upon every man to search the Scriptures for himself, and determine on his own discretion what they require of him to believe and to do…That the obligations to faith and obedience are personal. Every man is responsible for his religious faith and his moral conduct. He cannot transfer that responsibility to others; nor can others assume it in his stead. He must answer for himself; and if he must answer for himself, he must judge for himself.” Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 184, under the heading “the Right of Private Judgment.”

    Francis Turretin, among others says pretty much the same in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology,

    “Although in the external court of the church every private person is bound to submit to synodical decisions (unless he wants to be excommunicated), and such judgment ought to flourish for the preservation of order, peace and orthodoxy, the suppression of heretical attempts: it does not follow that the judgment is supreme and infallible. For an appeal may always be made from it to the internal forum of conscience, nor does it bind anyone in this court further than he is persuaded of its agreement with the Scriptures.” vol. 1, Question 20, p.161. See also vol. 3, 31st Question, pp. 285-293.

    Further, the charge of tu quo que would make little or no sense if the Protestant charge against Catholics (and Orthodox) is that their position reduces to private judgment as well. As for Payton’s work, his few comments on the notion of private judgment do not seem well informed and seem to stand in direct contradiction to well received and representative sources as I cited above. Nor are these sources atypical in saying what they do as I can easily cite another half dozen Reformed sources, both contemporary and older that say the same. Consequently the doctrine of the Right of Private Judgment is what I claimed it was.

    I disagree with your gloss on Nicea. Nicea’s use of the term homoousios was to fix and by so doing, exclude in a normative judgment the Arian model of interpreting what it means for the Son to be begotten of the Father. This was so because the Arians agreed that the Son was begotten, of the Father’s image and likeness and all the other biblical terms. They just understood these to amount to an extrinsic relation and they did so out of a fear of the preceding century’s Sabellianism. For them, their choice was simple. Either all acts of generation are acts of creation or vice versa. The latter entailed some form of Sabellianism (not to mention a denial of creation ex nihilo) and the latter that the Son was a lesser deity.

    The Nicene Fathers then were not merely producing summaries, but making normative judgments, judgments that had serious consequences for laity and the lower clergy as well as bishops, who decided it for them, much to the chagrin of Eusebius of Nicomedia. To produce a summary would have been superfluous since they were required to judge a theological matter and summaries were produced without councils in the past in any case. Homoousious picks out a distinct kind of relation, an intrinsic one and so they judged against the Arian extrinsic gloss. Hence the term fixes normatively the interpretation of all those biblical terms and phrases.

    This is not mere assertion on my part. I think it is supported by the primary sources as well as the contemporary secondary literature whether that be Hanson, Ayres, Behr or any other major work on the council and the Arian controversy.

  141. #135 represents the basic terminus of the Reformation. Having departed from Mother Church at “x” degree, it has now over the last 500 years reached a kind of maximum distance from Mother Church. Protestantism in its current phase is post-Christian, at least the parts that are thriving. It has become a religion of the least-common denominator that is bound to end in utter meaninglessness through a “no end in site” bissection of propositions resulting in a paedo-pagan-Creed (true but grossly incomplete), “God is love” or something like it.

    Sola Scriptura, when run its course, inevitably leads to solo scriptura. If Protestants don’t like the natural “development” of that doctrine, then they have a problem with how ideas develop. (But we already knew that). History has a way of judging an idea as it is allowed to run-its-course so to speak. Now, the impetus would be upon the Protestant to prove that solo scriptura is not the natural way in which sola scriptura develops in practical use. Kind of like how principles of a socialist state trend practically towards totalitarian states. Not in mis-use of the principles of sola but in the natural way in which one can understand and apply the principal. Sola scriptura, like any idea, cannot be judged simply on its propositional appeal, but by its illocutionary effect when properly understood (since we are not talking about a Dogma that simply must be believed, but in this case must be acted upon). So, I guess, the argument would have to be that the history of sola scriptura has been marked by a steady decline in the proper understanding and application of the doctrine–resulting in all the confusion demonstrated here. Which would lead me to conclude that “the gates of hell” have prevailed or at the very least Protestantism has suffered everything they claimed of Mother Church at the time of the Reformation.

  142. Devin, you said that the existence of the Orthodox weakens Mathison’s argument in post#91. It actually strengthens it. Rome recognizes the Apostolic Succession of the EO but the EO reject the AS of Rome.
    Maybe Perry can answer this since he’s EO; if AS was a way of determining the true Church and thus, an interpretative Authority being passed down, how does an inquiring Protestant determine which Communion to join since both the EO and Rome both affirm AS? Perry, as an EO Christian, why should Protestants reject Rome’s claim of AS and accept the EO?

    My point is that Mathison made a good point when asking which version of AS should we follow? AS didn’t keep the East and Western split from happening and even after the split, both Communions claim AS to the Apostles. Rome says the East is out of Communion with the Pope and the East says Rome lost AS and is no longer considered in communion with the true Church. Which is it? It doesn’t appear, from the outside looking in, that AS is a real way of determining authority. Even AS needs interpretation and how can one choose which interpreter to listen to; East or West?

  143. Kevin:

    You wrote: “Antioch and Alexandria were important sees precisely because of their relationship to St. Peter (he himself was at Antioch and St. Mark at Alexandria).”

    I don’t think that my comments about Canon 6 of Nicaea are adversely affected by this, even just taking for granted that it is the way you have described.

    -TurretinFan

  144. “I think the atheist outsider, after reading the posts on this thread and the 1,200 posts on the thread before it, would conclude that the scriptures are sufficient in saying whatever somebody wants them to say.”

    Maybe so. Atheists in my experience seem to think that they themselves are perfectly capable to divine the meaning of the text of Scripture. Moreover, on the central points regarding the necessity of faith in Christ and his virgin birth, perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection, the Scriptures are perfectly clear.

    -TurretinFan

  145. Good morning Perry,

    Concerning your #125, first, a little background. In much of the work of Mathison as well in the work of Heiko Oberman and others who Mathison builds on, the discussion of sola scriptura is a study on the formation of the traditions of the Church throughout the ages. It is a series of observations on the collective “rule of faith” which Mathison and others have been primarily focused on in such discussions. However, in our discussions with Roman Catholics inevitably the conversation quickly turns, not to the standard for the Church in her deliberations, but rather the assessment of these standards by the individual Christian. This is what I see has happened in Neal and Bryan’s article. Mathison is focusing on primarily a universal standard but he is being critiqued as if his point is about how we as Christians ought to utilize the standard of faith. The Bryan/Neal critique boils down to noting that the indirect method (sola) is not substantively different than the direct method (solo) for making such judgments. But as Mathison points out in his reply, they have misunderstood his appeal to the “rule of faith.” So my comments were made to point out that two concepts were being muddied here, that of the development of the Church’s tradition and that of the individual Christian’s assessment of these traditions.

    That being said, the points Neal and Bryan raise about the individual assessments that Protestants make are interesting and important. And I agree with them that in the context of their article the sola and solo positions boil down to the same thing. Making the determination yourself on one hand and joining a group of likeminded Christians who makes that decision for you ends up at the same place. But then we can see no difference between what we Protestants do in this regards to what our Catholic friends do in their own communities. It has to my mind been the most difficult challenge for Bryan to demonstrate that what he is doing by joining the RCC is something fundamentally different than what his Protestant readers have done in joining their communions (speaking of course here in the context of his argument in the article under consideration). Catholics make the same sorts of judgments that Protestants do and then attach themselves to a communion that reinforces the judgments they have made. Mathison brings some of this problem out in his reply. The judgment of the individual Christian is inescapable and perhaps a good example here is over which understanding of apostolic succession is the correct one. You have made your judgment on the matter (and thus you attach yourself onto a particular EO communion), the RC’s here have made another judgment (and thus attach themselves onto a particular faction with in the RCC), and we Protestants have made yet another judgment (and attached ourselves onto one of the Reformed communions).

    Concerning your discussion of the rule of faith, Oberman, Mathison, and others go into great detail on just this matter in such works as Dawn of the Reformeation. The problem for Oberman, etc was when tradition was elevated beyond its role in the Early Church to become part of the infallible standard that the Church was to use as her final authority. In recent discussions on this loop I was glad to hear that Mike Liccione say that ecclesiastical infallibility was not something that could be derived from the works of the ECF’s but was rather part of the overall Catholic hermeneutic paradigm that developed later. The discussion that Mike L and I had recently was over whether the Protestant or Catholic paradigmatic system more reasonably explained the data at hand. Of course the EO perspective would make yet a third way. Anyway, the question between Protestant and RCC comes down to, not over whether the Church ought to promulgate traditions that became part of the rule of faith, but rather whether the Church was justified in saying that these secondary traditions ever rose to the point of the certainty of the infallible Scriptures. The speculative dogmatic system of the Middle Ages demanded a certain answer to this question, one that later Protestant commentators obviously took issues with. And I realize that the EO do not share the same sort of approach as either Catholic or Protestant Scholastics in coming to their conclusions here, but this is the way that is was in the West.

    I don’t think that your example of the canon is a good one for narrowing the rule of faith. As even the Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges, there was little unqualified approval for the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals in the Middle Ages and there was no established rule of faith before Trent. Of course Trent brings an end to the matter in the West, but does so with little to no consideration of the variations of the rule of faith on this matter up until the 16th century. Again the CE concedes this point. I would also point out that the canonical variation that the EO brings to the debate only complicates the matter. We now have another infallible canon to consider. But while there were all sorts of debates throughout the history of the Church on the RC and EO Deuteros, there was never any debate over the Protocanonicals after the 4th century or so.

  146. Keith,
    I finished your response and, to put it mildly was disappointed with it. You were nice enough to take the time to go through some of these issues in email correspondence with me when I was initially disillusioned with sola scriptura. And I thank you for that. But this long-awaited response takes a different direction than I was expecting. You claim your position (a principled distinction between sola/solo) can only be seen without Catholic colored glasses? Doesn’t that just shut down the conversation?
    I am still reading and re-reading this statement of yours:

    Presuppositions concerning the claims of Rome determine whether one can discern any differences between the solo and sola views

    That reminds me of arguing a point of theology with a Dispensationalist and getting the response “you just aren’t rightly dividing the Word, so you can’t see the truth”. How frustrating.
    Please respond to some of the more worthy comments like those of Andrew Preslar in #95:

    The meta-level designations and stipulations, while useful up to a point, can quickly turn into a thinly-veiled display of well-poisoning, while with a wink and grin we talk over the heads of those who challenge us, addressing instead those who already agree with us. And the home team, of course, is going to be more pleased with emotionally-driven assertions than with logical rigor, careful proportioning of claims to evidence, which includes appropriate qualifications to stated opinions, and so forth.
    After all, logic and scholarly care are really superfluous, since our opponents are precluded from getting the point anyway. Might as well step behind the curtain and puff Oz.
    That sort of thing, while common, can really hobble an otherwise interesting and potentially profitable discussion.

    Well said Andrew.

    -David Meyer

  147. Francis Beckwith writes this:My own journey led me in quite the opposite direction. It became obvious to me, even when I was a Protestant, that every major doctrinal dispute in the first six centuries of the Church could not have been resolved by mere citation of Bible verses. Rather, it required an elegant and rationally defensible interaction between the text of Scripture and certain philosophical categories….

    Francis,

    I’m sorry to hear that as a Protestant you felt this way. As a Reformed Protestant, I have no issues with your expectations on the way in which the historic Christian creeds were assembled. But please tell me just what is it about the Reformed confessions that is any different? Do you really think that the Reformed confessional positions on let’s say ecclesiology have any less of a philosophical stamp on them than does the Nicean creed concerning the Trinity?

    Like the Early Christian creeds, the Protestant creeds are hardly just a collection of Bible citations. In fact the confessions generally don’t contain scriptural quotes although they are often distributed with references from Scripture as footnotes.

  148. “You claim your position (a principled distinction between sola/solo) can only be seen without Catholic colored glasses? Doesn’t that just shut down the conversation? ”

    I don’t think so – I think it moves the conversation in a more productive direction. It gets to the root of the matter.

  149. #147
    “Like the Early Christian creeds, the Protestant creeds are hardly just a collection of Bible citations. In fact the confessions generally don’t contain scriptural quotes although they are often distributed with references from Scripture as footnotes.”

    A few questions:

    1. Saying that “A” also does what “B” does isn’t tantamount to saying that “B” has the authority to do what “A” does. I can write an omnibus spending bill and no one will care. So, by what authority do the Protestant creeds utilize this philosophical language since as a rule of faith they hold to sola scriptura?

    2. Since Protestants assume sola scriptura as a rule of faith, shouldn’t I be concerned, not comforted, that the Protestant confessions contain few scripture citations?

    3. How is Mr. Beckwith’s position weakened by Protestant confessions containing extra-biblical language since he is not claiming sola scriptura as a rule of faith? And, even granting that during his “journey” he still held to this position, wouldn’t the action of what is prior (Nicea) be more binding to his conscious than what is subsequent (Protestant confessions)? Finally, if in fact what is prior (Nicea) possesses what you claim the Protestant confessions possess, than wouldn’t you need to then prove (since we are discussing authority to do extra-biblical theology and nor merely sola scriptura,) that the actions of the Reformers in developing their confessions were acting with the same authority as Nicea? Or, you could reject Nicene authority.

    (However, if you reject Nicea than you really reject the Reformers project and take up the new Protestant project-namely, reinventing Christianity; my polemic moment, Sorry)

  150. Ok turretinfan (#148), if you think so. But to me it seems apparent that if I tell you that you are unable to see the truth of something because of your “Reformed goggles”, that from your perspective that would shut down the conversation, because hey, I see you wearing them, and as long as I see you wearing them, you can never see the truth. So that would shut down the conversation. It is a sort of verbal game. Or a game (ironically!) solo scripturists would play.

  151. TFan

    I don’t think so – I think it moves the conversation in a more productive direction. It gets to the root of the matter.

    Getting to the root of the matter would have been KM simply telling us what the difference between sola and solo is rather than telling us that there is one but we can’t see it because we are Catholic (or could not see it before we became Catholic).

  152. Jamie # 127.

    Good points. Anybody can set up tests like that and judge a doctrine. Watch me:

    If sola scriptura were true we would expect Jesus to tell his apostles that one day the Holy Spirit would inspire men to write down the gospels and letters that would one day be used as the sole rule of faith for all Christians everywhere. But since he does not say that anywhere than ss must be false.

  153. John,

    I just saw Bryan’s #138. Yeah, he is right. This is not a thread on Newman’s theory of Doctrinal Development. As far as the extant comments on DD go, I ask the readers to consider whether the claims you repeat in #133 were not partly addressed in my #128.

    [I want to say more, especially about the "special nuance" that not-merely-historical-critical-interpretation can bear (e.g., interpretation of the OT in the NT), but this is the end of the line for me, in this thread, on this topic!]

    Andrew

  154. In #150, David Mayer says But to me it seems apparent that if I tell you that you are unable to see the truth of something because of your “Reformed goggles”, that from your perspective that would shut down the conversation, because hey, I see you wearing them, and as long as I see you wearing them, you can never see the truth….

    David,

    I’ve been told on this loop just this sort of thing – I’ve got my Protestant hermeneutic blinders tied so tight that I cannot see the truth or that I have a “veil over my” face that prohibits me from seeing the points at hand, or something similar. And I’m OK with it and I think I understand why they are saying it. I’ve heard it so much from the Catholic side that it tends to fall like water of my back so as to speak. I know that we are all victims if you will of the paradigmatic boxes we adopt. If we could weigh all of the data at hand perfectly and see correlations between sets of data perfectly than we would not need such conceptual tools. But alas, we are merely human and we must adopt such models in whatever field of study we investigate. I like to think that I can for sake of argument suspend my own set of presuppositional tools and adopt something more Catholic, but I know full well how devoted I am to my own way of seeing the world. But isn’t that true of all of us and isn’t it one of the characteristic sins of this age that we refuse to acknowledge such paradigmatic frameworks?

    So concerning your comments, yes, Protestants do the same thing as Catholics in this regards and we see this evidenced in Mathison’s reply. I think he meant it as necessary background material but if you find it to be unhelpful I would just ignore it.

    Cheers for now….

  155. A Key Distinction Without a Difference

    Andrew M. wrote:

    But as Mathison points out in his reply, they have misunderstood his appeal to the “rule of faith.” So my comments were made to point out that two concepts were being muddied here, that of the development of the Church’s tradition and that of the individual Christian’s assessment of these traditions. (emphasis mine)

    I think Andrew is actually quite correct in pointing out this distinction. I think it helps to clarify matters somewhat. However, as I pointed out in #46, KM is employing a wide array of presuppositions which come from OUTSIDE the “rule-of-faith” (as he, himself, has identified it) when he presents his developmental synopsis of what-and-how the rule-of- faith came to be. In other words, quite distinct from any broader doctrinal interpretation of what Keith takes to be the textual scope of the “rule-of-faith” itself; he is already engaged in a substantial presuppositional project in order to arrive at a determination of that historical textual composition which he takes to be the “rule-of-faith” (inspired scriptures + the uninspired NC creedal summary).

    I note that the textual thing he calls the “rule-of-faith” is not properly “X” (apostolic doctrine); rather, in his view, the textual thing called the “rule-of-faith” contains “X”. That is why the composite documents of inspired- scripture+uninspired-NC-Creed, as a data-source, represent the textual location where one goes to find “X” (apostolic doctrine). Thus, the Westminster Confession would be a fallible interpretation of the essential elements of “X” that can only be drawn from the “rule-of-faith”.

    Hence, although Andrew is correct to point out that Bryan and Neil’s article specifically attacks the secondary project of interpreting/assessing the “rule-of-faith” (however defined): as far as I can see, they could just as easily have applied their criticism to KM’s presuppositional project of determining what the textual scope of the “rule-of-faith” is in the first place. Here, again, are some of the presuppositions which underwrite KM’s mini-historical elucidation of the textual scope of the “rule-of-faith”:

    “In the middle of the first century, the apostles (P1), began putting “X” in writing in all of its fullness (P2). These writings were inspired by the Holy Spirit (P3). This process of inscripturating “X” was completed before the end of the first century” (P4)

    P1) Very few of the texts contained in the Christian NT contain an author’s signature within the text itself. How does one know these texts were written by apostles? Were they all written personally by apostles? If not apostles who? How does one know that any given non-apostle NT author was authorized by an apostle such that their writings represent genuine subsets of “X”? Where do these presuppositions come from? Where can they be found in the rule of faith as Keith has described it?

    P2) Where does the presupposition that “all the fullness” of “X” was put in written form come from? Where can this assertion be found in the rule of faith as Keith have described it?

    P3) How does one know that the writings which now comprise the Christian NT were inspired by the Holy Spirit? Where does this presupposition come from? As regards texts now recognized as part of the Christian NT, where can this supposition be found in the rule of faith as Keith has described it?

    P4) In light of previous questions about the fullness of “X” being committed to writing, and the authorship of such writing not generally being listed in the text itself, where does this further presupposition about the timing of “X’s” written completion come from? Where is this assertion located in the rule of faith as Keith has described it?

    “The earliest instances of formal official creeds occur around the end of the second and beginning of the third century with creeds such as the old Roman creed. These early creedal formulations appear to be (P1) different ways of stating the same language that had long been used in the baptismal interrogations, which themselves had always been uninspired summaries of “X.”

    P1) What data gives one confidence that either the informal or formal “uninspired” summaries of inscripturated “X” are not distortions and/or accretions to “X” as opposed to a faithful shorthand? Where can the data supporting that confidence be located in the rule of faith as you have described it?

    “Over time, the language of these earliest declaratory creeds was supplemented with more material drawn from in-depth study of the inspired Scriptures (P1) in order to combat various heresies (P2), with the most important result being the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed.”

    P1) How does one know such supplemental material was drawn only from inspired scriptures? Where can this assertion be located in the rule of faith as Keith has describe it?

    P2) What data gives one confidence that this “in-depth” study or exegesis which yields the NC creed is not a distortion and/or accretion of “X” such that one can confidently describe alternate 3rd & 4th century exegesis as “heretical? Where can data supporting this confidence be located in the rule of faith as Keith has described it?

    IMO, these presuppositions underwrite his mini-history and show that KM is acting as the “holder of ultimate interpretive authority” with respect to the determination of the textual scope of the “rule-of-faith”, no less than when Reformed communions determine “X” by interpreting that “rule-of-faith” according to a formal confession. KM insists that “I as an individual did not determine the content of the rule of faith”; But in fact, that is exactly what he has done. Of course he did not compose the NT or the NC Creed, but he most certainly is controlling the delimative choice to restrict and define the scope of the “rule-of-faith” to these textual monuments. He has merely introduced an additional layer into the overall subjectivist scheme. It seems to me that the new situation can be re-schematized as follows according to the number of subjective interpretive acts carried off by the “holder of ultimate interpretive authority”:

    SolO Scriptura – ONE STEP:
    Protestant 66 bible (uncritically received as the “rule-of-faith”)
    (1) +individual interpretation of rule-of-faith
    =apostolic doctrine (“X”)

    SolA Scriptura (as addressed by Bryan and Neil in their article) – TWO STEP:
    Protestant Bible (uncritically received as the “rule-of-faith”)
    (1)+individual identification of church based on individual interpretation of the rule-of-faith
    (2)+individual acceptance of that church’s confessional interpretation of rule-of-faith
    =apostolic doctrine (“X”)

    SolA Scriptura (as now clarified by KM’s response) – THREE STEP:
    (1) Individual identification of “rule-of-faith” as inspired-Protestant-bible+uninspired-NC-Creed
    (2)+individual identification of church based on individual interpretation of the rule-of-faith
    (3)+individual acceptance of that church’s confessional interpretation of rule-of-faith
    =apostolic doctrine (“X”)

    ISTM the original criticism leveled by Bryan and Neil still holds. I see no way out of the “ultimate interpretive” bubble based on Keith’s response. All he can really do IMO – and what he does do on several occasions – is employ the tu quoque. That he spends the greater part of his response attempting to deconstruct Roman Catholic ecclesiology has nothing whatever to do with Bryan and Neil’s original contention – even if all of his exegetical and historical assertions about primitive Christianity were true.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  156. @TurretinFan #116

    As long as one has a correct hermeneutical principle, one is fine. It’s something like color perception. If your glasses aren’t clear (but instead are tinted) your color perception will be off.

    But you are missing my point — if it is the hermeneutical principle that controls the way we view the world, then we never really enter into contact with the world, just with our hermeneutical principles. Hermeneutical principles cannot be clear as they always conform how one understands the world to the preconceived presuppositions of the hermeneutic. That is the point of what KM writes when he says that Catholics only view that there is no distincition between solo / sola because of their “Roman” ecclesiology and Reformed view a distinction because of their Reformed ecclesiology.

    That is the problem with that type of epistemology — one’s understanding of the world is forever warped by their preconceived prepositions. Prepositional theology is a really bad idea because it causes one to forever warp the content of scripture to their preconceived prepositions. I cannot tell you how many times I have read a Reformed theologian say, “Ya you will only see that in the bible if you accept the prepositions”. Great example of that of course is the Calvinistic prepositions that form the Covenant of Redemption.

  157. Nathan:

    It’s possible for one’s hermeneutic to prevent one from meaningful interaction with the real world. It’s also possible for one’s hermeneutic to permit one to meaningfully interact with the real world. It’s kind of like a windscreen (windshield) on a car. If it is covered in mud, frost, or snow, you’re not going to be seeing the road ahead clearly. But if you remove those, you can see the road. The windscreen is your interface to the road in a similar way that one’s hermeneutic is one’s interface to a text.

    Does that analogy make sense to you?

    -TurretinFan

  158. Brent (re: #149):

    Saying that “A” also does what “B” does isn’t tantamount to saying that “B” has the authority to do what “A” does

    Agreed. The question of what authority is needed is at the heart of the discussion between Reformed and Catholic on this matter. We Reformed hear the Catholics positing an infallible human tradition to add to the infallible divine pronouncements in order to have the appropriate authority that Christ intended. This is one of the curious idiosyncrasies of the Medieval Church and for us it just pushes the problem back one step. OK, now that we have this infallible magisterial teaching how do we interpret that? The variations between the various Catholic factions and the the various EO communions just underscores the problem to us. Anyway, I’ve written pages and pages on that topic…..

    Since Protestants assume sola scriptura as a rule of faith, shouldn’t I be concerned, not comforted, that the Protestant confessions contain few scripture citations?

    Well if our confessions were just sets of Scripture citations, how would this help us progress? We would just be restating what we already knew. As in the Early Church the confessions were penned as part of the continuous process of defining the rule of faith for the Church in her ministerial role. The only place we get at cross-purposes with our Catholic friends is when they start to speak about the derived traditions as having the same level of certainty as the very inspired Word of God.

    How is Mr. Beckwith’s position weakened by Protestant confessions containing extra-biblical language since he is not claiming sola scriptura as a rule of faith?

    I’m not sure “weakened” is the right term. I’m just not sure why he thinks that I as a Protestant should reject his understanding of the nature and purpose of the creeds. He obviously felt that his understanding as a Protestant was incompatible with his new Catholic understanding but I don’t get it.

    On the confessions, both Early Church and Reformed, the Church ought to be continually “proving” the veracity of the confessions. Our problems with the Catholic angle here is that the mere fact that an ecumenical council pronounced something ends the debate. For us it’s just the beginning of the debate. Take as example Trent’s pronouncement of the canonicity of the Deuterocanonicals. The Protestants wanted to debate such matters is a conciliar format and still do today. What were the reasons that the Catholic scholars at Trent made the determination they did and was their reasoning sound? But as previously noted, there was little to no consideration at Trent of the variations of acceptance and rejection of the Deuteros to that point in history. But Trent ruled, so end of story in the minds of the Catholics. But for us we want to investigate whether such an authoritative decision was warranted. For the Catholic if there are no irreformable doctrines then nothing ever gets clearly decided and everything is potentially open for discussion. That’s an unfortunate conclusion from our standpoint but there you have it….

  159. Whitaker,

    Thanks for responding to me. I think that Mathison’s arguments are weakened by the Orthodox in regard to the fact that apparently they, too, have blinders on that prevent them from seeing the sola/solo difference, but those blinders are [apparently] different from the ones that Catholics have. Perry asked for what his presuppositional blinders were but I don’t think has received an answer.

    Regarding apostolic succession, I don’t know as much about how the Orthodox view Catholic bishops’ succession. Perry, do the (Eastern) Orthodox think that, say, the bishop of Rome has apostolic succession or not?

    My understanding had been that the EO recognized the Pope’s apostolic succession but believed that he had fallen into heresy back in the day.

  160. To a certain extent KM is right. The distinction between Sola and Solo is an illusion that a protestant must convince himself is real. He can make it real for himself if he just makes a few arbitrary choices. But once a person see the emperor has no clothes then he is led almost immediately to a more Catholic way of thinking. Just like the people who reject evidence for the resurrection that was recorded by Christians. You get a chicken and egg issue. Did they accept the evidence because they were Christian or did they become Christians because they accepted the evidence. The answer is almost always a little of both. The reasons people convert are complex. Reason has a role but spiritual discernment is important too.

    Way back when this paper was launched I did suggest there was a problem because it was dismissing too quickly the real differences between confessional protestantism and the latest religious fad. Tim rejected my comment but made a separate post on it here:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/practical-difference-sola/

    That discussion went nowhere but I think it is the reason why most protestants are willing to accept KM’s reasoning. There is a important difference. In fact, I came to realize I had constructed my own doctrine of infallibility. There were some truths I took as settled. So I was moving towards Catholicism just not in a coherent way. Catholicism did the same thing in a more consistent way. That was good because I had drifted into Solo in some areas of my life. It also had the true grace of infallibility. That is some things I had made unofficial dogma were actually false. Those were hard to give up.

  161. @TurretinFan #119

    But Canon 6 does pose big problems for the papacy.

    a) The biggest problem is the argument saying that the bishop of Alexandria should enjoy a privilege because the bishop of Rome enjoys it. That suggests a view of essential parity between the bishops of Rome and Alexandria. One wouldn’t argue that the bishop of Chicago should enjoy some privilege because the pope enjoys it. One would say that the bishop of Chicago should enjoy some privilege because the bishop of Dallas also enjoys it. In other words, one doesn’t argue that a lesser bishop should enjoy the privileges of a greater bishop, but that the two bishops of equal authority should have the same privileges.

    The Catholic Church’s view is that there is essential parity between bishops. Each bishop has the fullness of Holy Orders — each from the lowest axulirilary bishop in the smallest most unimportant diocese to the Pope. I highly recommend that you read Lumen Gentium chapter 3 on the hiericical nature of the Church. The Pope is not a “super bishop” rather a bishop with an additional set of charisms. As far as the pope is a bishop, he is the same as every other bishop, as far as the pope is the pope he is different.

    b) There is also a secondary problem, in that it is obvious that outside of Rome’s immediate vicinity, no one feels the least need to run the ordination of bishops past the bishop of Rome, or to make their ordinations in any way contingent on papal approval. Instead, the buck stops at the metropolitan (or in some cases, majority vote!). I think this is also an important problem for arguments suggesting that the early church held to a papacy, but it is secondary in that I think that Roman apologists will be more willing to concede this and attempt to harmonize it with a papal regime.

    This is not a problem. Only bishops can ordain and it is not of fundamental necessity that it be done with papal approval. (Lack of papal approval can make an ordination illicit but it not invalid.) This is why the Orthodox have valid Holy Orders. But like you said, the buck stops at the metropolitan and the Pope, in case you forgot is the Patriarch of the Latin Church and he is also the universal pontiff for the whole Church.

  162. Andrew M. (#154)
    “I’ve been told on this loop just this sort of thing – I’ve got my Protestant hermeneutic blinders tied so tight…”
    “I think he meant it as necessary background material but if you find it to be unhelpful I would just ignore it. ”

    It was the central point of his argument. Not background. It was fully in the foreground! Sure, in a certain sense, we have blinders on when we dont see the truth. That in itself is not an argument though. To say your opponent in a disagrement has blinders on is not an argument. I am waiting for Keith’s real reply.

  163. My two cents:

    Comparing paradigms is, in my opinion, a useful and important part of ecumenical discussion. This sort of thing should, however, be clearly distinguished from “presuppositionalism,” or fideism. According to the latter, one’s presuppositions are the “assumed” axioms (sans “motives of credibility”) upon which *all* knowledge is based. In the former approach, people with different paradigms can still find some common ground, so that they can, e.g., rationally compare and contrast the different paradigms.

    Of course, it is legitimate to suggest that what is problematic in one paradigm might follow as a matter of course in another, though it is even better to demonstrate this (rather than merely assert it) in any given case. After all, the faulty “presuppositions” of Reformed Christians do not prevent them from following every sound and valid argument! In the current case, Keith has not demonstrated that Bryan and Neal’s (faulty) Catholicism is a premise in their critique of his thesis, nor has he otherwise demonstrated that Catholicism precludes one from seeing the obvious truth of his s/s thesis. This has merely been asserted.

    So, maybe we can all agree in principle that different paradigms affect the way one perceives the data without jumping to the conclusion that whenever we disagree, it is because the other person’s paradigm precludes him from either seeing the facts of the matter or following a valid argument. That might be the case sometimes, but it is way too simplistic, and perhaps question-begging, to jump to that conclusion at all times. At this time, I am still waiting for the argument that Bryan and Neal’s Catholicism is a premise in their argument to the effect that there is no principled distinction between solo and sola.

    Andrew

  164. Good Morning Andrew M.,

    I am not sure how your response addresses the primary question I asked of you in #125.

    “On sola is the individual’s judgment ever pen-ultimately normative such as to be bound absolutely by these subordinate authorities or no?”

    I am familiar with the material from Oberman and plenty of other sources, both primary and secondary. I can’t see how it helps your case or addresses my question. First, none of the preceding tradition advocated sola scriptura as an option. As the sources show, if anything it was some form of prima scriptura in the west. Second, the shift from the standard for ecclesial deliberations to the assessment to those standards by an individual is not something prompted by Catholicism but the Protestant appeal to private judgment relative to their judgment that such and so standards are non-normative or pen-ultimately so.

    Third it wouldn’t matter if we pushed the question back to the original since the right of private judgment as an essential constituent of sola would bring us back to the same place. Noting the development of the discussion doesn’t change this. Please note what I cited from Turretin in this respect.

    “For an appeal may always be made from it to the internal forum of conscience, nor does it bind anyone in this court further than he is persuaded of its agreement with the Scriptures.” vol. 1, Question 20, p.161

    Mathison’s own position ends up in the same place because his arguments for the rule run counter to the judgment of the church, any church, east or west, prior to the Reformation.

    I’ve already made a similar argument that sola and solo are not essentially different and the reason is that the subordinate authorities are always and only pen-ultimately normative relative to the individual conscience. How a body falls dead is irrelevant to it being dead. It is just as dead nonetheless. The individual conscience is always ultimately normative on both schemes and the existence of intermediary authorities doesn’t change that. It just takes sola people longer to get to their own judgment as ultimatley normative in the course of events than solo people.

    KM’s appeal to the rule of faith I found to be inadequate. Take his remarks on Galatians. The rule of faith given to the Galatians wasn’t Scripture per se, but what was taught to them since Scripture hadn’t been completed and Paul hadn’t written to them when they received it. Second, their judgment of an apostle was predicated on the received tradition over against individual claims to the contrary. (That leaves the question of collective claims to the contrary on the table incidentally, since individual bodies as KM notes can go off the rails.) That isn’t proof of sola.

    Even if we limited the rule of faith to Scripture, Protestants and non-Protestants do not even agree on what constitutes it so his claim for the rule of faith is parochial as well as being anachronistic. This is why Athanasius argued that catechumens should be instructed in the Creed first and then they should read the scriptures. The rule of faith was not just the scriptures but how the church understood it.

    As for the tu quo que charge, I disagree with you because I think your claim rests on confusing categories, namely epistemological judgments and normative judgments. When I became Orthodox, I did the former and not the latter. That is, suppose I met the conditions on knowledge with respect to the thesis that the Orthodox church is the only true Church. The normativity entailed by knowing that extends to me and only to others if they know it also. Hence this is not the right of private judgment. That is the idea that the individual makes a normative judgment for the church, the conscience being the only unmediately known unmixed sensible particular. But since there are no infallible judges (the church operates here by human power alone, extrinsically aided by the divine will-ecclesial Pelagianism if you will) no one’s conscience can absolutely bind that of anyone else, individually or collectively, which is why all Protestant confessions are revisable.

    So I don’t see it as a difficult challenge for Bryan and Co. to fend off the tu quo que charge because their critics’ objection depends on confusing epistemology with normativity. It would be akin to someone arguing that accuracy in legal judgments puts law professors and supreme court justices on the same level with respect to the force of law. They clearly aren’t. The judgment of the latter is doing something that extends further than what the former does and so the latter has the force of law and the former doesn’t. Matthison seems to make the same confusions. There is a difference between the conditions for knowing that something is so and the conditions for making an ultimately normative judgment that something is so. The right of private judgment grants both to the individual because it takes them as isomorphic and identical. So when you write of the judgment of the individual Christian being inescapable, this turns on an equivocation. Perhaps Protestants can’t see the difference between the two concepts because of *their* theological committments? Sauce for the gander eh?

    The problem in part with Oberman’s work and others like it is that it is fairly typically anemic with respect to the Eastern tradition and yet it is the Eastern church where we have the greatest number of apostolic sees and concentration of the direct work of the apostles and their successors, particularly in ecumenical councils.

    As for Michael Licione’s judgment I disagree and I disagree because some of the ecumenical councils speak of their own judgment and that of other councils as being “Spirit inspired” and “infallible” and these include councils that Protestants claim to accept.

    To frame the question in terms of whether the church was justified in saying that these “secondary” authorities ever rose to the point of certainty of the infallible Scriptures makes a number of mistakes. The issue isn’t ultimately about psychological certainty but normativity. Second, that leaves open who is in a position to make that normative judgment and with what degree of normativity do they make it. And here again Protestants have historically appeal to the right of private judgment. Each individual can judge the church and for the church on their own, which in essence atomizes the church. So framing the question that way at best just moves the question, it doesn’t answer it.

    I think my example of the canon is a good one. Even if we accept the material from the Cath Ency as accurate, it doesn’t help. For if the canon was formally unfixed by Trent, it doesn’t follow that Protestants were in a normative position to form their own to the contrary. And the fact that they did so, just shows that they formed their own rule of faith, rather than inherited it as Matthison claims. Second and more to the point, if the formal canon was more or less fluid prior to Trent, this supports the claim that the content of the rule of faith for Protestants was not determined solely by the rule of faith itself. If it had, then the canon would not have been fluid and for so long. Protestant construction of their formal canon as a fallible collection actually then depends on the fact that the rule of faith formally speaking is not determined by itself, otherwise the canon itself would be an infallible collection of infallible books. So if we say it is not accurate, then the Protestant position is left standing with feet firmly planted in mid air. Either there is no canon at all since matter and form are now the same or the material canon is fallible too.(Liberalism)

    But as to the facts, the canons of Trullo and 2nd Nicea do in fact pick out a canon of Scripture and if memory serves, these are long before Trent. So I think the Cath Ency is wrong. (Big surprise!)

    As for there not being any debate after say the 5th century on anything else beside the deutero-canonicals, I am not sure how that helps, for it is still the case that the formal canon is not determined by the Protestant rule of faith itself. This is a point recognized even by Protestants like Ridderbos. It is not as if after the 5th century when debate ended on those works that the rule of faith then determined its own formal canon, so this really changes nothing and is a red herring. So as I said, there is at least one thing, and a substantial thing relative to the Protestant rule of faith that is of the apostolic tradition that is not determined by the rule of faith. We could of course include it in the rule of faith, but then sola goes out the window. This is in part why sola is not isomorphic with the apostolic rule of faith and why KM’s position is wrong.

  165. Would like to know what Jason Stellman, Chris Donato, and RFwhite think of Dr. Matthison’s reply, they seemed to be to have reasonable posts on various posts on this blog — that make you think and actually move the conversation. Would be intereseting to see if they participate in this particular thread.

  166. Andrew #158

    “OK, now that we have this infallible magisterial teaching how do we interpret that?”

    Questions: Is there such a thing as a proposition that doesn’t need interpretation? Fore example, I’m thinking of “Jesus is God” or “Mary was assumed into Heaven” or “Salvation cannot be obtained through human effort a part from grace” (see Trent). I’m not getting at the philosophical principal of a self-evident proposition, so we don’t have to work that hard. : )

    Is it ever possible to get beyond interpretation and to truth, and if so how does sola scriptura demonstrate that possibility? (for me it seems to prove just the opposite whereas the Papacy has seemed to bind over 1 billion people-at least in confession-to the notion of the simplicity and unity of truth.)

    “Well if our confessions were just sets of Scripture citations, how would this help us progress?”

    Questions: So the Protestants have their own unique view of development, say “progress”, yet reject the Catholic view. On what authority do you determine progress? What rule of scripture elucidates the principal of “progress”?

    “On the confessions, both Early Church and Reformed, the Church ought to be continually “proving” the veracity of the confessions.”

    This seems to assume (1) that the Early Church and Reformed have some type of relationship and (2) that there is an authoritative Church (please point me to yours, b/c I’m uncertain by the term Protestant/Reformed), and it also makes a weak teaching claim, namely that The Church must prove the truth of a confession. By what? Scripture? By whose interpretation? “Christ taught as one having authority, not as the scribes and pharisees”…Only one Church acts that way, under the guidance of the divine Paraclete.

    We can argue about what “type” of authority, but the extent in which we can expand or compress the meaning of the term authority has its limits. I think it is incumbent upon the Protestant to prove to the Catholic that anything resembling the meaning of authority exists in their tradition. Chesterton pointed to the fact that the Bible properly “says” nothing, so that the only witness to Christ is the Church. Since scripture cannot, properly “act”, who is the acting authority of Methodists? Baptists?

    “For the Catholic if there are no irreformable doctrines then nothing ever gets clearly decided and everything is potentially open for discussion. That’s an unfortunate conclusion from our standpoint but there you have it….”

    Jesus said not one jot or tittle should pass away, he also said The Holy Spirit would come and teach you (1)”all things” AND (2)”remind you what I said”. By definition, a dogma is not reformable. If it could be reformed (in the sense of changed in its integrity), it would not be a dogma. Dogmas can be re-articulated, especially as they process through time and open themselves up to new truth (think MacIntrye’s “Who’s Justice, Which Rationality”). Further, the history of Catholic dogmatic teaching is just the opposite. The Church was silent until she could be no longer. What “reformers” fail to get, is the spirit of the “Reformation” was not the spirit of the early Church. They were preservationists by nature (i.e., a culture of oral tradition & preaching under constant threat of persecution), so the fact that there was so much “development” demonstrates to me (1) the working of the Holy Spirit to teach “all things” and (2) the absolute necessity to make dogmatic statements when they were made. Trent doesn’t complete until 45 years after Luther had started the rebellion in full swing. The Council took 18 years to complete. The Church has and will always act in this prudent way.

  167. @Lojahw 129

    Nathan B. #71
    You said you were told you were going to hell for not believing in the solas or the Reformed TULIP. I’m really sorry to hear that; I obviously disagree with anyone who holds that opinion.

    Then do you disagree with Luther / Calvin who often stated that those that did not believe as they did were damned? It is not a stretch to say that the leaders of the Reformation plainly and frequently taught that Catholics were dammed precisely because they rejected the solas and other points of Protestant fundamentals.

    You wrote: “Apostolic Succession means that those who are ordained have a teaching authority that is not derived from the norms of scripture and as such the exercise of their office is a distinct and infallible norm for the Church and what it means to be a Christian.”
    I defer to Andrew McCallum’s comment: “please, let’s not make the error or stating our paradigmatic assumptions as if they are established facts.”

    It is not a paradigmatic assumption — it is the definition. Here from my old Reader’s Digest Great Encycleopedia Dictionary (nicely secular). Apostolic Succession — The regular and uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority from the apostles as claimed to be held by Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox. If you notice, the authority is not derived from scripture but it is rather spiritual, aka its derived from the Holy Spirit. Thus as I stated it is a distinct norm.

    Re: the Liturgy, the elements are indeed described in Scripture (prayers, hymns, sermons, baptism, the eucharist, etc.). I would caution, however, that expecting liturgical actions to assure salvation is no more efficacious than the Jews of Paul’s day expecting to be saved by circumcision.

    If you read the text of scripture, all you have are fragments and pieces of the litturgy. Further, as I mentioned, even a fully written out order of liturgy, does not contain the actual liturgy but rather only a description/order of it. The bible, like anything written down, is an inanimate object — it does not contain the action but can only point towards action.

    I think you are missing the point, the litturgy is salvation. As Paul points out in Romans, the Jewish liturgical action does not save because it simply points to, prepares, and waits in hope for the liturgical action that Christ establishes. If you look through the book of Romans and ask it “how is the individual saved?” you will notice that Paul constantly returns to the answer — “By participation in the liturgical action of Christ”. I am going to let you take the time to go through Romans but I will do it for you with Acts 2:38-42,47 when the Jews asked Peter what they must be do to be saved.

    Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

    [38] And Peter said to them, “Repent, participation in liturgical action and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins participation in liturgical action; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit participation in liturgical action.
    [39] For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
    [40] And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
    [41] So those who received his word were baptized participation in liturgical action, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
    [42] And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship participation in liturgical action, to the breaking of bread participation in liturgical action and the prayers participation in liturgical action
    [47] praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

    Re: changes in sola scriptura? Assertions are a dime a dozen: please give specific examples.

    Sure. A good example is the whole sola / solo debate. “Solo scripturists” teach that they are teaching true sola scriptura and that the “sola scripturists” are the change in doctrine. Vice versa holds as well. Just pull up a fundamentalists view on sola scriptura. You can also see developments in the understanding of sola scriptura between very low/no church puritans and the semi-ecclesial presbyterians. For example, up thread Nick #130 gave a bunch of quotes from various Reformed Confessions. If you follow the confessions you can see changes in the understanding of SS. For example Westminster 31:4 is not in harmony with KM understanding of SS, as Nick pointed out. The Westminster understanding is a development from Luther’s (who often acted and wrote as if he himself was an unerring authority) and KM’s position is a development in another direction — a return to the need and authority of external normans.

  168. Perry Robinson: I am not Catholic and I am having trouble seeing where the supposed principled distinction is. On sola is the individual’s judgment ever pen-ultimately normative such as to be bound absolutely by these subordinate authorities or no?

    If not, then they are only normative for the individual as long as he assents to them on sola. The only difference is with respect to existence subordinate authorities and not in the nature of their normative power relative to the individual’s judgment.

    The answer to your question is, of course, “no”, as long as the Protestant reserves for himself the right to church hop whenever he believes that his church is being “unscriptural” in its teaching. This quote from TurrentinFan is revelatory:

    TurrentinFan:

    …Every Christian has a duty to read and try to understand the Bible. If he discovers that God’s word contradicts the teachings of his church, he is not free to follow men rather than God. … If someone is fully persuaded in his own conscience that the Bible says “X,” he should not assent to something he believes contradicts the Bible.

    Ref: TurrentinFan’s comment # 1151 in the CTC article: Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority

    Keith Mathison affirms TurrentinFan’s comment quoted above:

    Mathison grants that each individual may appeal to Scripture to correct the Church, disobey the Church and leave the Church, so long as he is following his conscience.54 …

    (Ref: Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority

    TurrentinFan and Keith Mathison are both arguing that the Christian is required to “submit” to the teaching authority of a church only insofar as that church agrees with the Christian’s personal interpretation of the bible. Which is exactly why Bryan and Neal argue that sola scriptura ultimately reduces to solo scriptura. The person that “submits” to a church only when it agrees with his personal opinions about what the Bible teaches is really not submitting in any meaningful way:

    Mathison recognizes that all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture, and denies that the individual has final interpretive authority. But at the same time, as a Protestant, Mathison maintains that the individual can appeal to his or her own interpretation of Scripture to hold the Church accountable to Scripture, even to walk away from the Church (and thus treat himself as the continuation of the Church), otherwise Mathison would undermine the very basis for Protestants separating from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century. So Mathison’s position essentially reduces to this: the Church has final interpretive authority, except when the Church’s interpretation disagrees with the individual’s interpretation. But that exception belies the charade, because “when I submit (so long as I agree), the one to whom I submit is me.” For this reason, in sola scriptura it is the individual who ultimately has and always retains final interpretive authority. Sola scriptura is a more sophisticated version of solo scriptura, but this added sophistication makes the position more deceptive, by allowing the individual to believe that he is not one of those me-and-my-Bible individualists.

    (Ref: Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.

    Devin Rose: I was baptized and came to know Christ in a Southern Baptist church. The church explicitly stated that it held the Bible as the sole infallible rule of faith and sought to interpret it as best it could, but it fully recognized that 1) the pastors at my church were fallible and 2) the Southern Baptist Convention was just as fallible. Hence, each local congregation in the SBC was ultimately autonomous and could decide for itself its stance of moral and theological issues. …

    How is it that a group of fallible pastors heading fallible churches that all get together and name themselves something (whether OPC or SBC or PCA, etc.) think that they have ultimate interpretive authority over the individual Christian with his Bible?

    So most Baptists I have known would also reject the argument made by Mathison that there is a principled difference between sola and solo Scriptura. In some sense I commend them because they are at least following their position to the logical conclusion that they hold ultimate interpretive authority and no church or group of churches (with its self-authorized “elders”) has any right to bind their consciences.

    You are absolutely right. The Protestant evangelicals such as the Southern Baptists that embrace the concept of “Bible Freedom” have taken Luther’s sola scriptura doctrine to its logical conclusion: i.e. solo scriptura. I find it ironic that Keith Mathison writes, “If one assumes the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church, then the differences I allege between sola scriptura and solo scriptura become invisible, but if one does not assume the correctness of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the church, the differences can be discerned.” I find this ironic, because Bryan and Neal are arguing that the only people that can see a principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura are the Protestant evangelicals that don‘t see through the “delusion of derivative authority”. ( See section C, The Delusion of Derivative Authority, of the article Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority).

  169. @Lojahw 131

    Nick, it was the Pope who excommunicated Luther and caused the division in the Church – just as the Papal legates caused the division between East and West centuries earlier, not the other way around

    The division existed for centuries prior to 1054. The mutual excommunications just formalized things. The Pope didn’t just up and excommunicate Luther and is really Luther’s fault because he was given many many opportunities to cool off and let everything be taken care of through the normative means of the functioning of the Church. But he didn’t want to do things that way, he wanted to do things his way. If at the Diet of Worms, which was about sola fide, if he would have been found in favor of, sola scriptura (which develops after Worms) wouldn’t have been developed but because Luther needed a way to reject the authority of the bishops who ruled against him, he developed sola scriptura as a means for rejecting the authority of the bishops.

    @Steve G #135

    Perhaps your experience, but not mine. As a Protestant (Methodist) I was directly called a heritic by other Protestants. Just look into vitriol of Presbyterians towards “Arminians”. There are serious divisions between Protestants and it is really only in the modern period after the development of ecumenism within Protestantism that you start to see the end of calling each other heretics.

  170. Nathan,

    Factually I think you are mistaken. As far as both Rome and the Eastern patriarchs were concerned, there was no formal division prior to 1054. There was a flare up during the 9th century between Photios and Nicholas, but given that the papacy at that time annulled the 869 synod, the issue was resolved and communion restored.

    Secondly, the pope that commissioned Humbert had died and so without knowing it, his authority to excommunicate the patriarch died with him, three months prior I believe.

  171. Devin,

    In answer to your questions, here it goes. I think Orthodoxy does weaken KM’s claims, but I think they weaken Catholic ones too. I am an equal opportunity curve ball thrower. :)

    I think there is a good reason I haven’t received an answer. First, I don’t think they know Orthodox theology well enough to articulate what my alleged preclusionary presuppositions are. You generally don’t recognize a Sith until its too late! Second, they fall prey to the same criticism since the right of private judgment entails a conceptual confusion between epistemological judgments and their conditions and normative judgments and their conditions, as I spelled out in my response to Andrew M this morning. This is why they think Catholics and Orthodox are doing the same thing in choosing a church.

  172. Whitaker,

    The only thing that KM’s argument with respect to AS shows is that it is not a sufficient condition for identifying the true church. But no claimants that I know of think that it is, so it doesn’t advance his position.

    AS though is a sufficient condition to exclude Protestantism. If AS is true, Protestant distinctives are false since Sola Fide is not taught for example by those who have AS and the sacerdotalism it entails is incompatible with SF, as the Reformers argued. The same goes for Sola Scriptura. So AS greatly narrows the playing field since it excludes Protestantism pretty much wholesale. This is why reading the other side of the Puritans (the Laudians) is instructive, but few people actually do it.

    As for how a Protestant determines which of the claimants are correct, it is important to notice that this is a question and not an argument. If there is an implicit argument to the effect that there is no principled way, it is then incumbent on the objector to trot out some of the contenders and show that they are inadequate. So the Protestant bears the burden of proof here, or at least a large amount of it.

    How one would go about ascertaining which body is correct would then move from AS to other matters, such as what ecumenical councils are ultimately normative, if they are and what their conditions for being normative are. So if Ephesus meets those conditions, once we’ve figured out what they are, then the Assyrians are out. If Chalcedon, then the Monophysites and so on. That would leave Rome and the Orthodox. Part of the work then would be figuring out if ecumenical councils are ultimately normative in a dependent relation to the papacy or not. Part of that argument will turn on historical questions, but also core theological and metaphysical commitments relative to the Trinity and Christology. That is how I see how the process would go and how it went for me.

    Ironically Francis Turretin thinks this route is far too difficult for the average layman or even the very wise and learned to sort through the historical claims and facts and core theological issues which depend on them and frame their interpretation, though it isn’t too difficult for a layman to work through issues in ancient languages, textual variance and their attending historical manuscript questions, and issues in that stretch across theories of meaning and semiotics. Riiiggghhhttt.

    As for AS preventing the East/West split, this in part seems to me to depend on whether each party retains AS. If they do, then KM’s question has some force, not as much as he thinks. If only one side retains it, then the objection loses much of its force. So does AS preclude schism *in* the church or no?

    As for AS requiring interpretation, that is a non-issue since that is conceded. It doesn’t require private judgment since AS precludes it. So I think you are confusing making a judgment with respect to knowing something is true and making a judgment that is normatively binding on the consciences of others. Everyone can do the first (at least in principle) whereas this is not so in the case of the second.

  173. Nathan B said:

    Perhaps your experience, but not mine. As a Protestant (Methodist) I was directly called a heritic by other Protestants. Just look into vitriol of Presbyterians towards “Arminians”. There are serious divisions between Protestants and it is really only in the modern period after the development of ecumenism within Protestantism that you start to see the end of calling each other heretics.

    I guess that ecumenism doesn’t extend to Catholicism since Protestants are still heretics in your eyes :)

  174. @Perry Robinson #170

    I didn’t say that there was “formal” division. There was though (practical) division. Let me cite Timothy Ware’s book The Orthodox Church, chapter 3 The Great Schism which puts forth that there was a practical division prior to 1054. As of note Ware puts forth that it was the Crusades that formalized the division. The division between East and West is not the result of Humbert, but it is much more complex than that.

    Of course we are talking about schism here and the divide of a schism is not nearly as great of a gulf as the divide between Catholic and Protestant.

  175. #140 Perry Robinson:
    “I deny your assertion that the scriptures you mentioned are consistent with ordination by others than bishops. I deny it because your claim depends on the assumption that ordaining presbyters were equivalent with the Reformation notion of a presbyter. I don’t think they are. And I don’t think the Scriptures or the tradition support such a claim. And I don’t think you can provide a demonstration to that effect either.”

    Didache 15: “Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers.” This statement refutes your position.

    “Further, I think there is textual evidence that Timothy and such were presbyter/bishops who alone could ordain, distinct from other presbyters. And I think we know they were bishops from some of the same sources that inform us that Matthew was written by Matthew the apostle.”

    Only your presupposition leads to your exclusive position. Acts 20, 1 Timothy 3, 5, and Titus 1 make no distinction between presbyters and bishops [episcopoi]. Please provide documentation to support your position.

    “Second, if we are limited to the scriptures in the way you and KM employ them, we have to suppose that the biblical teaching of presbyters being an ordaining source was lost well before the end of the 2nd century as we have no substantial evidence of mere presbyterial ordination at that time or beyond. This isn’t even taking into consideration the Ignatian epistles which are quite monarchial or the Didache, Ireneaus, Polycarp, Tertullian and Hippolytus.”

    Your conclusion does not follow. The New Testament, Didache, and other early sources indicate that Apostles as well as laymen “laid hands” on their presbyters/bishops. What does the Holy Spirit say to the men in Acts 13?
    “Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”
    Please note that Saul and Barnabas were “ordained” by Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen – none of whom are identified as bishops (they were “prophets” and “teachers”). Subsequently, Barnabas is called an Apostle (Acts 14:4, 14). As for Ignatius, which Apostle endorsed his novel interpretation? It wouldn’t have been either Peter or Paul whose teaching is in sharp contrast with Ignatius’ teaching that Caesar must be subject to the bishop! (cf. Rom. 13:1ff; 2 Pet. 2:13). Note that Paul says “every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities” – and that includes bishops within the jurisdiction of Caesar.

    “Third, laying on of hands is not essential to ordination by Reformed lights, which is why the Presbyterians forbade it for a clean century to make sure the idea of a transfer of divine power died out. Even if succession came through the presbyterate, the Presbyterians lost it long ago.”

    Presbyterians do not claim apostolic succession, so it is not an issue for them. They have been consistent with the interpretation given in the Didache.

    “As for private judgment, if the Reformers taught no such doctrine then someone had better correct all the Reformed books by major Reformed theologians over the last four centuries that contain such a teaching, pace Payton. Take Charles Hodge for an example.”

    Please provide specific examples, and explain what you mean by “private judgment,” especially in light of the example of the church fathers whose interpretations of Scripture often conflict with each other. E.g. the Didache did NOT teach infant baptism (you can’t expect infants to do a 24-48 hour fast), consistent with other early church sources which required a multi-year year catechumenate. The first explicit support for infant baptism does not show up until the third century with Origen and Cyprian.

    “What Protestants deny on this subject is, that Christ has appointed any officer, or class of officers, in his Church to whose interpretation the Scriptures the people are bound to submit as of final authority. What they affirm is that He has made it obligatory upon every man to search the Scriptures for himself, and determine on his own discretion what they require of him to believe and to do…”

    I deny your statement that Protestants teach that God “has made it obligatory upon every man to search the Scriptures for himself, and determine on his own discretion what they require of him to believe and to do.” Not every Christian has access to the Scriptures, so this cannot be a condition of salvation.

    Re: your comments on Nicea, Theodoret’s record is explicit:
    “They then, with still greater clearness, briefly declared that the Son is of one substance [one nature, homoousios] with the Father; for this, indeed, is the signification of the passages which have been quoted.”(Ecclesiastical History 1.7)

    Homoouios is therefore both a summary and a theological affirmation that is not open to further debate. (If you read the whole account from Theodoret you will see that the conclusion was reached after multiple iterations in which different Arian constituents proposed various heretical compromises – all of which were refuted by the final declaration above.)

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  176. Lojahw #130,

    I’m trying to get up to date with this thread, but as of now I’m 42 posts behind.

    Anyway, regarding your first point, that “marching orders” example doesn’t fit. The issue is Scripture AND Creed, with the former being “Jesus’ words” (needing interpretation) and the latter being “man’s words” (also needing interpretation, but that’s not the point). You’re bound to follow (or at least attempt to follow) Jesus’ orders, but does the same apply for non-inspired supplementary orders? The point of these ‘supplementary orders’ (i.e. Creed) is what Mathison says prevents every individual from interpreting Jesus’ orders as they please.

    Your assertion does not follow: Scripture does not give a formal list in the kind of format you and many others want. The summary in the Creed serves that purpose.

    I think it does follow – unless your conceding Scripture isn’t formally sufficient! The WCF quote says all major doctrines will be clearly found someplace in Scripture so that even the most ignorant-but-sincere-and-genuine-Regenerate (just covering all the bases, lol) can come to find them. And, either way, we’re right back to my two-fold problem highlighted in post #85 (i.e. the “summary Creed” doesn’t include Protestant distinctives).

    There is no conflict between the Creeds being recognized as a fallible summary of the rule of faith found in the infallible Scriptures.

    This, while coherent on one level, is not what Mathison’s thesis states. The Rule-of-Faith (as Mathison argues) is the *twofold* possession of Scripture and summary Creed. Thus, for you to say the Creed is a summary of the RoF pushes the Creed outside the RoF. See that? The RoF as Scripture Alone is solO Scriptura.

    How so? Since your Catechism teaches that none of the Creeds obsolete the earlier ones, why do you insist on a different rule for Protestants?

    My comments were confined to the *words* and *context* of the official Reformed confessions. In this case, the wording and context indicates the Creed is a summary of the Trinity only, not extending it’s summary or authority beyond that. That’s simply reading the Confession as it stands.

    Excuse me, Devin, but how is saying that the Scriptures teach what is necessary for salvation an extra-biblical tradition from men?
    “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40).
    Are you saying that the Scriptures don’t teach you to believe in Jesus for everlasting life?
    “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25)
    And, “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31).
    Need I go on quoting what Scripture teaches about salvation???

    There is an logical fallacy in place here:
    (1) A source leading someone to come to believe in Jesus and thus be saved
    - is not equivalent to -
    (2) Being a source that teaches all doctrines necessary for Christian faith and living

    Category #1 is much more narrow (and true) than category #2.

    Why do you assume that believing and confessing Trinitarian theology is not enough for salvation? (cf. Rom. 10:9)

    See the previous paragraph. Confessing Trinitarian theology can be enough for salvation – as in bare minimum information – which isn’t the same as being a rule of faith for all other doctrine and practice. This actually brings us full circle, for Mathison’s thesis logically states Trinitarian theology is sufficient for determining “true Church” – yet he simultaneously maintains Protestant distinctives keep Catholics from being a true Church and thus teaching a saving Gospel.

    Now to your post #131.

    Nick, it was the Pope who excommunicated Luther and caused the division in the Church

    I don’t expect you to see this due to Protestant ecclesiology, but there are major problems here. First, you’re affirming the Pope had some genuine authority over Luther…all the while denying this. Second, Luther wasn’t some “equal” such that by excommunicating this man it caused “division” in the Church. Third, excommunication came from insubordination, meaning Luther is the root cause. To prove that your conclusion is faulty, swap in the name “Arius” for “Luther” and note how that can’t be right.

    Thank you for bringing attention to the problem with my statement about doctrine ‘X.’ It should read: “The question of whether or not a particular doctrine ‘X’ that is taught or implied by Scripture was not included in a Creed does not prove that Scripture does not teach it.”

    I don’t see how this changes anything. It seems it was a typo on your part without any change in the issue. My comments were based on the “was not included” all along.

    Your assertions about Mathison’s “serious problems” are overstated:
    1) The grounds for the Reformation stand on the basis of the second part of the sola scriptura description in the Anglican Articles of Religion: “so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” Rome taught and continues to teach as necessary to salvation things which are not taught by Scripture.

    This is a shift in topics, not addressing the actual issue. What’s being articulated in your quote here is solO scriptura, according to Mathison – in reality, all other people (both Catholic and Protestant) believe the quote you give here is Sola Scriptura (i.e. a solO distinction doesn’t exist).

    2) Your second point only makes sense if you assume “the very sources” you speak of to be infallible. Otherwise, it should be expected that people don’t agree with everything others teach. And, BTW – how many bishops at Nicea and Chalcedon taught that the bishop of Rome had universal jurisdiction or possessed an irrevocable charism of infallibility?

    But you’re missing the inconsistency: the same sources Mathison draws from for the ‘summary’ are the same ones articulating *abominable* ‘Catholic’ doctrines. A Church Father can’t be orthodox and heretic, unless you’re quoting them for secular historical rather than genuine Christian testimony purposes. But if you’re only quoting them for secular historical purposes, you can’t be trusting their “summary” Creed in the first place.

    Andrew Mcallum #145

    But as Mathison points out in his reply, they have misunderstood his appeal to the “rule of faith.”

    It was addressed indirectly at times, but even if so, that would have made their task of falsifying his thesis even easier (see post#85). His definition of Rule of Faith is built on serious inconsistent, subjective, and arbitrary leaps. For example: why does the “culmination of Apostolic doctrine” (in the Creed) as defined by Mathison not include Protestant distictives?

  177. Comment:
    Below is an attempt to more concisely describe the distinction between solO and SolA:

    In solO it is me and my Bible (no other reference point).

    In solA it is my Bible first (the primary source of God’s revelation about salvation), the witness of centuries of Christian teaching about salvation (numerous secondary sources, e.g., the Creeds, the church fathers, and the community of faith, including brothers and sisters in Christ that I know), and lastly, me (a tertiary player within the larger community of the Body of Christ).

    Unlike the solO position, I am not free to ignore the secondary sources, which derive whatever authority they might have from their faithfulness to the primary source. Should I wish to challenge the secondary sources, I must bring forward a persuasive argument that 1) they are inconsistent with the primary source (Scripture), and/or at a minimum, 2) demonstrate that my alternative interpretation is just as plausible as the secondary source(s) being challenged. In the process, I am not free to pit Scripture against Scripture, as the heretics (Arians, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, et al.) do. I am also constrained to listen to the community of faith, and should my interpretation differ from the Creeds, I am bound to explain why my differences should be allowed over the considerable witness of centuries of Christian thought.

    If the witness of other Christians, including those past and present, demonstrated that my information is wrong or my thought processes are faulty, I must reconsider my position. If I persist in spite of good reason or information to the contrary, I’m no longer practicing solA Scriptura, but solO.

    Nowhere in this model are the secondary sources dismissed without persuasive argument (“reason” as Luther put it), yet neither are they assumed to be equal in authority to Scripture or infallible in their own right. Only the Word of God (written and living) is infallible.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  178. Andrew:

    I was not writing about the Protestant confessions, since they are not creeds. Confessions are, well, confessions; they express the beliefs that a community agrees to believe. Creeds, on the other hand, are expressions of belief that the community ought to believe because the appropriate authority issued them.

    This, it seems to me, puts Protestants in a particularly difficult quandry. I suspect that each Protestant community that publishes a confession thinks that it is issuing normative guidelines of belief that depend on certain truths. In that case, from the perspective of the Reformed, anyone who denies any aspect of the Westminster Confession is in fact a heretic. But that means that a confession is more than just a summary of biblical doctrine, rather, it is a brief against heresy issued by a body with the authority to prosecute and convict. In that case, the confession has become a creed. And now we have the equivalent of a conciliar pronouncement with real teeth. But that would require a living magisterium, if there was real historical continuity between those that penned and published the WC and their successors. But there does not seem to be. Is it the PCUSA, PSA, RCA, or OPC, etc.? So, it’s merely a confession after all, a literary relic from the past that people choose to believe today. For this reason, they can amend it, taking out the parts that offend contemporary sensibilities, not unlike removing the “N” word from Mark Twain novels. Moreover, lots of Christian people reject the WC, including those who appeal to rival “magisteria” whose names are preceded by such adjectives as “Baptist,” “Lutheran,” and “Methodist.” Some were once Reformed, but changed teams. Now they have another confession that they fully embrace. Perhaps in a few years they will change again, becoming Unitarian or joining a Vineyard. Confessions are part of the modernist project to place the normativity of belief under the authority of the believer, and for that reason they have been wildly successful.

    Lojahw:

    Why should I believe the Council of Chalcedon if I conclude, based on my own reading of Scripture and philosophical reflection, that Christ in fact only has one will, as several Evangelical philosophers and theologians belief? Why believe that I have committed a heresy, if in fact it does not seem obviously unreasonable to embrace the latter view? Or perhaps you don’t think it is a heresy.

  179. Perry (re #164),

    For a start, you were jumping right into the middle of the discussion with questions about private judgment. You were taking my points that you answered and addressing them as if the matter was all about private judgment so I wanted to take a few step backwards to speak of what the focus of my comments were and more importantly what those of Mathison on sola scriptura were from my perception.

    And as a brief note on “certainty,” this is just the way that the debates in the West were couched, particularly by the Scholastics in the High to Late Middle Ages into which period the Reformation was born. The systematic and dogmatic concerns of the both Protestant and Catholic were not matched in the East where there was no attempt to systematize as there was in the West. So I don’t think you can divorce normativity from certainty in these debates as you might be able to in analogous developments in the East.

    none of the preceding tradition advocated sola scriptura as an option…

    And the point that I made was that neither was their anything in the early tradition of the Church which would lead us to think that that derivative tradition ever rose to the normative status of Scriptures. I have heard no end of quotes from the Fathers at Nicea or such similar dogmatic pronouncements in an attempt to demonstrate the Father’s adherence to ecclesiastical infallibility. But none of the quotes from the Fathers show that they believed that they could not err in their collective pronouncements, only that they were convinced that what they had formulated was true. And you only have to read Athanasius, Augustine, etc to see why they thought their position was true. And it was not because the Church was blessed with a chaism of infallibility at certain times and certain places! In fact Augustine, the only Early Father in the West who gets close to saying something about normativity of the work of the ecumenical councils, says basically the opposite in one of his Anti-Donatist writings: the work of even the ecumenical councils can be corrected while Scripture cannot. But I suppose I should not ask you to put too much stock into what Augustine wrote.

    The whole matter of derivative tradition and its elevation to something of effective equivalent normative status is the focus of the work of Oberman. This is his “Tradition 1” vs Tradition 2” references that Mathison refers to in comments in the original thread.

    …. since the right of private judgment as an essential constituent of sola would bring us back to the same place.

    I would take issue with this. Private judgment, meaning the judgment rendered on tradition by the individual Christian is not a constitutive element of the historic doctrine of sola scriptura. Again I would refer to Oberman. The “sola” is the one and only ultimate rule for the Church. The matter of private judgment is not at issue here. Now of course as per your Turretin, there are times when the pastor, theologian, bishop, etc must break with tradition but I’m not that this would be any difference for your communion than it would be for mine. Had it been an EO theologian standing at Trent telling them that he could not accept their arrogation of authority by their extreme papalist claims we could call this “private judgment” and from the standpoint of the theologians at Trent it would be. But I’m sure from your standpoint it’s still an ecclesiastical matter. Same thing with the Reformed congregations at the time of Trent. It was not a few odd individuals deciding they were going to tell the RCC off. If you want a good idea on what the Reformers thought about private judgment take the case of Servetus. Now here was a solO scriptura man if there ever was one. He was a brilliant Humanists scholar and he knew it, and he was sure that he did not need any ecclesiastical authority telling him what to believe about Scripture or anything else in the Christian tradition. Anyway, to your question – Is the individual the penultimate authority of matters of religion in the Reformed way of thinking? Well, no unless you want to tell me that yes, the EO theologian telling off Trent would be an act of private judgment. Maybe we want to go a little deeper into what you think constitutes private judgment and perhaps you would like some case studies of authority in the Reformed congregations?

    In the West, the Catholics get shielded from the accusation of private judgment because when they do the private judgment thing and break with tradition they still remain “Catholic.” Everyone’s a Catholic from Hans Kung to Marcel Lefebvre depite the fact that there is a bewildering variety of belief systems in the RCC from the very liberal to the ultra-conservative. And many of these belief system hold that their interpretation of the tradition of the historic Church is the correct one. This is what our conservative Catholic friends tell us here. Instead of the “we have Abraham as our Father” story from the Sanhedrin we now have “we have Peter as our Father” version of this from the conservative Catholics. But then I’m sure you think that you have the Apostles as your Fathers and thus you have joined one of the EO communions. Yea, everyone is just convinced that they have the right interpretation of tradition and yet we have this multitude of divisions between the various Catholic and EO congregations before we ever get to Protestantism!

    Now at this point you want to shield yourself and the Catholics from a counter claim by saying that you are only making “epistemological judgments” and not “normative judgments.” But when you make the charge that papalist claims are false you are engaging in challenging normative claims at the highest level. If you break with RCC dogma and go the EO route you have made some distinct claims concerning the RCC dogmatic pronouncements. This is even more true with the liberal versus conservative Catholics. So when the Reformed congregations in a particular geography did this, what’s the difference? They were saying that the peculiar interpretation that Rome at the time had placed on the historical record was false at some points. It was an ecclesiastical judgment, not a private one.

    The rule of faith given to the Galatians wasn’t Scripture per se, but what was taught to them since Scripture hadn’t been completed and Paul hadn’t written to them when they received it.

    But all we know of it has been preserved in Scripture. To posit an oral tradition that was part of the deposit of faith is just idle speculation from my standpoint. Either we have something in the record or we don’t. Speculating on what might be there but not inscripturated just does not go anywhere that I can see.

    On the Deuteros of both Catholic variety, you are assuming that there was a “rule of faith” concerning them at the time of the Reformation, but there was not. Nobody at this time was debating any aspect of the Protocanonicals (Luther’s brief skirting with issues with the Book James was hardly representative of Reformation thought here). But the status of the Deuteros/Apocrypha was still a matter of opinion and we cannot say that their role in the “rule of faith” was clearly demarcated. There were still RCC theologians in the 15th century (even after Florence!) that essentially took Jerome’s position on the matter. So there was not refining of the rule of faith by the Reformers on this point. They were clear where the rule of faith was clear, but on the Apocrypha they took one of the possible opinions that was open to them at the time and basically restated the matter as Athanasius had – they were important as a class of literature and although some of the books were not worth much, some were edifying, but none should be considered as Scripture. The high regard the Reformers had for the Apocrypha is reflected in the fact the one of the six translation committees for the King Kames Bible was solely committed to translating the Apocrypha.

    On the canon not being defined by the Protestant rule of faith, I’m not sure what you mean here. Sometimes we are hit with this “problem” as to how to define the canon if there is no guidance from the Scriptures themselves as to what is in and what is out. Is this what you are getting at? We have certainly gone through that one ad nauseam on this loop.

  180. Mathison has done it!

    No, he has not successfully answered Bryan and Neal’s critique. What he has done is provided the go-to article for reformed Christians to send to their friends when they are asked “What’s the deal with this Called to Communion website? Could Catholicism be true?” Though we geeks will debate in various comments sections ’til we’re blue in the face, I’m afraid the article is a conversation-stopper for the casual reader. Oh well.

    It seems that for Mathison the difference between Sola and Solo boils down whether or not you ever consider other Christians’ interpretations. If that’s the principled difference, I’d have to wonder if the problem of the Solo Scripturist is more likely psychological than ecclesiological.

  181. Brent (re #166),

    Is it ever possible to get beyond interpretation and to truth, and if so how does sola scriptura demonstrate that possibility

    Brent – I don’t think I would try to juxtapose interpretation and truth. The question between Protestant and Catholic is over whether we need to have infallibility in order to have the level of certainty that God intended for us. Over at one of the the Reformed loops we spent some time recently discussing the Catholic psychology with respect to this question. We were trying to get to why Catholics place this sort of expectation on certain dogmatic theological truths despite the fact that they don’t place this requirement on any other matter of human inquiry. But the Catholic sees that there must of some human infallible pronouncements (not just divine ones) in order for theology to be done right. Our question is why other than the obvious fact that it met certain Medieval Scholastic dogmatic expectations.

    it also makes a weak teaching claim, namely that The Church must prove the truth of a confession. By what? Scripture? By whose interpretation?

    I don’t suppose there is much need to continually go through the basic Christian creeds, but there is much need to continually go through the various dogmatic statements of the Church in both Reformed and Catholic perspective. Even in the Catholic mindset the Church is continually receiving new insight into what had not been clear before. There is no difference in the Reformed way of thinking although of course our definitions of Church are different. For us the foundations of the Church are defined in Scriptures and the proper role of the congregations is to continually reassess the belief and practice of the congregations. Again, the point of contention is over whether the Church can ever say she has stated something infallibly. Not in-errantly mind you, but infallibly.

    So what is the Church in my understanding of it? Well, this is what Mathison gets at when he discusses the rule of faith and as I have pointed out to others here, while the limits of the Church are not defined as precisely in the Reformed understanding as they are in Catholicism, we have no problem generally determining which congregations have been faithful on those elements of the faith and which have not. But it does get murky and there are all sorts of weird variants in the Evangelical world whose orthodoxy in questionable. The Catholic solution here is to include everyone in the visible church that has been baptized into the RCC (or others in communion with the RCC) but this creates the far bigger problem of the Church being a formal union of those who openly reject Christ with those who accept Him.

  182. Nick (re #176),

    It was addressed indirectly at times, but even if so, that would have made their task of falsifying his thesis even easier (see post#85)

    Nick, but they did not do it and that was my point. Now of course you think that Mathison is inconsistent but that’s not a very startling judgment coming from someone starting from a Catholic understanding of the matter.

  183. Re: Lojahw (177)

    “Unlike the solO position, I am not free to ignore the secondary sources, which derive whatever authority they might have from their faithfulness to the primary source.”

    The obvious difference between the person who ignores other interpretations (if he wishes) and the person who consults others is merely this- one of them consults others before he makes his judgment, and the other does not (both of them are using their minds, considering information, and so forth). BUT they are the same in another respect- After having considered all the information you could come up with (be it your own thoughts about the meaning of the text, or your thought plus the thoughts of others), you will ONLY accept that which you judge to be a correct interpretation. And you will judge an interpretation to be correct, only if you are convinced in the right sort of way- in this case, only if you are *moved by the information you have available (whether you have found it yourself, or you have found it with the help of others).

    I’m going to attempt to put this in some logical form, so that it is open for refutation:

    Premise 1: IF it’s the case that Mark has consulted the community before he accepted interpretation P of Scripture, THEN he has *involved some other reference point.
    Premise 2: IF Mark has involved some other reference point, THEN it’s not the case that everything is left up to Mark individually as in Solo Scriptura.
    Premise 3: Mark has consulted the community before he accepted interpretation P.
    Conclusion: It’s not the case that everything is left up to Mark individually as in Solo Sciptura.

    Lojahw, is this something like what you had in mind? ALSO, what do you mean by *reference point- in my argument, I just mean something like, ‘another source outside of me, which has consquences on my decision-making’. It sounds suspicious of me to put your argument in my words, and then reject premises of it- but I have not seen a logical argument for the distinction between Solo and Sola.

    Rejection of Premise 1: Just because I have consulted others about which interpretation I am going to accept, that doesn’t make it the case that I have involved some other reference point. Afterall, every single person could have given me their opinion, and I could disagree with each of them. It seems that it’s mistaken to call them *reference points, if they had no influence on my decision making of which interpretation to accept. So this premise will have to be modified or rejected.

    Rejection of Premise 2: For the sake of evaluating premise 2, let’s suppose premise 1 is true. Example A: Suppose consulting the opinions of others has radically changed my view and has affected my choice of which interpretation to accept, then maybe it sounds like it’s appropriate to say that I have involved some other reference point. BUT, even if I have consulted another reference point in a case like this, is it still not left up to me individually? Afterall, I changed my mind when I was exposed to others opinions, but I did it only because I agreed with them and was convinced by their views. I am still on my own individually in one important sense- the judge, once I have considered the set of information, is me. I do a combination of research (i.e. actual thinking about the text, and then modifying that thinking by employing what I take to be informative contributions from other thinkers who are also doing thinking about the meaning of the text), but at the end of all my research- I will only accept an interpretation if I agree with it, AND if I am convinced that it’s true to the primary source. But whether it’s true to the primary source is something I decided (likewise) by doing the research, AND I’ll only affirm/deny the compatibility if I am convinced the evidence I have been exposed to in my research. Since, in the end, I adjudicate the power of the evidence (doctrine by doctrine), it is up to me individually case by case, interpretation by interpretation, passage by passage.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  184. Chad,

    It seems that for Mathison the difference between Sola and Solo boils down whether or not you ever consider other Christians’ interpretations.

    After reading the response thrice (Conan anybody) all I can see is that is the most succinct explanation of what he provided.

    There was really only one paragraph in the entire 53 pages that deals with the issue raised by Bryan and Neal (the bit about Jesus telling everybody to walk in a particular direction) and you’ve just summarized Mathison’s ‘difference.’

  185. Andrew @#181
    “I don’t think I would try to juxtapose interpretation and truth.”

    Fair enough. Let’s juxtapose interpretation(s) and truth. How does sola scriptura get one beyond interpretations and to truth? (the answer isn’t Mathison did it)

    “We were trying to get to why Catholics place this sort of expectation on certain dogmatic theological truths despite the fact that they don’t place this requirement on any other matter of human inquiry.”

    I was Protestant two years ago, went to a Protestant ecumenical seminary trained by an Episcopal, Methodist, and Presbyterian. I don’t think the Catholic desire for infallible truth is a Catholic psychological condition, but rather a human condition. Jesus was infallible Truth, so it would be pretty natural for his followers to desire infallible Truth. That’s why I’m Catholic and why Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn, Francis Beckwith, Blessed Newman…are Catholic.

    “But the Catholic sees that there must of some human infallible pronouncements”

    It takes the same faith (not same concept albeit) to say Paul was given the gift to write the infallible words of God in his letter to the church at Colossea. The teaching authority of the Catholic Church serves both toward ecclesial unity and orthodoxy. I think contraception is a great example of how lacking the Catholic authority, Bible believing churches proclaim good what is evil (contraception). They can’t infallibly know, therefore, they flounder on an issue which none of the original Reformers would have winced at due to their proximity to Mother Church.

    “The Catholic solution here is to include everyone in the visible church that has been baptized into the RCC”

    The Catholic Church, under the leadership of the Roman Bishop, understands herself to be the body of Christ. As such, she is entrusted with the sacraments. Since Trent (Canon IV in the 7th session, on the “Sacraments” regarding “Baptism”), the church has affirmed the licitness of baptism when done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit accompanied by water (material and formal conditions) even by heretics (they were thinking Protestants so let’s not get off base by thinking about non-Trinitarian religions; those errors of sola scriptura had yet to creep up in modernity yet). This isn’t “murky” but rather another mark of the universality of Holy Mother Church. She always seeks to bring into the fold when she can.

    In Christ through Mary,

    Brent

  186. @Andrew McCallum #181

    FYI the “rule of faith” that FM wants to talk about and is groaping towards, that is actually called the sensus fidelium is actually infallible. This is important because it is more important that episcopal infalliblity. That the sensus fidelium is infallible is how the Church can survive sans bishops during periods of severe persecution. Case in being Japan.http://hprweb.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=250:the-catholic-holocaust-of-nagasaki-august-9-1945why-lord&catid=34:current-issue Read in full of course but to pull out the important bit that the infallible sensus fidelium maintained the faith……..It was an oral tradition given by priests during the great persecution two hundred and fifty years before: “The Church will return to Japan, and you will know it by three signs: the priests will be celibate, there will be a statue of Mary, and it will obey Papa-sama in Rome.”

    The Church in Japan didn’t become a new belief system but remained wholy Catholic even lacking the infallible teaching office of the episcopate.

    I don’t suppose there is much need to continually go through the basic Christian creeds, but there is much need to continually go through the various dogmatic statements of the Church in both Reformed and Catholic perspective. Even in the Catholic mindset the Church is continually receiving new insight into what had not been clear before. There is no difference in the Reformed way of thinking although of course our definitions of Church are different. For us the foundations of the Church are defined in Scriptures and the proper role of the congregations is to continually reassess the belief and practice of the congregations. Again, the point of contention is over whether the Church can ever say she has stated something infallibly. Not in-errantly mind you, but infallibly.

    Actually there is a major difference. Lets address the underling issue with infallibility first. Infallibility is really over whether or not the Holy Spirit guides the Church. For a Reformed individual the Holy Spirit cannot guide the Church because if He did, due to the Reformed principles of the Sovereignty of God and Irrestiable Grace, the Church would exercise infallibility. The Church cannot exercise infallibility because if that was the case then sola fide would be wrong because historically the Church ruled against Luther on that point. It is important to recall that sola scriptura was developed in response to the ordinary infallibility of the magisterium in rejecting Luther at Worms. Because sola scriptura needs to be upheld the Church cannot be guided by the Spirit. Further let us also consider the problem of synergism vs monergism. Infallibility implies synergism because it means that the action of the Holy Spirit and the action of the human actor are one and the same. Because Reformed theology rejects synergism the Church cannot be infallible.

    Now the the major difference begins to take shape. For a Catholic it is not proper at all for congregations to continually reassess the formal “authorative” beliefs and practices of the congregation. The Catholic view is not about constantly reassessing this or that document but it is about conversion — how can the congregation more faithfully live out and adhere to the formal beliefs and practices of the Church. Here you can see a bit with the sola fide difference — because Protestants are “faith alone” they are invested in constantly reassessing and trying to tease out what is and what is not biblical because if you know what is “biblical” then you can adhere to the faith. This process of course necessitates personal judgment as being the final arbiter of what to believe and what not to. Catholics on the other hand reject flat out that an individual’s conscience is unbound by the teaching of the Church. Because Catholics reject sola fide but rather adhere to “grace through faith which worketh in love”, or as Augustine also put it our eternal happiness is dependent upon our works, the focus is not on analyzing the various expressions of Faith but rather seeking to more fully and faithfully adhere to them and live them out.

    Practical example:

    If I put the Westminster Confession before a Reformed individual who is well formed in their belief system, the thought process is to go through it and take it apart piece by piece and see what is biblical and what is not so that those parts that are biblical can be followed and those that are not are rejected (that what solo scripturists would do) or taken under consideration as discipline (that is what sola scripturists would do). I use here the WCF because there are full sections in it that are rejected by modern Presbyterians as not being biblical even though the authors thought they were (point in being the section on Magistrates which makes the visable church subservient to the civil authority).

    Now if I put Vatican II in front of a Catholic individual who is well formed in their belief system, the thought process is not to do a compare contrast with scripture but rather to read the text asking “How can I better live this out in my life?” It is the principle of obedience to the Church that is at play in the Catholic and not the Reformed.

    You can tell the difference between who has a Catholic epistemology and who has a Protestant epistemology. Ask them what they believe. A Catholic will say that they believe what the Church believes. A Protestant will start listing off their private judgment on what is and what is not biblical. This is also how you can spot Protestants that might be open to conversion — if they have a spirit of obedience, or the start of one, to believe not according to their own rationality but rather to the belief of the Church.

    This doesn’t mean that Catholics don’t think about things, but rather we don’t think about matters of the Faith according to private judgment (or we are trying not to.) we think about them according to the Spirit of the Church.

    The Catholic solution here is to include everyone in the visible church that has been baptized into the RCC (or others in communion with the RCC) but this creates the far bigger problem of the Church being a formal union of those who openly reject Christ with those who accept Him.

    Only if you are coming from a position of imputed justification. Infused justification doesn’t have this problem because with infused justification everyone is in the same boat; everyone has been justified and everyone is in the process of being justified. The Church is filled with a bunch of saints, some of whom do bad things and some of whom don’t make it to heaven.

  187. @ Steve G #173

    Please don’t put words in my mouth that is not what I said nor what I believe. Thanks!

  188. For those following only this thread, Dr. Liccione has written a philosophical critique of Dr. Mathison’s rebuttal here.

  189. Lojahw #177,

    Mark in #183 said a lot of what I was going to say regarding the systematized distinction you gave.

    As far as Mathison’s thesis goes, I don’t see your definition aligning with his (you expand from the Creed to an unbounded look all Church history). The similarity though is that – as I said from the start – the O/A distinction in both of your definitions seems to be in *degree* and not in *essence*. The *degree* comes down to how many fallible secondary sources one ‘must’ consult (and ultimately which of them the Protestant accepts as worthy fallible secondary source), but there is no principled difference between being ‘required’ to consult 0, 1, 5, 10, or 1,000 fallible secondary sources. IN that event, there are just as many solA’s out there as the number of fallible secondary sources the Protestant wants to include (with solO being a default term for solA with 0 sources consulted).

    From a purely observational standpoint, even though you mention solA takes into consideration “the witness of centuries of Christian teaching,” the fact is every single Christian doctrine has been called into question by the Reformers and their successors and they ultimately decided whether they should stay, be reformulated, or be dumped. In the case of Luther, it seems he violated *your* very definition of solA scriptura: he openly and unashamedly claimed his notion of imputation was never taught in “the witness of centuries of Christian teaching”…..and this set precedence. (e.g. why should the Baptists have to follow “the witness of centuries of Christian teaching” when Luther didn’t have to?)

    You say, “I am not free to ignore the secondary sources,” but – IT SEEMS TO ME – the root of the error in forming the O/A distinction is a PSYCHOLOGICAL problem in which the solA position has a built-in *escape clause* that leaves the individual technically free to question and disregard/modify any doctrine taught in a fallible secondary source passed down from history and thus temporarily suspend the rules and effectively embrace solO when necessary. The only non-principled argument left is how many times this suspending of the rules and temporarily embracing solO is allowed and warranted. This latter argument manifests itself today under the guise of being more educated entitles the scholar a more worthy voice at the table.

    From an ‘official Protestant teaching’ standpoint: which Protestant confession or other significant authority defines solA as you do? (I don’t see the 39Articles nor the WCF define it as you just did.) It seems as if you’re making this definition up according to your ‘high-church’ Anglican preferences – just as Mathison does for his ‘low-church’ Presbyterian preferences.

  190. [...] latter Protestants are the ones who are arguing in this article (which is a rebuttal to this original article at CalledToCommunion.com). They are generally [...]

  191. Chad Toney,

    I always like it when you comment.

    Though we geeks will debate in various comments sections ’til we’re blue in the face, I’m afraid the article is a conversation-stopper for the casual reader. Oh well.

    For those Protestants looking for any kind of response to the original article, I think you are right that Mathison’s lengthy work will suffice, but for those Protestants–and I think there are many–who are digging, and questioning, and demanding answers to the tough questions being posed, this response will not suffice for the simple reason, as many have pointed out already here, that his response does not rebut the argument.

  192. Francis B. @ 178

    Why should I believe the Council of Chalcedon if I conclude, based on my own reading of Scripture and philosophical reflection, that Christ in fact only has one will, as several Evangelical philosophers and theologians belief? Why believe that I have committed a heresy, if in fact it does not seem obviously unreasonable to embrace the latter view? Or perhaps you don’t think it is a heresy.

    Francis, what you describe is a solO approach– you have not explained why “one will” is a more accurate interpretation of Scripture than the position which has been defended for centuries. A sola scriptura Christian would ask you 1) which Scriptures have led you to this position and 2) what Christian leaders agree with you and why, and 3) how you explain that Jesus was fully human (“he had to be made like his brethren in all things,” Heb. 2:18) and fully divine (“the Word was God” yet “became flesh,” and said, “I and the Father are one” and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”), and also said: “Not my will but Thine be done.” According to the Scriptures, Christ showed that he willed something different from what the Father did, which he could not have done except in his human nature, since he did not introduce our infirmity into his divine nature (which would violate His immutable nature as God). Moreover, it could never be possible for the divine immutable nature to will anything different from what the Father willed.

    How would you answer?

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  193. Mark @ 183

    After having considered all the information you could come up with (be it your own thoughts about the meaning of the text, or your thought plus the thoughts of others), you will ONLY accept that which you judge to be a correct interpretation.

    Mark, you appear to be much more cynical than I am about sincere Christians. Your scenario assumes either 1) a lack of integrity in the person who has been confronted with sufficient argument/information to refute his position, and/or 2) lack of accountability 2a) in a case where he just fails to understand the problem or 2b) where he understands but stubbornly holds onto a refuted position. Of course, the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to gain converts from such people, but such people have not practiced sola scriptura because the Scriptures clearly contradict the doctrines taught by such cults.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  194. Nick @ 176
    Nick, we seem to be talking past each other, so perhaps its time to agree to disagree (e.g., I do not agree that all “distinctives” are necessary). Jesus said only one thing is necessary (cf. Luke 10:42). If you and I, both believing in and confessing Christ, end up in His presence for eternity, what have I have missed that is necessary?

    You would need more specific info to explain: “the same sources Mathison draws from for the ‘summary’ are the same ones articulating *abominable* ‘Catholic’ doctrines.” E.g., which *abominable* ‘Catholic’ doctrines did the Nicene fathers teach?

    I’m reminded of Eusebius of Caesarea, who wrote about the Eucharist: “[W]e have received a memorial of this offering… which we celebrate on a table by means of symbols of His Body and saving Blood according to the laws of the new covenant” (Demonstratio Evangelica, 1.10).

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  195. Lojahw

    You are right. People often do allow themselves to be corrected by other Christians. Especially by teachers they have come to respect. But it does not happen every time. Sometimes new schools of thought develop. That is not being cynical about sincere Christians. That is being observant and charitable. Observant because you see the new teachings. Charitable because it makes the best assumptions about their sincerity.

    So how often does it have to happen? In a church that has to survive for centuries and millenia how often do serious errors need to split the church for it to destroy her mission? Are you seriously saying it is not already happening way too often?

  196. Tap,

    Would like to know what Jason Stellman, Chris Donato, and RFwhite think of Dr. Matthison’s reply, they seemed to be to have reasonable posts on various posts on this blog — that make you think and actually move the conversation. Would be intereseting to see if they participate in this particular thread.

    Well, I have read most of Keith’s reply and all the comments in this thread up until yours, so I am not completely up to speed.

    What was going through my mind during most of this exchange was, “Can we please move past this endless debate over the word ‘only’? For the sake of argument, let’s just pretend that Keith meant what T-Fan thinks he meant, since he’s probably right. Good! Now that that’s out of the way, what do we all think of Keith’s arguments about Rome failing its own tests on a number of different issues?”

    Now, it has been pointed out that Keith doesn’t really argue for a primitive Protestantism but only against a primitive Roman Catholicism, which may be the case (again, I haven’t finished his paper). But either way, if he can show that the claims of Rome are either false or at least additions to the original deposit, then that certainly advances the discussion.

    I realize this all leads to a debate about development, which we have been told is off-limits here.

    I may be wrong, but I think it is T-Fan who has argued elsewhere against Keith’s understanding of Sola Scriptura, saying that the Reformed confessional documents actually present something closer to a solO position, which is an interesting approach to take, I think. Part of me wonders what would happen if one of us just bit the bullet and said, “You know what? I do embrace solO, I don’t care that much what extra-canonical councils say, so let’s just debate what the Bible has to say about justification.”

    In other words, I wonder what would happen if we just cleared everything out of the way so we could do some good ol’ fashioned exegesis since, after all, as long as we think Rome anathematized the gospel, all this talk of authority is merely academic and perhaps interesting, but not determinative.

  197. Re: Lojahw (193)

    Actually what I’m saying is something like: sincerity, within your paradigm, would look something like this: the person considers evidence and if they find the interpretation convincing, they accept the interpretation. If they do not find a particular interpretation convincing, they reject the interpretation. The ONLY reason (under the recommendations of this paradigmatic approach) for which any person should accept or reject an interpretation IS that they are convinced that the interpretation is correct. (by the way, I’m not intending any personal offense).

    Lojahw, what do you think about the logical argument, was that something like what you had in mind? What did you think about my critique of that logical argument?

    If you do not think that my version of the argument is very helpful, do you think you could provide some logical argument?

    Cheers,
    Mark

  198. @lojahw #192

    “A sola scriptura Christian would ask you 1) which Scriptures have led you to this position and 2) what Christian leaders agree with you and why, and 3) how you explain that Jesus was fully human… ”

    Where did you get this three-part method of sola scriptura? (passage, consensus/authority, reasonableness). I thought by definition, sola scriptura doesn’t need (3) since as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod states, “It should be remembered that acceptance of the Bible as the sole authority for teaching comes not from rational arguments or human traditions, but is a conviction produced by the Holy Spirit in the human heart.” (Calvin says the same thing) Shouldn’t someone who holds a one-will Christ simply show John 10:30, John 5:19 and then say they “feel the Holy Spirit in their heart.” If its good enough to get you the paradigm for the rule of faith shouldn’t it be good enough to get you basic Christology?

    As to “what Christian leaders agree and why”…? Really? What Christian could actually do this BEFORE the internet? Even assuming every Christian has an iPad, a subscription to ATLA, and the portfolio verison of Logos software, how would he/she know they had looked at enough sources to be certain, for example, that their view of infant baptism or glossololia was correct? What if the very NEXT source they read “disproved” their thesis and made them reject their position.

    So, there we have it: solo scriptura. For a Catholic, his/her conviction won’t change on infallibly revealed truth on, say birth control, because the ground for that truth is external to his/herself, namely the Church (I Tim 3:15-scripture teaching scripture is not the ground of truth). For a solo scripturist, the moment the ground for their truth (themselves) is challenged sufficiently to have a “moment of conscious”, they change position (Eph 4:14). The beauty of the Church is that Truth is not subject to my weak intellect, sinfulness and pride. So, even when my “gut” or “head” or “heart” tells me birth control is “a-ok”, I’m wrong. Ah, I’m free! (Jn 8:32). Free from my weak intellect, sinfulness, and pride to reject my “gut, head, or heart” from telling me that Jesus is 50% God, baptism is a symbol, or Mary sinned.

    Peace in Christ

  199. Brent (Re: 185),

    Let’s juxtapose interpretation(s) and truth. How does sola scriptura get one beyond interpretations and to truth? (the answer isn’t Mathison did it)

    In the comments to the original post from Bryan and Neal, I was one of the first commentators and I was in essence trying to get at the question you are asking. The thought experiments I posed to my Catholic friends then was to ask them for sake of argument to suppose that the pronouncements from Nicea were delivered to the congregations at that time without any thought that they were being promulgated infallibly. My question to them was would the Nicean pronouncements have been accepted as authoritative if they were not pronounced infallibly? If the answer is yes, then why go beyond what is necessary and posit infallibility except again of course that it meets certain Medieval expectations for dogmatic theology? Now, my answer is first that I don’t think that Nicea was promulgated with anything that we can call infallibility, either in word or concept, although it was doubtless held that the words of Nicea were correct and demonstrably so. And like all such pronouncements there was no immediate unqualified acceptance but rather a period time in which the Church continued to dwell and write on the matter and where the congregations got to hear these decisions debated and discussed back and forth. In the end Nicea was accepted whether or not there was any infallibility at play. You have only to read the classic texts on the Trinity from that period and afterwards to see the confidence that the Fathers had over these decisions. But the confidence came from the surety that they were accurately portraying the Word of God, not that the Church had been given any particular gift of infallibility. The reliance on the one ultimate standard of truth in arriving at such conclusions is what later became known to be sola scriptura by the Reformers. Sola scriptura is not about our personal assessment of the Scriptures but rather about the Church’s use of the Scripture in cases such as this. So we have moved from interpretation to truth here via sola scriptura without need for later medieval notions of infallibility.

    On my comment about “psychology” I will retract that. This makes it sounds like I am trying to diagnose an aberrant condition of the mind and I don’t want to come across that way. My “murky” comment was actually seeking to characterize the Evangelical world rather than anything Catholic. This is the problem when we have when asked to define “Church.” We don’t do so with the kind of precision that Catholicism does and although we are generally clear what the extent of the Church is, the boundaries are sometimes fuzzy. To the Catholic mind the fuzziness is unacceptable and they want to have a nice tight and clean definition for the visible church. And my point here is that while yes, the Catholic definition of the visible church solves this murkiness in one sense, it creates a new problem in that now the limits of the Church are a formality and are not necessarily bounded by anything distinctly Christian. This reflects back on some of Mathison’s discussion of “rule of faith,” a necessary element of what the Church is and does.

  200. Nick (re: 186),

    Actually there is a major difference. Lets address the underling issue with infallibility first. Infallibility is really over whether or not the Holy Spirit guides the Church

    Take a look at my thought experiment above. If there is no need to posit infallibility in order to have authority why bring in infallibility?

    So obviously I take issue with your contention that the Holy Spirit cannot lead the Church without infallibility. Throughout the OT and NT the Spirit lead God’s people perfectly (and how could He do otherwise?) but the people did not always follow infallibly. When I state that the Church was in error at various times and places, all I am really saying is that the people of God did not always follow the perfect leading of the Spirit infallibly. And even Catholic dogmatic theology notes that only some matters are promulgated infallibly and most others not. Well when the Church has erred in the past was it because the Holy Spirit was not leading or was it because she was not following perfectly?

    Sola scriptura does not in any way invalidate the Spirit’s leading. It only speaks to the tools that the Spirit uses in His task.

    This process of course necessitates personal judgment as being the final arbiter of what to believe and what not to

    This does not follow and this paragraph it is taken from does not describe what is happening in the Reformed congregations. And on your practical example as to how a Reformed believer might use the WCF and how a Catholic believer might use a pronouncement from VII, I think this is not necessarily accurate. I have been in enough congregations using the WCF to know that most folks do not go through a critical reassessment of the confessions when coming into a Church but rather seek to know how they can work in the congregation for God’s glory. There is a high degree of submission of the people in the Reformed congregations to the leadership and confessions and it is my observation that there is more biblical submission in these congregations than there is in the vast majority of Catholic congregations.

  201. Francis (re: 178),

    I suspect that each Protestant community that publishes a confession thinks that it is issuing normative guidelines of belief that depend on certain truths. In that case, from the perspective of the Reformed, anyone who denies any aspect of the Westminster Confession is in fact a heretic.

    Francis (re: 178),

    By your comments I suspect you were not in a congregation that used any particular confession. I’m in Presbyterian Church that uses the WCF and yes it has teeth. It’s not that everything in the WCF is of the same nature of certainty just as in the CCC. There are things that strike at the vitals of the faith and things that do not. As in Catholic documents there are de fide matters and matters of less importance. You mention other denominations. OK, let’s suppose I went to another Reformed communion and we used the London or Heidelberg or Thirty-nice Articles. What is the difference between the Reformed confessions and how would it make a difference in terms of use and discipline?

    One of the things I love about Reformed faith and practice is that there really are teeth. But now you have headed to Rome there is no analogous discipline of the clergy or laity, is there? There are creeds and confession but they don’t have much use for the priest or parishioner that doesn’t care for them.

  202. Andrew @199

    “But for those who say, There was when He was not, and, Before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance…these the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.” Creed of Nicea (A.D. 325).

    “Concerning those who call themselves Cathari, if they come over to the Catholic and Apostolic Church, the great and holy Synod decrees that they who are ordained shall continue as they are in the clergy. But it is before all things necessary that they should profess in writing that they will observe and follow the dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; in particular that they will communicate with persons who have been twice married, and with those who having lapsed in persecution have had a period [of penance] laid upon them, and a time [of restoration] fixed so that in all things they will follow the dogmas of the Catholic Church…” Council of Nicaea I (A.D. 325).

    “Concerning this Holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy, ‘That thou mayest know haw thou oughtest to behave thyself in the House of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth’” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures,18:25(A.D. 350).

    “Those who from heresy turn to orthodoxy, and to the portion of those who are being saved, we receive according to the following method and custom: Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, who call themselves Cathari or Aristori, and Quarto-decimans or Tetradites, and Apollinarians, we receive, upon their giving a written renunciation [of their errors] and anathematize every heresy which is not in accordance with the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God.” Council of Constantinople I, Canon 7 (A.D. 381).

    (your words)
    “If the answer is yes, then why go beyond what is necessary and posit infallibility except again of course that it meets certain Medieval expectations for dogmatic theology”…”In the end Nicea was accepted whether or not there was any infallibility at play. ”

    “If” is the important word here. Also, “unqualified” acceptance is not the measure of the authority of the Church. Was it the measure of the authority of the teaching of Christ? Half of his followers left him when he taught on the Eucharist (Jn 6).

    Regarding Medieval theology, I’m afraid Protestants read too many secondary sources on this account and don’t properly put in context the scholastic tradition. Theology in the west post 1170AD was not some “new” thing but rather theology as it opened itself to the explanatory power of Aristotelian philosophy. It’s precision is a mark of its quality not it’s aberration from the norm. Think Lombard to Cajetan.

    “Infallibility in play”. I have no idea what this concept means. As if the Church had to say, “We say this…infallibly” then we are left with your premise, but I’m not certain we have an ipso facto case here. Rather, the infallibility (authoritative/binding/veracious teaching office) was implied, unquestioned, and therefore not defined for 1,900 years in the Church.

    St. Thomas, pray for us!

  203. @ Andrew 201

    “One of the things I love about Reformed faith and practice is that there really are teeth. But now you have headed to Rome there is no analogous discipline of the clergy or laity, is there? There are creeds and confession but they don’t have much use for the priest or parishioner that doesn’t care for them.”

    This is where the apples fall off the cart. Ad hominem? I’m not sure Mr. Beckwith will waste his time, but I can. If you included all the “Reformed Churches” you would get 70 million. Let’s say .01% of Reformed were evil (I’ll grant it the most holy church in the world to be generous)– false sheep. That would be 7,000 people trouncing around the world wreaking scandal and havoc (not noteworthy, right?). If 1% of the 1.2 billion Catholics were as such, that would be 1.2 million rebels doing the same. The universality of the Church makes her both the house of the most sinners but also of the most Saints. 8% of Jesus’s original 12 were traitorous. So, that means the Catholic Church might have 96 million traitors in her ranks (probably more). The lack of submission among many in her ranks proves nothing.

    Peace in Christ through Mary

  204. Lojahw #192

    You said:
    “According to the Scriptures, Christ showed that he willed something different from what the Father did, which he could not have done except in his human nature, since he did not introduce our infirmity into his divine nature (which would violate His immutable nature as God). Moreover, it could never be possible for the divine immutable nature to will anything different from what the Father willed.”

    You begin “according to the scriptures” yet the rest of what you said is verbatim from Agatho’s letter in the 6th Ecumenical Council. Did you refrain from citing the council because you wish to imply this came only from your private reading of scripture?

  205. Lojahw #192,

    Sed contra to your remarks to Beckwith.

    What you proffer as dyothelitism is not dyothelitism, but actually something far more akin to Nestorianism. The natures on neither dyothelitism nor monothelitism will anything. You are conflating the power with the *use* of the power. The divine nature wills nothing, rather the Persons of the Trinity do the willing. There aren’t three powers of choice in the Trinity, but one, and so one will in the Trinity.

    Second, your line of argumentation from the passion is quite Arian and Nestorian and not Dyothelite, since the Dyothelites held that the *divine person* of the Son *did* in fact will something different than the Father in so far as he willed not to go to the Cross. But willing different is not the same as willing contrary to, since the Trinity wills eternally the preservation of human nature as well and so a real, interpenetrating, but not separable plurality of eternal goods to choose between are available. The human fear of death is natural and a natural good. The eternal Son wills both things and both are divinely willed goods. Your remarks that willing different is something that couldn’t be done except via humanity betrays a key monothelite and monoenergist principle, that the objects of choice are distinguished by morally opposite properties. That is, to will differently is to will contrary to. On Dyothelitism it isn’t. Rather the Dyothelite principle at work is that willing not to go to the Cross was appropriately done by the divine person because of his good human power of choice. The reason then why it is not done by a divine power of choice is that it is appropriate to humanity, rather than something in opposition to the divine will and nature. Hence there is no subordination of one will to the other (as say in Calvinism).

    And more directly, while the divine nature is impassible, the divine person of the Son suffers and dies.

    Third, not all forms of monothelitism denied a human power of choice (the natural will) in Christ (Most didn’t). This is especially true in say Pyrrus. So your argument from the full humanity of Christ to the presence of two wills leaves monothelitism and monoenergism untouched.

    Monothelitism could and did admit of two natural powers, just so long as the divine will determined or predestined the human and so there was only one hypostatic activity/energy (monoenergism). And this pretty much is the Christological position of the Reformed as well as their anthropological position. Dyothelitism and Dyoenergism entail not only the presence of two natural powers of choice, but also the presence of two activities or energies with two different objects of choice. This is why Dyothelitism and Dyoenergism entail the alternative possibilities condition on free will (as well as the UR conditions to wax Kanean). And this is why the Reformed are Monothelites and Monoenergists because they think the divine is deterministically related to the human and so there is only one activity, monoenergism and hence monergism in athopology. They make much of Honorius, but their position is fundamentally the same as his.

    The upshot of this is that refuting Monothelitism and Monoenergism isn’t anywhere near a simple matter as you seem to suggest in your remarks to Beckwith. Your arguments at best do not even begin to touch it and otherwise entail or imply it. Your stated position and that of the Reformed is actually on the side of the Monothelites.

    Recommended reading.

    Bathrellos, The Byzantine Christ: Person, Nature, and Will in the Christology of Saint Maximus the Confessor.

    Hovorun, Will, Action and Freedom: Christological Controversies in the Seventh Century

  206. Comment:
    In view of the many comments on this thread accusing Protestants of novelty re: Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura, please note:

    I won’t bore everyone with quotes supporting sola scriptura by Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian of Carthage, Dionysius of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Theophilus of Alexandria, Jerome, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, et al., but I will repeat the quote from Augustine:

    “. . . among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life.” On Christian Doctrine 2.9

    On Sola Fide, John Chrysostom wrote the following on Romans chapters 3-4:

    So also is the declaring of His righteousness not only that He is Himself righteous, but that He does also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores of sin suddenly righteous. And it is to explain this, viz. what is “declaring,”[i.e., imputation] that he has added, “That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus.” Doubt not then: for it is not of works, but of faith: and shun not the righteousness of God, for it is a blessing in two ways; because it is easy, and also open to all men. . . .

    For after he had said that God justifies man by faith, he grapples with the Law again. . . . It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. . . .

    For when a man is once a believer, he is straightway justified. For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light. . . . “(Homily on Romans 7)

    Repeating his explicit recognition of the imputation of righteousness by faith, Chrysostom wrote:
    “For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.” After mentioning the Scripture above (for he said, “What says the Scripture? Abraham believed in God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness,”) here he goes on to secure also the judgment of the speakers, and shows that justification took place in the uncircumcision.’ (Homily on Romans 8)

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  207. Canadian:
    You begin “according to the scriptures” yet the rest of what you said is verbatim from Agatho’s letter in the 6th Ecumenical Council. Did you refrain from citing the council because you wish to imply this came only from your private reading of scripture?
    I’m glad to know that someone is checking out what I wrote (I paraphrased Agatho’s letter)! I was illustrating that the practice of sola scriptura starts with the Scriptures, but recognizes the great value of considering what Christians who have gone before us have thought.

    Perry: you have provided an interesting discussion beyond my level of reading, and I welcome the invitation to learn. Meanwhile, as Canadian has pointed out, please note that my argument was actually borrowed from the proceedings of the Ecumenical Council, and that in that context it was considered neither Nestorian nor Arian. A fuller discussion of this topic, including a clearer presentation of the finer points of the hypostatic union, would address your points, but that’s off topic for this thread.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  208. Andrew M, #179,

    I jumped in on private judgment because it is common to both solo and sola, and not common to other positions. Second, it is essential to sola. Third, as it functions it shows, as I’ve argued that there is no principled difference between the two, because no subordinate authority alters it on sola. Consequently, subordinate authorities are accidental and are extrinsically related to it. This is why there is no principled or *essential* difference between the two.

    If you think so, what essentially makes them different?

    Taking a few steps back only maps on to the development of related ideas, it doesn’t show that the older sources expressed sola scriptura. And here is why. It is uncontroversial I think that they held to some form or another to prima scriptura. But that is not the same concept as sola. In order to transmute the former into the latter, you need the right of private judgment. It is essential to sola. Consequently the material from Oberman and others is illuminating with respect to the context out of which sola grew, but as to the concept and to distinguishing it from solo, it is irrelevant.

    As for certainty I’d need to see what you think in the medieval person justifies the claim that the canonical and theological debates turned on certainty, since I by and large reject that claim. Second when they do speak of certainty, they are by and large speaking in reference to the intelligible species within a two place epistemological model. The notion of certainty from Ockham forward for early and later moderns is not the same notion. Consequently it is anachronistic to argue from the word to the concept as if there were conceptual identity between the two. There isn’t.

    As for the lack of systemization this is an over simplification. John of Damascus’ On the Orthodox Faith is quite systematic. Secondly, Byzantine scholasticism was quite systematic as well, long before their Frankish counterparts.

    I certainly can divorce normativity from certainty, because the former in theology tracks the truth and the latter doesn’t. One can be psychologically certain and be wrong. Secondly, knowledge entails some degree of normativity, but I do not have to be certain to know, because I do not have to be infallible to know either.

    Further, even if the medieval debates turned on certainty in the way you suggest, it in no way follows as a philosophical matter that they were correct in thinking so. You’d need to produce a demonstration that it is so.

    As for there being nothing in the preceding tradition that rose to the level of scripture, that depends in part if we are speaking materially or formally. Materially that maybe true in terms of inspiration, but not everything that is inspired is necessarily revelatory anyhow. Further, Basil for example thinks there are things that qualify and I’d bet good money that the Fathers of 2nd Nicea think so as well. So I think there are good reasons for thinking this claim is wrong.

    But even if it weren’t you implicitly concede that sola wasn’t part of the preceding tradition, which puts your position on the same footing as your claim for Rome, a novelty. Perhaps you can clarify how that concession on your part helps your case?

    I’ve actually read the citations that you allude to having heard about. They cover a variety of texts in terms of contrast. Some pagan and some non. The pagan references are irrelevant to our interests here. Some are in referent to local synods, but all admit local synods may err, so the may be put to the side. Some are in reference to the writings of individual fathers, and since all agree they may err in terms of individual opinions, we can put those to the side. The reservoir from you can draw has now shrunk considerably. Then when we distinguish as I did before between material and formal, and between inspiration and revelation, it gets even smaller. For none of the denials with respect to material will affect counciliar decrees. And even those that speak to the matter, we’d need to see if they include things like the canon, facing east, the sign of the cross and so forth in terms of exclusion or not. So the matter is far from being what you claim it is.

    And there are ecumenical synods where the fathers refer to their own decisions as well as those of other synods as “Spirit inspired” and “infallible.” Consequently your claim that they didn’t think that their conciliar decisions could be infallible is false.

    As for reading Athanasius, Augustine and such, I’ve read cover to cover the entire Schaff/Wace series. As for their thinking that their position is true, that is beyond dispute and doesn’t help you, since they didn’t claim that it being true was sufficient to give it the normative scope they saw their decrees to have. That is a missing premise here it seems.

    As for the work of ecumenical councils in Augustine, bring forward the text, but if it is the one I think you are thinking of, we’d need to be clear that he is using ecumenical in its ecclesiastical sense and not merely in its imperial sense. Many “ecumenical” or imperial councils erred, and this was often discussed in the debates with the Arians and in the successive generations, of which Augustine was a member. So there is still quite a bit you’d need to prove to give your claim teeth. So far, it is inadequate to do the work you put it to.

    Oberman’s work does not pick out sola scriptura since saying that Scripture is the only infallible and ultimate rule is compatible with the Laudian take, which was directly contrary to the Puritan insistence on Sola Scriptura. Consequently, then as now, private judgment is at issue, since without the Reformers had no leg to stand on since the secondary authorities using that rule all (East and West) all judged against them. Their only way out was to appeal to the right of private judgment, which they did. If you can show me some other way that they appealed to other than private judgment using the one rule, that would show I was wrong.

    Breaking with tradition between us would be different since we conceive of tradition differently and I think the church’s normative judgment trumps my own in all cases, whereas, implicitly invoking private judgment, you do not think it can ultimately do so.

    The Orthodox rejection of Trent or other parts of Catholicism is not done on the basis of private judgment, neither implicitly nor explicitly. To claim that it is, is just to fall back on private judgment as the basis for any and all positions, which will include sola scriptura. That is tantamount to claiming that private judgment is essential sola scriptura because the latter is one of the positions on the field which all entail it. Consequently, this contradicts your previous claim that private judgment is not essential to sola. By your own reasoning, it is.

    You would only call an Orthodox denunciation of parts of Trent private judgment if the basis for the denunciation was the individual’s conscience for doing so, rather than the preceding normative judgment of the tradition. But no Orthodox source I know does this. So here you seem to be foisting onto the Orthodox a non-Orthodox position, and you are doing so because it seems you are still conflating any judgment made by or reported by anyone as a normative matter. That is, you are still confusing epistemic judgments with normative judgments. A law professor saying some law is unconstitutional is not the same thing as the supreme court saying it is.

    From our perspective the Reformed bodies had no standing relative to Trent since they weren’t churches but collections of private individuals, lower clergy and laity, who would have been excommunicated by the East as heterodox if they had existed there. So the Reformed and Orthodox bodies are not on equal standing, unless we assume the falsity of the Orthodox position and the truth of the Reformed, but somehow that kind of question begging conclusion is not something that either materially or formally the Orthodox would accept.

    I don’t need to examine the case of Servetus. Being formally Reformed I am quite familiar with a good number of Reformed sources, both primary and secondary. The case of Servetus doesn’t demonstrate what you claim, anymore than the case of Peter Enns does. When push came to shove, the issue was not, what does scripture teach, but is what Enns teaches consistent with the tradition? That is, the question was a matter of formal judgment was never taken up. If it had, you’d have a principled stalemate in terms of ultimate normativity.Rather he and others were forced out on the basis of the confessional standards, even though, at bottom the fundamental question was ignored or put to the side. The same is true of Servetus. However wrong Servetus was (and he was wrong on a great many things, though right about Calvin’s implicit Nestorianism) it came down to a matter of force, not authority since no Protestant interpretation of the bible contrary to Servetus could absolutely bind his conscience and hand him over to Satan. The laws of the state are another matter since they simply took what the ecclesial body there determined and applied the state law. And this is so, since the Reformed have consistently claimed that the most they can do is exclude people from fellowship because of private judgment. If you think I am mistaken, what authority in terms of judgment could trump Servetus’ own? Since Calvin was just as fallible as Servetus, as a matter of normativity, they are on equal footing.

    I don’t think Catholics or Orthodox engage in private judgment so I deny your claim that still remain so when they do. Second, on Catholic ecclesiology, someone can be in schism and still retain valid orders. Such is not the case for the Orthodox so your case doesn’t apply to us. I think Kung is exercising private judgment, which is one reason he isn’t Catholic in that respect. Lefebvrites I seriously would doubt tat they take themselves to be or could be glossed as engaging private judgment. The only way you could make that claim stick is by again confusing any judgment made by an individual with normative judgments. So this line of argumentation rests on the same confusion I pointed out previously. But even if they were, that wouldn’t touch Catholicism per se, just those who are inconsistent with themselves.

    Holding that an individual judges such and so is true is not the same as private judgment.

    As for Abraham and Peter or the Apostles collectively, that would have purchase if they were relevantly similar claims. The Jewish claim is relative to salvation due to racial inheritance, contrary to the claim of the coming judgment of wrath. The petrine and conciliar claims is concerning ultimately normative judgments. And Third, on neither of the latter models does an ordinary commissioned authority trump that of an extra-ordinarily commissioned authority, but just the opposite, unless of course we reject that John the Forerunner was a Prophet.

    Everyone is convinced that they are right and that they have *some* right to interpret the tradition to *some* degree, but not all agree that they can give an ultimately normative judgment as to what the tradition is. This is why your comments miss their mark in trying to gloss everyone as unconsciously Protestant and inconsistent. But even if this were so and there were on that principle divisions prior to the Reformation, I am not sure how noting that everyone else shares the same weakness as your own position helps your own position.

    When I challenge Catholic claims about the Filioque, the papacy, created grace and such, I am not challenging normative claims at the highest level as you charge. And that for a simple reason, because you are conflating those doctrines enjoying a supremely normative standing with my being within and having assented to that ultimate normative authority which put them there. But if that were so, I’d be Catholic, not Orthodox. It would therefore be inconsistent for a Catholic having assented to that authority to do so, just as it would be for me to do so relative to judgments by the Orthodox Church. Here again your argument trades on conflating the two levels-of finding out if such and so is true, with once I know it is true, assenting to the authority. Now it could turn out that I didn’t in fact meet the conditions on knowledge with respect to the Orthodox Church and Rome was right, but that leaves untouched what I’ve said about normative judgments since I never took myself nor argued that any individual could make those. So you are making a levels confusion here. There is a difference between making an epistemic judgment about whether such and so is an authority and making a judgment as an authority.

    I never “broke” with Catholic doctrine as, apart from by baptism as an infant, I’ve never been Catholic nor subscribed to their distinctives, so your argument depends on serious mistakes.

    The difference with the Reformed making their own judgments is that they were making judgements not only with respect to what was the case, but with respect to what was normative. The only difference between the two bodies then is who enjoys the supremely normative power of judgment, the pope alone or each and every individual? In order to hold the latter, one must alter the pre-existing ecclesiology to fit it, such as the unity of believers is invisible, monadical and extrinsic. Otherwise there’d in fact be a kind of relativism. All outward public differences are either then superficial or show that there is no invisible unity.

    Consequently, ecclesial judgments, assuming that the Reformed bodies constituted churches in the first place, made by the Reformed are collections of individual private judgments and do not rise above them. This is why no Protestant Confession can absolutely bind the conscience. And this is why Turretin and other Reformed theologians have consistently maintained that there is always a right of appeal from them to Scripture by the individual over against any church court. This is because the one is not superior to the other in terms of normative power or degree. A collection of discrete fallible judges doesn’t get you something that rises above the normativity of an individual fallible judge deciding the contrary. Protestant bodies then are collections of like minded individuals extrinsically related by a compact. So again, the cases are not on principle, comparable, rather they are contrasting.

    Even if all we know of what was given to the Galatians was preserved in Scripture, KM’s claim was that it was scripture would still be false, for that is not what is being referred to in the passage, nor could it be. To claim that there was an oral tradition is mere idle speculation is an assertion in need of an argument since you really don’t give one. Second, the text gives you implicit proof that there was one, because the tradition was received by the Galatians prior to their receiving the epistle and prior to the completion of scripture. To assume that they got it via other parts of scripture is speculative for it depends on facts not in evidence. Even if we didn’t have on recorded what was given to them that wasn’t in scripture, that doesn’t imply that there wasn’t such a thing.

    Further, we don’t have in scripture a record of apostolic authorship of the gospels either so if we are going to exclude the oral tradition altogether, then we had better exclude claims for apostolic authorship for the gospels and along with it a reason for taking them as normative. More directly, it is as I noted before, your position ends up with taking the formal canon of scripture as revisable and binding others to a mere tradition of men.
    As for the apocryha, suppose it is as you say in the west that there was no ultimate decision either way. The protestant position doesn’t yield that either so I can’t see how they would be in principle in any weaker position on it than protestants are with the canon they have now.

    The fact that no one was arging over other works is as I mentioned irrelevant since on your reading their position isn’t even fixed as a matter of principle now. And further, the fact that there was debate prior to that is sufficient to falsify KH’s appeal to them as a principally fixed rule of faith in the ancient church.

    And all of that leaves untouched the material in the East from Trullo and 2nd Nicea that I referred you to. If the westerners were unclear on the canon at Trent, it is hardly a surprise to the East that they were so, since we take them to be confused on a great many things, along with her rather illegitimate children.

    As for Athanasius, his canon isn’t that of Protestants either since he does accept some of the Apocrypha as inspired scripture. So appeal to him just notes what the various canons were, rules put down by bishops, which is why there were a variety of canons. Athanasius’ canon is not the Protestant canon.

    On the Protestant position, scripture may be the rule of faith, but the formal canon is not the rule of faith, since the formal canon is a fallible thing. This is why the canon is in principle alterable and why the rule of faith for Protestants is fluid and why it is always a matter of conscience only.

  209. to Lojahw

    “In conclusion, God has to pay each one according to his deeds. And if he established the natural law, and later the written law, so as to ask us for an account of our sins and to crown us with our virtues, let us order our lives with great care. For we will appear before a strict tribunal, knowing that after receiving the natural and written law, after so much preaching and continuous exhortation, if we still disregard our health, there will be no forgiveness for us.”

    Homiliae ad populum Antiochenum, XII, 4-5
    St. John Chrysostom

  210. Nathan:

    Regarding Nicaea’s 6th canon.

    You responded:

    The Catholic Church’s view is that there is essential parity between bishops. Each bishop has the fullness of Holy Orders — each from the lowest axulirilary bishop in the smallest most unimportant diocese to the Pope. I highly recommend that you read Lumen Gentium chapter 3 on the hiericical nature of the Church. The Pope is not a “super bishop” rather a bishop with an additional set of charisms. As far as the pope is a bishop, he is the same as every other bishop, as far as the pope is the pope he is different.

    I have, of course, read LG. Your comments, however, seem to confirm my point. The argument “the bishop of Alexandria should have privilege X because the bishop of Rome does,” makes little sense when the bishop of Rome has all sorts of additional privileges (“charisms” if you prefer) that don’t exist with respect to normal bishops.

    Responding to my second point (about ordination), you wrote:

    This is not a problem. Only bishops can ordain and it is not of fundamental necessity that it be done with papal approval. (Lack of papal approval can make an ordination illicit but it not invalid.) This is why the Orthodox have valid Holy Orders. But like you said, the buck stops at the metropolitan and the Pope, in case you forgot is the Patriarch of the Latin Church and he is also the universal pontiff for the whole Church.

    Illicit orders are not a problem? But more to the point, Nicaea does not mention any universal pontiff, nor does it say that the buck stops at the metropolitan and the Pope, but simply at the metropolitan. In this regard, the ecclesiology of the Greek Orthodox appears to be closer to the Nicaean ecclesiology than that of Rome.

    -TurretinFan

  211. Lojahw (re: #206)

    It does no good to cite as support for Protestant doctrines patristic quotations that are fully compatible with the Council of Trent and Catholic doctrine in general. In support of sola scriptura you cite St. Augustine:

    “. . . among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life.” On Christian Doctrine 2.9

    First, by “Scripture” St. Augustine means something other than what you mean, because in the preceding paragraph of De Doctrina Christiana he lays out the canon of Scripture in which he includes the ‘deuterocanonical’ books. In addition, the full quotation is:

    Next, those matters that are plainly laid down in them, whether rules of life or rules of faith, are to be searched into more carefully and more diligently; and the more of these a man discovers, the more capacious does his understanding become. For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life—to wit, hope and love, of which I have spoken in the previous book.

    This expression is fully compatible with the Catholic conception of the ‘material sufficiency’ of Scripture, nor does it entail formal sufficiency. So it does not support sola scriptura, nor does it adjudicate between Protestants and the Catholic Church on the question of sola scriptura. Moreover, in Book III of this work St. Augustine explains that when it is uncertain how to interpret a passage, “let the reader consult the rule of faith which he has gathered from the plainer passages of Scripture, and from the authority of the Church.” But, what does he mean by the Church? De Doctrina Christiana was written in AD 397 (at least the first three books were, according to his Retractions), but four years earlier (in AD 393) he wrote the following to the Donatists:

    “You know what the Catholic Church is, and what that is cut off from the Vine; if there are any among you cautious, let them come; let them find life in the Root. Come, brethren, if you wish to be engrafted in the Vine: a grief it is when we see you lying thus cut off. Number the Bishops even from the very seat of Peter: and see every succession in that line of Fathers: that is the Rock against which the proud Gates of Hell prevail not.” (P.L. 43.30)

    The authority of the Church, for St. Augustine, refers to the college of bishops in communion with the episcopal successor of St. Peter. Moreover, St. Augustine recognized the authority of Tradition: For example, he writes:

    But in regard to those observances which we carefully attend and which the whole world keeps, and which derive not from Scripture but from Tradition, we are given to understand that they are recommended and ordained to be kept, either by the apostles themselves or by plenary councils, the authority of which is quite vital in the Church” (Letter to Januarius (54) 1,1).

    And in his work on Baptism against the Donatists, he writes:

    The apostles, indeed, gave no injunctions on the point; but the custom [of infant baptism]… may be supposed to have had its origin in apostolic tradition, just as there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings.” (On Baptism, 5,23)

    So, if you wish to interpret Scripture according to the rule of St. Augustine, then on any disputed matter you ought to submit to the authority of the Catholic Magisterium, and recognize the authority of Tradition.

    Next, regarding sola fide, you quote St. Chrysostom, as though he supports you:

    On Sola Fide, John Chrysostom wrote the following on Romans chapters 3-4:

    So also is the declaring of His righteousness not only that He is Himself righteous, but that He does also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores of sin suddenly righteous. And it is to explain this, viz. what is “declaring,”[i.e., imputation] that he has added, “That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus.” Doubt not then: for it is not of works, but of faith: and shun not the righteousness of God, for it is a blessing in two ways; because it is easy, and also open to all men. . . .

    Of course, you added the word ‘imputation.’ But, even if St. Chrysostom had used the word ‘imputation,’ you are assuming (without any warrant whatsoever) that he would have meant it in a nominalistic manner, i.e. an extra nos imputation, that is, counting as if having a righteousness that we do not have within by infusion. You are assuming that by ‘declare,’ God is talking about an accounting swap, and not about the actual condition of the soul of a person having living faith, which is a supernatural gift infused into the soul by the Holy Spirit. So this passage offers no support whatsoever to any Protestant conception of sola fide, because you are begging the question by bringing your nominalistic presupposition to your interpretation of St. Chrysostom.

    You quote St. Chrysostom again:

    For after he had said that God justifies man by faith, he grapples with the Law again. . . . It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. . . .

    This statement likewise is fully compatible with Catholic doctrine, because St. Chrysostom is talking not about lifeless faith, but about living faith, that is a faith given by infused grace and agape poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5), which is precisely what the Catholic Church believes and teaches about saving faith, as I explained in “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?.” So this quotation from St. Chrysostom does not support sola fide unless you bring your (unwarranted) presupposition that the sort of faith St. Chrysostom is talking about here is faith that is not informed by agape.

    You quote St. Chrysostom again:

    For when a man is once a believer, he is straightway justified. For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light. . . . “(Homily on Romans 7)

    For some reason you think that this passage is somehow incompatible with the Catholic faith. It is not. Justification as a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace through Jesus Christ, is an instantaneous event, and is not by works. See both “Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, and “St. Clement of Rome: Soteriology and Ecclesiolgy.”

    You conclude:

    Repeating his explicit recognition of the imputation of righteousness by faith, Chrysostom wrote:
    “For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.” After mentioning the Scripture above (for he said, “What says the Scripture? Abraham believed in God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness,”) here he goes on to secure also the judgment of the speakers, and shows that justification took place in the uncircumcision.’ (Homily on Romans 8)

    The righteousness we have received is the gift of sanctifying grace in our souls, and its accompanying gift, agape, by which we have friendship with God, by loving Him above all else, and loving our neighbor for His sake. According to the Catholic Church, having righteousness is not a mere accounting maneuver. If we do not have agape, then we are not righteousness, and the God of Truth cannot see us other than as we are, or declare us to be what we are not, without having thereby made us to be what he speaks, because His Word does not return void, without accomplishing what He says. So the reason why God ‘reckoned’ Abraham’s faith for righteousness, was because the God of Truth sees things as they actually are, and speaks what actually is: Abraham had faith informed by agape in his soul. He was a friend of God, and only those having agape are friends of God. That’s why God counted his faith as righteousness, because he really was righteousness, by a gift of infused divine grace within his soul, such that he had living faith (i.e. faith informed by agape). So what St. Chrysostom is saying here in no way supports sola fide. Only if one brings nominalistic presuppositions to the interpretive process can you derive Protestant sola fide from his words, and that begs the question, and pulls out of the passage just what one brings to it.

    I’m answering this comment, because it is important that these kinds of claims be shown to be false. But, this thread is not for discussing sola fide. Comments taking the thread into a debate about sola fide won’t be approved; the topic here is Keith’s reply to our Solo Scriptura article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  212. Lojahw at 192. I think you’re missing my point. You write: “Francis, what you describe is a solO approach– you have not explained why `one will’ is a more accurate interpretation of Scripture than the position which has been defended for centuries.” I don’t have to, since I don’t believe it. What I am saying is that many very smart, informed, and thoughtful Protestant philosophers and theologians believe it, and they offer pretty sophisticated arguments for that view. Since they believe in sola scriptura, the Trinity, Deity of Christ, and all the other solas, why not consider Chalcedon an open question, since Chalcedon does not seem necessary to “orthodoxy,” as it is fashionably understood in some circles? Remember, John MacArthur and Walter Martin denied the eternal sonship of Christ, even though it is taught by Nicea. They remained in good standing as ministers within their denominations without any censure or hearing. MacArthur eventually changed his mind, but it had no effect either way. Why wasn’t any action brought against these men for “teaching heresy”? It’s because the eternal sonship of Christ can plausibly be denied without abandoning “orthodoxy,” i.e., the solas, Deity of Christ, and Trinity. Again, sola reduces to solo. With no real authority behind them, the creeds are not worth the papyri they’re written on. They become the theological equivalent of Monopoly money: if you agree to play the game, they have “value.” But that’s about it.

    Hence, the Reformers rejected the baptismal regeneration (save Luther), infusion of grace at conversion, and cooperating grace as taught in the Council of Orange. They decided that opt out of the game on that one. If Orange can go, why not Chalcedon, if you have good “biblical” reasons for jettisoning it? Thus, sola reduces to solo.

  213. Brent:

    “The beauty of the Church is that Truth is not subject to my weak intellect, sinfulness and pride. So, even when my “gut” or “head” or “heart” tells me birth control is “a-ok”, I’m wrong. Ah, I’m free! (Jn 8:32). Free from my weak intellect, sinfulness, and pride to reject my “gut, head, or heart” from telling me that Jesus is 50% God, baptism is a symbol, or Mary sinned.”

    Excellent! In matters of doctrine, God truly has set us free from our darkened intellect by using the Bible and and His Church to preach the truth to the poor. It strikes me as interesting that it is those involved in this discussion who believe our intellect has been destroyed, as I understand the reformers to have taught, who are the ones who think that the human mind is capable of formulating true doctrine on its own and without the need of God’s continued work in the Church. Of course, many protestants might label that a straw man, however until it is proven that there is a principled difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura that is simply going to be the way I will continue to see it.

    Thanks to all the participants. I have read almost every comment and will continue to do so, as I’m sure many others are.

    Deacon Bryan

  214. Lojahw, (reply to comment 175)

    The quote from the Didache is consistent with NT terminology about the ministry, which probably uses “episcopos” as a name for the local second tier of ministry. The word “presbyteros” in the New Testament probably just means minister or clergyman generically (it can refer to any tier); this fits best with all of the numerous uses of that word throughout the texts. (such as its use to name St. John and St. Peter, who are Apostles, not local members of the second tier; and there are other anomalies in the NT that point to this usage too; for more on the terminology issue, see here:

    http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/apostolic-succession-1-presbyter-bishop/ )

    Though this differs from the Ignatian terminology, it is not in contradiction to the Ignatian structure of ministry itself. Ignatius also acknowledges a local second tier of ministry; he just calls its members “presbyters” instead of “bishops”, which is his name for members of the highest tier. If the New Testament acknowledges the existence of members of the first tier of ministry other than just the Apostles, and if these members could pass down their office, then that would mean that the NT and Ignatius agree, whether they use the same language or not.

    The same goes for the Didache and Ignatius. There are more than two tiers of ministry in the Didachist’s writing. The itinerant (or rather semi-itinerant) prophets, teachers, and Apostles (regardless of how we distinguish them—whether as names for functions of the same office or names for different offices) are members of a higher tier than the local bishops and deacons. These higher ministers are the source of the ministry of local bishops and deacons who “carry out for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers”. They are also called “your high priests”, again implying a monarchical position. And notice the similarity to Ignatius:

    “My child, night and day remember the one who preaches God’s word to you, and honor him as though he were the Lord.” (Didache)

    “It is obvious, therefore, that we must regard the bishop as the Lord himself.” (Ignatius, Ephesians 6:1)

    It is not surprising that some scholars have concluded that the Didache was one of Ignatius’ influences or even textual sources. Though different names are used for the highest tier of ministry in the two texts, there are significant similarities (conceptual and linguistic) in how the highest tier is described. Furthermore, Ignatius considered himself a prophet who spoke in the Spirit, (St. Ignatius, Philadelphians 7) showing again that early Christians could consider those charismatically endowed to be hierarchs.

    The language of “appoint for yourselves, therefore” fits well with a monarchical model. Looking back to Acts 6 (which records an event which would be a pattern for the Didachist’s understanding of ministry, whether he had read Acts or not) we see that a congregation can appoint misters like deacons via electing them without ordaining them. This incident follows the pattern of people in the first and highest tier of ministry (in this case Apostles) ordaining those in lower tiers. And given that the didachist says those in the lower tiers “carry out the ministry of the prophets and teachers”, it is quite plausible to see a similar situation here: the third tier with its Apostles, prophets, and teachers (some of which are probably monarchical bishops) ordain the local bishops (second tier, Ignatian presbyters) and deacons, all of whom are elected/appointed by the congregation’s laity. And the absence of a rite of ordination in the Didache coincides quite well with this hypothesis. For the Didache gives congregational instructions; it is not a manual for first-tier ministers, but for laity.

    Thus, the Didache witnesses to what is probably a monarchical episcopate form of Church government. (For more information see http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/apostolic-succession-3-the-didache/ )

    You wrote:

    “Only your presupposition leads to your exclusive position. Acts 20, 1 Timothy 3, 5, and Titus 1 make no distinction between presbyters and bishops [episcopoi]. Please provide documentation to support your position.”

    Though the verses you cite do not make a distinction between those named presbyters and those named bishops, other texts do. Again, Apostles are not second-tier, but they are called “presbyters”. So “presbyter” probably just means “minister” in a generic sense.

    The textual evidence that Timothy and Titus were monarchical Ignatian-style bishops does not consist in the fact that they are named “bishop” by any New Testament author (they in fact are not). It consists rather in the powers and functions ascribed to them explicitly and implicitly by the texts, and a comparison of these powers and functions to those ascribed by Scripture to members of the local second tier. Timothy is charged with ordination of other ministers, for example. (1 Tim 5:22) And we have no clear cases of ordination in the New Testament by anyone outside the first and highest tier of ministry. The alleged counterexample of 1 Timothy 4:14 is no counterexample at all; when we analyze the language itself, compare it with other information about Timothy, and consider what a presbytery actually is, it fits more naturally into the hypothesis of prelacy. (for specific argumentation about which see here: http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/apostolic-succession-2-presbyterian-ordination/ )

    You wrote:

    “Your conclusion does not follow. The New Testament, Didache, and other early sources indicate that Apostles as well as laymen “laid hands” on their presbyters/bishops… Note that Paul says “every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities” – and that includes bishops within the jurisdiction of Caesar.”

    The incident in Acts 14 is not an ordination, but an acknowledgement/sealing/blessing. And it is not carried out by laity as you claimed; at least the text does not indicate that they are laity. Paul and Barnabas are also called prophets and teachers; as such it is hard to deny that it is possible for them to be something other than mere laity. And because they are grouped together it makes this unlikely. It would also be out of character with all the other texts in the New Testament to claim that here alone, laity do the ordaining. And why didn’t the laity do the imparting of the Holy Spirit in Acts 8, when people had to wait for the Apostles to show up before they could actually get the Holy Spirit? That would make sense on your view–if laity can ordain, surely they can give the Holy Spirit?

    The argument about Caesar doesn’t seem persuasive. Surely Caesar should, ideally, be part of the Church, right? If this were so, he would be ecclesiastically subject to whoever is highest-up in the Church at the time. And I don’t see any reason to think that Ignatius would say bishops should not be subject civilly to the emperor.

    You wrote:

    “Please provide specific examples, and explain what you mean by “private judgment,” especially in light of the example of the church fathers whose interpretations of Scripture often conflict with each other. E.g. the Didache did NOT teach infant baptism (you can’t expect infants to do a 24-48 hour fast), consistent with other early church sources which required a multi-year year catechumenate. The first explicit support for infant baptism does not show up until the third century with Origen and Cyprian.”

    Private judgment is the doctrine that the interpretive decisions of Church leaders have no inherent conscience-binding authority; rather they are only binding for a person’s conscience when they match up with what the individual considers to be an accurate interpretation of Scripture.

    Here is an example where a Presbyterian lawyer/theologian in 1892 speaks of the right of private judgment:

    “(a) The specific distinction and contention between the Roman Church and Protestantism is the right of private judgment…

    (g) If the Church is to be the ultimate point of interpretation and authority, then the right of private judgment quoad hoc must be abandoned…

    (h) If we prefer to abandon the right of private judgment than the Church then where is the difference in principle between the (Protestant) Presbyterian Church and the Roman Church?…
    Shall we veil, or rather readjust, the standards, and so maintain Protestantism with the right of private judgment, or shall we maintain the standards, abandon the right of private judgment, and so set the stream of tendency in logical and moral minds either toward a more philosophical morality or else toward the Roman Church?

    As a lawyer, I may be taking a narrow view. My own associations are with the Presbyterian Church and the broad Church Episcopal; yet it seems to me that the Presbyterian ship is fast steering between the devil and the deep sea. Dogma has its place, but to substitute dogma for truth can never be other than fatuous.”

    From here: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9501E7DA1F31E033A25752C2A9649D94639ED7CF

    And here is an example where Charles Hodge speaks of private judgment:

    “But although we do not decline your invitation because we are either heretics or schismatics, we are nevertheless debarred from accepting it, because we still hold with ever increasing confidence those principles for which our fathers were excommunicated and pronounced accursed by the Council of Trent, which represented, and still represents, the Church over which you preside.

    The most important of those principles are: First, that the Word of God, contained in the
    Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. The Council of Trent, however, pronounces Anathema on all who do not receive the teachings of tradition pari pietatis affectu (with equal pious affection) as the Scriptures themselves. This we cannot do without incurring the condemnation which our Lord pronounced on the Pharisees, who made void the Word of God by their traditions (Matt. 15:6).

    Secondly, the right of private judgment. When we open the Scriptures, we find that they are addressed to the people. They speak to us. We are commanded to search them (John 5:39). To believe what they teach. We are held personally responsible for our faith. The apostle commands us to pronounce accursed an apostle or an angel from heaven who should [teach] anything contrary to the divinely authenticated Word of God (Gal. 1:8). He made us the judges, and has placed the rule of judgment into our hands, and holds us responsible for our judgments.

    Moreover, we find that the teaching of the Holy Spirit was promised by Christ not to the
    clergy only, much less to any one order of the clergy exclusively, but to all believers. It is written, ‘Ye shall all be taught of God’. The Apostle John says to believers: ‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things . . . but the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him’ (1 John 2:20, 27). This teaching of the Spirit authenticates itself, as this same apostle teaches us, when he says, ‘He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself’ (1 John 5:10). ‘I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth’ (1 John 2:2 1). Private judgment, therefore, is not only a right, but a duty, from which no man can absolve himself, or be absolved by others.”

    To Pius IX, Bishop of Rome from Charles Hodge, on behalf of the PCUSA
    http://www.chriscastaldo.com/resources/Hodge%20to%20Pius%20IX.pdf

    Saying the Fathers sometimes conflict is not the same as saying there is not a core patristic tradition with near-unanimity about important issues. Everyone knows that some Fathers disagree, but that does not mean there is no consensus position overall
    .
    Regarding the Didache, do you think its fasting regulation means that it teaches that people with nutritional problems who convert to Christianity but can’t fast cannot be baptized? If not, then why think that it prohibits infant baptism?

    The fact that Cyprian and Origen are the first to be explicit hardly affects the fact that St.s Justin and Irenaeus probably taught infant baptism. They don’t say it overtly, but there are passages in both which point in this direction.

  215. Perry (re: 208),

    Concerning “certainty,” I bring up dogmatic certainty in the context of discussions with my Catholic friends here because epistemological certainty is a matter that is important to them. So on the issue of the canon I’m told by the Catholics that it’s not just a matter of a arriving at a common point of truth, but also having the certainty to know why we have arrived there. And I am told that it is not about psychological certainty because of course, for whatever their lack of certainty on many topics, the Evangelicals are rock solid on their surety of the canon (the debate over the Deuteros aside). But Bryan Cross and others here have spilled gallons of ink defending the notion that Evangelicals cannot be certain of the canon. It’s a curious example to bring up when you think of all the examples that Catholics could use, but there you have it. Now I don’t bring this up to resurrect the debate over the canon, but rather to illustrate how important the matter of dogmatic certainty is in the Protestant Catholic debates. I would also note that Catholics expect that serious Protestants will take note of their classification of dogmatic certainties. I cannot for example treat something that Ott or Denzinger tell me is a de fide matter as if it something of lower dogmatic certainty (i.e. sententia probabilis. Protestants tend to load distinctly Roman Catholic teachings into one big pot and that’s a mistake. Of course the development of EO doctrine has not proceeded along the same trajectory than the Catholic, so discussions of certainty between EO and Protestant are not going to have the same level of importance as in the Protestant Catholic dialogues. On systemization, I did not want to say that there was never any attempt to systematize in the East, only the drive for logically complete theological systems in the West was never quite matched in the East. The Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholastics agree that theology is a science. But there is no exact analogy in the East to a Summa Theologica or an Institutes of the Christian Religion.. So all I am saying is that the quality of theological discourse is different in the West and on the specific example of certainty, it plays a prominence in Catholic Protestant dialogues that may not be matched in our discussions with EO theologians.

    On private judgment, it sounds to me like you are believing something here, not because it is any part of classic Reformed though in the matter (which it is not), but because it part of the general folklore on Protestantism. So many people believe that this is just part of the Protestant modus operandi. And chief among those who believe this are those who have converted to Catholicism (or EO) since this was part of the way they looked at their faith before jettisoning Protestantism. This situation is perhaps analogous to the view that so many have of Catholicism as a cafeteria sort of religion. I heard one recent convert from Catholicism say that Catholicism is the Buddhism of the West because it absorbs such a great many things. Well from the perspective of this convert and that of countless other millions of Catholics and ex-Catholics this is true. But the fact that such an approach has become so commonly reported in the Catholic world does not make it a definitive element of orthodox Catholicism and serious Catholics spend quite a bit of time trying to disabuse both Catholics and non-Catholics of this idea. So back to the sola scriptura front, I’m trying to do the same thing here with this issue of private judgment. This is why I bring up Oberman who has a comprehensive discussion of the matter without ever even hinting of private judgment as necessary element of the development of tradition except as an aberration. For Oberman, private judgment happens when someone pitches his whole discussion of Tradition 1 and Tradition 2 in the trash and starts afresh with no tradition. You have tried to come up with counter examples (i.e. Turretin) but these do not demonstrate your point because they are examples of ecclesiastical matters, not private ones. I understand that you don’t like the comparison of what the EO do in their accusations of Rome to what the Reformed do, but the differing understanding of authority in EO and Reformed communions that you refer to do not undermine my central contention that the Reformed remonstrances against Rome were ecclesiastical matters rather than private ones. My perception here is that you want to define the rules of engagement for Reformed interactions with Rome such that whatever complaint the Reformed had of Rome (even when it is a complaint shared by the EO) and no matter how many ecclesiastical bodies were represented by the complaint, you still conceive it to be a matter of private judgment. In other words you are going to tell me that all Reformed protest is a matter of private judgment since we are operating outside of the ecclesiastical structures that the RCC and EO would dictate (and of course I understand that they are not identical but there is certainly enough commonality to exclude Reformed ecclesiology). That’s the way it seems to me that you are arguing, but if you disagree then tell me how the Reformed should proceed with their complaints against Rome in a way that is not just an expression of collective private judgment.

    So the way I am defining things sola scriptura happens if Tradition 1 never becomes Tradition 2 using the Oberman designations. That is, if we look at the Early Church the development and transmission of tradition is an important part of what the early theologians do. Tradition along with Scripture became an essential part of the life of the Early Church and an essential standard for the ministerial work of the Church. This is all “Tradition 1” stuff. At some point in the history of the Church certain traditions are elevated to the same level of certainty as Scripture itself (and I hope you will allow for my use of “certainty” in this context – we are talking about the Roman Catholic Church after all). The Reformation as conceived by her enemies was an exercise is private judgment, but by her friends as a way of analyzing the transition from Tradition 1 to Tradition 2. Such analyses were being done by Reformers within and without the formal structure of the RCC. As an example, let take again the issue of conciliarism vs papalism that I’m sure you have some opinion on. There were no shortage of conciliarists within the RCC who were as horrified as the theologians now coming from the East as to the evolution of the power of the Bishop of Rome. As you know the conciliarists got squashed like fat little bugs on the Trent debate floor and papalism triumphed. I suppose the final nail in the coffin for conciliarism was at Vatican I, but for all intents and purposes conciliarism was dead and buried after Trent. In the Early Church the role of the Roman See was by comparison quite limited as the proceedings of the various councils attested to. There was a developing set of opinions on the role of the Roman See but at this point it was all Tradition 1 stuff. In the West the role of the Bishop of Rome goes through an evolution that at the other end becomes the Tradition 2 of the codified role of the Petrine office as it is laid out in various papal pronouncements. The transition of the role of the Roman See to one of irreformable dogma in the West is an example of the Tradition 1 to Tradition 2 that Reformers within and without the RCC tried to stop. You as an EO guy would obviously have issues with Medieval papalist notions and believe that they should have been stopped. But here’s the question for you – How should it properly have been halted? The EO theologians now coming East were interested but in no position to do anything about it. Many of the Humanists did not think much of what was going on, but outside of writing witty polemics against Rome they were not much help. It was only the Reformers outside of the formal structure of the RCC that really had any hope of stopping the Tradition 1 to Tradition 2 transition here. But I suppose you would say that the Reformation voice on this matter was just a matter of private judgment since they were complaining outside of the structures allowed for them by the very institution whose policies they were questioning. But on the other hand I think you would agree that the Reformers were at least to some degree correct in their disagreement with Rome’s papalist philosophies. So what should they have done? Remember, they knocked on the Trent’s door and asked to come in and present, but were told to get lost.

    So I trust my example of Tradition 1 to Tradition 2 exemplifies my position and that of Oberman. The way that we traditionally speak of sola scriptura in Reformed circles is as an equivalent for Tradition 1. This is the heart and sole of sola scriptura. Now I know that for most of the conservative Catholics they want to believe the folklore stuff because of course that was their experience and who can argue with that, right? But I hope that some of the serious Catholics take the time to get their minds around the Oberman kind of approach and derive from this an understanding of the central concerns of the Reformation. If you think about it the Reformation was all about questioning the transition from Tradition 1 to Tradition 2 on a whole host of theological topics. Take the example of the doctrine of justification. The folklore is that the Reformers invented this concept of sola fide that rejected 1500 years of Catholic tradition with a novelty. This is a frustratingly simple-minded way of looking at things from my perspective. As I’ve pointed out to the Catholics here there were bushel loads of soteriological novelties at the end of the Middle Ages and the Reformers were doing what everyone else was in terms of adopting a combination of allowable positions on justification given the new Renaissance lexical and exegetical tools that had come into play to breathe new life in the study of the Scriptures. But when we get told that the position of the Reformers was a “novelty” we ask what standard they are using to judge something as a novelty. Given the apparent fact that the pronouncements of Orange where lost to the medieval world, the last time that someone had something to say about justification was at Carthage over a millennium previous to the Reformers entering the stage! So what exactly can we say about the Medieval doctrines of justification that would judge the Reformers to be purveyors of novelties? Well I’m sure you get the point. But I bring it up here to demonstrate the Tradition 1, Tradition 2, and sola scriptura paradigms again. At the genesis of the Reformation there was no Tradition 2 and there would not be anything we could place into this category for 150 years or so after the dawning of the Reformation. By the time Trent caught up the Reformation soteriological doctrines were well in place. What the Reformers did was Tradition 1 and what Rome did was to cobble together some medieval opinions about justification that became Tradition 1 and, by ecclesiastical fiat, Tradition 2 at the same time. What the Reformed theologian wants to do is question the process. methodology, etc by which Rome synthesized her Tradition 1 stuff on justification (to continue with this example) and then question the quantum leap she made in proclaiming it to be Tradition 2 stuff. This proclamation was really rather alarming considering how young the lexical sciences were. Rome’s official English translation of the Bible was still a Latin based work. Putting the “irreformable” stamp on Trent’s soteriological ideas was vastly premature from the standpoint of the Reformers. Anyway, sola scriptura in this context is about questioning the work of Trent using the same tools that Trent used to derive her theories plus the newly available Hebrew and Greek texts courtesy of the Renaissance Humanists. It’s not a matter of private judgment, it’s a matter of one part of the Church questioning what the other part was doing based on what common standards can be agreed upon. You can dismiss the whole Reformed project here as private judgment and that’s the quick and easy route that’s so common in these discussions, but it still leaves so many questions unanswered. And really, what are Catholic and EO perspectives on authority but more examples of the Tradition 1 to Tradition 2 transformation that really should be the subject of theological investigation.

    I think I will stop here. There are other points I will leave for now such as the Apocrypha, but these are periphery matters. What is above is the heart of the issue on tradition and Scripture.

  216. Bryan @ 211:

    It does no good to cite as support for Protestant doctrines patristic quotations that are fully compatible with the Council of Trent and Catholic doctrine in general.

    So we’re back to KM’s tinted glasses. With my glasses, Chrysostom’s use of the verbs “declaring,” “reckoned,” and “counted” (as righteous) mean “imputed” (as righteous), but with your glasses these verbs do not mean “imputed” but rather, “infused” (with righteousness). Is it not possible, based on knowledge of our language, to determine which interpretation is more reasonable?

    Your interpretation raises interesting interpretive issues: is this infused righteousness complete or partial? If – using Augustine’s words – one is truly “made righteous” before and apart from any regenerate works, then one should be unable to be anything but righteous or do anything unrighteous. But as Paul demonstrates in Romans 7, that is not the case. And, such an interpretation would make Chrysostom inconsistent in the quote given by Brent: “. . . after so much preaching and continuous exhortation, if we still disregard our health, there will be no forgiveness for us.” (Homiliae ad populum Antiochenum, XII, 4-5). In other words, someone wholly infused with God’s righteousness could never get to the judgment seat of Christ with “no forgiveness.” On the other hand, if one is only partially infused with righteousness, then Chrysostom’s descriptions don’t make sense: to be “straightway justified” and “suddenly righteous” both imply total righteousness.

    If, on the other hand, God reckons (counts, imputes) one to be righteous by faith apart from works, this declaration must bear fruit in the process of sanctification as the outgrowth of that imputed righteousness. The seed of faith planted must germinate, develop, grow, and bear fruit, showing evidence of sanctification. The branch that does not bear fruit is thrown away. However, we who have been justified by faith are continually being conformed to the image of Christ. The forensic declaration of righteousness by faith apart from works is fulfilled in a life which shows evidence of sanctification.

    Similarly, with my tinted glasses, Augustine’s statement is fully compatible with the WCF statement – yet with your glasses they are incompatible:

    “. . . among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life.” Augustine, On Christian Doctrine 2.9

    “those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them” WCF 1.7

    You say that Augustine only affirmed the “material” sufficiency of the Bible (notwithstanding the extra books he called canonical). On the other hand, the WCF affirms that the Bible, aided by the Holy Spirit, provides what you call “formal” sufficiency, whereas Rome teaches that such “formal” sufficiency requires an additional infallible human intermediary in the person of Peter’s successors in perpetuum. In both paradigms there are many passages of Scripture that elude final definitive interpretation. For such passages there will always be “in-house” debates.

    The posts on this thread seem to indicate that the “certainty of truth” claimed by Rome is highly valued by its constituents, yet as KM has pointed out, Rome has often revised its teaching, e.g., people who before Vatican II were judged to be outside of the Church and without any hope of salvation apart from being subject to the Roman Pontiff (for more than 600 years), were subsequently recognized as being members of Christ’s Body, albeit in imperfect communion with the pope (and now eligible for salvation through “invincible ignorance”). But truth does not change; it is not relativistic, as even your current pope previously asserted in Dominus Iesus. On the other hand, from the earliest days of the Church the Trinitarian truths affirmed by Irenaeus, Tertullian, and the Nicene fathers have been affirmed in every generation to be consistent with infallible Scripture, which has not changed. On the other hand, other doctrines have been persuasively shown to be in conflict with infallible Scripture, including the Arian heresy as demonstrated from Theodoret’s account of the Council of Nicea.

    What intrigues me is that Roman Catholics suspend the rules of interpretation recognized for all other literary works when it comes to the Bible. How is it that people can be confident that they understand what other writers have said, and yet claim that only an infallible human interpreter can correctly interpret what God has said? How does it make an author feel when people claim that they cannot understand what the author thought to be most important?

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  217. Francis B. @ 212

    many very smart, informed, and thoughtful Protestant philosophers and theologians believe [“one will”], and they offer pretty sophisticated arguments for that view. Since they believe in sola scriptura, the Trinity, Deity of Christ, and all the other solas, why not consider Chalcedon an open question

    Good question, Francis. It is significant that the “one will” controversy did not result in a modification of the Creed. Further, according to your Catechism:

    A symbol of faith is a summary of the principal truths of the faith and therefore serves as the first and fundamental point of reference for catechesis. The symbol of faith is first and foremost the baptismal creed (CCC 188-189a)

    Following a discussion of the other creeds, CCC 193 then concludes:

    None of the creeds from the different stages in the Church’s life can be considered superseded or irrelevant.

    If the Apostle’s Creed has not been superseded, it seems that agreement with it should be sufficient regarding the “necessary doctrines for salvation.” Having said that, it seems to me that most Christians are unable to understand the intricate theological debates that continue on this subject. If so, then I would question the motivation for requiring everyone to believe it. In what way is it necessary for salvation that everyone understand such things?

    Re: “eternal sonship,” I am not familiar with the positions taken by John MacArthur and Walter Martin, but my sources indicate that the words: γεννηθέντα πρό πάντων τών αιώνων (begotten before all the eons) were added at Constantinople. If as your Catechism states, “none of the Creeds from the different stages in the Church’s life can be considered superseded,” one might again ask whether this question rises to the level of mandatory doctrine. Again, how many Christians are able to comprehend the theological arguments related to this topic?
    I can see how both of these topics could easily fit Paul’s caution: “knowledge puffs up,” whereas “love builds up.”

    Back to sola scriptura: its scope as defined by the Anglican Articles of Religion 1.6 and the Westminster Confession 1.7 – “what is necessary for salvation.” It seems both of these are beyond that scope. Jesus answered the question simply in Matthew 7, which I’ll paraphrase here: “Do I know you?” How many people with little intellectual capability have come to Jesus, believing in Him and trusting Him with eternity? Do you think Jesus will let them down? I don’t.

    On the other hand, all rigorous study should be made to discern what the Scriptures teach beyond what is necessary for salvation. That keeps the theologians and apologists busy.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  218. Lojah, (re: #216)

    You wrote:

    So we’re back to KM’s tinted glasses. With my glasses, Chrysostom’s use of the verbs “declaring,” “reckoned,” and “counted” (as righteous) mean “imputed” (as righteous), but with your glasses these verbs do not mean “imputed” but rather, “infused” (with righteousness). Is it not possible, based on knowledge of our language, to determine which interpretation is more reasonable?

    Yes, it is. We are not left with a coin flip here. That’s the very question I sought to address in my post titled “The Tradition and the Lexicion.” (And you haven’t imagined how often I must keep pointing back to that post, because it goes right to the heart of the problem.)

    Your interpretation raises interesting interpretive issues: is this infused righteousness complete or partial?

    Complete: one either has sanctifying grace, or one doesn’t. There is no middle state.

    If – using Augustine’s words – one is truly “made righteous” before and apart from any regenerate works, then one should be unable to be anything but righteous or do anything unrighteous.

    That conclusion does not follow, unless one defines “truly made righteous” as being nothing other than condition of the saints presently in heaven. And defining it that way begs the question. Philosophical anthropology and hamartiology are helpful here. Adam and Eve were righteous prior to their sin; they walked with God in the cool of the day, as friends of God. And yet they subsequently sinned. What makes a man righteous is the state of his will, not the state of his lower appetites. That’s why concupiscence is not a sin, as I explained in “Aquinas and Trent: Part 7.”

    But as Paul demonstrates in Romans 7, that is not the case.

    What St. Paul speaks of in Romans 7 is the struggle between agape in the will, and concupiscence in the lower appetites.

    And, such an interpretation would make Chrysostom inconsistent in the quote given by Brent: “. . . after so much preaching and continuous exhortation, if we still disregard our health, there will be no forgiveness for us.” (Homiliae ad populum Antiochenum, >XII, 4-5. In other words, someone wholly infused with God’s righteousness could never get to the judgment seat of Christ with “no forgiveness.”

    Again, you are [unintentionally] judging Catholic doctrine by means of Protestant presuppositions. A person with sanctifying grace and agape can in this present life, by mortal sin, forfeit them. See Section VI. Apostasy, in my post titled “A Response to Darrin Patrick on the Indicatives and the Imperatives.” For fifteen hundred years, no one in the Church believed that all those who committed apostasy never had sanctifying grace in the first place; the notion is a Protestant novelty.

    The posts on this thread seem to indicate that the “certainty of truth” claimed by Rome is highly valued by its constituents, yet as KM has pointed out, Rome has often revised its teaching, e.g., people who before Vatican II were judged to be outside of the Church and without any hope of salvation apart from being subject to the Roman Pontiff (for more than 600 years), were subsequently recognized as being members of Christ’s Body, albeit in imperfect communion with the pope (and now eligible for salvation through “invincible ignorance”). But truth does not change; it is not relativistic

    That, however, is a false dilemma. We need not choose between “truth does not change” and relativism. At the same time, though truth does not change, we can grow in our understanding of that truth. Hence development of doctrine. For some reason you seem to wish to discuss sola fide and development of doctrine, when the topic of this thread is Keith’s reply regarding sola and solo.

    On the other hand, other doctrines have been persuasively shown to be in conflict with infallible Scripture, including the Arian heresy as demonstrated from Theodoret’s account of the Council of Nicea.

    ‘Persuasively’ being the key term, for there you hide your subjectivism. (Not all Arians were persuaded, you recall; so ‘persuasive’ here means “to those who were persuaded,” thereby making the adverb worthless.)

    What intrigues me is that Roman Catholics suspend the rules of interpretation recognized for all other literary works when it comes to the Bible. How is it that people can be confident that they understand what other writers have said, and yet claim that only an infallible human interpreter can correctly interpret what God has said? How does it make an author feel when people claim that they cannot understand what the author thought to be most important?

    These questions are addressed in my post of February of last year, titled “The Tradition and the Lexicion.”

    As I mentioned in my previous comment, the topic for this thread is not sola fide or development of doctrine, but Keith’s reply to our article regarding the distinction between sola and solo. So please comply with that request, because I do not wish to have to delete any incoming comments.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  219. @ Lojahw #216

    What intrigues me is that Roman Catholics suspend the rules of interpretation recognized for all other literary works when it comes to the Bible. How is it that people can be confident that they understand what other writers have said, and yet claim that only an infallible human interpreter can correctly interpret what God has said?

    Here are a few reasons:

    1) Generally speaking, “all other literary works” are not categorically easy to interpret. This is why we have all kinds of academic departments for various kinds of literature, in which scholars specialize in doing the kind of thing you are assuming to be easy and natural. These scholars argue about the specific meanings of texts as well as the nature of “text” and “meaning.” So your “intrigue” is misplaced because its premise is faulty.

    2) Some literature is easier to interpret than the bible because it’s written for a systematic instructional purpose. A manual, for instance, is written to explain how to use a certain object. Yet Protestants treat the Bible like a manual, even though it very clearly isn’t one, because sola/solo scriptura requires them to. Because the Bible is not an instruction manual, and is written in the context of the liturgical, apostolic community, it takes many things for granted and assumes something about its hearers (I purposefully say “hearers” and not “readers” to emphasize how faulty it is to think that any group other than the smallest minority would have had the opportunity to study the bible in the way that scholars and clerics of the renaissance and early modern periods had, much less modern lay Christians). This is why the Ethiopian Eunuch did not understand Isaiah and needed Phillip to explain it to him. Protestants are like the Ethiopian Eunuch. They are trying to read the Bible outside of the community in which it was written and to whom it was written. In fact, I was exactly like the Ethiopian Eunuch when I converted to Christianity at age 17 with no background whatsoever. The New Testament doesn’t tell us what to do with people like me because it assumes that there is one apostolic community. But when people like me convert and are immediately thrown into the confusion of thousands of denominations and independent churches, they end up starting along a path of solo scriptura, then (in some cases) giving it up for “sola scriptura,” when the whole project still depends on, and is grounded in, solo scriptura.

    3) The necessity of the infallible interpreter is necessary for the Christian community because the principles we’re investigating are binding. Your opinion about what scripture says is not enough to command the assent of faith. Per #1, people have been arguing about the meaning of non-biblical literature for centuries and will continue to do so because, at the end of the day, nobody is trying to persuade someone else that their opinions about Homer are morally binding on everyone in the academy. Frameworks, approaches, and conclusions change because new people with new ideas come along, and the landscape of scholarship can look vastly different in one generation from the next. And this is exactly what we see in Protestantism because Protestants have rejected the authority of the Church’s magisterium. As Michael Liccione has pointed out several times, the shifting sands of academic opinion tend to be the default magisterium within Protestantism; the discipline of theology is literally no different from the other disciplines within the humanities. The people responsible for doing it have no special gift of the Holy Spirit and their qualifications are thus no different from the qualifications of any scholar of any subject. Thus Protestantism does not look like it did a hundred years ago, or two hundred, or four hundred years ago, because it changes in the same way scholarship in the humanities changes (see David Anders’ post How John Calvin Made Me Catholic).

  220. Andrew McCalllum: Concerning “certainty,” I bring up dogmatic certainty in the context of discussions with my Catholic friends here because epistemological certainty is a matter that is important to them.

    Of course this question it is important to Catholics – and it should be for Protestants, but apparently, it isn‘t. The question, “How do you know with certainty, what the doctrines of Christianity actually are?” is the same question as “How do you know with certainty that your Protestant church is not teaching pernicious heresy?”

    It is an observable fact that Protestantism is thousands upon of thousands of divided sects that teach conflicting doctrine. Because Protestant sects teach conflicting and irreconcilable doctrine, it is an undisputable fact that most, if not all, Protestant sects are teaching heresy. When I pointed out this undeniable fact out on this thread, I got this pushback from Steve G in his post #135:

    Mateo, you’re very confused. Protestants don’t call each other heretics when we disagree. We don’t consider the areas of disagreement among ourselves serious enough to warrant that term.

    Sheesh! Protestantism is thousands upon thousands of divided sects that cannot all agree on even one single article of the Christian faith, and I am the one that is supposedly confused! If one sect of Protestantism defines an article of the Christian faith, some other Protestant sect disputes it. I would simply shrug off what Steve G has said as just one more whiff of the hot air that has been blown in the never ending Protestant bickering about what constitutes the “essentials” of Christian doctrine – I would do that without a second thought, if it wasn’t for the fact that the reality of the doctrinal anarchy reigning within Protestantism hinders the preaching of the Gospel to a disbelieving world. Keith Mathison, at least, acknowledges the seriousness of this scandal of chaos within Protestantism when he writes:

    Is there any way to ever resolve the hermeneutical chaos and anarchy that exists within the Protestant church largely as a result of its adoption of radical individualism? Most Protestants do not seem to have taken this question seriously enough if they have considered it at all. If we proclaim to the unbelieving world that we have the one true and final revelation from God, why should they listen to us if we cannot agree about what that revelation actually says? Jesus prayed for the disciples that they would be one (John 17:21a). And why did He pray for this unity? He tells us the reason, “that the world may believe that You sent me” (17:21b). The world is supposed to be hearing the Church preach the gospel of Christ, but the world is instead hearing an endless cacophony of conflicting and contradictory assertions by those who claim to be the Church of Christ.

    (Ref: Keith Mathison as quoted in CTC article Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority)

    As a Catholic, I completely agree with Keith Mathison that the heresy preached by the thousands upon thousands of divided Protestant sects gives an unbelieving world good reason to doubt that Christians have anything worth listening to. If Christians can’t agree among themselves about what they believe, why bother listening to them? What Keith Mathison wrote in the above is fully compatible with the opening paragraph of the Vatican II document: DECREE ON ECUMENISM UNITATIS REDINTEGRATIO

    The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided. Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.

    What about the Protestants that do care about the truth? What answer do they get from within Protestantism when the seek to have certainty about what the doctrines of Christianity actually are? David Meyer’s gave this enlightening answer to that question:

    I am no philosopher, and I come to conclusions mainly through personal experience and intuition. I have been criticized by many from the Reformed persuasion for this, and that serves to only confirm my intuition that they are wrong. That they could boldly criticize another persons fallible interpretation of the data as being so much worse than their own self admitted fallible decision is laughable. They don’t take their interpretive skepticism seriously enough. For me Sola Scriptura was shown to be a device of satan by it’s fruit. A way to rob the written word of God of its authority. Any Protestant who like me has waded through the morass of contradictory “fallible” interpreters in search of the real Bible knows the spiritual pain of that search. It is a search for Christ that ends each time with a smiling man in a suit behind a podium on what used to be called an altar. He pounds his finger into a book and claims the authority of Christ, but then claims he could be wrong in what he says. … I began to see the various men who communicated the truth of Christ to me teaching contradictory things in His name in a disgustingly bold and blasé manner. When faced with what to my mind was the same choice I made as a teen, I offered the care-taking of my family’s faith in our Lord on a silver platter to any claimants of the title “Church” who claimed to be the infallible Church of Christ who could unequivocally say to me “thus saith the Lord”. Only two men stood up out of the crowd to take it: Benedict and Bartholomew. … EVERYONE other than Benny and Bart, including Keith Mathison told me I was doomed to forever follow fallible churchmen interpreting an infallible book. I should just “get used to it”.

    (Ref: David Meyer’s post # 8 in the TC article Mathison’s Reply to Cross and Judisch: A Largely Philosophical Critique

    If you want to know with certainty what the doctrines of Christianity actually are within the framework of Protestantism, forget about it. You are forever doomed to listening to fallible men that can only offer you their contradictory opinions.

    I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. Romans 16:17

    How are the Christians of our era supposed to avoid heretics if they can never have any certainty about what the doctrines of Christianity actually are? David Meyer is absolutely right, the false doctrine of sola scriptura robs the scripture of its authority. Where does scripture teach the doctrine of sola scriptura? Nowhere. Where does the scripture give me the right to sit in judgment of the doctrines promulgated by the Church Christ founded and declare that I won’t accept them unless my conscience tells me they are right? Nowhere. But Keith Mathison claims that any Christian is free to reject whatever his church teaches if he feels he is following his conscience:

    Mathison grants that each individual may appeal to Scripture to correct the Church, disobey the Church and leave the Church, so long as he is following his conscience.

    (Ref: Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority

    This novelty of the Reformation, this “primacy of conscience” doctrine, is the root cause of the “radical individualism” that Mathison deplores as being the cause of the “chaos and anarchy that exists within the Protestant church.” And yet Mathison affirms the Reformer‘s novelty of the “primacy of conscience! This “primacy of conscience” novelty is at the very heart of the Cross/Judisch thesis of why there is no principled difference between sola and solo and Mathison never bothers to directly address this issue in his fifty page response. Instead, he just assumes that the “primacy of conscience” doctrine is unquestionably true, which is a radical question begging stance. It is up to Mathison to prove the John Calvin had the right given to him by scriptures to sit in judgment of the church of which he was a member, and Mathison utterly fails to do that.

    My question to you, Andrew McCalllum, is this: Do you reserve the right to “follow your conscience” and go church shopping if your Protestant sect teaches doctrine that you come to believe is “unscriptural”?

  221. @ Lojahw #217

    If as your Catechism states, “none of the Creeds from the different stages in the Church’s life can be considered superseded,” one might again ask whether this question rises to the level of mandatory doctrine. Again, how many Christians are able to comprehend the theological arguments related to this topic?
    I can see how both of these topics could easily fit Paul’s caution: “knowledge puffs up,” whereas “love builds up.”

    You are starting to get at a point that a friend and I were discussing. In the Catholic Church as well, amongst some there is this “search for exceptions” mentality. How can I find a loop-hole. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of contemporary nominalism in the 14th century, was the error of the reformers, and would be taken up by the Renaissance thinkers in full-force. Not until the strong emergence of empirical science would it lose its hold in popular academia, but then again sola scriptura, pre-suppositionalism, et. al haven’t made much sense for some time either. It is in fact, the modern spirit, a type of rebellion to authority (or rejection) wanting private conscious to be the rule of life. “Bring on the heretics, we are open-minded” is the modern creed. What is “mandatory doctrine”? That would depend on who is teaching it. If it is from God, then all doctrine. If it is from my head, then only if I get lucky. Through his Apostles and the Petrine office God continues to teach his Church through the Spirit–something he promised he would do (Jn 14:26, Jn 16:7-9).

    If we are trying to make a determination who (which individual) is saved, then we are going beyond our epistemic state. What we understand in terms of doctrine is co-relative to our place in time, which is certainly the history of the early creeds and explains the development from Milan to Nicea, and for us from Nicea to Vatican II, et. all. It is also the most coherent explanation for the knowledge of God from the Book of Job to David’s writings in the Psalms.

    Back to sola scriptura: its scope as defined by the Anglican Articles of Religion 1.6 and the Westminster Confession 1.7 – “what is necessary for salvation.” It seems both of these are beyond that scope. Jesus answered the question simply in Matthew 7, which I’ll paraphrase here: “Do I know you?” How many people with little intellectual capability have come to Jesus, believing in Him and trusting Him with eternity? Do you think Jesus will let them down? I don’t.

    I can agree with you and it still begs the question. St. Thomas would describe this as con-natural knowledge. Because I simply enjoy the great taste of water doesn’t negate the truth about the polar covalent bonding of a water molecule. A chemist and a 4 year old will both enjoy the taste of water but only one will understand it. A 4 year old who grows up will seek to understand it if he really loves what he is drinking, because that is the nature of love.

    On the other hand, all rigorous study should be made to discern what the Scriptures teach beyond what is necessary for salvation. That keeps the theologians and apologists busy.

    You miss the point completely of the Divine Science. Truth. Theology…St. Thomas didn’t put in the effort he did to “keep busy” but rather because he loved the truth. The nominalists did theology to keep busy. Many theologians “do theology” to get kicks, exercise their mental powers, hold a profession, etc. If ALL Truth comes from God, then we should expend at the least the same effort great scientists put into studying ants, stars, or ornithology. However, since modern man has successfully flipped the hierarchy of sciences on its head, it would seem “apparent” to modern man that to study the later with more rigor makes more sense than the former.

    Regarding what is “necessary for salvation”, I think you are confusing something.

    The Church does not teach that one has to believe “x” amount of propositions to be saved. However, what is essential is that one assent to Truth. If one rejects truth one commits the sin of incredulity (who cares about truth), heresy (who cares about my baptism), apostasy (who cares about Christ) or schism (who cares about His Church). You can read more in the CCC 2084-2141 in the discussion about “loving God…with your mind”. So, if you are afraid that Catholicism excludes the simple faithful, she does not. She excludes the simple prideful since God has made that clear (James 4:6). We leave this judgment to God, since he knows what each of us would believe without mitigating circumstances. The Church and Paul make this allowance for even those who have not heard of Christ formally, but follow him materially with their lives.

    In Christ through Mary,

    Brent

  222. Andrew M.,

    I am aware that in the older literature and among disputants certainty comes up and that quite a bit. But it is a mistake and here is why. If certainty means infallibility then this is a mistake. I do not need to be infallible to know I have a toothbrush. If it means some kind of psychological disposition, then it isn’t entailed by knowledge. Here are some examples. People were certain Geocentrism was true, yet they did not have knowledge. Plenty of scientists know things without being certain of them. If I know, then I know. I do not need to be certain to fulfill the conditions on knowledge. Certainty adds nothing to knowledge per se.

    Now why does certainty keep coming up? It is actually a cognitive misfire but it has an important use. The lack of certainty, and the skeptical arguments used to bring show that it is not attainable in these cases serves a specific end. It doesn’t show that one doesn’t in fact know, but it does show that the method of attaining the judgment is insufficient to be ultimately normative. So the intuition is that if you don’t know it, it can’t be ultimately normative. But this is over kill since even if one knows something doesn’t make it ultimately normative.

    If individual Catholics or Protestants make fallacious moves in epistemology that is irrelevant.

    As for Protestants being rock solid on the canon, even if this is so now, there is no reason why they couldn’t change it latter since it is a human tradition. Secondly, it has not always so, as Protestants in the last two centuries floated the idea of removing works like 3rd John because of its support for episcopacy.

    Perhaps I am wrong, but I don’t think Bryan has written to defend certainty, but that either they (protestants) don’t know or that their canon isn’t normative or sufficiently so. If he has, then I think Bryan’s position is mistaken. So while I agree that it has a history in the debates, it is a usage that turns on a mistake.

    It is true that Rome has levels of normative standing and Protestants popularly tend to toss them all into one, but that would be largely remedied if Protestants would spend time working through the best Catholic texts trying to understand them as Catholics do rather than cherry pick them.
    As for the course of development that Orthodox doctrine has gone, we’d say it hasn’t gone in any trajectory since we reject the notion of doctrinal development. In any case, in so far as Protestants insist that the individual’s judgment can trump that of the church, the discussions will go along similar lines.

    Again, I disagree since for the Scholastics the attempt was not to produce a complete theological system. And second, the opposition to scholasticism was a method turned on Christological and Theology proper, since the scholastic method turned on discerning the truth via a dialectical framing of matters (yes or no) due to how the relation to philosophy was understood in a more symmetrical manner. We do not thin theology is a science because we do not think philosophy is the handmaiden to theology and we do not think that because philosophy entails distinguishing things via opposition that will inevitably lead to a defective Christology in our view. This is why from our point of view there is no end to debates about predestination and free will in the west and no one view gaining consensus and why such debates don’t take place pretty much after the 7th century in the East. So it isn’t a matter of the quality of theological discourse, but of thinking of theology differently.

    You charge that what I think about private judgment is not part of Reformed thought. But I already cited two well known Reformed theologians to the effect that it is. Do I need to cite say Bavink, Kuyper, Dabney or Edwards? How about Calvin, Luther or Vermigli too? Unless you actually show that its not I can’t see how your casual dismissal here really touches the evidence I brought forward.
    I didn’t get the idea of private judgment from Protestant “folklore” but from reading primary sources in Reformed and Lutheran theology. And certainly they didn’t get it from converting to Rome or the Orthodox, so this is a red herring and an ad hominem rolled into one.

    Further, if we look at the matter conceptually, what would Sola be without the right of private judgment? It would leave room for the judgment of the church to be ultimately normative relative to the conscience of the individual, just as the Laudians maintained over against the Puritans. In which case the Reformers would have had no leg to stand on since both West and East rejected Protestantism. So I am afraid as a conceptual matter alone, without private judgment, sola scriptura disappears and so it is quite integral to it.

    As for Catholicism being the Buddhism of the west, however true that might be, Protestants being her children had absorbed their own fair share of things. So over simplifications like this one do not advance the argument and are relatively useless at finding the truth of the matter.

    As I believe I already showed, nothing in Oberman touches what I’ve said. If you think so, then you need to bring something specific forward and actually show how it demonstrates that I am in error.
    Let’s take your gloss on Oberman as correct. If so, then Oberman is wrong. Here is why. If we have trad 1 and trad 2, it is still possible to bring in private judgment in order to remove something from trad 1 and make it trad 2 or vice versa. And this is exactly what the Reformers argued. Those things being included in trad 1 aren’t proper members of that set. When the church judged that they were wrong, what principle did they fall back on as their trump card? Was it something other than private judgment? If so, please point me to it. If not, then Q.E.D. So even if your gloss on Oberman is right, it is logically sloppy for one doesn’t have to eliminate trad 2 to invoke private judgment. Plenty of representative Reformed theologians for the last five centuries have done exactly that.
    If the matters are ecclesiastical and not private ones, then the Reformers had no leg to stand on when the ecclesia judged contrary to them, especially in the case of Calvin who was never ordained, not even as a Protestant.

    It isn’t a matter of liking or not in rejecting your saying that when the Orthodox object to Roman distinctives that they are doing what Protestants do. It is a matter of principles and arguments that I gave you that you seem to have ignored.

    My citation of Turretin was exactly on target. The fact that his namesake in this dialog says the same I would think would lead you in that direction. Secondly, Turretin makes it clear in ecclesiastical matters, private judgment is superior to that of any church judgment. And this is in line with Luther at the Diet of Worms. Was Luther dealing with ecclesiastical or “private” matters as you seem to be thinking? What did he base his refusal to recant on? If it was ecclesiastical, then my point stands, if the latter, then Luther was entirely confused as were all the participants. Your separating out “private” as a sphere of discourse outside of the church or state is entirely a misreading of what the term means and so renders any accounting of the history and actions of the Reformers and their counterparts incoherent.

    I never denied that the matters were ecclesiastical. I denied that the Orthodox invoke private judgment to ground them. Since you contend that Protestant objections were ecclesiastical, again, what was the Protestant final appeal if not to private judgment about what scripture meant?
    Here again I think you misread what private judgment as a protestant doctrine amounts to. If we take the situation on the eve of the Reformation when Protestants were still within Rome, they still appealed to private judgment over against the judgment of ecclesiastical courts. This is not a controversial point between the parties. This was their only ultimate basis to trump popes, councils and anything else that could be brought forward.

    There is no way for the Reformed to proceed now without the appeal to private judgment since its rejection would put them in the position of possibly being bound by ecclesial judgments. At best their position would then be prima scriptura.

    Part of the problem with trad 1 and trad 2 is that what constitutes trad 1 is trad 2. So either we have in principle a faith that is capable of essential change since the canon might change or the trad 1 or trad 2 is to be understood in terms of material and formal normativity or the distinction collapses.
    Tradition didn’t become an essential part, it was always there from the get go prior to the writing of scripture. And this is so in the OT and the NT. I don’t think Moses was present at Eden.

    To say again that some traditions are elevated to the level of scripture itself depends on confusing the formal and the material, as well as making inspiration isomorphic revelation. It also seems to run counter to the facts since what the early church took to be canonical when it took something to be canonical wasn’t a matter of tradition 2, but of 1.

    The Reformation conceived of by her advocates was an exercise of private judgment, because they themselves said so. The church cannot bind the conscience absolutely because the conscience is invisibly united to Christ directly and without mediation through faith alone.

    I don’t think the appeal to conciliarism will help you. While I am aware that it persisted in various forms in the west after the schism, it doesn’t give Protestants a leg to stand on. First because Protestants are not conciliarists. And that for a very good reason because it entailed Episcopal representation and that entailed apostolic succession. The Protestants early on hoped that they could secure the episcopate or a significant part of it, going so far as to complain as late as Dort that they weren’t so blessed as to have retained the episcopate. So conciliarism excludes Protestantism as well.
    While as an Orthodox Christian I reject the distinctive Catholic claims made for the papacy, I don’t see the Protestant position as being in principle different. If the pope is supreme because he is the vicar of Christ, Protestants have made every Christian a vicar of Christ. No judgment other than his own can ultimately bind the conscience of the pope and the same is true for any Protestant layman. So while I might agree with some Protestant criticisms of the papacy it doesn’t help the Protestant position, for both positions seem to me to rest on the same principles, just taken in different directions. To wax Platonic, those things that are the most unalike are also the most alike.

    And I think you ignore the implicit problem for Protestantism in it relation to the East. If we were talking about any other sect or movement that was condemned by Christian authorities East to West, Protestants wouldn’t even flinch in assenting. The weight of practically all ecclesial authorities were be overwhelming, but for some reason it isn’t so for Protestantism. And the reason is private judgment trumps even the judgment of practically all ecclesial authorities.

    By the time Trent rolls around, it is far too late and the Reformers (and Rome) contributed to it being so. If Luther had read more Aquinas for example and had realized that the Ockhamists and Scotist views weren’t necessarily the only ones on the table or how dependent his exegesis was on nominalist assumptions, things might have been different. Luther dug in his heals, lit a fuse and off it went and Rome clamped down. Perhaps both sides should have exercised a bit more patience. But what is interesting to me is that for a sect to maintain that no interpretation is infallible, Protestants seem, classically speaking to treat their own interpretations as if they were. That principle though should make us something more akin to Humeanism or Lockian toleration given the eternal stakes. Consequently a rejection of infallible judgments should move Protestants to be far more conservative and assert far less than they do and to assert it in a far more provisional manner.

    As for your assertions that it is folklore to think that sola fide is a Protestant creation, I just disagree. It certainly has no place as a concept in the preceding tradition and its essential components are products of late medieval scholasticism. No amount of spoof texting terms like “declared” or “faith alone” will prove otherwise. All those terms can be found in authors like Augustine whom we know didn’t teach that faith was the only formal cause of justification (http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/no-gospel-for-augustine/ )

    And all of those terms can be found in Pelagius as well. (http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/sola-fide-in-a-church-father/ )

    So while the Reformers were mixing and matching like everyone else, that doesn’t prove that their result existed prior to their doing so or that their resulting position was acceptable. And it supports the claim that their position didn’t have standing in the prior tradition for 15 centuries. I do not mean to turn this discussion into one of SF so it is best to leave it at that. Nuff said.

    For the complaints about Rome and the Latin text, this means little to me as I am not Catholic and the Orthodox were too busy reading the bible in Greek as they always had done in the main. What shall we say the humanists chalked up the Orthodox errors to, reading the bible in Greek?!

  223. Lojahw,

    If none of the patristic citations include the expression of the concept of the right of private judgment, then none of them support sola scriptura, since that is an essential condition for it.

    If you want to see how Augustine thought doctrines could be based on scripture alone, I’d suggest you read his Literal Commentary on Genesis.

    As for Chrysostom, no specialist I know of thinks Chrysostom taught sola fide. Second, none of the citations prove that he did and here is why. Finding similar terms doesn’t prove an expression of the same concept and most probably not across a thousand years.

    Declaring of itself doesn’t imply sola fide or forensic imputation. It only does so on a more nominalist gloss on taxonomies. So we’d have to have good reason for thinking that Chrysostom thought things could be classed in a way that was ungrounded in the nature of the object. And its pretty clear Chrysostom is of a far more realist bent.

    Third, we know Augustine also used declarative language but he did not believe in sola fide either since he thought that faith wasn’t the sole formal cause of justification and because he thought the declaration was dependent on the nature of the object so declared.

    Fourth, those terms, declared, faith alone, etc. can all be found in Pelagius’ commentaries on the Pauline corpus and yet no one thinks Pelagius taught sola fide.

    Fifth, you are assuming that to be justified does not admit of degrees. But we’d need to know that Chrysostom thought the same to even approach supporting the claim that he held to forensic imputation.

    So it isn’t a matter of presuppositional limitation. It is a matter of a lack of demonstration that key terms meant then what they meant in the 16th century. And it is a matter of committing the word-concept fallacy.

    Your argument about not being able to do anything righteous would only follow if it were complete, which Augustine didn’t think it was, and on a causal theory that Chrysostom explicitly rejects in relation to moral dispositions and free will. That is, your conclusion follows only if we place within Chrysostom a Reformed understanding of nature, grace and the will. And so this is why the possibility, which was real for Chrysostom, that people can lose that divine life after receiving it undermines your conclusion. This is how there could be no forgiveness for such a person. Even Augustine speaks this way in terms of those receiving only grace sufficient for regeneration.

    The question isn’t with respect initial justification whether God declares apart from prior works, but whether that declaration is grounded in the state of the agent or not. If with Augustine it is, then sola fide is false.

    Rome wasn’t alone in claiming formal sufficiency for the church. The High Church Anglicans over against the Puritans did as well. So it is not as if Rome alone has historically made that claim. Your problem is bigger than just Rome. I’d suggest reading some of their critiques of Puritanism in the Library of Anglo-Catholic theology.

    Invoking Irenaeus, Tertullian and the Nicene fathers on the earliest days testifying to the doctrine of the Trinity cuts both ways. First, because the Reformed reject Nicene Trinitarianism, at the very least by asserting that all the persons are autotheos. Second, none of the writers you invoke believed in sola fide or sola scriptura. So if their invocation works as evidence against Catholic development theories, then it equally works as evidence against sola fide and other Protestant distinctives. It is entirely implausible that centuries of all the learned people reading the Bible in their own language should miss its main message. And this is why Protestants have to appeal to doctrinal development too.

  224. @ Andrew McCallum #200

    FYI I wrote post #186 not Nick.

    Take a look at my thought experiment above. If there is no need to posit infallibility in order to have authority why bring in infallibility?

    Your thought experiment in #199 doesn’t work because you are simply overlaying a “what if they thought X Y Z” over the top of the actual events. The thing is that we know what these early bishops thought because they wrote down what they thought about the authority which they wielded — namely that their authority came Apostolic Succession, not from being able to read the bible correctly.

    “And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture a certain place, ‘I will appoint their bishops s in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.’… Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry…For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties.” Pope Clement, Epistle to Corinthians, 42, 44 (A.D. 98).

    “We are not to credit these men, nor go out from the first and the ecclesiastical tradition; nor to believe otherwise than as the churches of God have by succession transmitted to us.” Origen, Commentary on Matthew (post A.D. 244).

    “We must strive therefore in common to keep the faith which has come down to us to-day, through the Apostolic Succession.” Pope Celestine [regn A.D. 422-432], To the Council of Ephesus, Epistle 18 (A.D. 431).

    Secondly the need to posit infallibility is necessitated by the belief that the Holy Spirit guides the Church and that Christ is the Head of the Church. If the Church is not infallible then Christ is not her head and the Holy Spirit is not the spirit of the Church. Theological infallibility (as opposed to philosophical infallibility) means that “non-fallibility” of the action is due to it originating from the Spirit and the Spirit’s authority. Given that, if the Church was fallible then so too would be the Spirit or the Spirit would not possess Divine Sovereignty.

    So again, if it is stated that Christ is the Head of the Church and the Spirit is the spirit of the Church, then the Church must possess infallibility in the authority that she wields because the authority that she wields is not human authority based upon human reason but rather Divine Authority based upon the Sovereignty of God.

    But the confidence came from the surety that they were accurately portraying the Word of God, not that the Church had been given any particular gift of infallibility.

    Here is where you are mistaking the writings of the Church. The confidence is not coming from the surety that they are accurately portraying the scriptures — it would be more correct to say that they believe that the scriptures testify to their liturgical practices and doctrinal expressions of the faith that is vocalized in the liturgy. Let us not overlook the liturgical dimension in all of this, the debate between Catholics and Protestants is not fundamentally over the authority of scripture but it is over how one worships God. Even of Sola Scriptura was granted to be true, it is possible to reconstruct 99.9% of the Catholic beliefs and liturgical practice from scripture alone (as many modern converts to Catholicism from Reformed do in their writings) without recourse to external norms — the problem for a Catholic with this is not one can construct the Catholic faith from scripture but that in it self is an abuse of the scriptural text because scripture is not meant to be the means by which we construct our Faith but rather it is that which testifies to the authenticity of the Faith which comes to us from Christ himself by way of the Apostles (not by way of a text book). SS is simply a cudgel by which to bash and reject the authority of the episcopate and replace it by the authority of ones own “informed and educated” personal conscience.

    Throughout the OT and NT the Spirit lead God’s people perfectly (and how could He do otherwise?) but the people did not always follow infallibly.

    You do realize that one cannot “follow infallibly”, right but that one would follow “impeccability” and they are not related concepts?

    Here is a question for you: Do you belief that the prophet Isaiah spoke to Judah 1.) the word of God 2.) was moved to speak and spoke by an in the Spirit 3.) That that which Isaiah spoke was incapable of erring falsifying or mistaking the prophetic message that came from God? 4.) That Isaiah spoke not from his own human authority but from the authority of God?

    If yes to the above, then infallibility does exist for prophets, and that as Christians are also prophets (and priests and kings) then infallibility does likewise exist within the Church. If no to the above, how do you know that the Book of Isaiah is the word of God?

    Sola scriptura does not in any way invalidate the Spirit’s leading. It only speaks to the tools that the Spirit uses in His task.

    Yes it does. If sola scriptura is correct and the Church does not possess infallibility then the SS cannot be leading the Church because if the Church is lead by the Spirit then it is infallible. What you would have is that the Holy Spirit “recommends” things to the Church / or the Church, hearing the voice of the Spirit in the text of scripture, produces a bunch of fallible documents and teachings. Further it invalidates the Spirit’s leading, because SS in making scripture the suprime rule of faith which is self norming and its own authorative interpretation, one has turned the text of scripture into something that is greater than the Spirit and limits the Spirit to itself.

    Is the Spirit more authorative than a text or is the text more authorative than the Spirit? If the Spirit is more authorative, then the text cannot be self norming nor its own authorative interpretation, for those things must come from, and be subject to, the authority of the Spirit.

    And on your practical example as to how a Reformed believer might use the WCF and how a Catholic believer might use a pronouncement from VII, I think this is not necessarily accurate.

    Please note that I stated a believer well educated in the their respective theological backgrounds so the assumption is that the believer is going to approach the documents in a correct fashion. Let me give another example of why my example is correct. Look at apologetics. The Reformed individual primarily spends a vast amount of time trying to show why that WCF is “biblical” and Trent is “unbiblical”. The Catholic individual primarily spends his time trying to show that Trent is in submission to the Apostolic Faith and the WCF is not. They are different in approach which shows that for the Reformed that the underlying authority is ones own educated and informed convictions of conscience of what is and what is not “biblical” and for the Catholic what is the underlying authority is that the Spirit guarantees the authority of the Church and that the proper response is not one of evaluation but of submission.

    There is a high degree of submission of the people in the Reformed congregations to the leadership and confessions and it is my observation that there is more biblical submission in these congregations than there is in the vast majority of Catholic congregations.

    That has more to do with the Reformed understanding of justification than anything. Double positive predestination has the effect of preventing people from thinking outside of “group think” because anything that goes against the standards of the particular congregation is considered to be indications that the individual is amongest those elected to be damned….it is a self perpetuating thing that keeps people in line and quickly removes from the congregation individuals who are not submissive to their elders.

    Though I would point out that a high degree of submission is not all that its cracked up to be if what they are submitting to are a bunch of fallible interpretations on the content of scripture and a bunch of fallible doctrinal statements. Mormons and Muslims are great at being submissive but I am sure you would describe their submissiveness as “biblical”. Let’s not attach “biblical” to the Reformed congregations example of submissiion when “biblical” is being attached simply because you find their submission to match your own reasoned and informed interpretation of what is and what is not “biblical”.

  225. Whoa! I step out of the room for a few days to take care of other responsibilities, and there are already 224 comments! This is why I’m not built for the blogosphere.

    Keith

  226. Keith – Yeah, I know….crazy isn’t it?

  227. @ TurretinFan #210

    I have, of course, read LG. Your comments, however, seem to confirm my point. The argument “the bishop of Alexandria should have privilege X because the bishop of Rome does,” makes little sense when the bishop of Rome has all sorts of additional privileges (“charisms” if you prefer) that don’t exist with respect to normal bishops.

    Did you go back and read LG 3? I would have guessed that you read it in the past but did you go back and re-read it?

    The bishop of Alexandria has the same fundamental charisms as the bishop of Rome because they are both bishops, but the bishop of Rome also holds the Petrine office and as such has another set of charisms.

    Again, it is not the case that you have a bunch of normal bishops then one super bishop. Think of the episcopate like an arch. All the stones in an arch are exactly the same thing and contribute in the same manner to their forming an arch. Yet the keystone, which is a stone like the rest of the stones, contributes in an additional way that supports and brings about the fulfillment of the rest of the stones in being an arch. This is how the Pope is both a bishop and the same as every other bishop in the episcopate but also the holder of the Petrine Office that has an additional way that that makes the episcopate united under Christ. (As a reminder, the Pope is not the Head of the Catholic Church, Christ is the head of the Church).

    But more to the point, Nicaea does not mention any universal pontiff, nor does it say that the buck stops at the metropolitan and the Pope, but simply at the metropolitan. In this regard, the ecclesiology of the Greek Orthodox appears to be closer to the Nicaean ecclesiology than that of Rome.

    The Greek Orthodox Church does believe in the Petrine Office and it is a teaching of the Greek Orthodox that Rome does hold primacy and would exercise it if the Pope was “orthodox”. http://orthodoxwiki.org/Primacy_and_Unity_in_Orthodox_Ecclesiology

    The large problem with saying that Nicaea is not Petrine in its ecclesiology is the fundamental fact that the orthodox Bishops of Nicaea found it necessary to submit the documents of the Council to the bishop of Rome Pope Silvester I, who was not in attendance, for ratification, a ratification without which the council would lack ecclesial authority. Let me cite here the non-Catholic work Encyclopedia of Religion, Part 7 By James Hastings page 190 Councils and Synods (Christian) part 9 The Authority of Councils, which you can locate on Google books.

  228. Wow. This has certainly gone in many directions in very little time. Comboxes have this nifty way of growing exponentially every time someone asks a new question, and there have been some fantastic questions raised here!

    So, I will not attempt to add any new information to this discussion!

    I will just ask Perry Robinson the most efficient way to contact him directly, as I have some questions I think he could help to answer, but I don’t want to derail this discussion.

    So, Perry, is there some available contact info for you? I can’t find it at your blog site, although I may just be looking in the wrong place and I’m already cross-eyed from reading these comments!!! :)

  229. I haven’t read through all 200+ comments (no time). But what I can gather from the few I’ve looked at is that there is a consensus among the Roman Catholic readers that I did not address Bryan and Neal’s critique because I focused so much attention on the claims of Rome to be the church Christ founded. Several seemed to be perplexed about why I felt it necessary to do this. So, briefly, let’s just look again at what Bryan and Neal say in their section critiquing the solo/sola distinction. All of these quotes are from their original Nov. 2009 critique:

    Here is a lengthy quote from Cross and Judisch’s critique, Section IV,A

    Solo scriptura is the direct way of acting as one’s own ultimate interpretive and magisterial authority. But as we show below, the indirect way of acting as one’s own ultimate interpretive and magisterial authority is precisely the methodology entailed by sola scriptura. Here’s why. In Mathison’s account of sola scriptura, Scripture must be interpreted “in and by the church.” He even says that we must turn to the Church for the true interpretation of Scripture, “for it is in the Church that the gospel is found.”46 Notice that Mathison claims that it is in the Church that the gospel is found.

    But how does he determine what is the Church? Being Reformed, he defines ‘Church’ as wherever the gospel is found, because the early Protestants defined the marks of the Church as including “the gospel,” where the gospel was determined by their own private interpretation of Scripture. So he claims that is in the Church that the gospel is found, but he defines the Church in terms of the gospel. This is what we call a tautology. It is a form of circular reasoning that allow anyone to claim to be the Church and have the gospel. One can read the Bible and formulate one’s own understanding of the gospel, then make this “gospel” a necessary mark of the Church, and then say that it is in the Church that the gospel is found. Because one has defined the Church in terms of the gospel [as arrived at by one's own interpretation of Scripture], telling us that the gospel is found “in the Church” tells us nothing other than “people who share my own interpretation of Scripture about what is the gospel are referred to by me as ‘the Church.’” This kind of circular reasoning allows falsehood to remain hidden.

    The Catholic position does not suffer from this circularity, because ‘Church’ is not defined in terms of “gospel,” but in terms of apostolic succession, involving an unbroken line of authorizations extending down from the Apostles. Just as Christ authorized and sent the Apostles to preach and teach in His Name, and govern His Church, so the Apostles, by the laying on of their hands, appointed bishops as their successors, and by this mystery handed on to them the divine authority to preach and teach and govern the Church. And these men also, in the same way authorized other men to succeed them to preach and teach the gospel and govern Christ’s Church. Only those having the succession from the Apostles are divinely authorized to preach and teach and govern Christ’s Church. For that reason, the Church is defined not by the gospel (as determined by one’s own interpretation of Scripture). Rather, the content of the gospel is specified by the Church, and the Church is located by the succession from the Apostles. This is why apostolicity is one of the four marks of the Church taught in the Creed: “we believe one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” But given Mathison’s account, what counts as ‘church’ is always and ultimately up to each individual to decide on the basis of his or her own determination of the gospel, on the basis of his or her own interpretation of Scripture. So on Mathison’s account, no one has any more authority than anyone else to say definitively what is the Church and where is the Church, and what is her doctrine and what is not her doctrine.

    Notice how big a role Roman Catholic assumptions about the nature of the Church play in this argument? The argument really makes little sense apart from the presumption that Roman Catholic ecclesiology is true, that the Church is located by apostolic succession in the sense that Rome interprets it.

    The arguments that are being presented essentially amount to this:

    Premise: Rome is the Church Christ founded.

    Conclusion: Since Rome is the Church Christ founded, the distinction Mathison makes between sola and solo amounts to nothing because solo explicitly rejects the church’s interpretive authority and sola does so implicitly by not accepting Rome’s divinely authorized magisterial interpretive authority.

    In short sola is the same as solo because sola doesn’t acknowledge that Rome is the Church Christ founded

    The truth of the premise “Rome is the Church Christ founded” is presupposed and assumed throughout the entirety of Bryan and Neal’s critique and is part and parcel of every section of it. It leads them to describe my case for my position as deceptive, a charade, and a delusion. However, since I don’t accept that premise, I have to address it first.

    I see absolutely no reason to accept the claims of Rome based on syllogisms that begin with premises that tell me nothing more about reality than what the philosopher in question thinks is conceivable or must be the case.

    The only question that concerns me is whether Rome’s claims are true or not. An examination of the historical evidence reveals that these claims have zero historical plausibility. But those of us who are Protestants are supposed to ignore all of that and accept the claims anyway? Why? Because our own view of hermeneutics doesn’t grant Roman claims and allow Rome final interpretive authority. All very persuasive.

    Keith

  230. Keith, (re: #229)

    Perhaps you misunderstood the purpose and function of that third paragraph that you quoted (i.e. the one that begins “The Catholic position does not suffer from this …”). The purpose of that third paragraph is only to answer the possible tu quoque objection. It is not a premise in the argument that there is no principled difference between sola and solo. So “Rome is the Church Christ founded” is not a premise in our argument.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  231. Keith,

    Thanks both for your response and your interactions here.

    I am curious to hear how you would answer those who insist that their eventual rejection of the distinction between sola and solo had nothing whatsoever to do with Rome or Catholicism.

    How would you answer someone like John Frame, a presbyterian theologian who has gone on record defending “something close to biblicism”? Frame and those like him can make a case that the Westminster Standards themselves teach a solO view, since the WCF says that the arbiter of all doctrinal questions is the Bible, and that all synods and councils are potentially heretical (which can qualify the claim that “it belongs to synods and councils to determine matters of doctrine”).

    In other words, if the church plays a secondarily authoritative role in how we understand Scripture, but if the actual identity of this church is determined by something subjective like conformity to what my friends and I think the marks of a true church are based on our understanding of Scripture, then it would seem (1) that sola and solo are not all that different, and (2) that people like Frame can deny the difference between sola and solo even while repudiating Rome’s arrogant claims for herself.

  232. Nathan B,

    Point of information. The Orthodox, neither in the Greek jurisdiction nor any other believe in the Petrine Office if by that you mean the Catholic teaching on it. If they did, they’d be Eastern Rite Catholics. All of the relevant documents show that they believe Rome *had* *a* primacy at one time and would regain it when and if it returns to the Orthodox Church and Faith. But the primacy that the Orthodox have in mind is not what Vatican 1 has in mind. That is just where things are, like it or no.

    Further, documents from the Joint Theological Commission are recommendations, which are not binding on either body, as Rome has made clear. One could just as easily infer from them that Rome takes itself to be no more than an equal to the other Apostolic Sees in the East by the term “sister churches” as used in a variety of documents from the Joint Theological Commission. This would not be a legitimate inference to make.

  233. BT, You may contact me via email at acolyte4236 AT sbcglobal DOT net

  234. Nathan #227 and others interested in Canon 6 of Nicaea,

    St Robert Bellarmine (and other Catholics) argued, quite convincingly, that Canon 6 of Nicaea conclusively proves the Papacy, not some ‘first among equals’ or merely speaking of local jurisdictions. I believe it’s not worth it for Catholics to sell themselves short on this subject.

    Here is the essence of St Robert’s argument (which can be read in more depth by following the link below):

    (1) To render Canon 6 along the lines of: “Let the Bishop of Alexandria rule this jurisdiction since the Bishop of Rome is also a Patriarch [with his own separate jurisdiction]” is nonsense; it’s the non-sequitur fallacy: it doesn’t follow nor fit with the (territorial) claims being made in regards to Alexandria.

    (2) The only reading that makes sense is something along the lines of: “Let the Bishop of Alexandria rule this jurisdiction since it is the tradition of the Pope to grant Alexandria this jurisdiction.” This directly connects to the first clause, and the reasoning and force of the argument is that the authority to which it is appealing to (i.e. Rome) is sufficient to settle the matter.

    This obviously entails two things: the Council submitting to the traditions of the Pope (Bishop of Rome), and a clear primacy over the two Patriarchs (and by extension all bishops of the Church)

    http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2010/10/council-of-nica-proves-papacy.html

  235. Keith,

    You summarized Bryan and Neal’s argument as follows:

    Premise: Rome is the Church Christ founded.

    Conclusion: Since Rome is the Church Christ founded, the distinction Mathison makes between sola and solo amounts to nothing because solo explicitly rejects the church’s interpretive authority and sola does so implicitly by not accepting Rome’s divinely authorized magisterial interpretive authority.

    In short sola is the same as solo because sola doesn’t acknowledge that Rome is the Church Christ founded

    Bryan and Neil’s article argues against the lack of a “principled difference between solo/sola with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority” along strictly philosophical lines without any support from the premise you just stated. They ONLY proceed to offer the alternative of apostolic succession AFTER completing that argument, and as a remedy to the untoward epistemic consequences that both solo AND sola entail. As has been said ad infinitum, even if your “just so” story concerning the monolithic consensus of the academic community that “examination of the historical evidence reveals that these claims have zero historical plausibility” were true; it would not have one wit of impact on the validity or cogency of the prior sola/sola argument. Also, are you suggesting something along the lines that all Catholic biblical, historical and patristic scholars who have chosen to remain Catholic are either witless, ill-educated, or else have hatched a deceitful plan to keep hidden all of the blindingly obvious (according to you) exegetical and primitive-Christian historical evidence which would shatter the faith of 1.2 billion gullible Catholic lay faithful?

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  236. @JJS #231

    FYI As an outsider Catholic convert by way of Lutheran – Methodist – Evangelical who has been studying Reformed theology for a while, I would agree with Frame that the WCF is closer to solo than sola, because it sounds like solo to me and I mean that in terms of my Protestant upbringing not my Catholic Faith, and because given when and where the WCF was written lots of what goes into it is a means of articulating the Puritan Presbyeterian belief system over and against that of the Anglican / Anglo-Catholic Episcopal belief system, the major difference of course being the normans of scripture. It is important to consider the WCF in the context of the Scottish Bishop Wars and the move to replace episcopalianism by presbyteranism amongst English Christians, and as such the articulation of SS in the WCF is a move away from the SS articulation by the episcopalian Church of England and thus closer to modern solo than sola.

  237. @Perry Robinson #232

    In terms of what I mean and ment by the Petrine Office, I did not mean “as define by Vatican I”, I simply meant that the Orthodox do in their theology have the concept of the Petrine Office. The important bit is that Rome *had* and *would have* a Petrine Primacy and that is standard for Orthodox theology. How that primacy would operate is of contention, even amongst the Orthodox, but that it is contended is not as important that that there is agreement that such a thing is true.

    The term though “sister churches” is important. The Church of Rome is not nor should be viewed as the “mother church” of any of the Apostolic Sees, she is sister to them. The Catholic Church (which is not to be understood as synonomous with the Church of Rome) is the mother of the particular churches, which are sisters to each other. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000630_chiese-sorelle_en.html

    That the JTC lacks “authority” is a good thing, we don’t want a repeat of the failed union councils and a popular rebellion against Church leadership.

  238. JJS (#231):

    You’ve posed a fair question to Prof. Mathison. I didn’t know that Frame had made a case for rejecting sola in favor of solo on Reformed grounds alone. Surely Frame cannot be accused of needing to premise Catholic ecclesiology for such an argument.

    I’d be interested in your comments on my own rejoinder to Prof Mathison’s reply to Bryan and Neal, where I also argued that they don’t need to, and didn’t, premise Catholic ecclesiology in their own argument against the solo/sola distinction. That post of is found in here. Of course Prof Mathison too is welcome to comment if he has time.

    Best,
    Mike

    .

  239. Perry @ 223

    If none of the patristic citations include the expression of the concept of the right of private judgment, then none of them support sola scriptura, since that is an essential condition for it.

    Perry, I disagree with your conclusion that private judgment is an essential condition for SS. The SS adherents’ appeals to the apostolic faith are grounded in Trinitarian doctrines taught in Scripture and explicitly confessed by the church fathers from the second century onward. Sola Scriptura adherents have always held this core of “essential” doctrines to be non-negotiable, even if some of the progeny of the Reformation have drifted away in their own private judgments. In this core, the Reformers categorically denied the right of private judgment, as orthodox Protestant churches and believers still do today.

    Thus, the Reformers appealed to Scripture and to Trinitarian doctrine as non-negotiables, both of which were documented prior to the Councils and papal decrees to which the EO and Rome appeal. Indeed, Tertullian defined the necessary mark of an Apostolic church to be its teaching of the Trinitarian faith which he summarized in The Prescription Against Heretics 20 – regardless of whether the church could trace its pedigree back to the Apostles:

    To this test [the Trinitarian doctrines given in ch. 20], therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine. The Prescription Against Heretics 32

    Therefore, when a Protestant confesses the Trinitarian faith and goes to a church which teaches Trinitarian doctrine that agrees with Scripture and the “unanimous consent” of the church fathers, they have covered the “essentials” sans private judgment.

    On the other hand, adherents of the conciliar and papal models have adopted doctrines that cannot be traced to the Apostles. For example, the EO and Rome, in the eighth century, “reinterpreted” all of the evidence in Scripture and in the writings of centuries of earlier church fathers re: the veneration of images. In light of this, your statement in #222 is puzzling: “As for the course of development that Orthodox doctrine has gone, we’d say it hasn’t gone in any trajectory since we reject the notion of doctrinal development.” The Seventh Ecumenical Council is evidence to the contrary.

    Yet, you may be justified in saying that Sole Fide is an example of development of doctrine. The difference between it and the conciliar example above, is that Sole Fide appeals directly to what is recognized by all Christians as an infallible source. Since Scripture is common ground for all major streams of Christianity, Sola Fide should be able to be examined and debated objectively. In contrast, the EO and Roman appeals to Tradition are 1) undeniably inconsistent with each other; and 2) often lack evidence of continuity (in both concept and words) to the teaching of the Apostles and their closest successors.

    Regarding interpretations of Scripture beyond the Trinitarian doctrines, it should be evident to all that the number of debated passages will never go to zero. All Rome and the EO have done is carved out a larger set of doctrines they claim define orthodoxy, based on Councils and papal decrees. But for the Protestant, as I mentioned above, these sources are suspect due to their adoption of doctrines which appear contrary to both Scripture and to the witness of those closest historically to the Apostles.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  240. @Nick #234

    (The following post is on topic because it pertains to showing how the episcopate did not write Nicaea 1 from the viewpoint of stating the clear summary of what was contained only in scripture. They come from the point of 1.) stating what is the infallible apostolic faith 2.) write Nicaea 1 and have it ratified in such a way unconfined to scripture that indicates that they believe they posess authority from God to vocalize what is and what is not the Faith without drawing that from scripture as their sole norm.)

    Thanks. But it is not really selling oneself short. If you check Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma page 290 states that there are two theories reguarding how the individual bishops recievs his pastoral power.

    1.) Papal Theory — the bishop exercises authority by receiving the ordinary pastoral powers and temporal jurisdiction from the Pope directly by nomination, or indirectly through ratification. Mystici Corporis (1943) takes this position and Ott lists this view as sent. probabilior and is the lowest of his six main degrees of theological certainty. Put another way the bishops are bishops because they have some share in the Popes episcopacy and receive all their pastoral powers from God via the Pope.

    2.) Episcopal Theory — the bishop exercises authority by receiving his ordinary pastoral powers directly from God as a successor to the Apostles and their temporal jurisdiction is gained through ratification or nomination by the Pope.

    #1 Takes is tied in with what Ott calls the “monarchal constitution of the Church”. Vatican II and subsequent documents refer to the “hierarchical constitution of the Church” which is tied with #2

    I would like to point out that Vatican II Lumen Gentium 21,24 takes the view of Episcopal Theory.

    21…. Therefore, the Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, (15*) as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ.(149)(16*)

    24. Bishops, as successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord, to whom was given all power in heaven and on earth, the mission to teach all nations and to preach the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain to salvation by faith, baptism and the fulfillment of the commandments.(161) To fulfill this mission, Christ the Lord promised the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and on Pentecost day sent the Spirit from heaven, by whose power they would be witnesses to Him before the nations and peoples and kings even to the ends of the earth.(162) And that duty, which the Lord committed to the shepherds of His people, is a true service, which in sacred literature is significantly called “diakonia” or ministry.(163)

    The canonical mission of bishops can come about by legitimate customs that have not been revoked by the supreme and universal authority of the Church, or by laws made or recognized be that the authority, or directly through the successor of Peter himself; and if the latter refuses or denies apostolic communion, such bishops cannot assume any office.(38*)

    Also FYI, Ott states that it is a point of historical fact that bishops of antiquity and the early middle ages were not often nominated or ratified in their selection by the Pope, thus making #1 not supported by the practice of the early Church.

    As a result your (2)

    (2) The only reading that makes sense is something along the lines of: “Let the Bishop of Alexandria rule this jurisdiction since it is the tradition of the Pope to grant Alexandria this jurisdiction.” This directly connects to the first clause, and the reasoning and force of the argument is that the authority to which it is appealing to (i.e. Rome) is sufficient to settle the matter.

    only makes sense if you understand “grant this jurisdiction” to mean a passive approval of an already existing jurisdiction rather than for it to mean that the Bishop of Alexandria is a bishop and has jurisdiction because the Pope gave him the bishopric and his ecclesial authority comes from the Pope.

    Besides I find your #2 to be a faulty historical reading. Rome, Alexandria, Antioch are the Apostolic Sees that Nicaea I recognizes. They don’t have jurisdictional authority because they are granted to them by the Pope (does the Pope grant his own jurisdictional authority over Rome….does it make sense to say Let the Bishop of Rome rule this jurisdiction since it is the tradition of the Pope to grant Rome this jurisdiction. No it does not.), they have jurisdictional authority because that is the apostolic tradition.

    It is important to note that Canon 6 is not talking about the pastoral authority of the bishops, rather their jurisdictional authority. The text is saying that 1.) the ancient (apostolic) customs in regards to jurisdiction shall be maintained 2.) we know that it is an ancient custom because it is maintained by the Bishop of Rome, who is the rule of faith (not the ruler of faith but the “yardstick” of faith.)

    For example:
    “Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2 (A.D. 180).

    “And he says to him again after the resurrection, ‘Feed my sheep.’ It is on him that he builds the Church, and to him that he entrusts the sheep to feed. And although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, thus establishing by his own authority the source and hallmark of the (Church’s) oneness. No doubt the others were all that Peter was, but a primacy is given to Peter, and it is (thus) made clear that there is but one flock which is to be fed by all the apostles in common accord. If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church? This unity firmly should we hold and maintain, especially we bishops, presiding in the Church, in order that we may approve the episcopate itself to be the one and undivided.” Cyprian, The Unity of the Church, 4-5 (A.D. 251-256).

  241. Devin #159,

    I’m sorry it took so long for me to respond back to you. Thanks for replying.

    You said,

    “Thanks for responding to me. I think that Mathison’s arguments are weakened by the Orthodox in regard to the fact that apparently they, too, have blinders on that prevent them from seeing the sola/solo difference, but those blinders are [apparently] different from the ones that Catholics have. Perry asked for what his presuppositional blinders were but I don’t think has received an answer.”

    That makes sense. I guess I just don’t see the principled difference between Rome’s Ecclesiology and that of the Orthodox, besides the Papacy. I’ve heard it argued from an Orthodox site that Rome has a four tier hierarchy and the Orthodox only three. I’m no expert on the Eastern Orthodox and I’m sure I’m oversimplifying here, but what is the real difference between the communions that would preclude the Orthodox from having the same “blinders” on?

    You said,

    “My understanding had been that the EO recognized the Pope’s apostolic succession but believed that he had fallen into heresy back in the day.”

    This is why I’m having an issue. If Rome lost it’s status of a true Church(I know you wouldn’t agree here), according to the Orthodox, then AS isn’t a guarantee of protection from error and, in the very least, proves that the majority of the Church can be led astray. So it comes back to the question; if the Orthodox are correct and Rome lost it’s Apostolic Authority to be considered a true Church, how is the Protestant to view AS as a sure way to trace the Church back to the Apostles?

    Perry said to me in #172 that..

    “The only thing that KM’s argument with respect to AS shows is that it is not a sufficient condition for identifying the true church. But no claimants that I know of think that it is, so it doesn’t advance his position.”

    But in the original article Section IV, A the first sentence of paragraph 3 says,

    “The Catholic position does not suffer from this circularity, because ‘Church’ is not defined in terms of “gospel,” but in terms of apostolic succession, involving an unbroken line of authorizations extending down from the Apostles. ”

    So AS is essential to Rome’s claims in identifying the true Church. I don’t understand Perry’s statement to the contrary in the above quote.

  242. Perry,

    I’m OK with speaking to you without reference to dogmatic certainty, I was just defending doing so in the context of a discussion with someone who has a copy of Ludwig Ott’s work on dogma as a ready reference on his desk. I’m guessing you don’t and that’s fine. I understand what you mean by “thinking of theology differently” – that’s what I’m getting at. But as you say, enough said.

    I have never heard of Evangelicals trying to get rid of III John. I’ll keep my eye open for an expurgated version of the NT minus III John, but I have to admit I’m skeptical of such a thing ever happening in any group of Evangelicals claiming to believe that Scriptures are of divine origin. Specifically on the existence of an episcopacy, this is an intramural debate within Protestantism. The problem is not so much the positing of a separate office above and distinct from the presbytery, but rather an episcopacy that follows the RCC hierarchical model. Actually, when I’m in London I go to one of the low Anglican congregations there. These congregations have episcopacies of course, but in practice they don’t function much differently than our presbyteries.

    Concerning private judgment, as per your quote from Hodge, the idea here is that the Christian is supposed to own his religion for himself and be able to judge theological matters rather than being passive and just allowing the Church to do the work so as to speak. It has been a continual focus of the Reformation to have the laity own their faith, comprehend it critically, and be able to communicate it rationally. Now while this does not seem like anything revolutionary in our day, it certainly was for the Reformation era where religion for the laity was distinctly passive. The practice of hearing a sermon in the vernacular and reading the Scripture in one’s own language were not part of standard practice for a layperson in the in the Medieval and Reformation eras. Wycliffe’s practice of preaching in English, Luther’s in German, Calvin’s in French , etc were quite revolutionary. This kind of knowledge of course brought a certain responsibility and certainly the Reformers championed the responsibility of the individual in a civil as well as the ecclesiastical setting to challenge power where it had been wrongly used. You cannot violate your conscience to obey man when you are sure that said power is acting wrongly. However, the right to private judgment was never meant to trump that of ecclesiastic judgment and the challenge that the Reformers gave to Rome was an ecclesiastical matter, not a collective private one. I’m still not sure how an EO challenge to Rome would have looked any different from a Reformed one had it been an EO theologian standing in Luther’s place and told to recant. I’m sure such a person would have said that he could not in good conscience recant what he knew in his heart to be correct. You have not answered me on this matter, so my suspicion is still that you believe that there is no valid Reformed protest against Rome because there are no valid orders in the Protestant world, and thus no way to express a proper ecclesiastical complaint for the Reformed. So all Reformed complaints in the West are matters of collective private judgment. Do I read you correctly or not? If not, then what does it mean for the Reformed to make a proper ecclesiastic judgment that is not just a matter of a collaborative private judgment?

    The quote from Turretin only says that confessions are not infallible and there ought to be a way in which the confessions can be corrected. Turretin’s advice for the individual Christian who believes some aspect of a confession to be in error as follows: “Hence if they observe in them [the confessions] anything worthy of correction, they ought to undertake nothing rashly or disorderly or unseasonably, so as to violently read the body of their mother (which the schismatics do), but to refer the difficulties they feel to their church and either to prefer her public opinion to their own private judgment or to succeed from her communion, if the conscience cannot acquiesce to her judgment” Now does this not cast Turretin’s thoughts on private judgment in a very difference light than what you had portrayed? Private judgment is never superior to ecclesiastical judgment according to Turretin – it is just the opposite. For you to say that a Reformed private judgment trumps “practically all ecclesial authorities” is just wrong-headed. The interactions between Protestant and Catholic ecclesiastical bodies in the 16th and following centuries were just that – ecclesiastical. But again it seems you want to place such ecclesiastic judgments on the Reformed side into the bucket of private judgment but you have not said why.

    Now on Oberman you want me to “bring something forward” from Oberman which shows that you are in error. Well how can I bring anything forward from Oberman when he has nothing to say on the subject? Oberman goes through a long discussion on the nature and history of Christian tradition but never mentions private judgment. And why would he? The concepts of sola scriptura and private judgment are not necessarily related. I think you are trying to force a discussion of private judgment when there is just nothing to say on the matter. The heart of the sola scriptura is a historical investigation into the biblical and extra-biblical tradition to determine when and under what conditions man made tradition reached the same level of certainty/normativity (OK with this designation?) as biblical revelation. Oberman traces the matter to Basil the Great who was the first Father to explicitly suggest that there was another source of revelation that had an equivalent status to that of Scripture. Basil’s suggestion was not of course universally accepted but the lines were drawn. The history of the one source and two source views in the Middle Ages is murky but both views have their apologists in Medieval theology. If there never was any two source view then Tradition 1 would have never become Tradition 2 and judgments like that of Trent would have never happened. The Reformation sides of course with the one source view – this is just what we mean we speak of sola scriptura. It is the acceptance or rejection of a source of revelation with equivalent normative status to that of Scripture which is at the heart of the sola scriptura discussion. And private judgment does not come into play into this discussion which you can read for yourself. It is the Protestant contention that the historic concept of sola scriptura precluded any elevation of human tradition to something of equal normative status as Scripture. On the Catholic side it is still a matter of opinion whether one accepts the material sufficiency of Scripture and rejects a two source view. I don’t know how the EO look at it – you tell me.

    When you speak of the judgment of the Church being normative with respect to the conscience of the individual you would be correct if you were speaking of the role that the Reformed confessions played. Now you speak of William Laud and the attempt to enforce doctrines (i.e. universalism) on the Puritans by ecclesiastical fiat. Yes, well obviously the Puritans had good ecclesiastical and biblical grounds for refusing that judgment, don’t you think? This kind of thing happens over and over again in Protestantism as liberal groups try to force what they will sometimes even admit are extra-biblical doctrines onto their congregations. But it can hardly said that the Puritans were exercising private judgment although they were certainly exercising ecclesiastical judgment. In the Reformed congregations when someone or some group of people goes theologically or morally astray it is expected that there will be ecclesiastical judgment rendered. And usually this is the case and I think it is fair to say that in the Reformed world we do this much more readily and efficiently than in Catholicism. The result is that generally speaking there are no Reformed liberals like there are Catholic ones. But let’s not try to say that such judgments are matters of private judgments. This renders the whole process of ecclesiastical discipline as practiced in the Protestant world meaningless. Ecclesiastical judgment and discipline have very real normative status, they just don’t have infallible status. And of course such judgments cannot bind the conscience in the same manner as Scriptures can. We are told that the Scriptures have very real spiritual efficacy as used by the Spirit in the context of the Church. The creeds and confessions don’t share this kind of binding characteristic. Christian creeds and confessions are not “two-edged swords and discerners of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” and so on.

    I did not say that the Protestant concept of sola fide was folklore, I said that the position that there was 1500 of established soteriological history in the RCC that the Protestants reacted against with a “novelty” was folklore. In your replies to me you are trying to react to every single statement I this is unnecessary. The point of my soteriological example was again to place the principles of Tradition1/Tradition 2 and sola scriptura in their proper historical context.

  243. Hey Jason Stellman,

    I just saw your comment #231 above and wanted to respond and get your feedback. Like I was telling some of those hard-headed contentious types on Greenbaggins, you seem to have a certain amount of cache here and it’s my impression that the Catholic folks here really respect you and thus if you think they are being unfair with a comment they are more likely to listen to you than most of the rest of us.

    OK, so my contention is that there is no difference between solo and sola positions in the context of Bryan and Neal’s article. That is, when we Reformed types make a judgment we could just do the Servetus thing and tell everyone that we are right contra mundum. But we Reformed (and most Evangelicals I think) in effect do something a little more sophisticated and join a communion which tells the world the same thing that we wanted to say as little solo guys. Thus sola and solo collapse. We have not been able to hide behind the indirect way of expressing our own autonomy and Bryan and Neal have exposed our subtle contrivances. Does that make sense?

    Now the caveat I would add is this – Our Catholic friends here are trying to give us new sets of eyes so as to speak to change our paradigmatic outlook so that we can correctly identify the what is the proper object of the Christian faith from that which is just mere opinion about the Christian faith. Now if we accept this new criteria and reorient ourselves to a Catholic position we now have to join another communion (the RCC) who from my perspective proclaims the same essential message as that of our old Reformed communions did. We are not Reformed sola guys anymore, we are Catholic sola guys now. To me the most difficult job the Catholics have here is trying to show that what the Catholics do is something fundamentally different than what we do when we join our respective Reformed/Evangelical communions. The criteria we utilize to join one communion over another is different but the central purpose of the communion in proclaiming the correctness of the communion is not.

    And the other caveat I would add is that the heart and sole of the sola scriptura debate is caught up in the historic standards of the Christian Church and not in the assessments that we as individual Christians make concerning these standards. But curiously the only person who seems interested is joining in that conversation is Perry, our Eastern Orthodox friend.

    Cheers….

  244. Andrew (#243)
    I cannot let this go by. You said:

    Turretin’s advice for the individual Christian who believes some aspect of a confession to be in error as follows: “Hence if they observe in them [the confessions] anything worthy of correction, they ought to undertake nothing rashly or disorderly or unseasonably, so as to violently read the body of their mother (which the schismatics do), but to refer the difficulties they feel to their church and either to prefer her public opinion to their own private judgment or to succeed from her communion, if the conscience cannot acquiesce to her judgment” Now does this not cast Turretin’s thoughts on private judgment in a very difference light than what you had portrayed? Private judgment is never superior to ecclesiastical judgment according to Turretin – it is just the opposite.

    “Private judgment is never superior to ecclesiastical judgment according to Turretin” ??? Huh?
    I have read that Turretin quote a 100 times and I don’t get where you are coming from. He expressly, explicitly, clearly, and in no uncertain terms says that the individual can “prefer” his private judgment to that of the church! That means his private judgment is superior to that of the church! He says to not “rashly” rend the body of their mother, by that I think he intended they slowly and carefully rend it? You have implied that this quote means exactly what it does not, and I had to step in and call you on it.

    -David M.

  245. Hi Whitaker,

    I’m oversimplifying here, but what is the real difference between the communions that would preclude the Orthodox from having the same “blinders” on?

    I don’t know the answer to that and was hoping that Mathison would provide an answer (or maybe TurretinFan make a guess as to what the Orthodox’s blinders consist of.

    If Rome lost it’s status of a true Church, according to the Orthodox, then AS isn’t a guarantee of protection from error and, in the very least, proves that the majority of the Church can be led astray. So it comes back to the question; if the Orthodox are correct and Rome lost it’s Apostolic Authority to be considered a true Church, how is the Protestant to view AS as a sure way to trace the Church back to the Apostles?

    I’ll take a shot at this one. Throughout the Church’s history, even early on, significant numbers of bishops sometimes fell into heresy (Arianism, Donatism, and maybe Monophysitism come to mind). I recall reading that in North Africa in the 300s/early 400s, there were as many heretical Donatist bishops as orthodox ones. The Arian heresy was so widespread that it took centuries to stamp out. So the Catholic Church, and I presume the Orthodox Churches too, do not claim that Apostolic Succession protects bishops from falling into error. Rather, Apostolic Succession is the God-ordained way that rightful authority should be transmitted within His Church, and, combined with the Spirit’s protection of the Church from error through the Magisterium, provides us the sure way to know that the truth has been accurately communicated to us down through the centuries by God.

    So Apostolic Succession is a sure way to trace the Church back to the Apostles, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you (by itself) which Church is teaching the fullness of the truth. Taking it from the Catholic perspective, the various “families” of Orthodox Churches (Assyrian, Oriental, Eastern) are considered true Churches (because they have preserved Apostolic Succession), even though they do not teach the fullness of the truth nor are they in full communion with the Catholic Church. So through Apostolic Succession you find those Churches that have credible claims to being Apostolic. Then the question becomes: of these, which Church is the true one and which are schisms from the Church? To answer that question, more data/evidence than just Apostolic Succession must be brought in.

    How then do Perry’s and the original articles statements gel?
    “The Catholic position does not suffer from this circularity, because ‘Church’ is not defined in terms of “gospel,” but in terms of apostolic succession, involving an unbroken line of authorizations extending down from the Apostles.”

    I’m conjecturing here, but note the wording that hte CtC guys used: “Church” is defined in terms of Apostolic Succession, and the Orthodox are rightfully considered “Churches,” so they are not excluding the Orthodox in this statement but rather just focusing on the Catholic aspect of being a Church due to Catholic bishops’ Apostolic Succession. This gels with Perry’s statement that “AS is not a sufficient condition for identifying the _true_ Church.”

    Perry is thus saying that AS is not a _sufficient_ condition for identifying the true Church but it is one necessary (you say “essential”) condition, and Catholics and Orthodox agree with that.

    Hope that helps! God bless,
    Devin

  246. Andrew McCallum (re: #243),

    I recognize your second paragraph is written with a little mild-sauce sarcasm (e.g., “Bryan and Neal have exposed our subtle contrivances”), but am I right in thinking that you are admitting that sola and solo collapse into one another and hanging your hat on the tu quoque peg? In other words, you’re saying in effect that, yes, Bryan and Neal are correct that there is no principled distinction between sola and solo, but even if it’s not an entirely philosophically satisfying distinction in theory, it feels pretty good in practice, and we just have to work with what we’ve got. And in any event (and more importantly) Catholics are in the same boat.

    To me the most difficult job the Catholics have here is trying to show that what the Catholics do is something fundamentally different than what we do when we join our respective Reformed/Evangelical communions.

    Here’s the fundamental difference. Reformed/Evangelicals believe they are joining a church and a communion that is a visible part of the “invisible” church and whose teaching authority is legitimate just so long as it doesn’t reach a critical mass of dissonance with their own interpretation of Scripture. (What that “critical mass” is depends, obviously, on a number of factors—degree of personal knowledge, level of doctrinal seriousness, weighting of familial and social commitments, etc.)

    Those who join the Catholic Church (or an Orthodox Church), on the other hand, believe they are entering into full and visible communion with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, whose teaching authority is granted by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. Chronologically, converts to Catholicism may come (as I did) to believe in purgatory, the assumption of our Lady, and the real presence before they formally enter the Church. But even if I were to begin to experience major intellectual difficulties with one or more of these doctrines, I would gladly continue to submit to the authority of the Church, precisely because I am not in the same epistemological situation as the Protestant. I believe the Church is the Church and has the right to bind my conscience. To the Protestant, I know that this posture may well look like an abject bondage. To the Catholic, it’s joyful freedom. To paraphrase Chesterton, the Church is exponentially larger inside than outside. My reading of scripture, for example, in my years as a Catholic has been incomparably more fruitful, more joyful, and, in fact, more free than it ever was as a sola scriptura Protestant.

    In short: you and I are both human beings and therefore, all things being equal, enjoy epistemic parity—i.e., we have the same faculties of perception and intellect. But we are not in epistemologically symmetrical situations in matters of supernatural faith, nor were we when we entered our respective communions. Frankly, I’m surprised people are still hammering away at the tu quoque. I mean, if you’re just talking about epistemic parity, then yeah, I think we could all agree to the obvious and move on. But if you’re talking about the assent of divine faith to articles proposed by the Church for our belief, then I remain convinced that you haven’t actually understood the difference between faith and opinion.

    in Christ,

    TC

    1 Cor 16.14

  247. Andrew M #243

    And the other caveat I would add is that the heart and sole of the sola scriptura debate is caught up in the historic standards of the Christian Church and not in the assessments that we as individual Christians make concerning these standards

    But I wonder, how could one speak of the “historic standards of the Christian Church” without that in some significant way amounting to an “assessment” of just what those standards are (which is what KM seems to have been doing in his (I would argue presuppositional laden) mini-history about the development of the “rule-of-faith”)?

    Andrew, I am not against we Catholics and Reformed and Orthodox working through the biblical and historical data as you keep recommending. I suppose I think one of the reasons that myself and others keep pressing the philsophical IP / HP side of the issue first is because we’ve been through so many tit-for-tat exegetical and historical debates (I know you have too) which almost always come down to some fundamental presuppositions which are driving the interpretation of the data. That points up to us the need to hammer away at the presuppositional side of the debate until all that can be said has been said. I think we are almost there.

    I think I get the basic stalemate that this seems to have come to. Basically, many of us Catholics have been arguing that, from a meta-perspective, if we want to preserve for the Chrstian faith a notion of Divine revelation (after all the claim is that Christianity is a “revealed” religion) that somehow avoids reduction to mere human opinion (of which there are thousands of religious and philsophical variants); then we have to reach some way of knowing the content of that revelation that transcends mere human religious or philosophical constructs. The thought is that if we cannot be anymore sure about the content of Divine revelation (say on a crucial point like justification) than is the Hindu or the atheist about his worldview, then why be Christian at all? The big thing that is supposed to make Christianity special is that it is supposed to be God breaking into history to reveal Himself; whereas all other religions and philosophies are just man-made attempts/constructs to understand reality from the ground up – and of course there are thousands of such competing models which leaves the sincere inquirer in a seemingly hopeless lurch.

    Now the Catholic Church at least claims to possess a charism from Christ that would make that all important (from our POV) distinction possible. So when coming at things with this Divine revelation vs. human opinion thing in mind, there is something at least minimally to be noticed (even if one later chalks it up to a rediculous arrogant assertion) in the fact that the RCC at least makes the claim to be able to solve the problem; whereas no sector of Protestantism (that I know of) makes that claim – because of – the whole solo/sola thing which underwrites its epistemlogical approach to doctrine. As you know, the whole point of Bryan and Neil’s original critique is to argue that the solo/sola distinction just doesn’t get this epistemic job done.

    Now I also get that if that were all there were to the attraction to Catholicism (namely that it solves a crucial epistemic problem by lifiting Divine revelation out of the quagmire of human opionion), it would just look like a trumped-up form of fideism. If we were simply saying “biblical and historical evidence be damned” the Church says she is infallible and we need an infallible authority, therefore the Church must be right regardless of evidence, then I for one would never have become Catholic. From what I can see, that is somewhat close to how KM currently views the Catholic position. Thus, he and other Protestants often seem to be saying something like:

    “well, yes, if that pipedream were true, that would be great; but there is no shred of historical evidence to back up that gratuitous claim, so just buck up and get used to the fact that all we got is fallible access to an infallible data source (never mind how we know with better than fallible opinion that there IS an infallible data source) and quit pressing for some pie-in-the-sky certainty that’s not available. Take your best educated guess at the meaning of the 66 book Protestant bible and get out there and do your evangelistic best”.

    Now, speaking for myself, I just don’t see the point of bothering with Christianity at all if that is the situation we are stuck in. Why do I want to go out into a world steeped in moral and epistemic relativism and spend my time trying to get people to come join me in a set of moral and ontological truth claims that I already know have no more persuasive force than the opinions of a Deepak Chopra or Richard Dawkins?

    But back to the Protestant’s main concern about “where is the historical evidence”: the Catholic stridently denies that the biblical and historical evidence is lacking. I for one am convinced that a comprehensive biblical/historical case can be made from the evidence to support the Catholic claim – even though I recognize that others who are neutral or antagonistic to the “aroggant claims of Rome” can draw from, and arrange, data from the same broad biblical and historical record to construct a picture which makes those claims look doubtful. And of course, there are all the issues for both sides about which data to include/exclude, how to interpret it, and so on.

    So given all that, I just don’t know what kind of ground rules could be established to make any sort of joint effort to assess the biblical/historical data fruitful. I mean maybe the best way would be for we Catholics to start with the OT, move through the NT, into the patrisctic era, into the middle ages, and into modernity drawing all the data together into a unified persuasive whole, while anticipating Reformed and Orthodox objections all along the way. Then the Reformed and Orthodox could do the same thing. At the end you would have three historical meta-narritives and people could sit down and think about which one seems to handle the broadest array of data and answer objection best. Of course, there is so much elasticity in such a proposal flowing from the historiographer’s data selection and persuasive writing skills, as well as the reader’s own biases as he reads over the narratives. All I know is that whenever I have seen folks take some handful of source data and worry it like a dog with a bone (just look at the disputes regarding the meaning of canon 6 of Nicea above), it almost always gets nowhere because each side thinks the other has got the whole thing out of historical context, etc. etc. For me, once I came to the conclusion that the Catholic historical narritive was at least as plausible (and of course you know I think it more plausible) that the Protestant narritive; then the additional force of the epistemic solution offered by Catholicism joined with the persuasive power (from my POV) of that narrative to seal the deal. Anyway, I would be interested in your thoughts about all that as to whether you see things in a similar light (I mean as to the contours of the debate).

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  248. @ Lojahw #239

    Yet, you may be justified in saying that Sole Fide is an example of development of doctrine. The difference between it and the conciliar example above, is that Sole Fide appeals directly to what is recognized by all Christians as an infallible source. Since Scripture is common ground for all major streams of Christianity, Sola Fide should be able to be examined and debated objectively. In contrast, the EO and Roman appeals to Tradition are 1) undeniably inconsistent with each other; and 2) often lack evidence of continuity (in both concept and words) to the teaching of the Apostles and their closest successors.

    Lojahw, Catholic and Orthodox do not recognize scripture as being an infallible source. What you said is not common ground. Only an action can be infallible and scripture, being an inanimate object, cannot act. Q.E.D.

    The primary reason why sola fide will be rejected by both Catholic and Orthodox alike is that it does not express what occurs in the Liturgy. The sola’s ultimately are incompatible the joint faith that is shared between Catholic and Orthodox because they represent a metaphysics, epistemology, soteriology, and eschatology there are foreign to the liturgical experience that encountered in the Divine Liturgies of the West or the East.

    You are misreading the early Fathers if you are thinking that their references to the “apostolic faith” and “the trinitarian faith” are references to a set of doctrine and historic statements or a set of prepositions. These are references to that which is encountered and experienced during the Divine Liturgy and the eschatological relationship that is formed between God and man during the liturgy which becomes expressed in the various writings of the Fathers and creedal and doctrinal statements of the Church (thus tradition, scripture, magisterium are three inseperable parts of one thing, the deposit of Faith, which expresses and testifies to and defines the liturgical encounter with God).

    What is believed in is the mysterium tremendum , that particular encounter with God and this Faith flowers in the creedal and doctrinal statements which express in human words and thoughts that which is encountered.

    The problem with SS, either in its solo or sola form, is that it blows apart the connectivity between doctrine and the liturgy — destroying the Lex orandi, lex credendi (as Catholics would put it) or the orthopraxy and orthodoxy (as the Orthodox would put it). For Catholics and Orthodox, how we pray is what creates and gives rise to our doctrinal statements, creeds, and even scripture itself, and this in turn clarifies and deepens our spiritual life. SS rejects the encounter with God in the Liturgy as that which is reflected upon and instead substitutes for that encounter learned private judgment as to what the meaning of the text is thereby constructing a belief system from human reason and develops a system of worship based upon what man considers the text of scripture to mean.

    Reformed theology is very much focused on the Regulative Principle of Worship, which is the understanding that worship is to be constructed and limited strictly from what is in scripture. This is not the case for Lutheran and Anglican liturgical construction which is formed also from the other normans. That in itself should indicate to one that Reformed SS is more properly solo scriptura not sola scriptura. But the point being here is that both methods are improper because it is not scripture which limits the liturgy but rather it is the liturgy which limits one’s scriptural exegesis which in turn helps strengthen and deepen proper liturgical practice. This makes sense because the liturgy, either in Jewish or Christian context, has always existed before the writing of the scriptural text and scripture exists simply as a vocalization and testament to an already held and practiced faith, and scripture serves to testify to that experience and maintain the authenticity of that experience.

    I highly highly recommend that that you, and any Protestant, get a hold of the early liturgical texts and prayers and go through them. They will make the writings of the early Christians make a lot more sense and show you a clearer understanding of the faith and what it is precisely that separates Protestants from the Catholic and Orthodox.

    Blessings

  249. @ Andrew McCallum #243

    To me the most difficult job the Catholics have here is trying to show that what the Catholics do is something fundamentally different than what we do when we join our respective Reformed/Evangelical communions.

    As a convert, I would have to say that there is indeed a fundamental difference. You get at it when you describe conversion as Now if we accept this new criteria and reorient ourselves to a Catholic position we now have to join another communion (the RCC) ….. Here you are pointing towards a Reformed experience of one of reorienting oneself, which is a cognitive exercise, and then joining another communion. For a Catholic, one does reorientation their intellect, but the conversion process is more spiritual than it is intellectually. The cognitive process is chiefly involved with purgation — the turning away from the world’s philosophy and reason. But illumination by the Spirit is also required. This is why the community membership for the Reformed has a lot to do with being tested and quizzed by the elders while for Catholics the confirmation process is filled with exorcisms and invocations of the Holy Spirit. Becoming Catholic is not simply about being intellectually formed in the Faith, but it is more so about being Spiritually formed.

    I have read a lot of conversions stories and talk to people all the time about why they believe what they do. For those that become Catholic, the cognitive process is pretty much over when the individual has this thought “Catholicism could be true” as a serious thought. The cognition after that is pretty much a delay of the inevitable while there is an ongoing shifting of the way one encounters God and a movement from trying to encounter God through study to a letting God encounter oneself and submitting to the ways that God has indicated that He wants to be encountered — especially in terms of the liturgy.

    I have had friends who have put massive massive amounts of time and study into Catholicism prior to their conversion but it was not the intellectual study and affirmation that made them decide to convert, but it was rather the act of setting down their own vast academic acumen and allowing themselves to be taken in and conformed by the Church that converted them.

    I think another way to posit the difference is that, as least as far as I am experienced, a Reformed individual wouldn’t say that they were Reformed as a description of their ontology whereas a Catholic would. To become Catholic is to become something new, not just to intellectually accept new criteria and shift ones intellectual outlook on life. One could also say that conversion between groups of Protestants is akin to choosing ones profession — lots of study lots of intellectual training lots of affirming the standards of the professional community. Becoming Catholic is more akin to being born — you can intellectualize about it quite a bit and you are involved in the process and it takes learning and growing and developing, but ultimately it is something that is done to you.

    For my own self, the decision to become Catholic was not based upon a personal authority as to what I accepted as the true interpretation of scripture, it came about because I decided that it was a really bad idea to try to dictate what I thought Christianity should be about and simply accept what Christianity is. What is Christianity? What is the correct answer to Jesus’ “Who do you say I am?”, it is “You are who you say you are.” How do you find that? You find that by locating the Church that doesn’t engage in personal opinion as to what the content of scripture is but simply rather presents Jesus as who He is. And you find that by finding the Church that doesn’t engage in saying things like “Christians in earlier centuries didn’t know the true meaning of the bible, let me tell you its true meaning.” Once you find the Church that gives an unbroken presentation of the Faith about who Jesus is — simply handing it on from generation to generation, then one should simply accept what is taught by them instead of trying to personally test it against what they personally consider to be the meaning of scripture.

  250. Nathan B #240,

    I’m not sure I understand your argument for jurisdiction. A bishop is entitled to a jurisdiction only in an abstract sense of being a higher authority than priests, deacons, and laity – but this ‘abstract’ jurisdiction says nothing about specific geographic boundary points. How specific geographic boundaries are set are either by succeeding a bishop who already governed a specific geographic area, or being assigned to a specific geographic area (and never does he self-assign himself a jurisdiction over geographic area).

    So given that, when it says the Patriarch of Alexandria had jurisdiction over “Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis” in reference to an “ancient custom,” that ancient custom had to have originated with assignment (rather than assuming a Patriarchal See). It is traditionally accepted that St Mark, protege of St Peter, was the first Bishop of Alexandria, after St Peter sent him off to pastor that region. Whether this is the origin point of this “ancient custom” I don’t know, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Even if it wasn’t, I don’t think it affects the “Papal Primacy” reading of Canon 6, which would simply make the “ancient custom” refer to a later Pope.

    Before I continue with Canon 6 itself, I’d like to address your comment: “bishops of antiquity and the early middle ages were not often nominated or ratified in their selection by the Pope.” This can be understood a few ways. First of all, granting a jurisdiction is not the same thing as hand-picking or even approving a successor for Alexandria (except the original selection of St Mark). Given that, the issue of hand-picking and approving doesn’t necessarily apply to C6. Even if it did include hand-picking or approving, this need not have entailed a ‘micro-management’ of the Bishop of Alexandria in terms of hand-picking or approving the ordination of co-bishops (and priests) in that area, since the Pope acts primarily as ‘upper level’ management. So I don’t think your comment causes any ‘problems’. The exceptions would likely be situations like when Clement of Rome had to write to Corinith to settle some in-fighting and insubordination.

    This leads into your next claim about: “As a result your (2)…only makes sense if you understand “grant this jurisdiction” to mean a passive approval of an already existing jurisdiction rather than for it to mean that the Bishop of Alexandria is a bishop and has jurisdiction because the Pope gave him the bishopric and his ecclesial authority comes from the Pope.”

    The second half of your statement at the very least applies to St Mark’s original assignment, but otherwise, yes, the Nicene Council was simply giving “passive approval” of an already established ‘customary jurisdiction’.

    Besides I find your #2 to be a faulty historical reading. Rome, Alexandria, Antioch are the Apostolic Sees that Nicaea I recognizes. They don’t have jurisdictional authority because they are granted to them by the Pope, they have jurisdictional authority because that is the apostolic tradition.

    There are two historical points that should be made here: (1) Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch are all based on Petrine Succession, so your claim that their jurisdiction is unrelated to Papal approval is inaccurate. (2) The historical context of Canon 6 was that a schismatic bishop named Melitius in Alexandria was disputing the territorial claims of the Patriarch of Alexandria. This schismatic was even called out by name in the official letter the Nicene Bishops sent to the Egyptian church. The “apostolic tradition” which Niceae appealed to was directly related to the Papacy, so there is no automatic tension or dichotomy between “granted by the Pope” and “apostolic tradition.”

    Here’s the catch and problem with ‘option #1′: it wouldn’t have had any coherent bearing on Melitius’ sedition. Take this as an example, if the canon said: “Let the Bishop of Los Angeles continue to pastor California, Nevada, and Arizona, since it is a custom of the Bishop of New York City to pastor New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania,” where is the logic here? What does any of the first three states have to do with the latter three? Why would a schismatic in Arizona care that the Bishop of New York pastors those other states? He would laugh that off. Thus, reading C6 as a 1-to-1 correlation between Rome and Alexandria is nonsense and must be rejected. The Papal reading of C6 shuts down Melitius.

    Further, if the (modern?) Eastern Orthodox theory that “all bishops are equal” were true, then the notion of Patriarchate (of Alexandria and Antioch) wouldn’t amount to anything substantial since Melitus would be a Bishop as well and thus as authoritative as they (and certainly not going to care what status Rome’s Bishop is). This actually shows the EO view of “first among equals” and “Patriarchate” to be the equivalent to a bogus solO/solA distinction.

    (does the Pope grant his own jurisdictional authority over Rome….does it make sense to say Let the Bishop of Rome rule this jurisdiction since it is the tradition of the Pope to grant Rome this jurisdiction. No it does not.)

    The Pope would have to grant his own jurisdictional authority, else who could? Further, it does make sense to say “Let the Bishop of Rome rule…since…” (giving passive approval) but such wouldn’t be worded in that manner. Interestingly, for whatever reason, the Canon says nothing passively (or actively) in regards to Rome’s jurisdiction….only of Alexandria and Antioch (and a lesser extent Jerusalem/Aelia) in order to more solidly establish their authority…suggesting Rome was beyond question in this department.

  251. Combining a few responses:
    Nathan @ 169.

    If at the Diet of Worms, which was about sola fide, if he would have been found in favor of, sola scriptura (which develops after Worms) wouldn’t have been developed but because Luther needed a way to reject the authority of the bishops who ruled against him, he developed sola scriptura as a means for rejecting the authority of the bishops.

    Nathan, the historical record at Worms refutes your conjecture:

    Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason – for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves – I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God

    Here at the Diet of Worms is Luther’s declaration of Sola Scriptura and the reasons he questioned the authority of popes and councils. Yet, please note that Luther is willing to be corrected by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason – neither of which his opponents offered.

    Many here have asked: where is the authority to bind one’s conscience? Luther answered five-hundred years ago: “the testimony of the Holy Scriptures.” Indeed, Jesus declared: “the word which I spoke will judge him,” and “search the Scriptures, they are they which speak of Me.” If God’s infallible word is not enough to bind your conscience, why do you put so much trust in fallible men?

    Nathan @ 167

    Then do you disagree with Luther / Calvin who often stated that those that did not believe as they did were damned? It is not a stretch to say that the leaders of the Reformation plainly and frequently taught that Catholics were dammed precisely because they rejected the solas and other points of Protestant fundamentals.

    Your gloss doesn’t prove anything: many hyperbolic statements regarding the consequences of theological disagreement have been made by all parties. For example, Roman Catholics on Steve Ray’s apologetics board told me: “You have not come to Jesus because you didn’t come to Him through the Pope. . . . You are separated from the Mystical Body of Christ and the wrath of God does indeed remain upon you.” (Quoting Pope Gregory XVI) So, if the pope said it, it must be right!! (BTW – since I have read the CCC regarding your ecclesiology, I cannot be “invincibly ignorant” – and therefore, if you are consistent with the teaching of your church, I am headed for certain damnation unless I change course. But excuse me: that is not the Gospel preached by the Apostles.)

    … I think you are missing the point, the litturgy is salvation.

    That’s a novel and relativistic concept. Which Apostle taught that the liturgy is sufficient for salvation? Also, since your liturgy has changed considerably from that practiced in the homes of the early Christians, how do you know that your liturgy is authentic?

    Brent @185

    How does sola scriptura get one beyond interpretations and to truth? . . . I don’t think the Catholic desire for infallible truth is a Catholic psychological condition, but rather a human condition.

    Scripture is infallible truth. What it teaches about Trinitarian doctrine and salvation are far clearer than, e.g., Boniface’s Unam Sanctam, which bears no resemblance to any statement about salvation in Scripture. Moreover, Boniface’s “irreformable” decree on what is “absolutely necessary for salvation” underwent major reinterpretation at Vatican II. The truth you claim to be certain about has been undeniably revised.

    Brent @198

    Where did you get this three-part method of sola scriptura? (passage, consensus/authority, reasonableness). . . .

    What’s not clear in Scripture is to be understood through “a due use of the ordinary means” (WCF 1.7). Consensus/authority, and reasonableness are examples of “the ordinary means” that humans use in understanding things – including Scripture. The Lutheran statement that the Holy Spirit convicts us that the Bible is the “sole authority for teaching” means that the Bible is the only unquestioned authority. It is so because it is the primary source of God-breathed revelation and all other authorities produced by men are secondary and, by nature, fallible.

    Brent @221, re: theologians and apologists:

    St. Thomas didn’t put in the effort he did to “keep busy” but rather because he loved the truth.

    Well said, Brent, and that is my motivation as well!

    Mark @ #197:

    Lojahw, what do you think about the logical argument, was that something like what you had in mind? What did you think about my critique of that logical argument?

    Mark, your argument lost me because you did not engage what I said. You got so caught up in your “private” interpretation of my first statement re: reference point, you appeared to ignore everything else I wrote.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  252. Andrew,

    Like I was telling some of those hard-headed contentious types on Greenbaggins, you seem to have a certain amount of cache here and it’s my impression that the Catholic folks here really respect you and thus if you think they are being unfair with a comment they are more likely to listen to you than most of the rest of us.

    Yeah, but that’s because I have “trampled the gospel underfoot” and “dragged Westminster CA’s name through the mud,” remember?

    OK, so my contention is that there is no difference between solo and sola positions in the context of Bryan and Neal’s article. That is, when we Reformed types make a judgment we could just do the Servetus thing and tell everyone that we are right contra mundum. But we Reformed (and most Evangelicals I think) in effect do something a little more sophisticated and join a communion which tells the world the same thing that we wanted to say as little solo guys. Thus sola and solo collapse. We have not been able to hide behind the indirect way of expressing our own autonomy and Bryan and Neal have exposed our subtle contrivances. Does that make sense?

    Yes, it makes sense. If I am reading you correctly, you have conceded Bryan’s and Neal’s point.

    Now the caveat I would add is this – Our Catholic friends here are trying to give us new sets of eyes so as to speak to change our paradigmatic outlook so that we can correctly identify the what is the proper object of the Christian faith from that which is just mere opinion about the Christian faith.

    That’s Liccione’s whole project, namely to show that Protestantism has no principled way of differentiating between the content of divine revelation and human opinion, whereas the RCs and EOs do. So far, I’m tracking.

    Now if we accept this new criteria and reorient ourselves to a Catholic position we now have to join another communion (the RCC) who from my perspective proclaims the same essential message as that of our old Reformed communions did. We are not Reformed sola guys anymore, we are Catholic sola guys now.

    OK, you’re starting to lose me here. First, adopting Liccione’s “HP” would indeed make us Catholic guys, but I’m not sure how it would make us “Catholic sola guys,” as you put it. Plus, I don’t see how the RCC “proclaims the same essential message” as our Reformed churches do.

    To me the most difficult job the Catholics have here is trying to show that what the Catholics do is something fundamentally different than what we do when we join our respective Reformed/Evangelical communions. The criteria we utilize to join one communion over another is different but the central purpose of the communion in proclaiming the correctness of the communion is not.

    Well, it’s true that both the CC and our churches proclaim their respective distinctives, but I think that is beside C2C’s point, which is that there is only one church that is authorized to speak in Christ’s Name, and it’s theirs. So to their ears, your point about how both communions do essentially the same things sounds like how someone saying “My religion’s lord and savior did a lot of the same things as Jesus” would sound to us. In other words, just because some cult leader has a beard and wears sandals doesn’t legitimize him, since there’s only one true God-Man, and it’s not him. And likewise to Catholics, my wearing a Geneva gown on the Lord’s Day doesn’t legitimize me, either.

    And the other caveat I would add is that the heart and sole of the sola scriptura debate is caught up in the historic standards of the Christian Church and not in the assessments that we as individual Christians make concerning these standards. But curiously the only person who seems interested is joining in that conversation is Perry, our Eastern Orthodox friend.

    But Liccione’s point is that if we stick solely to the historical and exegetical issues, all we will accomplish is amassing two distinct piles of evidence, one Protestant and one not, with no means of determining which is normative and binding (for that, he says, we need to go the philosophical route he suggests).

    Now, I am more inclined toward what you suggest (especially when it comes to the biblical data), but I do see his point. I have been saying for years that as long as we Protestants think that Trent messed up the gospel, then nothing that any Catholic says will really sway us. I mean, if the choice is between being an individualist who knows the gospel or a team player who doesn’t, then I’ll just bite the bullet and be an individualist. I’ve been called much worse.

  253. JJS

    “I have been saying for years that as long as we Protestants think that Trent messed up the gospel, then nothing that any Catholic says will really sway us. I mean, if the choice is between being an individualist who knows the gospel or a team player who doesn’t, then I’ll just bite the bullet and be an individualist.”

    I think that notion sums up a lot of Reformed folks sense of things – that was my sense for a long time prior to besoming Catholic. Still I have seen Scott Hahn and Bryan and other Catholics go toe-to-toe, verse-by-verse through Romans to show that the Catholic “justification-as-infused-gace/sacramental model” rather than “justification-as-imputed-grace/faith alone model” is the far richer and accurate “biblical” account of St. Paul’s mind on the matter. What is more challenging still for the Reformed (IMO), is that NT Wright, a super-star (as Devin Rose noted) theologian among many Evangelicals and certainly no Catholic (yet), defintely seems to have at least given some VERY strong exegetical reasons to see the old Reformed “imputation” model as inadequate. In fact he is very often accused of dislodging that model and setting it adrift toward a more catholic-like “infused” model. I know some Reformed are calling NT Wright a heretic and such; BUT I just wonder if the strident declaration that Trent = apostacy really can be said to be an “obvious” “biblical” truth still? And if that particular doctrine should come to be seen as plausibly admitting of a Catholic or more catholic-like interpretation, that would seem to cast the importance of Mike L’s pardigmatic argumet in even clearer relief. I’m not really making an argument here, I guess I am just wondering if any of the Catholic/NT Wright exegesis gives you pause about the Trent = RCC apostacy identification?

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  254. Dear Jason,

    I have been saying this for the last three years. What bryan writes in 88 pages, I can say it much less and I can get to the heart of the issue: If SS is a real epistem. idea, then this doctrine MUST be found in the Scripts. ? Right? I AM the ONLY ONE who has the right perspective on this. No? Solo or Sola is just a bunch of bs. Matheson can’t tell us where it is. More later.

  255. Ray,

    I am just wondering if any of the Catholic/NT Wright exegesis gives you pause about the Trent = RCC apostacy identification?

    Well, there are a lot of issues in play, all of which can’t really be covered here. For one thing, the Reformed are correct that Wright isn’t exactly groundbreaking, and that his perspective on Paul isn’t exactly “new.” There isn’t a whole lot that he says that wasn’t already addressed in the writings of Calvin and the other reformers.

    Plus, few Reformed people, I think, would say that Wright is some kind of apostate (and we generally throw the word “heresy” around rather seldomly).

    We do disagree with his exegesis, but mostly on theological and systematic grounds, not because his readings of the texts are implausible. I don’t know if it counts as irony or not, but a whole lot of what we dig our heels about is due to theological concerns more than exegetical ones.

    Yes, we would look at Wright and say, “The guy’s practically Catholic already, why not just convert?”, but that doesn’t mean we would consider his errors to be as serious as we would Rome’s. But then again, that may depend on the degree to which we insist on imputing to an exegete the supposed logical outcome of everything he says he believes. I am more loath to do that kind of thing, but others are more comfortable with it.

  256. JJS and Ray:

    I too was going to quote the sentence from JJS that Ray does, but I was also going to ask a different question about it. But I now think it’s actually better to use Ray’s question as a new point of departure. He asked:

    I guess I am just wondering if any of the Catholic/NT Wright exegesis gives you pause about the Trent = RCC apostacy identification?

    If JJS’ answer to that question is “no,” then he’s committed to claiming that his imputationist, anti-Wright exegesis is, if not the “plain” sense of Scripture, then at least clear enough to be what I call “rationally unassailable” after due consideration of the alternatives. If that claim is true, then those who dissent, such as Trent and Wright, would have to be either unlearned or willfully blind. Now that itself seems implausible; hence, so does the premise from which it proceeds. But if the Trent or Wright exegesis isn’t supposed to be rationally implausible, and the answer to Ray’s question is accordingly yes, then what is it? If it’s deemed intelligent but just wrong, then nobody’s exegesis here is enough to yield an authoritative interpretation of Scripture, but only an opinion. So how do we tell the difference between divine revelation here and mere human interpretive opinion?

    We can say that the answer is “the true meaning of Scripture,” whatever that is, but nobody disputes that and thus it settles nothing at issue. The dispute is, precisely, about what the true meaning of Scripture is. If we commit to solo, though, then there is no authoritative resolution of that dispute, and we’re back to claiming that “my favored exegesis” is the correct one–other scholars and other ecclesial authorities be damned. I’ve never understood how that is supposed to be taken seriously, much less as authoritative. But then, I have been called either illiterate or willfully blind for saying that. :)

    Best,
    Mike

  257. What is somewhat ironic is that N.T. Wright has talked about how his Protestant brothers have fiercely attacked him for having the audacity to challenge the settled teachings of the Protestant Reformers and their descendants. He defends himself by pointing out that Protestantism’s innovation was the idea that no dogma is beyond question by taking a fresh look at the Scriptures (perhaps with new historical evidence or contemporary documents available to us). Luther and Calvin, he claims, would be praising him for his new perspective(!) since he is simply following the trails they blazed.

    He wants Protestants to engage him at the level of his exegesis, but most of what he gets instead is just accusations of “how dare he” go against 488 years of Protestant tradition. Luther and Calvin have spoken; the case is closed.

    Maybe Christ created the Church to be the invisible collection of individualists, each taking or leaving others’ opinions as they see fit, developing their own unique beliefs about what is true and what is not. But woe then to people like me and David Meyer–electronic technicians and computer programmers who know no Latin or Greek or Hebrew–as we don’t have a chance to discover the truth from a thousand competing individualists’ opinions.

  258. Mike and Ray,

    Ray asked:

    I guess I am just wondering if any of the Catholic/NT Wright exegesis gives you pause about the Trent = RCC apostacy identification?

    And Mike added:

    If JJS’ answer to that question is “no,” then he’s committed to claiming that his imputationist, anti-Wright exegesis is, if not the “plain” sense of Scripture, then at least clear enough to be what I call “rationally unassailable” after due consideration of the alternatives. If that claim is true, then those who dissent, such as Trent and Wright, would have to be either unlearned or willfully blind.

    I assume by “unassailable” you mean incontrovertible by relatively smart people. If so, then no, I would not make that claim. Plenty of people disagree with us, but that makes them neither blind nor idiots.

    But if the Trent or Wright exegesis isn’t supposed to be rationally implausible, and the answer to Ray’s question is accordingly yes, then what is it? If it’s deemed intelligent but just wrong, then nobody’s exegesis here is enough to yield an authoritative interpretation of Scripture, but only an opinion. So how do we tell the difference between divine revelation here and mere human interpretive opinion?

    Now, I am going to try something here, just for the sake of argument. Ready? OK, here goes: Wright’s exegesis, as well as that of Trent, is intelligent and plausible, but wrong according to me and my millions of friends. So there.

    I mean, is that all you’ve got? All this huffing and puffing over whether sola might devolve into solo, and whether the Westminster Standards might not in fact be perfect. Well, I just went ahead and admitted as much. So is that it? Or is this the part where you try to frighten me about the slippery slope to liberalism? Bogeymen don’t scare me.

    If we commit to solo, though, then there is no authoritative resolution of that dispute, and we’re back to claiming that “my favored exegesis” is the correct one–other scholars and other ecclesial authorities be damned.

    Sounds fine to me. When I stand in the pulpit, my words are authoritative only insofar as they correctly represent what the sole inspired source intends. To the degree they don’t, you can ignore or correct me.

    Remember that one scene in the film Clear and Present Danger in which it comes to light that one of the president’s close friends turns out to be crooked? All of his advisors are telling him to distance himself and deny the relationship, but when he turns to Harrison Ford’s character, he hears, “Just admit it, Mr. President. If the media ask if you two were friends, say , ‘No, we were good friends.’ If they ask if you were good friends, say ‘No, we were lifelong friends.’ After all, there’s no use trying to diffuse a bomb that’s already gone off.”

    So the reason I am taking this tone with you is to see what happens when I just shrug and cop to your charge. If you’re going to shout and wring your hands at my individualism, or pull your hair out over whether I may not have the degree of certitude you claim to, then I’ll just yawn and agree with you, and then wonder what’s for dinner.

    So now that that’s out of the way, what happens now?

  259. @Lojahw #251
    What Luther said at the Diet of Worms is not sola scriptura

    Let me pull the text from

    Martin Luther:
    Excerpts from his account of the confrontation at the Diet of Worms
    (1521)
    [The translation is from H.C. Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church (1903),
    based on Luther's Opera Latina (Frankfurt, 1865-73]

    Luther then replied: Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.

    On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.

    Do and please note that Luther holds three things to be authorative 1.) direct testimony of Scripture 2.) manifest reasoning 3.) his conscience. If you look at the order of Luther’s reasoning, he is saying that his conscience (aka his private judgment) is taken captive by his personal exegesis of Scripture (at this point in the Diet of Worms Luther had not a leg to stand on in terms of appealing to popes, councils, or church fathers) and that only manifest reasoning or direct testimony from Scripture (the “papists” exegesis wouldn’t do) are the things that can over rule him and make him abandon the dictates of his conscience. that is not sola scriptura

    Your statement here

    Yet, please note that Luther is willing to be corrected by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason – neither of which his opponents offered.

    is just silly. Get a copy of the writings of Luthers opponents. They are filled with scripture and “evident reasoning”.

    Also please note, in Luther’s schema at Worms, scripture is not what is binding his conscience, it is his interpretation of scripture that is binding his conscience. Luther’s position doesn’t rest upon direct testimony of Scripture, (after all what is in contention at Worms is not that X is written in scripture but Luther’s interpretation of what X means) that is why he says he will recant his position if it can be shown by the testimony of Scripture (by which he is meaning direct testimony since he has rejected testimony by scriptural exegesis).

    When I said that it was a teaching of Luther / Calvin that those who did not believe as they did were damned, I am not speaking of hyperbolic, I am saying that it was a teaching. This is a far far different thing than the Catholic position which is those who are not in communion with the Church are not heading towards salvation. Not heading towards salvation is not the same thing as being damned. This is even more important when we deal with Calvin’s double predestination where people are either damned or saved as part of an uncondition election before all of creation and there is no heading in one direction or another. Thus for the Reformed, holding to Catholic positions are often taken as signs that individuals are predestined to eternal damnation and there is nothing that can be done about that.

    In terms of “invincibly ignorant”, I don’t think you understand what that means. Having access to and having read the truth makes you culpable for the truth, but it is still possible to be “invincibly ignorant”, though the likely hood of that is very very small.

    That’s a novel and relativistic concept. Which Apostle taught that the liturgy is sufficient for salvation? Also, since your liturgy has changed considerably from that practiced in the homes of the early Christians, how do you know that your liturgy is authentic?

    Its hardly novel, but it is novel to you because it is the first time that you have been exposed to it. Look at the main panel in the Ghent Altarpiece. Please note that I didn’t say that the liturgy is sufficient for salvation, I said that the liturgy is salvation. Salvation is the total ball of wax and it does no good to try to piece meal it out in terms of what is sufficent. If you try to only reach the minimum amount of salvation you wont find salation — after all God in the OT said ‘“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” and Jesus reitterated that and said “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In terms of who taught what I said, well God did back in the Old Testament and Jesus retaught it in the New, and in fact so does Paul in the book of Romans, so does Luke in Acts (cited that up thread). If you would really like to know more about how the liturgy is our entrance into and participation in the eschatological day of the Lord and salvation, I would suggest to you these books

    The Holy Mass by Dom Prosper Gueranger

    The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl , Mike Aquilina

    Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer by Louis Bouyer

    Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper by Brant Pitre

    Or just read the CCC on the Celebration of the Christian Mystery…let me pull out some quotes

    1076 The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.1 The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the “dispensation of the mystery” the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, “until he comes.”2 In this age of the Church Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to this new age. He acts through the sacraments in what the common Tradition of the East and the West calls “the sacramental economy”; this is the communication (or “dispensation”) of the fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church’s “sacramental” liturgy.

    1111 Christ’s work in the liturgy is sacramental: because his mystery of salvation is made present there by the power of his Holy Spirit; because his Body, which is the Church, is like a sacrament (sign and instrument) in which the Holy Spirit dispenses the mystery of salvation; and because through her liturgical actions the pilgrim Church already participates, as by a foretaste, in the heavenly liturgy.

    1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.51 “Sacramental grace” is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature52 by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior.

    How do I know that my liturgy is authentic? Really easy. I read the early liturgies.http://www.liturgica.com/html/litEChLitWEC.jsp They do not match the Protestant worship services while they do match the Catholic Liturgy. Or just pull the bits and pieces of liturgy that was written down in the New Testament — it doesn’t match the Protestant liturgies but it does the Catholic. Let me show you two series that pull out the the pieces of liturgy that are in the New Testament……

    The Apocolyptic Liturgy

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu9JrY0Iy58

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9W_eajbkoQ&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiHuDUOGJnk

    The Liturgical Ritual of the True Church

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKzVF3HeHSU

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYJQPPIZQTg

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO-ZJJe0Tas

  260. JJS

    When I stand in the pulpit, my words are authoritative only insofar as they correctly represent what the sole inspired source intends. To the degree they don’t, you can ignore or correct me.

    Supposing you actually meant to make the admission you are feigning; then what you teach/preach about a hot-button piece of theology like justification could never be KNOWN to represent what the “sole inspired source intends” (besides how is your theoretical individualism going to secure a “inspired source” for you in the first place on anything other than “it seems inspired to me”?). Hence, your words could never be KNOWN to be authoritative. Hence, the idea of someone “correcting” you is just silly. Why keep up that charade? Just get up in the pulpit and whenever you get to some disputed doctrinal matter like justification say: “thus saith the Lord – I think”. That way people will be clearly aware that they can take or leave the central points of your theology the same way they can take or leave cream with their coffee. I mean you have always got the sermon on the mount – that seems perspicuous enough to get some moral milage out of. Of course, when you get to issues like homosexuality or women’s ordination you might be right back in the same exegetical pickle. Last I looked, theological liberalism looked a lot like that sort of scenario. Just my two cents on the “end-game”.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  261. Devin @257

    [N. T. Wright] defends himself by pointing out that Protestantism’s innovation was the idea that no dogma is beyond question by taking a fresh look at the Scriptures (perhaps with new historical evidence or contemporary documents available to us).

    Devin, have you ever thought about the role of private interpretation in the history of the church? The church fathers engaged in it on every subject imaginable. They only restrained themselves on the topics they considered “settled” – however, such “settled” doctrines have been known to be revised, e.g., Vatican II’s reinterpretation of Unam Sanctam and the implications of extra ecclesiam nulla solus.

    As I’ve observed before, possibly the only doctrine that has a track record of continuous, uninterrupted support in the Church since the time of the Apostles is that of the Trinity. Every other subject, including baptism, the Eucharist, ecclesiology, the after-life, eschatology, etc., has adherents for a variety of interpretations in the history of the Church. The only other constant that hasn’t changed are the contents of the books of the Bible that were left to the Church by the Apostles. Also, because neither church fathers, councils, nor any one else who has come after the Scriptures were written has been infallible (as Augustine claimed, and history has shown), their judgments should not be considered irreformable. Yes, Protestants have acted just like the church fathers in engaging the Scriptures to understand what they teach. Unfortunately, many Protestants have been guilty of distorting the Scriptures as have those in your own communion. Perhaps Trinitarian doctrine is the only area where we can hold the line?

    Nathan B. @248

    Catholic and Orthodox do not recognize scripture as being an infallible source. What you said is not common ground. Only an action can be infallible and scripture, being an inanimate object, cannot act. Q.E.D.

    If Scripture can speak, and Jesus and the Apostles claim it does, then it can be infallible:
    John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me”
    John 19:37 “And again another Scripture says, ‘THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED.’”
    Rom. 10:11 “For the Scripture says, ‘WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.’”
    Who is speaking and testifying in the Scriptures? God Himself.

    it is not scripture which limits the liturgy but rather it is the liturgy which limits one’s scriptural exegesis which in turn helps strengthen and deepen proper liturgical practice.

    Your perspective is interesting, but not persuasive. The exegesis of Scripture has never been limited to a particular liturgical context. And, BTW – I have read the Didache, the Apostolic Constitutions, etc. As an Anglican, I appreciate many of the elements of liturgy which developed in the early centuries, but I don’t believe the records we have today represent first century liturgy nor should they be necessarily considered normative. When was the last time you witnessed a baptism by triple immersion in the nude?

    On your most recent post, #259, I don’t believe it would be useful to offer further comment.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  262. @JJS #259

    Always wanted to ask this and it sounds like you are game.

    The various Reformed Confessions make the following clear

    1.) All works of men even regenerated men, in so far as they are a work of man, are filled with error and cannot help to be but such.

    2.) Prior, councils, creeds, confessions, etc. are fallible and have erred (presumably because they were done by man).

    3.) The WCF, Belgic, Heidelberg, etc. are written by men and are fallible.

    We also know that you stand in the pulpit and preach and that to quote you my words are authoritative only insofar as they correctly represent what the sole inspired source intends. To the degree they don’t, you can ignore or correct me.

    Please give specific examples of the following:

    A.) Specific examples in the WCF, Belgic, Heidelberg, and other Reformed Confessions that are error and lead people away from Christ.

    B.) Specific examples in your own preaching that the congregation should ignore you and correct you on that leads people away from Christ.

    Remember it is not that the Reformed confessions teach that the are not infallible, it is that they are fallible which means that they do actually contain error, and that man in his works does in fact error.

    Thus would you be so kind as to provide specific examples of what is false, since it is a teaching that falsehood is contained.

    Thanks! :-)

  263. Now, I am going to try something here, just for the sake of argument. Ready? OK, here goes: Wright’s exegesis, as well as that of Trent, is intelligent and plausible, but wrong according to me and my millions of friends. So there.

    I mean, is that all you’ve got? All this huffing and puffing over whether sola might devolve into solo, and whether the Westminster Standards might not in fact be perfect. Well, I just went ahead and admitted as much. So is that it? Or is this the part where you try to frighten me about the slippery slope to liberalism? Bogeymen don’t scare me.

    So you are saying you don’t worry about preaching falsehood even in matters directly related to salvation. Marcus Grodi tells a story of being at the bedside of a dying man and talking to the wife about the state of her husband’s soul. It occurred to him that which tradition he chose effected his answer greatly. It bothered him so much he resigned as a pastor. This is before he considered the Catholic church.

    So you are saying that would not bother you? I would ask you to pray. Ask God if there is an more certainty for your ministry than that. If you feel called to the pulpit that is great. But the bible does not speak kindly about false teachers. You want to exercise due diligence in avoiding false teaching.

    I would ask about another scenario. What if a person came to you and asked if you were sure about a moral matter. Maybe a pregnant teen asked if you were positive abortion was wrong in god’s eyes. Or maybe a same-sex attracted person asking if you were positive God did not approve of same-sex marriage. Would you give them the “according to me and my millions of friends” line? Could you say with any certainty that you and your millions of friends were not biased by some common prejudice or presupposition? Could you give them enough certainty to go down a very hard path in life based on the knowledge that they were following God’s will?

  264. @JJS:

    Now, I am going to try something here, just for the sake of argument. Ready? OK, here goes: Wright’s exegesis, as well as that of Trent, is intelligent and plausible, but wrong according to me and my millions of friends. So there.

    I mean, is that all you’ve got? All this huffing and puffing over whether sola might devolve into solo, and whether the Westminster Standards might not in fact be perfect. Well, I just went ahead and admitted as much. So is that it? Or is this the part where you try to frighten me about the slippery slope to liberalism? Bogeymen don’t scare me.

    I’m actually with JJS on this. In fact, I must go further. When I was in the storm that eventually led me into the Catholic Church, I came to realise that as far as certainty is concerned, I could have no religious certainty about anything – including the truth of the Bible – unless God guaranteed it. I remember telling my wife that I thought I would either come out of this a Catholic, or maybe some sort of Quaker. My reason told me that there was Something – call it God – behind All This (and behind Me :-)), and, indeed, the Bible might be a useful book; this or that ‘church’ (we were members of a Reformed church – were founders, in fact, and I was a deacon) might be helpful; but that ultimately, either I believed there was an authority sent by God that I could trust – or else it was just me and my reason and experience. This included the idea of Bible alone – precisely because, whilst there was little question as to what was actually written in the Bible – and I had read the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic from when I first became a Christian in 1970 – the disputes were all about what it meant – and, indeed, even about what writings were Scripture.

    So I think I agree with JJS here. If the Catholic Church is not God’s authentic Teacher, then it is just a matter of what I and my friends – whether millions or not – think that is my standard.

    I did not become a Catholic because the alternative – of winging it “with a little help from my friends” – was unacceptable. I really wanted the truth. I would not accept false assurance. In the event, I thought (and the tu quoque rears its head here, but I will leave that for another time) that the Catholic Church really was what it says it was.

    I thought … But the act of faith is necessary. And it is God’s grace that turns that act of faith from base metal into gold.

    Thanks be to God.

    jj

  265. @Lojahw #262

    I find it utterly perplexing that you think that an inanimate object can act. That is simply metaphysically impossible. Your quotes don’t work because 1.) testifying need not be an act. For example if a statement is Q.E.D. that testifies against the contrary and there is no action involved. 2.) “says” is an anthropomorphism. In referring to a text, one either states “the text says” or “it is written that” or some variant there of. Neither mean that the text is engaging in an activity. My bible over here is not engaging in any activity, it is just doing what any animate object does…nothing. If I misspleace it I might say that it “has grown legs and walked off” but that is just an anthropomorphism and it has done nothing of the sort. Inanimate objects simply sit there and do nothing because they cannot act.

    Oh sure the exegesis of scripture has been limited to a particular liturgical context. That is the principle of lex orandi lex credendi — the law of the creed is limited by the law of prayer.

    BTW don’t just read the Didache or the Apostolic Constitutions, read the early liturgies themselves. Go through http://www.liturgica.com at your own pace, compare and see what holds true.

    Even if you don’t believe that the records that we have to day represent first century liturgy, we do have complete liturgies pre Nicaea. Try the Liturgy of St. James http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0717.htm Even if you don’t want to trace it all the way back and leave circa Nicaea, it still gives an authentic representation and indication that the liturgical practice of the Church of the great Christological councils was very different in how she worshiped from Protestant liturgies (which is more evident the more one is removed from Anglicanism).

    I know that, as you have read the Didache, you know that “baptism by triple immersion” was not the only means of baptism in the early Church. Thus I do not see the point that you are trying to make.

    BTW it is, as you said, your private judgment that the records that we have today don’t represent first century liturgy nor should they be necessarily considered normative. (The argument that there exists a “true” but lost form of liturgy that is normative is just as silly as there being a source Q for the Gospels. it is just an excuse to pretend that ones pet scriptural theory has historical basis. Ahistorical christians drive me crazy (not saying you are one but I hate those discussions above all others) But that of course is the whole point of this thread….that ultimately solo/sola are the same thing because they rest on the Protest IP of personal judgement triumphing everything.

    Blessings

  266. Devin Rose Said:

    Maybe Christ created the Church to be the invisible collection of individualists, each taking or leaving others’ opinions as they see fit, developing their own unique beliefs about what is true and what is not. But woe then to people like me and David Meyer–electronic technicians and computer programmers who know no Latin or Greek or Hebrew–as we don’t have a chance to discover the truth from a thousand competing individualists’ opinions.

    Woe is me if I ever find myself in that position again. There are just too many unbelievably smart dudes out there with their ducks all in a row that want us to listen to them. Especially in the Reformed crowd. And these guys are uber SMART. JJS is showing that in this thread. Smart guy, but he is one opinion among many self-admitted fallible Reformed interpreters who would beckon guys like you and me to follow his interpretation. the exchange in the comments of this post:
    http://www.creedcodecult.com/2011/02/presuppositional-hermeneutics-revisited.html
    on Jason’s blog between him and Bryan Cross proves this. They both make tons of sense! But they both cannot be right.

  267. JJS (#258):

    You wrote:

    Now, I am going to try something here, just for the sake of argument. Ready? OK, here goes: Wright’s exegesis, as well as that of Trent, is intelligent and plausible, but wrong according to me and my millions of friends. So there.

    I mean, is that all you’ve got? All this huffing and puffing over whether sola might devolve into solo, and whether the Westminster Standards might not in fact be perfect. Well, I just went ahead and admitted as much. So is that it? Or is this the part where you try to frighten me about the slippery slope to liberalism? Bogeymen don’t scare me.

    I don’t need to huff and puff. All I need to point out is that, if you admit that sola devolves into solo, then all you’ve got are opinions. You do not speak “with authority,” but only as “one of the scribes.” You do not speak for Christ. Why is that a problem?

    Opinions are fine for a book club, a talk show, or a department in the humanities building on campus. I like giving and debating opinions as much as the next guy; in fact, I get paid to do it as a philosopher. But I have not been granted the privilege of being a minister of the Lord. As you know quite well, that’s supposed to be all about proclaiming the saving truth of Christ, by his authority. But given the position you’re professing to take up, you can’t do that. You’ve put yourself in the position of saying, as a minister: “This is the Gospel of the Lord. But that’s only my opinion. I might be wrong.” When it comes to proclaiming the saving truth of Christ, why should anybody care about opinions? On that score, I’m not interested in my own opinions any more than I’m interested in yours. I’m looking for divine revelation, not human opinions.

    What you’ve done—if indeed you’re really doing it, and not just playing devil’s advocate—is admit that you have no principled way of distinguishing the doctrinal content of the deposit of faith from mere human opinions about how to interpret sources that have been alleged to transmit said deposit. Until now, I’ve been assuming that such a result would be readily seen for the reductio it is. I hope I am not mistaken.

    Best,
    Mike

  268. Michael said:

    You’ve put yourself in the position of saying, as a minister: “This is the Gospel of the Lord. But that’s only my opinion. I might be wrong.” When it comes to proclaiming the saving truth of Christ, why should anybody care about opinions? On that score, I’m not interested in my own opinions any more than I’m interested in yours. I’m looking for divine revelation, not human opinions.

    But Michael, in the end how is that any different than your ultimate position regarding the truth you believe is found in the Catholic Church? When it comes to deciding which church has the “truth”, all you have is your opinion that the true church is the Catholic Church. You’ve just kicked the question one position back up the chain. How do you know the Catholic Church is “the” church? I’m certain you would agree that you are not infallible and I don’t think you claim direct divine revelation on this point either. So that means any conclusions you arrive at are, by default, fallible. You may have reasoned arguments, they may be good or they may be bad, but they’re still just opinions. Thus ultimately your knowledge of the “saving truth” (through Catholicism) is based upon mere fallible opinion.

  269. But I wonder, how could one speak of the “historic standards of the Christian Church” without that in some significant way amounting to an “assessment” of just what those standards are (which is what KM seems to have been doing in his (I would argue presuppositional laden) mini-history about the development of the “rule-of-faith”)?

    Ray (re: 247),

    To me what Mike proposes does not get enough into the detail of just what you are suggesting and that is what I am trying to delve into in my conversations with Perry. That is, what are the elements of the modern Catholic vs modern Protestant IP and how have they developed in the course of history? We can define some of the elements of the concept of tradition that eventually gave us the philosophy of tradition evidenced at Trent. This is what I was referring to in my points about Basil and the development of a distinctly two source theory of revelation. Does Basil’s approach make sense? Were those schoolmen of the 12th century who adopted of this system correct in doing so? How did Trent modify this system and in terms of their formulations of canon, justification, etc? Note that these are not just issues of individual pieces of data about the Church of Rome or related matters which is the bulk of what Keith Mathison discusses in his critique. Rather they are attempts to evaluate the constitutive elements of the Roman Catholic IP and then compare it with that from the Reformers. So like you I am all over the philosophical IP that you think we should get into, but I think that what Mike L proposes needs to be fleshed out and detailed. Does that make sense? Another way of looking at this is that it is an investigation into the way in which the Church sought to understand how God had revealed Himself in history. Sometimes I think the Church gets this right and sometimes not and sometimes the Church is just not sure what to think. But it’s all about developing an understanding of how the Church has developed her understanding of revelation.

    Now, speaking for myself, I just don’t see the point of bothering with Christianity at all if that is the situation we are stuck in. Why do I want to go out into a world steeped in moral and epistemic relativism and spend my time trying to get people to come join me in a set of moral and ontological truth claims that I already know have no more persuasive force than the opinions of a Deepak Chopra or Richard Dawkins?

    Speaking for the countless millions of people who come to Christ every year, there is no epistemological problem. They come to know Christ and Him crucified because of the testimony of Scriptures which God’s Spirit does truly use to justify, sanctify, etc. The issues that we are looking at here are of course things that philosophers and some theologians like to debate but they are matters that 99.99+% of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, don’t see as important and don’t trouble them in the slightest. Bow I’m not suggesting for a moment that this makes them unimportant, only that the kind of Christian outreach that you refer to happens every day through the Word and Spirit transforming the lives of millions of lost without ever having to deal with such high level philosophical issues. While I think that what Perry and I are discussing is very important I don’t think that I could possibly explain to the vast majority of Catholic and Protestant believers why it is important. But then that should not be surprising – Christian apologists tell us that one of the distinctives of the Christian faith in the ancient world was that it appealed to all classes of society, not just the intellectually elite.

    But back to the Protestant’s main concern about “where is the historical evidence”: the Catholic stridently denies that the biblical and historical evidence is lacking.

    Yes, I understand this, Ray and appreciate that this is your position. From my standpoint on matters such as defining the Church in terms of apostolic succession we solve certain things that Protestantism cannot, but then we create even worse problems by defining the Church in effectively formal terms. But of course this is the heart of what we are trying to get at. To use Mike L’s term, which position produces the most reasonable solution?

    So given all that, I just don’t know what kind of ground rules could be established to make any sort of joint effort to assess the biblical/historical data fruitful. I mean maybe the best way would be for we Catholics to start with the OT, move through the NT, into the patrisctic era, into the middle ages, and into modernity drawing all the data together into a unified persuasive whole…..

    Well I think you will probably already know my answer to this. I think that if there is a commonality between Catholic and Protestant it is the specific traditions that evolved/developed over the course of the history of the Church.

    Nathan said: To become Catholic is to become something new, not just to intellectually accept new criteria and shift ones intellectual outlook on life.

    Nathan – Reformed and Evangelical churches are full of ex-Catholics and the testimony of these folks always seems to be the same. They had been catechized but for them this was the sum total of the Christian faith. The story of their move to Evangelical congregations was one of spiritual rebirth, even for those who felt that they were Christians while in the Catholic Church. What these folks left behind was a mixture of all manner of different belief systems and philosophies about religion and this underscores my concern about defining the Church in formal terms – everyone is “Catholic” if they have been baptized into a congregation in communion with Rome. Worldwide there is then this “unity” of Catholic from the extremely liberal and/or pagan to the ultra-conservative. We Reformed do meet conservatives such as those who input on the blogs, but it is a relatively rare experience.

    David (re: 244):

    “Private judgment is never superior to ecclesiastical judgment according to Turretin” ??? Huh?
    I have read that Turretin quote a 100 times and I don’t get where you are coming from. He expressly, explicitly, clearly, and in no uncertain terms says that the individual can “prefer” his private judgment to that of the church! That means his private judgment is superior to that of the church! He says to not “rashly” rend the body of their mother, by that I think he intended they slowly and carefully rend it? You have implied that this quote means exactly what it does not, and I had to step in and call you on it.

    David – All I can say is read the Turretin quote again. He says that the individual ought to “prefer her [the Church’s] public opinion to their own private judgment.” I’m not sure how Turretin could be more clear in stating that the ecclesiastical judgment of the Church must be preferred to the private judgment of the individual.

    Ciatoris (re: 246) (and Jason),

    I recognize your second paragraph is written with a little mild-sauce sarcasm (e.g., “Bryan and Neal have exposed our subtle contrivances”), but am I right in thinking that you are admitting that sola and solo collapse into one another and hanging your hat on the tu quoquepeg?

    It’s just one Reformed guy being blunt with another, no sarcasm. But yes, I’m saying that there is no difference between sola and solo in terms of how Bryan and Neal discuss the matter. Now whether their discussion really gets to the heart of the matter is a different question. And yes, I think they are doing essentially the same thing. They are not encouraging Catholics to make their own independent verification of the Catholic Church and make their evaluation solo, they are encouraging folks to join the Catholic Church who then comes to this same conclusion for them. They have chosen an indirect way to express their preferences for the making a personal judgment which is what they are critiquing the Reformed sola guys for.

  270. Steve @ #268

    This argument would work just as nicely against the claim that “Jesus is God”, the “Holy Spirit is a person”, “Mary was a Virgin”. Michael hasn’t “kicked the question…up the chain”, but you have kicked the debate “off the chain”. It is one thing to ask is this taught in the Christian faith, another altogether to ask do I have the epistemic tools to believe it. What you have asserted is that all we have is opinion, which is not what we assert as Christians. It is not my opinion that Jesus is the savior of the world, it is my belief and hope by faith. So, when evaluating whether or not the largest Church in the world, the oldest, full of the most saints and sinners is the Church Jesus established you will eventually put all the evidence on the table, pray, put aside pride and then choose by faith what the Holy Spirit works in your heart. This subjective decision doesn’t mean that the object of knowledge is subjective but rather the decision to believe a subjective one. “Choosing” Christ is a subjective act, but if I reject Christ that doesn’t mean that the doctrine of “Christ” is mere opinion. I can make an error, or I cannot. The same goes with believing in the Church. Now, the Church is claiming that she can teach infallibly, something I cannot, but that is not something you are arguing against @ 268.

    What you seem to fail to understand is the difference between infallible truth and imperfect knowledge of the truth. I may have imperfect knowledge about Christ (since I posses it as such-a human), but that knowledge can be perfect in so much that it is perfect apart from my knowing it. So, regarding revealed truth, the Church can teach “Jesus is God” infallibly by a charism of the Spirit and I can still know it imperfectly (all of my ideas about Jesus may not perfectly correspond to this truth but I may still confess and hold to it yet only imperfectly, fragile, etc.). Uncertain knowledge (me-the knower) of infallible truth (The Church-the teacher). No big deal, its the human condition and the way Christ ensured his flock would be shepherded (Jn 10:5). Trent made it clear that this type of knowledge is all that is needed for salvation. (6th session).

  271. Steve G (#268):

    In section V of my post Mathison’s Reply to Cross and Judisch: A Largely Philosophical Critique, I already answered essentially the same objection you’ve just posed. On this site, that objection is called the tu quoque argument, and we’ve all heard it in many forms. But to clarify my answer for you, I’ll restate it more succinctly here.

    If the Protestant “interpretive paradigm” (IP) were the best to adopt, then all we’d have is opinion about what constitutes the formal, proximate object of faith. There would be no principled way to distinguish the doctrinal content of divine revelation itself from human opinions about how to interpret the “sources” alleged to transmit it. And that is what your objection, like Jason Stellman’s, amounts to saying. But in that case, our ostensible assent of faith is not the assent of faith; we’re not putting faith in God by believing what he has revealed, because we haven’t identified as an object of faith what he has revealed. That result is unreasonable for anybody who claims to be putting faith in God by believing what he has revealed.

    The only way to make the needed “principled” distinction is to accept some secondary authority as the divinely appointed, infalliblei certifier and interpreter of “the sources.” But only two churches claim to be that. Neither is Protestant. That does not demonstrate, as a matter of reason alone, that either church is what she claims to be. What it does show is that some such claim must be true if we are to be able to identify the formal, proximate object of faith.

    Of course you could always bite the bullet and insist that, in that case, all we’ve got is opinion. In that case, what you’ve got is not faith, and therefore not faith in Christ.

    Best,
    Mike

  272. Andrew (#269):

    You wrote:

    To me what Mike proposes does not get enough into the detail of just what you are suggesting and that is what I am trying to delve into in my conversations with Perry. That is, what are the elements of the modern Catholic vs modern Protestant IP and how have they developed in the course of history?

    You’re right, Andrew. My post wasn’t nearly long enough. ;-)

    Best,
    Mike

  273. Andrew (269) said:

    David – All I can say is read the Turretin quote again. He says that the individual ought to “prefer her [the Church’s] public opinion to their own private judgment.” I’m not sure how Turretin could be more clear in stating that the ecclesiastical judgment of the Church must be preferred to the private judgment of the individual.

    No, you have utterly misquoted Turretin. And I want to gently ask that you consider disowning the above statement. Again, I can’t let this slip past because this Turretin quote is central to Keiths formulation of Sola S. in his book. Lets step through it together. In 242 you said to Perry:

    The quote from Turretin only says that confessions are not infallible and there ought to be a way in which the confessions can be corrected. Turretin’s advice for the individual Christian who believes some aspect of a confession to be in error as follows: “Hence if they observe in them [the confessions] anything worthy of correction, they ought to undertake nothing rashly or disorderly or unseasonably, so as to violently read the body of their mother (which the schismatics do), but to refer the difficulties they feel to their church and either to prefer her public opinion to their own private judgment or to succeed from her communion, if the conscience cannot acquiesce to her judgment” Now does this not cast Turretin’s thoughts on private judgment in a very difference light than what you had portrayed? Private judgment is never superior to ecclesiastical judgment according to Turretin – it is just the opposite. For you to say that a Reformed private judgment trumps “practically all ecclesial authorities” is just wrong-headed.

    (bolding mine)

    Turretin (the real one not the elusive cartoon blog one) says the first step after one finds something they want to correct in a confession is:

    1.) “they ought to undertake nothing rashly or disorderly…”

    This is basically without meaning. Of course no one should be “rash” and of course they will often seem rash to the ones who disagree with them (as I am sure Luther seemed “rash” to many, though he would say he was not). Notice this “ought” he uses applies to the “either” in the next statement, not to only one of the choices as you suggest.

    2.) “but to refer the difficulties they feel to their church…”

    Ok, got it. Let me use the example of my brother-in-law who is a Hyper-Dispensationalist (Keith might find the example interesting as he wrote a great book about Dispensationalism) My bro-in-law is convinced that water baptism is a blasphemy for a Christian and all Christians are baptized by the spirit when they first believe. So let’s suppose he is a member at my old PCA church and complains to the session that the Nicene creed and the WCF are “worthy of correction”. It goes to Presbytery, they laugh and tell him to submit to the creed, and he then, according to Turretin can do one of 2 things:

    3.) “…either to prefer her [his church's] public opinion to their own private judgment…”

    4.) “…or to succeed from her communion, if the conscience cannot acquiesce to her judgment.”

    So, in short the believer ought to either prefer the church’s “opinion” -OR- his own private judgement. This is simply what the quote from Turretin says Andrew.

    But I think perhaps you may have misread Turretin before, because you stated

    “He says that the individual ought to “prefer her [the Church’s] public opinion to their own private judgment.”

    (my bolding)

    That is just plainly not what he said. What he said was they ought to do one of the two options, namely to accept the church’s opinion or use private judgment to keep his own opinion and leave the church, presumably to either abandon the faith or find likeminded believers or to start his own church.

    Do you agree with my assesment here that you have mistaken what Turretin said?

    You said to Perry:

    Private judgment is never superior to ecclesiastical judgment according to Turretin – it is just the opposite. For you to say that a Reformed private judgment trumps “practically all ecclesial authorities” is just wrong-headed.

    Andrew, after all the “observing” and seeing if something is “worthy” of correction, and then really trying to not be “rash and disorderly” and trying not to “violently rend” and “referring” ones difficulties to the church, and carefully listening to her “public opinion”… AFTER ALL THAT… which I would call Sola Scriptura in all of its latin glory written in gothic script with a big fancy “S” at the front… After all that Sola goodness… Turretin turns right around and disregards it all by saying we OUGHT to ***EITHER*** listen or leave. Did you see that? It just collapsed! Yes I admit it was sola, I get it, “take it to the church” and (I admit) elders who are wiser than me will advise me on the course they believe I should take. That is Sola in all its glory. But then there is that pesky *either* that deflates it. That *either* is a loophole so big a Mack truck the size of Arius could waltz right through. How could we as adherents of that system expect other Protestants to not walk right through? In fact, as Keith points out they walk through laughing at us and our latin phrase “Sola Scriptura” because they know that we too have that little *either* escape clause to use when we need to. How did I know I hadn’t walked right through that loophole as a Reformed believer? There is always some session somewhere that wants me to “prefer it’s public opinion” and thinks I am in error on something. Certainly my brother’s Pentecosatal church thought I was in serious error as a Calvinist/Postmil/infant baptizing/paedocom/baptismal regen./sacramental/alchohol drinking Christian. But if they were right on these issues, I would never know it using Turretin’s method. I would always reserve the right to “prefer” my “private judgment” as he calls it and could then WITHIN the system he presents as orthodox legitimately disobey the church when it calls me to recant heresy. That’s running solo brother.
    You say “Private judgment is never superior to ecclesiastical judgment according to Turretin”. OK so private judgment is not “superior” according to him, but after consulting the church, it is then presented alongside the church as one of two options to choose from. That is a quibble over words. He explicitly says who gets the final say.
    Sola Scriptura Protestants are like Brave Sir Robin who wants ever so much to be a knight of the round table but can’t seem to stand his ground. They want to be like the big boys and proclaim dogmas to be submitted to and so they play church with courts and sessions and creeds and such, but “when danger rears its ugly head” in the form of heresy, they “bravely turned their tail and fled” by allowing the loophole of private judgment which Turretin so solidly describes, and which you have again misunderstood and even asked me to read for the 101 time. So again, I ask that you consider retracting this:
    “He says that the individual ought to “prefer her [the Church’s] public opinion to their own private judgment.”
    And this:
    “I’m not sure how Turretin could be more clear in stating that the ecclesiastical judgment of the Church must be preferred to the private judgment of the individual.”

    -David Meyer

  274. Lojahw,

    Devin, have you ever thought about the role of private interpretation in the history of the church? The church fathers engaged in it on every subject imaginable. They only restrained themselves on the topics they considered “settled” – however, such “settled” doctrines have been known to be revised…

    Yes, God uses man’s intellect, aided by grace, to delve more deeply into the truths of the Faith. Aquinas and Augustine are incredible examples of this. However, the big difference between them and a Protestant is that they recognized that some doctrines of the Church were irreformable and also submitted their own study and opinions to the authority of the Church. I don’t want to side-track this discussion by arguing with your assertion that “settled” doctrines have been revised. What is settled in Protestantism? Justification is a huge issue, a critical one, and a central one to the Reformation, yet N.T. Wright is turning over the tables on it, and Protestantism has no principle which can tell him “you can touch that!” No doctrine is irreformable in Protestantism (and if you don’t believe me, just look at same-sex “marriage” and ordained clergy in Anglican and Lutheran circles alone).

    The only other constant that hasn’t changed are the contents of the books of the Bible that were left to the Church by the Apostles.

    This claim is just plain false. It ignores all the historical evidence of the fact that the canon slowly settled out over centuries. Even focusing on the New Testament, the first proposed canonical list we have that exactly matches the twenty-seven books of the New Testament doesn’t occur until Athanasius in 367 AD. That’s a long, long time after the Apostles. And Luther himself had no problem dismissing four NT books from his first German translation (as well as the deuterocanonicals later) claiming that these books were disputed in the early centuries of the Church. I don’t want to side-track this discussion by arguing this issue, so that will be my last word on it.

  275. David,

    Let me start first on a practical note describing what happens when folks adopt ideas that are contrary to the Reformed standards. And I have seen a fair amount of such cases in my association with various Reformed and Evangelical bodies. The typical thing that happens is that the person or family lets the elders know what their qualm is but promises not to make any waves about it. A good example of this is infant baptism. We have folks from Baptist backgrounds who just don’t get the infant baptism thing and don’t want to baptize their children. We certainly allow them to become members again as long as they are OK with not trying to proselytize others to their position. Now on the other hand my congregation did have a case recently of a man who was not just taking strange exceptions of the confessions but also being a hell raiser and upsetting other folks in the congregation. We did not allow this to go on and in no uncertain terms told him that he could not disrupt the congregation with his views. Eventually he got tired of nobody listening to him so he left. So what I am talking about here illustrates what Turretin speaks below of not doing thing “rashly, disorderly, or unseasonably.” There is a way that one can disagree without disturbing the peace of the congregation like schismatics and hell-raisers love to do. You are right that Mathison defends this position because it is the way Reformed churches operate and it is the practical outworking of what Turretin speaks of. I would also add that this is not just a matter of Reformed churches – if you attend let’s say an SBC congregation and decide that your private judgment demands that you now teach that Jesus is not God you will be summarily disciplined, the specific form of the discipline depending on the leadership of the congregation. I would finally add that these kinds of disciplinary procedures differentiate most Evangelical congregations from Catholic ones. Unlike in Catholicism, the Reformed congregations don’t generally have liberal clerics and laity. The liberals either leave or throw out the conservatives (if they are in the majority). Jason or one of the other Reformed guys inputting here can tell me if they think I’m being unfair but this is just the way that Reformed churches operate in my experience.

    So, in short the believer ought to either prefer the church’s “opinion” -OR- his own private judgement. This is simply what the quote from Turretin says Andrew.

    Your summary here misstates this, David, although you seem to get in right in your #3 and #4 points. Turretin says we ought to prefer her public opinion TO their own private judgment. The preposition is not “or,” it is “to.” The usage of the word “prefer” is somewhat archaic (check out the older English usage of “prefer” in the OED) – Turretin is using it here to mean “to advance or promote.” Thus we ought to promote the Church’s judgment over our private judgment and if we feel that we cannot do this then we ought to succeed from the communion rather than being disorderly or contentious. But it seems in your last paragraph that you are concerned about Turretin’s suggestion that such a person could leave the communion. In the Reformed congregations we try our best to bring the individual clergy or layperson back into the fold but in the end it is indeed better for them to leave and the process of discipline that ends in excommunication is a Church enforced dismissal. Turretin is not saying it is a good situation, but he is saying that don’t want those who confess Christ to be unified with those who reject Him.

    But surely this is the better situation to remaining in serious doctrinal dispute or heresy within the Church as happens in Catholic communions. Catholicism does not need any more Hans Kungs, does it? The polls that seek to address the question of what Catholic and Protestants actually believe in terms of basic theological and moral issue indicate that there is not much of a difference. But in Catholicism, all of the odd variations of belief and practice get masked by the fact that liberals and other non-orthodox folks don’t leave the RCC. They just stay in the RCC and practice their own religion within the RCC. My aforementioned story of the Catholic convert who came out of Rome because he saw it as the “Buddhism of the West” since it absorbs such a great many things was just expressing what so many ex-Catholics do about the RCC. The unity is mostly formal.

    And again David, this is just standard operating procedure in Reformed and even most Evangelical congregations. People who dogmatically advance their own private judgment over again the stated positions of the Church end up like Servetus. Not that we should be executing heretics like the city Fathers of Geneva did or the French Inquisition tried to do, but we should be seeking the proper spiritual discipline of members for their good and for the purity of the Church.

  276. Ray,

    Supposing you actually meant to make the admission you are feigning; then what you teach/preach about a hot-button piece of theology like justification could never be KNOWN to represent what the “sole inspired source intends”

    Well, does your priest exercise infallibility when delivering his homily? No? But he does have access to infallible documents, though, right? So do I.

    So when I labor over the text in the original language and present it in context to my congregation, demonstrating how it points to Jesus, I have done my job, and there’s no more that can be expected of me. Now, it might make them (and you) feel better if I claimed infallibility for myself, but that’s just not a realistic claim for a human to make.

    Hence, your words could never be KNOWN to be authoritative. Hence, the idea of someone “correcting” you is just silly. Why keep up that charade? Just get up in the pulpit and whenever you get to some disputed doctrinal matter like justification say: “thus saith the Lord – I think”.

    How is your priest in any different a position when he preaches on some issue about which the CC hasn’t spoken dogmatically? And why do you think the apostles always told their hearers to test all things? If what you seem to be in need of were actually a biblical expectation, it would make those apostolic exhortations unnecessary.

    Of course, when you get to issues like homosexuality or women’s ordination you might be right back in the same exegetical pickle. Last I looked, theological liberalism looked a lot like that sort of scenario. Just my two cents on the “end-game”.

    Puh-leeeez. No one becomes liberal because they can’t discern without an infallible Magisterium whether the Bible condemns homosexuality. Plus, your church is filled with liberals last I checked, so physician, heal thyself.

  277. @Devin Rose #274

    Some quick friendly additions to your reply.

    Don’t forget that in terms of “private interpretation” being rejected by the Church, the bible (Acts 15) states that Paul went to Jeursalem to submit his own preaching to the Apostolic College.

    Don’t forget that the New Testament is filled with later edits and additions which clearly indicates that the actual content of the books was in flux (even if in minor) after the original writers wrote them. That is a giant monkey wrench to the idea that the apostles wrote everything down that was “necessary”. In order for SS to work, the entire bible needs to exist whole and complete at the death of John. That doesn’t work because historically nobody was carrying around a whole and complete NT because there wasn’t agreement on what was and what wasn’t cannon and the precise content of the books was still in flux. Great example of that is the Pericope Adulterae.

  278. Nathan,

    Always wanted to ask this and it sounds like you are game.

    I’m glad to help you cross some stuff off your bucket list.

    The various Reformed Confessions make the following clear
    1.) All works of men even regenerated men, in so far as they are a work of man, are filled with error and cannot help to be but such.
    2.) Prior, councils, creeds, confessions, etc. are fallible and have erred (presumably because they were done by man).
    3.) The WCF, Belgic, Heidelberg, etc. are written by men and are fallible.
    We also know that you stand in the pulpit and preach and that to quote you my words are authoritative only insofar as they correctly represent what the sole inspired source intends. To the degree they don’t, you can ignore or correct me.
    Please give specific examples of the following:
    A.) Specific examples in the WCF, Belgic, Heidelberg, and other Reformed Confessions that are error and lead people away from Christ.

    I’ll speak on behalf of the Westminster Standards and say that I am aware of no pernicious errors in them that lead people away from Christ. I do think there are areas where they go too far, such as on the strictness of adherence to the fourth commandment, and there are other areas where they may not say enough, but no one ever claimed they were perfect. In a word, we say the same things about our Standards as you do about stuff the pope says when we press you about what you really mean my papal infallibility.

    B.) Specific examples in your own preaching that the congregation should ignore you and correct you on that leads people away from Christ.

    Honestly, there are no examples from my own preaching that I think my people should ignore beyond the odd poorly-chosen illustration, and there certainly isn’t anything that leads people away from Christ. Sure, I don’t say everything I need to say, and what I say could always be said better or more eloquently, but that doesn’t make it dangerous or poisonous or anything.

    Remember it is not that the Reformed confessions teach that the are not infallible, it is that they are fallible which means that they do actually contain error, and that man in his works does in fact error.

    Does the formula 2+2=4 contain error? But I, a fallible person, am the one who stated it. According to your logic (which seems to be that fallibility necessitates error 100% of the time), there is no way I could have made the inerrant statement above. In fact, shouldn’t my fallibility mean that I am wrong when I claim to be fallible?

    What I am getting at is that there is a difference between something being infallible and being inerrant. Lots of documents are inerrant, like math books, for example. But that doesn’t mean that the editors have a charism of infallibility. Likewise with the Reformed confessions, the books published by Ignatius Press, or the words spoken by your priest in his homily each week—they do not have, nor do they claim to have, the gift of divine protection from any error. But that doesn’t mean they are false.

  279. I’ve come to the conclusion that the chief problem going on here is that Mathison’s definition of “Rule of Faith” is not the same definition as the various Protestants here have in mind, nor is it “the Reformed definition” (as stated in the Confessions). Thus, in much of this ‘debate’ there are arguments that work against one definition but not necessarily others.

    Turretin Fan actually brought this to my attention, and has been saying for over a year how Mathison’s definition is not Reformed (see this source):

    “I’ve made it clear elsewhere that I don’t agree with everything that Mathison says. I do agree with him that there is an error of solo scriptura that involves a neglect of the subordinate authority of the church. I don’t agree with his analysis at pp. 246-47, and particularly with his claim “It renders the universal and objective truth of Scripture virtually useless because instead of the Church proclaiming with one voice to the world what the Scripture teaches, every individual interprets Scripture as seems right in his own eyes.” (p. 246) I believe that here, as at a few other places in his book, Mathison departs from the Reformed view. Nevertheless, I don’t think that necessarily makes a difference to this particular discussion with Bryan.”

    “It is challenging to get a precise definition of the “rule of faith” from Mathison. He describes it as follows:
    * “that rule of faith is the apostolic faith” (p. 137)
    * “Christian orthodoxy – as defined for example in the Nicene Creed” (p. 150)
    * “the apostolic gospel” (p. 275)
    * “outlined in the ecumenical creeds” (p. 278)
    * “expressed in the ecumenical creeds” (p. 280)
    * “expressed in written form in the ecumenical creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon” (p. 321)
    * “the essential truths of Christianity” (pp. 321-22)
    * “has found written expression in the ecumenical creeds of the Church. The Nicene Creed and the definition of Chalcedon are the creedal confessions of all orthodox Christians and serve as the doctrinal boundaries of orthodox Christianity.” (p. 337)
    These statements suggest that Mathison’s view of the rule of faith is different from that of the Reformers, who taught that the rule of faith is Scripture.

    “Getting back to the challenge at hand, Mathison’s Sola Scriptura is distinguishable from solo scriptura in that the individual must essentially make his interpretations consistent with the ecumenical creeds (apparently Mathison only views the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian definition to be ecumenical)”

    “sola scriptura (in the Reformed sense as distinct from Mathison’s sense)”

    And TFan says a similar thing in the original C2C thread on the solO/solA subject:

    Incidentally, identifying the regula fidei [rule of faith] as something other than the inspired Scriptures is plainly contrary to WCF1:2, which states of the canonical books: “All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.”

    As I see it, TFan is correct (and what TFan espouses as Sola Scriptura is truer to the Reformed tradition). The real problem is Mathison’s thesis is wrapped up in his non-Reformed definition of Sola Scriptura, which most of us (both Catholic and Protestant) around here don’t think of Sola Scriptura as. But the problem here is that Mathison thinks if he defines Sola Scriptura any other way, then he himself will fall prey to solO scriptura.

    So really, Mathison’s distinction between solO and solA is false because he’s (deliberately) not starting off with the Reformed definition of Sola Scriptura in the first place. BUT that – as many Protestants have noted – doesn’t necessarily indicate there is no such distinction when the true Reformed definition of Sola Scriptura is taken into account. The difficulty with that latter part though is that I don’t think any Reformed Protestant has posited a “formal” solO/solA distinction (as Mathison did) using the true Reformed definition of Sola Scriptura, so we cannot evaluate it’s merits.

  280. Randy,

    So you are saying you don’t worry about preaching falsehood even in matters directly related to salvation.

    Why would I say that? As I said in my comment above, fallibility does not necessitate error 100% of the time. Otherwise, the statement that I am fallible would be wrong. When your priest preaches, he is not acting under the conditions that guarantee divine protection from error. It’s no different with a Reformed pastor.

    Marcus Grodi tells a story of being at the bedside of a dying man and talking to the wife about the state of her husband’s soul. It occurred to him that which tradition he chose effected his answer greatly. It bothered him so much he resigned as a pastor. This is before he considered the Catholic church. So you are saying that would not bother you?

    If I had nothing meaningful to say at the bedside of a dying man, that would bother me very much. Thankfully, the Bible gives me a lot to say to a dying man. Therefore I don’t need to be bothered.

    (Just an aside, but if you guys are going to charge us with Hermeneutical Pelagianism, I’m going to have to charge you with Interpretive Total Depravity. You’ll be hearing from my attorney shortly.)

    If you feel called to the pulpit that is great. But the bible does not speak kindly about false teachers. You want to exercise due diligence in avoiding false teaching.

    But if the Bible warned against false teachers even back before there were any Protestants around, but only Roman Catholic priests in communion with Pope Saint Peter, then that must mean that being Catholic doesn’t guarantee infallibility in the pulpit. So maybe we all should heed Jesus’ warning instead of one of us issuing it to the other from some error-free zone.

    I would ask about another scenario. What if a person came to you and asked if you were sure about a moral matter. Maybe a pregnant teen asked if you were positive abortion was wrong in god’s eyes. Or maybe a same-sex attracted person asking if you were positive God did not approve of same-sex marriage. Would you give them the “according to me and my millions of friends” line? Could you say with any certainty that you and your millions of friends were not biased by some common prejudice or presupposition? Could you give them enough certainty to go down a very hard path in life based on the knowledge that they were following God’s will?

    Yes, I could tell them that abortion is wrong in God’s eyes, and yes, I could tell them that same-sex marriage is not God’s will. Man, that was easy.

    Now, I am sure you realize that you have pedophile priests running around in your church, right? Just checking. My reason for asking is that you seem to assume that without an infallible Magisterium I can’t get anything right, and with one, I couldn’t get anything wrong. So I thought I’d point out those pedophile priests. The ones in communion with the Episcopal successor of St. Peter.

  281. JJS

    2+2=4 is a verifiable fact. Revealed religion is not. We are not arguing for natural law, general revelation, etc., but about special revelation.

    Help me out of this situation:

    Is the Bible infallible? And if so, does it take faith to believe that? If so, can the Church be granted this charism? If not, why?

    By the way, and no offense, your attitude is coming off uncharitable, nonchalant, and flippant and is not helping the “spirit” of your argument (“puh-leez”-what’s next “oh no you didn’t”). Assuming that many are trying to discern the truth in this forum, and assuming you have some hope in providing a resource to them and not just a cathartic medium for debate, you may want to adjust your strategy.

    And by the way, it is because those in the Catholic Church do not submit their intellect to the Mind of Mother Church that they propose all kinds of heresy so rampant outside of the Church. God will judge them. Jesus told the pharisees that they were a “house dived”, yet look at Christ’s apostles. Would you suggest, “Physician, heal yourself” to Him? Christ asked Saul, “Why do you persecute me?”, yet the only stone he ever picked up to throw was at the Church.

  282. Another quick post I found was Post#283 on the original solO/solA article where Turretin Fan (rightly) gives a negative critique of Mathison’s book/thesis, especially in that Mathison has “absolutely zero support” (to use KM’s own phrase) from Reformed authors and authorities and thus doesn’t quote them.

  283. JJS #280

    The infallible teaching authority of Mother Church doesn’t guarantee the submission of her servants. Christ using that office on earth didn’t accomplish that, nor does this ministry through the delegated servant in the Body, St. Peter, accomplish that. So, you are right, and maybe we are misunderstanding each other because I don’t think anyone is claiming that a Catholic priest is safe-guarded from false-teaching. The difference, though, is that if a priest will only teach what Mother Church teaches, he will be safeguarded from error. If he goes off on his own, than he doesn’t have that protection. The history of Protestantism has been the “let’s try it all by ourself and see if that works project.” 38,000 baptisms, communions, confessions, later and still counting…

    The betrayer of Christ was hand-selected by Christ himself. Does that make him fallible or make his followers fallible? So if Mother Church has a charism of teaching infallibly (passed on by Christ to Peter and the Apostles through the Holy Spirit) it doesn’t follow that her followers would be per se infallible as well, but no Catholic is arguing that. We didn’t become Catholic because we loved St. Elizabeth Anne Seton Parish, Eula Falls, TX and Father Jorge; we joined the Catholic Church because of the grace of the Holy Spirit in our hearts revealing to us her status as The Church Christ established.

  284. @ Andrew McCallum #269

    You sort of prove my point, for in replying to me you delve headlong into complaining about their being “unity” of Catholic from the extremely liberal and/or pagan to the ultra-conservative. which is only a complaint that Catholics are not more intellecually united along one front or another. That a lot of people (both Catholic and Protestant) don’t know what on earth they are doing or would be able to distinguish Jesus from the Easter Bunny is besides the point.

    The difference is that to become a Protestant, according to protestant theology, is not to ontologically be something, but it is rather to accept a set of presuppositions which are either intellectual (which is the case for more classical Protestants such as Reformed) or more emotional (which is the case for modern evangelical / non-denominational types). Either case is a cognitive exercise whereby the individual personally shifts their world view to conform their intellect and emotions to what is expected to be the norm for the particular congregation and faith tradition that they are joining. You are coming from a Protestant perspective and, as such, find that the Church’s apparant lack of conformity intellectually/emotionally to be troublesome, but that is really because you are transferring your Protestant expectations to view being Catholic as an intellectual assent to Catholic presuppositions. In terms of “spiritual rebirth” that is a much loaded phrase that really means what ever the writer wants it to mean. Your converts to ultra conservative and ultra liberal Catholic (as well as Protestant) with both use phraseology to indicate that their being liberal/conservative was a “spiritual rebirth”. It doesn’t mean much and that is also why the charism of the discernment of spirits is so vastly important.

    Now becoming a Catholic is about an ontological change (though surely cognitive (intellectual and emotional) as well). For myself, being Catholic is just as much part of my ontology as my being a male. A Protestant would never see that and wouldn’t understand their being Protestant as being other than elected/chosen/imputed/etc. which are all externals to their ontology. That is why everyone is Catholic, even the complete nut — we are Catholic not because of our cognitive affirmations but because of the ontological infusion of God’s life into us.

    When a Catholic looks across the pond at Protestant land, we see a bunch of fragmented and conflicting theologies that are all compartmentalized off into homogenous groups (for example Reformed places all its liberal/conservative/middle of the roads into different groups based upon each individuals personal IP of scripture….thus OPC, PCA, PCUSA, etc.). It is nice that you have your ducks all in a row, but your neighbors ducks are all in a row going in a different direction, so it is not really different than the big tent of Catholicism. But what concerns Catholics at the fundamental level, is not all the bad theology, but one is not participating in the liturgy and the sacraments, because the point of being Christian is not limited to affirming this or that, but it is the point of being because the point of being is synergy and the culmination of theosis.

    Theosis, deification, are not exactly found in Protestantism, and if you fully take away those from Protestant sotierology, which is the case for most Protestant sotierology, you are really only left with an external (imputed) process that manifests itself in cognitive shifts for those that become this or that group of Protestant.

    That is the difference. For Protestants, it is all about the IP and they assume that it is all about the IP for Catholics too. But for Catholics, it is really about being and becoming and transformation and ontology. Our IP is just how we explain what has happened to us, and there in fact several different Catholic IPs which all try to vocalize that which has and is happening to our being. Catholics cannot accept SS because it is an IP that doesn’t reflect the ontological nature of what the liturgical worship is.

  285. Mike,

    … being a minister of the Lord… [is] supposed to be all about proclaiming the saving truth of Christ, by his authority. But given the position you’re professing to take up, you can’t do that.

    Sure I can. Watch this: “Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for sins and rose again on the third day. Trust in him and walk in his ways, and you will not come under judgment, but will receive eternal life.” See? I did it!

    In fact, there are all kinds of things I can say without being under the specific conditions that guarantee divine protection from error. I can talk about God’s love for us, Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation, Paul’s conversion, the second coming, the list is endless. I mean, if Joseph Ratzinger could write so many books as a private theologian, and if those books are spiritually valuable, then I don’t see why you won’t let me preach a couple sermons a week.

    You’ve put yourself in the position of saying, as a minister: “This is the Gospel of the Lord. But that’s only my opinion. I might be wrong.”

    First, no I haven’t. I can state the gospel exactly how Paul did and do so with authority. This idea that no one without an infallible Magisterium can proclaim the truths of the historia salutis is just silly.

    And secondly, I don’t like the whole tactic of imputing to a person what we consider to be the logical outcome of his beliefs. If I were to do that to you and charge you, for example, with believing that man can save himself by his works, or that idolatry is OK, you would object, and rightly so.

  286. JJS

    “I mean, if Joseph Ratzinger could write so many books as a private theologian, and if those books are spiritually valuable, then I don’t see why you won’t let me preach a couple sermons a week.”

    The point is agreed upon. Preach, preacher! (sorry, I used to be Pentecostal so I have to hold that in, unless of course a Dominican comes to town) As a lay minister, I can catechize young people in the Church. I cannot, however, confect the sacraments. I have no such authority. I also cannot define doctrine infallibly.

    Peace to you.

  287. Dear Jason (#285),

    In fact, there are all kinds of things I can say without being under the specific conditions that guarantee divine protection from error. I can talk about God’s love for us, Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation, Paul’s conversion, the second coming, the list is endless.

    Does your endless list include, say, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the extent of the canon, the effects of baptism, whether or not we may eat blood, the meaning of the exception clauses for divorce, or whether or not we may invoke the saints and angels? (I have an endless list, too.)

  288. Brent,

    I don’t think anyone is claiming that a Catholic priest is safe-guarded from false-teaching.

    I know they’re not. What they’re claiming is that anyone without the charism of infallibility must necessarily preach error. I brought up the Catholic priest to demonstrate that this logic must lead to the conclusion that any time a priest delivers a homily, or the pope writes a book as a private theologian, they must be promulgating error. Which no one really believes.

    The difference, though, is that if a priest will only teach what Mother Church teaches, he will be safeguarded from error. If he goes off on his own, than he doesn’t have that protection.

    Wouldn’t you also agree that if the priest taught only what the Bible said, he would be protected from error? Now of course, he may claim to preach what the Bible says but fail in doing so, but the same can be said of echoing the Magisterium. That’s why your church has so many liberal priests in it, and why Protestantism has so many liberal pastors in it.

    The history of Protestantism has been the “let’s try it all by ourself and see if that works project.” 38,000 baptisms, communions, confessions, later and still counting…

    These kinds of claims need to be exposed for the fallacies they are. I could almost as easily appeal to all the languages into which the CCC has been translated to demonstrate how divided your church is. Yes, there are a lot of different confessions and churches within Protestantism, but often these differences are merely due to geography, history, or language, and not to anything substantial. You guys parrot this line so often, but it doesn’t seem that you’ve done any serious reflection or analysis about it whatsoever.

  289. All,

    I need to take a break and get back to my day job. I’ll hopefully respond to more comments later.

  290. Andrew (#275),

    Your summary here misstates this, David, although you seem to get in right in your #3 and #4 points. Turretin says we ought to prefer her public opinion TO their own private judgment. The preposition is not “or,” it is “to.” The usage of the word “prefer” is somewhat archaic…

    (by bolding)

    No Andrew, I am afraid it is you who are quite mistaken. First off, I know what prefer means, it aint that archaic. Second you seem to want to boil the quote down to the bolded words in the following sentence. I will bracket what you omit, some is fine to omit some is crucial to keep:

    they ought to [undertake nothing rashly or disorderly or unseasonably, so as to violently rend the body of their mother (which the schismatics do), but to refer the difficulties they feel to their church and either to] prefer her public opinion to their own private judgment, [or to succeed from her communion]

    Pulling out your bolded statement it seems you think Turretin is saying:
    “they ought to prefer her public opinion to their own private judgment”

    And you did say:

    “Turretin says we ought to prefer her public opinion TO their own private judgment. The preposition is not “or,” it is “to.”

    He says “ought either to” not “ought to” as you have stated. The key words in the statement are “ought” “either” and “or”. As in: “they ought either to (take option 1) OR (take option 2). You completely gloss over the word either.

    What Turretin actually says in the stripped down version is:
    they ought either to prefer her public opinion or to succeed from her communion.

    The bulk of your last comment was posturing as far as the church authority thing. It is as if you are saying Turretin’s point is that to make the conversation at the church potluck more comfortable, we should not get uppity about doctrine but quietly shuffle off and go somewhere else when we disagree. What about heresy? What about hell?

    As far as the authority you point to, you are talking about a miniscule portion of Christendom that has chosen to associate with each other in yet even more miniscule groups based on a shared interpretation of tradition. That they might keep tight reigns on percieved heresy ( ala Servetus) is just not that impressive. What unity the Reformed have is a drop in the evangelical ocean of churches. Catholicism has some lazy Bishops that let heretics stay perhaps but there is at least one doctrine for the faithful to follow. You have the reverse of this, which is a hundred competing churches but an inquisition for each one of them. You also conveiniently don’t mention the lesbian ministers and liberal theology in what just a few decades ago were considered “Reformed” churches. Following Turretins advice and forming yones own church just hides from ones view the embarasing PCUSA/ELCA/Episcopal etc… cousins. I am not embarased by Kung, he has been slapped down and gagged as a teacher. This is all off topic anyway because Turretin’s point is clearly that all the authority you point to is able to be flouted by, as he says, prefering ones own private judgment over the church’s opinion.

    By all means, any of the Catholics here can correct me if I am wrong about this quote and I will shut up about it. Until then I won’t sit and watch you use it improperly.

    -David Meyer

  291. JJS,

    Since the Church is 1.2 billion,

    “Wouldn’t you also agree that if the priest taught only what the Bible said, he would be protected from error? Now of course, he may claim to preach what the Bible says but fail in doing so, but the same can be said of echoing the Magisterium. That’s why your church has so many liberal priests in it, and why Protestantism has so many liberal pastors in it.”

    Who are you talking about? Our Church, because of its sheer size may have more heretics than you have members. It’s Noah’s Arc, full of doves and dung and everything in between. But, its what God built.

    Also, only preaching what the Bible said is impossible since the Bible is silent as a book. People say things. People teach. Thus, the necessity for the teaching office in the Old Testament and the apostolic college in union with the Petrine office in the New. We believe scripture and tradition gives evidence for this. The Church teaches it as the ground and pillar of truth (scripture evidences this). Give me an example of how echoing defined dogma by the Church leads to error? Won’t we only get back to your authority (Bible + me) versus mine (The Bible+Sacred Tradition+The Church)?

    “You guys parrot this line so often, but it doesn’t seem that you’ve done any serious reflection or analysis about it whatsoever.”

    Who the heck are you talking about? “You guys” gave up our ministries, families, friendships after years even decades of prayer and reflection. The fact that many denominations are started off of “non-essentials” only proves the schismatic nature of the Protestant religion, not the unity in Protestantism. All of this diversity in Catholicism functions as different orders, ministries, and so on. We don’t start a new work down the street to have a all night prayer vigil Church. No, we have an order for that, and while you and I sleep at night, cloistered nuns and monks prayer for our souls and our children’s souls. Further, if one looks at the major branches of Protestantism (Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Pentecostal-and they didn’t emerge over translations of a source text from Latin into various languages, on various continents, or over vast spans of time) one finds dramatic differences. You can gloss them (and if that helps you sleep at night, fine), but if you read them carefully you will see they each teach dramatically different things about Baptism, The Eucharist, The Church, etc.

  292. @ JJS #278
    Thanks.

    Why it is necessary and why it is necessary that you be able to point out what is specifically that which leads away from Christ.

    Fallibility pertains to the likelihood that something leads astray / errs, specifically that it is likely. Thus if I point to a person and say that the person is a fallible person, I am making a statement that the individual is likely to lead you astray or err.

    WCF XXXI.II states that councils may err, and many have erred, with out stating which ones and in what parts. This is simply an application of the understanding that the councils are fallible, thus likely to, and thus in actuality have. Because an action is likely to be a certain way, that means in a set of the same actions, many of them will be done according to the likely way. Further if there exists a set of action where the outcome is likely, when we observe the actual outcomes of the actions we will find many of those actions and the actual existence of those actions.

    For example: This 10D dice is likely to roll a number between 1 and 7. If I roll the dice once, it is likely but not necessary that I get a number between 1 and 7. If I roll the dice many times it increasingly becomes necessary that the likelihood will transpire. Thus as we increase the amount of actions the likely outcome becomes a statistical necessity. Therefore in a set of dice rolls, many of them will be between 1 and 7 and when we actually observe the set of dice rolls there will exist rolls that are between 1 and 7.

    WCF XVI.V specifically states that the works of an regenerate man are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection that they can not endure the severity of God’s judgment. An imperfection is an error which may include leading astray.

    The above, when coupled with fallibility makes it a necessity that a human action will contain error and lead astray.

    As both your preaching and the Reformed confessions are works of man and council documents are considered to be fallible, the must contain error and things which lead astray.

    Thus it becomes necessary to point out that which is wrong in the confessions and in ones own preaching in order to actually conform to the theology that is laid out in the Reformed position.

    To answer your questions:

    There is a large difference and Catholics do not “say the same things about our Standards as you do about stuff the pope says when we press you about what you really mean my papal infallibility” For starters, we would not say that the Pope is fallible unless speaking infallibility. We would not say that our priest when preaching preaches fallibly. Now the priest and Pope might say something wrong but that might is not a likely and thus we would not say that they are speaking fallibly. For Reformed, it is believed that any action of a man always contains imperfection, which Catholics would deny as being true, and that councils are fallible which means that they are likely to lead astray and that a set of them does in fact contain error and further that as a product of man will always contain imperfection, and thus error, even when the set is just one.

    In fact, shouldn’t my fallibility mean that I am wrong when I claim to be fallible?

    No it just means that you have a mistaken anthropology and a mistaken idea about what is and what is not fallible. For example stating 2 + 2 = 4 is a philosophically infallible act for that statement is true on the face of it. Because you have, as a man just done an act that was not imperfect nor filled with error, the anthropology that WCF XVI puts forward is false.

    Now that I have just proven that philosophical infallibility exists, it is not a stretch to believe that theological infallibility exists so long as you think that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Church and that Christ is the Head of the Church. If those are true, then it is possible for activity of the Church to stem from the activity of the Spirit and, backed by the Spirits authority, be infallible.

  293. JJS,

    So when I labor over the text in the original language and present it in context to my congregation, demonstrating how it points to Jesus, I have done my job, and there’s no more that can be expected of me.

    I carefully restricted my example to “a hot-button topic like justification” for a reason. Talk about a vauge textual presentation that “points to Jesus” entirely obscures the subject of the last few exchanges. This interchange started with a discussion about how you would rather cling to an individualism which at least possesses “the gospel”, rather than playing on a team that is bereft of the same. Such a reason for not “playing with the team” seems predicated upon the notion that your knowledge of “the gospel” is so far from a mere opinion as to justify your rugged theological individualism rathr than play on a team with no gospel (or perhaps a “false” gospel).

    I am assuming that imputed justification is a central element of whatever you mean by “the gospel”. Hence, if you labor over the book of Romans and teach (along with your confession) that imputed justification represents the teaching of the inerrant scriptures; does it not seem reasonable for a person to inquire whether the promulgation of this (apparently crucial doctrine which keeps one from going over to Rome) is being offered as a plausible/probable interpretation of Romans or else a definitive one? I note that the priest who teaches infused jusification in his homily can answer that question with confidence in a definitive direction, precisely because he appeals to the irreformable nature of that interpretaion flowing from the definitions at Trent (even though you of course think that Trent was not protected from error).

    Again, if its just your best-guess opinion, just say so up front before you drone on about imputed justification so as to remove any ambiguity about the binding nature of your teaching. It has nothing to do with your personal infallibility (or that of the priest counter-example) as you seem to suggest; but with the binding nature of the scriptural interpretation being taught. If you’re willing to admit flat-out solo, just put it out there to the congregation (header in the bulletin or something maybe – truth in advertising).

    How is your priest in any different a position when he preaches on some issue about which the CC hasn’t spoken dogmatically?

    As I say, the fact that the RCC HAS spoken dogmatically on some important things (like the nature of justification at Trent) points to the lack of parity with a (would be) unabashed doctrinal soloist who decides to exegete the book of Romans for his congregation. The later’s doctrine can only (honestly) be presented like a choice between black coffe or coffee with cream. The former can be presented as something a bit more constraining, or so it seems to me (of course how people actually DO treat either doctrine is another matter).

    And why do you think the apostles always told their hearers to test all things?

    Test all things against what – the OT alone, the oral teaching of the apostles? Clearly not the NT itself, since this had neither been collected or ratified when these exhortations were given. Besides, do you suppose the apostles were really saying something like: “go read the OT, if you take a good long exegetical look and decide that you just don’t see where our proclomation of Jesus as the Christ matches up with the text, no problem, you have our blessing to rejcet apostolic teaching?”. If the “test all things” injunction cannot mean that, then it must have meant something else which DID NOT entail a legitimate reason for making a solo decision to reject apostolic teaching -which brings one back to the million dollar question: “who (if anybody) has the apostolic teaching and how would one know?”

    Puh-leeeez. No one becomes liberal because they can’t discern without an infallible Magisterium whether the Bible condemns homosexuality

    Of course not, they reject the idea that the Bible necessarily condems homosexuality because they have already come to the conclusion that nobody can claim that his or her interpretation of the Bible is binding on such matters – which unless I am much mistaken is what a full-on solo admission amounts to.

    Plus, your church is filled with liberals last I checked, so physician, heal thyself.

    Ouch – nice evocative, if not entirely charitable, jab! Well come to think of it, yes. It always has been full of liberals . . . and conservatives and whores and theives and murderers and gossips and drunkards and liars and egotists and preeners and complainers and . . . . well humans of every sort. In fact, the whole nasty lot of us are quite rightly represented as wards in a hospital. While none of us can heal ourselves, we do fortunately have a Physician in our midst.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  294. Ray (#293),

    And, just to add to your last sentence, our “one Physician” (heis iatros; St Ignatius of Antioch, Ephesians 7.2) administers to us the “medicine of immortality” (pharmakon athanasias; ibid. 20.2) through the hands of His bishops and priests. Which is why it is so crucial “for you to be in blameless unity, in order that you may always commune with God” (ibid. 4.2).

  295. JJS,

    I can appreciate what you are saying. You are right that you don’t automatically become a liberal Christian throwing out traditional moral norms just because you cannot have certainty in your canon. You seem to be saying that, as an individualist Protestant, you’ve found a place in your Christian beliefs and teaching that is “good enough at the practical level.”

    I’ve heard this often enough from my Protestant friends. This is why, I tell them you have to look to the teachings of a Church or community and the basis for them, rather than looking to what any one member of that Church or community does or thinks.

    But if you want to focus on practical, anecdotal evidence, I would point out to you that even the rugged individualist John Wayne was baptized on his death-bed…by a Catholic chaplain. :)

  296. JJS (#285):

    I shall begin at where you end, because that affords a nice segue into the rest.

    You wrote:

    …I don’t like the whole tactic of imputing to a person what we consider to be the logical outcome of his beliefs. If I were to do that to you and charge you, for example, with believing that man can save himself by his works, or that idolatry is OK, you would object, and rightly so.

    By no means do I make the “imputation” you suggest. My reasoning was as follows:

    (1) If sola, then solo
    (2) JJS affirms sola, so he’s logically committed to affirming solo
    (3) But JJS doesn’t really want to affirm solo, because he agrees that it reduces the presentation of the Gospel to opinion
    (4) Ergo, the only reasonable thing for him to do is give up sola.

    I’m not sure what you believe is wrong with that reasoning. Maybe you believe that sola doesn’t really commit one to solo. If so, then you need to show why (1) is false so that you can show why (2) is false. Or maybe you do accept (1) but reject (3). That’s how it looks to me. So I shall proceed on the assumption that you reject (3).

    Thus you write:

    I can state the gospel exactly how Paul did and do so with authority. This idea that no one without an infallible Magisterium can proclaim the truths of the historia salutis is just silly.

    Well yes, but so what? If you restrict yourself to quoting and pounding the Bible, nobody can accuse you of introducing what is merely your own opinion. But nobody here objects to quoting and pounding the Bible, and that’s not what generates the problem I’ve been describing. What generates the problem I’m describing is that, if you adhere to solo, you cannot present your interpretation of Paul, or of anything else in the Bible, as anything more than human opinion. Why does that matter?

    The Reformed say that Paul teaches only imputed righteousness. But the Catholic Church says that he teaches infused righteousness too, and that she, the Catholic Church, is divinely protected from error in teaching that. Your church makes no claim of that latter sort, and regard the Catholic Church’s claim to that effect as arrogance. What I’m saying is that, unless some ecclesial body can make that claim truly, we have no principled way to distinguish the doctrinal content of divine revelation itself from human opinions about how to interpret its sources of transmission. Imputed vs. infused is just a matter of opinion. Or is it? As best I can tell, you think we can make the needed distinction by quoting and pounding the Bible as the inerrant written form. And if that were all that’s needed, there would be no problem. Yet there is. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for every other important matter of theological dispute, such as the ones you cite. The issue is not what the Bible says, or even whether what the Bible says is true, but what it means, i.e. in what sense is it true? If we cannot, at least in some instances, answer that latter infallibly, then it’s just your opinion against mine. For the reason I’ve been giving, that’s not enough.

    You write as though I object to your giving your opinions in itself. Thus:

    I mean, if Joseph Ratzinger could write so many books as a private theologian, and if those books are spiritually valuable, then I don’t see why you won’t let me preach a couple sermons a week.

    I have no objection at all to your preaching a couple sermons a week. More generally, I have no objection to the giving of theological opinions, such as Ratzinger’s or yours, and of course my own. What I object to is an IP that doesn’t permit us any third option between quoting the Bible and giving opinions. For reasons I expounded in my post, what’s needed is an interpretive authority that forms, along with Scripture and Tradition, the proximate object of the assent of faith. That’s what motivates sola as distinct from solo. What I’m saying is that you haven’t got that. And I’ve explained why that’s a serious problem.

    Best,
    Mike

  297. “Sure I can. Watch this: “Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for sins and rose again on the third day. Trust in him and walk in his ways, and you will not come under judgment, but will receive eternal life.” See? I did it!”

    JJS

    The little sermon that you preached in 285 is the truth as you preached it from the scriptures. However you got that truth from the Catholic Church not Scripture. It was the Catholic Church who taught it first and then her members took and wrote it down. So if you take those writings
    ( Scripture) and interpret them to your own private interpretation it’s the same as using the criminal code and throwing out the Supreme Court who interprets the criminal code. You might get it right sometimes but you certainly won’t all the time. And when you do get it right it’s more than likely the for the same reason as the Supreme Court.

  298. Keith,

    On page 22 of your Reply (the PDF), you wrote:

    Cross is betting eternity that the bishop of Rome could never be one of these false teachers when there is absolutely zero evidence that the leadership of the local church of Rome is uniquely protected and abundant biblical and historical evidence that it is not.

    Then in comment #229 above you wrote:

    The only question that concerns me is whether Rome’s claims are true or not. An examination of the historical evidence reveals that these claims have zero historical plausibility.

    I’m wondering why you think that there is “absolutely zero evidence” for the unique authority and protection of the Apostolic See, in light of evidence such as the sort I presented yesterday in “The Chair of St. Peter.” I could at least understand if you said you didn’t find such evidence persuasive or compelling. But, to say that there is “absolutely zero evidence” is quite perplexing to me, almost as if you were unaware that there is any such evidence. But that can’t be the case. Yet that still doesn’t explain why you would speak as though it didn’t exist, rather than as though it wasn’t compelling or persuasive or plausible or something. I’m trying to understand why you said that, because I can’t make sense of your using this strong language of “absolutely zero evidence.” How does the fact of evidence of the sort I presented in “The Chair of St. Peter” (which is just a small sample of the evidence for the unique authority of St. Peter and the Church at Rome — see Chapman or Giles or Fortescue here) fit with your claim that there is “absolutely zero evidence” for such uniqueness and protection? Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  299. I saw the name N.T. Wright come up earlier, and someone asked, “if his position is so close to the Roman Catholic position, why doesn’t he just convert?”

    This may give you a clue as to why:

    Trent, and much subsequent RC theology, has had a habit of never spring-cleaning, so you just live in a house with more and more clutter building up, lots of right answers to wrong questions (e.g. transsubstantiation) which then get in the way when you want to get something actually done.

    In particular, Trent gave the wrong answer, at a deep level, to the nature/grace question, which is what’s at the root of the Marian dogmas and devotions which, despite contrary claims, are in my view neither sacramental, transformational, communal nor eschatological. Nor biblical.

  300. @ John Bugay #299

    Yes you are correct and it is one of the essential differences between our two IPs. In Catholicism you can’t just erase from the whiteboard those doctrines YOU PERSONALLY have decided are not helpful to whatever personal theology you are choosing to invent.

  301. John, (re: #299)

    Look at what this is actually saying:

    “Trent, and much subsequent RC theology, has had a habit of never spring-cleaning [has never gotten rid of doctrines that I don't agree with], so you just live in a house with more and more clutter building up [with more and more doctrines that don't agree with my interpretation of Scripture, and need to be thrown out; if only I were pope], lots of right answers to wrong questions (e.g. transsubstantiation) [I'm the one who gets to decide which questions the Church should ask and answer, and how the Church ought to answer them] which then get in the way when you want to get something actually done [which limit my ability to theologize as I please].

    In particular, Trent gave the wrong answer, at a deep level, to the nature/grace question [I'll be the judge of which answers are right or wrong], which is what’s at the root of the Marian dogmas and devotions which, despite contrary claims, are in my view neither sacramental, transformational, communal nor eschatological [if I don't think a doctrine is sufficiently sacramental, transformational, communal, or eschatological, then out it goes]. Nor biblical [did I mention that it doesn't fit my interpretation of Scripture? It just sounds better when I say "not biblical."]

    This is what we might call me-monster theologizing. :-)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  302. John.

    #299

    # 301 is precisely a good illustration. He could draw up a similar listing of why he is not a Calvinist.

    “Calvin needs spring cleaning. He really messed up the sacraments…etc”

  303. Devin @ 274

    the big difference between [Augustine & Aquinas] and a Protestant is that they recognized that some doctrines of the Church were irreformable and also submitted their own study and opinions to the authority of the Church.

    Adherents of sola scriptura also recognize that some doctrines are irreformable, namely those Trinitarian doctrines which have been “believed everywhere, always, by all.” That is the principal distinction between solA and solO. The disagreement between the three major Christian traditions is not that some doctrines are irreformable, but rather which ones and how one knows that they are irreformable. For example, Augustine explicitly denied that the teaching of any church father or Council (including the Ecumenical Councils) were irreformable (Cf. On Baptism 2.3.4). Hence, Protestants are consistent with Augustine in claiming that the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils are open to further review.

    It also was self-serving (and historically inconsistent, as KM asserts, and as my example re: Unam Sanctam demonstrates) for the pope in the nineteenth century to declare that his office carries a charism (previously unrecognized) to unilaterally define irreformable doctrines. Therefore, all the major Christian traditions all recognize some irreformable doctrines, but not the same ones. Your suggestion that everyone accept yours is problematic at a number of levels as these dialogues and many others show.

    The only other constant that hasn’t changed are the contents of the books of the Bible that were left to the Church by the Apostles.
    This claim is just plain false.

    I specifically said the “contents of the books,” not the recognized list of the Books (the canon). In other words, the divine revelation captured in those books has not changed over the millennia. The truths it declares have not changed, unlike the interpretations of the church fathers, the councils, and the bishops of Rome.
    Re: Nathan’s assertion that the New Testament is filled with later edits and additions – Really? What evidence, other than a few well-known examples, which are marked in most Bibles with brackets and footnotes, just as Jerome marked the additions to Daniel in the Vulgate with asterisks and obeli. What are your sources that claim the NT is “filled with later edits and additions?”

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  304. Nathan B @ 265

    I find it utterly perplexing that you think that an inanimate object can act.

    Actually, I have also argued for your position. It really is a nit, since we agree that “all Scripture is God-breathed” and therefore is an unquestionably reliable source of revelation for Christian faith and life.

    As Augustine wrote in On Baptism 2.3.4:
    “But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the truth, either by the discourse of someone who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them.”

    Protestants agree with Augustine on the principle difference between Scripture and all later interpretations of specific Christians and Councils. With respect to the Vincentian Canon, only Trinitarian Doctrine seems to be irreformable.

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  305. JJS & all the faithful,

    This is just some thinking aloud (though I thought about it a little silently too), and I am not trying to correct anyone or be a sly frienemy to JJS or anything–but:

    So I’ve been wondering a couple of things, like given Lumen Gentium II.15, faith and baptism (did you read one of those quotes from the Fathers, cited in Bryan’s latest post, described what baptism does–wow!) and spiritual gifts are operative in Protestant communities , and these communities have a real participation in the mystery of salvation, not merely in spite of, but also because of what they teach and do. Given that part of what they teach and do builds up the life of the Church, in the properly qualified sense, of course, I would hate to see in the pursuit of one point, that is, I would not want the impression to be given that, apart from the relative-to-IP logic being discussed here, we think that in reality a Presbyterian pastor is necessarily simply trading in opinions, and not building up his flock in faith, through the ministry of word and sacrament. Do we think that?

    I mean, in addition to the really Catholic thing to believe about Protestants, as instructed by the fathers of Vatican II, some of us can remember what it was like to bear witness to and rejoice in the faithfulness of Christ Jesus, in the midst of our fellow Protestant believers (not merely opinion-holders). Of course we might say that given the Protestant IP we should not admit Vatican II, and would have no principled way to affirm that such and such was of the faith–okay, maybe. But given Vatican II, that is, given the teaching of the Catholic Church, and the nature of the Catholic Church, then what we should affirm about reality is that, e.g., JJS does build up his flock in faith. Of course, that is a frienemy thing to say, because I am assuming some things about that faith in which they are growing–its source and tendency. And no Protestant wants to hear that he is, so far as he is a good Protestant, a Catholic waiting to happen. But there you go. I appreciate the points being made, the relative-to-your-own-IP-nature of many of the statements about Protestants and opinion, but just wanted to say that in reality, Protestants do have faith, and grow in faith, and they know it, and we know it.

    Another thing occurred to me as I was day-laboring: Someone could come along and say “my Church claims to be infallible and we have defined way more dogmas than you Catholics, so we have lots of faith where you guys only have opinions, so you should join up.” The point is that we all know there are lots of things that have to be considered along with the logic of faith and opinion relative to IPs, and one of those things is that Protestants have faith, and, by means of the Spirit among them, not excluding their ministers, and not excluding the minister’s sermons, they grow in faith, and that somehow this is something that compels towards Catholic unity. Again, not that you didn’t all know all that, but it just seemed worth saying. Could be wrong though. Pip pip, onward, upward.

    Andrew

  306. Andrew P:

    If what you say is correct, we must conclude that the Catholic Church has rejected the view of St. Thomas Aquinas, as here explicated by Bryan, who quotes and explains the relevant passage from Aquinas. For convenience, I’ll just quote the explication’s conclusion here, with emphasis added:

    One can reject the authority of the Church outright, as dissenting Catholics do, or one can fashion a ‘Church’ in one’s own interpretive image, as Protestants do, and convince oneself that one is submitting to the Church. But both actions are rejections of the divinely established authority through which faith adheres to the articles of faith. For the reasons St. Thomas explains, where there is faith there can be no picking and choosing from among the Church’s teachings, because what makes faith to be faith is not essentially the set of articles believed, but the basis on which they are believed, namely, the authority of God, given to the Church to teach and interpret the deposit of faith.

    But I think the truth is more complicated than just saying St. Thomas was wrong. Or right.

    According to his view, a person cannot have the virtue of faith if he rejects the formal, proximate object of faith (FPOF); he can only have “a sort of opinion, in accordance with his will.” Now Protestants reject the FPOF by virtue of rejecting the authority of the Church. But one might still say that many Protestants have the virtue of faith inchoately not merely because some of their religious opinions happen to coincide with what the Church teaches—that’s not enough by itself—but because they also sincerely want to get the FPOF right, and believe in conscience that they are succeeding. What matters, in short, is not so much where somebody is than what direction they’re headed in. So we can say, on the one hand, that they’re not where they need to be with the virtue of faith, but on the other hand that they’re getting there to the extent that their error is not culpable. And only God can know if and when they’re culpable.

    I think a refinement like that would track what Vatican II said about being “in communion” with the Church. In effect, everybody who’s validly baptized, or sincerely desires that, is to some degree in communion with the Church, but only imperfectly. Not being in full communion is culpable only if one already “knows” the FPOF as such but willfully rejects it. And it’s not up to us to say who willfully rejects it.

    A view like that leads to a pastoral orientation very much like Vatican II’s program of ecumenism. It also would explain something that some of our Protestant friends, such as Andrew M, keep complaining about, namely that the Catholic Church herself harbors so many people who are formally Catholic but are not, by the objective criteria stated, in full communion with the Church.

    Best,
    Mike

  307. Andrew P. said:

    I would hate to see in the pursuit of one point, that is, I would not want the impression to be given that, apart from the relative-to-IP logic being discussed here, we think that in reality a Presbyterian pastor is necessarily simply trading in opinions, and not building up his flock in faith, through the ministry of word and sacrament. Do we think that?

    I want to pipe up here and urge caution about your wording. To a Reformed hearer, your words “building up his flock in faith, through the ministry of word and sacrament” is going to mean something polar opposite from what a Catholic means that it should not be said imo. For one thing they will certainly be thinking “Lord’s Supper” when you say sacrament, and a Presbyterian minister does not confect a valid Eucharist as you well know. This is nothing to wink at. Having been kept from eating and drinking God for years by these men and their “heartfelt” opinions, I think the wording should be chosen more carefully, in my opinion. They are not sinister and they do want to please God, and they did validly baptize my kids, but you know what they say about good intentions…

    -David M.

  308. Mike,

    Aquinas’s statements do indeed need to be refined, that is, properly qualified, in light of the development of doctrine, particularly the teachings of Vatican II. That is not to say that his analysis of the basis for faith is flawed, but it needs to be carefully applied, in light of the teaching of an Ecumenical Council.

    David,

    I appreciate the caution, but am not sure about “polar opposite.” After all, our Reformed Christian will mean at least the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

    My concern is to avoid, particularly when discussing (even if only by way of example) a Protestant’s ministry and life in Christ, a mere ecumenism of opposition (not that that is anyone’s overall strategy here). So, regarding faith, word, and sacrament, here are some of the relevant (and familiar) bits from Vatican II:

    The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood.

    (Lumen Gentium §15, notes omitted, emphasis added.)

    The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church-whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church-do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.

    (Unitatis Redintegratio, §3, emphasis added.)

    Our thoughts turn first to those Christians who make open confession of Jesus Christ as God and Lord and as the sole Mediator between God and men, to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are aware indeed that there exist considerable divergences from the doctrine of the Catholic Church concerning Christ Himself, the Word of God made flesh, the work of redemption, and consequently, concerning the mystery and ministry of the Church, and the role of Mary in the plan of salvation. But we rejoice to see that our separated brethren look to Christ as the source and center of Church unity. Their longing for union with Christ inspires them to seek an ever closer unity, and also to bear witness to their faith among the peoples of the earth.

    (Unitatis Redintegratio, §20, emphasis added.)

    Regarding liturgical rites generally, the Council Fathers taught:

    The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.

    It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.

    (Unitatis Redintegratio, §3.)

    As regards the Eucharist in particular, the Council Fathers taught:

    Though the ecclesial Communities which are separated from us lack the fullness of unity with us flowing from Baptism, and though we believe they have not retained the proper reality of the eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Orders, nevertheless when they commemorate His death and resurrection in the Lord’s Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and look forward to His coming in glory. Therefore the teaching concerning the Lord’s Supper, the other sacraments, worship, the ministry of the Church, must be the subject of the dialogue.

    (Unitatis Redintegratio, §22.)

    Like I said, cold comfort to committed Protestants perhaps, but there it is. Don’t look at this as a challenge to the apologetic task, but a supplement, intended to forestall the impression that we think that what occurs in reality, in Protestant churches, is only a mundane exchange of opinions. That Protestants who confess that Jesus is Lord and Christ, seek to conform their lives to the law of Christ as revealed in Scripture, and carry on an ecclesial life through the ministry of word and sacrament, that these have faith, even living faith, is not a matter of speculative opinion that Catholics might grudgingly admit. It is something joyfully and forthrightly expressed by the Catholic Church, in these documents.

  309. Andrew,
    Your points are very well taken. This is one of those hard teachings for me that I will need to just accept from the Vatican II Fathers and conform my mind to it. I will not say I desire to otherwise believe it though. Particularly the sentence “These liturgical actions [of the seperated brethren] must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.” I really don’t understand how that could be true, or in what sense it could be true other than baptism, but I believe it if V2 said it. My understanding has *gasp* fallen short! I know it’s a shocking admission, but i’m really used to it. ;-)
    Thanks Andrew,
    -David Meyer

  310. David,

    Thanks. I appreciate the comments, including the caution. Maybe you received my email, which was intended to clarify a possible ambiguity in my comments about the Protestant Lord’s Supper?

    In any event, for our readers here, I will clarify that by including “the Lord’s Supper” along with Baptism and the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, I did not mean to imply that we share this reality with Protestants in the same way that we share the others. I only meant to challenge the “polar opposite” claim / perception. The difference is that, while Protestants have retained a valid Baptism, and have the authentic Scriptures (sans Deuteros), they have not, per the teaching of the Catholic Church, retained a valid Eucharist, although, as stated in UR, when they “commemorate His death and resurrection in the Lord’s Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and look forward to His coming in glory.”

    Also, to “be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation” is not the same as to confer grace ex opere operato! So thinking (with the Catholic Church) great things about what the Holy Spirit is doing among Protestant ecclesial communities, in their ministries of the word and sacrament (i.e., baptism and marriage) and other liturgical actions, is not the same thing as shrugging and exhaling an indifferent “well, after all whats the diff?”

    Onward. Upward.

  311. David, (re: #307)

    I agree with what Andrew said, but I agree with what you said as well. I think it will help to add some historical background, to integrate the points and concerns you and Andrew are raising.

    In response to the Waldensian heresy, the Church at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 declared:

    this sacrament [i.e. the Eucharist] no one can effect except the priest who has been duly ordained in accordance with the keys of the Church, which Jesus Christ Himself gave to the Apostles and their successors. (Denz. 430)

    This is an infallible, de fide dogma of the Church, and the statements from Vatican II have to be understood in light of it. In the profession of faith required of the Waldensians by the Church in 1208, we read:

    Therefore, we firmly believe and we confess that however honest, religious, holy, and prudent anyone may be, he cannot nor ought he to consecrate the Eucharist nor to perform the sacrifice of the altar unless he be a priest, regularly ordained by a visible and perceptible bishop. … [W]e firmly believe and declare that whosoever without the preceding episcopal ordination [i.e. ordination by a bishop], as we said above, believes and contends that he can offer the sacrifice of the Eucharist is a heretic and is a participant and companion of the perdition of Core [i.e. Korah] and his followers, and he must be segregated from the entire holy Roman Church. (Denz. 424)

    The term ‘heretic’ here means ‘formal heretic,’ because it is referring to Catholics who knowingly do this. Those who do not know, and who nevertheless make this claim, would therefore be in material heresy, not formal heresy. The Council of Trent, in response to certain Reformers, also reaffirmed the ministerial priesthood and its power to consecrate and offer the true body and blood of Christ as distinct from the baptismal priesthood. (cf. Sessions 22 and 23),

    Because no one without Holy Orders has the power (not merely the legal right, but the sacramental power) by his words to effect the transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord, and because such power is necessary for the consecration of the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, therefore we should believe that Protestant pastors who do not have Holy Orders, and any congregation led by such pastors, do not have the sacrament of the Eucharist. In that respect, such Protestant pastors cannot build up their congregation through the sacrament, because though they have the sacrament of baptism (and the sacrament of marriage, even if they do not believe it to be a sacrament), they and their congregations do not have the sacrament of the Eucharist. We have no reason to believe that in the Protestant Supper the bread and wine do not remain bread and wine, or that they become means of sacramental grace. Nor does the Catholic Church believe or teach that ordinarily, sacramental grace comes to persons through the Protestant Supper. Because the Protestant Supper is not a sacrament, what the Protestant pastor does in the Protestant Supper is not one of those “liturgical actions” capable of giving access to the community of salvation, except insofar as God chooses to use it to communicate grace, either by an extra-ordinary supernatural act in which sanctifying grace is infused, or to point participants toward the sacramental unity He desires them to have with Him and the love He has for them, thereby inciting them to greater love for Himself. (God can use many sorts of things do this, such as the beauty of nature, devotional writings, etc.) Moreover, insofar as the participants in the Protestant Supper are being obedient to what they believe God wants them to do (due to invincible ignorance), they can receive grace through participating in the Supper because in so participating, they thereby merit an increase in grace, through their loving [agape] obedience, given what they know. That’s the sense in which I agree with Andrew that even the Protestant Supper, engaged in by those who believe in good conscience that they are doing what Christ commands, can build up the congregation.

    But, we must never treat the extraordinary operations of God as the ordinary operations of God, because otherwise we eliminate the distinction. For example, when a woman has had hands laid on her for an illicit ordination to the priesthood, she remains without the power of Holy Orders, because she does not have the right matter (i.e. maleness) for that sacrament. When such a woman subsequently attempts to consecrate the Eucharist, nothing happens to the bread and wine, but she commits the sin of sacrilege. The bread and wine remain bread and wine, and although God may choose to bring grace to a recipient of this imitation of the Eucharist, it would be a sacrilege for anyone who knows that women cannot be ordained and therefore cannot effect the consecration of the bread and wine, to participate in such an event or to expect to receive grace through participating. Although we as Catholics know that God can work in extraordinary ways even through illicit or invalid liturgical acts, we do not expect God ordinarily to give sacramental grace through what we know does not meet the conditions of a sacrament.

    So in light of previous de fide dogmas concerning the priesthood and the Eucharist, statements in Unitatis Redintegratio such as “they have not retained the proper reality of the eucharistic mystery in its fullness,” should not be taken to mean that the Protestant Supper is a partial sacrament, or a fraction of a sacrament, or gives say, 60%, 40% or 20% of the grace one may receive in the Eucharist. Given the truth of the Catholic Church, the Protestant Supper is not a sacrament at all, because the Protestant Supper does not meet the necessary conditions for the sacrament, even though it has retained some of the liturgical form, and the matter (except when grape juice is used instead of wine). That’s the sense in which I agree with Andrew that the Protestant Supper is not “polar opposite” to the Eucharist. More broadly speaking, the Vatican II documents Andrew referenced should be understood and interpreted in light of what has already been laid down by the Church, not as though the VII documents stand alone in providing the Church’s present position. That is just what is meant by the hermeneutic of continuity, which Pope Benedict has enjoined [cf. "Pope Benedict on the Hermeneutic of Continuity"], as opposed to the hermeneutic of rupture or discontinuity. (Of course I’m not suggesting that Andrew is practicing the hermeneutic of rupture, or is in disagreement with anything I’m saying here — I’m merely providing some of the historical background that helps us understand how to interpret the VII statements Andrew presented, and addresses your concern as well.)

    As Andrew pointed out, the truth that the Protestant Supper “signifies life in communion with Christ” does not mean that the Protestant Supper provides or effects what it signifies (even though in some cases God may choose to use it to do so, in the way I just described). It means that “communion with Christ” is what the Protestant Supper points to. The communion with Christ signified by the Protestant Supper in this way impels toward catholic unity (Lumen Gentium, 8), because the unity it signifies is found only through Holy Orders and apostolic succession. That’s the sense in which I agree with your point. If a Protestant comes to recognize the identity and authority of the Church, and nevertheless rejects the authority of the Church, his faith (if he had faith and not mere opinion) is no longer faith, but only opinion, for the reason St. Thomas explains. That is no reason for not evangelizing, however, because it is much more difficult to be saved without the fullness of grace available within the Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  312. Thanks Bryan. That is a very revealing explanation. The “hermenutic of continuity” puts the sentence from V2 in much more understandable light. This comment of yours was a bit of a lightbulb for me as well:
    “Moreover, insofar as the participants in the Protestant Supper are being obedient to what they believe God wants them to do (due to invincible ignorance), they can receive grace through participating in the Supper because in so participating, they thereby merit an increase in grace, through their loving [agape] obedience, given what they know.”

    Peace guys,
    -David M.

  313. Bryan:

    I second David’s approval of your post. The issue of grace outside the Catholic Church is neuralgic, and the pain needs to be lessened as you’ve done it.

    To show just how neuralgic it can be, I note that, when I was an RCIA director, the most common objections I heard to Catholicism from inquirers and candidates had to do with the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. (This was before the sex-abuse scandal broke wide open; since then, the most common objection I hear is to priestly celibacy, requiring me to explain why that has nothing to do with it.) There were actually several objections centering on EENS, one of which was the fact that it’s undergone development, which is clear in the documents of Vatican II. But the most common problem was that people were reluctant to join a church that claimed it was necessary to be in communion with her! No doubt such an ironic attitude was explicable by the Protestant background of such people, who were not accustomed to the idea that there might be a church that isn’t a denomination among others, but is in fact the Church founded by Christ. So I had to explain to them both why the Church is “necessary” and why not becoming Catholic didn’t necessarily mean burning in hell.

    It was a tricky balancing act, but if I had had your explanation on hand, it would have been easier. Thanks.

    Best,
    Mike

  314. Bryan (or to anyone else who is willing to answer), (re: 311)
    Reading your post above and thinking about your response to my questions on faith and opinion , I have an additional question for clarification.

    In our previous exchange you seem to me to say that a person can have faith even if he is ignorant (including culpably ignorant) of the identity of the church and of the fact he is placing his own judgment above that of the church. In 311, you say he can receive spiritual blessings from God as long as in his heart he thinks he is following what God wants him to do,

    Moreover, insofar as the participants in the Protestant Supper are being obedient to what they believe God wants them to do (due to invincible ignorance), they can receive grace through participating in the Supper because in so participating, they thereby merit an increase in grace, through their loving [agape] obedience, given what they know.

    But, you also add one should be careful in this area of the extraordinary operations of God and be aware of the difficulties of being saved outside the fullness of graces found in the Catholic Church.

    I’m trying to understand what the principled distinction would be between your position and the notion that as long as one’s intentions are to love and obey God then whatever he does will not lead to condemnation from God. W/out such a distinction the road to hell would not really be paved with good intentions, and that just can’t be! : )

    But, in all seriousness, obviously there are people who do objectively evil things that they do not think are evil. Some of these people think their evil deeds are commended by God (like Muslim terrorists) and some do not even believe in God to begin with (like an atheist abortion provider).

    So how do you or how does the church make this principled distinction? I’m wondering if it has to do with objectively evil acts that can and ought to be known as evil by natural reason vs acts that can only be known to be wrong through divine revelation or by direction from a duly appointed authority from God.

    MarkS

  315. Comment:
    The statement: “All appeals to Scripture are appeals to the interpretation of Scripture,” led to Bryan’s assertion that sola scriptura is no different than private interpretation of Scripture, a.k.a. solO scriptura.

    On the other hand, “All appeals to Church doctrine are appeals to interpretation,” and since all interpretation begins with individuals, all Church doctrine is founded on private interpretation.

    Let there be no mistake – everyone engages in private interpretation; and by your own admission, the Church has neither authoritatively interpreted all of Scripture, nor has it demonstrated that its beliefs are irreformable. So, private interpretation is both necessary and prudent in the search for a better understanding of the truth taught in Scripture.

    Michael Liccione admits: “There were actually several objections centering on EENS, one of which was the fact that it’s undergone development, which is clear in the documents of Vatican II.” If you listened to Rome between the time of Boniface VIII and Vatican II, you were told that it was **absolutely necessary** for the salvation of every creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. After Vatican II, his statement, couched in irreformable language, was reinterpreted to allow for “invincible ignorance.” Consequently, the irreformable definition of Boniface was revised and the word “absolutely” was effectively expunged, Yet, Vatican II also recognized the work of the Holy Spirit among Christians separated from “The Church,” and invited dialogue with non-Catholics. As a result there are many non-Catholic Christians today who have heard Rome’s doctrine about its identity as the “only true Church.”

    Many, like myself, have also studied what Rome has written about EENS and talked to quite a few Roman Catholics about it. So we have been informed and we openly deny Rome’s doctrine. We cannot reasonably be classified as “invincibly ignorant” – for to be ignorant is to be uninformed, and we are certainly not uniformed.

    From whose private judgment did EENS originate? And what was the process by which EENS became unassailable doctrine? Indeed, the dogma of EENS appears to be contrary to the teaching of salvation in the Scriptures. “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” From the patriarchs to the Apostles, salvation was promised to anyone who “called upon the name of the Lord.” The EENS analogy of the ark and the Church simply does not account for the many counter-examples in Scripture, none of which are based on invincible ignorance.

    Since, as JJS and others have stated, no preacher is infallible, everyone who listens to them must have a standard to judge what they say. In sola scriptura one is told to search the Scriptures for consistency of what is being taught, as did the Bereans in Acts. The Scriptures are always trustworthy, the preacher inevitably errs. Where does a Roman Catholic go to judge what is being taught in their parish? How do you know what you are hearing is the truth? Moreover, since you admit to development of doctrine, how do you know which doctrines, if any, are irreformable? Anyone for the past two thousand years could read the Scriptures: the truth taught by it has always been the same. Why should anyone’s conscience be bound by a source whose statements about salvation and truth keep changing?

    Blessings,
    Lojahw

  316. MarkS (re: #314),

    You wrote:

    I’m trying to understand what the principled distinction would be between your position and the notion that as long as one’s intentions are to love and obey God then whatever he does will not lead to condemnation from God. W/out such a distinction the road to hell would not really be paved with good intentions, and that just can’t be! : ) But, in all seriousness, obviously there are people who do objectively evil things that they do not think are evil. Some of these people think their evil deeds are commended by God (like Muslim terrorists) and some do not even believe in God to begin with (like an atheist abortion provider). So how do you or how does the church make this principled distinction? I’m wondering if it has to do with objectively evil acts that can and ought to be known as evil by natural reason vs acts that can only be known to be wrong through divine revelation or by direction from a duly appointed authority from God.

    Good question. When I was a child, my mother would sometimes recite this verse: “The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) And I also remember this verse: “For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” (1 Cor. 4:4) We need to distinguish between various possible senses of the term “intentions,” when answering your question. In one sense of ‘intentions’ we might mean that the person is truly following his conscience, seeking to inform his conscience, and truly doing what he (deep down) believes to be the right thing to do, truly seeking to love and serve God as best as he knows how, according to the truth he knows. In that sense of the term, those with ‘good intentions’ will not be condemned, as we can see in Romans 2, although keep in mind that God alone truly knows the heart. In another sense of ‘good intentions’ we might be referring to each person’s desire for the good, the natural movement of the will toward the good as such. But that natural movement of the will toward the good is not free, because we cannot initiate it, enhance it, destroy it or change it. It does not determine whether anyone goes to heaven or hell. So that’s not the sense of the term relevant to your question. In another sense of the term, we might be referring to the fact that in every act, a man seeks some good; otherwise, he would not act, for evil cannot be desired for its own sake, but only for the sake of some accompanying good. If that were the sense in which we were speaking of good intentions, then either intentions would have nothing to do with whether one goes to heaven or hell (since everyone would necessarily always have good intentions) or necessarily everyone would go to heaven. So that’s not the sense of the term relevant to your question.

    Your question points to another sense of ‘intention.’ That’s the sense in which the object chosen is not good (or at least not good in the circumstances), and we know that isn’t good (or we at least now that it isn’t good for us to choose it in such circumstances, or that she shouldn’t act unless we know), and yet for the sake of a good end we choose it anyway. (cf. CCC 1749-1756) In such a case we are acting against our conscience.

    Invincible ignorance does not extend to the natural law, because the natural law is written on our hearts. So, for example, acts of ‘mercy killing,’ terrorism, and abortion, are morally culpable, because even though the act might be carried out with have good intentions, the object chosen is evil, and known to be evil by the agent, because it is contrary to the natural law written on our hearts. But the truths that Jesus Christ is the Son of God incarnate, and that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, are not written on the human heart. Hence people can truly be in ignorance about them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  317. Let me suggest that Mathison’s reply to Neal and Bryan should’ve been a lot simpler…

    Bryan and Neal misrepresent the sola scriptura position as solo scriptura. As such it becomes obvious that they are conflated. However, Bryan and Neal fail to understand that according to the WCF (1.IV) and other common confessions Scripture itself is placed as the highest interpretive authority, not the individual or the ecclesial community.

    IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

    (citing 2 Pet 1:20-21; Acts 15:15-16)

  318. Salvadore,

    You’re right; it is much easier and simpler to declare the other side wrong without engaging their arguments.

  319. With all due respect Tim, I’ve searched for “Westminster” in all three of the major articles on this topic and haven’t found paragraph 1.IX addressed in any of them. I’m up for correction, but I need a bit more direction to said arguments first.

  320. Hey Salvadore, (re #317)

    In the Bryan–Neal article, your concern is addressed in section IV.B., “The Contradiction Internal to the Sola Scriptura Position” (and elsewhere)

    Mathison’s account of the sola scriptura position contains an internal contradiction. On the one hand, he claims that all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture… On the other hand, he claims that Scripture is the final authority… But, if all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture, then it follows necessarily that either someone’s interpretation of Scripture is the final and authoritative norm of doctrine and practice, or Scripture itself cannot be the final and authoritative norm of doctrine and practice.

    Mathison recognizes the ambiguity in Protestant sources like the quotation you’ve provided, namely, that interpretation is an activity in which we persons engage; a book can’t pull up a chair and proceed to interpret itself but is, instead, an object of the interpretive activity of persons. Thus the article goes on:

    Mathison recognizes that all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture, and denies that the individual has final interpretive authority. But at the same time, as a Protestant, Mathison maintains that the individual can appeal to his or her own interpretation of Scripture to hold the Church accountable to Scripture, even to walk away from the Church… So Mathison’s position essentially reduces to this: the Church has final interpretive authority, except when the Church’s interpretation disagrees with the individual’s interpretation. But that exception belies the charade

  321. That’s a fair response to Mathison, but I believe he conceded too much with his “all appeals to scripture are appeals to interpretations of scripture”. I understand why Bryan and Neal would respond to that, but this is also why I (and others who find Mathison’s concession untenable) find it difficult to accept that this satisfies the WCF (and London Confession and others) who all communicate that Scripture is the highest interpretive authority.

  322. Lohjaw (#315):

    I shall not address all your points, since I’ve been hard at work today addressing others’ similar objections in another thread, and I have to return to my actual duties shortly. But there’s one point I cannot let go by here.

    You write:

    If you listened to Rome between the time of Boniface VIII and Vatican II, you were told that it was **absolutely necessary** for the salvation of every creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. After Vatican II, his statement, couched in irreformable language, was reinterpreted to allow for “invincible ignorance.” Consequently, the irreformable definition of Boniface was revised and the word “absolutely” was effectively expunged, Yet, Vatican II also recognized the work of the Holy Spirit among Christians separated from “The Church,” and invited dialogue with non-Catholics.

    That’s a classic example of interpreting a Catholic doctrine in a sense the faithful were never required to profess, and then attacking it as if that interpretation is the one the faithful were required to profess. The phrase extra ecclesiam nulla salus was coined by St. Cyprian of Carthage in the 3rd century, and was in due course taken as dogma by both the Eastern and the Western church. Given its premises, it was a natural inference. Thus, if being somehow joined to Christ is necessary for salvation, and being joined to Christ requires being somehow joined to his Body the Church, then “outside the Church there is no salvation.”

    As the Catholic Church came to understand it, that meant that being in communion with the Church, and thus subject to the Roman Pontiff, is necessary for salvation. But that dogma was never taken to mean that grace could not operate outside the visible boundaries of the Church; in that case, grace could never bring anybody into the Church who wasn’t already there. Nor was it accompanied by a formula, even in Unam Sanctam, specifying all the necessary and sufficient conditions for being in communion with the Church. What has undergone “development” is the Church’s understanding of those conditions. Beyond baptism by “blood” and “explicit desire,” which were traditionally acknowledged as extraordinary means of incorporation into the Church, the Church came to acknowledge baptism by “implicit desire” within those whose failure to become Catholics was not culpable. And only God knows who is and is not culpable. Thus, there can be degrees of communion with the Church; and that affirmation negates no dogma of the Church.

    You will understand why I prefer the Magisterium’s interpretation of its own dogmas to yours.

    Best,
    Mike

  323. Ah, but saying that the scripture (which canon/translation/etc. can be suspended for now) is the highest interpretive authority is solo/sola scriptura.

  324. Hey Salvadore, (re: #321)

    I understand.

    The idea that all appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture is crucial and, in my Protestant experience, strongly resisted where it is not flatly denied.

    I take it you believe that some appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture, right?

    Or to say it the other way, some people who appeal to Scripture (to justify doctrines a, b, c) do so without having engaged in any interpretive activity at all—is that right?

    (Thanks for the discussion, btw)

  325. I’ll concede that some who appeal to scripture, in reality appeal to fallible interpretations of scripture. A subset of those appeals represent unorthodox doctrines. But that’s altogether distinct from saying that all appeals to scripture are appeals to interpretations of scripture.

  326. Mike -

    I’m glad the doctrine of EENS has surfaced. It is the only issue in the development of Catholic theology I find troubling. Perhaps you can help me.

    You write:

    Thus, if being somehow joined to Christ is necessary for salvation, and being joined to Christ requires being somehow joined to his Body the Church, then “outside the Church there is no salvation.”

    As the Catholic Church came to understand it, that meant that being in communion with the Church, and thus subject to the Roman Pontiff, is necessary for salvation. But that dogma was never taken to mean that grace could not operate outside the visible boundaries of the Church; in that case, grace could never bring anybody into the Church who wasn’t already there. Nor was it accompanied by a formula, even in Unam Sanctam, specifying all the necessary and sufficient conditions for being in communion with the Church. What has undergone “development” is the Church’s understanding of those conditions. (#322)

    I follow your reasoning throughout. I see that the dogma does not imply that grace could not operate outside the visible Church, and that even Unam Sanctam doesn’t give a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for being in communion with the Church. I’m also fine with the developments in the Church’s understanding of those conditions. But I still see a tension between Unam Sanctam and Vatican II. Here’s why.

    “Communion with the Church,” once it is understood in the breadth required to claim that Protestants can be in communion with the Church, seems rather vague and elastic. I don’t see this as a problem. Benedict has said something to the effect that Protestantism is a unique phenomenon in the history of the Church. It is no wonder (me speaking now) that it should cause the Church to reflect more deeply than before on what “communion with the Church” means. I think it’s perfectly reasonable that we should take account of everything we know when interpreting both Scripture and sacred Tradition. As history moves, our data grows, and that can affect how we understand Scripture and Tradition. We have plenty of precedent for this kind of hermeneutic in the Apostles themselves (to the frustration of their Jewish brothers!). We could add all sorts of caveats and qualifications, but I think the general idea is sound.

    The tension for me arises, not with the general claim that communion with the Church (objectively, though not necessarily from the subject’s point of view) is necessary for salvation, but with the claim that subjection to the Pope is necessary. Here’s the line from Unam Sanctum:

    Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

    The reason this seems to be a tension, when “communion with the Church” is not, is because it is much more difficult (for me at least) to construe being “subject” in any mystical or invisible way. The idea of subjection is much more basic and clear than the idea of communion with a mystical body. In other words, I can accept that, while communion with the Church has always been necessary for salvation (since Christ), the necessary and sufficient conditions of “communion” have never been infallibly given, and that the Church’s understanding of them has grown. But it is much more difficult to accept that being “subject to the Roman Pontiff” can be extended to Protestants in the same way. This is not because I have in hand some irrefutable definition of subjection, but because, as a fluent English speaker, any meaningful use of the word seems to require explicit involvement of the subject–or at least it requires that the subject not flout the Pope’s authority.

    To put it still another way, I could follow an explanation that went like this: “Look, Max, you already accept that Protestants can be in communion with the Church in some hidden sense. But, given that the Pope is the representative head of the Church on earth, being in communion with the Church is to be in communion with the Pope.” This much makes sense. But, on my understanding of “subjection” or “submission,” being subject to the Pope is different than being in communion with the Pope; the former entails the latter, but not the reverse. This follows if, as I’ve suggested, “subjection” requires either voluntary submission, or, at the least, non-resistance. Of course, thoughtful Protestants satisfy neither condition.

    Peace,

    - Max

  327. Max,

    I’ve found this passage from Mark Shea particularly helpful to the questions you’ve been raising:

    “There is a priest I know (call him Father Smith) whom I have come to regard as a second father. I came to do so because, as an Evangelical, I first loved Christ and the things of Christ and did for years before I met this man. As I sought to draw closer to Christ, I then happened to meet Father Smith and to discover that he loved and understood far more deeply than I the things that I myself sought, for he was a disciple of our Lord, too. When I recognized this, I realized our Lord had put into my life a man who could disciple me and to whom my life was inextricably linked in Christ and by Christ. In short, I had been a disciple of Father Smith for years before I met him – because I was first a disciple of Jesus.

    Thus, in spirit, Father Smith became my father and I am, so to speak, subject to him in Christ precisely because I desire what he desires – union with Christ.

    If this seems difficult to grasp, it should be noted that it’s a concept as old as the New Testament. When we look there, we discover Jesus saying exactly the same thing:

    John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us” (Mk 9:38–40, emphasis added).

    Jesus’ point is that, in following Him, both the man casting out demons and the apostles – whether the man or the apostles realized it or not – were brought into some kind of union with one another through Him. It didn’t matter whether the apostles or the man were conscious of it. Their mutual obedience to Him put them in relationship to each other, just as the right alignment of spokes to a hub necessarily put the spokes in right alignment to one another. The fact is, it is His Spirit, not we, who is the principle of unity holding His Body together and drawing its members into ever more perfect union with each other. But that does not mean (as I had long believed as an Evangelical) that unity with the Body of Christ doesn’t matter so long as one is “spiritual.” For to be brought into union with the Body of Christ at all is to be brought into the order that Christ has established for that Body, since

    His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11–13).

    Or, to put it into the simplest form, if A=B, then B=A. That is, if one is a Christian at all, one is, as Lumen Gentium says, in some kind of union with the Church, the Body of Christ. This is why the Church teaches and has always taught that “outside the Church, there is no salvation.” For the Church is the company of the saved. To talk about salvation “outside the Church” is like talking about swimming outside the water. It is the logical consequence of Jesus’ statement, “He who is not with me is against me” (Mt 12:30).

    It therefore follows that to be subject to the gospel to any degree is to be in union, to that degree, with the office of Peter, since the office of Peter was created by Christ for one purpose only: to help bring people into subjection to Christ. It is therefore impossible to accept Christ without accepting the authority of Peter’s office to some degree or other. If you say to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” you are submitting to the judgment of Peter, who said it first (Mt 16:16). If you declare that salvation is by grace through Christ, you are again subjecting yourself to Peter, who was the first to say that by the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:11). If you teach that Jesus is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, you are simply agreeing with what the Church in council and in union with the office of Peter has always taught. If you acknowledge the canonicity of the New Testament books, you are likewise submitting to the judgment of the Petrine office, which made that call in the fourth century and ratified it in the 16th. In short, it is not possible to be a Christian at all without already submitting (whether you realize it or not and whether you like it or not) to Peter in precisely the sense that Unam Sanctam speaks of.

    One With Peter?

    Naturally, it will be noted that such union with the Roman pontiff is, for Protestants and Orthodox, imperfect. Just so. But the point nonetheless holds that such union is real. And the reason it is real is precisely because the pope is not the principle of unity, but merely the sign of unity. The principle of unity is the Spirit of Christ Himself. It is He who binds together the apostolic Church with those who appear (like the exorcist in Mark) to be “outside” the Church yet who are, in a real but imperfect way, in communion with her. That’s because it is simply not possible for there to be more than one body. This is true, not because the power-hungry Roman pontiff must have absolute control over all Christians, but because Christ cannot ultimately be divided. What Paul said in Ephesians remains just as true today:

    There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all (Eph 4:4–6).

    So it is simply impossible for there to be, in any ultimate sense, more than one body. And since that body is, by Christ’s solemn word, founded on Peter the Rock, it is not possible to belong to it without, in some way, being subject to the office of the one who was given the charge to “feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15).”

    You can see the rest here: http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/shea/00059.html

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  328. Salvadore, (re:#325)

    You said,

    I’ll concede that some who appeal to scripture, in reality appeal to fallible interpretations of scripture. A subset of those appeals represent unorthodox doctrines. But that’s altogether distinct from saying that all appeals to scripture are appeals to interpretations of scripture.

    Okay, I think I follow.

    On what basis, then, can we determine if an appeal to Scripture is strictly an appeal to [Scripture] or is (in reality) an appeal to [Scripture(interpreted)]?

  329. Max:

    You wrote:

    But, on my understanding of “subjection” or “submission,” being subject to the Pope is different than being in communion with the Pope; the former entails the latter, but not the reverse. This follows if, as I’ve suggested, “subjection” requires either voluntary submission, or, at the least, non-resistance. Of course, thoughtful Protestants satisfy neither condition.

    Mark Shea’s contribution, as quoted by K Doran, supplies part of the reply I’d give. Notice that its last sentence runs counter to your interpretation of ‘subjection’ or ‘submission’. If being part of the Body, even if only imperfectly, is in fact being subject to the pope, even if only imperfectly, then being “in” the Church does not logically require a conscious act of submission to the pope. In fact, being in (imperfect) communion with the Church is sometimes compatible with refusing to make a conscious act of submission to the pope. That is the case when the refusal depends on ignorance that is not culpable. And since we don’t know whose ignorance is and whose is not culpable, we may not say, of any particular non-Catholic, that they are altogether outside the Church—which runs counter to the last statement I quoted from you above.

    Now the reply I’ve sometimes heard to that account that, yes, it’s all very nice, but it’s not the “traditional” interpretation of Unam Sanctam (US; 1302) or, for that matter, Cantate Domino (CD; 1441). which in fact is being repudiated. That’s the “Feeneyite” objection. But I don’t think it survives critical scrutiny.

    According to the records we have, Catholic theologians began wondering about the possibility of salvation for those who die non-Catholic almost as soon as Columbus “discovered” America. No such thinking was ever condemned. It eventually yielded a consensus expressed by Pope Pius IX when, in 1856, he stated: “Outside of the Church, nobody can hope for life or salvation unless he is excused through ignorance beyond his control.” The teaching of Vatican II, as interpreted by Shea above, merely works out that thought and applies it to non-Catholic Christians. If the Church had interpreted US and CD as the Feeneyites do, that centuries-long process of development could never have matured.

    Many of the difficulties people have with Catholic doctrine arise from their interpreting it in ways the Magisterium itself does not. Often that takes the form of &