Some Preliminary Reflections on Mathison’s Dialectic

Feb 25th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Articles

I.

About a decade ago, Keith Mathison wrote a book called The Shape of Sola Scriptura. In this book he specified a distinction between

Solo Scriptura: The Bible is the Christian’s only authority,

and

Sola Scriptura: The Bible is the Christian’s only infallible authority; however, the Church, the true bishops, the regula fidei, possess real but fallible and derivative authority for Christians as well.

Call the thesis that there is a principled distinction between Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura the “Distinction Thesis.”

This thesis (he argued) is important for two reasons.  First, Solo Scriptura conflicts with the testimony of Scripture, and leads to hermeneutical and ecclesial chaos.  Sola Scriptura does not.  Second, (he continued) Catholic critics of Protestantism rely implicitly or explicitly on the assumption that Protestantism commits one to Solo Scriptura.  Many of the arguments Catholics have given against Solo Scriptura have merit.  These criticisms do not, however, impugn Sola Scriptura, which is the historic Protestant position.  So once the distinction between them is drawn, it becomes evident that Catholic arguments against “Scripture Alone,” rightly understood, misfire.

A year or so ago, Bryan Cross and I wrote a critique of The Shape of Sola Scriptura in which we criticized the Distinction Thesis.  We argued that the distinction between Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura is, as we put it, “not principled.”  (Call this the “No Distinction Thesis.”)  By this we meant to indicate inter alia that the problems besetting Solo Scriptura, such as those detailed by Mathison, apply in equal measure to Sola Scriptura.  This is because in both cases the ultimate interpretive authority will remain the individual Christian, who is (on Sola) called upon to assess which bishops are “true,” which church is “the Church,” what the content and meaning of the regula fidei is, how it ought hermeneutically to be applied, and so forth – all of which need doing by way of a prior interpretation of the Bible’s doctrinal content.  (That’s where Solo creeps back in, we cleverly pointed out.)  Not wishing merely to curse the darkness, we lit a candle: “embrace apostolic succession,” we advised, “and you can avoid the problems inherent to (Solo and) Sola Scriptura.”  For the most part, everyone took our advice and the angels in heaven rejoiced.

Mathison’s recent reply to us consists in an extended historical and Scriptural case against the doctrine of apostolic succession (and additional doctrines distinctive of Catholic ecclesiology), and a comparatively shorter defense of the Distinction Thesis.  Both main sections of his paper could stand alone as articles in their own right.  But stand together they do, and by design.  So the question I wish to consider is, What is the dialectical strategy, or argumentative structure, that integrates these two sections into one coherent whole?  How does the overall argument of Mathison’s article hang together?

This is an important question to ask, not only because we (like the Royal Society) seek to think the author’s thoughts after him, but also because we wish to keep track of the original dispute – the initial claims, arguments, the counterarguments, and so on – without allowing related matters of theological import to obfuscate or to derail it.

“Ah.  Here is where he ducks his obligation to defend apostolic succession.  Lampe: 1; Judisch: 0; Mathison: TKO.”

Well, sort of, but not really.  Our article did indeed contain a kind of indirect argument for apostolic succession: given the shared convictions about the unbiblical and pernicious nature of Solo Scriptura, and given the reduction of Sola Scriptura to it, we claimed, apostolic succession is the option to take.  That’s what we said.  And it’s of course perfectly legitimate for Mathison to contest any link in this inferential chain, including the last; this is to my mind especially and obviously so when the celebrated Tu Quoque is the matter at issue.  So in certain respects apostolic succession can’t and should not be ignored.

That’s the “not really” part.  Here’s the “sort of” part.  Recall that Bryan’s and my commendation of apostolic succession was neither preceded by nor predicated upon a direct (historical or Biblical) case for the truth of the doctrine.  For, at least as we saw things, the arguments we mustered for the No Distinction Thesis did not require us to build such a case.  That’s because we nowhere saw ourselves as deploying explicitly or enthymematically a premise to the effect that apostolic succession (or “Catholic ecclesiology”) is right.  And, looking back, it remains entirely unclear where in our argument we could try to stick a premise like that, or what the purpose of trying to stick it somewhere would be.

Supposing we weren’t fooling ourselves in so thinking (it is, of course, Mathison’s contention that we were), it needs noting that even if Mathison has provided us with weighty historical and Biblical evidence placing apostolic succession in doubt, this could not serve to show that the distinction between Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura is viable after all, or that the latter does not in the relevant sense reduce to the former.  That is, such evidential considerations against apostolic succession could not establish the Distinction Thesis.  (Nor could they undermine the No Distinction Thesis; maybe the Anabaptists have this one sewn up.)  But our arguments targeted precisely this thesis, and they did so (so we thought) without reliance on apostolic succession as a premise, suppressed or otherwise.  So how, exactly, does Mathison’s critique of apostolic succession (the bulk of his paper) relate to the thing we were arguing about, the thesis that there is no principled distinction between Mathison’s two construals of “Scripture Alone?”

The fundamental idea is something like this:

(P)  The thesis that there is no principled distinction between Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura appears true or plausible to the inquirer if and only if the inquirer presupposes Catholic ecclesiology.

That is: if one “presupposes” Catholic ecclesiology, the distinction becomes “invisible” to one.  Conversely, if one refrains from “presupposing” Catholic ecclesiology, the distinction becomes or can be made “visible” to one.  (The visual metaphors are Mathison’s.)

(P)’s probably going to need some refinement, and certainly some interpretive attention.  I’ll get to that just below.  For now let’s complete the thought and specify how (P) (or some similar (P)-ish assertion) binds together the apostolic succession section and the Distinction Thesis section of Mathison’s paper.

It’s like this: Because apostolic succession is essential to Catholic ecclesiology, Mathison wants to vitiate it, with the aim at least of explaining why he himself does not presuppose Catholic ecclesiology, and perhaps in hopes of getting others to doubt it or refrain from presupposing it as well.  This accomplished, according to (P), the principled distinction between Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura will become “visible” to the inquirer – if not immediately, at least when a few supplemental explanations are made, or a few arguments for the No Distinction Thesis rebutted.  That is, once the Catholic presuppositions (concerning apostolic succession) are jettisoned, Mathison’s distinction between Solo and Sola Scriptura will (or can be made to) emerge, and our arguments for the No Distinction Thesis will be exposed as “circular and question-begging.”  This is the dialectical or strategic purpose of including in his paper a lengthy section criticizing apostolic succession.

If Mathison were right about this (the stuff in (P)), I suppose it would be incumbent on us to mount a defense of apostolic succession with a view toward getting people to presuppose it, thereby rendering invisible (to them) the distinction Mathison proposes.  (Actually, it would be incumbent on us to quit the argument and stop being sly.)  But we need not do this.  This is not because his arguments against apostolic succession don’t merit reply.  It is just that he’s wrong about (P).  More precisely: There is no defensible interpretation of (P) that can accomplish the task Mathison requires of it.  Let me explain why.

II.

What could Mathison mean by (P)?  Here’s what I think he can’t mean.  He cannot mean that the thesis that “There is no principled distinction between Solo and Sola Scriptura” somehow logically follows from “Catholic presuppositions,” considered as (say) assumptions or starting points in an argument, or as elements of one’s background knowledge.  At least, he can’t really mean this thesis logically follows from “Catholic presuppositions” in the particular argument for it that we gave.

To explain.  It is plausible to believe, as Mathison suggests, that Catholic “presuppositions” (so understood) would decisively determine the outcome of one’s inquiry into the truth of apostolic succession.  The reason is that the hypothesis h (apostolic succession) is going to vary in probability according to the evidence e and one’s background knowledge k; and of course, if one simply includes within k the hypothesis h, one achieves (if “achieves” is the right word) the trivial result that Pr(h/e.k) = 1.  Garbage in, garbage out.  That is why Mathison, with a touch of world-weary melancholy, signals at the outset of his critique that Catholics naturally won’t be moved by it.

Similarly, if one were to “presuppose Catholic ecclesiology,” in the above sense of including it in one’s background knowledge k, and then consider the evidence e for the hypothesis h that “Some version of ‘Scripture Alone’ is correct,” one would again get the trivial result (Pr(h/e.k) = 0).  This is because k includes something like “Catholic ecclesiology is true;” and this means no version of “Scripture Alone” is so much as consistent with k, whatever e might have to say on the topic.  So “presupposing” Catholic ecclesiology in this way of course entails “No version of ‘Scripture Alone’ is right,” because any version of it will have to deny something Catholic ecclesiology affirms.  But it won’t imply something on the order of “There cannot be any principled distinction between any two versions of ‘Scripture Alone’,” which is an entirely distinct claim respecting which no trivially tautological “Probability = 100%” can be assigned.

Compare: Imagine one “presupposes” Catholic soteriology.  Plausibly, this presupposition entails that no (classical) Protestant version of justification is correct.  But it doesn’t imply the very different claim that there is no distinction between any two Protestant theories of justification; still less could “presupposing” Catholic soteriology “render invisible” the distinction Protestants make between justification and sanctification, or the contrasts they draw between their own and competing (Protestant) formulations of the doctrine.  One can “get” or “see” the distinctions on offer, even if one does not believe (even if one “presupposes” the falsity of) any soteriology inconsistent with Catholic dogma.

Or again (Reformed readers might like this better), a person can “presuppose” Reformed soteriology, and for all that remain capable of “seeing” the distinction drawn between condign and congruent merit – and this even if he thinks there is no “principled difference” between them in the soteriological scheme, because they both “amount to” earning salvation by works.  Indeed, it seems perfectly possible that such a person could, without eschewing his presuppositions, construct an argument for this conclusion without any inevitable lapse into vicious circularity.

As a general matter, whatever “presupposing” a theory may entail about the truth value of theses the theory rules out, it doesn’t typically entail anything about the existence or viability or “principledness” of distinctions that may be drawn between the various theses with which the theory conflicts, nor does it have the effect (in any case I can think of) of somehow rendering blind the inquirer to conceptual or logical distinctions drawn by upholders of such conflicting views.  Spinoza “gets” Descartes’ distinction between mental and material substance, and indeed insists on the conceptual isolation of the one from the other, but denies that this gives principled reason to infer a “real” distinction between these sorts of substance.  Hume “sees” the difference between Malebranche’s and Berkeley’s occasionalisms, and thinks that (so far as causation’s concerned) they “amount to” the same metaphysical nonsense.  Calvin “perceives” the disparity between what Libertines and pantheists say, and contends on quite philosophical grounds that Libertines are anyhow just pantheists in theistic dress.  Examples abound.  So why is it that, in this one, particular case, “presupposing” something that conflicts with any version of “Scripture Alone” precludes apprehending conceptual distinctions drawn between contrastive differentiations of it, or automatically renders one’s arguments about them “circular?”

Perhaps an answer to this question can be discovered when we reflect that (P) contains the following significant asymmetry: (P) does not entail that the distinction (between Solo and Sola) is or can be made visible to the inquirer only if the inquirer adopts Reformed presuppositions; merely refraining from presupposing Catholic ecclesiology is (all else being equal) sufficient to render visible the crucial distinction between Solo and Sola Scriptura.  By contrast, you can get to the No Distinction Thesis, or at any rate fail to see the relevant distinction, only if you antecedently adopt Catholic ecclesiology.

((P) is in this respect parallel to Mathison’s twin claim, that the evidence for apostolic succession looks sufficient, or reasonably weighty, if and only if one antecedently supposes the truth of apostolic succession.  “Any” other set of presuppositions, he alleges, will allow the inquirer to the assess the evidence pro and con in such a way that either (a) evidence sufficient for the falsity of apostolic succession will be discovered, or at least (b) sufficient evidence for its truth will not be found.  Given the stakes (one’s eternal destiny, he says), Mathison seems to think that (b) is enough to make rejection of apostolic succession rationally and prudentially obligatory.  But placing this conjecture to the side, and ignoring scruples about the “onus of proof,” he clearly believes the situation is as in (a): the evidence against apostolic succession is overwhelming, and the only way this could be invisible to a person is if he presupposed the truth of apostolic succession prior to inquiry.  Mutatis mutandis for the No Distinction Thesis: the evidence for the Distinction Thesis (though different in kind) is overwhelming and indeed pretty obviously so to everybody; one fails to see this only by “presupposing Catholic ecclesiology.”)

Questions arise in respect of this asymmetry.  When we appreciate that apostolic succession appears to be the main cataract-inducing culprit, and then consider that Catholics aren’t the only believers in apostolic succession, we may wish to amend (P) in such a way as to specify that, say, Orthodox Christians are likewise unable to “see” the principled distinction between Solo and Sola Scriptura.  This would still preserve an important asymmetry, since we could continue to maintain that apostolic-succession-presuppositions blind across the board, so to speak, and that any inquirer not blinded by them could be brought to see the pertinent distinction irrespective of whatever else (within reasonable limits) they presuppose to be true.

But there’s a wrinkle.  As Mathison points out, Anglicans and some Lutherans also endorse apostolic succession.  (This gets Catholics into Tu Quoque trouble, he says; so their beliefs must be apposite to the case.)  And it seems this would render them blind to the distinction he wishes to draw as well.  But I think he would not want to affirm this.  So how to fix?  Perhaps it will be suggested that Protestant apostolic-succession-presupposers are not invariably blind to the Solo/Sola distinction, because certain additional Protestant presuppositions have the salutary effect of letting them perceive what they’d otherwise find invisible.  Maybe.  But I think this is the wrong way to go, because in this case the edge given to Protestants by (P) is greatly diminished.  For what could the hypothesized vision-enabling Protestant presuppositions be, if not things like “Sola Scriptura is biblical,” “Sola Scriptura isn’t license for unbiblical manifestations of individualism and anarchy,” and the like?  Yet these things won’t go to the dialectical purpose, because if they are the vision-enabling presuppositions the asymmetry in (P) looks to collapse.  It would be just as crucial to adopt distinctively Protestant presuppositions in order to “see” the distinction between Solo and Sola, as it is to adopt Catholic presuppositions in order to not see it.  But the asymmetry in (P) is important to Mathison’s strategic posture; it counts as a mark in the Distinction Thesis’ favor.  This is because the root idea is simply that anybody with his head about him can see the distinction unless he’s befuddled by Catholic bias; Mathison does not wish to affirm the parallel, that nobody in his wits would think there is a distinction there unless his Protestant presuppositions informed him, “prior to inquiry,” that there simply has to be one somewhere.

But I think this is no show-stopper.  Indeed, it puts us in position to propose an interpretation of Mathison’s (P) – one that reverse engineers (so to say) the idea behind it, whilst looking ahead to the ultimate criticism of us Mathison wants to make.  Such an interpretation may be formulated with one eye on the desideratum that (a) the interpretation should retain an asymmetry between Catholics (and probably Orthodox) and non-Catholics (non-Orthodox), and one eye on the desideratum that (b) it should support or make way for Mathison’s contention that our arguments for the No Distinction Thesis are “circular” and “question-begging.”  (For ease of expression I’ll just speak of “Catholics” and “Protestants” in what follows, and give the Orthodox Christians and the non-Christians a pass.  Macht nichts.)

Let us say, then, what preserves the asymmetry in (P) is that Catholics think the Church is in some sense infallible and that apostolic succession functions in some way as to secure her infallibility, whereas Protestant proponents of apostolic succession don’t believe these things.  (Rejecting these beliefs might be analogous to a localized ophthalmological procedure, which cuts through the dreaded apostolic succession glaucoma.)  And let us impute to Catholic believers in apostolic succession the following presupposition: “There cannot be such a thing as a fallible religious authority.”  For present purposes, this latter presupposition may be thought of as an element of the doctrine of apostolic succession itself, or perhaps merely something that is derivable from it.  Either way, I’ve seen Catholics saddled with this sort of idea before, and this fosters hope we’re in the right neighborhood.

These specifications made, we may understand Mathison as claiming that Catholics cannot see the distinction between Solo and Sola because we presuppose that a ‘fallible religious authority’ is something like an analytic impossibility; and, moreover, because we presuppose this, we must inevitably deploy this assumption as a premise (perhaps suppressed) in our argument for the No Distinction Thesis, which renders the thing circular in consequence.  The offending presuppositions now excavated, we may imagine Mathison sees our argument as running something like this:

  1. Catholic ecclesiology is correct.
  2. If Catholic ecclesiology is correct, there can’t be such a thing as a fallible religious authority.
  3. There’s no such thing as a fallible religious authority.  [From (1) and (2).]
  4. According to Sola Scriptura, the Church (the true bishops, etc.) possesses real but fallible authority, and the Bible is the only infallible authority.
  5. But this reduces to the view that the Bible is the only real authority, and the Church no real authority at all.  [From (3) and (4).]
  6. And that’s just what Solo Scriptura says.
  7. So there’s no principled distinction between Sola Scriptura and Solo Scriptura.  [From (5) and (6).]
  8. Therefore, like we said, Catholic ecclesiology is correct.  [From (1).]

This argument fills the bill; like Megan Fox, it exhibits all the right features.  The No Distinction Thesis expressed in (7) relies in an obvious way on the “Catholic presuppositions” in (1) and (2).  And the ultimate affirmation of Catholic ecclesiology in (8), while in no wise following from any of (3) through (7), certainly does follow from (1), since it just repeats (1).

The problem is, of course, not simply that this impressive piece of reasoning is not the reasoning Bryan and I delivered to the brethren for general consumption; it is that it does not obviously (indeed, obviously doesn’t) resemble anything Bryan and I anywhere said.  If it did – if we said anything remotely resembling this, however more subtly or sneakily we may have said it – I should think it would be an easy thing for Mathison to point up where we did this, and it would be an even easier thing to make people understand how it “begs the question” and “relies on Catholic presuppositions.”  This, I daresay, even the most myopic of Catholics among us could be brought finally to appreciate, if only via suggestive manual gesticulations and gaily colored picture-books.  But Mathison has, so far forth, displayed a certain disinclination to acquiesce to repeated requests to indicate how our argument resembles (however distantly) the one just given, choosing instead merely to reassert that it does, and offering the now familiar diagnosis as to why those who’ve voiced these requests have not managed already to see how.  (It has something to do with their presuppositions.)

This won’t suffice.  What Mathison needs to do, is not to demonstrate that we presented precisely that (1)-through-(8) argument up there.  For this is not the only way we could have begged the question against him.  What he needs to do is to support his allegation that our argument against the Distinction Thesis “relevantly resembles” this argument, in the following respects: his explanation should (a) preserve the Catholic/Protestant asymmetry, by identifying some feature F unique to the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession, which (by hypothesis) causes blindness; (b) display how F is used in our argument so as to yield “circularity,” by showing (e.g.) how F is essential to the justification of some or other premise put forth within it; and (c) make it exegetically plausible that we really did give this argument somewhere, in the “historically objective” and “publically verifiable” paper we actually wrote.  But Mathison has done none of this, and has to all appearances not tried.

So far as I can see (sorry), if we “presupposed Catholic ecclesiology” and developed a “circular argument” therefrom, we would have to have done something like this:

  1. Catholic ecclesiology is correct.
  2. The ultimate interpretive authority remains the individual Christian on Sola Scriptura, since the individual must first interpret the Bible himself so as subsequently to discover which church is “the Church,” because “the Church” is to be identified [metaphysical-normative claim] by way of doctrinal fidelity to the Bible, as measured [epistemic claim] ultimately by the individual’s interpretation of the doctrinal content of the Bible.
  3. So, like we said, Catholic ecclesiology is correct.  [From (1).]

And supposing we did a silly thing like that, it would be easily rectifiable.  We could simply retract (1) and (3), and let the matter rest with (2).  For nothing in (2) relies on (1), even if we suppose (1) includes the “presupposition” that “There are no fallible religious authorities.”  (“Presupposing” a thing does not equate to resting one’s argument on it.)  And (3) doesn’t follow from (2) either, but is just a restatement of the first premise gratuitously appended to produce the impression of “question-begging.”  Such things as (1), and the dubious “presupposition” that “all authorities must be infallible,” are, unlike the Gentiles, wild shoots that resist organic engraftment into structures they’d never inhabited, and which in any event get on just swimmingly without them.

This is why, as I said, I think Mathison can’t really mean that our “Catholic presuppositions” logically entail the No Distinction Thesis.  At least, he cannot really mean that they were as a matter of fact used logically to establish this thesis within the obstreperously specific argument for it we produced.  We must look elsewhere for a plausible interpretation of (P).

III.

The most promising way forward, it seems to me, is to cease searching primarily for the logical properties of “Catholic presuppositions” and their alleged entailments vis-à-vis the No Distinction Thesis, and to reconsider Mathison’s evocative comments about the psychological-cum-epistemological effects of adopting (or “seeing the world through”) them.  For presuppositions, whatever else they may be, are not happily thought of merely as propositions that may be assumed or discarded arguendo at will, in order simply to see “what follows.”  Indeed, one might argue that construing them after this manner relies implicitly on some brand of doxastic voluntarism, a framework “antithetic” to the presuppositions of presuppositionalism.

Instead, we should view presuppositions as (say) irrevocable actual commitments with a very significant “depth of ingression into one’s noetic structure,” as Plantinga would put it, and which have the effect not only of regulating or “flavoring” all of one’s believings, but also of formatively impacting the heart, the emotions, the will.  Such presuppositions will (to borrow William James’ terminology) decisively determine, by way of the heart formed by them, which intellectual options are genuine for a person, which hypotheses are “alive” and which are “dead.”  They will thus be pregnant with cognitive consequence and potentially quite disruptive of the epistemic virtues, as James so eloquently describes –

It is only our already dead hypotheses that our willing nature is unable to bring to life again.  But what has made them dead for us is for the most part a previous action of our willing nature of an antagonistic kind.  When I say ‘willing nature,’ I do not mean only such deliberate volitions as may have set up habits of belief that we cannot now escape from, – I mean all such factors of belief as fear and hope, prejudice and passion, imitation and partisanship, the circumpressure of our caste and set.  As a matter of fact we find ourselves believing, we hardly know how or why.  Mr. Balfour gives the name of ‘authority’ to all those influences, born of the intellectual climate, that make hypotheses possible or impossible for us, alive or dead.  Here in this room, we all of us believe in molecules and the conservation of energy, in democracy and necessary progress, in Protestant Christianity and the duty of fighting for ‘the doctrine of the immortal Monroe,’ all for no reasons worthy of the name.  We see into these matters with no more inner clearness, and probably with much less, than any disbeliever in them might possess.  His unconventionality would probably have some grounds to show for its conclusions; but for us, not insight, but the prestige of the opinions, is what makes the spark shoot from them and light up our sleeping magazines of faith.  Our reason is quite satisfied, in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of every thousand of us, if it can find a few arguments that will do to recite in case our credulity is criticised by some one else.  Our faith is faith in some one else’s faith, and in the greatest matters this is most the case.  (“The Will to Believe” §III.)

An apt depiction of the Catholic condition, let us suppose.  (Though, pace James, not of the Protestant – and this not because Protestants don’t presuppose things, but because of the familiar asymmetry.  Generally speaking, Protestant presuppositions will impact the heart and the will precisely as explained, but in an epistemically virtuous and truth-oriented way.  Their faith will not be faith in someone else’s faith, but in God and His Holy Word.  They will see, with superior inner clearness, the problems afflicting views they reject; yet they will likewise see with superior inner clearness the truth and beauty and reasonableness of the beliefs they hold to be true.  The circumpressure of their caste and set, the prejudices and passions, the prestige of their shared opinions, will evince the divine wisdom of calling forth Mother Church as protective benefactor and defensor Christianae fidei.  Their reason will be satisfied when it lights upon arguments, because the arguments on which it alights will be (objectively and obviously) very good arguments indeed.  Etc.  Such things will not be true of Catholics.)

Does this understanding of presuppositions and their effects finally render plausible the claim put forth in (P)?  Well, I think it makes it more plausible, though one still rather doubts the asymmetry bit.  But letting that pass, I think this understanding of presuppositions now makes (P) at least “defensible,” in the quite literal sense that it comes fully loaded with its own resources for self-defense.

For consider: a guy who “presupposes” Catholicism probably will not view Protestantism as a living hypothesis, or as a “live option.”  And so perhaps he just will not be able to take it seriously enough to think through it very conscientiously, even if he was (or anyway thought he was) a Protestant at some past point himself.  His reading of Protestant sources might be at best cursory, fragmentary and inattentive, as a result of the ambivalence or boredom he feels with it.  And it seems a person in such circumstances could easily miss distinctions made by Protestants, even when they aren’t exactly what you’d call tricky.

But what if he thinks about them for a good long time and writes a lengthy essay on the topic?  In this case, his reading may be attentive but will be in equal measure selective.  He may, quite sub-intentionally even, simply focus his intellectual gaze away from crucial passages or explications.  Or he may, without quite realizing it, have allowed not ambivalence but disdain to direct the exegetical process, by interpreting everything he reads in the most uncharitable or strawmanish ways possible.  And so on.  These things can cloud the vision.

But what about a person who does not feel disdain or ambivalence, and is (as he thinks) trying his level best to understand and appropriately to engage?  In particular, what of those Protestants who became doubtful of the Distinction Thesis but not of Protestantism, and only later on became Catholics?  Or what of those Reformed Protestants who have admitted (there are some) that the argument for the No Distinction Thesis looks pretty good, and who remain Reformed Protestants anyway?  Again – this is part of the beauty of (P) – Mathison can claim (has actually claimed) that such persons have already presupposed an incipient “Catholic ecclesiology” without recognizing it.  And one can hardly expect a person in such straits to see with inner clearness that they’ve done so; for if their presuppositions effectively preclude them from seeing easy distinctions like those drawn up by Mathison, they cannot be expected to see that this is true of them, or to distinguish with any greater inner clarity between which things they really do believe and which things they really don’t.

It is this feature of (P) so understood – the sort of hand-me-down armchair psychoanalyzing for which it makes way – that renders (P) “defensible,” because the explanations cooked up by the analyst are designedly quite impossible to refute.  For they are not, as Mathison nicely put it in another connection, inductions based on empirical evidence, but deductions based on assertion.  And it is hard to imagine a less assailable defensive posture than that.

But let it be so.  Let the assertion be true.  Still, I claim, we have not discovered an interpretation of (P) that is both “defensible” and which “can accomplish the task Mathison requires of it,” which is (as you will recall) what we set out to find.  This is so for the following simple reason: the “Catholic presupposition-induced blindness” to the distinction Mathison draws is a putative psychological-cum-epistemological fact about Catholics.  But the allegation that our case for the No Distinction Thesis is “circular and question-begging” is a putative fact about the logic of the argument.  And there is a principled distinction between these things, which Mathison has perhaps not seen.  For arguments (like offspring) need not inherit their parents’ defects; a fortiori when the defects are of categorically different kinds.

Once an argument marches forth into the wider world, the umbilical cord is severed and it takes on a life very much its own – to be praised or to be blamed in accord with its merits.  And no amount of blaming its authors for blindness can imply that an argument they gave is guilty of circularity.  For it is at any rate possible that Bryan and I in Athenian fashion groped hazily about, read incautiously and uncharitably, or embraced the No Distinction Thesis merely via some quasi-Freudian wish-fulfillment mechanism; but, like the proverbial blind hog, we might for all that have delivered into the world an acorn without so much as knowing how we’d done it.

At the very best, Mathison’s “blindness” hypothesis would support the allegation that our procedure was “circular,” in a broad and nonstandard sense of the term implicating biased investigation – we found just what we set out to find.  Perhaps.  But what we found was an argument the logic of which has nothing specially to do with the optical deficiencies of its authors, and which “presupposes” nothing objectionably Cathol-icky itself.  So whereas Mathison’s application of “presuppositionalist” methodology is of course to be expected, it has in this instance resulted in one paper on two topics artificially cobbled together, and has hindered rather than enhanced clarity of sight.  Let us, therefore, turn our attention back to that acorn, for it seems to me a far more interesting subject of study than the blind hogs who dug it up.

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  1. That’s an elegant explanation, full of charity and perfectly clear. Thank you, Neal.

    Praised be Jesus Christ

  2. The most brilliant ‘tongue in cheek’ I have ever seen, heard or read. I believe he’ll “get it”- I hope he takes you up on it.

  3. After Mathison’s critique, all the lay faithful held their breath in trepidation, and you have assuaged our fears. Back to the farms…

  4. Neal:

    That was a thorough pleasure to read. Thank you. The humor made it go down nice and easy.

    It occurred to me after reading your paper that some Reformed will concede the point and move the debate. Thus: “Yeah, we know that Mathison’s way of defending the Distinction Thesis won’t work, that he can’t play the presuppositionalist game and expect anybody to take it seriously as a critique of the actual logic of your argument against the Distinction Thesis. But there are other ways of defending said thesis, and you haven’t begun to address those.” As a matter of fact, I’ve observed TurretinFan and a couple others making what is, in effect, just that sort of response already. So what’s the proper rejoinder?

    I think it’s this: “If you guys have a way of identifying ‘the Church’ as interpretive authority that doesn’t fall prey to the same objections as Mathison’s, thus collapsing sola into solo, we’d love to hear it.” What objections? The ones I developed in my paper.

    Best,
    Mike

  5. The allegation that the distinction between “solo” and “sola” is invisible only if one presupposes Catholic ecclesiology is correct, could just as easily be inverted to read that the distinction is visible only if one presupposes Catholic ecclesiology is incorrect. But since, as many (including Protestants like Carl Trueman) have stated, Roman Catholicism is the “default position in the west,” the second from of this allegation would seem more likely. That is, in denying Catholic ecclesiology, Protestants then see this distinction arise. Which they must, lest they be impaled on either horn of their dilemma…the need to have legitimate authority, but without aposotolic succession.

    Seems to indicate strongly that Protestantism was, and continues to be, a reaction against an older and more established viewpoint, rather than a system of theology arising organically from within the Bible itself. Were it not for the rejection of Rome, Protestants would not have the necessary presupposition to even look for, much less see, this distinction between “solo” and “sola.”

    That, and Mathison seemed to think that disproving Roman Catholic claims about the Papacy in particular were sufficient to dismantle any and all claims about apostolic succession more broadly. A number of Orthodox observers already pointed that out in responses to earlier articles following Mathison’s reply. Even if he were correct in disproving the claim of Papal infallibility, it still does nothing to adequately address succession, nor does it explain why Protestants would still seek to deny apostolic succession in the absence of concerns unique to the Papacy.

    My 2 cents. And worth every penny!!!

  6. B-e-a-utiful! Thanks Neal!

  7. Having not read the book, nor the 1200 comment post, nor understanding all of the vebiage of this post, (but being significantly glad that all of the Angels in Heaven are rejoicing), or alas, being of insufficient calculus skills to perform the necessary operations on p, e, h, or k, I tentatively offer an opinion to you charitable gentlemen, trusting in your kindness.

    It seems to me that the distinction between Solo and Sola is thus:
    1) Solo is trusting in only myself.
    2) Sola is trusting in an other than myself.

    This is question #1. Who do I trust?

    Question #2 is How do I know who I trust is trustworthy.

    These are actually very different questions which I think are getting very confused in the many, erudite, eloquent arguments which I have sampled.

    It seems to me that the answer to Question #1 is key. If the answer is an other entity, that is, in fact a good thing. To trust outside of myself is a mark of humility over pride. THIS IS KEY. The distinction should be allowed, for this reason as much as any. As a protestant, I admit that there are very few of my kind who could honestly answer question #1 with an affirmative of another over myself. This is an ENORMOUS deficiency which I think we are mostly blind to. But there are some who I believe could answer it truly. They are those who have spent their entire life, (or at any rate their converted life) within the context of one spiritual community, receiving what is fed to them there.

    NONE OF THIS goes anywhere near answering Question #2. i.e. how does that small, humble, remnant, know that what they are submitting to is, in fact, trustworthy, right, Orthodox and all that. This humble individual could be a life long Mormon or JW. But as a matter of PRINCIPAL, the two questions must be kept distinct. As a matter of practicum, the problem is that the force of Question #2 is of such a high quality, that anyone who dares to answer #1 in the affirmative must have incredible confidence (or naivete) in what they are trusting, as Mr. Cross pointed out, Mr. Mathison is betting his eternal security on his pastor. So the two questions keep getting mixed.

    The options become very narrow when considering this second question and weigh very heavily on those who carry a teaching authority and must give an account. When the humble remnant (as good bereans) then ask those teaching, but “where did you learn that”, how is it answered? Is it possible for those in authority to appear, Sola, to another body which they submit, in obeissance, to? How far back can the chain extend before being confronted with what History attests too?

  8. Jeremiah, I think you hit it with your question # 1.. If I trust someone other than myself I must needs trust the church… The church must get it’s teachings from the Scriptures. If their teaching is at odds with what I believe, I must either bow to the church and accept the teachings or start church shopping again until I find one that I do agree with.

    Either way it starts as sola and ends with solo. So there really is no difference.

  9. Jeremiah,

    Despite your fear because of a lack of calculus, (forgive Neal’s analytic philosophy for its variable obsession), you may have in one small comment, kicked the ball back over to the playground (the teacher had temporarily held it in detention; thanks Neal for that). While most of the lay, and most on a search for the “Church” may not read Neal’s article in quiet meditation in a side chapel of a Catholic parish, not sure how they got there (the chapel) or really what the heck any of this means, they will ask your questions–and this by no way degrades the “layman” because at the end of the day your questions cut to the very heart of it (Neal’s might get it down to the quantum level but does that really help me take out the trash). No one sitting in a pew trusts (for the truth not for salvation) only God and their mind. They get comfortable, squeeze their wife’s shoulder, maybe rustle the change in their pocket and ease into their seat because they trust that the man who is about to deliver the truth will do just that. Which will lead them to question #2.

    God bless.

  10. To all:

    I apologize for the typo’s and homynymatic confusion in my first post, I was typing whilst being assaulted by four children in various ways.

    NHU

    IF, someone bolts their pew you are correct, sola => solo. There are in fact, those that don’t leave, even when they disagree. (In fact I would make a strong case that most comings and goings have more to do with hurt feelings than doctrinal issues, but that is a very different issue).

    To all (Again)

    In thinking more on the original proposition of Neal’s artical, and Mr. Mathison’s proposition “(P) The thesis that there is no principled distinction between Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura appears true or plausible to the inquirer if and only if the inquirer presupposes Catholic ecclesiology.” I think I see a path.

    SHOULD ONE ACCEPT the answer to question #1 “Who do I trust” as someone else rather than myself. This is what constitutes the catholic epistemic (both East and West). The FORCE AND WEIGHT of question #2 comes down so heavily. It is, in fact, magnified by our egalitarian, antinomian society (nobody wants to follow the next Jim Jones). For those who have already accepted a Catholic spiritual community, it seems patently ridiculous to think that anyone could seriously propose that their little congregation of 150 can have any hope of holding to Orthodoxy. I think this is the reason why Mr. Mathison cried foul. It is also why he began his response (which I did actually read, along with a manful effort at the next 250 responses, although I gave out after 100) with a long diatribe against the validity of the RCC. Having accepted a Sola position, and carrying quite literally a mortal fear of following the next Jim Jones (subconcscious of course) He feels the weight of trusting a local pastor.

    But part of clear thinking is not confusing categories. And just because, on one side of the Tiber, people are afraide of falling into the Jim Jones trap (which I think drives a lot of folks to go from Sola => Solo) and on the other side of the Tiber people have such great confidence in the Power of GOD to work through the Magistereum, does not mean any of us should confuse Q#1 & Q#2.

    We should just recognize that Q#2 sucks all the air out of the room.

  11. Jerimiah: It seems to me that the distinction between Solo and Sola is thus:
    1) Solo is trusting in only myself.
    2) Sola is trusting in an other than myself.

    This is question #1. Who do I trust?

    Question #2 is How do I know who I trust is trustworthy.

    Both solo and sola is trusting oneself, and that is the point of the Cross/Judisch thesis – .i.e. there is no principled distinction between solo scriptura and sola scriptura. The reason why sola is trusting oneself is because the “reformer’s” doctrine of sola scriptura rests upon the foundation of the doctrine of the primacy of conscience. Keith Mathison implicitly asserts the doctrine of the primacy of conscience this way:

    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

    Keith Mathison, like every Protestant that reserves the right to church shop, is saying as long as the individual Protestant is following his conscience, he is free to “disobey the Church and leave the Church.” The individual’s conscience is what has primacy in determining what church the individual Christian will listen to, and no other temporal ecclesial authority has primacy above the individual‘s conscience. Whom do I trust as a sola scriptura confessing Protestant? Ultimately, my conscience, and within the Protestant world of sola scriptura confessing sects there is no absolute necessity for me subject myself to any temporal authority that would form my conscience. No matter how malformed my conscience, I am free to be disobedient to the moral teachings of my church as long as I am following my conscience. God forbid, that I am a sociopath, because then I would be free to disobey every church. And if I am not a sociopath that has no conscience whatsoever, but merely someone with a conscience suffers from some degree of the defect of licentiousness, well too bad for you. I am not required to listen to the elders and the pastor of my church as long as I am following my conscience.

    Where does this doctrine of the primacy of conscience come from anyway? Both Luther and Calvin claimed, if not explicitly, at least implicitly, the validity of the doctrine of the primacy of conscience doctrine when they decided that they were free to follow their consciences and break away from the church in which they had membership. Luther and Calvin didn’t just disobey and leave the church of their youth, they left that church and founded their own personal “Christian” churches. And once they did that, the world had two entirely new religions that taught conflicting and irreconcilable doctrine, one teaching the novel doctrines of Lutheranism, and the other teaching the novel doctrines of Calvinism. But again, where did Luther and Calvin get the idea that the doctrine of the primacy of conscience has anything to do with the doctrines of real Christianity? Nowhere do the scriptures teach this novelty of the primacy of conscience, because nowhere do the scriptures teach that I am free to blow off the teachings of the church that Christ founded as long as I am following my conscience.

  12. Mateo,

    I think the forumula of following one’s own conscience (“To thine own self be true”) describes about 95% of evangelicals I know. It also describes about 95% of Catholics I know, who seem to feel as much liberty in rejecting the teachings of the Magisterium as do Protestants. In fact at my Catholic university, in a religion class taught by a priest, I found myself in the awkward position of being a Protestant who was actually defending the history of the Catholic Church because the nonsense being spewed in the classroom was so far gone from reality that I couldn’t stomach it. Still, that has no bearing on the point at hand.

    Although you may be summarizing the results of the Protestant conscience-led paradigm, I think you’re oversimplfying its original intent. Recall, Luther didn’t say “Here I stand led by my own conscience acting as its own highest authority,” but rather, “my conscience is held captive by the Word of God.” He sought to locate authority outside of himself. Everyone’s conscience must be conformed to God’s truth. We might even say that sin, in essence, is “missing the mark” precisely because it consists in our consciences being held captive to something other than God’s truth. The issue isn’t whether we follow our conscience–I can’t imagine many Catholics remaining in the Church while their consciences are screaming against them that everything taught by Rome is false–but the sounces by which we inform and shape our consciences. At some point everyone’s conscience will collide with a wall that claims to be correct, and one must decide whether to conform to that new rule, or to ignore or break it. The wall for the Catholic may be different than for the Protestant, or maybe there’s an extra layer of walls, or something, but it seems to me the situation faced by each is about the same.

    Luther had to locate a source of absolute and infallible authority by which he could judge his own conscience and then correct it. As must a Catholic. They differ in the locus of this absolute authority.

    I don’t think any Protestant seeks to free himself of anything but his own conscience, at least nobody should. But when it comes down to interpreting and applying what one appropriates as ultimate truth, then the human mind (and conscience) is the filter. The fact that we must think through, understand, and agree to some truth doesn’t move the locus of authority within ourselves…I retain my authority in my home whether or not my kid’s conscience feels bound by it…but he still has to parse what I say.

    I’m not sure where you strike a balance between total libertarianism with respect to religion, and blind submission on the other hand. Catholics have had to use their consciences in the past to determine what to accept from those in authority over them, because so often those in authority were corrupt and self-serving (as have been leaders in EVERY faith). At times they’ve had to decide WHICH man to follow as Pope, I suppose, because even that wasn’t clear during some periods.

    I’m probably rambling. I respectfully appreciate your points, but I think you may be oversimplifying to some degree, almost as though all a Catholic has to do is to kick back and enjoy the ride, while every Protestant is hopelessly lost to fumble around in the darkness of his own conscience.

  13. BT and Mateo,

    The right (or duty), within the context of a covenantal relationship, to withdraw consent. Does this right exist? We will call this question Q3. Even if I am consenting to an authority outside of myself, do I ever have the right or duty to withdraw consent? Lets leave aside the question, for the moment, of whether or not the authority is legitimately appointed. Lets assume that it is. Do Roman Catholics actually think the answer is No? Do they theoretically think the answer is no? The Eastern Churches believe the answer is Yes.

    I think the Magistereum and the Early Fathers might be fuzzy on this point. It is one thing to say the laity should submit to the Bishop as to Jesus Christ in the light of the Martyrdom fires of 100 AD….Quite another when the Bishop is acting like Machiavelli (the protestants have quite an overwhelming lot of Machiavellians in there own pulpits.) I’m NOT suggesting that personal immorality means that the Magistereum is not divinely appointed authority…..What I am asking is, are there ever grounds for a divorce and, if so, what are they?

    The dance between divinely appointed authority, and the duty of the governed to extend or withdraw consent, does not seem to be clearly laid out from a catholic perspective….the emphasis that the authority is divinely appointed almost seems, at times to the outsider (which may be a skewed perspective) to squash the individuals responsibilities. On the converse the protestant (and to a lesser extent EO) emphasis on personal responsibility as a response has tended towards anarchy.

  14. BT

    I think that you may be right when you say that 95 % of all Protestants and Catholics ultimately fall back on their own consciences when determining their affiliations to the Church. It makes me wonder though if the appeal to conscience is always being really honest.

    One must always have a properly formed conscience to start with. When we speak of the Christian Authority by which our conscience must be formed, it must be formed on a living, breathing authority or else it becomes ultimately our own authority.

    The Church was formed by Christ to be a living breathing authority with Jesus as it’s head and with a visible representative on earth to speak on Christ’s behalf. An appeal to a book of written Scripture as the authority will yield us nothing if we cannot interpret that book infallibly. Peter was given the task to speak on Christ’s behalf when he was given the keys and when he was told to shepherd the sheep and lambs.

    Now if you believe that authority died with Peter then you also have to consider that the Church was then left with nothing to guide her into the centuries since then except a written book that cannot speak. If there is no “living” authority to appeal to then we have nothing to form our conscience with other than ourselves.

    Is the Authority of the Church sinless? Not be a long shot but she is under the protection of the Holy Spirit when it comes to matters of faith and morals. It will ultimately boil down to “Faith” whether we accept the authority or not. It’s faith that has everything to do with it.

    Peace

  15. Jeremiah (#13):

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this:

    Do Roman Catholics actually think the answer is No? Do they theoretically think the answer is no? The Eastern Churches believe the answer is Yes.

    I think the Magistereum and the Early Fathers might be fuzzy on this point. It is one thing to say the laity should submit to the Bishop as to Jesus Christ in the light of the Martyrdom fires of 100 AD….Quite another when the Bishop is acting like Machiavelli (the protestants have quite an overwhelming lot of Machiavellians in there own pulpits.) I’m NOT suggesting that personal immorality means that the Magistereum is not divinely appointed authority…..What I am asking is, are there ever grounds for a divorce and, if so, what are they?

    The Catholic answer (not just the “Roman”-Catholic, but the Eastern-Catholic too) is “No.” As St. Augustine said to the Donatists, nothing can justify the sin of schism. Since you like the nuptial metaphor, let’s use it: The Church is the Bride of Christ; to separate from her is to divorce Christ, not to marry him. Of course many think the opposite, for the reason St Jerome gives: “There is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church (In Ep. ad Titus, iii, 10). Typically, there’s a second-order heresy involved in that as well: redefining “the Church” to mean whoever agrees with the heresy being “trumped up” to justify the schism. That’s what the Reformers did.

    And in a way, the schism between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman communion is like that too. Until the time of Patriarch Photius in the 9th century, there was general agreement that the consent and approval of the Roman bishop was uniquely necessary for any doctrine or discipline to bind the whole Church. But as Jaroslav Pelikan once quipped, without too much exaggeration: “The West considered the Bishop of Rome orthodox because he was chief bishop, and the East considered him chief bishop because he was orthodox.” Accordingly, after the Photian schism—which was healed only temporarily—the Orthodox ceased to believe what they used to believe about Rome’s authority, because they thought the Church of Rome was heretical on the filioque. By the time the schism became definitive in the 11th century, the Eastern-Orthodox had come to define themselves as “the Church” from which Rome had departed. From an Orthodox standpoint, it’s tempting to say that Catholicism was the first Protestantism, which some Orthodox do say; and of course, from the Catholic standpoint, it’s tempting to say that Orthodoxy was the first Protestantism, which some Catholics do say. As history has shown, especially in the West, the heresy of redefining “the Church” to mean those who agree with one’s reading of the sources accordingly leads to a disunity that undermines evangelization and is contrary to the will of Christ.

    This sad state of affairs results from what what I consider a basic epistemological error. The error is to suppose that the deposit of faith can be reliably identified and understood as such independently of the authority of the Church (whichever body is thought of as the Church), so that we may judge the orthodoxy of even the highest ecclesial authorities by a criterion we can form, know, and apply without them. If we can do that, then knowing the identity of the Church and the nature of her authority is not necessary for identifying orthodoxy; rather, fidelity to whatever one takes to be orthodoxy is the touchstone for identifying “the Church” and justifying either submission to or rejection of her authority. The former option is characteristic of what is now called “Protestantism,” but it actually originated in the 2nd century, showing its fruits in men like Tertullian.

    As you have noticed, what allowed the error to arise was that the “Early Fathers,” and indeed the first-millennium ecumenical councils themselves, were “fuzzy” on just this point. St. Irenaeus is a good example. If you read his Against Heresies, you find that he identifies orthodoxy as fidelity to what had recently come to be understood (by Rome) as canonical “Scriptures,” which he considered sufficient to obviate unwritten Tradition as a source of knowledge of revealed truth. He justifies ecclesial authority in terms of apostolic succession, of course; but his argument for using apostolic succession as a touchstone of orthodoxy is not that the bishops of the “catholic church” had inherited the full teaching authority of Christ from the Apostles, but that their “tradition,” being fully public, was more likely to be that of the Apostles than that of the Gnostics, who appealed to esoteric, unwritten norms. Now even though Irenaeus was the bishop of Lyons, he had come from the East, and his approach introduced what eventually became the basic weakness of Eastern theology. And his mistake—due more to not thinking this issue through than to any heretical motivation—was echoed in the Reformation doctrine of the “perspicuity” of the Bible.

    So here’s the choice: Either “the Church” is to be identified primarily as the body constituted by communion with a college of bishops that can be known antecedently to have inherited the full teaching authority of the apostles, or “the Church” is to be identified primarily in terms of criteria of orthodoxy that can be antecedently known as such without appeal to ecclesial authority. If Catholicism is true, then the former option is itself orthodox and the latter option is not. But eventually, most of the East chose the latter, as did the Reformers after them; only the church calling herself ‘the Catholic Church’ chose the former. This is why I prefer to say that the Orthodox and the Protestants divorced “the Church” rather than vice-versa.

    Best,
    Mike

  16. Michael,

    Thank you for a very good response. To recap where we are in this discussion, We are considering the following three questions:

    Q1) Do I trust myself or someone else?
    Q2) How do I know that who I trust is trustworthy?
    Q3) Having trusted someone, do I retain the right or duty to withdraw consent?

    Now Mr. Mathison has put forward that if we answer Q1 as “someone else” and answer Q3 as Yes, that is the position of Sola Scriptura. He then puts forward that Solo Scriptura is postulated as answering Q1 as “myself”, Q3 then follows as irrelevant as you aren’t giving consent in the first place.

    Mr. Cross and Mr. Judisch then claimed that to answer Q1 as “someone else” necessitates that Q3 always be answered as “No”. This is KEY. To claim the right or duty to withdraw consent means that you are actually answering Q1 as “myself”.

    Mr. Mathison then answered with, first of all a long discussion on why the answer to Q2 means that the Papacy can not be trusted. He followed that with a declaration that Mr. Cross and Mr. Judisch’s KEY claim is due to Roman Catholic Presuppositions.

    The response which Mr. Liccione just gave indicates that, while answering “No” to Q3 is, in fact, the RC position, this has not been clear historically. In fact, it has been debated for centuries. This assertion seems to give credence to Mr. Mathison’s claim (which incidentally, is the challenge of Neal’s post). This is especially true in light of the summary quote from Jaroslav Pelikan.

    Now, at the risk of completely discrediting myself in the face of a very catholic community, I will add an anecdote which I personally find to be helpful. A protestant pastor who is very dear to me has told me the following about the relationship he has with his eldership group. He says “We work by consensus. Yes, I have final say, but my assertion is this, I can not imagine a situation that would require me to use it. Our approach is to continue to sit in the problem and hold it before the Lord until we come into unity and consensus.”

    I peronally think, that the situations which have arisen in the past which require one side or the other to either pull rank or withdraw consent have existed because of #1 a lack of patience and #2 a lack of willingness to stay connected NO MATTER WHAT. This last is, in fact, the heart of covenantal relationships.

  17. Great statement of the question in #15, Dr. Liccione.

    Jeremiah (#16), the marriage analogy is one of my favorite ways of approaching ecclesiology. The difference between how you guys use it and how I do, is that I see the East-West divide and the Reformation as being divorces a mensa et thoro, not a vinculo matrimonii. Actually, that’s how, as a protestant, I would explain the imperative for ecumenical work; in the words of an old Scotsman, the “making up of a Breach is no less a Duty, than [the] preventing thereof.” But with that said, I think the disagreement Mike has pinpointed is pretty fundamental, and for that reason, sadly, as much as I long for a reunited Christendom, I don’t think there will be a real possibility of reunion till one side or the other budges in its approach to apostolic tradition. In the meantime, Christians can and should work together as much as possible, while also trying to form a clearer vision of just where our disagreements lie.

  18. Jeremiah,

    Q1) Do I trust myself or someone else?
    Q2) How do I know that who I trust is trustworthy?
    Q3) Having trusted someone, do I retain the right or duty to withdraw consent?

    I don’t want to get in the way of other comments here since you and I can, and have been able to, discuss some of these issues in person. However, I want to simply offer a few points of clarification regarding your last post. First, its essential to be clear as to whether questions 1-3 are with reference to truth/doctrine or else morality. Since Bryan and Neal’s original article, as well as Mathison’s response, as well as Mike and Neal’s counter responses are all centered on the question of authority in matters of doctrine/dogma; I assume that is what you have in mind also. If, however your Q3 is meant to include the notion that sin (not just false doctrine) among the clergy might potentially be a legitimate reason for withdrawal of consent, then that is an entirely different type of argument.

    Assuming then that the issue of truth/doctrine is what you have in mind, I want to point out that the following is not quite accurate:

    In fact, it has been debated for centuries. This assertion seems to give credence to Mr. Mathison’s claim

    Neither Catholics, nor the EO maintain that one may ever “trust one’s self” over the Church for any reason in matters of doctrine – EVER. They both fully embrace apostolic succession and the gift of Christ to the apostles enabling them to speak infallibly on matters of doctrine when God’s family requires it. Both recognize the promulgations of ecumenical councils as irreformable and absolutely binding. Thus, both Catholics and EO both answer an emphatic NO to question 3, and always have. The only difference between the two communions centers on a disagreement about the centrality of the bishop of Rome as a constituent element of the Church herself. NEVER do they support the notion that any individual has the “right or duty” to withdrawal consent from the teaching of the Church per se. That notion only arose in the 16th century with Protestantism; where Protestantism explicitly rejects the idea that the doctrinal promulgations of any ecclesial authority are absolutely binding, always and everywhere. Hence, there is no debate going on in the first 16 centuries which mirrors the Protestant approximation of a “Yes” answer to our Q3 – EXCEPT among the heretics, for it was the constant stance of the heretic to set his own doctrines over the infallible judgments of the Church.

    Moreover, as a matter of logic, if a person withdrawals consent from whatever “spiritual community” he thinks of as the church, he has – in that very moment – made himself the final arbiter of both doctrine as well as the definition of the church; no less than when he first chooses a church because that church happens to agree with his own ideas of church and doctrine. In short, he has made himself pope. Neither Mathison, nor anyone else has successfully countered the force of that logic. All Neal’s recent article does is remove the smokescreen that Mathison erected by implying that the logic of Bryan and Neal’s original article somehow depended on ecclesial presuppositions. Neal deftly reduced that notion to rubbish. Now that the mist has cleared, the original argument that sola reduces to solo remains just as it did before Mathison’s response: successful and correct. And just as Neal said in his article, that logic is unaffected EVEN IF all the claims of Rome were false. Thus, all the fire and verve against Catholic ecclesiology contributed nothing to the sola/solo argument itself.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  19. BT: Thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree with some of the things that you wrote, but have problems with other things. As if that would come as a surprise to you. :-)

    BT: I think the formula of following one’s own conscience (“To thine own self be true”) describes about 95% of evangelicals I know. It also describes about 95% of Catholics I know, who seem to feel as much liberty in rejecting the teachings of the Magisterium as do Protestants.

    Here, I don’t really take issue with your observation. What you are they saying is that 95% of the Catholics that you know are de facto Protestants, that is to say, that they are nominal Catholics (i.e. Catholics in name only) that have assumed that they have the authority to sit in judgment of what the Catholic Church officially teaches. Ultimately, these cafeteria Catholics pick and choose what doctrines of the Catholic Church that they will accept, just like all Protestants do. But though I acknowledge this rampant cafeteriaism exists among nominal Catholics, this undeniable fact is not relevant to the point that I am trying to make.

    First, let me clarify two things. One, there is no dispute between faithful Catholics (non-cafeteria Catholics) and the conservative Protestants that believe that because the scriptures are inspired, the scriptures must be inerrant. The Catholic Church teaches that scriptures are inspired and inerrant, and she taught this long before Luther and Calvin were young boys that had membership in the Catholic Church. Second, the practicing Catholics that know their faith don’t dispute that a man should obey his conscience, because that is also a teaching of the Catholic Church (see CCC paragraphs 1776-1778). The dispute that I want to focus on between practicing Catholics and the conservative Protestants, is about the question of interpretive authority, and this dispute involves the two doctrines mentioned above. Catholics reject as unscriptural the Protestant doctrine that the scriptures found in a Protestant bible are the ONLY inerrant source of authority that a Christian has access to. We are disputing the sola (the ONLY) of the Protestant sola scriptura doctrine, not that scriptures are inspired and authoritative. The second dispute involves the locus of primacy of temporal authority. When a doctrinal dispute involving an interpretation of the inerrant scriptures arises, what temporal authority has primacy in binding the individual to a particular interpretation of scriptures ? Does the church founded by Christ have primacy, or does the individual Christian have primacy? The “reformers” asserted a novel doctrine of the primacy of conscience, and that is an assertion that the individual, not the church founded by Christ has primacy. Catholics reject the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of individual conscience as being utterly unscriptural.

    BT: Although you may be summarizing the results of the Protestant conscience-led paradigm, I think you’re oversimplfying its original intent. Recall, Luther didn’t say “Here I stand led by my own conscience acting as its own highest authority,” but rather, “my conscience is held captive by the Word of God.”

    I don’t believe I am oversimplifying, I believe I am focusing on the heart of the matter under dispute. Luther didn’t just assert that his conscience was held captive by the word of God, he asserted that his conscience was bound by the word of God ALONE. It is Luther’s novel ALONE claim that is disputed by Catholics as being wrong. Luther claimed that he had the right to privately interpet the scriptures for himself, and that he had the right to rebel against the authority of his church because he was following his conscience. This is exactly the point being critiqued by Bryan Cross and Neal Judish:

    Mathison maintains that the only authority that can bind the conscience is the Word of God. So when the Church teaches something that is incompatible with one’s conscience, as informed by one’s own interpretation of Scripture, one should reject the Church’s teaching and follow one’s own conscience. … 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.

    That can be seen in the very events of the Protestant Reformation. The first Protestants did not submit their interpretations of Scripture to the judgment of the Catholic Church in which they had each been baptized and raised. Rather, the first Protestants appealed to their own interpretation of Scripture to judge the Church to be apostate, and thus justify separating from her.

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

    I will grant you that Luther claimed his conscience was informed by the scriptures, but what was the ultimate temporal authority that Luther recognized in settling the disputes between Luther and the church of his youth over his interpretations of the inerrant scriptures? For Luther, the ultimate temporal authority for Luther was Luther himself. This point about primacy is why Luther’s sola scriptura is nothing more than Luther flying solo.

    I looked forward to see how Keith Mathison would address this point that there is no principled difference between Luther’s sola and Luther solo. I am terribly disappointed in the way Mathison tapped danced around the point without ever addressing it:

    The Protestants did not separate from the Catholic Church. True believers in the Western Church were part of (not the whole of) the Catholic Church. Their leaders, the Pope and the bishops, deserted them. Furthermore, their actions were justified when this particular claimant to apostolic succession proved its true nature by abandoning what apostolic succession was supposedly intended to protect, namely the apostolic faith and life.

    (Ref Keith Mathison: “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and Apostolic Succession: A Response to Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch.” )

    Note that Mathison just assumes the validity of the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of conscience in his response, which is radical question begging. The Protestant novelty of the primacy of conscience is exactly what is being disputed, since that novel doctrine is what makes sola collapse into solo. According to Mathison, the “true believers” (Luther and Calvin apparently), had the authority to declare that the leaders of their church were apostate (since they didn’t agree with Luther and Calvin’s private interpretation of scriptures), and that Luther and Calvin were justified in founding their own personal churches that taught doctrine as defined by Luther and Calvin‘s own private interpretation of the scriptures. Mathison affirms that Luther and Calvin were justified in their rebellion against their church because “when the Church teaches something that is incompatible with one’s conscience, as informed by one’s own interpretation of Scripture, one should reject the Church’s teaching and follow one’s own conscience”.

    Mathison’s historical analysis of two-thousand years of Christianity is utterly pointless as far as I can see. He reads history one way, I read it differently, and we disagree. No surprise there. But I am not the one that is claiming that the ONLY inerrant authority to which I have access is the Protestant Bible – Mathison is the one making that claim. So by Mathison’s own standard, his historical analysis can never known to be a source of inerrancy, it can only be his fallible opinion. We will never agree about his fallible interpretation of history, but we do agree that scriptures are inerrant. Mathison should simply point out to me the verses of scriptures where the scriptures make the claim for themselves that the Protestant bible is the ONLY inerrant authority to which I have access, and he should quote the scriptures that support the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of individual conscience. Then, I would either have to conceded Mathison’s points, or abandon the idea that scriptures are inerrant. But Mathison doesn’t do that, because there are no scriptures that teach that the Protestant bible is my only source of inerrant authority, nor are there any scriptures that teach the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. A Catholic, on the other hand, can easily quote the scriptures that prove why these two Protestant doctrines are false doctrines. All he has to do is quote from Matthew 16 and 18, the only two places in the Gospels where the word “church” is used. In Mathew chapter 16 we see Christ founding his visible church, and promising that the powers of death will never prevail his church. In Matthew chapter 18 we see a commandment by Christ that his follower must listen to his Church, or be excommunicated:

    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:15-18

    It is easy to see that the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of conscience renders Christ’s teaching about excommunication utterly toothless. Suppose that the brother’s sin that is being confronted is the sin of teaching heresy. The brother doesn’t agree with me or my two or three witnesses that he is teaching heresy. So we all take the matter to the church that Christ founded and wait for her to rule. It is the church that Christ founded that has primacy in settling any dispute involving an interpretation of scriptures, not me, not my witnesses, and not the brother. Christ teaches that his church is the ultimate temporal authority that must be listened to when a question arises over a matter of scriptural interpretation, and his church has been vested with the power of God to bind on earth and in heaven when she rules. Scriptures clearly teach that Christ’s church has primacy, not the individual.

    The Protestant primacy of conscience doctrine makes this teaching of Christ utter nonsense, because it is a claim that I can rebel against the definitive rulings of any visible church as long as I am following my conscience. Even if the church that Christ founded excommunicates me, so what? If the primacy of conscience doctrine is true, then just like Luther and Calvin, I am free to reject any church’s teaching as long as I am following my conscience. When I die, I can stand before God and claim that I was being faithful to the teachings of the church, since the church that I was listening to was my own personal church that interpreted the scriptures according to my own personal understanding of the inerrant scriptures. Sheesh!

  20. John,

    I’m sorry I don’t speak (or read) latin beyond E. Pleuribus Unum, and I’m not likely to any time soon. Can you please translate that for me?

    Ray,

    The assertion I made that “…it has been debated for centuries…” actually was intended to apply to the relationship between Bishops (east and west), not laity to the Church. I can see how what I typed may not have conveyed this with clarity. I was making the observation based on what Mr. Liccione had stated in his response. If Mr. Liccione’s statement was incorrect or misunderstood by myself, I apologize.

    Bringing up whether or not the claims of Rome are false or not in regards to Q2 doesn’t really serve to address Q1 and Q3 and just serves to muddy the waters.

    HOWEVER, if the right or duty to withdraw consent has been debated for centuries between the Bishops…I’m not sure where that leaves us. I’m sure you guys can quote the E.F.’s to me backwards and forwards but I did find an interesting passage in the Letter to Victor of Rome from Polycrates.

    “Therepon Victor, who presided over teh Church of Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the dioceses of Asia and the Churches which agreed with them, as heterodox; and he inveighed against them by letters declaring all the brethren there to be absolutely excommunitcate. But this was not pleasing to all the bishops. They besought him rather to consider the things of peace, of unity with neighbor, and of charity. Their letters are extant, in which they sharply rebuke Victor.”

    Whether or not this indicates the right to withdraw consent or not, I’m not sure, but it does seem to show that the other Bishops considered that they had the right to prevail upon the Bishop of Rome in a strenuous manner. Maybe this is what Mr. Liccione is referring to when he states that it “…originated in the 2nd century…” They considered that their opinion had a considered weight. I don’t want to read too much into one fragment of a letter out of a 2000 year history, but its what I’ve found so far.

    Here is another angle I’ve been considering. If creation is a revelation about Who God Is, then to truly understand something I think we should consider how we see it in the inter workings of the Life of the Trinity (as much as we can see). This being the case, how do we see the right to consent playing out within that Holy Community?

    The closest that we get, that I can see, is “My GOD, My GOD, why have You forsaken Me?”. This obviously is the Father, not the Son, withdrawing His countenance.

    This does more to strengthen the case against the validity of withdrawal of consent than, I think, any thing else. All other legitimacies of the withdrawal of consent in scripture, that I know of are ultimately described as hardness of heart (divorce) or a curse (Israel/Judah). And this statement of Jesus (if interpreted as actual fact and not just as reference to a specific Psalm) is due only to Him becoming Sin and coming into conflict with the Divine Holiness. Which leads to the conclusion that when the withdrawal of consent is legitimized it is offered as a remedy of sorts against sinful tendencies….a check and balance.

    Incidentally, if this is true, it also proves as false my original notion that Q2 is extraneous. Q2 then is fundamental. If the answer to Q2 is that the object is divinely trustworthy, then the right or duty to consent is blasphemous. If, however the answer to Q2 is that the object is fallible, then the right or duty to consent is a necessary check and balance. This then solves how a divine institution that is ALSO divinely sustained (i.e. the Church) can retain the claim of an answer of “No” to Q3 while AT THE SAME TIME a divinely appointed but not divinely sustained institution (the state) can fail to retain the claim of an answer to “No” to Q3. This distinction then was quite thoroughly blurred througout the middle ages but must be upheld now.

    Nonetheless, this also solves the riddle of why Mr. Mathison’s claim that RC/EO presuppositions (i.e. infallibility of the papacy or Church) are key to claiming that Sola vs Solo are indistinct.

  21. Jeremiah (#20),

    Sorry for being unclear; they’re legal terms: divorce a mensa et thoro is formal separation, whilst divorce a vinculo matrimonii is the dissolution of the marriage bond (so as to permit remarriage). I believe marriage is indissoluble; the bond is something real, even when through human frailty it is not realized visibly as it ought to be. Following on the nuptial analogy, I would suggest the indissolubility of marriage provides a way of thinking about how the Church can be both one and divided at the same time. Formal separation is sometimes justified in marriage, and I would add that the same is true about the relationship of particular churches to each other; though in both cases there should always be a sincere desire to be restored to communion one with another. Anyhow, I thought your question in #13 was an excellent one, but I’m not going to say more on the topic, lest the thread get derailed.

    Grace and Peace,

    John

  22. Jeremiah (#16):

    You wrote:

    The response which Mr. Liccione just gave indicates that, while answering “No” to Q3 is, in fact, the RC position, this has not been clear historically. In fact, it has been debated for centuries. This assertion seems to give credence to Mr. Mathison’s claim (which incidentally, is the challenge of Neal’s post). This is especially true in light of the summary quote from Jaroslav Pelikan.

    The matter is no longer as unclear as you say. In fact, it’s become quite clear. Since the East-West schism became definitive, and especially since the Reformation, Rome has been developing a conception of the formal, proximate object of faith (‘FPOF’ for short) which resolves the ambiguity that I located in the first millennium, and that we agree obtained then. That development emerged clearly in the documents of first and second Vatican councils. Allow me to explain.

    In Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (1964), we find the following passage:

    Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers, so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.

    But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission; and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

    It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls (§10; references omitted, emphasis added).

    That entails that the Magisterium itself belongs to the FPOF, in addition to Tradition and Scripture. Although that had been implicit in Roman doctrine for well over a millennium, its explicit development at Trent, Vatican I, and finally Vatican II was crucial. Of course the Magisterium does not add anything to the “deposit of faith” conveyed by those two sources; the Magisterium’s necessity consists in its having the divinely granted authority to ensure that the Church’s interpretation of those sources is truly what God intends, not mere opinion, so that they are rightly identified and understood. So we must put faith in the Magisterium, as much as in those sources, in order to reliably identify exactly what God has revealed, and not get it mixed up with opinions or speculations. The East had never made that clear; e.g, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, which was not ratified by Rome until the sixth century, was thought binding and definitive not because a local council had produced it, or even because an emperor had called and enforced that council, but simply because it was the correct interpretation of Scripture. In fact, during the first millennium, nobody really made clear that the teaching authority of the Church is itself an indispensable component of the FPOF, as distinct from just a disciplinary necessity. The See of Rome was revered for her orthodoxy, and regarded as pre-eminently necessary, until the Eastern patriarchates decided she was heterodox, and therefore was no longer pre-eminent—or even, on most accounts, within “the Church”!

    So just who, exactly, is this Magisterium forming part of the FPOF? To reply “the bishops in apostolic succession who govern the Church” is necessary, but not sufficient. What the Great Schism made blindingly clear is not only that the bishops in apostolic succession can and do disagree about who among them is orthodox and who is heretical, but also that there needs to be a way to resolve such disagreements definitively, with divine authority, not just as a matter of opinion. Otherwise, nobody could be clearly recognized by the whole body of the faithful as speaking with the authority of Christ as Head of the Church, even if in fact they were so speaking.

    The Orthodox said, and still say, that the way to resolve such disagreements was to remain faithful to Scripture, the Fathers, and the dogmatic rulings of the “seven” ecumenical councils that Rome herself had ratified. But of course, Rome insisted, and still insists, that she is being just that. So how to tell who was right, if not by using the very criteria that both sides said they were using, which clearly weren’t enough to settle the dispute? The Catholic position is—and was even in the first millennium—that without a visible head of the episcopal college having the final say, not just primacy of honor, there can be no definitive answer. Without such a head, any group of validly consecrated bishops can simply decide that those who disagree with them do not speak for “the Church,” that they themselves speak for “the Church,” and indeed that “the Church” consists only of themselves and those who follow them. That’s the way to perpetuate schisms, not to resolve them.

    The need to address that problem definitively had actually become clear with the bitterness of the Arian controversy that occupied most of the fourth century, the “Oriental Orthodox” schisms of the fifth century, and the “Acacian Schism” in the sixth century. But the obvious solution, which was actually at hand and used, didn’t stick—largely, I believe, because of cultural and political differences between East and West. It was generally agreed that “the Church” as a whole could not err when teaching with her full authority; but agreement on just who thus spoke for the Church, and under what conditions, eventually broke down. As a matter of logical necessity, so did agreement on which communion was “the Church.”

    And so, as the East-West schism became definitive, Catholic theologians began discussing the question whether popes, under certain conditions, are infallible by divine gift. Why the “i-word”? Because if the pope could be wrong when teaching ex cathedra, as the Orthodox said he was, then he could never have the final say on matters of doctrinal dispute, as he once generally acknowledged to have, and thus could not resolve such disputes within the episcopal college. He could not be an effective principle of unity, but only one more opinion-monger, and thus unable to resolve any schism in the college that created disputes about who really spoke for “the Church,” or even on which communion really is the Church. Since the very identity of the true Church was in question here, it was thought necessary to uphold papal supremacy, and recognizing papal infallibility as the clearest instance of the infallibility of “the Church” seemed to some the only way to do so. But that train of thought, adopted by St. Anselm and others later, got sidetracked by two bumps in the road.

    The first was the Western Schism of 1378-1415, in which it wasn’t clear to the faithful just who was the legitimate pope. If there were no agreed-upon procedure for determining who is the canonical bishop of Rome, it would be idle to say that somebody claiming that office is infallible. The schism was resolved when the Council of Constance, called on the real authority of the Catholic bishops themselves, elected Martin V pope in 1417. But that council was dominated by the “conciliarists,” who held that popes are fully subject to the authority of councils, not vice-versa. That was obviously incompatible with the idea of papal infallibility. Martin V and his successor, Eugene IV, rejected conciliarism; their opponents’ response was to seat a permanent rump council at Basel to implement their ideas. That project failed when Pope Eugene convoked the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438, which he intended as a reunion council of East and West. The Eastern Orthodox came, and in due course the council succeeded juridically. But its definition of the filioque was rejected by the Orthodox faithful and episcopate once everybody was back home to face the music. So the issue that the then-thesis of papal infallibility was supposed to address remained, in full force, on the eve of the Reformation.

    The other bump in the road was that, at about the same time, some of the documents on which the infallibilists relied for their arguments were shown to be of dubious authenticity or none at all. The most famous example was the “Donation of Constantine,” exposed as an eighth-century forgery by Lorenzo Valla. It became hard to argue that one could “prove” papal infallibility as a doctrine merely by appeal to first-millennium writings, still less merely by appeal to Scripture. The arguments, to the extent they could work, had to be convergent; none sufficed in isolation. All one could prove is that the See of Rome had been considered pre-eminent, the “court of last appeal” as it were, until most of the East decided she wasn’t. But that did not solve the problem; it only posed the problem that Catholic theologians and prelates, racked by clashes with secular rulers themselves, were pondering.

    The Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation launched by the Council of Trent and Pope Pius V, lent new impetus to the infallibilists. The Reformers’ project required their redefining “the Church” as those who, unlike the Catholic hierarchy, adhered to the correct interpretation of Scripture, which was supposed to be easy to know and understand, since Scripture was sui ipsius interpres. In principle, that was similar to what the Orthodox had done centuries earlier, and were still doing. They held that fidelity to Scripture, the Fathers, and the seven councils, as they understood that, sufficed to locate “the Church”, Rome or no Rome; the Reformers differed only in holding that fidelity to the perspicuous Scriptures alone, as they understood that, sufficed, Rome or no Rome. Of course—and as Catholic writers such as Sts. Robert Bellarmine and Francis de Sales were quick to point out—it didn’t quite work out that way, because it couldn’t. The Protestant movement split into Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, and free-church branches that only stopped anathematizing each other when it became clear after a few generations that it was hermeneutically impossible to build up, on the basis of Scripture alone, a detailed orthodoxy commanding general assent. That encouraged many Catholic leaders to see the outright assertion of papal infallibility as the only antidote to the fracturing of Christendom.

    For obvious reasons, the rise of modern science, the so-called Enlightenment, and the French Revolution only increased the attractiveness of defining papal infallibility as a dogma. If Christianity could not present a united front, the acolytes of the Age of Reason could plausibly argue that religion was just a matter of opinion—which is just what many “liberal” Protestants had come to believe anyhow—and hopelessly outdated opinions at that. And so, in 1870, the First Vatican Council famously (or infamously, depending on one’s point of view) defined papal infallibility as a dogma.

    But John Henry Newman, soon to be followed by other Catholic theologians, saw that the usual arguments for papal infallibility were not probative in the sort of way a mathematical proof is. One could only present the dogma as a “development” of the first-millennium idea of papal primacy, not as a strict logical deduction from it. And of course, it would only beg the question to argue that the dogma was irreformable because it was defined with the authority it attributed to the pope, even if that was true. And so the defense of the dogma came to be mounted on the basis of the theory of “development of doctrine” (DD) which was also used to defend the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (defined in1854) and other distinctively Catholic doctrines. In Dei Verbum §8, Vatican II itself affirmed the idea of DD magisterially for the first time.

    That whole, centuries-long process of development has yielded an “interpretive paradigm” (IP) that suffices to resolve disputes both about doctrine and about the identity of the “Church.” Disputes about doctrine are normally to be resolved by a council convoked to address the issue in a binding manner for the whole Church. But to bind the whole Church, such a council’s decrees must have at least the consent of the pope, and usually his formal ratification. That’s what happened in the first millennium, until the Orthodox decided that Rome was heretical. To resolve disputes about which bishops and councils are orthodox, we need to return to that model. Until that happens, it’s vital to keep in mind that the pope can define dogma unilaterally, in such wise that his definitions are “irreformable ex sese, not by the consent of the Church.” And while the Mystical Body of Christ is not limited to the visible confines of the Catholic Church, that Body subsists in the Catholic Church as a perduring whole, despite the sad divisions that have arisen from refusal to accept her authority, and that prevent the real unity of the Church from being fully manifest historically.

    Best,
    Mike

  23. Thanks Mike for your last comment. We were starting to drift too far. All Christian dogmas as defined by the Church were “phuzzy” so to speak until the Church dogmatically defined them. The Church did not do so until they were formally, substantially threatened.

    Thus, to use the marriage analogy, a problem in the marriage isn’t a problem until it arises for some reason. If you are married you know what that means. You don’t practically drag out all of your problems in the first year and work them all out. No, you have issues that come up throughout the marriage and at the time they arise, you deal with them and the marriage is better for it. The fact that a problem comes along later in the marriage doesn’t mean that, for instance, the issue was not understood until that point, but it does mean that at that time there is a misunderstanding or confusion about it and hence the need to resolve it. That is, in fact, the history of the Catholic Church. Protestant churches are like the “the grass is greener on the other side” spouses but have struggled for the last 500 years coming to terms with that lie and the fact the the Holy Spirit doesn’t bless infidelity.

  24. Jeremiah (re: 16),

    I would like to add a Q4 onto your list which is, “What did the Early Church Fathers trust in?” I’ve pointed out to our Catholic friends here that it is this question that historically speaks more to the issue of sola scriptura than the question over how we as individuals determine the object of our faith. Neal and Bryan’s original article focused on this second question without really getting into the first. From my standpoint this was unfortunate. In Mathison’s reply to Neal and Bryan he does not seem to take this issue on although he certainly does in his original work, The Shape of Sola Scriptura as does his mentor, Heiko Oberman in The Dawning of the Reformation. As both theologians point out in exhausting detail in their respective works, the debate over sola scriptura (Oberman actually uses some different terminology), is only brought out in an analysis of the thinking of the Early Church Fathers.

    For Protestants like you and me (and countless other Protestant clergy and laypeople), we may read the works of the Fathers and come to very different conclusions concerning Q4 than what the Catholics here would. Now it is Mike Liccione’s contribution in this thread as well as the one he authored to inform us that we cannot undertake such a study of the Fathers in an independent manner. We must adopt some IP in order to give us a framework for this study and the only IP that makes any sense is the Roman Catholic one (EO IP aside for the moment). I won’t go any further into the Mike L argument, you can do this for yourself. But it seems to me that this is the end of the road for further dialogue. They have adopted the Catholic IP and thus whatever we might think the ECF’s say is in error because the Magisterium of the RCC, which is at the heart of the current Catholic IP, judges what the ECF’s did and did not believe and whether a given Father (like Irenaeus) was or was not in error. Again, game over for the Protestants like you and me. Mike L may speak of comparing IP’s. but once they have adopted the Catholic one, all other IP’s are defined out of existence.

    I will say that I’m glad that Mike L has come up with a few examples in his posts here to illustrate his points. This is definitely helpful. So concerning th example of the origins of the infallibility of the Pope, this is indeed an interesting example of the development of Catholic doctrine. You and I might read the debates between the 14th century popes and the Franciscans over the pope’s authority and think that while papal infallibility is a very interesting novelty, it has little to do with anything in the history of the Christian faith as such faith is defined in the Apostolic documents and those immediately following after. But of course we would be incorrect in our assessment because we are looking at the matter independently and not through the lenses of the Catholic IP that Mike L defines for us. So no matter how odd or out of character a given Catholic doctrine seems to be with respect to the historic Christian faith, we must be incorrect in our assessment if indeed the doctrines of the Medieval and Reformation and current RCC are faithful and in line with those of the Early Church. Of course that’s a big “if,” but once you have accepted it as true there is no further debate. At least none that I can see.

    Now in Mike L’s previous post I commented that what he was asking us to do was “handing over all judgment to the RCC theologians.” Mike L responded that this was not correct and that he wanted everybody involved in the process. But I really don’t see how you and I can be involved in the process unless we confess the Catholic IP. But we cannot independently come to the assessment that the Catholic IP is correct and we are only going to get there from the study of the history of the Church. But we are told that we cannot study the history of the Church independently and the only the Catholic IP will make sense of it. It’s just a vicious cycle from my standpoint. The fact that Mike’s IP was not shared by the theologians of the Early Church is irrelevant. Either they were in error, or we are in error in our judgment, or some combination of the two.

  25. Neal,

    “inter alia” – what does it mean? Why the need to use so much Latin (and philosophical and Rhetoric/Logic/Lawyer Latin also) all the time? (as with a lot of you guys articles)

    Here is another one – Mutatis mutandis – what in the world does that mean?

    Please write the Latin phrases in English more – some of us don’t know Latin; or at least translate the less well known Latin phrases into English in parentheses) It makes your articles frustrating at times for more simple folk like me. (smile)

    There are some Latin phrases that are more well known (Sola Scriptura, reguli fidei, etc.) and some others that one can figure out – like this one – “defensor Christianae fidei” – my guess is that means, “defender of the Christian Faith”. Context also helps me. Why can’t you just say, or write, “defender of the Christian Faith” ?? Context did not help me with the other phrases.

    Sincerely,
    Ken T.

  26. Andrew,

    “So no matter how odd or out of character a given Catholic doctrine seems to be with respect to the historic Christian faith, we must be incorrect in our assessment if indeed the doctrines of the Medieval and Reformation and current RCC are faithful and in line with those of the Early Church.”

    Assuming that development of doctrine is possible and is witnessed in the life of the Early Church (whether expressed by a Father or not explicitly, but rather implicit in the historical unfolding of it), which RCC doctrine is against the Gospel? The Papacy? Does trusting in the Petrine Office to safeguard truth necessarily entail a denial of the ECF? The Catholic IP doesn’t simply treat the ECF like a static group of texts on which we do our exegesis or cataloging to come up with all things de fide. Rather, we see the early Church fathers as a dynamic part of the Church united with the Roman bishop (see Bryan’s work on the Chair of St. Peter.) This dynamism draws the Church into deeper meanings of the deposit of faith through time as she meditates on them illumined by the Holy Spirit. To use another analogy, the deposit of faith for the Catholic is a seed, and history is the bringing forth of the fruit of that seed. While Scripture’s canon was shut, the canon of the Church is still open today, hence the Book of Acts not ending in any formal way…

    “But we cannot independently come to the assessment that the Catholic IP is correct and we are only going to get there from the study of the history of the Church. But we are told that we cannot study the history of the Church independently and the only the Catholic IP will make sense of it.”

    I don’t need a Catholic IP to study history. However, let’s study all of history (from the ECF to today) and not just study a period in history. That is a more interesting study of Christendom and an even more convincing case for the Catholic Church. (the same way studying an entire marriage is a better case for the nature of it). One Holy Catholic and Apostolic and the “gates of Hades will not prevail against it”.

  27. Hey Andrew, (re: #24)

    this is just my 2 cents and all, but i’m pretty sure the conversation isn’t helped by 700-word strawman summaries of Mike’s comments. none of what you are attributing to Mike has been said by Mike.

    but let’s suppose for a minute that what Mike has been saying all along is that you’re just wrong no matter what because he has very cleverly defined you into oblivion:

    even if that were the case, the more helpful thing that someone like you could do would be to very clearly, very patiently, explain how it is, for example, that people like you are able to “study the history of the Church” from an independent (or neutral) position. Instead of just assuming you can, and then essentially mocking Mike’s observations by way of the assumption—which, by the way, is precisely what creates and sustains the vicious cycle you mention—you could by contrast simply explain how it is that you’re able to achieve independence and objectivity.

    seems like such an approach would be lots more constructive, anyway. but, like i said, just 2 cents from the peanut gallery.

  28. Ken (#25),

    Sorry for the confusion. “Inter alia” means “among other things.” “Mutatis mutandis” means “the relevant changes having been made.” You were right about “Defender of the Christian Faith.” This is an honorific title bestowed on worthy persons in the history of the Church. Brent (#3), thanks for the kind words. But Mike’s right — can’t go back to the farms just yet. The “Preliminary” in “Some Preliminary Reflections” is there for a reason. This little post of mine (“I’m gonna let it shine!”) is narrow in scope, and aimed principally at clearing away some of the fuzziness resulting from the kind of presuppositionalist diagnostics Mathison was trying to give, etc. So yeah, we need to return to the argument and not get confused by that stuff or led off track by the historical arguments concerning apostolic succession. However, the material on apostolic succession does need to be engaged, in itself and especially in context of the Tu Quoque argument. So this little post should not be thought of as “The Cross/Judisch Response” to Mathison. More needs saying; I did think, however, it would be important to chelate the well (so to speak) so that the discussion could go forward with greater clarity and in better order.

    Best,

    Neal

  29. Ken Temple (#25),

    Inter alia; mutatis mutandis.

    Hope that helps. In Neal’s defense, these particular Latin expressions are in pretty common use in English.

    TC

  30. Ken,

    Post-script to #29:

    As for other, less common Latin expressions, you’re right of course that those who know Latin should use it judiciously lest they seem to be wielding it as a method of linguistic intimidation. Obviously, that wasn’t Neal’s intention (#28). But I didn’t want you to take my #29 as just shrugging off your concerns.

    TC

  31. A few things about the use of foreign language in theology/philosophy:

    1. It is common parlance in those disciplines (I know less than I should)

    2. Google makes everything intelligible

    3. Latin is A LOT more precise than English. The introduction of Latin or Greek terms can lead one to study the meaning of those terms and their very specific meaning and enlighten argument. Introducing more facile English terminology can actually muddy the waters, being that English is such a bastard language (a derivation of a lot of different languages; hence innumerable etymologies).

    4. I 2nd TC that it can come across as uber “heady”, but that’s kind of Neal’s daytime job and to do surgery on the malady in question (Mathison’s argument) required sharp tools

    (Neal-I’m going to the farm for now until I get a better response to your original argument)

  32. Hey guys,

    First of all let me say a huge THANK YOU to Mr. Liccione for that very honest and informative history lesson. That is an outstanding post.

    Secondly, I want to bring back the questions so as to keep some coherent line of thought to the discussion. To recap we have these questions which we all must face:

    Q1) Do I trust myself or someone else?
    Q2) How do I know that who I trust is trustworthy?
    Q3) IF I trust in someone else, do I retain the right to withdraw consent?

    First of all, if Solo is defined as (Q1=Myself, Q2=Can not be trusted due to fallibility, Q3=N/A) and Sola is defined as (Q1=Someone else, Q2=Can not be trusted due to fallibility, Q3=Yes), then Solo = Sola does in fact follow. This does, however,

    Secondly, if the protestant Interpretive Paradigm (PIP) is defined as
    (Q1=Myself, Q2=Can not be trusted due to fallibility, Q3=N/A)

    and the catholic Interpretive Paradigm (CIP) is definded as
    (Q1=Someone else, Q2=Divine Appointment, Q3=No)

    There is a third option which no one seems to take seriously
    (Q1=Someone else, Q2=Can not be trusted due to fallibility, Q3=No)

    This option is probably not taken seriously because of the following rationale “How can I bet eternity on my local Pastor being right?” But this is, at least, a path of humility and should be affirmed to those who are at a point where they can not even take the catholic claims as worth considering (sorry guys, but there a millions of protestants who have such a cartoonish view of you that they wouldn’t even consider it worthwhile to consider your claims)

    I think this is a key point as it gives a step in the right direction. Sometimes half measures and half steps should be taken when a whole step can’t be mustered.

    Proposed Q4) Who did the EF’s trust?

    Andrew, It seems to me that it is pretty hard to read very much of the EF’s or the Desert Father’s without quickly coming to the conclusion that they were generally trusting the guy in front of them. I’m admittadly a novice at this stuff, but even I can see that. The time it took and the dangers to be traversed to cover the distances between bishops as well as a lack of an agreed upon canon of scriptures was pretty prohibitive against there being another answer for centuries.

    It is instructive that the answer to Q2 being Divine Appointment is a recent development. Despite what many catholics would claim, it wasn’t clear in the EF writings and not even in the Middle Ages having only been affirmed within the last two centuries.

    Alright, thank you very much for tolerating my questions. I have work I must do. I don’t know if I’ll have the liberty to get back on for awhile, but I’ll see what I can do.

  33. Jeremiah,

    Thanks. I believe I know what you have in mind with respect to Q1. I would just like to add a little qualification, which might achieve a more nuanced question. As a general matter I think that self-trust is one of the virtues of mind, or one of the “epistemic virtues.” Generally speaking a normal person should not simply distrust himself, but should give himself some degree of trust when he is self consciously thinking in a conscientious manner, or in a way that would survive conscientious self reflection. However, it seems plausible that there is a line from this insight to the conclusion that one should also (as a general matter) extend trust to others, when one perceives that they are also thinking conscientiously, or in a way that would survive conscientious self reflection. It would be unreasonable to withhold trust in these circumstances, since the grounds for trusting them are the same grounds one has for trusting oneself. (Zagzebski’s recent Wilde Lectures at Oxford contains an argument like this, which she claims renders “epistemic egoism” self refuting; I think she is substantially correct about this.)

    The major problem, of course, occurs when one observes that many different persons (or groups) appear to be reasoning conscientiously and sincerely and so on, but come to different conclusions about what the same body of evidence supports. This is a case of “disagreement among epistemic peers,” as it’s usually put. And it creates an obvious difficulty for the inquirer, especially when he is not of the same caliber as the scholars who are disagreeing with one another. What should he do then? Whom should he trust, and upon what additional grounds can he make a principled decision about this? These are all very hard issues. Case in point: when I read John’s remarks about the development of doctrine, my “Conscientious-thinker Radar” beeps, and I feel inclined to trust him. Mutatis mutandis for Mike and others. (That one’s for you, Ken!)

    However this question is to be answered in detail, I don’t think it is best to view the answer as involving the complete relinquishment of self-trust. I think that’s an important point to make, since the debate folks are having here isn’t helpfully summarized as a debate between those who do not trust themselves at all and instead trust others, and those who do not trust others at all but instead trust only themselves. In the same way, I think it’s not helpful to characterize the debate as being over a ham-fisted dichotomy like: “Either we will stumble about blindly and stupidly or we will have utter and objective ‘epistemic certainty’ about religious matters via an infallible oracle.” Something more subtle is at work, and the matter is more complicated.

    This is just a friendly amendment or observation, Jeremiah, not an attempt to throw off track your line of questioning, which I think is useful.

    Neal

  34. Jeremiah,

    “(sorry guys, but there a millions of protestants who have such a cartoonish view of you that they wouldn’t even consider it worthwhile to consider your claims)”

    Same could be said of Jesus. So it kind of begs this forum. Also, it points to the sad divorce those Christians have from historic Christianity and just how far the “Reformation” has led sheep away from Mother Church.

    “having only been affirmed within the last two centuries.”

    Think about being at the Nicene Council. How long had their doctrines been affirmed relative to the life of the Church? Was their declaration novel at that time? Just because a married couple in their 52nd year of marriage comes to a realization about their relationship that they didn’t ruminate about or challenge until then doesn’t mean that (a) it didn’t exist prior to their discovery or (b) is invalid because it comes later. In fact, to use the marriage analogy the fact that it comes later actually speaks more to the “well-thought-out-ness” of the idea and its grounding in the rich history of the relationship. So, for instance, we can say that the Church’s later teachings can lean upon her earlier teachings in more profound ways. Catholics understand theology as organic, therefore, the defined dogma of the Papacy relates uniquely to all of her other teachings and is not just another “Hey, we think this too!” teaching.

  35. Neal,

    Do you write in Episteme? I came across Z’s argument against epistemic egoism while studying grad philosophy at U. Dallas when working on a paper about Edith Stein. I think her work is fantastic.

    (Great clarification above, because that does nuance #1. Simply because I put my trust in God doesn’t mean I don’t trust the faculties that God gave me and thereby not trust myself as a consequence of putting my trust in another)

    In Christ,

    Brent

  36. Brent,

    I haven’t published anything in Episteme. My current research emphases really lie primarily in metaphysics (phil of mind and action) and philosophical theology. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the epistemology; it’s just that, well, one gets swept up into projects, and then it gets hard to put them down. Only so many hours in the day…

  37. Neal,

    Great article. I must admit that you have a knack for “academic humor” that I’ve never mastered but which definitely helps your presentation. Satire is one thing, what you did is another, and I’m glad you didn’t take the satire route.

    (Apparently) like you, I too worried that Mathison’s argumentative tack entailed

    the parallel, that nobody in his wits would think there is a distinction [between soloa & solo scriptura] there unless his Protestant presuppositions informed him, “prior to inquiry,” that there simply has to be one somewhere.

    Moreover, I’m not sure how he can avoid this conclusion without abandoning the quasi-psychological/presuppositional tack he’s chosen to take in his reply.

    More importantly, I think your larger point is correct: apostolic succession, (sheesh, the entire Catholic understanding of history, philosophy, and theology) could go crashing down in flames, yet there still exist no principled difference between sola & solo. This is why I consider the vast majority of Mathison’s reply philosophically inapplicable to the arguments you and Bryan raised in your original article. (Don’t get me wrong – at some later point in the discussion one has to talk about whether or not Catholicism’s claims for herself are true, and how one goes about answering those kinds of questions, etc, but I really thought we were discussing solo vs. sola, and much of Mathison’s reply seems to have wandered from that topic in interesting yet inapplicable directions).

    I wonder what you make of the following. Mathison wrote:

    …[T]the primary issue in this debate is not the doctrine of Scripture. It is the doctrine of the Church. (PDF 1)

    Do you see any way we can charitably gloss Mathison’s assertion that ecclesiology, not bibliology, is the primary issue when discussing solo vs. sola? It seems like bibliology is precisely the topic under discussion, and I can’t come up with any charitable way to follow Mathison’s line of thinking here. Have you any thoughts along this line?

    Regardless, Neal, I enjoyed reading your preliminary article. Looking forward to your (and Bryan’s?) more full response at some future date.

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin :-)

  38. Andrew M.,

    Again, game over for the Protestants like you and me. Mike L may speak of comparing IP’s. but once they have adopted the Catholic one, all other IP’s are defined out of existence.

    You grossly misrepresent Mike’s position as anyone can see who reads his article. He has done no such thing as you suggest. All he has pointed out OVER and OVER again, is not that one MUST adopt the Catholic IP when interpreting the data – do whatever you want in that regard – it’s a free country! He has made a philosophical argument, which you seem to keep evading, that the methodology employed by the Protestant IP will NEVER allow a principled distinction between “de fide” Divine revelation and human opinion with regard to articles of faith such as Reformed “non-negotiables” like sola fide/imputed justification; whereas the Catholic IP provides a principled way to do so. He says that that fact makes the Catholic IP preferable; he does NOT say that such a theoretical philosophical advantage, ipso facto, makes the Catholic claim true.

    Thus, if the Catholic meta-narrative concerning the interpretation of scripture, history, etc. were at least equally plausible with the Protestant, then Mike’s philosophical insight would tip the scales in favor of adopting the Catholic position (unless one is simply willing to embrace agnosticism about doctrinal matters). To that, you have made two basic replies. First you apparently deny that the Catholic interpretation of the biblical/patristic data is at least as plausible as the Protestant; or second you deny that there is, in the first place, any great need to have the kind of epistemic certainty about the deposit of faith that Mike assumes all Catholics and conservative Protestants care deeply about.

    AS TO YOUR FIRST GENERAL REPLY TO MIKE’S ARGUMENT:
    You seem to insist on drawing Catholics into a detailed debate about point after point in Church history. But that has been done ad infinitum on this site and elsewhere. You can find a whole thread devoted to almost nothing more than debates about the scholarly minutia and assumptions standing behind contradictory interpretations of the same date here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/09/modern-scholarship-rome-and-a-challenge . Yet, with tongue-in-cheek you say this:

    So no matter how odd or out of character a given Catholic doctrine seems to be with respect to the historic Christian faith, we must be incorrect in our assessment if indeed the doctrines of the Medieval and Reformation and current RCC are faithful and in line with those of the Early Church

    However out of character you may THINK a given doctrine is, in terms of being in line with the “Early Church”; such supposed discontinuities vastly pale in comparison with the discontinuity that exists between almost ANYTHING in the patristic age and Reformed Presbyterianism. I’m calling a spade a spade. From the second century on, the documentary data is loaded with statements indicating Catholic like Marian beliefs, apostolic succession, claims regarding SOME KIND of special role for the Bishop of Rome, purgatory, etc. etc. Whatever else the first 15 centuries of Christian history are, and to whatever degree you think they do or do not comport with later, more explicit, Catholic doctrinal definitions; one thing they are NOT is Protestant.

    I have zero fear that any non-Christian person who compares Protestantism, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy to the data of the Church fathers, will ever come to the conclusion that Protestantism more closely mirrors what they find there than either Catholicism or Orthodoxy. If such were a bet, I’d take that bet any day of the week. I have seen the Reformed take two different approaches to this reality (and often combine them together). The first is to laser beam all their scholarly efforts at the first 100 years of the post apostolic era, fighting like crazy for a plausible argument of discontinuity between the apostles/NT and the whole monoepiscopal sacramental system the fills the pages of all the later history. Cut the Catholic thing off at the base is the idea; by arguing for a VERY early, radical, innovation that renders the next 1500 years as essentially one vast ecclesial error which only finds its resolution and return to the original apostolic intentions in 16th century Calvinism. Never mind that there is no documentation of any outcry when this great usurpation took place. Never mind that such scholars must approach the earliest patristic data with the same methodological skepticism, which they abhor in liberal NT exegetes. Such is Mathison’s primary approach.

    The other line of attack is to do what you often seem to do; which is to pick at the data and postulate that this or that statement of the ECF’s does not altogether match some later Catholic doctrine, thereby vaguely implying that the later Catholic Church really can’t be (in your mind) the Church of the Fathers. In all this, you of course leave out that the 16th century Reformation churches aren’t even on the map in terms of looking like the Church of the ECF’s either doctrinally and especially in terms of ecclesiology. There has been article after article on this site, citing volumes of ECF statements in chronological order (from earliest to latest) in support of specific doctrines or positions which Rome affirms and Geneva denies. You have been almost entirely absent form discussion of ANY of these articles. I would love to have encountered your Reformed explanation of the patristic data elucidated in the following articles:

    Transubstantiation: Andrew M – ZERO interaction
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/12/church-fathers-on-transubstantiation

    Chair of St. Peter: Andrew M – ZERO interaction
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/the-chair-of-st-peter

    Baptismal Regeneration: Andrew M – 2or3 posts talking about “assurance/election” and NOT the patristic data
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/the-church-fathers-on-baptismal-regeneration

    Scriptural and Patristic evidence for the sacrificial priesthood: Andrew M: ZERO interaction
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/holy-orders-and-the-priesthood

    St. Ignatius on the Church: Andrew M. Zero interaction
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/10/st-ignatius-of-antioch-on-the-church

    Even if you thought none of the data in those articles proves that today’s RCC is synonymous with the Church of the ECF’s; can you really say that there is not a serious case to be made that the two have some strong relation? Why, after two evangelical scholars co-authored a book claiming to disprove Rome’s claim (Is Rome the True Church?: A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim), did one of them, several months later, convert to Roman Catholicism? If a “strong” case can be made (even if not absolutely demonstrable), Mike’s IP article comes into full play without the need to spend thousands of hours debating the details. What you (and Mathison and others) need, in order to win your case, is not just a proof that not all the ECF’s line up with all current explicit Catholic doctrine; you need a proof that the lion’s share of the patristic data CLEARLY and OBVIOUSLY points in a Protestant direction. You need to show that there “is not a shred of evidence” for the claims of the Catholic Church.

    Since, as I have said before, if the data even results in a 50/50 tie in terms of plausibility – then Mike’s argument wins (assuming one is not willing to become a doctrinal agnostic). Can you make a serious case that 16th century Reformed Christianity is the doctrinal and ecclesial heir of the prior 1500 years of Church history? I’d like to see it. That everyone really knows that no such case can be credibly made, explains why so much Reformed scholarly exegetical and historical effort goes into defending the discontinuity thesis sometime prior to 200AD.

    AS TO YOUR SECOND GENERAL REPLY TO MIKE’S ARGUMENT:

    You have questioned whether we really need the level of certainty which Mike claims is necessary for making a distinction between “de fide” Divine revelation and human opinion. In taking and affirming this route, I think Mike has rightly referred to you as a Liberal Protestant waiting to happen. Are you really prepared to tell your congregation that “sola fide” is only one plausible take on the biblical data regarding justification? Luther described “sola fide” as the material principle of the Reformation; the point on which the Reformation stands or falls. Reformed Christians very often depict Trent as a final act of apostasy on the part of the Catholic Church. Is this a central, “non-negotiable” doctrine or not? Does it make any sense to talk about it as something that is only plausible or probable? If it’s only plausible/probable, how can the whole fate of the Reformation rest on its truth? If it’s only plausible/probable, what possible excuse do you have for maintaining separation from the Catholic Church? If Reformed Christians can’t be certain it’s true, how can it be binding? If it’s not understood as binding, why would Carl Trueman, who holds the departmental Chair of Church History at Westminster theological seminary, say the following?:

    Every year I tell my Reformation history class that Roman Catholicism is, at least in the West, the default position. Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism; in the light of these facts, therefore, we need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in others words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do each and every day. . . . many who call themselves evangelical really lack any good reason for such an act of will; and the obvious conclusion, therefore, should be that they do the decent thing and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot go down that path myself, primarily because of my view of justification by faith and because of my ecclesiology

    You may be comfortable denying the premise that there is no intrinsic need to be able to distinguish Divine revelation from human scholarly opinion, but I tend to think that the vast majority of the conservative Christian world disagrees with you on this point. If so, then that crucial distinction which Mike claims can be made on the Catholic IP and NOT on the protestant IP, will continue to provide strong persuasive force to his argument.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray Stamper

  39. Dr. Liccione,

    Thanks for the historical summary in #22. There’s one thing I wanted to add, to prevent confusion. Others may disagree, but as an historical matter, I don’t believe the magisterial reformers (at least the Anglicans and the Calvinists, with whom I’m most familiar) ever quite redefined the Church as those who adhered to the correct interpretation of Scripture. This gets missed all the time, in part because of the overheated rhetoric common in sixteenth century debates. Nonetheless, when the reformers denied that the “Church of Rome” was a true church, they didn’t mean it’s not a real church. The analogy in their minds was to a bride who after the wedding commits adultery. She’s being woefully untrue, but she remains married.

    Time and again the magisterial reformers argued that the Roman Communion had a real ministry and real sacraments, in order to establish that their own ministry, which they traced through Rome, was also real. And as Charles Hodge was at pains to demonstrate in the 19th century, contrary to what many insular American presbyterians have thought, the reformers did not hold that Roman Communion ceased to be a church at the Council of Trent. In fact, the logic of the reformers’ denunciation of the papacy as antichrist required that the Roman Communion, no matter how deformed, remain within the Church. For, they argued that the papacy is the man of sin who sits in the temple of God (2 Thess. 2:4), which they took as being the Church.

    The low ecclesiology prevalent among protestants nowadays probably has a host of causes, not least being the fact that contemporary evangelicalism is largely an American or American-influenced phenomenon, and that founders like Madison carried forward the Enlightment’s privatization of religion by opposing established churches and treating a multiplicity of sects as something positively desirable in a society. Anyhow, whatever one thinks about protestantism today, we need to be on guard against anachronism in characterizing the views of the reformers. For the latter, the big issue was whether their succession in the ministry–which was often through presbyters, not bishops–was sufficient to make good the claim that the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Church of Scotland, etc., were real, particular churches. To my knowledge, the RCC has always said that the succession was too irregular to constitute the protestant churches as genuine churches, which is why there’s an asymmetry between how Catholicism approaches Protestants and how it approaches Orthodoxy. However, so far as I can tell, the reformers themselves didn’t challenge the RCC’s position by positing a radically new ecclesiology, they did it by arguing that their succession, though in some respects irregular, was still enough for the protestant churches to be particular churches.

    The upshot of all that is that the reformers saw the break from communion with Rome in a way rather similar to how the founding founders depicted their secession from the government in London. Both the reformers and the founders would have cast themselves as conservatives who were compelled by circumstances to deviate in some measure from the established polity. But the claim, at least originally, was that the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, etc., were in a real sense the continuation of pre-reformation church, much as the state governments after the revolution claimed to be real continuations of the of the old colonial governments.

    Best,
    John

  40. John (#39):

    You wrote:

    However, so far as I can tell, the reformers themselves didn’t challenge the RCC’s position by positing a radically new ecclesiology, they did it by arguing that their succession, though in some respects irregular, was still enough for the protestant churches to be particular churches.

    I’m sure that’s how the main branches of the Reformation—save the “free-church” stream first represented by the Anabaptists, and fed by many Baptists, pentecostals, and “non-denominational” evangelicals today—first saw their own ecclesiology. Doubtless many still do. But I also think your statement, which is true, gives the game away.

    If the Reformers disagreed with the Catholic Church about what suffices for apostolic succession, and thus about what suffices to constitute a “true, particular church,” then their ecclesiology just was different enough from the Catholic to constitute a redefinition of “the Church.” For “the Church” as a whole, whatever else she may be, is at least a communion of true, particular churches; therefore, if we don’t agree on what suffices to constitute a true, particular church, then we don’t agree on what suffices to constitute “the Church” that is their communion. That’s really all I meant what I claimed that the Reformers “redefined” the phrase ‘the Church’. And so, while I agree with your generalization as far at it goes, its truth does not really affect my point.

    Best,
    Mike

  41. Andrew (#24):

    Aside from what Ray said in #39, which is spot on, I want to try once again to explain what’s really at issue here. My aim right now is not to convince you that my IP is rationally preferable—I already made that argument in my own full-length post—but simply to clarify what’s involved in assessing the two IPs against each other.

    You keep urging me to tackle the Oberman-Mathison approach to the study of the concept of Tradition in first-millennium Christianity, as if I’m ignoring them. But I am not. In point of fact, I read Oberman’s book in toto years ago, and have dipped into Mathison’s book by way of preparing for the present controversy. I have found nothing in their approach to persuade me that the development of the Catholic IP during the second millennium is incompatible with what we find in Scripture, the Fathers, the seven “ecumenical” councils, or indeed the combination of all three. What I believe they’ve shown is this: from the aforementioned-sources, one cannot logically deduce what is distinctive about the Catholic IP, which is the identification of the Magisterium as, itself, part of the FPOF along with Scripture and Tradition. (Infallibility is a corollary of that identification, since no teaching authority could form part of the FPOF if it were not infallible under some conditions; it would just be one more interpretive resource.) What I’ve just said about my agreement with Olberan and Mathison should be evident from my replies to Jeremiah.

    But from what I agree Oberman and Mathison have shown, it does not follow that the Catholic IP is an illegitimate development. That would only follow on the assumption that a fair study of the early sources sufficed, by itself, to identify all that is normative for the concept and content of Tradition. But that assumption cannot be secured just by a study of the relevant data. Rather, it is an assumption that the conservative-Protestant IP brings to such a study. So, in order to establish the conclusion that the development of the Catholic IP is illegitimate, one has to first secure that key assumption of the (conservative) Protestant IP. And doing that would require a prior, philosophical argument that the Protestant IP is rationally preferable.

    But I have heard no such argument from you. To me, it seems you’d rather just carry on applying the Protestant IP, so that when confronted with the Catholic IP, you just throw up your hands and complain about a “vicious cycle.” It is not my approach which leads to such a result; it is yours.

    Best,
    Mike

  42. Mike (#40):

    If you think I’ve given away the game, that’s all right. The Brits thought about the colonies as you do about the reformed churches, and yet they came around eventually…

    The purpose of my comment was only to clarify that the magisterial reformers did not literally limit the Church to “those who, unlike the Catholic hierarchy, adhered to the correct interpretation of Scripture.” If they had, they would have “un-churched” the Roman Communion, which (contrary to a mythology that has been around since at least the 19th century) they didn’t do. I think the difference is important, inasmuch as it is like the contrast between the French and American revolutions. The Americans didn’t think they were simply starting over de novo, and neither did the magisterial reformers.

    Naturally, coming from the perspective of Catholicism, you disagree about what the reformers actually did in separating from the Roman Communion. That’s fine; I’m not challenging that here. Still, to see the force of what Andrew McCallum is saying about Oberman, I think one needs to look closely at the reformers’ own self-understanding of what they were doing. Their self-understanding was coherent, whether it was right or not. In fact, from the reformers’ perspective, Newman wasn’t all that far from the truth when he looked in the mirror and saw a monophysite.

    Best,
    John

  43. Hi, Benjamin.

    (Don’t get me wrong – at some later point in the discussion one has to talk about whether or not Catholicism’s claims for herself are true, and how one goes about answering those kinds of questions, etc, but I really thought we were discussing solo vs. sola, and much of Mathison’s reply seems to have wandered from that topic in interesting yet inapplicable directions).

    Yes, right.

    As to your question about how Mathison’s claim should be interpreted — that it isn’t about the doctrine of Scripture but about the doctrine of the Church — I think there is a charitable way to understand this. Perhaps he is taking a wider view here, and pointing out that what we antecedently think about apostolic succession will impact our assessment of the argument for the No Distinction Thesis, in a more subtle or indirect way. Here’s a reasonable way to construe the claim, I think: one might not know exactly what is wrong the argument for the No Distinction Thesis, or one might not be able immediately to identify and point it out. However, if one thinks that the same line of reasoning against it would apply to the Catholic and the Orthodox (reducing their views to Solo as well), this indicates that something is amiss with the argument against the Distinction Thesis, as this thesis is specified by Mathison. For if Catholic and Orthodox are supposed to escape this reduction, and if the Tu Quoque yet holds, this suggests that others (such as Mathison) at least might also be able to escape this reduction too. It makes possible a second order judgment to the effect that the reasoning for the No Distinction Thesis is somehow problematic, even if (as a first order matter) one might not be able to identify where it goes wrong.

    Compare with Descartes’ Meditation III. Here he distinguishes between the possibility of doubting such items as 2+2=4, when considered directly, and the possibility of doubting such things as 2+2=4, against the backdrop of the assumption that an omnipotent being is intent on deceiving one about this and other similarly obvious matters. When one considers the claim itself (2+2=4) one can’t withhold belief; one sees nothing wrong with it and everything right with it. When one considers the hypothesis of the omnipotent deceiving being, however, one can imagine that the certitude one feels about 2+2=4 is misleading, and that it gives no real epistemic grounds for belief in it, no matter how obvious it seems to the individual.

    Something similar may be true for the No Distinction Thesis. It might look pretty obvious (in an analogous way) when the arguments for it are before a person’s mind. But when he goes on to consider the Tu Quoque, and thinks to himself that the very same problem must afflict any view of Scripture’s authority no matter what, he may then form the second order judgment that there must be something wrong with the argument against the Distinction Thesis, even if he does not know exactly what it is.

    If we construe Mathison’s claim (that the dispute is really about ecclesiology) as building into itself this assessment of the Tu Quoque and the reasoning I just gave, we might understand his claim in similar fashion. It would be a way of signaling the idea that, if the Tu Quoque applies to views incorporating apostolic succession, this must indicate a problem with the argument for the No Distinction Thesis as wielded against non-apostolic succession views as well. And then the idea might be that one fails to appreciate the Tu Quoque and its import only if one doesn’t entertain any second order doubts about Catholic ecclesiology. Maybe something like that. I dunno. What do you think?

    Neal

  44. Neal #33

    I do agree that we must start with basic assumptions about the reasonableness of ourselves and others. In the interest of brevity, I pared Q1 down. Perhaps a more nuanced and better way to present it is:

    Q1) Do I trust myself as the Court of Last Resort, or do I trust someone else with this authority?

    Also as my comments are focused on your original post, I take your encouragement to heart.

    Brent #34

    I agree that overcoming the caricatures is key function of this site.

    I agree that newness is not a test for veracity. I was commenting on what may be the overly strong manner in which the historic evidence for Infallibility has been presented to me in the past….we need to always guard against embellishment in any direction.

    Ray #38,

    I think Andrew just wants to stir the pot, not actually posit a useful argument. I’m not sure why you respond to his baiting.

    Neal #43 tell me if this solves the riddle of Mr. Mathison’s assertion,

    I’ve been rethinking the definitions of Sola and Solo.

    Remembering first of all the three questions which I thing govern this entire conversation:

    Q1) Do I trust myself or someone else as the “Court of Last resort”?
    Q2) How do I know that who I trust is trustworthy?
    Q3) Having trusted someone, do I retain the right or duty to withdraw consent?

    I originally defined
    Sola as : (Q1=Someone else, Q2=Can not be trusted due to fallibility, Q3=Yes),
    and
    Solo as : (Q1=Myself, Q2=Can not be trusted due to fallibility, Q3=N/A)

    But Mr. Mathison claims that the Rule of Faith is the object of Authority. This being the case, I think Mr. Mathison would argue that Sola is really

    (Q1=Someone/thing else (rule of faith), Q2=Infallible, Q3=No), which is very similar to the Catholic IP which is:

    (Q1=Someone else (Magistereum), Q2=Divine Appointment/Infallible, Q3=No)

    HOWEVER, it is one thing to relate this way to an inanimate statement of faith, Quite another to apply it day in and day out in a living relationship(s) with a spiritual community. Here is where he blames the Catholic presuppotions for causing the problem. He cannot accept the the answer to Q2, when applied to people, would be Infallible. So in any relationship to a spiritual community the IP that he uses is my original definition of Sola:

    (Q1=Someone else, Q2=Can not be trusted due to fallibility, Q3=Yes)

    He is hung up on the possibility that Q2 could be answered “Divine Appointment QED Infallible”

    ALL the more so since there have been real stinkers as Popes. In a protestant church, the quickest way to get thrown out on your ear is to get caught with the secretary. I’m not putting this out there as a “we’re better than you” statement….Just that it is the lens through which he looks (and for that matter so do most protestants) They view Moral failure as a LEGITIMATE disqualification to minister….period. (In my opinion, this is hypocrisy on our part as Luther was a pretty morally vile man, at least if you count the sins of slander, rage, malice, etc.)

    On one hand Mr. Mathison preaches that Sola is:

    (Q1=Someone/thing else (rule of faith), Q2=Infallible, Q3=No)

    When in actuallity he behaves in relationship to other people that Sola is:

    (Q1=Someone else, Q2=Can not be trusted due to fallibility, Q3=Yes)

    and this duality explains three things

    1) It is what you guys have pinned him up on.
    2) It is also why everyone seems to keep talking past each other
    3) It is also why almost every conversation keeps degenerating to some version of Q2….the validity of the Catholic Church…

  45. Dear Jeremiah,

    You say:

    in the interest of brevity, I pared Q1 down. Perhaps a more nuanced and better way to present it is:
    Q1) Do I trust myself as the Court of Last Resort, or do I trust someone else with this authority?

    Yes, good. I knew you had this in mind all along, and this is why I tried not to sound as though I were attempting to correct a genuine mistake you had made. Another way to formulate your Q1, then, would be: “Am I the ultimate interpretive authority, or is someone else?” (The “Court of Last Resort” gets at the same idea, I believe.)

    You then ask whether what you subsequently say will solve Mr. Mathison’s riddle. I’m maybe not too sure what you have in mind by this, but let me try to respond to your following proposal. Here you go:

    I originally defined Sola as : (Q1=Someone else, Q2=Can not be trusted due to fallibility, Q3=Yes), and Solo as : (Q1=Myself, Q2=Can not be trusted due to fallibility, Q3=N/A). But Mr. Mathison claims that the Rule of Faith is the object of Authority. This being the case, I think Mr. Mathison would argue that Sola is really (Q1=Someone/thing else (rule of faith), Q2=Infallible, Q3=No), which is very similar to the Catholic IP which is: (Q1=Someone else (Magistereum), Q2=Divine Appointment/Infallible, Q3=No).

    But I think this isn’t the right way to view Mathison’s position. This is because he distinguishes between the rule of faith being inerrant (containing no errors) and being infallible, as a result of (say) a Spirit-inspired or guided process that eventuated in the rule of faith. For example, let’s assume that the rule of faith is just the Nicene Creed. Mathison would affirm that the Nicene Creed contains no errors, because it is a faithful and accurate summary of (a subset of) the Bible’s doctrinal content. But saying this is different from saying that the process whereby the Creed was produced was an infallible process, or that the reason we know the Nicene Creed is inerrant is because we know upon other grounds that the process leading up to its promulgation was Spirit-led in a way that ensures its infallibility. So I think Mathison would not answer your Q2 in the way you suggest he would. The Nicene Creed is (as it happens) inerrant, but Scripture alone is both inerrant and infallible, because the Scriptures (but not the Creed) were divinely inspired.

    This point undermines some of the things you say subsequently; however, I think it is good and refreshing and worthwhile that you continually return to the concrete, trying to make sense of how these different positions would “play out in the real world.” That’s good.

    Neal

  46. John (#42):

    You wrote:

    The purpose of my comment was only to clarify that the magisterial reformers did not literally limit the Church to “those who, unlike the Catholic hierarchy, adhered to the correct interpretation of Scripture.”

    Fair enough; your knowledge of the history of Protestant theology is greater than mine. I was just taking for granted that Mathison’s frank denial of apostolic succession to the Catholic hierarchy reflected the Reformed view. As to the magisterial reformers themselves, it has never seemed to me that calling the Church of Rome “the whore of Babylon” and the pope “antichrist” is quite the same as holding merely that Rome failed to understand the correct technical requirements for being a successor to the Apostles. I has always seemed to me that, according to even the magisterial reformers, the Catholic Church had perverted the Gospel, and therefore that its bishops, from the pope on down, no longer bore the authority they claimed. But perhaps I’m mistaking rhetoric for substance.

    Best,
    Mike

  47. Neal (#43):

    You wrote:

    If we construe Mathison’s claim (that the dispute is really about ecclesiology) as building into itself this assessment of the Tu Quoque and the reasoning I just gave, we might understand his claim in similar fashion. It would be a way of signaling the idea that, if the Tu Quoque applies to views incorporating apostolic succession, this must indicate a problem with the argument for the No Distinction Thesis as wielded against non-apostolic succession views as well. And then the idea might be that one fails to appreciate the Tu Quoque and its import only if one doesn’t entertain any second order doubts about Catholic ecclesiology. Maybe something like that. I dunno. What do you think?

    I’ll tell you what I think: you’re right. The fallback argument for the Distinction Thesis seems to me to be the Tu Quoque, and that argument, as wielded by DT’s defenders, is supposed to be unpersuasive only to those who take Catholic ecclesiology for granted. Too bad Mathison didn’t really make that argument in his reply to you and Bryan. The debate would have been better focused.

    Best,
    Mike

  48. Jeremiah (#44):

    I sincerely don’t believe Andrew is just stirring the pot. He can correct me if I’ve misunderstood, but I see him making the same basic point that I have tried to make, which is that we need to be wary of anachronism. This leads directly into how Mike has framed the debate. Because the reformers believed the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, etc., were real, particular churches, they saw their breaking of communion with Rome as something more or less equivalent to what the Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox had done centuries before.

    What, then, is the difference between these two earlier schisms and the schism at the Reformation? The nature of tradition was not the crucial difference; for, the reformers were working with a conception of tradition little removed from the one Mike sketched in the penultimate paragraph of #15. The difference, as I see it, comes down to questions about whether the reformers had a real ministry: or in other words, whether the protestant churches count as real, particular churches. That’s an enormous issue, too large to go into here. But if–even only for the sake of argument–one grants that the reformed Churches of England, Ireland and Scotland were each genuine churches, then one has little reason any longer to depict “private judgment” as a protestant innovation. It may, of course, be an error, and a serious one, but if so, it’s an error the essence of which is common to both protestants and Orthodox.

    To be clear, I’m not at all claiming that the Orthodox recognize protestant churches as particular churches. As far as I know, they see our succession as too irregular, or else as vitiated by false beliefs. But what we’ve been discussing is the nature of apostolic tradition, and on that topic, old fashioned protestants and Orthodox have more in common than one might expect at first glance. Mike has explained very well why this is the case:

    So here’s the choice: Either “the Church” is to be identified primarily as the body constituted by communion with a college of bishops that can be known antecedently to have inherited the full teaching authority of the apostles, or “the Church” is to be identified primarily in terms of criteria of orthodoxy that can be antecedently known as such without appeal to ecclesial authority. If Catholicism is true, then the former option is itself orthodox and the latter option is not. But eventually, most of the East chose the latter, as did the Reformers after them; only the church calling herself ‘the Catholic Church’ chose the former.

    Slogans like sola scriptura have a tendency to get in the way of clear thought. Mike’s comment #15 shows on what the debate actually centers, and anyone interested in this thread would do well to go back and read it again very slowly.

    Blessings in Christ,

    John

  49. Mike (#46):

    I think a lot of confusion has come from the rhetorical excesses of the reformers. They believed the pope and the hierarchy had lost authority in the older sense of auctoritas by teaching grievous error. They also denied that the potestas of the pope and hierarchy was what the Roman Communion said it was. To my knowledge, however, they never denied that the Roman Church had potestas in the sense of a real ministry and real sacraments. Making that denial would have seriously undermined their theology in other places. J. H. Thornwell and the southern presbyterians of the 19th century thought otherwise, but they were, frankly, out of touch with the mainstream of historic reformed theology, and were vigorously rebutted by Hodge.

    Best,
    John

  50. Jeremiah,

    As to Andrew, you may be right about his intentions – I have no way of knowing. I debated responding to him at all. However, I believe his gross misrepresentation of Mike’s position needed to be addressed for the misrepresentation that it was.

    Also, in looking at Mathison’s position, its worth noting that his mini-history concerning what the “rule of faith” is and how it developed; is chalk full of assumptions as I pointed out elsewhere. It is not as if there just is this obvious textual construct that everyone recognizes and agrees is the “rule of faith”. Mathison has explicitly delimited the textual scope of the “rule-of-faith” according to his own criteria. Hence, Mathison is in the business of defining the “rule-of-faith” which he in turn uses to define “the church”. All he has done is introduce another layer into the scheme. Yet his method only serves to highlight, once again, that he remains the holder of ultimate interpretive authority. He defines the scope of the “rule-of-faith”; whereby he defines “the church” whose doctrinal definitions he then chooses to submit himself to. Perhaps this additional nuance in his position deserves some tertiary designation beyond solo or sola :>)

    Pax Chrsiti!

    Ray

  51. Ray (re: 38),

    You grossly misrepresent Mike’s position as anyone can see who reads his article. He has done no such thing as you suggest. All he has pointed out OVER and OVER again, is not that one MUST adopt the Catholic IP when interpreting the data – do whatever you want in that regard – it’s a free country! He has made a philosophical argument, which you seem to keep evading, that the methodology employed by the Protestant IP will NEVER allow a principled distinction between “de fide” Divine revelation and human opinion with regard to articles of faith….

    Then Ray, you are obviously misreading what I am saying, because the point you mention here is exactly what I’m commenting on. It is this philosophical point which if taken seriously renders any Protestant attempt at theological or historical analysis just an expression of “mere opinion.” So just what value can we place on “mere opinion” if we are trying to understand what God is communicating to us from the writings of the Fathers of the Church. Is it really any stretch to say that no Catholic theologian is going to pay any mind to such opinion? So given this, how is the Protestant supposed to engage the Catholic theologian on matters of historical analysis? This is the essence of my comments thus far and my central question to Mike L. And not surprisingly I find his comments about “everyone being involved” to be of little value.

    Thus, if the Catholic meta-narrative concerning the interpretation of scripture, history, etc. were at least equally plausible with the Protestant, then Mike’s philosophical insight would tip the scales in favor of adopting the Catholic position….

    It would not just tip the scales in favor of the Catholic position, it would eliminate the Protestant opinion from any serious discussion except maybe as a position to be refuted. How can “mere opinion” hold any importance to the Catholic historian/theologian?

    First you apparently deny that the Catholic interpretation of the biblical/patristic data is at least as plausible as the Protestant;

    I said just the opposite, Ray, I I distinctly said it was plausible. Plausibility was never the issue.

    or second you deny that there is, in the first place, any great need to have the kind of epistemic certainty about the deposit of faith that Mike assumes all Catholics and conservative Protestants care deeply about.

    The epistemic status of the lessons we derive from a study of the history of the Church is indeed important but we have not really been able to address the need for such epistemic certainty because we cannot agree on a methodology for interpreting the historical data. The question about what prescriptive lessons we might draw out of the description of the beliefs of the theologians of earlier ages is one that can only be addressed once we agree on how we get at what the verdict of history is from the perspective of the Church Fathers. It is this perspective that Mathison and Oberman delve so deeply into in their original works. I think that they make a reasonable case that in the first several centuries there was no expectation of extra-biblical tradition that reached the same level of certainty and normativity as Scripture. And there seems to be no certain consensus of such a concept of revelation and tradition in the first millennium. So my question here, Ray, is just this – What is the Catholic historian to think of this analysis? Well if I’m reading Mike L right the Catholic historian will not think anything of it at all. After all, it’s just one man’s opinion, so how much value can it be? From the perspective of the orthodox Catholic historian/theologian there is never going to be any way to differentiate mere opinion here from what God would have us to know concerning the history of the Church and the object of faith when such a reading of the history of the Church is done outside the context of the Magisterium. Do I paint a correct picture here or not? And if not, then why not?

    Mike L has a nice example of this on this issue of the infallibility of the pope. From our perspective it’s telling that there is no such theory in the first millennium of the history of the Church, but even when it does get to be a disputed issue in the 13th century you have one pope promoting the idea and then the next pope completely denying it as utterly preposterous. Well of course eventually the popes determine they do speak infallibly under certain conditions but from the Protestant standpoint the obvious question is whether there is any good reason for holding such a position given the lack of historical evidence for the dogma. But what we are told is in effect that whatever earlier theologians believed about papal infallibility is ultimately irrelevant. The magisterial teaching of the RCC came to conclude that papal infallibility was indeed an irreformable dogma of the Church. The conclusions of previous popes and theologians before this time were in effect irrelevant. End of story, right?

    So there are two opposite errors that we see in the analysis of the history of the Church. One is to cut such analysis entirely loose from the ecclesiastical oversight. We are NOT advocating such a position but it seems that the RCC perceive that we are. On the other side, there is an error of doing no analysis at all and ending matters with a summary judgment that may or may not reflect the thinking and belief of the earlier Church theologians. This is what we perceive the RCC doing. Once the summary judgment is in that’s the end of the road for any further dispute. Not of course that we Protestants are not going to stop talking about it, but certainly no Catholic theologian is going to care about our “mere opinions.” There is no historical analysis possible, at least nothing that we can term “historical analysis” in any reasonable understanding of the term.

    So what does it mean for Catholics and Protestants to read the history of the Church together? From my standpoint it does not mean much from the Catholic side. What do you think? Do you understand that this question is the essence of what my previous points were getting at?

    However out of character you may THINK a given doctrine is, in terms of being in line with the “Early Church”; such supposed discontinuities vastly pale in comparison with the discontinuity that exists between almost ANYTHING in the patristic age and Reformed Presbyterianism.

    That Ray, is a red herring and has nothing to do with the discussion at hand. The Protestant IP does not proceed primarily by analyzing historical data. For the Protestant the history of the science of theology is invaluable as it is in any science, but we do not derive dogmatic statements from analysis of the Fathers in the same way that Roman Catholicism does. We have hardly scratched the surface of the Protestant understanding of the history of the Church, and I raised the issue in the last thread because I saw it as a potential touch point with the Roman Catholics. At least I would think it should be a touch point, but even that seems doubtful now.

    Concerning you discussions about the Petrine See, Ignatius, etc I have discussed these things (to use your term) ad nauseam on the Catholic and Protestant blogs and I really don’t know why you are bringing this up here. What’s your point? I don’t answer even the majority of the posts here on CTC. Do you?

    I think Mike has rightly referred to you as a Liberal Protestant waiting to happen. Are you really prepared to tell your congregation that “sola fide” is only one plausible take on the biblical data regarding justification?…..

    You are just getting way off topic here, Ray. We are talking about our respective philosophies of tradition, remember? What are you bringing all this up for? To bring it back to the point of discussion we are asking you what we can say about tradition and the history of tradition in light of Mike L’s philosophical summary and the irreformable nature of Roman Catholic dogmatic statements. My sense here is that there is nothing left to be discussed but I will let you comment.

  52. But from what I agree Oberman and Mathison have shown, it does not follow that the Catholic IP is an illegitimate development. That would only follow on the assumption that a fair study of the early sources sufficed, by itself, to identify all that is normative for the concept and content of Tradition. But that assumption cannot be secured just by a study of the relevant data. Rather, it is an assumption that the conservative-Protestant IP brings to such a study. So, in order to establish the conclusion that the development of the Catholic IP is illegitimate, one has to first secure that key assumption of the (conservative) Protestant IP. And doing that would require a prior, philosophical argument that the Protestant IP is rationally preferable.

    Mike (re: 41),

    I’m not sure I’m going to be able to say anything more than what I’ve said to Ray, but yes obviously I find that an IP that actually considers the positions of earlier theologians to be be superior to one that in effect ignores them once judgment has been rendered by the Magisterium on any given point. This speaks to the two extremes I mention in my reply to Ray above. The various examples that I brought up (largely from Mathison and Oberman) are meant to illustrate this. And I was being genuine when I said that your examples (i.e. that of papal infallibility) were helpful in elucidating what you thought on the matter. To any theologian not operating in your Catholic IP mode, there would be little to nothing to recommend papal infallibility as a rational summary of the teaching on papal authority up until the 13th century. But to the historian operating within this mode, it just does not matter, does it? To use my previous example of the approval of the Apocrypha/Deuteros by Trent as canonical, the Catholic Encyclopedia says quite plainly that 1) there was little unqualified approval of the Deuteros as canonical in the Middle Ages, and 2) the theologians of Trent did not consider who among previous centuries of Catholic theologians did and who did not approve of them leading up to the 16th century. The Protestant takeaway from such statements is that the Catholic position does not really care about such historical debates and places little to no value in replaying them. But from the Protestant standpoint, the reassessment of the events leading up to such decisions is very important. To the Protestant historians/theologian such reassessments are key to developing an understanding of how and why Protestant and Catholic parted ways on any number of issues.

    My point in all of this is to show that there is no way for us to get a hearing, so as to speak, on any matter that has been settled by the RCC. It seems pointless even to try from what I see now. So on the issue that Mathison and Oberman raise early on in their respective texts, the philosophy towards tradition of the ECF’s and the theologians before the 12th century or so does not in any real way educate the position that the RCC has derived on the philosophy of tradition. It’s a settled matter, correct? So what’s the point in us bringing it up? We do bring various issues that touch on Catholic dogma again and again (as over at Greenbaggins) to demonstrate that so many Catholic dogmas have no firm basis in the history of the Church and the response from the Catholic side is at best annoyance.

    I would finally add that I don’t think that there is any way that I can see to prove to any Catholic theologian that the Protestant IP is better than the Catholic one. If you accept the Catholic modus operandi with regards to historical assessment, the debate is over as far as I can see. But go ahead and tell me what you think – how is the Protestant supposed to proceed at this point?

  53. Mike and Neal,

    The problem with TQ being the fallback argument of DT is that one cannot demonstrate that DT has any relationship whatsoever to TQ (or at least that hasn’t been attempted). Also, Neal, since you brought Descartes into it, I think there are two ways to read what he is doing there- one charitable one not (but it seems to me the charitable reading leaves him a second tier thinker which I’m not inclined to assume). Charitably, we can assume that Mathison is aware of the logical tensions in his argument or we can “uncharitably assume” that he is okay with them because he is committed to DT despite all argument. I’m in Benjamin’s boat in that I’m having a hard time reading past those glaring tensions. Also, Mathison doesn’t claim to be a philosopher (what’s his training?) so attributing the kind of intricacy of argumentation we might “read into’ his argument in an attempt to be charitable might be handing the chair at the Sorbonne to the wrong guy (I’ll assume Descartes fills the bill).

    Let’s assume that the Catholic Church doesn’t exist. The DT still doesn’t work on Scripture “X” assuming it is God’s Word. I think we have made copious attempts at demonstrating from reason and experience that the DT doesn’t hold water, AND all the TQ does if our demonstrations are correct is show that we are in the same boat as them (some type of solo which is what Luis has argued for on your post Mike). However, I’ll argue that to claim DT relies upon the TQ takes A LOT more work than has been done or may be possible to do.

    On Mathison’s original post, our friend TurretinFan linked to Mathison’s kind of sound bite apologia for his book, and I responded:

    So, if what I’m reading is correct and I’m understanding it correctly, two things will make the distinction virtually impossible to see (excuse me if my blindness excludes me from understanding this as well):

    1) The RCC axion; we’ll call this “Authoritarian” (or at least that is the characterization)

    2) The solo Protestant axion; “Anarchist”

    Which leaves I guess the Mathison Axion: “Democratic?” (or somewhere in between). Very convenient that assumptions that are so strikingly different will equally blind one to a distinction. It makes real dialog impossible since both groups who reject sola (A) are incapable of seeing why A is different than solo (B) because one holds B and the other catholic IP (C); where C is not equal to B. Hence, according to Mathison, A is not equal to B only if one holds C (which is not equal to B). Which makes me ask, “What do I need to hold besides B or C that will get me to value A as not B. Of course, not holding B meaning “I hold A” is a tautological argument, so it appears that only not holding C is what’s important. Which makes Mathison’s claim empty, unless he has another one.

    Mathison’s book was motivated by those Protestants who believe in solo, we’re kind of a “you guys are wrong too” consequence.

    Notice my argument assumes that B and C logically exclude each other. If they don’t, I can hold solo and the Catholic IP, then we, I think, have moved their objection forward.

    Your professional thoughts gentlemen?

  54. Neal and T. C. and Brent (and others ?),
    Thanks for the help with Latin; and the comments. You are right, google does help; and I am grateful for that.

    I wish now (at almost 50) that I had leaned Latin earlier. I can appreciate it now, but philosophy and law are difficult sometimes for me. Theology is easier for me. (except when there is too much Latin) I wish that writers would just put the English in parentheses just to read wider audiences – it seems like it would help disseminate the ideas.

    I can work with NT Greek; but when I use it, I always both transliterate it and translate in in parentheses; because I have noticed that other lay-people in discussion of theology and church history, get intimidated and shut down the discussion and don’t admit they don’t understand, because of their lack of knowledge of what we are talking about.

    Now I can go back and try to understand the article.

    Sincerely,
    Ken T.

  55. John (#49):

    You wrote:

    I think a lot of confusion has come from the rhetorical excesses of the reformers. They believed the pope and the hierarchy had lost authority in the older sense of auctoritas by teaching grievous error. They also denied that the potestas of the pope and hierarchy was what the Roman Communion said it was. To my knowledge, however, they never denied that the Roman Church had potestas in the sense of a real ministry and real sacraments. Making that denial would have seriously undermined their theology in other places.

    I know this might look to some like quibbling over ecclesiological subtleties, but I really believe a lot is at stake here. Assuming that your historical account of magisterial-Protestant doctrine is correct, I still think the magisterial reformers did pretty much what I say they did: i.e., redefine ‘the Church’. As I understand you, they not only denied that the “Roman communion” had genuine auctoritas—which is an inherently normative concept—but also denied that said communion had potestas in a normative sense, i.e. the de jure sense. It only had potestas in a de facto sense: its “ministry” and “sacraments” were “real,” but it had neither authority in the normative sense nor power in a legal sense. Thus, what qualifies the Roman communion as part of “the Church” is not that she is the Church—which is what Rome claimed and still claims—but that she satisfies a set of criteria for churchiness that are, on some if not all points, incompatible with Rome’s. That is an instance of what I mean by ‘redefining the Church’. My error, as I now see it, lay not in making that statement, but only in my having been misled, by their own rhetoric, about how they redefined “the Church.”

    Thanks for that contribution.

    Best,
    Mike

  56. Andrew (re: 51 & 52),

    First, all my cards on table. I am a protestant who goes to a non-denominational charismatic church.

    Second, it seems to me that you purpose for studying history is not clear. Is your purpose to determine what a correct doctrinal position should be? If this is your purpose, you are correct there is no discussion to be had between Catholic and Protestant historians on issues which have been settled by the Magistereum. (there are lots that still haven’t been settled incidentally, but that is another topic)

    IF THIS, HOWEVER, is your purpose in studying history, where does it end? Is the historian going to determine that Jesus really did have two natures, w/o mixture, etc. etc. etc.? Are we going to debate whether the Holy Spirit is GOD or not? How about Pelagianism? The list could go on as to doctrinal postions which can be unearthed and endlessly historically reviewed as to veracity.

    Even if this valid for Historians, how can that practice have any practical use? Where does that leave the average working person who doesn’t have the time or dispositon to sift through the mountains of historic information? Do they just trust their pastor to do that work? Does every pastor then have the requirement to read all 38 volumes of the ECF to determine doctrine? If not, then who do they trust? Their seminary professors? Most protestant seminaries are fairly useless.

    What about the canon? Why do we trust Luther, Calvin, et. al on this more than St. Jerome?

    At the end of the day we to make a choice between two trusts. We either have to trust someone else or we have to trust only ourselves and cling to our right to “have a say” in the matter.

    I know this will come across as an endorsement to join the RCC. I’m not suggesting that. I personally believe that if I didn’t get to choose what natural family I was placed in I wouldn’t get to choose what spiritual family I was placed in. As such I would suggest a semi-workable solution to any protestant reading this. It is slightly better than just trusting yourself. determine in whatever manner you best can what spiritual family GOD has placed you in and then commit to that group whether you agree with their beliefs or not. Just be careful if they bring out vats of kool-aid.

  57. Andrew (#52):

    You wrote:

    So on the issue that Mathison and Oberman raise early on in their respective texts, the philosophy towards tradition of the ECF’s and the theologians before the 12th century or so does not in any real way educate the position that the RCC has derived on the philosophy of tradition. It’s a settled matter, correct? So what’s the point in us bringing it up? We do bring various issues that touch on Catholic dogma again and again (as over at Greenbaggins) to demonstrate that so many Catholic dogmas have no firm basis in the history of the Church and the response from the Catholic side is at best annoyance.

    The following statement of yours is not a valid inference from what I said: “…the philosophy towards tradition of the ECF’s and the theologians before the 12th century or so does not in any real way educate the position that the RCC has derived on the philosophy of tradition.” On the historical account I gave, the views of tradition developed prior to the 11th century are quite relevant to Catholic doctrine. In general, we can form from those views a synthesis that helped to shape Catholic doctrine; in particular, the general understanding of Rome’s authority that prevailed prior to the Photian schism is one of the necessary premises for the development of Catholic doctrine. But on my account, what pre-11th-century accounts of Tradition did not do was supply all the premises from which one could formally derive the developed Catholic account of how Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium relate to each other as the three constituents of the FPOF. Oberman and Mathison would certainly agree with that; in fact, I learned it in part from them. So on my own account, the earlier stuff is quite relevant indeed, because it is necessary for the development of Catholic doctrine; it just isn’t sufficient to get us there. Being insufficient doesn’t mean being irrelevant.

    Nevertheless, I disagree with Oberman and Mathison, and with Protestants generally, about whether such an agreed result of studying the early sources shows that the development of Catholic doctrine is illegitimate. Assuming that the early sources are not logically sufficient to derive the developed Catholic doctrine, does that show that the development was unjustified? As I’ve said before, one can only infer an affirmative answer to that question if one further assumes that what’s stated in the early sources, or what can be logically derived therefrom, is not only necessary but sufficient for identifying the FPOF. But that assumption is precisely what’s characteristic about the Protestant IP. It cannot be logically derived from a study of the early sources, any more than the characteristic assumption of the Catholic IP can be so derived. So the only way to address the disagreement is to have a discussion about which IP is rationally preferable, granted from the outset that we agree on what the early sources actually say. Such a discussion must be philosophical, not historical.

    With that clarified, I can properly address how you end:

    I would finally add that I don’t think that there is any way that I can see to prove to any Catholic theologian that the Protestant IP is better than the Catholic one. If you accept the Catholic modus operandi with regards to historical assessment, the debate is over as far as I can see. But go ahead and tell me what you think – how is the Protestant supposed to proceed at this point?

    The way for the Protestant to proceed here is not to insist on extending the historical study, but to compare the Protestant and the Catholic IP on their own respective terms, to see which is rationally preferable. To do that, one must carry on like a philosopher, not like a Protestant or, of course, like a Catholic. One must put oneself in the position of the inquirer who is not committed to either IP. The ability to do that is an essential skill of critical thinking.

    Best,
    Mike

  58. Brent (#53):

    Addressing me and Neal, you wrote:

    The problem with TQ being the fallback argument of DT is that one cannot demonstrate that DT has any relationship whatsoever to TQ (or at least that hasn’t been attempted).

    I did not suggest that DT can be established by the TQ. DT could not be established by TQ even if TQ were a good argument, which I don’t believe it is. What I suggested was that the defender of DT might well have to fall back on TQ in an effort to show that those who reject DT must do so from an epistemic standpoint which assumes what is supposed to be proved, and thus begs the question. That seems to me what Mathison should have done, even though he didn’t.

    Best,
    Mike

  59. Mike,

    “which assumes what is supposed to be proved”—Exactly

    I’m not asking them or implying that you suggested that they show that TQ establishes DT. Sorry about the confusion. Rather, I would like for them to demonstrate any relationship whatsoever between the DT and TQ which is not accidental to both arguments. Logic or experience will do as a starting point. So, if the “connection” is epistemic, then don’t just tell me you can’t “see it” (Mathison’s argument) as if he were Gilson talking about Being or as if that is an argument. Even Gilson’s claim about Being is substantiated with his reading of the history of philosophy. In other words, I see no promise in pursuing the TQ defense of DT since it is bound to lead nowhere; but sophistry always defeats common sense in the history of theology.

    I think this gets us back to the DT debate which was Neal’s point in his preliminary reflections.

    Regards,

    Brent

  60. Jeremiah,

    Just be careful if they bring out vats of kool-aid.

    Of course the great trick is being able to recognize kool-aid when you see it; and of course that may have something to do with what spiritual family you are in; or at least with recognizing that Christ Himself has a provided a means by which the difference can be known within His supernatural family.

    It’s true that those of us born in Christian homes do not personally choose the spiritual family we are born into. However, if we grow up and find out that our immediate spiritual fathers and mothers are themselves estranged from their own spiritual parents (and therefore from the rest of the extended family); one would presumably – in the interests of family unity – be quite concerned to heal whatever offenses caused the original breach. But I suspect you would affirm as much, or else you would not be here having this conversation – nor would I :>)

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  61. Jeremiah #56,

    I was just like you 3 years ago (I was even ordained in a Pentecostal church at one time and went to the queen ship seminary of non-denom charismatic churches Oral Roberts University–which has also turned out Orthodox and Catholic priests nonetheless).

    However, I wanted the truth more than I wanted to stay in the ignorance I was born into. At least that was my take. What propelled my journey was when I had my daughter (4 kids now-like you I think?) and realized that it is one thing for me to believe such and such while it is a completely different thing to hand off that such and such to an innocent soul. Hence my journey, hence me coming into the Church 3 years ago November at the Feast of Christ the King. While it was no fault of my own to be born into a pento-charismatic baptist tradition, however, it was my fault if I remained in that tradition when presented, by God’s divine plan, with truth to the contrary. There is no “escape hatch” to the truth. I do, however, point back to a time 8 years before I converted where I prayed, “Jesus, I will follow you wherever you lead me.” Dangerous prayer, but a little different from “….only if it’s not __________”. Now, bear in mind that my wife declared we could become anything but Catholic when this whole thing started (the same girl who now has a strong devotion to St. Anne). God has a sense of humor. Jeremiah, I prayed every day for 3 years, “God, if this is not of you throw me off this path” and at every turn he confirmed His Church. As someone coming from your faith tradition that has to mean something (not everything) to you.

    God bless,

    Brent

  62. Ray,

    Kool-aid is red and sticky. BEWARE the bitter almond flavor, its not standard….LOL

    Brent,

    I appreciate you testimony and sympathy. I think there are some key reasons that the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is tilting towards Catholicism, but that is a different discussion. It has been a surprising revelation to me over the past five years to have the “cartoonish” aspects of Catholicism taken away to find that on most key points my theology aligns with the RC/EO perspective. A few core values in our Church that are somewhat distinct from most Protestant groups is an emphasis on relational connectedness AND genuine discipleship as expressed by submission to spiritual authority. As such I have an epistemic which is probably closer to yours than anything else….all of which leads to the conclusion that I might convert, but if I do it will be in the company of a spiritual family, not just as a conclusion I come to privately. I have been appointed to my place and my private convictions are yielded to another. Honestly, I feel more like my namesake in the Bible when the remnant fled to Egypt. The Word of the Lord was to stay in Land of Israel, but Jeremiah went along with the people….He was more interested in staying Covenantally connected than in being right. Incidentally, he could have gone into captivity in Babylon and stayed Covenantally connected as well. He knew who He was called to be with. I know who I am called to be with and regardless of what is or is not attractive, correct, the truth, etc.

    So even if I don’t convert, I’ll probably still line up with you guys more than not. Sorry if I got off the topic of the thread….

  63. Brent (#59) and Neal:

    Brent wrote:

    Logic or experience will do as a starting point. So, if the “connection” is epistemic, then don’t just tell me you can’t “see it” (Mathison’s argument) as if he were Gilson talking about Being or as if that is an argument. Even Gilson’s claim about Being is substantiated with his reading of the history of philosophy. In other words, I see no promise in pursuing the TQ defense of DT since it is bound to lead nowhere; but sophistry always defeats common sense in the history of theology.

    I’ve begun suspecting that the Mathisons, and indeed the Reformed in general, really don’t have a better argument. The reason is interesting.

    I hold, rather uncontroversially I should think, that there is no paradigm-neutral standpoint from which to interpret the raw data of theology. But given the general tenor of Reformed theology, I suspect that they would go a step further: there is no theologically neutral standpoint from which to assess competing interpretive paradigms (IPs) in theology. If they believe that without qualification, then they would have to decline my invitation to compare the Protestant and Catholic IPs from a purely philosophical standpoint. And if that’s the case, all they can say is that one either “sees” that DT is true, through the lens of the right IP, or one doesn’t “see” it, because one is viewing the matter through the lens of the wrong IP.

    Maybe that’s Mathison’s assumption. But I’d prefer not to believe that, because it makes productive debate impossible.

    Best,
    Mike

  64. Mike (#55):

    Thanks for the clarification. I think we’re pretty much on the same page now. My point was only that the early protestant ecclesiology was “higher,” so to speak, than is usually appreciated today. That’s a fact of some significance for understanding how the sixteenth century schism, when viewed from the the reformers’ perspective, compares to earlier schisms. But to your point, the reformers certainly did redefine the Church relative to the definition given by Catholicism both then and now. They would say, of course, that de jure ecclesial infallibility itself amounts to a redefinition relative to what fathers like St. Irenaeus believed. That brings us back to hermeneutics, which makes this only a sidebar to the discussion of IPs.

    On that topic, what’s the status of your article for First Things? I think you would be doing a great service if you put in print a concise statement of what you have written online.

    Best,
    John

  65. Benjamin Keil :I wonder what you make of the following. Mathison wrote:

    “ …[T]the primary issue in this debate is not the doctrine of Scripture. It is the doctrine of the Church. (PDF 1)”

    Do you see any way we can charitably gloss Mathison’s assertion that ecclesiology, not bibliology, is the primary issue when discussing solo vs. sola? It seems like bibliology is precisely the topic under discussion, and I can’t come up with any charitable way to follow Mathison’s line of thinking here. Have you any thoughts along this line?

    Benjamin, I realize this question was directed to Neal, but I would like to take a stab at answering your question.

    First, I agree with Mathison, the primary issue under debate is ecclesiology, and not a doctrine of scripture. As far a doctrine of the scriptures is concerned, both Luther and the Catholic Church are asserting that the scriptures are inerrant because they are “God breathed”. There is complete agreement between Luther, Calvin, and the Catholic Church about that point, though there is disagreement about the canon of scriptures. But Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura is not primarily a doctrine about the contents of the canon. Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura is primarily about the church. Specifically, Luther’s novelty of sola scriptura is an assertion by Luther that the living magisterium of the Catholic Church has no authority to bind the conscience of Luther with her de fide definita doctrines. This is a question of ecclesiology. Luther is making a claim with his sola scriptura novelty, that, as long as he is following his conscience, Luther is free to reject the formal teaching of the Catholic Church, when Luther’s private interpretation of the scriptures disagrees with the Catholics Church’s de fide definita interpretations of the scriptures. Luther is positing a whole new ecclesiology with his sola scriptura novelty, an ecclesiology that rejects Petrine primacy as a foundational doctrine, and replaces Petrine primacy with a foundational doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience.

    Keith Mathison says this about “holder of ultimate interpretive authority“:

    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.

    (Ref Keith Mathison: “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and Apostolic Succession: A Response to Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch.” )

    Whom does Keith Mathison believe is the holder of ultimate interpretive authority for Keith Mathision? For Keith Mathison, it is Keith Mathison, just as for Martin Luther it was Martin Luther. That is because the ecclesiology of Keith Mathison’s church is based on the foundation of Luther’s novelty of the primacy of individual conscience. The inevitable result of such a “me” centered ecclesiology it that anyone who disagrees with me, must be either a knave or a fool.

    It seems obvious to me, that Mathison is saying that Catholics can’t understand the distinction between sola and solo because Catholics are either knaves who can see the distinction, or ignorant men and women who need the Holy Spirit to illuminate their understanding. Keith is being charitable to Catholics because Catholics are sincere, but ignorant. If only we were one of the elect, we would understand the scriptures in all their beauty. Now, how can I say such a thing and be charitable to Keith? It is easy, I think. I believe that Keith, like most Protestants, sincerely believes that his understanding of scriptures is correct, and his conscience does not convict him of insincerity or duplicity. Since Keith’s ecclesiology is founded on Luther’s doctrine of the primacy of conscience, and it is a foundational belief for Keith Mathison that scriptures are absolutely without error, Keith cannot see how his understanding of scriptures could possibly be wrong, since his conscience does not convict him that he is wrong. The church that Mathison belongs to shares his private understanding of scriptures, and this is why his church has a “secondary” authority. The scriptures are the primary authority, and no individual has more authority than any other individual. But since all individuals in his church share the same interpretation of scriptures without having consciences that convict them of insincerity, collectively they make up a secondary authority that affirms the rightness of their beliefs. Thus sola isn’t just me and my interpretation, it is me and my church’s interpretations – and we all can‘t be wrong since none of us have consciences that are convicting us of being heretics.

    Where Keith is wrong, is in assuming that the novelty of the primacy of individual conscience is a scriptural doctrine. But of course, Keith would respond that I can’t see the correctness of the doctrine of the primacy of individual conscience, because I have been blinded by my assumption that the doctrine of Peterine Primacy is scriptural. Hence, the well intentioned history lesson by Keith to help me see the light. My response to Keith is simple: show me the scriptures that teach Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura and the scriptures that teach Luther’s doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience, and then I will believe both these doctrines because scriptures are inerrant.

  66. Mike (re: 57),

    But on my account, what pre-11th-century accounts of Tradition did not do was supply all the premises from which one could formally derive the developed Catholic account of how Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium relate to each other as the three constituents of the FPOF.

    I understand this is the way you look at it. From our standpoint what you are saying is that while you may find the history of the development of this doctrine helpful and may even be able to get some help from Scripture in this regards (although quite a stretch I would say when talking about the infallibility of the papacy!), in the end it is the Magisterium which trumps all. You have not disagreed with my contention that if in the final analysis that Magisterium judges the verdict of the history of the Church to be saying a certain thing, that’s the way it is for the orthodox Catholic, end of story. So it does not matter then what we may or may not learn from now going back to the history of the matter and delving into what any given Father or collection of Fathers wrote (or what the Scripture says on the matter). The Magisterium has spoken on the matter and anything that folks like us might have insights on concerning the development/evolution of the dogma of interest can only be said to be “mere opinion” at best.

    So the only way to address the disagreement is to have a discussion about which IP is rationally preferable, granted from the outset that we agree on what the early sources actually say. Such a discussion must be philosophical, not historical.

    Right. And so it is my position that the Protestant IP is superior firstly because it actually weighs the evidence at hand and derives its judgment based on that evidence rather than coming to the table with the decision already made. And it is superior secondly because it more closely approximates the modus operandi of the ECF’s who clearly did not utilize the tradition of the Church to develop dogma of the same level of normativity/certainty of Scripture. Now of course the Catholic theologian rejects my contention based on the judgment of the Magisterium, but they are utilizing the very same Magisterium whose judgments are under examination! And it is here where it seems to me that the Catholic IP fails most directly – the Magisterium is not just that which we are examining, it is for the Catholic the final arbiter of the questions under consideration. Thus the Catholic IP can never fail for the faithful Catholic – it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. In a word, the Catholic IP is unfalsifiable and thus not suitable for the determination of any science properly so called.

    The difference in IP that you and I have cannot be resolved from your end as far as I can see. You have locked yourself into an utterly intractable position. I would though finally note that you make cogent comment in the thread concerning this topic that you authored (#16) where you say: In fact, it would be highly desirable that theologically uncommitted inquirers participate, because they’re the least likely to have their philosophical vision fettered by theological assumptions..

    It would seem to me that such uncommitted inquirers are the real target rather than those of us whose IP prohibits them from truly considering the alternative except as a purely theoretical exercise.

    Cheers….

  67. Jeremiah (re: 56),

    Second, it seems to me that you purpose for studying history is not clear. Is your purpose to determine what a correct doctrinal position should be? If this is your purpose, you are correct there is no discussion to be had between Catholic and Protestant historians on issues which have been settled by the Magistereum. (there are lots that still haven’t been settled incidentally, but that is another topic)

    No, I don’t believe we can derive correct doctrinal positions from studying the history of the Church and this was exactly the point that the ECF’s (whose works we are most proximately studying after the biblical corpus) made on this point. But the works of those beginning with the Sub-Apostolic Fathers do give us some sort of touchstone with our Catholic friends on this matter. If a given set of Fathers’ judgment was universal then it ought to make us sit up and take note. But as C.S. Lewis noted, every age has it’s characteristic errors and the age of even the great Patristic Fathers was characterized by definite philosophical errors that they did not entirely escapes from. As one historian said, you can get whatever you want from the study of the history of the Church which is exactly what has happened with the Catholic Magisterium whose position is always nominally derived from previous doctrinal beliefs but in reality is just one of many ways that the Church’s understanding could have evolved. It is the job of the Protestant historian/theologian IMO to point such discrepancies out to our Catholic friends. It was just these discrepancies which were the cause of the Reformation in a certain way of looking at it. The speculative dogmatic theology of the Middle Ages was incompatible with the theology of earlier ages of the Church. If you can find a Catholic who is not already ideologically locked out of listening, you can IMO demonstrate this rationally. One of Mike L’s key points in the discussion is that we cannot engage in such discussions using the data of Church history in this kind of rational inquiry, and in general I agree with him. This debate is the subject most of the discussion that I have had with him on the last several threads.

    Even if this valid for Historians, how can that practice have any practical use?

    Great question. From the Protestant standpoint (in line with that of the ECF’s we would argue) arguments from the tradition of the Church have only as much utility as they do in any other sciences. We will never stop making the same errors if we don’t learn our lessons from history. Your example of Pelagianism is a good one. Do you think that the Billy Graham’s and other Evangelicals leaning in the same Pelagian/Semi-Pelagian direction would have fallen into these errors had they really understood their Church history and been schooled as to how to avoid the errors of their forefathers? My contention is probably not. In the science of theology the study of the history of theology gives us a vantage point that is analogous to that of the study of the history other sciences. We are less likely to commit the same errors if we are consciously aware of those errors. But we cannot make the mistake of looking at the history of Christian theology as if the ECF’s were the standard upon which we base our faith. They had the same challenges and difficulties and temptations that the Old Testament Fathers had as they tried to understand the object of their faith more precisely. The error of making the the consensus patrum a sort of theological standard is most obviously that the ECF’s would have never agreed that their understanding of matters should become a primary standard in any sense.

    Where does that leave the average working person who doesn’t have the time or dispositon to sift through the mountains of historic information?

    A great question. You might read the current debate and wonder how it is that the average Catholic becomes Catholic if they need to be able to understand such matters in order to differentiate what is to be known of their faith from what is just opinion about their faith. From my standpoint the philosophical debates you see here are going to be intelligible to only a small fraction of 1% of Catholic and Protestant listeners which to me does not leave them on the outside, it only means that the standard they need to look to is not the convoluted theological and philosophical systems of the RCC but rather the written Word of God which as you know is living, powerful, sharper than any two edged sword, etc and is the standard for Christian faith and practice.

    Cheers…..

  68. Andrew,

    Your response has provided confirmation that you are divided in your thinking. Your purpose in studying history is not clear to yourself and so your dialogue to others is confused as well. Allow me to demonstrate the division in your thinking from what you stated.

    You begin by asserting the following:

    “No, I don’t believe we can derive correct doctrinal positions from studying the history of the Church”

    You then follow this with a few sentences to support this statement, the climax of your supporting argument being a quote by CS Lewis. So far so good. You then accuse the Magistereum of picking and choosing from history to develop their doctrine, ignoring disagreeing statements. The following two sentences is where the division of your thinking is exposed:

    “It is the job of the Protestant historian/theologian IMO to point such discrepancies out to our Catholic friends. It was just these discrepancies which were the cause of the Reformation in a certain way of looking at it.”

    What is the point of looking for discrepencies between current doctrine and historic teachings if the point of studying history is NOT to develop doctrine? You further elaborate on the use of History to develop sound doctrine in your short discussion on Billy Graham’s purported Pelagian leanings (A fact of which I was not aware, not a BG fan or supporter, merely agnostic on the particular situation)

    So on one hand you say history is not for developing sound doctrine, on the other you say Billy Graham would have better (more sound) doctrine if he studied history…..

    I say the following with all sincerity and deepest prayer I can for you. I think you should spend some time in deep fasting, prayer, and meditation on the source of the division in your thinking and ask the Lord to distill you, Spirit, Soul and Body. The issue here is not the discussion at hand.

  69. Jeremiah #62

    If Jesus is the Eucharist, you cannot stay in your family. You will not be betraying them to come into the Catholic Church but you will betray Christ for he said, “If you are not willing to give up family, father, mother for me, you are not worthy of me. Be careful before you pick up the plowshare.”

    When I heard those words in Mass before I converted, in a moment of deep anguish about leaving everything I had been raised in, I wept. Jeremiah, everything a charismatic longs for is fulfilled in the Eucharist. Their deep longing to encounter God is ONLY satisfied in the Eucharist. When I partook of our Lord the first time, I knew two things:
    (1) I had only tasted bread and juice before
    &
    (2) This was as close to Jesus as I could ever become

    As I sat there kneeling in silent prayer, I wept in my hand for at that moment the satisfying of every “all night prayer vigil”, 2-hour worship service, tarrying, etc., was completely satisfied. I hunger and thirsted for righteousness and I was filled; not turned away by my lack of spirituality not know why I wasn’t in the “in crowd” that “felt it”.

    And this time…by His grace ALONE and not my effort, and not my spiritual juggernaut, and not my ability to change chord progressions, and not…He-the longing of my heart-was with (and in) me.

    I’m praying for you. Ave Maria.

    Brent

  70. Jeremiah,

    If you ever want to talk or discuss theology off-line, on other topics, my email is brentstubbs ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com.

    In Christ,

    Brent

  71. Andrew (#66):

    When the Roman Catholic IP gets pressed, I think you’re right, it does at least border on being unfalsifiable. The Magisterium could define a doctrine that to all appearances contradicted what it had previously defined. Although the action might generate some cognitive dissonance, it wouldn’t be strictly fatal for the Catholic IP, since apologists could always assert that the contradiction is only apparent, whether they could resolve it or not.

    If one wanted to be caddish, he could call that the “who are you going to trust, me or your lying eyes?” move. Newman had an answer for the critics, which, ironically perhaps, amounted to saying “tu quoque.” He pointed out that protestants often make the same move when confronted by skeptics with alleged contradictions in scripture, or with empirical evidence that seems to undercut Christianity.

    Crying out “tu quoque” isn’t always fallacious–if it were, there would be no such thing as special pleading. We don’t need to get bogged down in this; one can concede Newman’s rebuttal, whilst adding that common sense says there must be some kind of breaking point. But if Mike L. and others want to couch the debate in terms of reasonableness, that’s their choice. The substance of the case against Catholicism’s IP remains unchanged, and readers can draw their own conclusion about the case’s implications.

    For what it’s worth, I think it counts as a major strike against the Roman Catholic IP (in terms of reasonableness or whatever criterion one prefers) that the ecclesial infallibility it posits should itself be a doctrinal development, per comment #22. An infallible interpreter is supposedly needed to verify developments, of which the interpreter’s infallibility is one. The response to that criticism seems to be twofold:

    (i.) de jure infallibility is said to be an a priori requirement for a viable IP (hence the faith and opinion discussion), or at least to have an antecedent probability in its favor;

    (ii.) it is said that the history of theology makes it highly plausible a posteriori that an infallible interpreter is indispensable if the faithful are to know which interpretation of Christian doctrine they should believe out of all the conflicting interpretive possibilities.

    I think there are good arguments against both contentions. But we’ve already gone through (i.) at some length, and (ii.) is apparently off limits till Called to Communion does a post on the development of doctrine.

    Best,
    John

  72. Andrew,

    Right. And so it is my position that the Protestant IP is superior firstly because it actually weighs the evidence at hand and derives its judgment based on that evidence rather than coming to the table with the decision already made

    Could not one just as easily argue that the Protestant is coming to the data “with the decision already made” concerning the interpretation of the scriptural and historical data? In other words, aren’t you, as a Protestant, already biased toward the notion that the Catholic handling of the scriptural and patristic data cannot support Catholic doctrine? The notion of the neutral Protestant historicist seems a bit naïve. It strikes me as the same sort of notion that Bultmann and others tried to pass off when doing NT exegesis. That philosophical/theological presuppositions underwrite one’s approach to the data is generally acknowledged; which is part of Mike’s overall argument. I came to the scriptural / patristic data as a Protestant who had no idea of, or desire to accept the Catholic claims. I simply evaluated those claims based on of the data itself without fooling myself that I was entirely free of bias. At the end of the day, the exegetical / historical claims of the Catholic faith understood as an organic and explicit development of all the preceding data seemed to comport FAR better with the overall evidence, than the idea that either Protestantism or EO was the organic heir of the patristic age. Hence, I embraced the doctrinal and historical claims of the Catholic faith on rational / research grounds BEFORE I made an assent of faith in the Church’s claim to speak with Christ’s authority. That is how it goes down for most Catholics I know who have converted.

    it is superior secondly because it more closely approximates the modus operandi of the ECF’s who clearly did not utilize the tradition of the Church to develop dogma of the same level of normativity/certainty of Scripture

    Your assertion about the “clarity” of the ECF approach to dogma is not ipso facto clear at all from what I can tell. I came to the exact opposite conclusion about the ECF’s use of the tradition of the Church BEFORE even considering the Catholic claims. At the least, I would say that your assertion is HIGHLY debatable. But again, all that shows is that presuppositions are driving your “theoretically neutral” handling of the ECF data as much as anyone else. Hence, Mike’s point that the IP discussion is worth having on philosophical, rather than theological/historical grounds.

    Now of course the Catholic theologian rejects my contention based on the judgment of the Magisterium

    No, the Catholic theologian and historian rejects your contention because your doctrinal and ecclesial commitments, as a Reformed Christian, do not harmonize with the scriptural / patristic data even remotely as well as the Catholic doctrinal and ecclesial stance. A powerful case of doctrinal and ecclesial developmental continuity between the OT, the NT, the patristic age, the Middle Ages, and all the way up to the present can be made for the doctrines and ecclesia of the Catholic Church. I simply cannot see within the data the same sort of contiguous historical continuity pointing toward Reformed Christianity as it stood in the 16th century, or as it stands today. I say that’s the case entirely aside from the issue of infallibility. A Catholic is happy to make his argument on entirely scriptural and historical grounds (see Newman’s “Essay on Development of Doctrine” or Butler’s “The Church and Infallibility” as just two scholarly examples.). That kind of integrative historical/exegetical analysis is what makes the Catholic’s assent of faith rational, rather than fideistic. But, of course, development of doctrine brings certain presuppositions about the nature of revelation to the table that you might reject; which only shows – once again – that the IP’s are NOT theologically / historically neutral in relation to the data. Each has its own “philosophy of history” going on full steam. Hence, Mike’s call for doing whatever philosophical spade-work can be done before approaching the data makes sense.

    But as C.S. Lewis noted, every age has it’s characteristic errors and the age of even the great Patristic Fathers was characterized by definite philosophical errors that they did not entirely escapes from. As one historian said, you can get whatever you want from the study of the history of the Church which is exactly what has happened with the Catholic Magisterium whose position is always nominally derived from previous doctrinal beliefs but in reality is just one of many ways that the Church’s understanding could have evolved. It is the job of the Protestant historian/theologian IMO to point such discrepancies out to our Catholic friends.

    That kind of position can be turned around just as easily in the opposite direction:

    “But as C.S. Lewis noted, every age has it’s characteristic errors and the age of even the great Patristic Fathers was characterized by definite philosophical errors that they did not entirely escapes from. As one historian said, you can get whatever you want from the study of the history of the Church which is exactly what has happened with Reformed Christian theology whose position is always nominally derived from previous doctrinal beliefs but in reality is just one of many ways that the Church’s understanding could have evolved. It is the job of the Catholic historian/theologian IMO to point such discrepancies out to our Protestant friends”

    Again, this seems to highlight how germane Mike’s philosophical approach to the IP problem remains. As a Catholic, I would argue that Reformed Christianity looks much less like an evolution from the patristic era than an act of special creation. Indeed, many Protestants I know would be proud to acknowledge that assertion.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  73. Andrew (#66):

    OK, so you’ve finally produced your philosophical argument. That’s good. Let’s examine it.

    You write:

    And so it is my position that the Protestant IP is superior firstly because it actually weighs the evidence at hand and derives its judgment based on that evidence rather than coming to the table with the decision already made. And it is superior secondly because it more closely approximates the modus operandi of the ECF’s who clearly did not utilize the tradition of the Church to develop dogma of the same level of normativity/certainty of Scripture. Now of course the Catholic theologian rejects my contention based on the judgment of the Magisterium, but they are utilizing the very same Magisterium whose judgments are under examination! And it is here where it seems to me that the Catholic IP fails most directly – the Magisterium is not just that which we are examining, it is for the Catholic the final arbiter of the questions under consideration. Thus the Catholic IP can never fail for the faithful Catholic – it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. In a word, the Catholic IP is unfalsifiable and thus not suitable for the determination of any science properly so called.

    So the Protestant IP is “superior” because it (a) “derives its judgment based on the evidence rather than coming to the table with the decision already made”; and (b) “more closely approximates the modus operandi of the ECF’s who clearly did not utilize the tradition of the Church to develop dogma of the same level of normativity/certainty of Scripture.” My response is that (a) altogether fails to address the real issue, and (b) simply begs the question.

    As I implied in my own post, the point at issue between the two IPs is how to reliably identify the FPOF as such, assuming there is such a thing to identify. If you’re offering the Protestant IP as a way to do that, as you should, you are doing so by suggesting that the FPOF is to be identified by the same kind of method that non-theological disciplines use: weighing “the evidence.” But if that’s so, then theological conclusions can attain no status fundamentally different from conclusions in other disciplines: they constitute either human knowledge or human opinions. Knowledge and opinion can indeed tell us, with reasonable accuracy, what people in the past called “Christians” did in fact believe; but because they can only be offered with human rather than divine authority, they do not enable us to distinguish what some people did in fact believe from what God actually wants us to believe. Even though they might well succeed in identifying propositions that happen to belong to the FPOF, they do not enable us to distinguish those clearly from various beliefs in the past that might or might not be true. Or, as I have usually put it: they do not afford a principled way of distinguishing between what’s de fide and what’s theological opinion. Thus, they do not identify any FPOF as such; for divine faith is not the same as either human knowledge or human opinion, and the FPOF is the object precisely of faith, not of either knowledge or opinion.

    Your charge that I’m “coming to the table with the decision already made” is accordingly irrelevant. Offering my IP for rational comparison with the Protestant IP does not require any initial, question-begging assumption that it is preferable to the Protestant IP. That’s the mistake Mathison made in his criticism of Bryan and Neal. My argument, not my assumption, is that the Catholic IP is rationally preferable because it affords a principled way of making the distinction that needs to be made for identifying the FPOF as such, while yours does not. You, on the other hand, assume as a premise that a method of identifying the FPOF which relies only on ordinary methods of human inquiry makes it more rational than one that does not. And that would be true if the FPOF were just like any other object of human inquiry. But it isn’t. We’re dealing with divine revelation, which by definition is not the sort of thing that human inquiry alone could suffice to learn and identify precisely as such. Hence your criterion of rationality, while necessary for accurately rendering some of the data that need to be considered, cannot even in principle suffice to do what you’re trying to get it to do. Your claim that it’s rationally superior because it confines itself to weighing “the evidence” simply misses what’s distinctive about the subject matter. Thus it misses the point altogether.

    As to your (b), it assumes that the methodology of the ECFs—assuming we can accurately identify such a thing by means of human inquiry—is permanently normative, so that no future methodology may go beyond it. But that’s an assumption that the Protestant IP brings to the inquiry; it’s not a conclusion we can logically derive just from a study of the ECF methodology. That move, of course, just begs the question. Moreover, it’s actually unreasonable. We have a bigger dataset than the ECFs, one that includes the ECFs themselves and more, which even you admit. You could of course posit a temporal cut-off point for what counts as normative sources; but given the limitations of your method, that move would be purely ad hoc. You have no principled way of distinguishing between which data and methods are important and which are merely peripheral, and more than you have a principled way of distinguishing between articles of faith and theological opinions.

    If you want to make a better argument that the Protestant IP is rationally preferable, you need to do at least one of two things: show that the difference between faith on the one hand and human knowledge or opinion on the other is not great enough to reduce your methodology to irrelevance, or show that the Protestant IP is in any case rationally unavoidable, because the Catholic himself can’t help being limited to using it.

    Best,
    Mike

  74. John (#72):

    You wrote:

    When the Roman Catholic IP gets pressed, I think you’re right, it does at least border on being unfalsifiable. The Magisterium could define a doctrine that to all appearances contradicted what it had previously defined. Although the action might generate some cognitive dissonance, it wouldn’t be strictly fatal for the Catholic IP, since apologists could always assert that the contradiction is only apparent, whether they could resolve it or not.

    As I implied in my guest post, the Catholic IP would be falsified if and when it could be shown that the Magisterium had used its full authority to define a doctrine that’s logically incompatible with one which it had already taught with its full authority. Despite the fact that not even the college of bishops could be that stupid, many attempts have been made to show it all the same, and I’ve tackled the major ones in the past. In my experience, such attempts only get off the ground when the pair of doctrines being presented as logically incompatible with each other are interpreted in ways that the Magisterium itself never required of the faithful, and that are actually themselves incompatible with how the Magisterium interprets them. Nobody should be impressed by such a move.

    Now if somebody wishes to argue that the Magisterium itself has, on at least one occasion, failed to grasp the formal, logical import of its own allegedly “irreformable” doctrines, they may be my guest. But that’s a dangerous tack for somebody like you to take. When they can be bothered with Christianity at all, non-Christian philosophers often argue that the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation themselves, on indisputably orthodox renderings, are logically incoherent. Thus, it is said to stretch logic past the breaking point to hold that each of three distinct persons is the same God as the others, or that a biologically normal, adult human being is not a human person. The proper response to such arguments is to question the premises of the criticism. Would the critics then be right to say that Christian orthodoxy is “unfalsifiable”? Perhaps; but what of it? Unfalsifiability is certainly a vice in the empirical sciences, but why should it always be a vice in theology, whose subject matter by definition is beyond human reason alone? That’s my sort of response to the development-is-negation case that non-Catholic Christians sometimes make against Catholicism, and that you seem to think can be made.

    You write:

    I think it counts as a major strike against the Roman Catholic IP (in terms of reasonableness or whatever criterion one prefers) that the ecclesial infallibility it posits should itself be a doctrinal development, per comment #22. An infallible interpreter is supposedly needed to verify developments, of which the interpreter’s infallibility is one. The response to that criticism seems to be twofold:

    (i.) de jure infallibility is said to be an a priori requirement for a viable IP (hence the faith and opinion discussion), or at least to have an antecedent probability in its favor;

    (ii.) it is said that the history of theology makes it highly plausible a posteriori that an infallible interpreter is indispensable if the faithful are to know which interpretation of Christian doctrine they should believe out of all the conflicting interpretive possibilities.

    I think there are good arguments against both contentions.

    I don’t think you’ve rightly identified either response I would make.

    As to (i): on the Catholic IP, it follows that long before any doctrine of infallibility became irreformable, thus making assent to it de jure obligatory for Catholics, ecclesial infallibility was a fact, and as such necessary, without its being recognized as such, and hence without belief in it being in any sense de jure. As to (ii): what I’d argue is not that the mere fact of widespread dissensus makes ecclesial infallibility necessary—we’d have such dissensus regardless—but that the FPOF must include an infallible interpreter of the sources transmitting divine revelation, if those themselves are to be an object for the assent of faith, not opinion. That’s an a priori argument. Widespread dissensus, on the other hand, is evidence only that the sources are not as perspicuous as your IP requires that they be, whether or not they point to an infallible interpreter as part of the FPOF with them.

    Best,
    Mike

  75. Brent,

    Thank you for the kind offer. My email address is Jeremiahcole@insightbb.com.

    I am having a tough time following one thread here and still doing the work I get paid to do and attend to my family chores, but I’m pretty open to discussing theology.

    Its not my family I’m worried about betraying. I have a Divine Mandate to stay where I am. How I know this maybe we can discuss via email.

  76. Mike (#74):

    I hate to be a bore, but the first part of your comment was unnecessary because it responds to an objection I stated but did not endorse. Immediately after stating it, I noted a rebuttal, and then said in effect, “touché, let’s move on.” My apologies to you and Andrew if any of that was unclear. Suffice it to say, there’s a reason I have kept away from the endless wrangling over EENS.

    Regarding the second part, if you would like to reformulate the responses, please go ahead. I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth. Now, to address to what you wrote,

    As to (i): on the Catholic IP, it follows that long before any doctrine of infallibility became irreformable, thus making assent to it de jure obligatory for Catholics, ecclesial infallibility was a fact, and as such necessary, without its being recognized as such, and hence without belief in it being in any sense de jure.

    All true, but where is the relevance? Nobody disputes that the infallibility posited by Catholicism could have existed in the Church prior to its receiving explicit recognition. The criticism is simply that it’s prima facie implausible that the infallibility allegedly needed to authenticate doctrinal developments should itself be a doctrinal development.

    As to (ii): what I’d argue is not that the mere fact of widespread dissensus makes ecclesial infallibility necessary—we’d have such dissensus regardless—but that the FPOF must include an infallible interpreter of the sources transmitting divine revelation, if those themselves are to be an object for the assent of faith, not opinion. That’s an a priori argument.

    Fair enough, but that’s equivalent to what I meant by (i).

    Widespread dissensus, on the other hand, is evidence only that the sources are not as perspicuous as your IP requires that they be, whether or not they point to an infallible interpreter as part of the FPOF with them.

    You can put it that way if you prefer. Your way turns a defensive argument into an offensive one. As I stated (ii), namely as a response to the criticism at hand, the contention was that if an infallible interpreter is in fact indispensable for settling doctrinal controversies–which one might take the history of doctrine to suggest,–then there is reason to believe God has supplied such an interpreter.

    Best,
    John

  77. I don’t know if Mathison does this, but the Reformation does not necessarily agree 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…”

    Luther did not leave the Church of his youth. The Roman party excommunicated the Evangelical party (to which the Evangelical party responded in an analogous way). To assert “Luther left the Church” and to deny “The Pope left the Church” is to beg the question, as others here have already pointed out. Historically speaking, the schismatic act appears to be the Diet and the Pontifical Confutation. If one wanted to be more generous, one could lump the Confession itself into that and blame both sides but it seems bizarre and simplistic to simply say that the Reformers left the Church. There were two parties in that dispute, and they unfortunately separated rather than tolerating most of their differences and charitably and fairly working out the most essential ones.

    It seems to me that here is no doubt that Michael is right that “‘…since the Reformation, Rome has been developing a conception of the formal, proximate object of faith (‘FPOF’ for short) which resolves the ambiguity that I located in the first millennium, and that we agree obtained then. That development emerged clearly in the documents of first and second Vatican councils.” Trent and the two Vatican councils, especially the first, were reactions to the Reformation that the Roman of the schism made without any substantive input from the Evangelical party, and many of the various distinctly Protestant doctrines were similarly reactions to the schism, again made without any substantive input from the Roman party. There is no antecedent reason to view many of the various post-Reformation developments on either side as anything other than reactionary and therefore more-or-less suspect.

    The ambiguity was resolved in an inauthentic way, by one party of the schism positively justifying itself against the other. A more authentic resolution is something that we are still waiting for, it seems to me.

  78. Mike (re: 73),

    OK, so you’ve finally produced your philosophical argument. That’s good. Let’s examine it.

    I have not said anything in my last post that I did not say earlier.

    As I implied in my own post, the point at issue between the two IPs is how to reliably identify the FPOF as such, assuming there is such a thing to identify. If you’re offering the Protestant IP as a way to do that, as you should, you are doing so by suggesting that the FPOF is to be identified by the same kind of method that non-theological disciplines use: weighing “the evidence.”

    Mike, it’s at this point I feel like Ive spoken to the obvious several times and you are ignoring the utterly obvious, so let me try to be a little more pointed in my comments. What you and I are comparing are not the same things. You speak of a “perspective” that you are giving but it is not a “perspective” in any way that we would commonly use that term. There is nothing about what you propose as part of the Catholic IP that has anything to do with “evaluating” historical data. It is not a perspective that you propose but rather a summary judgment where the historical events and beliefs that may be of relevance are entirely ignored. With the Catholic “IP” once judgment is rendered the only thing left for the historian is the Procrustean task of squeezing the data into the model. Let’s not kid ourselves here, there is no historical analysis in any reasonable understanding of the term when utilizing the Catholic IP. Think of what your instructions might sound like to one of the philosophically uncommitted folks you referred to earlier. They ask you about interpreting the data and you tell them that there is no actual interpretation but instead just an acceptance of what the RCC Magisterium has decreed. They then ask you in what sense they are supposed to judge what appears to them the clear consensus of the Church Fathers on some issue and you tell them that despite the fact that the RCC position appears to have no support from the ECF’s, in fact it does and they just cannot see it because they must bow to the judgment of the Magisterium before they will be able to see it. Now how rational and reasonable do you think this will sound to our uncommitted friend when compared with the Protestant tact of actually weighing the evidence within a historically Christian framework?

    You are assuming that the Protestant IP as I describe it reduces the process down to purely academic exercise, but this is no more true than it was of the ECF’s who did not posit an infallible IP as part of their methodology. Now of course you are not going to agree with me that the Protestant IP is in line with the Protestant IP, but that’s just textbook question begging on your part. You are assuming the Catholic IP is correct and reading that back into the writings of the ECF’s rather than letting the ECF’s speak for themselves without this Catholic IP overlay being enforced on their writings. My suggestion is that we read the ECF’s together and let them speak for themselves without imposing a paradigm on top of their writings which may very well be false. If, as I understand, the ECF’s never had any thought, either implicitly or explicitly, to suggest that man made tradition ever rose to the level of certainty/normativity as Scripture then you are imposing a false paradigm on their work. And this in my estimation is exactly what you are doing – imposing a false paradigmatic system on earlier ages with no justification. But your Catholic IP does not allow you to read the ECF’s without falling into this error. Again the Magisterium tells you how to read the ECF’s, end of story, whether or not there is any justification for doing so.

    And again note, I am not suggesting that we cut loose the process of historical interpretation from ecclesiastical oversight, but neither am I suggesting that we ought to assume the RCC understanding of that ecclesiastical oversight before such ecclesiastical system is demonstrated to be true – this is just pure question begging. At some point you must allow the Fathers to speak for themselves without trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle into the outline by throwing away the pieces that don’t fit and shaving down the pieces that don’t fit well. To use your example of papal infallibility again, while there is some justification for speaking of the authority of the Bishop of Rome in the first millennium there is absolutely no biblical or historical justification in the first millennium for saying that the Bishop of Rome could speak infallibly in any sense.

    At the heart of the Protestant IP is the understanding that there is no extra-biblical tradition which rises to the level of certainty as Scripture. This is well documented by Mathison and Oberman. But you are apparently not interested in reading the ECF’s to see whether this is indeed true but rather in eliminating the debate by positing notions of certainty and normativity that were not posited until later in the history of the Church. So again, your IP defines away the possibility of any reasonable and rationale debate in a mistaken attempt to determine what is and what is not the object of the historic Christian faith. It is mistaken primarily because it assumes that tradition apart from the Scripture was promulgated infallibly, a notion foreign to the ECF’s. If you disagree let’s go to the ECF’s and see what they had to say rather than imposing the Catholic IP in an attempt to eliminate the debate. So, I am proposing the not so radical idea that an IP that defines away reasonable and rationale debate is not be preferred to one that does not.

    Again, nothing new in what I’m saying here – just repackaging it to meet your specific challenges.

  79. John (#76):

    You wrote:

    I hate to be a bore, but the first part of your comment was unnecessary because it responds to an objection I stated but did not endorse. Immediately after stating it, I noted a rebuttal, and then said in effect, “touché, let’s move on.” My apologies to you and Andrew if any of that was unclear. Suffice it to say, there’s a reason I have kept away from the endless wrangling over EENS.

    I hate to be a bore myself, so I must say that I knew you believe that there is a rebuttal, and I did not mean to criticize you. Sorry for not making that clear. I went ahead with the actual rebuttal anyhow because, although the distinction between oratio directa and oratio obliqua is usually clear enough, a certain sort of debater (not you) has a habit of seizing on the content of the latter for their own purposes, even when the writer isn’t endorsing that content. I wanted to head them off at the pass.

    Nobody disputes that the infallibility posited by Catholicism could have existed in the Church prior to its receiving explicit recognition. The criticism is simply that it’s prima facie implausible that the infallibility allegedly needed to authenticate doctrinal developments should itself be a doctrinal development.

    What I had previously been criticizing was this statement of yours, which ascribed a certain sort of argument to the defender of the Catholic IP, such as myself:

    de jure infallibility is said to be an a priori requirement for a viable IP (hence the faith and opinion discussion), or at least to have an antecedent probability in its favor

    I criticized that because it does not accurately express the Catholic position, for the reason I gave. I stand by that claim. Since your ascription does not accurately reflect the Catholic position, its falling prey to the sort of objection you cite is irrelevant. But now that you’ve restated your original criticism, let’s examine it.

    As you clarified it, your criticism is that ” it’s prima facie implausible that the infallibility allegedly needed to authenticate doctrinal developments should itself be a doctrinal development.” Call that statement (1). As I interpret it, the phrase ‘prima facie implausible’ means ‘sounds fishy’. But it only sounds fishy because of the way you formulate what you criticize. For taken in one sense, (1) is true but irrelevant; taken in the other, (1)’s criticism is relevant, but not cogent. Your criticism thus trades on an ambiguity.

    The ambiguity, ironically enough, is between oratio directa and oratio obliqua! Thus (1) could be taken as

    (1*) It’s prima facie implausible that the existence of the infallibility allegedly needed to authenticate doctrinal developments should itself be a doctrinal development

    or as

    (1**) It’s prima facie implausible that the formal recognition of the infallibility allegedly needed to authenticate doctrinal developments should itself be a doctrinal development.

    Now (1*) is not only true, but trivially so. Why? If the alleged infallibility exists at all, it existed ab initio, and thus before its formal recognition. But the doctrinal development would consist only in its formal recognition. Hence the mere existence of said infallibility would not be a doctrinal development; and in that case, your criticism is simply misplaced. But (1**), while indeed relevant as a criticism, is not a cogent criticism. Given how the exercise of ecclesial authority itself developed in the first millennium, it is by no means implausible that considerable time would have been needed for its infallibility (under certain conditions) to be formally recognized as such. After all, it took about three centuries for the true doctrine of the Trinity to emerge clearly, in a manner that bound the whole Church. Accordingly, it is by no means implausible that the necessary and sufficient criteria for assessing doctrinal developments definitively would themselves have taken still more time to be formally recognized, and thus to develop. Prior to the formal recognition of ecclesial infallibility, that sort of authority had in fact been exercised, but had not yet been formally recognized as such. So the formal recognition of ecclesial infallibility can be seen as a way of clarifying why doctrines that had already been taught with the full authority of the Church, and were already known to have been so taught, are irreformable for that reason.

    Best,
    Mike

  80. Andrew (#78):

    It’s become clear that we’re getting nowhere. I do not recognize my position in what you criticize; to me, you seem to believe that my position renders historical study of the sources beside the point, which it does not. I argue only says that such study is insufficient, even in principle, for doing what you need to have it do. Evidently, you don’t think that what I think you need to do needs to be done at all. To my mind, that’s because you’re a liberal Protestant waiting to become what he is.

    I leave it to other readers to study our exchange and comment if they care to.

    Best,
    Mike

  81. Mike,

    It’s not that I don’t understand that you feel that historical analysis is important. If you really felt that you would not know anything about Church history which obviously you and the other Catholics here do. The issue I’m addressing is that in the end it does not matter what we might find on issues like papal infallibility since what the Church believes on the issue (the object of our faith) has already been determined by the Magisterium. As I say, end of story for any further historical investigation. What then remains is what I term a Procrustean exercise in fitting the data to the paradigm. In the final analysis, within the Catholic IP, in order for their to be a proper distinction between “mere opinion” and what we are to know definitively about the historic Catholic faith, the paradigm must be in agreement with the current Catholic Magisterium, and thus the data must fit the paradigm.

    So, any analysis we might do outside the magisterial teaching of Rome that suggests that the Magisterium is wrong on any given de fide matter must be incorrect. My simple point then is that this is not “historical analysis” in any reasonable definition of the term.

    Cheers….

  82. Andrew M.,

    There are several posts on this site which argue that the Church Fathers were Catholic in soteriology, ecclesiology and sacramentology. The strange thing is, I don’t see you commenting on those posts, despite your plea that we should mutually consult these sources.

    I take it that you would like to argue that the Church Fathers are essentially Protestant, such that the denomination to which you belong is the true heir to the Church to which they belong. The comment boxes are open, so let the discussion begin.

    Of course, I do not think that it will take very long to show that Mike is correct when he says that “such study is insufficient” to establish that the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church is not found, in its essence, in the Church Fathers, and that the ecclesiology of your denomination is held, in its essence, by these Fathers.

    After all, we are not turning to them for a mere history lesson, but in order to receive their testimony concerning the Church that Christ founded. This Church has never ceased to exist since the time of the Fathers, being the same Church to which they belong and bear authoritative witness.

    I did notice that you refer to the *early* Church Fathers. As you know, it is common to refer to the Church Fathers as inclusive of Pope St. Gregory the Great in the West, and St. John of Damascus in the East. I wonder if you would receive their testimony as well, in this same respect? I just need to know where the cut off is, so to get some idea of whose testimony you are prepared to receive, and whose you are prepared to reject.

    Should be a good discussion.

    Andrew P.

  83. Paul (#77):

    Rather than “fisk” your comment by quoting parts of it in isolation and criticizing them piecemeal, I’ll just say that your initial way of framing the issue strikes me as, itself, a begging of the question. Why?

    John and I had ended up agreeing that the early Reformers did not see themselves as having “left the Church,” and on Catholic doctrine, the mere fact of their having been excommunicated by Rome did not entail that they were altogether outside the Church. So the question “Who left the Church?” is not the main or even a useful question. What I argued instead, and would still maintain, is that they “redefined” the phrase ‘the Church’, so that Rome could generously be included within the Church, without thereby retaining any genuine authority so long as she didn’t teach what the Reformers considered “the Gospel.” So the question to raise is: By what authority did they redefine ‘the Church’? If it be answered “that of Scripture,” the next question to raise is: “You mean Scripture authoritatively interpreted? Whose interpretation is authoritative?” And that question brings us right back to square one.

    So, how to make progress? Well, the dispute between Rome and the Reformers was really about how the content of the deposit of faith (DF) and the identity of something called “the Church” are epistemically related to each other. The choices may be framed as questions. Thus, can the doctrinally expressible content of the DF be so interpreted and expounded that the necessary and sufficient criteria for Christian orthodoxy can be known logically prior to knowing the identity of “the Church,” so that the Church is to be identified in the first place as that body of people who adhere to such criteria? Or is it, rather, that the necessary and sufficient criteria for Christian orthodoxy can only be known as such partly by relying on the authority of the Church, where the identity of the Church is known logically prior to agreement about what those criteria are? The Protestant would answer the first question affirmatively and the second negatively; the Catholic, vice-versa. As I see it, that’s the issue.

    Now the main point of my historical excursus in comments #15 and #22 was to argue that that was the very issue raised by the schism between East and West around the turn of the first millennium. If the Orthodox were right, then they were only answering the above questions in the way Protestants would five centuries later. That the galvanizing issue for them was the filioque, and that the galvanizing issue for the Reformers was justification, are epistemically secondary matters. What matters is the means by which such disputes are to be settled, if they are to be settled at all. The questions I formulated simply pose the two basic options. In the case of both the Great Schism and the Reformation, what happened is that those dissenting from Roman doctrine chose the first option. Only Rome has consistently adhered to the second.

    Accordingly, I think you’re just wrong in saying this:

    There is no antecedent reason to view many of the various post-Reformation developments on either side as anything other than reactionary and therefore more-or-less suspect.

    If what I call the second epistemic option is correct, and thus if Rome is correct, the only logical basis for its being correct would be that the Magisterium of the Church is in fact infallible under certain conditions, even before anybody had clearly recognized and formally asserted as much. Some Catholic theologians began seeing as much almost as soon as the schism with the Orthodox had occurred. Yet, for the historical reasons I gave, ecclesial infallibility in general and papal infallibility as an expression of it took quite a while to be formally recognized as de fide. Accordingly, Rome’s development of the doctrine of infallibility, culminating in Vatican I, was not a mere reaction to the Reformation. The process had begun centuries before, but had not yet matured on the eve of the Reformation, for the reasons I recounted in my comments. The Reformation only lent impetus to it.

    Now, if the non-Catholic way of epistemically relating orthodoxy to the identify of “the Church” were correct, then “the sources”—i.e., Scripture and Tradtion—would have to be perspicuous enough in themselves to resolve major doctrinal controversies without recourse to ecclesial authority. But neither history nor hermeneutical theory suggest that they are that perspicuous. Hence, the more reasonable way to resolve such controversies is not by more exegesis, historical study, and theological debate without reliance on ecclesial authority as a referee, but by first identifying “the Church” with the needed authority. That is the Catholic option, with which Protestants of course disagree.

    So I think that, in a way, you’re on to something with this remark:

    The ambiguity was resolved in an inauthentic way, by one party of the schism positively justifying itself against the other. A more authentic resolution is something that we are still waiting for, it seems to me.

    There is indeed something “inauthentic” here. But it’s not the resolution; it’s the fact that some do not recognize the resolution as the resolution. Accordingly, I close with a passage from Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine:

    A revelation is not given if there be no authority to decide what it is that is given. . . . If Christianity is both social and dogmatic, and intended for all ages, it must humanly speaking have an infallible expounder. . . . By the Church of England a hollow uniformity is preferred to an infallible chair; and by the sects of England an interminable division. Germany and Geneva began with persecution and have ended in skepticism. The doctrine of infallibility is a less violent hypothesis than this sacrifice either of faith or of charity. It secures the object, while it gives definiteness and force to the matter of the revelation.

    Best,
    Mike

    Best,
    Mike

  84. Andrew P (re: 82),

    There are several posts on this site which argue that the Church Fathers were Catholic in soteriology, ecclesiology and sacramentology. The strange thing is, I don’t see you commenting on those posts, despite your plea that we should mutually consult these sources.

    I’ve certainly commented on the specifics on these debates here and on the Protestant blogs in the past, but I cannot comment on everything, and I thought the point of the whole Catholic vs Protestant IP was that we were not going to get anywhere debating about individual facts and figures from the history of the Church?

    I take it that you would like to argue that the Church Fathers are essentially Protestant, such that the denomination to which you belong is the true heir to the Church to which they belong. The comment boxes are open, so let the discussion begin.

    No, my position is that Church history, however interpreted, is not going to provide us with a rationale and reasonable standard to base what we ought to know about what we as Christians ought to believe concerning Christian faith and practice. Concerning the history of the Church, my contention is first that the ECF’s would have agreed with me here. That is, there was no way to use the traditions of the Church to provide us with de fide standards upon which to base our faith. This is the point that Mathison and Oberman so successfully pound home. Now, the problem in these discussions is that we are told that we cannot make distinctions between what is “mere opinion” about the history of the Church and what God would have to know about the Christian faith unless we affirm the Catholic IP. But, the Catholic IP does not allow for us to independently debate what the ECF’s believed concerning these standards and what the Magisterium understands to be the position of the Church on de fide matters. Thus, whatever the ECF’s did or did not believe about tradition and Scripture is in effect irrelevant because the RCC Magisterium has already determined what the faithful Catholic is supposed to believe concerning matters like tradition and Scripture. Thus, if a certain Father or group of Fathers believed that there was no source of tradition that rose to the same level of certainty/normativity as Scripture then that Father(s) was in error. In short Protestant and Catholic cannot read the works of the Fathers together to determine what Christians ought to believe on de fide matters because the Magisterium has already determined this. The job of the Catholic historian, as I see it, is just to understand the beliefs of the Fathers within the context of the teaching of the Magisterium. But there can be no debate on what the Fathers might have been teaching us – this has already been determined.

  85. Michael,

    If you are going to say the Reformers redefined the church, you have to do so in a way that does not take into account the post-Reformation councils, since those councils occurred later in time than the Reformation. You also have to show that Vatican I and Vatican 2 did not redefine the Church. You have as far as I can tell admitted that those councils did define the church in some ways (by the definitions of infallibility), and whether you call those definitions REdefinitions depends on whether you think it was legitimate for the papal party to unilaterally create definitions designed to excommunicate the evangelical party.

    Though it is a good point as far as it goes, I think it is an overgeneralization and an oversimplification to say that Protestantism necessarily affirms that “the doctrinally expressible content of the DF” can be “so interpreted and expounded that the necessary and sufficient criteria for Christian orthodoxy can be known logically prior to knowing the identity of the Church, so that the Church is to be identified in the first place as that body of people who adhere to such criteria;” And while I don’t know if Mathison’s distinction between solo scriptura and sola scriptura is adequate or not, it does not seem to me that Protestantism necessarily rules out relying on the authority of a Church whose identity is known logically prior to the necessary and sufficient criteria for Christian orthodoxy to determine what those criteria are. It seems to me that is just what Protestants do when we faithfully embrace rules of faith such as the creeds and the determinations of the imperial ecumenical councils.

    It seems to me that Protestants and Roman Catholics agree on the identity of the Christian Church in the first millennium AD, and that Protestants don’t, or don’t necessarily, define that Church by looking at scripture, determining apart from the Church what Christian Orthodoxy is and then looking for candidates that meet those criteria. Protestants don’t look to Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II to define what the Church is but why would we, considering what the agenda of the post-Reformation councils seem to be?

    I don’t understand why you think that it is necessary for the Magisterium to be absolutely infallible in order for it to be relied on as an authority. It seems sufficient to recognize that scripture is inerrant and that the Church is providentially guided by the Holy Spirit. It is not even a controversial point that the Holy Spirit must sometimes ensure that the Church is infallible, though I don’t see how you can justify the over-dogmatic specification of when and where that occurs.

    I don’t think that “protestant” means “non-catholic.” Regardless, rather than asking whether scripture is perspicuous enough to resolve major doctrinal controversies, it seems to me that we can simply recognize that scripture is static, in a way, and not literally a person, whereas ecclesial authority is dynamic and personal, therefore each has its own powers. If we agree that the ecclesial authority is an authority and that scripture is inerrant, we can achieve that recognition without demanding that ecclesial authority be literally and absolutely infallible. A fallible ecclesial authority can do things that a scripture cannot do, and the inerrant written word of God has a kind of primary authority that an ecclesial magisterium cannot have.

    I agree that it is a secondary matter that the galvanizing issue for the Reformers was justification. The Reformers and the mainstream of the Reformation are NOT for our understanding of justification anathematized by the canons of Trent, strictly interpreted (and insofar as they purport to be anathemas they must be strictly interpreted). It’s “all about” infallibility, especially papal infallibility.

  86. Andrew M.,

    When you say “independently debate,” do you mean debate independently of our ecclesial commitments, which include, or somehow yield, respectively, a Catholic IP and a Protestant IP? I think that we all bring our ecclesial commitments/IPs to the table, when investigating Scripture, the writings of the Fathers, and other deliverances of Holy Tradition. But I am pretty sure that you agree with this point, so maybe you meant “independently” of something else.

    You say that “Church history” is not going to provide us with de fide standards on which to base our faith. I agree. The Magisterium does that. When we look into history, we in fact find the Magisterium doing this, i.e., providing us with de fide standards on which to base our faith. The primary examples are the Ecumencial Councils, beginning with the Jerusalem Council in c. 49 AD.

    As regards the presumed authority of extraordinary Magisterial teaching in the early Church, we have “it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us,” and then, in 325 AD:

    And those who say

    1. “there once was when he was not”, and “before he was begotten he was not”, and that
    2. he came to be from things that were not, or from another hypostasis or substance, affirming that the Son of God is subject to change or alteration these the catholic and apostolic church anathematises.

    What we have here, in the Creed, which is a part of Tradition, is a de fide standard on which to base our faith. But you say that such a thing cannot be delivered by Tradition.

    I agree that your IP does not allow you to accept this teaching as de fide, at least, not on the basis of the authority of the Church that promulgated it. You must independently verify this teaching, on the basis of your personal interpretation of Scripture. So, I think that maybe the independence which you urge upon us is independence from the teaching authority of the Magisterium; that is, you are urging us not to be Catholic, and to adopt solo scriptura; i.e., the Protestant IP, so to interpret the Tradition.

    But first, you will have to show us that that IP is preferable to ours. That is to say, you will have to show us that we should to give pride of place to private opinion, over and above the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church. So far, the only reason you have given to that effect is that the Church Fathers elevated private opinion above the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church. But I think that the Nicene Fathers, and the Jerusalem Council, would disagree.

    So long as I am speculating, perhaps a part of the problem you have with our ecclesial commitments is that we do not admit that the Church, when she teaches with her full authority, on matters of faith and morals, could be wrong, whereas you do admit that the Church, teaching with her full authority, could very well promulgate false doctrine. So there is a bit of an imbalance in our discussion. Yes, there is. But don’t despair. There is just as much chance that an ecclesial skeptic can have a profitable discussion with a Catholic as there is that a Bible believer can have a profitable discussion with a higher critic. Difficult, but not impossible.

    The comment boxes on the ECF articles are still open.

    Andrew P.

  87. Paul (#85):

    I believe that I’ve already addressed your main points (in #85) in my article “Mathison’s Reply to Cross and Judisch: A Largely Philosophical Critique”. If you care to continue our discussion, please do so over there. I’d be interested in your reactions.

    Best,
    Mike

  88. Andrew McCallum: … anything that folks like us might have insights on concerning the development/evolution of the dogma of interest can only be said to be “mere opinion” at best ….

    How can it be otherwise? How can you ever offer me anything that rises above the level of mere opinion, and also have me believe that the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is true? After all, sola scriptura is the claim that the ONLY source that I have access to that is inerrant in matters of religion is the text that I find printed on the pages of a Protestant Bible. Books and articles written that promulgate conclusions based on historical analysis obviously aren’t Protestant Bibles, therefore, if sola scripturais true, they can never be known to be without error.

    Andrew McCallum: … any analysis we might do outside the magisterial teaching of Rome that suggests that the Magisterium is wrong on any given de fide matter …

    If the doctrine of sola sciptura is true, suggesting is all that historical analysis can ever do. It can suggest that the Magisterium might be wrong. It can never bring one to point where one knows with certainty that the Magisterium is wrong – ever. And that, it seems to me, is Mike’s point. All Protestant interpretive paradigms that rest on the doctrine of sola scriptura are inherently crippled. It doesn’t matter if one adopts an interpretive paradigm of scholarly historical analysis, or an interpretive paradigm of personal bosom burning – what results from any interpretive paradigm that rests upon sola scriptura being true can never rise above the level of opinion, for if it did, it would become a source other than the Protestant Bible that is known to be inerrant.

  89. Mike (#79):

    Thanks for your reply. We agree about (1*). Because the depositum does not change, I took it for granted that if an infallibility exists in the Church, then, acknowledged or not, it has existed in the Church from the beginning.

    Your (1**) accurately reflects the criticism. The trouble with your response is that infallibility is not just a doctrine but a meta-doctrine. For, the exercise of de jure infallibility is constitutive of the authentication (i.e. formal recognition) of doctrinal developments. Newman saw that this circumstance called for a special argument; as he says in the Essay, p. 78:

    While, then, on the one hand, it is probable that some means will be granted for ascertaining the legitimate and true developments of Revelation, it appears, on the other, that these means must of necessity be external to the developments themselves.

    He immediately proceeds to substantiate the contention:

    Reasons shall be given in this Section for concluding that, in proportion to the probability of true developments of doctrine and practice in the Divine Scheme, so is the probability also of the appointment in that scheme of an external authority to decide upon them, thereby separating them from the mass of mere human speculation, extravagance, corruption, and error, in and out of which they grow.

    Now, the Magisterium led by the Papacy and graced with de jure infallibility is what decides upon developments. Since this doctrine concerning the Magisterium is itself a development, not being clear from the sources, what decides upon it? Newman’s reasons are designed, it appears, to address that question.

    It’s a pressing question. Protestants and Orthodox alike view the kind of infallibility posited by Catholicism as superfluous, or (more sumptuously) as being the fruit of “mere human speculation, extravagance, corruption, and error.” And because the Magisterium’s de jure infallibility is so pivotal for Catholicism, it seems strange to me that it should be so obscure in the scripture and the fathers. Indeed, it seems to escaped St. Irenaeus altogether.

    Granted, according to Newman, many things unhesitatingly believed by orthodox Christians are equally obscure in scripture and the fathers. I’m not persuaded that’s true, though it’s a discussion best reserved for the future post on development. Nonetheless, if Behr (and Mozley) are correct about the history of Nicene theology, then I think Newman’s case for an infallible organ in the Church suffers a severe blow. The need that an infallible organ is supposed to meet won’t be felt, at least not as acutely.

    In short, if Newman misunderstood the roots of Nicaea, it seems that a priori reasoning (e.g. your opinion and assent of faith argument) would have to do the heavy lifting for the Catholic IP. Perhaps it can, but so far I’m unconvinced. Anyhow, I’ll be traveling over the next few days and will have limited internet access. It may be a little while before I can comment again, but if you’d like to reply, please do, and we can pick things up later on.

    Best,
    John

  90. Andrew McCallum: Now, the problem in these discussions is that we are told that we cannot make distinctions between what is “mere opinion” about the history of the Church and what God would have to know about the Christian faith unless we affirm the Catholic IP.

    Andrew, you are the one that is telling me that the ONLY inerrant source of authority about the Christian faith is what I find written in your Protestant Bible. If that is true, then it logically follows that no man can “make distinctions between what is ‘mere opinion‘ about the history of the Church and what God would have to know about the Christian faith.” Whatever the Catholic IP is, it is irrelevant to why you can only offer me opinions from your analysis of church history.

  91. Thank you for your work and determination to pursue matters as important as these.

    I confess I’ve not read the whole article so perhaps this is moot: Why cannot Sola Scriptura be true (as stated and defined above) and it teach Apostolic Succession or the universal jurisdiction of the papacy or even Petrine Primacy? If Sola(o) Scriptura as stated above can be true and the Bible teach Apostolic Succession, then the doctrine is a non-sequitur in the debate between Prots and RCs, it’s really a dog without a bite. The real work would have to be the negative thesis: If Sola(o) Scriptura is true, then Scriptura can’t teach Apostolic Succession/Petrine Primacy. But how does one argue that the impossibility of the Bible (of God’s) teaching Apostolic Succession/Petrine Primacy is a necessary condition for holding Sola(o) Scriptura? And if it is a necessary condition, is not holding Sola(o) Scriptura against Apostolic Succession (or Petrine Primacy) the most indecently magnificent and grotesque case of question begging to dot the historical landscape?

  92. Hi, Alex.

    Let’s distinguish: the Bible can be (we confess it to be) inspired, fully true, and even materially sufficient. Saying this does not conflict with the Catholic doctrines concerning apostolic succession, Tradition, or Petrine primacy etc. However, these affirmations about the Bible aren’t sufficient for a doctrine of “Scripture Alone,” which is intended to rule out the notions that Scripture and Tradition and Magisterium are to be affirmed together in the ways Catholics affirm them. That is, Scripture Alone says that the Bible is the only infallible authority. So this doctrine does conflict with Catholic doctrines of apostolic succession, Tradition and Magisterium (etc.). This doctrine can be false (I believe it is), without being “question begging.” Remember, Protestants do not argue by saying “the doctrine of “Scripture Alone” says that the Catholic doctrines of apostolic succession etc. are false; therefore, they are; therefore, “Scripture Alone” is true.” Protestants argue for the truth of Scripture Alone on distinct grounds (from Scripture, history, reason, etc.).

    Hope that helps,

    Neal

  93. Alex: Why cannot Sola Scriptura be true (as stated and defined above) and it teach Apostolic Succession or the universal jurisdiction of the papacy or even Petrine Primacy?

    Good question. Andrew McCallum makes a point about what God would have us know about the Christian faith. Let us turn that point into a question – “What would God have us to know about the Christian faith?” – and then see what kind of answer we can get to that question from the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. First we need to be absolutely clear that sola scriptura is not a doctrine that asserts that scriptures are a source of inerrant knowledge about what God would have us know about the Christian faith. Sola scriptura is a Protestant doctrine that claims that the Protestant bible is the ONLY source of inerrant knowledge about what God would have us know about the Christian faith. It is the ONLY claim that is being contested.

    How can I know that this Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is actually true? If the Protestant bible is indeed my ONLY source of inerrant knowledge about what God would have us know about the Christian faith, then shouldn’t I find within the pages of a Protestant Bible the claim that the Protestant Bible is, in fact, the ONLY source of inerrant knowledge about what God would have us know about the Christian faith? But when I read the Protestant bible from cover to cover, I find that there are no scriptures that teach that Protestant Bible is the ONLY source of inerrant knowledge about what God would have us know about the Christian faith. Therefore, how do I know that sola scriptura is something that God would have me know about the Christian faith? I can’t know that, if sola scriptura is true! So let us ignore for the moment that sola scriptura is a self-refuting absurdity, and assume for no rational reason that the Protestant bible is the only source of inerrant knowledge about what God would have us know about the Christian faith. Where does making that irrational assumption that lead me?

    When I read the Protestant bible, I see that it teaches that Christ has founded a visible church against which he assures me that the powers of death will never prevail. Christ also commands me to listen to his church or be excommunicated. Nowhere do I find within a Protestant bible a teaching that says that I can use my private interpretation of the Protestant bible to justify an act of rebellion against the official teachings promulgated by the church that Christ founded. There simply are NO scriptures to be found within a Protestant that gives me the authority to sit in judgment of what Christ’s church teaches, and that most certainly excludes the possibility that it is “scriptural” for me found my own personal bible church based on my private interpretation of the Protestant bible. No, the Protestant bible teaches that I must listen to the teachings of the church that Christ founded or be excommunicated, period. That would mean that I must listen to Christ’s church even if she is teaching wrongly about God would have us know about the Christian faith.. That is the only logical conclusion that I can reach by assuming the veracity of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura.

    As a Catholic that rejects the ALONE claim of the Protestant bible ALONE doctrine, I can make the quite reasonable and rational assumption that since Christ founded a church and commanded me to listen to her, that it is an implicit doctrine of the Christian faith, that the omnipotent God will never allow his visible church to become a source of promulgating erroneous doctrine about matters of faith and morals. Therefore, as a Catholic, I can claim that scriptures are a source of inerrant knowledge about what God would have us know about the Christian faith, and that when the church that Christ founded officially interprets the scriptures written by his church, that Christ’s Church is also a source of source of inerrant knowledge about what God would have us know about the Christian faith. At this point, I don’t even have to make the case that Christ’s church is the Catholic Church. I am only making the case that it is a reasonable and rational belief based upon scriptures written in a Protestant bible that Christ’s church can never become a tool of Satan that leads men into error. But the sola scriptura confessing Protestant can’t assume that it is impossible for ANY church to teach without error, not even the visible Church that Christ founded, since that takes the ALONE out of the Protestant doctrine of the Protestant Bible ALONE.

    Alex: The real work would have to be the negative thesis: If Sola(o) Scriptura is true, then Scriptura can’t teach Apostolic Succession/Petrine Primacy. But how does one argue that the impossibility of the Bible (of God’s) teaching Apostolic Succession/Petrine Primacy is a necessary condition for holding Sola(o) Scriptura?

    If the Protestant bible is my ONLY source of inerrant teaching about what God would have me know about the Christian faith, then no church can also be a source of inerrant teaching about what God would have me know about the Christian faith – even if the church that I am listening to is the church that Christ founded. Which is absurd, since the members of the church that Christ founded wrote the entire New Testament. So for the very first Christians at least, such as the Christians in Corinth and Galacia, the church that Christ founded was a source for them of inerrant teaching, since the first Christians obviously didn’t have Protestant bibles.

    Of course many Protestant argue that while the apostles were alive, that they were a source of inerrant authority, and that it was only after the apostles were dead that a new doctrine became “a rule of faith” for Christians, the new doctrine being the doctrine that the Protestant bible is the ONLY source of inerrant authority for all Christians. The fact that no Christians ever believed this for the first 1500 years of Christianity is something that we must ignore, and we must make a blind leap of faith and make this a foundational belief of the Christian faith if we want to become sola scriptura confessing Protestants. That is why I always ask Protestants that try to convince me that sola scriptura is true, that they must first show me the verses in their Protestant bible that teach that sola scriptura is a doctrine of the Christian faith. The onus is entirely upon the sola scriptura confessing Protestant to show me why I should make a foundation of my faith a doctrine that is nowhere taught in scriptures. I have never had a Protestant take up that challenge. At best, Protestants will quote to me the scriptures that claim that scriptures are an authority, but that is something that is not contested by me. I already concede that scriptures are an inerrant authority for Catholics.

  94. Mateo (re: 88),

    How can you ever offer me anything that rises above the level of mere opinion, and also have me believe that the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is true? After all, sola scriptura is the claim that the ONLY source that I have access to that is inerrant in matters of religion is the text that I find printed on the pages of a Protestant Bible. Books and articles written that promulgate conclusions based on historical analysis obviously aren’t Protestant Bibles, therefore, if sola scripturais true, they can never be known to be without error.

    Mateo,

    It seems that no matter how many times we state what sola scriptura is, we get hit with these mis-statements on what sola scriptura is. The principle of sola scriptura does NOT say that the ONLY source that I have access to that is inerrant in matters of religion is the text that I find printed on the pages of a Protestant Bible.” For a start we do affirm tradition outside of Scripture as absolutely necessary. It that were not true then we would reject any kind of confession or creed. And the secondly sola scriptura is not primarily about the assessments we make but rather about the final bar of authority for the Church in her assessments. The Protestants, in line with the statements from just about every Church Father from the first four centuries and most of the Fathers until the 12th century, said that there was no other source of truth for the Church that rose to the same level of certainty/normativity as the Scriptures. The position of the ECF’s was that tradition of the Church was absolutely necessary in separating truth from error, but that none of these secondary traditions could rise to the same level of certainty as the Scripture.

    The position of some of the canon lawyers of the 12th century and beyond was just the opposite of the ECF’s, and this position eventually wins out in the RCC. This is what we know as the two-source theory of revelation of the Middle Ages. God’s Word is infallible it is argued, but so are certain extra-biblical traditions that are promulgated by the Church at certain times and under certain conditions. So the first point I am making is that this position of the RCC of the High Middle Ages and beyond was not the position of the Church going back to the Early Centuries of the Church.

    But then secondly I am making the point that RCC of the Middle Ages did not just say that this two-source theory was correct, but also that the Church has always held to this position even though this is not obvious from reading the works of the ECF’s.

    So thirdly, the adoption of the Catholic IP obviates any reading of the ECF’s together to determine what they did or did not believe. What they actually believed has been determined by the Magisterium, end of story. Any appearances that the ECF’s believed the opposite demonstrates that either 1) the ECF’s under consideration were in error, or that 2) we Protestants must be misreading the ECF’s, or 3) some combination of 1 and 2. Either way, there can be no attempt to read the Fathers for what they actually said and believed. This has already been determined by the Magisterium, and the issue of what the ECF’s did or did not say is effectively irrelevant.

    There is a proper concern as expressed in Mike L’s article that the reading of the Fathers does not become a purely academic exercise. I agree that we cannot and should not separate historical from systematic theology. But the RCC has gone to the opposite extreme of effectively denying that there is anything in the analysis of ecclesiastical Church history that is analogous to the analysis of history in general. IN the RCC, systematic and historical theology are fused together and historical theology never is able to correct errors in systematic theology as it touches on de fide matters because such de fide statements are irreformable.

    The central problem for us Protestants trying to enter the discussion is that not only are the judgments of the Magisterium a subject which we take issue with our Catholic friends over, but also that this same Magisterium is the final arbiter for the Catholic on these matters. In other words the faithful Catholic has to assume the truthfulness of the Magisterium in order to prove the truthfulness of the Magisterium. The alternative would be for the Catholic to at least theoretically suspend judgment on the determinations of the Magisterium’s and weigh the evidence of the Church Fathers is terms of what they said without considering what they said as filtered through the Magisterium. No easy task I admit…..

  95. Hi Alex,

    In addition to TONS already said by others that answer your question. I addressed this in posts #16, #20 and #32 of this thread.

    The key issue is the right to withdraw consent which is linked to whether or not the authority is divinely appointed or not.

    If the authority is divinely appointed, withdrawal of consent is not only not an option, it is essentially blasphemy….If the authority is not divinely appointed, withdrawal of consent is a necessary check and balance to protect both parties….That is why the discussion between John and Mike L. on the Authority of the Magistereum is so important.

    Hope this helps…..

  96. John (#89):

    Addressing me, you wrote:

    The trouble with your response is that infallibility is not just a doctrine but a meta-doctrine….Since this doctrine concerning the Magisterium is itself a development, not being clear from the sources, what decides upon it?

    To preserve the historical order of inquiry, which is important, let’s start with doctrines themselves, their own development, and the question of the authentication thereof, before we get to that of the meta-doctrine.

    We presumably agree that the central doctrines developed in the first-millennium Church—i.e., that of the Trinity that emerged with the Creed of 381, and that of the Incarnation that emerged over the course of all seven ecumenical council—are in some sense developments, in that they are interpretations of the sources, primarily Scripture, which go beyond mere paraphrase of Scripture. Now, how are they to be authenticated as developments? As I see it, there are two basic ways to answer that question. The first is that those developments are to be authenticated by being recognized as correct interpretations of the sources, primarily Scripture, and thus as articles of faith, without their knowability as articles of faith being epistemically dependent on their being propounded as such by the authority of the Church. Thus, knowing that the Church has interpretive authority depends on already knowing the correct interpretation of Scripture, and thus on identifying the Church as the body committed to that interpretation. That’s the way Mathison takes—though perhaps for Protestant reasons of his own, he might not want to extend such authentication to any doctrines developed only after the second ecumenical council in 381. The second way would be to say that the authentication of such developments as correct interpretations of the sources, primarily Scripture, and thus as articles of faith, is epistemically dependent on their being propounded as articles of faith by the authority of the Church, so that one must already know which Church has interpretive authority in order to know that her interpretations thereof are articles of faith. That’s the Catholic way, as rightly understood by Newman, even though one might take issue with some aspects of his historical explanation. As you’ve probably recognized already, those are basically the two options laid out for us by what I called the “conservative-Protestant” IP (PIP) and the Catholic IP (CIP) respectively. Which way is the more reasonable one to take will depend on which IP is itself the more reasonable.

    At this stage, it’s important to note that the option taken by what I called the PIP is also taken by some Orthodox theologians, such as Behr, as well as by most Protestant theologians (the one you name is Mozley). Such theologians expressly oppose any model of DD which would necessitate authenticating doctrinal developments as articles of faith by ecclesial authority, beyond that called for by the first option. Now recall that, in comment #15, I called that approach “the basic weakness of Eastern theology,” whose earliest representative on this score is Irenaeus—an approach that eventually facilitate most of the East’s repudiation of its prior recognition of Rome’s pre-eminent authority, when she endorsed the filioque as an article of faith. So although I’ve called the first option that of the PIP, which it is, it’s also a common Orthodox option as well, despite the fact that some Orthodox theologians have and would lean more toward the second. In view of that, I shall re-name the first IP the “Protestant-Eastern” one (PEIP), while duly acknowledging that the label is unfair to some Orthodox and most Eastern-Catholic theologians. (If you or somebody else can express the same idea with a less unfair label, I’d be all for it.)

    Now for reasons I explained in my own guest post, the PEIP requires, for the sake of authenticating doctrinal developments, that “the sources,” primarily Scripture, be perspicuous enough in themselves not only to admit what you and I agree is the orthodox interpretation, but to rule out heterodox interpretations as rationally indefensible. For if they merely admitted the orthodox interpretation without ruling out heterodox ones as rationally indefensible, then the orthodox interpretation’s formal endorsement by divinely instituted ecclesial authority would be epistemically necessary for its being recognized as articles of faith, not just as interpretive opinions. Yet for reasons I also explained in my own guest post, the claim that the sources, primarily Scripture, are perspicuous to the degree required by the PEIP is itself implausible. So on this score at least, the CIP is rationally preferable. Or so I have argued.

    But we’re not home yet, for this is where your objection about the authentication of the “meta-doctrine”—i.e., the doctrine “about” the Church’s authority—becomes pertinent. And your objection, as I understand it, consists in the posing of a dilemma for the Catholic. If, on the one hand, a Catholic such as Newman seeks to authenticate the development of the meta-doctrine about the Church’s authority by means which do not require invoking that authority as posited by the meta-doctrine, then he is following essentially the PEIP option, which is incompatible with the CIP, and thus performatively self-refuting for the Catholic. On the other hand, if the Catholic does seek to authenticate the meta-doctrine’s development by invoking the very sort of authority posited by that meta-doctrine, then his argument is merely circular, and thus rationally indefensible. So unless the Catholic can find a way to escape the dilemma, he cannot show that the CIP is rationally preferable, because he has no rationally defensible way of showing why the sort of ecclesial authority posited by the meta-doctrine is “necessary” for recognizing a correct interpretation of Scripture as a set of articles of faith.

    The first thing to note about that argument is that it’s essentially a sophisticated version of the tu quoque. Its gravamen is that the Catholic cannot defend his position save by using the very method of doctrinal authentication he repudiates when the PEIP uses it—a move which is at best special pleading. But given that the argument is a version of the TQA, the refutation of the argument follows the same lines as that of the TQA in general.

    The Newmanesque DD defense of the meta-doctrine of ecclesial infallibility does not require arguing, on pain of circularity, that the first-millennium dataset is perspicuous enough in itself to authenticate said doctrine, any more than does advocacy of the CIP in general. What must be argued, in the first place, is that the first-millennium development of the central creedal doctrines themselves can only have been authenticated by a divinely instituted authority that, as such, was de facto infallible, because the earlier sources are not perspicuous enough in themselves to authenticate such DDs as articles of faith without invoking such an authority. And that’s the general argument why the CIP is rationally preferable. Of course, such an argument for ecclesial authority’s status and necessity should to be bolstered with a case that it is at least consonant with the sources without being logically necessitated by them. But Newman and others have provided such a case. With that understood, the formal, de jure recognition of such infallibility is necessary not for the authentication of said (non-meta) doctrines to have actually taken place, but only for making clear, in the face of the PEIP, what did actually take place, and how. Hence, Vatican I’s definition of papal infallibility as a specification of that of the Church was not necessary for securing the true basis of the authentication, which is why Newman doubted that the definition was “opportune.” It was useful only for facilitating recognition and acknowledgement, in face of the PEIP, of what was already the true basis of authentication, a basis which even the Eastern churches had recognized before the filioque controversy.

    I am now in a position to reply to your conclusion:

    Nonetheless, if Behr (and Mozley) are correct about the history of Nicene theology, then I think Newman’s case for an infallible organ in the Church suffers a severe blow. The need that an infallible organ is supposed to meet won’t be felt, at least not as acutely. In short, if Newman misunderstood the roots of Nicaea, it seems that a priori reasoning (e.g. your opinion and assent of faith argument) would have to do the heavy lifting for the Catholic IP. Perhaps it can, but so far I’m unconvinced. Anyhow, I’ll be traveling over the next few days and will have limited internet access. It may be a little while before I can comment again, but if you’d like to reply, please do, and we can pick things up later on.

    Even if, on purely historical grounds, Newman “misunderstood” the process of DD that generated and formed Nicene orthodoxy, his general point remains. If some of the church fathers believed that Nicene orthodoxy is not merely the correct interpretation of the Scripture, but also the only rationally defensible one, so that the interpretation is plain, they were wrong. It is indeed true that the only way to authenticate doctrinal developments without relying on an essentially Catholic understanding of ecclesial authority is to interpret whichever “sources” are deemed pertinent in such a way that no heterodox interpretation can emerge as rationally defensible. But there are neither conceptual nor historical reasons sufficient to establish such that such a result is even possible, let alone that it’s ever been achieved. The notion that Nicene orthodoxy is rationally necessitated by the sources is only an interpretive opinion, and hence not a sufficient basis for establishing it as a package of articles of faith. Hence the Catholic IP, as Newman recounted its development, is rationally preferable to the PEIP.

    Best,
    Mike

  97. The alternative would be for the Catholic to at least theoretically suspend judgment on the determinations of the Magisterium’s and weigh the evidence of the Church Fathers is terms of what they said without considering what they said as filtered through the Magisterium. No easy task I admit…..

    Since all of the contributors to this blog are converts to the Catholic Church from Reformed Protestantism, we have all been in a place where we had to weigh the evidence of scripture and history without filtering it through the Catholic Magisterium. I, for one, was reading the Fathers long before I took my oath of fidelity to the magisterium because I was majoring in Classics. One of the reasons why I became Catholic is because I came to realize that I recognized very little of my faith and practice in the Fathers. What I did recognize was already shared between me as a Presbyterian and the Catholic Church which I considered the abode of Antichrist.

  98. Just got in. While waiting on my last job tonight, I was reading St. Athanasius’s defense of Nicea. He starts out by claiming that his opponents are wicked and unreasonable, and proceeds to try to make that case. I am still reading, and getting a sense of Athanasius’s rhetorical style, and evaluating how this might impact our assessment of his arguments, and his assessment of his opponent’s arguments, and how all of that impacts the IP discussion.

    For one thing, I recall that Newman was very familiar with (and greatly admired) Athanasius, but he also argued that the Creed of Nicea cannot be unambiguously found in the ante-Nicene Fathers. Thus, Newman concluded, Nicea was a development of doctrine. This may at first blush seem incompatible with some of the things that Athanasius claims while arguing against his opponents; however, we have to take into account: (1) The theory of development does not stipulate that those who were instrumental in formulating a de fide doctrine did not make good (and heated!) arguments for that doctrine from Sacred Scripture and Tradition. (2) It is, or was, common in the course of controversial writing to use large helpings of rhetoric along with logical analysis.

    Undoubtedly, Athanasius knew many stupid and wicked Arians, and perhaps their heresy was from evil spirits. But it would probably not be reasonable for us to conclude that every Arian, in the course of formulating his views, and opposing Nicea, was intellectually dishonest, ill-intentioned, and possessed by an evil spirit. He was, however, even if honest and best-intentioned and demon-free, a heretic, because he failed to submit to the de fide teaching of the “catholic and apostolic church.”

  99. Andrew McCallum:

    Mateo,

    It seems that no matter how many times we state what sola scriptura is, we get hit with these mis-statements on what sola scriptura is …

    I plan to address in detail your objections to my post, but first I need you to “put your cards on the table” in the sense that Jerimiah did in his post # 56. You say that no matter how many times we state what sola scriptura is … . Just who is this “we” that is defining sola scriptura for me? I want to know the name of the Protestant sect that you belong to. I ask this for several reasons, all germane to my arguments against the doctrine of sola scriptura that I have given on this thread and elsewhere. I contend that the novelty of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is built upon yet another novelty of Protestant theology – the novelty of the doctrine of the primacy of conscience. So I ask you, what Protestant sect do you belong to, and why do you think that your Protestant sect is “the church” of Matthew 18:17?

    … if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matt 18:17

    I am also going to ask you again a question that I have asked you before which you have never answered. Do you reserve the right to follow your conscience and leave your Protestant sect, if, in your opinion, your Protestant sect ever begins to teach doctrine that conflicts with your personal understanding of scripture? How you answer this question will tell me whom you really think is “the church” of Matthew 18:17.

  100. Indeed, Andrew. As I wrote in my guest post: “…treating all determined opponents as either unlearned or willfully irrational is itself unreasonable — even when Catholics do it, as not a few have done in the past, including but not limited to the Arian controversy.”

    In the course of debating the Mathison reply, it’s also occurred to me that the point we’ve just made is one of the reasons why Vatican II’s development of Catholic ecclesiology is correct, despite what many of the Pope’s traditionalist critics say. It is simply unreasonable to hold that all non-Catholics who have given careful thought to matters like this, yet are unconvinced by Catholicism, are either fools, knaves, or both. Out interlocutor John here is a very good example of one who is neither! So, as Catholic Christians, we should presume the intelligence and good will of most of our opponents, especially those who are validly baptized, so that they may not be seen as intellectually or morally defective, but rather seen as being imperfect communion with the Church by virtue of their baptism and love for Christ.

    Best,
    Mike

  101. Andrew P (re: 86),

    I gave an answer to Mateo yesterday but I think I still left one or two of your questions unanswered:

    After quoting from Nicea you say: What we have here, in the Creed, which is a part of Tradition, is a de fide standard on which to base our faith. But you say that such a thing cannot be delivered by Tradition.

    No, I don’t want to say this, because the form that the Scripture’s teaching takes comes to us through tradition. That is, Nicea gives us a very nice tightly reasoned summary on what the Scriptures teach about the Trinity using the language and philosophical terms of that age. What I would affirm is that the Nicea Fathers believed that this was a faithful rendering of what Scripture says and as we read through the works of the Fathers defending these canons, we are given proof after proof from firstly Scripture and secondarily the traditions of the Church to verify what they said is true.

    What I would deny is that the Nicean Fathers would have in any sense believed that their pronouncements must be infallible based on the ecclesiological notion of a gift of infallibility granted to the Church. This would have created what I referred to earlier as a two source theory on revelation, an idea which was not to develop in any clearly identifiable form for a number of centuries.

    Concerning the dialogue between Protestant and Catholic on this matter, what we hope is that the Catholic reads the Nicean Fathers in a sense independently to determine if what we say is true. However, if the Catholic starts with the Catholic IP then he is reading what the Nicean Fathers say through the lens of the RCC of the High Middle Ages that taught that not only was the two source theory of tradition true, but also that the Church essentially always believed this (although individual ECF’s may have been confused on the matter).

    So, what we are in essence asking our Catholic friends to do for sake of argument is suspend for the moment what the Catholic Magisterium tells them the Church has always believed and read for themselves what the ECF”s had to say about revelation and whether or not they understood their pronouncements at Nicea and elsewhere to be in any sense something that was held infallibly. It is this kind of “independent” analysis I am getting at. Does this make sense??

    Note that what I am suggesting does not cut loose the historical analysis of the works and beliefs of the Early Church from ecclesiastical oversight, it just does no assume that one particular theory on revelation and tradition is correct but rather seeks to analyze whether it is true given the data from the history of the Church. So we want to let the Church Fathers speak for themselves rather than constantly referring to what later tradition may say about what the Fathers believed. This differing approach is obviously a point of conflict for how Protestant and Catholic approach the writings and belief systems of the Early Church. What I would like to suggest is that it is a reasonable way to approach the understanding of what the ECF’s did and did not believe.

  102. Micheal & Andrew:

    I think the 3 stages of conversion in Chesterton’s Catholic Church and Conversion are instructive.

    If someone doesn’t enter stage 1 as “that of the young philosopher who feels that he ought to be fair to the Church of Rome” then any later stage of understanding or affection is impossible. In the second stage the “convert begins to be conscious not only of the falsehood but the truth, and is enormously excited to find that there is far more of it than he would ever have expected.” The last stage is “perhaps the truest and the most terrible. It is that in which the man is trying not to be converted.”

    Of course Chesterton isn’t describing a purposive path whereby the convert chooses to enter therein. Rather, he is describing the natural progress of bearing witness to the CC. The question of our departed brethren–united to us in their baptism and many times joined with us in the cause of aiding the poor, the sick, and protecting the unborn and aging–is if they have honestly engaged the CC in the spirit of stage #1? If one is not first fair to the CC, it is impossible to see Her truth. If one commences to only nail more theses against her doors, the dialogue will be less than fair to be sure. An inquirer must assume that it is plausible/possible that the Church of Rome is who she says she is. It is the gestalt necessary to make honest inquiry even possible.

    However, there are those who come here who are in fact at stage 3. Their resistance isn’t so much motivated by the fact that they haven’t been fair or that they haven’t recognized much of Her truth (at least privately), but that they are now fighting terribly with everything in them to resist Her. Whether or not we can convince them, I’m inclined to think the historical unfolding of their ecclesial communities will shake up their resistance in this present age.

    Still we pray for unity…

    Brent

  103. Andrew McCallum: The Protestants, in line with the statements from just about every Church Father from the first four centuries and most of the Fathers until the 12th century, said that there was no other source of truth for the Church that rose to the same level of certainty/normativity as the Scriptures. The position of the ECF’s was that tradition of the Church was absolutely necessary in separating truth from error, but that none of these secondary traditions could rise to the same level of certainty as the Scripture.

    First, who are the Early Church Fathers that claimed that the scriptures do no have the same level of certainty as to being without error as do the de fide definita doctrines solemnly promulgated by a valid Ecumenical Council? If you are saying that the Early Church Fathers that you are referring to are the ante-Nicene Church Fathers, well, that argument doesn‘t make much sense, now does it? The ante-Nicene Church Fathers didn’t know of any de fide definita dogmas solemnly promulgated by Ecumenical Councils because, well, they are ante-Nicene Fathers – the Church Fathers that wrote before the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. So why would they ever argue a point about the inerrancy of the de fide definita dogmas promulgated by First Council of Nicea and the Councils that followed, since they had zero knowledge of these Ecumenical Councils?

    I will grant to you that the scriptures are inspired, and the de fide definite dogmas promulgated by valid Ecumenical Councils are not, because that is what the Catholic Church teaches. But we are not talking about whether or not de fide definita dogmas are inspired, we are talking about whether or not de fide definita dogmas are inerrant when we are talking about the degree of certainty that is to be ascribed to dogmas solemnly promulgated by valid Ecumenical Councils. The de fide definita dogmas promulgated by valid Ecumenical Councils are inerrant, but not inspired, and I don’t know if you agree or disagree with this statement.

    Second, I would point out to you that the scriptures do NOT make a claim for themselves that they are “the source of the truth” for the Church! The scriptures themselves testify that the source of the truth for the church is the Truth:

    Oh send out thy light and thy truth;
    let them lead me,
    let them bring me to thy holy hill
    and to thy dwelling! Psalm 43:3

    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth … John 1:14

    “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32

    “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

    But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. John 15:26-27

    I quote these scriptures because it seems to me that you have a semi-Muslim conception of who Christians are, that is, Christians are a people of the Book. But the Catholic Church, along with all the Early Church Father’s never believed that Christians are a people of the Book, rather, the Early Church Father’s believed that they were a people of the Spirit. And because the Holy Spirit dwells in the people of the Spirit, the church founded by Christ was able to produce the God breathed scriptures. The NT scriptures are the product of the church; the church is NOT the product of the scriptures! That is why faithful Christians must listen to the church that Jesus founded, because it is that church that produced the scriptures that are inspired, inerrant, word of God.

    The church that produced the NT scriptures is the same church that can bind the conscience of the Christian to what she teaches, and the scriptures testify to that truth.

    Andrew McCallum: The position of some of the canon lawyers of the 12th century and beyond was just the opposite of the ECF’s, and this position eventually wins out in the RCC. This is what we know as the two-source theory of revelation of the Middle Ages. God’s Word is infallible it is argued, but so are certain extra-biblical traditions that are promulgated by the Church at certain times and under certain conditions.

    This seems to me to be a straw man argument. The scriptures are a book, so they can’t be infallible. The scriptures are the inspired product of the church, and because they are inspired (literally God-breathed), they are inerrant. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that we both agree that the scriptures are both inspired and inerrant.

    Infallibility is charism of the Holy Spirit that is related to the charism of prophecy, and as a charism, it exercised by people, not books. When the living magisterium of the church exercises the charism of infallibility in an extraordinary manner at a valid Ecumenical Council, the de fide definita dogmas solemnly promulgated by the Council are inerrant, but not inspired. The inerrant dogmas are NOT new revelations from God that are received by the whole church through the magisterium of the church. The inerrant de fide definita dogmas are merely affirmations of the public revelation, that is, they are clarifications of a closed public revelation.

    Do you agree that the de fide definita dogmas promulgated by a valid Ecumenical Council are inerrant without being inspired? If you do, then the question becomes how we can know when an Ecumenical Council is valid. If you do not agree that the dogmas promulgated by valid Ecumenical Councils are inerrant, then I stand by my statement that the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is the doctrine that the ONLY inerrant source that Christians have access to is the Protestant bible. And if that is what you believe, then your historical analysis of the Early Church Fathers an exercise that can only give me mere opinions about what God would have us believe about the Christian faith.

  104. Andrew M.,

    Thanks for the response. I am not sure that I understand this bit:

    What I would deny is that the Nicean Fathers would have held that they were incapable of producing a statement that was infallible based on any ecclesiological notion of a gift of infallibility granted to the Church. This would have created what I referred to earlier as a two source theory on revelation, an idea which was not to develop in any clearly identifiable form for a number of centuries.

    A couple of things:

    1. I don’t perceive the logical connection between these two sentences. For Catholics, the Nicene Creed is not understood to be a second source of revelation, even though it is understood to be irreformable. Neither is it irreformable because it draws upon some supposed second source of revelation. It is irreformable because it is an action of the teaching Magisterium, setting forth the de fide content of revelation (whether this was fully [materially] delivered in one source, or two sources).

    2. We can always come up with some complex proposition, expressing a notion (ecclesiological or otherwise) that the Fathers did not express by means of that same proposition. So you may very well deny that the Nicene Fathers held the notion of ecclesial infallibility in such a way as would be expressed (as you aptly say in anther connection) “using the language and philosophical terms” of another age. But this does not entail that the Nicene Church did not teach infallibly, any more than the absence of “one substance” (etc.) from Sacred Scripture entails that the Sacred writers were not Trinitarian.

    So, it would probably not be helpful to say that “What I would deny is that the Apostles would have held that they were capable of producing a statement that was Nicene based on any theological notion of a doctrine of the Trinity granted to the Church.” But then your first sentence (cited above) is probably not helpful either, by way of determining whether or not Nicea is, in fact, an irreformable teaching.

    You also wrote:

    So, what we are in essence asking our Catholic friends to do for sake of argument is suspend for the moment what the Catholic Magisterium tells them the Church has always believed and read for themselves what the ECF”s had to say about revelation and whether or not they understood their pronouncements at Nicea and elsewhere to be in any sense something that was held infallibly. It is this kind of “independent” analysis I am getting at. Does this make sense??

    That might make sense. If you are suggesting that dialogue would be more fruitful if Catholics provisionally drop their own IP, while Protestants maintain (provisionally or otherwise) their own IP, then, no, that does not make sense. However, if you are suggesting that both Catholics and Protestants provisionally adopt another IP, in order to rationally evaluate the different models, then, yes, that makes sense.

    The first possible rebuttal that comes to mind is that we *all* ought to “read the Fathers on their own terms.” I agree, if that means that we don’t do things like putting words into their mouths, or that we do something like take a deep breath, and dive into them for pleasure and information. Of course. However, that is not the sense in which the various IPs come into play, and impact our reading. Rather, the IPs inform our readings (and here I am struggling to bring out my thoughts) on a deeper, more life-defining, level of hermeneutics, at that place where we are trying to come up with the “applications” of these writings, the gist, as it were, of tradition, the “Holy Tradition.” And one of the reasons that we read the Fathers, and the Scriptures, so differently, at that level, is because of different convictions about the nature and identity of the Church, and what we believe about “the mind of Christ” and “the Spirit of Christ” in the Mystical Body, and how the former is expressed by that Body in her teaching, and the latter to nourish and preserve the life of the Body. And these differences lead to differences in understanding of which doctrinal expressions are in fact the *ecclesial* expressions of the mind of Christ, and how these expressions are related to one another in in reality, and (to bring the thread full-circle) what are the hermeneutical implications of all of this.

    So, yes, okay, we can each try to provisionally adopt another IP, but, for the reasons sketched above, which are supposed to indicate the “depth of ingression” (thanks Neal) of the IPs, that is going to be difficult, but maybe not impossible. But it is going to have to work both ways.

    Andrew P.

  105. Andrew M:

    Listen to Andrew P. You might also want to have a look at this: http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2011/apostolic-succession.html.

    Best,
    Mike

  106. Andrew McCallum: What I would deny is that the Nicean Fathers would have in any sense believed that their pronouncements must be infallible based on the ecclesiological notion of a gift of infallibility granted to the Church.

    Who are the “Nicean Fathers”? If you mean the bishops of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” that voted at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea, then these bishops believed that what they promulgated at Nicea can be divided into two categories – pronouncements about matters of church discipline, which are always reformable, and solemnly defined definitions of the Faith, which can never be reformed, if the Ecumenical Council is valid.

    Before we get into a debate about whether or not these bishops believed that they were exercising the charism of infallibility, we need to settle whether or not you believe that the dogmas of the faith defined at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea are inerrant. If you don’t believe that solemnly defined dogmas of an Ecumenical Council are inerrant, then your position is that these dogmas are opinions that are, in principle, reformable, and carry no more weight than that of reasoned opinion.

    Mathison maintains that the only authority that can bind the conscience is the Word of God. So when the Church teaches something that is incompatible with one’s conscience, as informed by one’s own interpretation of Scripture, one should reject the Church’s teaching and follow one’s own conscience. We can summarize Mathison’s explanation of the distinction between solo scriptura and sola scriptura as follows. Whereas solo scriptura rejects the interpretive authority of the Church and the derivative authority of the creeds, sola scriptura affirms the interpretive authority of the Church and the derivative authority of the creeds, except when they teach something contrary to one’s conscience, as informed by one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

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

    Andrew, I ask you again, do you believe that Protestant sect that you belong to is the church of Matthew 18:17, and do you reserve the right to follow your conscience and reject the teachings of your church if, in your opinion, your church ever begins to teach doctrine that conflicts with your personal understanding of scripture?

  107. Mike L.:

    Thanks for your reply. As a statement of the divergence between the two IPs, it’s the best I’ve seen to date.

    Currently I’m 600 miles from my computer and typing on a Kindle, which keeps me from writing more than a few sentences. I hope to write a proper reply early next week; in the meantime, my comments in the original thread on KM’s response touch on some of the issues you raise, and can be seen as a downpayment on the reply in this thread.

    Best,
    John

  108. Andrew P,

    So, yes, okay, we can each try to provisionally adopt another IP, but, for the reasons sketched above, which are supposed to indicate the “depth of ingression” (thanks Neal) of the IPs, that is going to be difficult, but maybe not impossible. But it is going to have to work both ways.

    First, Andrew great post and hopefully there is now a vision to start some meaningful dialogue with Andrew M. It’s frustrating just to read, much less engage in communication where understanding is absent.

    I think this is Stage 1 according to Chesterton. It doesn’t mean that Stage 2 is necessarily coming down the road, but at the least we are both trying to confront the data with fairness and plausibility. As in any scientific inquiry, it is impossible to start from a position of pure indifference, there must be some type of gestalt that motivates the inquiry. In this case we might call it “the body of data will produce judgment “x” about the CC”; which I think is an interesting inquiry. I think that is what Andrew M. is asking we do, or at least you’ve proposed to be willing to do. This would be in contrast to maybe what has been done up until this point which has been unsatisfactory to Andrew M., namely “judgment “x” about the CC is true, and here is the data”, where Andrew M. provides what he perceives as contradictory data and we all spin our wheels and get nowhere. I’ll admit that’s frustrating science. So, when two scientists have competing claims and arguing from the proof of those claims can’t progress in a meaningful dialectic, temporarily suspending judgment about the conclusion and reworking the data with the possibility of either hypothesis proving true or even a third option seems fair. Can’t way to see what happens.

    I noticed you have a blog, but didn’t know if you had your “story” written somewhere I could read? As I convert, I am always edified to read about other journeys to the CC.

    God bless,

    Brent

  109. Hey everyone, a few questions:

    Mateo, you said in post #106 “”Who are the “Nicean Fathers”? If you mean the bishops of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” that voted at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea, then these bishops believed that what they promulgated at Nicea can be divided into two categories – pronouncements about matters of church discipline, which are always reformable, and solemnly defined definitions of the Faith, which can never be reformed, if the Ecumenical Council is valid. ”

    How do you know this? (…solemnly defined definitions of the Faith, which can never be reformed, if the Ecumenical Council is valid. )

    Andrew,

    You are a very frustrating person read your debates. You refuse to answer any substantive questions put to you and continue to ask the same things over and over regardless of how many times your questions are answered. I don’t think you are paying any attention to what these guys are saying. I”m not sure what your pont on being here is, but it is not to either A) learn or B) argue coherently.

    I think our Catholic brothers are being very kind to you because they don’t want to discredit what they are saying by being uncharitable. I think you should extend the same courtesy to them by A) Answering their questions and B) Not asking the same thing over and over again.

    To whoever does the formatting:

    Can you please fix the left margin so that you can read post numbers that are greater than two digits?

  110. Hey Brent,

    Real quick (on my way to an Ukrainian Catholic Typika Service): Yeah I think that making the effort to “try on” another IP is an important way to work towards mutual understanding. Otherwise, as you note, communication is well-nigh impossible. Chesterton’s book was (is) very important to me. I will make time later to consider your comments about that. I love conversion stories. Like pizza, although I have consumed countless slices in my life, the next one is always a treat.

    Three years ago, I wrote my story then deleted my blog (a mistake, it now seems). A couple of years ago, I wrote a “mystical,” actually self-indulgently allusive and rambling, farrago-type account of my journey, and recently posted the (slightly-modified) result on CTC as The Last Road.

    later,

    Andrew

  111. John (#107):

    Yes, I’ve read and pondered your two major comments in the thread you refer me to. For reasons we both understand, I did not reply there. So here I’ll just content myself with a gesture in the direction we need to go in.

    Your approach is clearly that of what I’ve called ‘the PEIP’. Your argument for adopting the PEIP, it seems to me, entails that ecclesial authority may only define as an article of faith a proposition that can be established and recognized as such by any literate person of good will from the written sources, independently of its authority. In other words, the exercise of the Church’s full interpretive authority can only be justified when it’s unnecessary. Since it would be unfair to you right now to launch into a full analysis and critique of your argument, I’ll just make an observation of my own, without argument: it seems to me that the Jewish scribes and Pharisees could have used the same argument against Jesus.

    Best,
    Mike

  112. Mateo (re: 106),

    Who are the “Nicean Fathers”? If you mean the bishops of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” that voted at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea, then these bishops believed that what they promulgated at Nicea can be divided into two categories – pronouncements about matters of church discipline, which are always reformable, and solemnly defined definitions of the Faith, which can never be reformed, if the Ecumenical Council is valid.

    Where did any theologian of the Nicean era say that any pronouncement of theirs was “irreformable?” They believed what they taught was true because it was irrefutably taught by Scriptures. But what you are saying is that they believed their teaching was incapable of error, right? My point in all of what I’m writing here is that this idea does not come from the Nicean Fathers themselves but is a gloss on their work by later RCC theologians. But go ahead, show me, from the writings of the Nicean era itself, what theologians believed that any of their their pronouncements could not err? This is not a matter of showing that they did not err (inerrancy) but rather of showing that they could not err (infallibility).

    Before we get into a debate about whether or not these bishops believed that they were exercising the charism of infallibility, we need to settle whether or not you believe that the dogmas of the faith defined at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea are inerrant. If you don’t believe that solemnly defined dogmas of an Ecumenical Council are inerrant, then your position is that these dogmas are opinions that are, in principle, reformable, and carry no more weight than that of reasoned opinion..

    What they taught was true based on their understanding of Scripture. But there was nothing they taught which could not in principle be brought into question by a later ecclesiastical body. It does not logically follow that because something is true that it is irreformable, but you seem to be trying to make this case. There are all sorts of things we hold to be unquestionably true, within the sphere of theology and without, but we don’t try to make the case that because they are true that those who defined those truths were incapable of error. To me it is one of those curious idiosyncrasies of RCC theology to think that in the realm of theology we must ascribe irreformability and infallibility to certain doctrines otherwise we will have to worry that perhaps at some point in the future the belief in question will be brought into question. This seems to me to be an intellectual problem that only plagues relatively few philosophically orientated Catholics. The vast majority of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, would have no idea why anyone would think that we need irreformability and infallibility in the realm of theology when we human being operate just fine in every other area of human thought without such concepts. But still, I think the most damming evidence again concepts of infallibility and irreformability come from the lack of any evidence that such ideas were held by Christians of the early centuries of the Church. Mathison and Oberman do a good job of demonstrating that even as late as the 12th century there was no universal acceptance of even ecclesiastic infallibility, let alone papal infallibility.

    I ask you again, do you believe that Protestant sect that you belong to is the church of Matthew 18:17

    No, I don’t believe that my “sect” is the Church in any sense. My congregation and denomination are part of the larger visible Church that is contained in numerous ecclesiastical entities throughout the world.

    and do you reserve the right to follow your conscience and reject the teachings of your church if, in your opinion, your church ever begins to teach doctrine that conflicts with your personal understanding of scripture?

    When you refer to rejection of teaching, are you thinking about something that I might hear in my local congregation that I might reject? If so I would say that yes, it’s possible that I could reject something and even leave the congregation. But how is this different than what you would do if you were in one of the many liberal Catholic congregations hearing a liberal priest who told you something you were sure was not true based on your interpretation of the tradition of the Church? Do you not reserve the right to reject that teaching(s) and even leave the congregation? Historically Roman Catholics have never disagreed with the leaders of their congregations because they never heard anything they could understand and never knew what the Bible said or much of anything about historical theology. Now that Vatican II has straightened out the RCC to some degree in this regards and Catholics actually hear a mass in the vernacular and perhaps even read the Bible, there is now the possibility that an opportunity arises for the individual to reject something that they are sure is contrary to the teaching of the Church. It seems to me that the vast majority of Catholics who do this are rejecting something they don’t personally like but it would seem reasonable to suppose, given how varied the teachings individual Catholic congregations and how much disagreement there is within Catholicism as to just what the correct interpretation of the tradition of the Church is, that Catholics can and should hold the right to dissent at certain times.

    I would also add that whether the individual has the right to dissent at certain times and places this is not what was at issue at the Reformation. The individuals who dissented were just representatives of a larger ecclesiastical community. The question here was whether the RCC understanding of irreformability and infallibility as such things had been recently defined in the RCC were correct. The problem of course was that the RCC by own estimation has infallibly defined her own infallibility and irreformably defined her understanding of irreformability. It was the Reformed churches understanding that such notions were historical novelties that had no basis in the tradition of the Early Church. So here is the question – Did the Reformed churches have any right to question the concepts of infallibility and irreformability, and if for sake of argument the Reformers were correct, then how would the RCC ever have been corrected without a group outside the ecclesiastical structure of the RCC questioning her? And then again, did the Reformers have any argument here – is there anything in the Early Church which would lead us to believe that they held to even some semblance of conception of ecclesiastical or papal infallibility?

  113. Andrew P (re: 104),

    I don’t perceive the logical connection between these two sentences. For Catholics, the Nicene Creed is not understood to be a second source of revelation, even though it is understood to be irreformable. Neither is it irreformable because it draws upon some supposed second source of revelation. It is irreformable because it is an action of the teaching Magisterium, setting forth the de fide content of revelation (whether this was fully [materially] delivered in one source, or two sources).

    The debate over the two-source theory of tradition occurred in the 12th century and following and concerned whether it was ever correct to hold that any ecclesiastical pronouncements (whether from councils, popes, or elsewhere) ever rose to the same level of certainty and normativity as Scripture. Even during the 12th century there was no universal consensus that any pronouncement from the Church could be taken to be irreformable since only the Scriptures could not be reformed. So what we Protestants are doing is going back to before there was any firmly defined concept of ecclesiastical infallibility and irreformability in the RCC and asking whether or not the canon lawyers of the 12th century and beyond who argued for what we are terming the two source theory of tradition reasoned correctly or not.

    I hope you see that I am connecting “irreformability” with “infallibility.” To me these two concepts are inextricably linked. I am also questioning the notion that IF we do not ascribe pronouncements like the Trinitarian formulas at Nicea with irreformability that we are opening up the possibility that our understanding of the concept of the Trinity (in this example) could one day be brought into question. I understand that some Catholic scholars want to place an “irreformable” stamp on such doctrines as the Trinity to avoid it sounding like the Church has not fully weighed in on and judged the matter of doctrines like the Trinity. But I would like to suggest that there is more than one way to avoid heresy than ascribing infallibility and irreformability to certain pronouncements of the Church. The fidelity of the Nicean summaries to Scripture is something that I think we can agree on because we go through the arguments from the Nicean Fathers again and again and can conclude that Nicea got it right. The reason why Reformed and Evangelical communions hold to Nicean orthodoxy as tightly as do RCC communions is that there is no reason to argue with the Nicean Fathers in regards to their specific arguments from Scripture. I would hold that there is no possibility that any Evangelical group who believes that God has spoken infallibility through His Word and has some connection to the history of the Church will ever raise the possibility that Nicea’s summary of the Trinity is in error. Philosophically orientated Catholics want to raise the possibility that such could happen (even though it has never happened before) and guard the truths of Nicea via the philosophical tools of infallibility and irreformability, but for us these are at best unnecessary and at worst suggest that the words of man have effective equal weight to the words of God.

    That might make sense. If you are suggesting that dialogue would be more fruitful if Catholics provisionally drop their own IP, while Protestants maintain (provisionally or otherwise) their own IP, then, no, that does not make sense.

    Well admittedly, that is what I’m suggesting. But I’m also suggesting that in this case the Protestants are arguing and thinking like the Christians from the early centuries of Christianity before there were any notions of philosophical infallibility that we would argue are the products of the speculative dogmatic theology of a later age.

    Let me think about your last two paragraphs and get back to you later….

    Cheers….

  114. Jeremiah: Mateo, you said in post #106 “”Who are the “Nicean Fathers”? If you mean the bishops of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” that voted at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea, then these bishops believed that what they promulgated at Nicea can be divided into two categories – pronouncements about matters of church discipline, which are always reformable, and solemnly defined definitions of the Faith, which can never be reformed, if the Ecumenical Council is valid. ”

    How do you know this? (…solemnly defined definitions of the Faith, which can never be reformed, if the Ecumenical Council is valid. )

    I know this because scriptures testify to this truth, both implicitly and explicitly. The teaching of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-18 is where I would go to first to back me up:

    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.) Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:15-18

    An Ecumenical Council is the supreme example of the church founded by Christ putting this teaching of Christ into effect. Suppose the brother that is sinning is committing the sin of spreading heretical doctrine (e.g. Arius, Nestorius). Let us be charitable and say that the brother I am accusing of heresy sincerely believes that what he is teaching is not heresy so he feels totally justified in not listening either to me or to my witnesses that I bring to correct him. The brother’s heresy spreads and begins to be a problem troubling the whole community of believers. The final response to the brother is to do what Jesus commands, – bring the brother to the church that Christ founded and let the church make an authoritative and final decision about the matter – a decision that Christ proclaims will be bound in heaven and earth. In the case of the brother teaching heresy, the bishops of Christ’s church anathematizes the heresy at an Ecumenical Council, and promulgates a dogma that testifies to the truth of what has been handed down in the deposit of faith. If the brother does not accept what has been solemnly taught by the bishops of the Ecumenical Council, he is to be formally excommunicated from the church (“let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

    Now let us say for the sake of argument that solemnly defined dogmas of valid Ecumenical Councils are reformable because they are only opinions of the bishops that carry authority in the church only as long as the bishops hold those opinions. That would mean that the dogmas concerning the Trinity are NOT settled matters for Christians. Maybe the Jehovah Witnesses that agree with Arius are right, Jesus is not God the Son. Or maybe modalism isn’t really a heresy, and the Oneness Pentecostals that have resurrected modalism in our era are the only Christians that truly understand the deposit of faith correctly. If the church founded by Christ can recant dogma that has been solemnly defined by a valid Ecumenical Council, then the door is open not only for the development of doctrine, but for the evolution of doctrine, an evolution that can bring about a total reversal of what has always and everywhere been taught by the church. What that means is that no one can ever have any certainty about what God wants Christians to believe. Which is the state that Protestantism is currently in – total doctrinal chaos, where for any article of the faith that one Protestant sect teaches, there is another Protestant sect protesting against it. If nothing else, the doctrinal chaos engendered by the Protestant interpretive paradigm shows why the Catholic interpretive paradigm is preferable. It is preferable because it avoids the doctrinal anarchy of Protestantism.

    The churches that have a two-thousand year old history – the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Catholic Church – all agree that dogmas promulgated by valid Ecumenical Councils are irreformable. The disagreement they have among themselves is how a Christian knows when an Ecumenical Council is valid.

    Jeremiah, I would like to ask you the same questions that I asked Andrew McCallum:

    Why do you think that the church that you are currently listening to is the church founded by Christ?

    Do you reserve the right to follow your conscience and leave your Protestant church, if, in your opinion, your Protestant church ever begins to teach doctrine that conflicts with your personal understanding of scripture?

  115. Hey Andrew,

    Thanks. That helps me better understand the relevant distinction. It seems that you do not have in mind two sources of divine revelation, i.e., oral and written teachings of the Apostles, such that divine revelation is (materially) handed down partly in one, and partly in another. As you know, the material sufficiency of Scripture is, for Catholics, a permissible opinion.

    Rather, as I understand you, the relevant distinction is between two “sources” of infallible teaching / irreformable doctrine; i.e., Sacred Scripture and the de fide teaching of the Catholic Church. Of course, I fully grant that there is an important difference between divine revelation and de fide definitions (I tried to describe the difference in the post, Inspiration and Infallibility).

    Granted the Catholic doctrine of Sacred Scripture, it is easy to imagine why some medieval canonists and/or theologians would speculate as to how ecclesial teaching does not measure up to the word of God. But granted the authority of the Church, it is just as easy to see why our faith is not reducible to the speculations of 12th century canon lawyers! For almost any de fide Catholic doctrine, you can go back to a time before the definition and find the matter being debated and discussed, or at least not so explicitly and exactly and authoritatively formulated. Otherwise there would be no de fide definitions. De fide definitions of faith build upon the work of fallible theologians, but they are not reducible to the work of fallible theologians.

    I not sure what you mean by “the philosophical tools of infallibility and irreformability” and “philosophical infallibility.” Most Catholics are not philosophers, but they rely upon the Church implicitly in matters of faith and morals. Surely the point, at least partly so, of ecclesial infallibility is that the hermeneutical wisdom/philosophy of man is an insufficient means of preserving the Church in the unity of truth?

  116. Andrew M. #113

    Even during the 12th century there was no universal consensus that any pronouncement from the Church could be taken to be irreformable since only the Scriptures could not be reformed.

    In addition to Andrew P’s observations, “only the Scripture could not be reformed” in terms of the canon was an irreformable teaching of the Church. Canon shut, case closed. Now, the canon did get re-opened at the reformation and modified which evidences that for a Protestant nothing is off limits. As a Protestant, how do you reconcile the canon changing (Luther put them in the appendix and now “woosh” their gone)?

    Through the Immaculate Conception

    Brent

  117. Andrew McCallum: … Where did any theologian of the Nicean era say that any pronouncement of theirs was “irreformable?” They believed what they taught was true because it was irrefutably taught by Scriptures. But what you are saying is that they believed their teaching was incapable of error, right?

    No, I am not saying that the orthodox theologians of the Nicean era thought they were incapable of error. Heterodox theologians are another matter altogether. For example, the heresies of Montanus and his followers sprang up because they believed that the Holy Spirit was guiding them to the truth, and their exercise of the charism of prophecy trumped the teachings of the bishops of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church“.

    Andrew McCallum: … It does not logically follow that because something is true that it is irreformable, but you seem to be trying to make this case.

    You are correct, I am making that case! The truths that we are talking about are eternal truths. Was Jesus God the Son? Does he share the same nature as God the Father? The correct answer to these questions are irreformable because God does not change.

    Andrew McCallum: … There are all sorts of things we hold to be unquestionably true, within the sphere of theology and without, but we don’t try to make the case that because they are true that those who defined those truths were incapable of error.

    In Christian theology we do make the claim that what we know is true because the one who revealed the truth was incapable of error. Christians believe that what Christ taught is true because he is God, and God cannot lie. We do not believe that an exercise of human reason would have eventually brought us to the truths that Christ revealed to us. Jews and Christians believe that what the Prophets taught was true because they were men that exercised the prophetic gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Andrew McCallum: … To me it is one of those curious idiosyncrasies of RCC theology to think that in the realm of theology we must ascribe irreformability and infallibility to certain doctrines otherwise we will have to worry that perhaps at some point in the future the belief in question will be brought into question.

    I fail to see why you find the way Catholic and Orthodox theologians think about the irreformability of dogmas promulgated at valid Ecumenical Councils to be “curious”. For crying out loud, just look at the state of Protestantism as it exists today. Every single article of the Christian faith is contested by some Protestant sect or another. Within Protestantism as a whole, doctrinal anarchy reigns supreme, and the root cause of that anarchy is the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of conscience. If the doctrine of the Trinity can be contested by Protestants, then anything can be contested by Protestants. And it is.

    Andrew McCallum: … This seems to me to be an intellectual problem that only plagues relatively few philosophically orientated Catholics. The vast majority of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, would have no idea why anyone would think that we need irreformability and infallibility in the realm of theology when we human being operate just fine in every other area of human thought without such concepts.

    Mathematics is an area of human thought that is dependent on the idea of irreformability. Given the formal axioms necessary to develop Euclidean geometry, the sum of the angles of a triangle will always add up to 180 degrees. What mathematician thinks that within Euclidean space that this theorem will ever be “reformed“? Another human realm of reasoning where irreformability should rule is ethics. What constitutes moral behavior for my great grandfather constitutes moral behavior for me. Of course, “progressive” Protestants endlessly attack the idea of moral absolutes, but that is why “progressive” Protestantism reeks of heresy. I certainly don’t agree that society can operate “just fine” without a commitment from the society to uphold the moral absolutes, such as it is a moral absolute that abortion is never justified. And since ethics is a realm of Christian theology, the irreformability of the moral absolutes must be maintained if Christianity is going to stand for anything worth believing in.

    Andrew McCallum: … But still, I think the most damming evidence again concepts of infallibility and irreformability come from the lack of any evidence that such ideas were held by Christians of the early centuries of the Church.

    The doctrines of Christianity are comprised of both doctrines of faith and doctrines of morals. Who, exactly, were the early Christians that believed in moral relativism? I would like to see your evidence that the early Christians were proto-progressive Protestants that did not believe that their church taught anything about moral absolutes.

    Mateo: I ask you again, do you believe that Protestant sect that you belong to is the church of Matthew 18:17

    Andrew McCallum: No, I don’t believe that my “sect” is the Church in any sense. My congregation and denomination are part of the larger visible Church that is contained in numerous ecclesiastical entities throughout the world.

    What is the name of that “larger visible church” that your congregation and denomination are a part of? Is that “larger visible church” the church that was founded by Christ? Does it have a two-thousand year old history?

    Mateo: do you reserve the right to follow your conscience and reject the teachings of your church if, in your opinion, your church ever begins to teach doctrine that conflicts with your personal understanding of scripture?

    Andrew McCallum: When you refer to rejection of teaching, are you thinking about something that I might hear in my local congregation that I might reject? If so I would say that yes, it’s possible that I could reject something and even leave the congregation.

    You said that your local congregation is not “the Church in any sense”, and my question was about rejecting the teachings of your church. So you haven’t yet answered my question, and I would appreciate an answer, because I want to know how you reconcile dissenting with the church and what is written in Matthew I8:17.

    Andrew McCallum: But how is this different than what you would do if you were in one of the many liberal Catholic congregations hearing a liberal priest who told you something you were sure was not true based on your interpretation of the tradition of the Church? Do you not reserve the right to reject that teaching(s) and even leave the congregation?

    All Catholics are bound to believe the de fide definita dogmas of the Catholic Church. I have had disagreements with both “liberal” pastors, and “conservative” pastors about things that they have said that contradict what is officially taught by the Church. There have been a couple of times where I thought it was a good thing to talk to the pastor in private about the matter (just like Jesus says we should do – first step, talk to the person by yourself before you bring in two or three witnesses, or bring the issue to the church). I didn’t bring my interpretation of dogma into the discussion with the priest, I quoted the document of the church that is relevant. That is how Catholics should argue in these situations, “See what is written here in the CCC”? What you said contradicts what is written here.” It is true that I have run up against priests that don’t care about whatever document that you might bring to their attention, but I have never had a priest say that I am misinterpreting what is written. They understand what is written, and they know that I understand what is written, they just don’t care if they disagree with what is written because they are cafeteria Catholics. A law unto themselves.

    To answer your question, I have never left a local parish yet in search of an orthodox parish, but I know Catholics that have left their local parish for a parish where the pastor does not teach against the official doctrine of the Catholic Church. Leaving a parish where heterodoxy is preached for another parish where orthodoxy is preached is not leaving the Catholic Church, nor is it disagreeing with the Catholic Church.

    Andrew McCallum: Historically Roman Catholics have never disagreed with the leaders of their congregations because they never heard anything they could understand and never knew what the Bible said or much of anything about historical theology.

    Who are the Catholics that attended Mass and never listened to the Liturgy of the Word, and who are the Catholics that listened to the Liturgy of the Word and never understood the scriptures read aloud at the Liturgy of the Word?

    Andrew McCallum: Now that Vatican II has straightened out the RCC to some degree in this regards and Catholics actually hear a mass in the vernacular and perhaps even read the Bible, there is now the possibility that an opportunity arises for the individual to reject something that they are sure is contrary to the teaching of the Church. It seems to me that the vast majority of Catholics who do this are rejecting something they don’t personally like but it would seem reasonable to suppose, given how varied the teachings individual Catholic congregations and how much disagreement there is within Catholicism as to just what the correct interpretation of the tradition of the Church is, that Catholics can and should hold the right to dissent at certain times.

    In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church the Mass was changed into the vernacular language, Latin, because the majority of the Latin speaking people in the Western church could no longer understand the original language of the liturgy, which was in Greek. The Latin Rite of the Catholic Church had St. Jerome translate the bible into the “vulgar” or common language (Latin), so that those who read Latin could read the bible in the “vulgar“ language – hence the name of that translation, the Latin Vulgate. The motivation for changing the Mass into Latin and translating the bible into Latin was so that Latin speaking people could understand the Mass and read the bible in the vernacular.

    You may think that bible reading Catholics of our era are justified in dissenting with the Church, but where does the bible authorize this dissent? Where are the scriptures that teach the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of conscience? That doctrine appears nowhere in the bible, and to the contrary, we see the bible teaching that those who dissent from the teachings of the church are to be excommunicated, (or delivered to Satan for the destruction of their flesh, to use Pauline language).

    Andrew McCallum: I would also add that whether the individual has the right to dissent at certain times and places this is not what was at issue at the Reformation. The individuals who dissented were just representatives of a larger ecclesiastical community.

    The Protestant doctrine of the primacy of conscience – this novelty – this heresy – this is exactly what the “Reformation” is all about. The whole justification for the “Reformation” is dependent upon this Protestant novelty. You are assuming this novelty is scriptural, and as of yet, you have given no basis within scriptures to support this Protestant doctrine.

    Andrew McCallum: So here is the question – Did the Reformed churches have any right to question the concepts of infallibility and irreformability

    The “reformers“ never argued that there was nothing in Christianity that was irreformable, they asserted that their private interpretations of the scriptures as informed by their consciences had more authority than the official interpretations of the church that they were members of. Luther and Calvin were cafeteria Catholics, and they had no more authority than any other cafeteria Catholic, which is to say, they had zero authority to define novel doctrines and found personal churches that taught their novelties. So my answer to your question is this: Show me the scriptures that authorize founding personal churches based on the private interpretation of the scriptures, and I will grant you that Luther and Calvin had the authority to found personal churches that taught conflicting and irreconcilable doctrine!

  118. Mateo,

    Thank you for the response. That wasn’t what I was asking. I was asking how you knew that the Bishops at Nicea thought that what they were doing was “irreformable”. i.e. historical data. I understand the scriptural and philosophic claims.

    You asked the following:

    “Why do you think that the church that you are currently listening to is the church founded by Christ?

    Do you reserve the right to follow your conscience and leave your Protestant church, if, in your opinion, your Protestant church ever begins to teach doctrine that conflicts with your personal understanding of scripture?”

    I don’t have a good answer for the first question. The distinction between a local Church and The Church. Is important. As a local Church I do think it is valid. I suppose I’ve always just assumed that it was based on my trust in the Pastor. Maybe not a good answer, but its all I got.

    On the second question….No, I don’t reserve the right to follow my conscrience and leave my Church. I reserve the right to follow my conscience and speak up, but I don’t think I should ever break fellowship. I suppose if someone brought in a snake box or some sort of nonsense like that I might exit stage left, (happened to my dad at a funeral in the mountains once) but I’ve covenantally committed to the people of my spiritual family and I’ll not be breaking my commitments…..It pretty hard for me to imagine a situation where I wouldn’t sit in relationship with who I am committed to until we resolved the difficulty.

    Andrew McCollum,

    Thank you for answering the questions. Your last two posts were much better than what I had been seeing.

  119. Jeremiah: That wasn’t what I was asking. I was asking how you knew that the Bishops at Nicea thought that what they were doing was “irreformable”. i.e. historical data.

    I am a ten hour drive away from my personal library, so no, I can’t off the top of head supply you with the historical data that would answer that question. Maybe someone else could answer that question for you. Anyone? I know that both the Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox believe that the dogmas promulgated by valid Ecumenical Councils are irreformable. I myself would be like to know the earliest historical data that someone from the OO might quote to support this contention that dogmas from valid Ecumenical Councils are irreformable.

    Jeremiah: BT and Mateo,
    The right (or duty), within the context of a covenantal relationship, to withdraw consent. Does this right exist?

    I missed this question to me in one of your earlier posts. My answer would be – it depends. Covenantal relationships can be merely man established relationships, such as one nation conquering another nation and then forcing the vanquished nation to enter into a covenantal relationship with the victor. Then there are the divine covenants, the covenants that God establishes with man. God will always be faithful to his end of the covenant, but as for man … well, man has a very bad history of breaking the covenant with God. Man has no right to break a covenant that God has established with him, but he certainly has the ability to break a covenant with God and do his own thing. Keeping a divine covenant brings blessings, and breaking a divine covenant brings curses.

    Mateo: “Why do you think that the church that you are currently listening to is the church founded by Christ?

    Jeremiah: I don’t have a good answer … The distinction between a local Church and The Church. Is important. As a local Church I do think it is valid. I suppose I’ve always just assumed that it was based on my trust in the Pastor. Maybe not a good answer, but its all I got.

    Wow, such an honest answer. Thank you. Jerimiah, do you not see that “the church” of Matthew 18:17 has to be the church that Christ founded, the church against which the powers of death can never prevail? If one is going to accept that the bible has real authority, does that not entail listening to the Church that Christ founded, and not listening to churches founded by men or women? I guess I am asking you why you think your local church is “valid”? What does that mean, and what is the scriptural basis for establishing the validity of a local church?

    Mateo: Do you reserve the right to follow your conscience and leave your Protestant church, if, in your opinion, your Protestant church ever begins to teach doctrine that conflicts with your personal understanding of scripture?”

    Jeremiah: No, I don’t reserve the right to follow my conscience and leave my Church. I reserve the right to follow my conscience and speak up, but I don’t think I should ever break fellowship.

    Never? What if God told you he didn’t want you belonging to a church founded by a man or a woman; that he wanted you to belong to the church founded by Christ?

    “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

    Matthew 10:34-39

    Jeremiah, may God bless you abundantly and guide you in his ways.

  120. Mateo,

    You asked “Wow, such an honest answer. Thank you. Jerimiah, do you not see that “the church” of Matthew 18:17 has to be the church that Christ founded, the church against which the powers of death can never prevail? If one is going to accept that the bible has real authority, does that not entail listening to the Church that Christ founded, and not listening to churches founded by men or women? I guess I am asking you why you think your local church is “valid”? What does that mean, and what is the scriptural basis for establishing the validity of a local church?”

    My response would be that whether or not I see this is irrelevant, I have commitments which I am bound to and my life is not my own. Accordingly, I take comfort in the following excerpt from Vatican II (especially the last sentence):

    “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.”

    Also, you asked “Never”. If GOD told me to enter the Roman Catholic Church I would do the same thing I do with pretty much everything else GOD tells me. I would write it down and submit it to those who have “rule over me” for them to weigh for veracity. If GOD is telling me that, I’m sure he will be telling the rest of the community of faith that as well and I will trust that together we will hear the Lord.

    In hearing the Lord’s voice there are at least two components. The first is the “what” and the second is the “when”. Often there is “how” etc……..MANY of my biggest mistakes I have made in following the voice of the Lord were only focusing on the “What” Question….But hearing the Lord is off topic for this thread…..

  121. What’s interesting to me is that many of these issues mirror similar issues in a secular context in what is known as the problem of political obligation. Unfortunately, these issues are also unresolved even after millennia of debate.

    Unfortunately my response was destroyed when I accidentally activated the “back” button on my mouse and I don’t have sufficient time to rewrite my response.

    I’ve read Mathison’s work, The Shape of Sola Scriptura, and was mostly unimpressed. The first time he attempts to answer the question “once I believe I’ve found a ‘true’ church what is the extent and nature of my obligation to obey their commands and doctrine?” is on pages 267-273. This, for me, made the preceding pages an unpleasant experience.

    I will come back and make a contribution at a later point. Unfortunately, the discussion will probably have moved on my that point but that’s my only option.

  122. Mike (#96 & #111):

    Thanks for your patience. I commend your comments to any readers who might desire a recap of the conversation thus far. You have accurately characterized how the two IPs diverge; what remains is to weigh the merits of each.

    According to Newman, “in proportion to the probability of true developments of doctrine and practice in the Divine Scheme, so is the probability also of the appointment in that scheme of an external authority to decide upon them.” We appear to agree that ecclesial infallibility and the development of doctrine are intimately related, such that to engage the case for the one requires engaging the case for the other. This need not be so in theory; for it is logically possible that the development thesis could be false and that the Church could nonetheless possess an infallible organ. Indeed, as an historical matter, the majority of bishops at Vatican I may well have thought as much. Whether they did or not, however, is immaterial for our purposes, because the CIP as described in your comments is broadly Newmanesque.

    There are five points I would raise in response to your comments, which I have numbered for the sake of convenience.

    1. The ecclesiology of the magisterial reformers was not the free church model to which today’s evangelicals are accustomed. This isn’t a major issue and we have already discussed it sufficiently. However, as a nod to Jeremiah’s concern about the withdrawal of consent, I thought it might be worthwhile to restate the point. So again: The PEIP differs from the CIP not in its answer to whether the Church’s bishops have authority, but in its conception of their authority.

    Both sides hold that the bishops have an authority of jurisdiction, which includes the power to deliver rulings on controversies, and to have these rulings enforced within their respective communions. But whereas the CIP posits an infallible organ in the Church, whose formal definitions can be known to be correct antecedently and independently of the arguments in their favor, the PEIP denies that any one bishop or organ of the Church is thus infallible. I have called the infallibility of the CIP de jure to distinguish it from the de facto infallibility which Orthodox and some Protestants associate, for example, with the Nicene Creed, on account of its reception by the faithful.

    It is infallibility of the de jure sort which alone concerns us at present. Because the PEIP does not posit this infallibility, it leaves open the possibility that an individual might, for reasons of conscience, decline to submit to a canonically valid judgment by the hierarchy. In other words, since there is no organ whose formal deliverance on a controversy is of necessity correct, there are conceivably circumstances under which a Christian would be right to dissent and say, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

    Now, most supporters of the PEIP would qualify this principle. For one thing, Christians ought ordinarily to submit to the valid decision of their governors, spiritual or secular, even if it is incorrect. Only when it is impossible to comply in good conscience should one disobey. Moreover, Orthodox and traditional Protestants would deny that individual conscientious objectors can go out and form another (particular) church. A church requires real sacraments and a real ministry; since clergy ordained in the historic succession are ordinarily necessary for a real ministry, a body without this succession would immediately be suspect. In spite of this check, the PEIP may be unstable, prone to generating sectarian strife. Of this liability, the chaos in contemporary protestantism might be taken as proof. That thesis is, I think, harder to establish than many suppose, owing to the complexity of historical causation. In any event, when assessing an IP, it is important to notice the qualifications its proponents make. My comments on the nuptial analogy in #17 and #21 were related to this point.

    2. Reasonableness is notoriously difficult to define. We need to be careful with the concept because “reasonable” can be predicated both of persons and of beliefs. Over the summer I remember talking with friends from my old debating society about some legal cases in the news. I know these friends to be intelligent, well-intentioned, and generally reasonable people. When, however, I find myself disagreeing with one of them about the meaning of the constitution, I don’t straightway infer that the constitution admits of multiple interpretations. More often, I just think that the other person, though reasonable, is wrong about the particular case at hand. ;) That was in fact my reaction when left-leaning friends cheered on Judge Walker for his Prop 8 ruling, and when right-leaning friends celebrated the McDonald decision. I believe both cases were wrongly decided, and not just because of my ideological prepossessions–being rather conservative myself, I favor gun rights, but that does not change my belief that the federal constitution permitted Chicago’s ban. The upshot of this is that we should, I believe, avoid classifying a belief as reasonable or plausible just because habitually reasonable people hold it. Habits are not absolute and quite reasonable people can be wrong about particular questions, even when knowledge of the true answer is accessible to them. Granted, this leaves “reasonableness” as a rather fuzzy concept, but I suspect that the fuzziness is inevitable, and that any reasonable application of reasonableness will involve a large helping of common sense.

    3. In appraising the IPs we should take into consideration the self-understanding of the fathers. This is why I am uneasy with statements such as the following:

    If some of the church fathers believed that Nicene orthodoxy is not merely the correct interpretation of the Scripture, but also the only rationally defensible one, so that the interpretation is plain, they were wrong.

    Not all doctrines are equally plain, as most everyone will acknowledge. Still, I have difficulty believing the fathers would concede that heretical interpretations were rationally defensible in the sense of being consistent with the public tradition prior to their formal condemnation. This circumstance need not be a problem for the CIP in theory, since it is possible that persons instrumental in the development of doctrine would not understand what the divine providence was accomplishing through them. The trouble is that, if Newman is right, fathers like St. Athanasius and St. Basil appear not merely not to have understood how they were developing the Church’s teaching on the Trinity. Instead, they appear actually to have misunderstood what they were doing, inasmuch as they believed they were only restating what the apostles had taught. Had someone told them that they were doing more than this, I suspect they would vigorously have denied it. Perhaps you disagree, but candidly, I believe they would sooner have professed ignorance than have claimed to know dogmas about whose truth the apostles had left room for reasonable doubt.

    I made this point back in the original thread on KM’s reply (comments #117 and #133), where I quoted St. Gregory Nazianzen’s fifth theological oration and contrasted its test for calling the Spirit theos to the logical sequence of Newman. Besides Gregory’s oration on the Spirit, the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 is also occasionally cited in support of Newmanesque development. We can discuss the council in more depth later on, if you would like. Here it is enough to say that the citation is problematic for several reasons, the chief of which is that, after the conversion of Cornelius, the New Testament gives no reason to think the apostles were themselves divided on whether gentile converts should be circumcised. On the contrary, the evidence points in the other direction, viz. to the apostles being united but facing resistance from a faction which took it upon themselves to advocate circumcision.

    4. If the Magisterium in defining a doctrine serves an epistemically necessary function, then there arises a dilemma of the kind noted in comment #117 of the earlier thread. According to the CIP as you present it,

    the authentication of such developments [i.e. those “which go beyond mere paraphrase of Scripture”] as correct interpretations of the sources, primarily Scripture, and thus as articles of faith, is epistemically dependent on their being propounded as articles of faith by the authority of the Church, so that one must already know which Church has interpretive authority in order to know that her interpretations thereof are articles of faith.

    The difficulty with this appears when one examines the set of truths from the depositum that are epistemically accessible to the bishops who exercise the teaching authority. According to the PEIP, apostolic tradition is public in the sense that what the bishops can see of the depositum coincides exactly with what, in principle, any of the faithful can see. Definitions, then, do not serve an epistemic function, because they cannot convert a belief that antecedently was only more or less probable (a mere opinion) into a belief that subsequently is of higher status.

    The CIP is vulnerable to the extent it allows action by the teaching authority to effect this conversion. For if, prior to authenticating a development, the bishops have the same access to apostolic tradition as the faithful at large, then it would seem that they, like the faithful, must lack warrant enough to ascertain which among the reasonable interpretive options is correct. On the other hand, if, antecedent to the definition, the bishops have enough warrant knowingly to identify the correct option, then it must be asked how they acquired that warrant. Newman’s 1868 letter seems to answer that they acquire it “under the operation of supernatural grace” whereby the deposit is presented to their minds in a special way. Perhaps they do, but if so, the tradition is no longer public in St. Irenaeus’ sense. And because a definition then would increase the set of truths from the depositum that are epistemically accessible to the faithful, it would appear that “revelation” must be construed in a quasi-modernist manner if one is to go on holding that the revelation constituting the object of the catholic faith was completed with the apostles.

    Now, one can pass through the horns of the dilemma by dropping the epistemic dependence on the Magisterium posited by the CIP. That’s what the PEIP does. You have said that, in doing so, the PEIP implies that “the exercise of the Church’s full interpretive authority can only be justified when it’s unnecessary.” Yes and no… Because apostolic tradition is public under the PEIP, it is true, a definition is justified only when it’s unnecessary for knowing that the belief in question belongs to the deposit. But that doesn’t render ecclesial authority unnecessary simpliciter, since it leaves the disciplinary authority of jurisdiction intact.

    5. With regard to the criticism just mentioned, you have suggested that “the Jewish scribes and Pharisees could have used the same argument against Jesus.” Well, had the Lord claimed teaching authority while denying that his advent had ushered in new revelation, I think the scribes and Pharisees would have had a point. One of Newman’s sayings (Essay, p. 88) helps to explain this:

    We are told that God has spoken. Where? In a book? We have tried it and it disappoints; it disappoints us, that most holy and blessed gift, not from fault of its own, but because it is used for a purpose for which it was not given. The Ethiopian’s reply, when St. Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading, is the voice of nature: “How can I, unless some man shall guide me?” The Church undertakes that office; she does what none else can do, and this is the secret of her power.

    In another thread I quoted N.T. Wright’s criticism of Trent: “Eschatology in the biblical sense didn’t loom large, and indeed that was a key element in the Reformers’ protest.” The same could be said about the PEIP’s protest over what Newman writes concerning the Ethiopian eunuch. For, until the final revelation brought by Christ, the Old Testament prophecies and types were in fact more or less obscure; although they adumbrated what was to come, they did not necessitate belief in all the particulars of the Christian revelation. Thus, from Isaiah’s time up to Christ’s own, students of prophecy could only have had speculative opinions about the Messiah’s virgin birth and crucifixion and resurrection. When Philip expounded Is. 53, he did therefore explain something not plain from the text itself. He did this, however, through knowledge of the very things that the apostles were openly proclaiming. For this reason, Acts 8 does not by itself support the CIP over the PEIP. Something more is needed…

    To justify developments not necessitated by the public tradition from the apostles, the development thesis posits an analogy between the Old and New Testaments. Newman writes (Essay, p. 66):

    Nay, the effata of our Lord and His Apostles are of a typical structure… If then the prophetic sentences have had that development which has really been given them, first by succeeding revelations, and then by the event, it is probable antecedently that those doctrinal, political, ritual, and ethical sentences, which have the same structure, should admit the same expansion.

    The problem with this contention is that eschatology creates a relevant disanalogy between the two testaments. The old finds its fulfillment in the new; and as Mozley remarked, “We cannot argue from the development of the seed to the development of the fruit; nor from the growth of Judaism to the growth of Judaism’s consummation–Christianity.” The eschatological contrast is, I think, adequate to rebut the claim of an antecedent probability for the process of development that Newman envisions. And one can make the point stronger by considering how typology works.

    Previously we discussed the charisma veritatis certum of Adv. Haer. 4.26. The same chapter contains another famous line from St. Irenaeus:

    For every prophecy, before its fulfillment, is to men full of enigmas and ambiguities. But when the time has arrived, and the prediction has come to pass, then the prophecies have a clear and certain exposition.

    Although he speaks of prophecy, the same is true of typology: knowing the antitype is the key to seeing a type. This is important, because the gnostics happened to do what Newman and the CIP appear to say the Magisterium does when developing doctrine–only they held the Lord’s sayings were typical of the Pleroma, whereas Newman has them typical of such things as papal infallibility and purgatory. Irenaeus’ response to the gnostics was twofold: (a) apostolic tradition, which is fully public and historical, is silent about the Pleroma; and (b) if the gnostics were right, the tradition would become incoherent, and demonstrably so. It is (a) that interests us here, as I will try to show.

    A fine exemplar of the doctrinal development allowed by the CIP is the Bodily Assumption of Mary. The doctrine does not at all contradict the public tradition handed down from the apostles. There are also possible hints of it in the bible, the chief of which is Ps.132:8. The doctrine is, however, not traceable to the apostles in history, as F. G. Holweck showed a century ago. For this reason, the PEIP doesn’t count the Assumption as dogma, whereas the CIP, informed by Munificentissimus Deus, does. Importantly, the IPs differ precisely over according the belief the status of dogma, not over whether the belief is true, which it may be even if it is not eligible to be defined as de fide.

    Now, it is sometimes said that St. Irenaeus, in calling the Blessed Virgin the New Eve, was doing what the Papacy does in teaching the Assumption. If this is true, it would obviously support the CIP. The trouble is that, when Irenaeus compares Mary and Eve, he is, like Philip, using the new and final revelation brought by Christ to interpret what came before Christ. This is entirely compatible with the PEIP, and it is nicely illustrated in sections 32-34 of Irenaeus’ Demonstration. Irenaeus there discusses three types from the creation story: the virgin earth, a disobedient Eve, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The corresponding antitypes are the virgin womb, an obedient Mary, and the tree of the cross, respectively.

    In drawing these parallels, Irenaeus is not developing doctrine in any sense that would permit the Assumption to be dogma; for each of the three antitypes is well attested in the public tradition. Typology in Irenaeus gives a fuller and richer appreciation of Christ’s saving work, but it doesn’t yield new articles of faith. The reason is that the type cannot be more certain than the antitype. And if the Assumption is not certain in its own right, then it cannot become certain through texts like Ps. 132:8. The Psalm provides a point of departure for speculation about Mary; and whilst speculation can be profitable, it can’t suffice for dogma.

    To see this, imagine (counterfactually, of course) that the apostles were silent about Christ’s nativity. If they were, no amount of speculation about virgin earth and virginal disobedience could stand in for an historical tradition from the apostles and necessitate belief that these two things were types of a pure virgin named Mary who opened the way to our salvation when she said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Quite simply, in the PEIP, if the apostles had taught nothing about the circumstances of Christ’s birth, then the belief about Mary’s role in redemptive history would be eligible to be a pious opinion, but it wouldn’t belong to the depositum, whence all dogmas must come.

    Now, according to Behr (cf. comment #133 in the other thread), it is not Irenaeus but the gnostics who held that there are things necessary to be believed but which scripture and the tradition from the apostles in no straightforward sense teach–things of which the types are found in public tradition but the antitypes aren’t. This brings us back to point 3 above, for in allowing the Assumption to be an article of faith, the CIP doesn’t simply do something that St. Irenaeus wouldn’t understand. Rather, it appears to do something he did understand and rejected. For, inasmuch as the Assumption, although believed by many godly men for many centuries, lacks attestation in the public tradition from the apostles, Irenaeus could not admit it to be dogma without a large adjustment to his IP.

    Maybe he was mistaken… the Magisterium has never defined St. Irenaeus’ IP as dogma, and so the CIP can without contradiction imply that he was in error. But is it reasonable to think he was? After all, in commenting on apostolic tradition, Irenaeus wasn’t providing obiter dicta, but was fleshing out an idea of publicity that lay at the heart of his defense of the catholic faith. To exchange his conception of tradition for another would be historically significant; and unless the change really is necessary, it seems unreasonable, for so momentous an change ought not to be made lightly. Because I believe the PEIP is adequate for Church’s needs, and because the CIP seems to involve serious historical and epistemic difficulties of its own, I see the PEIP as rationally preferable.

    Best,
    John

  123. John, (re: #122)

    You wrote:

    Perhaps they do, but if so, the tradition is no longer public in St. Irenaeus’ sense.

    St. Irenaeus is not speaking of development of doctrine, but of what is taught publicly in the Apostolic Churches. What is implicit in the Tradition, but not yet taught-as-explicit, is public-as-implicit, but not yet public-as-explicit. So Tradition is “public in St. Irenaeus’ sense,” though at any point in time, more remains implicit within that public Tradition. To claim that “public in St. Irenaeus’ sense” means that the Tradition is exhaustively public-as-explicit, such that nothing more remains implicit within it, begs the question (against the Catholic), and makes St. Irenaeus out to be saying more than he actually says.

    And because a definition then would increase the set of truths from the depositum that are epistemically accessible to the faithful, it would appear that “revelation” must be construed in a quasi-modernist manner if one is to go on holding that the revelation constituting the object of the catholic faith was completed with the apostles.

    That too begs the question, by denying the notion of implicit truths contained organically in the explicit deposit, and over time shown to be present by the illumination of the Holy Spirit living in the Church.

    We cannot argue from the development of the seed to the development of the fruit; nor from the growth of Judaism to the growth of Judaism’s consummation–Christianity.”

    Sure we can. Judaism grew by anticipation, as the prophets strained to see what was to come. But the Church grows by contemplation, pondering the great mystery that has been given to her in Christ. In that respect, the Church is Marian. And this divine mystery cannot be exhausted, for the same reason that the Beatific Vision cannot be exhausted, namely, because the depth possible from the inside is greater than the depth possible from the outside in anticipation. Hence, it is quite possible to argue from the “growth of Judaism to the continuing growth of Judaism’s consummation–Christianity.”

    This is important, because the gnostics happened to do what Newman and the CIP appear to say the Magisterium does when developing doctrine–only they held the Lord’s sayings were typical of the Pleroma, whereas Newman has them typical of such things as papal infallibility and purgatory. Irenaeus’ response to the gnostics was twofold: (a) apostolic tradition, which is fully public and historical, is silent about the Pleroma;

    ‘Appear’ being the key word. The difference, of course, is that the secret teachings to which the gnostics referred, were secret, not implicit. And that makes all the difference, because what is implicit is secret (in the sense of not being public-as-explicit) even while public, but what is secret is not necessarily implicit.

    The reason is that the type cannot be more certain than the antitype. And if the Assumption is not certain in its own right, then it cannot become certain through texts like Ps. 132:8. The Psalm provides a point of departure for speculation about Mary; and whilst speculation can be profitable, it can’t suffice for dogma.

    If all the Fathers had to go on were Ps. 132:8, you would be right. But, they had much more than Ps. 132:8. They had Christ (the fullness of revelation), and they knew Him to be the Second Adam, and they knew Mary to be the Second Eve, and this leads to her perfect enmity with sin. Not only that, they knew the relation of sin to death, and decay, and Christ’s victory over death, and they knew that no Christians claimed to possess Mary’s relics. The knew Revelation 12. Over time, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, what was implicit in the deposit of faith concerning Mary’s Assumption became explicit (as Prof. Feingold explains.) The point is, it is quite a straw man to claim that the Assumption cannot become certain through texts like Ps. 132:8.

    Now, according to Behr (cf. comment #133 in the other thread), it is not Irenaeus but the gnostics who held that there are things necessary to be believed but which scripture and the tradition from the apostles in no straightforward sense teach–things of which the types are found in public tradition but the antitypes aren’t. This brings us back to point 3 above, for in allowing the Assumption to be an article of faith, the CIP doesn’t simply do something that St. Irenaeus wouldn’t understand. Rather, it appears to do something he did understand and rejected. For, inasmuch as the Assumption, although believed by many godly men for many centuries, lacks attestation in the public tradition from the apostles, Irenaeus could not admit it to be dogma without a large adjustment to his IP.

    That’s not a sound argument. The first premise is that the gnostics held that there are things necessary to be believed but which scripture and the tradition from the apostles in no straightforward sense teach. The second premise is that St. Irenaeus rejected the gnostics’ position. The third premise is that the CIP does something that the gnostics did. And the conclusion is that St. Ireneaus would have rejected the CIP. The problem with this argument is that either the third premise is false or the conclusion does not follow. (If you want to claim that you were merely talking about ‘appearences,’ that’s fine, but then the Catholic can simply point out that the reality concerning Catholic doctrine is different from what you describe to be its appearance, and that it therefore remains unrefuted, and not even entered into the rationality comparison at the end of your comment.) The third premise of that argument is false because, as I explained above, development of doctrine is distinct both from accretion and from historical retrojection of what was not implicitly there. St. Irenaeus was not claiming that there is nothing implicit in the deposit, that would later become explicit. He was writing about the explicit truths of the Tradition, and explaining how they are all publicly known (and knowable) in the Apostolic Churches. The gnostics were engaged in historical retrojection. But the CIP does not do that. So, if you precisify the third premise, it becomes: The CIP also engages in historical retrojection. And that is false (and begs the question). But if in your third premise you say merely that the CIP does something that the gnostics do, namely, bring out something that was hidden, then the third premise is true, but then the conclusion does not follow from the premises. For in that case, it does not follow from St. Irenaeus’ rejection of bringing out what is hidden [in the historical retrojection sense], that he rejects bringing out what is hidden [in the implicit-to-explicit sense].

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  124. Mateo: Jerimiah, do you not see that “the church” of Matthew 18:17 has to be the church that Christ founded, the church against which the powers of death can never prevail? If one is going to accept that the bible has real authority, does that not entail listening to the Church that Christ founded, and not listening to churches founded by men or women?

    Jeremiah: My response would be that whether or not I see this is irrelevant, I have commitments which I am bound to and my life is not my own.

    If you are a Christian, then I agree, your life is not your own, because your life belongs to the Lord, and those who know Christ as their Lord do what he commands.

    “Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Luke 5:46

    Through God’s gift of the inerrant Holy Scriptures, we know that Christ has told all of his followers that they are obligated to listen to the church that Christ founded. So the question that all Christians must ask themselves is this: Where do I find the church that Christ founded, the church that Christ promised against which that the powers of death will never prevail?

    The Catholic Church claims to be the church that Christ founded, but I don’t expect you to simply believe her claims because she makes those claims. But as a brother Christian, I do expect that you would obey what scriptures teach, and the scriptures clearly teach that all Christians must listen to the church that Christ founded.

    Jerimiah: Also, you asked “Never”. If GOD told me to enter the Roman Catholic Church I would do the same thing I do with pretty much everything else GOD tells me. I would write it down and submit it to those who have “rule over me” for them to weigh for veracity. If GOD is telling me that, I’m sure he will be telling the rest of the community of faith that as well and I will trust that together we will hear the Lord.

    Would you give the same advise to a Jew? Would you tell a Jew that is thinking abut becoming a Christian to wait until his rabbi and the rest of the Jewish community in his synagogue decided to convert also? My point here is that if you realize that the ecclesial community that you belong to is not the church founded by Christ, then that ecclesial community has no authority over you that supersedes the authority that Christ has over you.

    Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

    More to the point, my questions to you were these:

    What if God told you he didn’t want you belonging to a church founded by a man or a woman; that he wanted you to belong to the church founded by Christ?

    And this:

    … why you think your local church is “valid”?

    These are both questions that have bearing on determining where one finds “the church” of Matthew 18:17, which is the church that we see Christ founding in Matthew 16:18.

    Whether or not the Catholic Church is the church that Christ founded is a different question. The Catholic church claims to be that church, and she, at least, has a two-thousand year old history that gives some credence to that claim. There are also other Christian churches with a two-thousand year old history that claim to be the church founded by Christ, and those are the Oriental Orthodox churches and the Eastern Orthodox churches. My point here is that no Protestant church can be the church founded by Christ, because all Protestant churches have been founded by some man or some woman.

  125. Mateo,

    Briefly, The comparison of Protestants with Judaism is not valid based on Vatican II. You should read through this carefully before making such assertions. They do not help your cause. Frankly, most of you guys, as near as I can tell, came to a private conclusion about “truth” (as good Americans) and jumped ship. You have little conception, as near as I can tell, about truly functioning in community, spiritual or otherwise. (verses theory) This is one of the great strengths of the EO (for all their other weaknesses).

    To Bryan,

    A point John brought up which I would like to ask as well, my understanding is that the Magistereum has the authority to set forth final interpretation on what the Word of GOD teaches. How is the Assumption of Mary taught in the Word of GOD in any way? Is the typology of Psalm 132:8 and the imagery of Rev 12 what it is based on? I suppose I can see how this might be construed from those passages. I honestly would have said before that this is doctrine is an addition to the deposit of faith rather than a derivative of it. Maybe the sheer vagueness of the idea in Scripture is why it warrants such strong papal support….

  126. Jeremiah, (re: #125)

    The fuller development of Mariology came later in the development of doctrine, much as Pneumatology came after Christology, and ecclesiology came after both. Mary’s person and role are more hidden and silent. But the Spirit searches out even the hidden things. Understanding Mariology, therefore, requires more than merely turning to a set of prooftexts from Scripture, or a series of syllogisms; it requires a spiritual journey within the heart and mind of the Church (which is the heart and mind of Christ).

    I offered some recommend reading and lectures in this comment; I recommend pondering them carefully before approaching the dogma of the Assumption. The dogma of the Assumption is the most recently defined Marian dogma, and it follows from (and depends upon) the other Marian dogmas. That is why starting with the Assumption would be (in my opinion) exactly the wrong place to start. The order of learning should following the order of doctrinal development.To start with the Assumption, is, almost, to start with an implicit denial of the development of doctrine; and that would merely beg the question.

    Then, I recommend the two books by Luigi Gambero in the suggested reading, as well as the following lecture on the subject of the Assumption by Prof. Feingold:

    Prof. Lawrence Feingold – The Assumption of Mary

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  127. I’d like to add a point to the argument being (superbly) developed by Dr Liccione’s in his posts #22 & #96. Basically in #22 he lays out the CIP as opposed to the PEIP, though the terms and acronyms are introduced only in #96, and then shows why papal infallibility is logically necessitated by the CIP.

    First, he implies in #22, and expresses fully in #96, that the definition of papal infallibility could be objected to by arguing that it represents circular reasoning. To that, I say that a formal system may be rationally acceptable even if it comprises a case of circular reasoning provided that it features logical consistency at all levels. In particular, the CIP including a definition by the Church authority of its own infallibility (intended as recognition and not as authentication thereof) features perfect internal consistency. Now, what about other levels of logical consistency?

    One such level is external consistency: absence of contradiction between the definitions in the Corpus of the system and physical laws. E.g. the RC Church would be in an entirely different position now if geocentrism had ever been defined as dogma, which thank God it never was.

    But the level of logical consistency which I particularly want to focus on is what I call “extraordinary consistency” (miracles). After all, Christian faith is based on precisely that kind of consistency, as provided by Jesus’ Resurrection (Rom 15:14). And I want to point out the relative timing of three events in the period 1854-1871, two of which Dr Liccione mentions in #22: the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 by the Pope, the Marian apparition in Lourdes in 1858, and the definition of papal infallibility in 1870. Note particularly the order of the first two: if the Virgin had appeared first, the dogmatic definition of IC would have been a no-brainer. But by appearing AFTER the definition and confirming it (“I am the Immaculate Conception”), the message could be rightly construed as implying: “and by the way, see that the Pope can define dogmas by himself?”

  128. Bryan (#123),

    I’ve discussed St. Irenaeus with Mike before, and I mostly agree with his characterization of Irenaeus’ IP in #15 above. If you want to know more about how I read Irenaeus, please see the work by Fr. Minns I cited in the other thread, or chapter 2 of Fr. Behr’s The Mystery of Christ.

    Retrospective continuity is a major element of any Newman-style development thesis (cf. John Thiel’s Senses of Tradition). The seven notes themselves work only retrospectively; for they are designed to show it to be plausible that an authenticated development belongs to the depositum, whilst not necessitating the belief that it does. It is quite true, under the CIP, formal authentication does not add to the deposit in itself. Quoad nos, however, a development like the Assumption becomes necessary instead of ex convenientia precisely through the Magisterium’s act of definition.

    Now, lest there be doubt, I don’t deny the Assumption. There are persuasive arguments for it, but the arguments aren’t conclusive, which is why at the end of the day I suspend judgment. For more on the topic, I recommend consulting F. G. Holweck’s articles in the Ecclesiastical Review. Holweck was a devout Catholic; he prepared the entry on the Assumption for the old Catholic Encyclopedia; he also was theological censor for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. You can read his article here. When it says “to be continued,” jump down to page 257.

    Holweck’s article drew criticism from Alexander McDonald, the bishop of Victoria, BC. You can find his response here, which is followed by a rejoinder from Holweck on page 66. I think both are partly right. Holweck is correct about the historical evidence rendering McDonald’s appeal to the disciplina arcani tenuous (on that, compare the recent study by Shoemaker). McDonald, however, is correct that Holweck’s theological argument cannot necessitate belief in the Assumption.

    The upshot is that, if the belief is an article of faith, then in receiving it as such we must, as in the CIP, be epistemically dependent on its being propounded as such by the authority of the Church. On the other hand, if definitions serve no indispensable epistemic function, as in the PEIP, then the belief cannot be dogma, which is not to say it is false.

    Grace and Peace,
    John

  129. PS I agree, what is secret need not be implicit. The gnostics, however, as St. Irenaeus presents them, did believe the Pleroma was implicit in the Lord’s sayings. In fact, they ransacked the bible for intimations of the Dodecad, etc. On the difficulty this creates for the CIP, please see my comment #133 in the other thread, where I quote Fr. Gaffney on hermeneutics.

  130. John (#122):

    Since Bryan has already done a good job of dealing with a few of your arguments, especially about the Assumption, I shall proceed instead by addressing your points in the order you make them, and then sum up the results.

    1. You wrote:

    …The PEIP differs from the CIP not in its answer to whether the Church’s bishops have authority, but in its conception of their authority. Both sides hold that the bishops have an authority of jurisdiction, which includes the power to deliver rulings on controversies, and to have these rulings enforced within their respective communions. But whereas the CIP posits an infallible organ in the Church, whose formal definitions can be known to be correct antecedently and independently of the arguments in their favor, the PEIP denies that any one bishop or organ of the Church is thus infallible. I have called the infallibility of the CIP de jure to distinguish it from the de facto infallibility which Orthodox and some Protestants associate, for example, with the Nicene Creed, on account of its reception by the faithful.

    That is quite significant. We agree that, on the PEIP, the teaching authority of the episcopal college is purely disciplinary, not epistemic. That is to say, dogmatic rulings that are meant to bind the whole Church, and really do, do so not because what the bishops propound as articles of faith can only be known as such by virtue of their having been so propounded, but by some other criterion. But the criterion you introduce here, which I haven’t seen from you before, is “reception by the faithful.” So let’s restate the contrast of the IPs.

    On my account of the CIP, the triad Tradition-Scripture-Magisterium, as severally indispensable and mutually interdependent, together form the FPOF. But on your account of the PEIP, the Magisterium (whichever body of bishops are understood to exercise that authority definitively), does not form part of the FPOF, because it plays no epistemic role beyond that of Scripture, Tradition, and the sensus fidelium. Rather, the FPOF consists of Tradition-Scripture-Reception, with the role of the bishops being purely that of discipline, not that of distinguishing definitively between articles of faith and theological opinions.

    What surprises me about that is that it’s different from what I had previously thought you were arguing for. I had previously thought that you were arguing that Scripture and Tradition alone constitute the FPOF, so that only what is either explicitly stated in the early sources, or what can be validly inferred therefrom, can constitute the sort of doctrinal development that can be authenticated as an article of faith. But you don’t say that here. Instead, you say that a necessary criterion for identifying what counts as an article of faith is “reception by the faithful”; later on, you address the question of rational derivability in a way I had not anticipated, and that doesn’t posit such derivability as a necessary criterion for identifying articles of faith as such. With such surprises duly noted, I need to register straight off my objection to making “reception by the faithful” part of the FPOF, as a prelude to addressing your subsequent points.

    The trouble with making reception part of the FPOF is that it begs the question who counts as “the faithful.” For your purpose, it won’t do to say that the faithful are the people who accept the right propositions as articles of faith, because then reception can’t be used as a necessary, antecedent criterion for identifying articles of faith as such—which is how you now propose to use it. So where else to look? Every heretical group has claimed to be among “the faithful,” and some even claim to be the only faithful. It seems to me that there are only two ways to answer such claims: the CIP, and the PEIP as I had originally thought you were defining it. Since you reject the former, you’re stuck with the latter. But in that case, your IP stands or falls on the question what “articles of faith” can be established from “the sources” in a rationally unassailable way. For that would be the only way you have left of distinguishing articles of faith from provisional, interpretive opinions. For the reason I’ve already stated, invoking “reception by the faithful” as a necessary criterion for making the distinction, and thus introducing it as part of the FPOF, only weakens your account of the FPOF rather than strengthening it.

    2. And yet, apparently abandoning “rational unassailability” as an interpretive criterion for identifying articles of faith as such, you write:

    2. Reasonableness is notoriously difficult to define. We need to be careful with the concept because “reasonable” can be predicated both of persons and of beliefs. Over the summer I remember talking with friends from my old debating society about some legal cases in the news. I know these friends to be intelligent, well-intentioned, and generally reasonable people. When, however, I find myself disagreeing with one of them about the meaning of the constitution, I don’t straightway infer that the constitution admits of multiple interpretations. More often, I just think that the other person, though reasonable, is wrong about the particular case at hand…. The upshot of this is that we should, I believe, avoid classifying a belief as reasonable or plausible just because habitually reasonable people hold it. Habits are not absolute and quite reasonable people can be wrong about particular questions, even when knowledge of the true answer is accessible to them. Granted, this leaves “reasonableness” as a rather fuzzy concept, but I suspect that the fuzziness is inevitable, and that any reasonable application of reasonableness will involve a large helping of common sense.

    When I speak of “rational unassailability” as a necessary criterion invoked by the PEIP, I’m not talking in the first instance about the reasonability of people, but about the quality of formal inferences from assertoric statements in Scripture and other, corroborative early sources. I had been assuming that, on the PEIP, the doctrinal content of the deposit of faith consists in all and only those statements of doctrinal significance that are either explicitly made in Scripture or are validly inferable therefrom. If that’s the criterion, then a Christian is being “reasonable” when he accepts a maximally consistent set of such statements as the set of all and only the articles of faith. Correspondingly, that if he doesn’t accept that set, then he’s either unlearned or willfully irrational. A person who claims to be Christian, but who withholds assent from at least one such statement out of ignorance, obtuseness, or both, is being unreasonable.

    Now you say that “reasonableness” is a “fuzzy” criterion. And I agree it would be that in this context if it were the primary criterion by which the rational quality of the inferences in question were to be judged. But as I understand the PEIP, personal reasonability is at best a secondary, derivative criterion, the primary one being the formal quality of the inferences themselves. As I see your options, you not only can but need to admit that primary criterion of rationality for the sake of upholding the PEIP. If you abandon it, as you appear to be doing, then you’ve abandoned any claim that the early sources themselves are logically sufficient for distinguishing articles of faith from interpretive opinions, so that the correct interpretation would also be plain. Indeed, I’m prepared to argue that such a criterion is itself only an interpretive opinion. That clearly is not the result you want, but I don’t see how you can avoid it.

    Along that line, you write:

    Not all doctrines are equally plain, as most everyone will acknowledge. Still, I have difficulty believing the fathers would concede that heretical interpretations were rationally defensible in the sense of being consistent with the public tradition prior to their formal condemnation. This circumstance need not be a problem for the CIP in theory, since it is possible that persons instrumental in the development of doctrine would not understand what the divine providence was accomplishing through them. The trouble is that, if Newman is right, fathers like St. Athanasius and St. Basil appear not merely not to have understood how they were developing the Church’s teaching on the Trinity. Instead, they appear actually to have misunderstood what they were doing, inasmuch as they believed they were only restating what the apostles had taught. Had someone told them that they were doing more than this, I suspect they would vigorously have denied it. Perhaps you disagree, but candidly, I believe they would sooner have professed ignorance than have claimed to know dogmas about whose truth the apostles had left room for reasonable doubt.

    I have no doubt that the orthodox Fathers believed they were only presenting the teaching of the Apostles. But once again, we must distinguish. If by “the teaching of the Apostles” is meant a set of statements which the Apostles had made and that are validly inferable therefrom by rules of logic, it seems to me false that the Fathers believed they were only presenting that set again. The teaching of the Fathers which developed into Nicene orthodoxy was occasioned by serious disagreements not about what the Apostles had said, or about what is formally inferable therefrom, but about what their words meant. Hence the Fathers did not maintain, and could not have maintained, that Nicene orthodoxy was formally equivalent to the teaching of the Apostles; if it had been thus equivalent, it could not have resolved any issues that the words of the Apostles and the rules of logic could not already resolve. But what the Fathers did, by way of contributing to doctrinal development, went beyond that by supplying a paradigm for interpreting those very sources. Hence, what the Fathers meant by claiming that they were only presenting the teaching of the Apostles is that Nicene orthodoxy was materially, not formally, equivalent to apostolic teaching.

    So the question arises: how do we know they were right? If “reception by the faithful” is a question-begging criterion as I have said, then the only recourse for the defender of the PEIP is the criterion of rational unassailability. But that would be logically equivalent to saying that the needed interpretive criterion just is formal, logical equivalence with the teaching of the Apostles. Pace Behr, and for the reason I’ve just given above, that does not seem to be the criterion the Fathers were invoking. And if it wasn’t, what’s left is what the CIP says.

    Nevertheless, and against the CIP, you argue:

    According to the PEIP, apostolic tradition is public in the sense that what the bishops can see of the depositum coincides exactly with what, in principle, any of the faithful can see. Definitions, then, do not serve an epistemic function, because they cannot convert a belief that antecedently was only more or less probable (a mere opinion) into a belief that subsequently is of higher status.

    The CIP is vulnerable to the extent it allows action by the teaching authority to effect this conversion. For if, prior to authenticating a development, the bishops have the same access to apostolic tradition as the faithful at large, then it would seem that they, like the faithful, must lack warrant enough to ascertain which among the reasonable interpretive options is correct. On the other hand, if, antecedent to the definition, the bishops have enough warrant knowingly to identify the correct option, then it must be asked how they acquired that warrant. Newman’s 1868 letter seems to answer that they acquire it “under the operation of supernatural grace” whereby the deposit is presented to their minds in a special way. Perhaps they do, but if so, the tradition is no longer public in St. Irenaeus’ sense. And because a definition then would increase the set of truths from the depositum that are epistemically accessible to the faithful, it would appear that “revelation” must be construed in a quasi-modernist manner if one is to go on holding that the revelation constituting the object of the catholic faith was completed with the apostles.

    The key move you make in that argument is to attack Newman’s way of explaining how the bishops have epistemic warrant for their definitions that the faithful lack. And I’m willing to concede your criticism of Newman’s explanation. But that is not a problem for the CIP, because the CIP does not require that Newman’s explanation be correct. There is an alternative—one which, I would argue, is the only one fully compatible with the CIP itself.

    The bishops needn’t be thought of as knowing more, by grace, than “the faithful,” so that they have a personal epistemic warrant for their definitions that are not available to the faithful in principle. In fact, they should not be thought of like that at all. E.g., the content of the distinctive Marian dogmas of Catholicism was believed by the sensus fidelium long before popes got round to defining them. That was true even of the perpetual virginity of Mary, defined as dogma by Constantinople II in 553. Rather, the bishops and/or the pope need be thought of only as divinely protected from error when collectively propounding doctrines as articles of faith binding the consciences of the faithful. That doesn’t require that the bishops and/or the pope know more of the content of the truth than the faithful can or do know in principle; rather, they are protected by grace from error when they require belief in propositions that many of “the faithful” already see as true. That’s the sense in which they have authority that the faithful as such lack. Now on the CIP, their authority in that sense is indeed epistemic. But that’s not because they know more of the content of the Faith than the faithful; it’s because, by exercising the gift of infallibility, they enable the faithful and themselves to know that the doctrines in question are not just rationally cogent opinions which might conceivably be wrong, but are objects of the assent of divine faith, and thus are inerrant.

    Now as regards your section 5, I think Bryan has much of what’s needed to answer your remaining objections to the CIP. But I do want to say a bit more about your last paragraph:

    Maybe he was mistaken… the Magisterium has never defined St. Irenaeus’ IP as dogma, and so the CIP can without contradiction imply that he was in error. But is it reasonable to think he was? After all, in commenting on apostolic tradition, Irenaeus wasn’t providing obiter dicta, but was fleshing out an idea of publicity that lay at the heart of his defense of the catholic faith. To exchange his conception of tradition for another would be historically significant; and unless the change really is necessary, it seems unreasonable, for so momentous an change ought not to be made lightly. Because I believe the PEIP is adequate for Church’s needs, and because the CIP seems to involve serious historical and epistemic difficulties of its own, I see the PEIP as rationally preferable.

    My and Bryan’s arguments so far, I believe, adequately rebut the charge that the CIP has the problems you say it does. But when you say you believe that “the PEIP is adequate for Church’s needs,” it’s not clear to me what criterion of adequacy you’re invoking. Since I’ve been advocating the CIP as the IP which provides adequate criteria for distinguishing articles of faith from interpretive opinions, I presume you’re advocating the PEIP as adequate for the same purpose. But neither “reception by the faithful” nor “rational unassailability,” which seem to be the only two options available to the PEIP for the purpose, are adequate. So unless you’ve got one up your sleeve we haven’t heard about yet, I conclude that your argument is unsuccessful.

    Best,
    Mike

  131. Mike (#130):

    Thanks for your reply. For convenience, I’ll again go point by point.

    1. Your earlier understanding was correct; sorry for the confusion. The de facto infallibility I mentioned in passing above is something we’ve discussed before, back at Perennis, or maybe it was at Sacramentum Vitae. A belief’s reception by the faithful cannot stand in as a substitute for the belief’s attestation by the apostles. Nonetheless, reception by the faithful across time and across the world is a token of truth, in that it creates a presumption in favor of a belief so received. In the case of, say, the Nicene Creed, the presumption so strong as for it to be nigh inconceivable that the creed should be in error. Or so I think. This isn’t directly relevant to the contrast of the IPs, because reception is a proximate criterion for right belief, not a replacement for apostolic tradition as the ultimate criterion in matters of faith. As you know, I also consider fidelity to St. Irenaeus an important proximate criterion.

    2 & 3. One can be an Arian and be a generally reasonable, intelligent, well-intentioned person. I don’t, however, believe that an Arian reading of the New Testament is itself reasonable. Maybe it begins to look appealing if the alternative is the semi-modalist theology towards which some in the West have erred, but that’s a topic for another day… As for Nicaea, I very much doubt the fathers would have conceded that the scriptures are susceptible of an Arian interpretation. In comment #117 of the earlier thread, I quoted Richard Bauckham on the “two dominant ways of interpreting the development from New Testament Christology to the Council of Nicaea and beyond.” Like Bauckham, I believe the first way is “seriously flawed.” And to what extent a person sees no need for such a developmental model, to that extent he will fail to feel the key difficulty which Newman’s hypothesis is supposed to account for.

    4. I’m not sure I understand your response to the dilemma. Newman’s special grace is apparently out of the running. Now if, even prior to a definition, the bishops and the faithful alike can in principle have warrant enough to know that a developed belief is true, then how are the faithful epistemically dependent on the Magisterium under the CIP? Do you mean that whereas one can know that p apart from a definition, one cannot know that p is an article of faith prior to its definition? Since the two propositions are distinct, I agree that one could have knowledge of the former whilst having mere opinion about the latter. But it’s unclear to me whether that’s the route you’re taking. Also, could you show where Second Constantinople defines the perpetual virginity of Mary? I remember the Council calling her ever-virgin, but don’t recall a formal definition. If there is one, then Fr. Behr would be mistaken, for he has said, “the only aspect pertaining to the Virgin Mary that was ever recognized as dogma is that she is Theotokos.” Again, that’s not to deny the perpetual virginity of Mary–I believe it, as Behr presumably does, too.

    5. Regarding Bryan’s reply, please see my comments #128 and #129. As in point 4, it’s not clear to me what exactly you mean by “interpretive opinions” as contrasted to “articles of faith.” By articles of faith, do you mean things it’s ordinarily necessary to believe in order to be saved? If so, the PEIP has only a negative test, inasmuch as nothing can be an article of faith in that sense which is not demonstrable from scripture. It also has a negative test for doctrinal formulations more generally, ruling out interpretations which would make the apostles contradict in one place what they said in another (see my #133 in the earlier thread). The tests are related, because the demonstration in the first consists in showing that to deny a belief would require denying certain things plainly taught by the apostles. The tests, of course, leave many things that are not demonstrable from scripture but neither are contradictory to it. Some of these are apostolic and rightly upheld in the Church, e.g. Sunday worship and infant baptism. In the PEIP, such things are always concerned with secondary and practical matters; they aren’t articles of faith.

    Best,
    John

  132. John (#131):

    Before I get to the specifics of our present discussion, I just want to relate that discussion anew to its original point of departure. That is, or should be, of general interest. At this stage, I can only hope that catches the attention of people other than ourselves!

    The original debate of which our discussion is a spinoff was about whether sola scriptura, as a principle for identifying the FPOF, ultimately collapses into solo scriptura . Now it seems to me that, if said distinction is untenable, then your position is also untenable even on your own terms. Accordingly, I shall proceed on the assumption that you deny that sola collapses into solo. At the end, after scrutinizing your latest remarks, I shall use the results to clarify what I take to be your argument for that denial, and then critique the argument.

    You write:

    The de facto infallibility I mentioned in passing above is something we’ve discussed before… A belief’s reception by the faithful cannot stand in as a substitute for the belief’s attestation by the apostles. Nonetheless, reception by the faithful across time and across the world is a token of truth, in that it creates a presumption in favor of a belief so received. In the case of, say, the Nicene Creed, the presumption so strong as for it to be nigh inconceivable that the creed should be in error. Or so I think.

    OK. In light of that passage and additional ones, it seems to me that you’ve returned to using the “rational unassailability” of orthodox christological and triadological interpretations of apostolic tradition as the criterion for identifying their formal content as articles of faith. I have in mind such words as the following:

    I don’t, however, believe that an Arian reading of the New Testament is itself reasonable…

    and this:

    By articles of faith, do you mean things it’s ordinarily necessary to believe in order to be saved? If so, the PEIP has only a negative test, inasmuch as nothing can be an article of faith in that sense which is not demonstrable from scripture.

    For clarity, allow me to answer your question. What I mean by ‘articles of faith’ is not the set of propositions S that one must explicitly believe in order to be saved, but rather the set of propositions S* which is coextensive with the doctrinal content of the apostolic deposit of faith. Even if, as some have thought, S is only a subset of S*, I doubt there’s any uncontroversial criterion for determining which propositions belong to S* that do not also belong to S. But that is not a problem for me as a Catholic. With Vatican II, I believe it likely that many people are saved who, through no fault of their own, fail to give explicit assent to any of the propositions in S*, never mind S, whether or not S is smaller than S*. In general, what’s necessary for salvation is not assent to any article of faith in particular, but an inner disposition, aided by grace, to render the assent of faith to the FPOF as the Catholic Church identifies it, so that when one encounters a proposition presented by the FPOF for the assent of faith, one believes it. But that disposition can be present even when not manifest in explicit assent to particular propositions, so long as the obstacles to rendering such assent are involuntary. That’s what’s known as “implicit faith.” As Dr. Anders has shown, Calvin hated that idea at first, as do some Catholic trads today; but even Calvin eventually felt obliged to come round to a version of it.

    Now the concept of articles-of-faith I’m using is just the Catholic concept as I understand it. With that in mind, let’s return to the statements of yours I’ve quoted.

    If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that adopting a heterodox christology or triadology, where Nicene-Chalcedonian dogma is taken as orthodoxy, is not only erroneous but also unreasonable, and that the orthodox Fathers thought the same. Here, it is of the utmost importance to get clear on what you mean by ‘unreasonable’. In debate, I once told somebody that the law of non-contradiction—i.e. “For any statement P, it is not the case both that P and that not-P”— is a truth it would be positively unreasonable to deny. They replied, roughly: “No, it’s just an axiom in Fregean propositional logic. There are other logical systems, such as ‘fuzzy logic’, where that axiom doesn’t apply.” Now, was that person being unreasonable in the sense you mean in our theological context? Or is it like the snarky high-school student who responds to the proof of the Pythagorean theorem by saying to the teacher: “So you and Euclid say, but it’s still not obvious to me. How do I know you’re right?” If that’s the sort of thing you mean by ‘unreasonable’, I simply deny that dissenters from Nicene-Chalcedonian (NC) orthodoxy were, or are, unreasonable.

    NC orthodoxy entails such propositions as “Each of three distinct persons is the same God as the others” and “A physically normal man was not a human person.” If, upon hearing such statements, somebody were to respond: “There must be something wrong with interpreting the Good Book in a way that yields such strange results,” we might well agree that he’s wrong himself, but it would be too much of a stretch to say he is being unreasonable in the present sense. I think you would agree. I think you’d also agree that there have been plenty of people who’ve registered essentially that reaction. Are they all either fools or knaves? Hardly.

    But if the dissenter is not being unreasonable in the present sense, then in what sense, if any, is he being unreasonable? Is he being unreasonable in the way the Flat-Earth Society is unreasonable, i.e., just failing to recognize scientifically established fact as such? That answer won’t do either. For revealed theology is not much more like the empirical sciences than it’s like the formal disciplines of logic and mathematics. Rather than dilate on details, I’ll just give the general reason why: the doctrinal content of the apostolic deposit of faith, whatever that consists in, expresses divine revelation, whose core component is the “Christ-event.” For the same reasons that divine revelation in ur-sense is not discoverable by human reason alone, the true meaning of what’s contained in the media which transmit it to us—i.e. Scripture and Tradition—cannot be discerned by human reason alone. It also requires divine grace, present in the “subject” of apostolic tradition, i.e. “the Church,” as well as in the hearts of individual believers who belong to that subject. And both are necessary; for the latter without the former is just bosom-burning, and the former without the latter is preaching to the wind. So it’s not unreasonable in any pertinent sense I’m aware of for somebody to say: “I don’t believe NC orthodoxy is authoritative. It’s just one opinion among others. A rich and fascinating opinion; one that might even be true; but still opinion, not axiom or fact.”

    Of course we agree that the dissenter would be wrong to reject NC orthodoxy outright. But it cannot be fairly said that he’s being unreasonable just for witholding assent on the ground that some conflicting interpretation of the sources might be better. He might be a fool or a knave, but he’s not a fool or a knave just for not recognizing NC orthodoxy as authoritative. Given what revealed theology is, and is about, reason alone cannot show that NC orthodoxy is the only reasonable way to interpret the public, apostolic tradition. And if that’s the case, then citing what’s “demonstrable” from the public sources is not cogent as the key criterion for identifying articles of faith as such. In fact, it is idle.

    You also challenge me thus (emphasis added):

    I’m not sure I understand your response to the dilemma. Newman’s special grace is apparently out of the running. Now if, even prior to a definition, the bishops and the faithful alike can in principle have warrant enough to know that a developed belief is true, then how are the faithful epistemically dependent on the Magisterium under the CIP? Do you mean that whereas one can know that p apart from a definition, one cannot know that p is an article of faith prior to its definition? Since the two propositions are distinct, I agree that one could have knowledge of the former whilst having mere opinion about the latter. But it’s unclear to me whether that’s the route you’re taking.

    Here’s the route I’m taking. Prior to its being propounded as an article of faith, either by dogmatic definition or by the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium, a given proposition can be held as a well-founded opinion, but not as an article of faith, i.e. not as a proposition calling for the assent of faith as distinct from that of opinion. Examples of that would be how you and Behr seem to view the Marian doctrines other than that of “Theotokos.” Now according to the CIP, the only way to move a truth from the status of “well-founded opinion” to that of “article of faith” is to propound it infallibly, in a manner publicly recognizable as such in the exercise of ecclesial authority. Allowing no such criterion, the PEIP must have recourse to rational unassailability. But that criterion is unavailing. If a given interpretation of the sources is rationally unassailable, then a person who either rejects it or sees it as mere opinion is being unreasonable. Yet, for the reasons I’ve expounded, he is not being unreasonable. Hence the CIP is rationally preferable to the PEIP as a way of distinguishing articles of faith from theological opinions.

    There remains the question how all this is pertinent to the sola-sola issue. Here’s how. If the PEIP were the best IP, then the teaching authority of “the Church” would be dispensable in principle for the purpose of discerning articles of faith in the sources. It would only be necessary in practice, for the disciplinary purpose of calling out the errant and recalcitrant. That is how the authority of the Church functions on the sola model, which I assume you subscribe to. But that would only be the true situation if rational unassailability were the key criterion for making the interpretive discernments. For the reasons I’ve explained, that setup doesn’t work for the purpose. Hence, all that’s left is the individual as the ultimate interpretive authority. Sola collapses into solo.

    Best,
    Mike

  133. Mike (#132):

    I can’t tell whether anyone’s still following along, but thanks for keeping up the discussion. I don’t have much invested in theSolaSolo distinction; to me they look to differ by degree, not by kind. Usually, I try to avoid slogans like sola scriptura because of the baggage that comes in their train. I’ve done so in these threads because what separates the IPs is not primarily their outlooks towards scripture, but towards the tradition from the apostles, wherever the latter is found.

    Or is it like the snarky high-school student who responds to the proof of the Pythagorean theorem by saying to the teacher: “So you and Euclid say, but it’s still not obvious to me. How do I know you’re right?” If that’s the sort of thing you mean by ‘unreasonable’, I simply deny that dissenters from Nicene-Chalcedonian (NC) orthodoxy were, or are, unreasonable.

    Why must the kid be snarky? Even intelligent, generally reasonable, well-meaning people have blindspots. With that caveat, the analogy is serviceable. For, the student need not be epistemically dependent on his instructor in order to see that the theorem is true. As you know, it’s common in mathematics courses for instructors to gloss over a complicated proof. They’ll provide a suggestive argument, then waive their hands and say, “if you want to learn the formal proof, sign up for real analysis next semester.” Most students don’t need the rigorous demonstration, but it’s important that the demonstration be accessible to them in principle. If it weren’t accessible, the teacher’s accountability would be diminished. He could then pass off his mere opinions as knowledge–which is, more or less, what Protestants and Orthodox believe Catholicism has done with its distinctive doctrines.

    Now, a demonstration in religion is not the same as a demonstration in mathematics. Standards of proof vary from one discipline to another, and revealed theology is more akin to history than to geometry. Although one cannot provide a logically airtight proof in history, that hardly should bother anyone. Anatoly Fomenko’s New Chronology is a logically possible interpretation of the evidence, but I have no qualms about saying it’s false. A construal of “rational unassailability” according to which one cannot have knowledge but only opinion about the New Chronology’s falsehood would itself be unreasonable. I’d say the same about a construal of “rational unassailability” according to which the public tradition from the apostles must needs leave room for reasonable doubt about Arianism’s being false. For clarification, could you please state in which respects (if any) you disagree with what Richard Bauckham says below?

    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. [Jesus and the God of Israel, pp. 57-8]

    Moving on, you write:

    Prior to its being propounded as an article of faith, either by dogmatic definition or by the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium, a given proposition can be held as a well-founded opinion, but not as an article of faith, i.e. not as a proposition calling for the assent of faith as distinct from that of opinion.

    Are you using the “assent of faith” in a volitional or an epistemic sense? I ask, not to be a pain, but because it’s still unclear to me what exactly the epistemic dependence is, or how you understand a “well-founded opinion” to differ from an article of faith. Let p be “The Son is divine with the same divinity as the Father.” Is it your understanding that warrant enough to know that p is not (in principle) accessible to the faithful prior to and apart from p‘s being formally propounded? Or do you mean that, prior to p‘s being formally propounded, the faithful merely lack adequate warrant to know that p is to receive the assent of faith? (Or something else?)

    Best,
    John

  134. Mike and John,

    I’ve been reading along, thanks gents.

    John you said:

    I don’t have much invested in the Sola -Solo distinction; to me they look to differ by degree, not by kind. Usually, I try to avoid slogans like sola scriptura because of the baggage that comes in their train. I’ve done so in these threads because what separates the IPs is not primarily their outlooks towards scripture, but towards the tradition from the apostles, wherever the latter is found.

    I thought the Protestant maxim was sola scriptura not sola apostolica. Most if not all of my formal theological training is Protestant, so I’m confused how the sola/solo distinction is simply one by degree. That seems to admit, at least in part, to what Neal and Bryan’s original article contends. If the 21st century sola is apostolica, then I think it admits to solo since it is irrational to say a Protestant, which is hereditarily non-apostolic by definition (the magisterial reformers were looking to clean house in the beginning but that devolved into a full-scale plan for re-build in the end) can only be apostolic in virtue of a solo judgment that church “x” holds the same FPOF as the apostles, or even simply that “I” hold the same FPOP as the apostles. This shared gnosis is what makes the protestant apostolic??? I guess.

    Why must the kid be snarky? Even intelligent, generally reasonable, well-meaning people have blindspots. With that caveat, the analogy is serviceable. For, the student need not be epistemically dependent on his instructor in order to see that the theorem is true. As you know, it’s common in mathematics courses for instructors to gloss over a complicated proof. They’ll provide a suggestive argument, then waive their hands and say, “if you want to learn the formal proof, sign up for real analysis next semester.”

    Now, a demonstration in religion is not the same as a demonstration in mathematics. Standards of proof vary from one discipline to another, and revealed theology is more akin to history than to geometry.

    (As an aside, this demonstrates just how upside down the hierarchy of knowledge has become; scientia divina doesn’t exist in the Protestant IP; but you are right mathematics and history are about as far from each other as possible, just not sure theology and history are so close)

    I don’t think Mike was trying to set such a high bar for rationality. Rather, to use the Thomistic maxim, “the first object the intellect conceives is being; being embodied in an essence able to be sensed.” A 3 month old can do this. However, it would seem easy to demonstrate that if the first intuition of being is that A is than a very close subsequent intuition is that A is not not A, which is the principal of non-contradiction (you can say you disagree with it but you can’t think it).

    Its reasonable that Arius read scripture and thought that by his interpretation it is not possible for both propositions to be right and to hold to his position until proven otherwise. He is not beyond reason to hold to his position since St. Nicholas’s position and his are at odds. Fomenko’s theory would make holding the “embryonic” theory unreasonable. Why? Aren’t there enough scholars who hold to the later?
    But, having now moved the loci of the argument onto the apostles themselves, you make this more of a moving target (something I’m going to think about all of today). Fomenko is using the historical-critical method of Bibical exegesis. So I’m not sure how he helps us pull the chord on the sola/solo parachute. Conclusion: critics of St. Nicholas and Fomenko are both reasonable and we are back to where we started.

    Regarding rational unassailability (RA), you have suggested that the student has real doubts about Pythagorean theory (due to a gloss), which would seem to me to be rational. However, you say that if the advanced demonstration is available, those doubts would be possibly assuaged. That is RA just kicked down the road a bit.

    To your last question, and I’ll speak for myself, but Mike will correct me if I error I’m sure, it would be unreasonable to claim that access to p as an epistemic value is generally impossible without being propounded by the Church. However, the question is whether or not I am reasonable to hold p as a part of the FPOF without the formal articulation of the Church. In Ephesus, a consensus of the faithful waited on pins and needles to hear the word “Theotokos” and when they did they feted the bishops in the streets. 1,500 years later, a consensus of the faithful waited for the word “Contraception” and they got no such reply. The difference demonstrates that the FPOF in a Catholic IP is dependent upon the Magisterium; nonetheless, Catholics will reject church teachings and will then cease to hold a CIP but rather a PIP. Bryan talks about this idea in the Summa Theologicahere.

    Lastly, I can hold g as an epistemic value where g is Arius’s position, and it seems I am reasonable to do so. Thus, we are saying, according to the PIP which implies RA, you are not able to hold p up and against all rational assault. In the CIP it is reasonable because we do not require RA.

    Regards,

    Brent

  135. John (#133):

    Allow me to work backwards, from the end of your comment. That will serve to clarify as we move up.

    You write:

    Are you using the “assent of faith” in a volitional or an epistemic sense? I ask, not to be a pain, but because it’s still unclear to me what exactly the epistemic dependence is, or how you understand a “well-founded opinion” to differ from an article of faith. Let P be “The Son is divine with the same divinity as the Father.” Is it your understanding that warrant enough to know that P is not (in principle) accessible to the faithful prior to and apart from P‘s being formally propounded? Or do you mean that, prior to P‘s being formally propounded, the faithful merely lack adequate warrant to know that p is to receive the assent of faith? (Or something else?)

    Though by no means perfect, Newman’s The Grammar of Assent strikes me as the best account so far of how to distinguish the assent of faith from other sorts of assent. But for now, note that I’m using ‘the assent of faith’ (AF) in both senses. The AF is epistemic in that, by rendering AF to some statement P that expresses part of the content of the apostolic deposit of faith, one not only affirms that P but also knows that it expresses part of the content of said deposit. But that is not knowledge that P is itself a truth; for if P indeed expresses part of said deposit, then its truth can be apprehended only by faith, not by knowledge. Now the AF is also volitional in that it’s freely chosen, not compelled by a demonstration, in the way assent to the Pythagorean Theorem is compelled once one understands the proof. That point is essential; for if AF were compelled in the above way, it would not be an assent of faith, but of reason.

    I’ve sometimes heard the objection that such an approach to the concept of AF misapplies the distinction between freedom and compulsion. Thus, if one assumes as a premise that Scripture is the inerrant Word of God (whether or not it’s formally or materially sufficient for expressing the apostolic tradition), then whatever can be logically deduced therefrom has been “demonstrated” in the sense that it must be true given the premise. If that’s the case, then the person who assents to the premise and understands the demonstration is compelled to assent to the conclusions, and thereby knows them to be truths. I grant that. But it’s also irrelevant. For one can only hold the premise itself by AF, and AF is logically “inheritable”: whatever may be validly inferred from a proposition held by AF is itself held by AF, especially if the chain of reasoning is not strictly deductive, but includes valid inductive inferences. So long as the original premise or set of premises is held by an AF that is free, then whatever is validly inferable therefrom is held by an AF that is free.

    With all that understood, I can answer your other questions: “Is it your understanding that warrant enough to know that P is not (in principle) accessible to the faithful prior to and apart from P‘s being formally propounded? Or do you mean that, prior to P‘s being formally propounded, the faithful merely lack adequate warrant to know that p is to receive the assent of faith? (Or something else?)” If I understand that first question rightly, my answer is “yes.” Although anybody, not just “the faithful,” can make inferences from the sources and know some of them to be valid as inferences without relying on an infallible certifier and interpreter of the sources, those inferences can never yield knowledge that what is thereby inferred is true. That’s because what they are inferred from cannot itself be known to be true: the sources themselves can be affirmed as truth-transmitting only by AF, which is not the same as the acquisition of knowledge that what they transmit is true, because faith is not knowledge.

    That brings me to your second question. The answer is also “yes.” Given the nature of revealed theology as distinct from the formal and natural sciences, there is no fixed, publicly accessible, and generally accepted method for determining either when the inductive inferences made from the sources are valid or how to delimit the sources, allegedly forming the original object for AF, which supply the premises needed even for deductive inferences. And so the faithful cannot, without the authority of an infallible certifier and interpreter of the sources, assent to the results of their inferences with the assent of faith as distinct from opinion.

    All that is why I, as a Catholic, present the FPOF as I do. Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterium together form the FPOF, in that they are severally necessary and mutually interdependent. What’s contained by the first two, i.e. the apostolic tradition, is ontically prior inasmuch as the apostolic tradition itself transmits divine revelation, which does not depend on the Magisterium either for its origin or for its truth. But the Magisterium, as infallible certifier and interpreter of the first two, is epistemically prior inasmuch as those sources can be neither received nor reliably interpreted as transmitters of divine revelation without the Church, for which the Magisterium alone speaks definitively. Thus the “subject” of apostolic tradition, the Church with her Magisteriium, is necessary both for identifying and delimiting the sources containing that tradition and for rendering AF to propositions, inferred therefrom, which express what’s thereby contained.

    You write:

    A construal of “rational unassailability” according to which one cannot have knowledge but only opinion about the New Chronology’s falsehood would itself be unreasonable. I’d say the same about a construal of “rational unassailability” according to which the public tradition from the apostles must needs leave room for reasonable doubt about Arianism’s being false. For clarification, could you please state in which respects (if any) you disagree with what Richard Bauckham says below?

    To answer your closing question: Bauckham’s position is reasonable, but it is only an opinion; it cannot be known to be true. Why? For the reason I stated above: “there is no fixed, publicly accessible, and generally accepted method for determining either when the inductive inferences made from the sources are valid or how to delimit the sources, allegedly forming the original object for AF, which supply the premises needed even for deductive inferences.” As Bryan Cross has argued elsewhere (I can’t recall where at the moment), while Nicene Christology emerges as the only reasonable one if we interpret some key terms and phrases in the NT in a certain way, there’s no antecedent logical necessity for interpreting them in that way, or even for accepting the canonical books as the only normatively relevant sources of information. An interpretation such as Bauckham’s is thus reasonable, but not demonstrative; and for that very reason, some-or-other “developmental model” is more reasonable.

    Before moving on, I should register my unease with your rather strict focus on Arianism as the relevant interpretive alternative to NC orthodoxy. As you know, and as Dorothy Sayers delightfully recounted in Creed or Chaos?, there not only were but are many known heresies incompatible with NC orthodoxy. In the 4th century, there were even various forms of “subordinationism” besides pure Arianism. Indeed, Arianism became such a serious issue only because pre-Nicene theology did not, from a logical standpoint, decisively rule out any form of subordinationism that would turn out to be incompatible with NC orthodoxy. What was and is needed is a set of criteria for determining orthodoxy that would resolve such ambiguities. That itself took time to develop sufficiently.

    You write:

    I don’t have much invested in the Sola -Solo distinction; to me they look to differ by degree, not by kind. Usually, I try to avoid slogans like sola scriptura because of the baggage that comes in their train. I’ve done so in these threads because what separates the IPs is not primarily their outlooks towards scripture, but towards the tradition from the apostles, wherever the latter is found.

    I know that’s what you think, but I don’t believe the distinction you cite makes a difference. Given your “publicity” criterion for identifying what belongs to the “apostolic tradition,” you are obliged to hold that Scripture suffices to obviate unwritten Tradition as a source of knowledge of what the apostolic tradition contains. Whether you want to call that the “formal” or the “material” sufficiency of Scripture is not important. In either case, on your view “Tradition” functions epistemically only as the tradition of interpreting Scripture rightly, which is what I understand Behr’s position to be. So long as you’re obliged to hold Scripture sufficient in the above-described sense, you’re committed to a version of sola scriptura. So if you hold that the sola-solo distinction is merely “a matter of degree,” then it’s not clear how you can distinguish your way of identifying doctrinal orthodoxy from the way the faithful as such are obliged to follow.

    Best,
    Mike

  136. Brent (#134):

    You concluded:

    Thus, we are saying, according to the PIP which implies RA, you are not able to hold p up and against all rational assault. In the CIP it is reasonable because we do not require RA.

    That’s almost right, except that I wouldn’t say that, on the PIP, “p” cannot stand up to all “rational assault.” In my opinion, the PIP allows for showing that NC orthodoxy is a more reasonable interpretive option than the alternatives. What the PIP cannot show is that the more reasonable interpretive option yields an object for the assent of faith, as distinct from that of opinion.

    Best,
    Mike

  137. Brent (#134) and Mike (#135):

    Thanks for your comments. Because they overlap, I’d like to take them together.

    Another of Newman’s sayings is helpful for probing how the IPs diverge. He writes in his 1868 letter,

    I wish to hold that there is nothing which the Church has defined or shall define but what an Apostle, if asked, would have been fully able to answer and would have answered, as the Church has answered, the one answering by inspiration, the other from its gift of infallibility

    Both sides agree that apostolic tradition is normative. According to the PEIP, the faithful can reliably identify what the apostles taught without leaning on definitions from the Magisterium. They can do this because apostolic tradition is public in a meaningful sense. Thus, in the PEIP, when the Church forbids an erroneous interpretation of scripture, it does so because the interpretation is contrary to what the apostles publicly taught. The bishops have no special ability to divine what the apostles would have said. When they reject an heretical interepretation, they do so not merely because it is at odds with what the apostles would say, but because it is contrary to what the apostles in point of fact did say.

    The CIP relaxes this standard. I see a couple reasons why it does so. The first is that Catholicism has dogmas which by all accounts cannot be traced to the apostles historically. The Bodily Assumption of Mary is a fine example. Now, that it cannot be traced to the apostles doesn’t make it false. The belief is plausible, and it’s conceivable that, had one asked the apostles about it, they would have answered that it’s true. But in the PEIP, the standard is not what the apostles would have said, but what they actually did say. As a result, the PEIP leaves the Assumption as a theological opinion, not a dogma.

    Now, there are a couple interesting responses I’ve seen to what the PEIP does here. Mike, in another thread you wrote,

    If somebody were to assert, categorically: “The Virgin Mary was not assumed bodily into heaven; her body rotted in the ground, and anybody who says otherwise is delusional,” they would have indeed fallen away completely from the divine and catholic faith, because they are contraposing to the authority of the Magisterium and the Catholic sensus fidelium a claim that they cannot know to be true, and are thereby rejecting the authority of the Church contumaciously.

    Well, let’s suppose some rake composed a ballad that began, “Blessed Mary’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave, but her soul goes marching on.” The PEIP doesn’t by any means prevent the Church from rebuking him. He’s being a troublemaker, and if he refuses to heed the rebuke, his obstinancy would deserve discipline. Persisting in it could even earn him excommunication. So far the IPs agree. Where they part ways is in the status they accord the belief being denied. Catholicism doesn’t merely forbid stirring up discord through overt denial of the Assumption. It requires a positive affirmation of the doctrine, on the grounds that it has formally been defined “to be a divinely revealed dogma” (MD, 44). The PEIP asks how the Pope could know this to be true, inasmuch as the tradition from the apostles appears to be silent about the Assumption.

    This leads into the other response to the PEIP’s position. In holding that the Assumption is dogma, the CIP asserts that the belief is implicit in the apostles’ teaching as that teaching has come down to us. The trouble is that, as I’ve noted, the gnostics said the same about their thirty aeons. In fact, they alleged that there were intimations of the aeons scattered throughout the New Testament. Indeed, many a gnostic held that apostles knew of the Pleroma and would have attested it, even though they left no explicit public testimony. This is one reason why the CIP, in that it allows things to be dogma which the apostles merely would have said, looks quasi-gnostic to the PEIP.

    The other reason for the CIP’s relaxing the standard is that, in addition to doctrines which by all accounts cannot be traced to the apostles through history, Catholicism also has doctrines which by some accounts are traceable but by others aren’t. This becomes a sort of tu quoque wielded against Protestants and Orthodox, because it’s asserted that the latter, too, affirm doctrines which aren’t necessitated by the apostles’ testimony. Nicene orthodoxy is the premier example; proponents of the CIP often hypothesize that, besides the Nicene, there are also unorthodox theologies which are reasonable interpretations of what the apostles said.

    To this, the PEIP answers that the CIP concedes too much. It’s true, there are scholars who disagree with Behr and Bauckham’s assessment of the road from the New Testament to Nicaea. The PEIP is simply unfazed by their arguments. If that makes Protestants and Orthodox look positively unreasonable, so be it. Caricatures bring out distinctive features, and if you can excuse some exagerration, the IPs seem to address each other as follows:

    CIP: “You Orthodox and Protestants should be more afraid of critical scholarship. Your position is untenable because the heretics, though wrong, had more going for them than you admit.”

    PEIP: “Nope, the heretical interpretations were and are unreasonable, and for Christians to think otherwise amounts to a failure of nerve before the onslaught of liberalism.”

    CIP: “C’mon, you’re being thick skulled and unfair to the heretics. We can admit the apostles would’ve said no to any ontological subordination, but that they just weren’t clear about it. Thankfully, the Magisterium has cleared things up for us.”

    PEIP: “Nope again. You’ve sold the farm to buy your novel dogmas.”

    That puts too fine a point on things, but honestly, I think we’re at an impasse with respect to how far Nicaea is supported by the apostles’ testimony. Mike, you write,

    An interpretation such as Bauckham’s is thus reasonable, but not demonstrative; and for that very reason, some-or-other “developmental model” is more reasonable.

    Instead, I say with Bauckham that as an historical matter,

    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. […] The developmental model, according to which the New Testament sets a christological direction only completed in the fourth century, is therefore seriously flawed.

    Although we’re stuck at an impasse when it comes to the historical evidence, we can still engage the philosophical merits of the IPs. Since we’ve discussed the indentification of FPOF before, I’d like to take up something we haven’t gone into yet. Mike, you also write:

    The AF is epistemic in that, by rendering AF to some statement P that expresses part of the content of the apostolic deposit of faith, one not only affirms that P but also knows that it expresses part of the content of said deposit. But that is not knowledge that P is itself a truth; for if P indeed expresses part of said deposit, then its truth can be apprehended only by faith, not by knowledge. Now the AF is also volitional in that it’s freely chosen, not compelled by a demonstration, in the way assent to the Pythagorean Theorem is compelled once one understands the proof. That point is essential; for if AF were compelled in the above way, it would not be an assent of faith, but of reason.

    Are the Franciscans on board with Thomism being essential to the CIP? ;) If the will is coerced by the intellect such that possession of knowledge would preclude the assent of faith, then the will is not genuinely free. But because the will, unlike the intellect, can always withhold assent, I see no need to oppose faith and knowledge. And because I believe we can have authentic knowledge even of things that don’t qualify as scientia in Aquinas’s narrow sense, I don’t feel the need for so strict construal of RA as would leave any logically possible interpretation of the NT unassailable. I’m happy to concede that with enough ad hoc suppositions one can read the NT coherently in an Arian or a Macedonian way. So too, with enough epicycles, one can fit the available data to a Ptolemaic cosmology; and with enough creativity, one can discover any conceivable right in the US constitution. Nonetheless, people can know geocentrism to be wrong, much as they also can know that there isn’t a right to SSM in the constitution. I think it’s common sense that any epistemological standard that leaves those beliefs as not knowledge but mere opinions is too exacting. And the same goes, I think, for standards of RA that are not attuned to the different ways in which (a) the Deity of Christ and (b) Papal Infallibility are implicitly “in” scripture (or in apostolic tradition outside scripture). To set those two interpretive options on a level seems unwise to me, inasmuch as it would send Christians careening towards a soft kind of hermeneutical scepticism, only to be rescued by the infallibility of the Magisterium. I imagine it looks different from within the CIP; what within the PEIP appears as an irresponsible conjuring up of the bogey of scepticism probably looks within the CIP as a virtuous expression of modesty before the authorities God has provided for his Church. I believe modesty is a virtue, but I don’t believe Christians are called to the species of modesty that is distinctive to the CIP.

    Best,
    John

  138. John,

    Thanks for your comments. First, to make this more engaging, I was unsure as to your response to one of my concerns/questions:

    Is the FPOF identified by all propositions “x” the apostles held that by solo judgment you can hold? In other words, the apostolicity of the PEIP is its shared gnosis with the apostles. If not, would you mind clarifying?

    It seems that you have made a good effort at addressing rational unassailability but I still have some problems. I’ll admit that if in the first century, everyone had a college degree, an iPad with unlimited 4g connectivity, and was reasonable than the PEIP works. Though I’m not sure it even works under those conditions.

    However, in an low-educated society, an oral culture, and in many places a syncretistic region, your argument was one of the reasons why I became Catholic. I made this paradigmatic shift before ever reading or considering the Catholic Church, so there’s no “you adopted the Catholic IP so therefore” going on here. It is just unreasonable to assume it works, and appears historically to be a novel narrative that only works better the further you are from the said sources. In addition, it seems reasonable that someone from this culture would come to many of the “hair-brain” heresies they came up with, but what PEIP seems to do is to say, “If you had only had what we had then you would not have said that” which seems to be arguing for some type of development or at the least saying that the PEIP isn’t taught by Christ or the Apostles since they didn’t have what you have now.

    I can admit that PEIP looks attractive up against Arianism, I’ll admit, Arianism is less reasonable than say, Calvinism or Methodism or even evangelicalism. But, Its always fun to pick on the little guy, always easier to push him down, but what about the other 3 I just mentioned? The Orthodox would call them heretical, but would you? On what grounds? Unreasonableness? Was Calvin, Wesley, or Billy Graham unreasonable? The Orthodox would call double-predestination and total depravity heretical, but are they unreasonable? Is saying a small hyper condensed creed guaranteeing you heaven unreasonable? Jesus said, “For God so loved the world….whoever believes…will be saved”. I’ll agree the PEIP works in a lab, but when you get it out in real-life scenarios, the wheels are falling off.

    Jesus said:

    “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

    What are we to do with this? What are we to do with contraception? Mary? In vitro fertilization? Homosexuality? Holy Spirit remind us of your words AND teach us ALL THINGS! Again, the PEIP in a lab seems to work for some of this, but when it gets out on a road course, the bumper falls off the first time it gets hit.

    Lastly, your example of the CIP and PEIP dialogue makes for a might makes right scenario. CIP says, “These guys with Ph.D.’s are being reasonable, but just not faithful to the Church”. PEIP says, “Nope, and if you think so you are a coward.” CIP, “That’s not fair. Even if the Apostles implicitly taught such and such….hmm, how do you know that?…well, never mind even if they did, it isn’t unreasonable per reason to hold to such and such position as say a Jehovah’s Witness or a Calvinist.” PEIP, “Wait a minute, I’m a Calvinist. Besides the point, you are a coward because you like your Marian stuff.”

    Really? That’s all we can do here? Doesn’t this devolve into, CIP, “Yes”. PEIP, “Nope, fool”???

    How about this:

    CIP, “You need the Church to define truth because according to the Apostles it is the ground and pillar of truth”. PEIP, “Once we understand Jewish monotheism properly, we can see…”. CIP, ” You can see what?” PEIP, “That PEIP’s right.” CIP, “How do you condemn more sophisticated exegesis that says contraception and homosexuality is right?” PEIP, “The apostles would clearly says that contraception is…ooh, you got me on that one. But if the Apostles understood the Jewish…”

    In summary, PEIP works great in the laboratory, great as a Kantian way of feeling better about the ding an sic, but on the playground seems to me to bow out upon the first big bully with a big ball who makes contact.

  139. Brent (#138),

    Thanks, I enjoyed reading your reply. Mike already knows where I’m coming from, but I realize I’ve not put my cards on the table in this thread. Like J. B. Mozley, I’m what used to be called an evangelical high churchman or a high-church evangelical. I’m broadly reformed and belong to a Presby congregation, though in the past I’ve been comfortable in an Anglican parish. I affirm sola scriptura and sola fide, but in a more nuanced and (dare I say) catholic sense than evangelicals usually give them. That’s why I try to avoid using the expressions–as labels for what I believe, they tend to make things murkier, not more lucid. With respect to what I said at the end of #137, I think part of my disagreement with Mike is that he’s a Thomist on the relation of will and intellect, whilst I’m more or less a Scotist. And on epistemology, where Mike might see Kant as a step forward from Hume (though still off), I don’t see Kant as offering much of an improvement, and instead look to Reid and the common sense tradition. That’s why I’ve been using Plantinga’s warrant terminology.

    I believe that what the apostles openly taught and transmitted to posterity is normative for the Church’s faith. The reason is that ours is a religion founded on historical testimony by Christ’s authorized witnesses. I don’t think the PEIP is novel; it’s there already in St. Irenaeus’ defense of the catholic faith against the gnostics. Because what the apostles preached is also what they wrote, I don’t believe there are normative doctrines which perhaps are typified but not straightforwardly taught in scripture. Now, that doesn’t mean everything found in the Church is itself clear from scripture. The practices of infant baptism and Sunday worship, for example, are well supported by the New Testament, but aren’t necessitated by it. The tradition outside scripture shows these practices to be apostolic, and thus rightly upheld, but I don’t see them as articles of faith, nor to my knowledge did the fathers (on this, compare Yves Congar).

    When there are conflicting interpretations of apostolic tradition, I’m comfortable saying that well-meaning people, even experts, are sometimes wrong about matters where it is in their power to know the truth. I think this is a common occurrence in life; it happens all the time in constitutional law. The PEIP gives no side a trump card of infallible authority. So, if we take a divisive teaching like the filioque, the issue has to be decided on its merits as an interpretation of what the apostles said. If to deny it would require denying something the apostles said, then the Church can impose affirming the doctrine as a term of communion. If, as I think, the doctrine is at best compatible with but not necessitated by what the apostles taught, then its positive affirmation cannot be required of the faithful on pain of excommunication. And if, being imposed, it creates division in the Church, those who separate from the bishop of Rome aren’t automatically in the wrong. Per the nuptial analogy, a woman who separates from her husband isn’t automatically in the wrong, either. Provided she went out for good cause and earnestly seeks restoration (though not at any cost), she is not being unfaithful, nor is she destroying the sacramental unity of marriage. This was the point of some of my earlier comments; for, separation from the RCC needn’t be parsed always as divorce a vinculo, which is not justified, as opposed to divorce a mensa et thoro, which sometimes is.

    Regarding specific issues, you write:

    What are we to do with contraception? Mary? In vitro fertilization? Homosexuality?

    –On contraception, I’m opposed to it and very grateful for Catholicism’s witness to more a humane outlook on sexuality than prevails in our culture, even among most Christians. My opposition, though, comes from my beliefs about the moral law, which is revealed to us primarily through intuition, not through written sources, which aren’t exhaustive about the details of our obligations. As a result, I don’t believe the condemnation of contraception can be an article of faith, though it falls within the bounds of the Church’s disciplinary authority.

    –On Mary, I take the same position that Fr. Behr seems to take. There is one formally recognized dogma, the Theotokos of Ephesus. Her virginity up through the birth of our Lord is also eligible to be dogma. Other beliefs are admissible opinions, some of which I affirm, e.g. the perpetual virginity. In the PEIP, these beliefs aren’t eligible to be dogma, inasmuch as we lack an historical tradition from the apostles. Still, rabble rousing in connection with them could earn the Church’s censure. By the way, for an interesting discussion of the Assumption, please see the articles by Holweck and MacDonald I linked to earlier.

    –On in vitro fertilization, I’d say the same things as on contraception. It’s illicit and the Church can and should say so, speaking the truth in love, but this isn’t an article of faith.

    –On homosexuality, I think the revisionist readings of the New Testament are about as reasonable as the revisionist readings of the constitution that support a right to SSM. Which is to say, they’re altogether implausible, and one doesn’t need an infallible interpreter to know as much.

    I recognize I’ve missed many of the concerns you’ve raised. I’m not dismissing them, but was unsure which things were most pressing. If there’s something about which you’d like to go into more depth, please let me know.

    Best,
    John

  140. John,

    First, sorry about the formatting issue. I typed “blockqute” instead of “blockquote”. I appreciate you reading in front of the white veil. To put my cards on the table, I’ll side with Mike on the will/intellect debate (though I’m not so convinced that Scotus leaves us with all the problems he’s attributed to, but you know Scots they can’t let something die), though I’m with you that Kant doesn’t get us anywhere further epistemologically than Hume, but he makes Newton proud. That’s Gilson’s point. By the way, great book by Congar (I can see it on my book shelf from here).

    Though to get out of this problem (Kant), I’ll follow Gilson, and not Reid (though I’ve not read Reid, so you can help me if I’m saying something unreasonable). Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean we are at a stand still.

    So to get the balling rolling again, I can appreciate your personal moral convictions, and it appears in the “common sense tradition” you feel as though you have rationally traced those opinions back to the apostolic data you can find and it is reasonable that you hold a NC orthodoxy and that orthodoxy is better than the alternatives. That’s good. Makes for pleasant sleep. The practical doctrinal points I mentioned, it appears were a partial strike-out for me, but that’s not a problem because what was really at stake is still on deck.

    Let’s get to what’s germane for my concerns and I’ll number them to make sure I don’t get off track:

    You said:

    where it is in their power to know the truth. I think this is a common occurrence in life; it happens all the time in constitutional law.

    You seem to me to be making theology into another type of “common sense”. Justice Marshal wasn’t a constructionist by any stretch of the imagination. Original intent sounds all well in good, but America (and all constitutional democracies for that matter) is still in the “test kitchen” to see if non-magisterial interpretation of an “authoritative document” works. It isn’t working, hasn’t worked, and won’t work. As my children rack up debt and marriage gets re-defined, “God save the queen” sounds better and better. The point, and Protestant America will learn it, a nation built on a document is only as good as its interpreter.

    I said:

    I can admit that PEIP looks attractive up against Arianism, I’ll admit, Arianism is less reasonable than say, Calvinism or Methodism or even evangelicalism. But, its always fun to pick on the little guy, always easier to push him down, but what about the other 3 I just mentioned? The Orthodox would call them heretical, but would you? On what grounds? Unreasonableness? Was Calvin, Wesley, or Billy Graham unreasonable? The Orthodox would call double-predestination and total depravity heretical, but are they unreasonable? Is saying a small hyper condensed creed guaranteeing you heaven unreasonable? Jesus said, “For God so loved the world….whoever believes…will be saved”. I’ll agree the PEIP works in a lab, but when you get it out in real-life scenarios, the wheels are falling off.

    1. How does PEIP handle modern heretical issues that NC orthodoxy doesn’t give us recourse to address?

    You said:

    Because what the apostles preached is also what they wrote, I don’t believe there are normative doctrines which perhaps are typified but not straightforwardly taught in scripture. Now, that doesn’t mean everything found in the Church is itself clear from scripture

    First, this isn’t true from scripture. (1) The NT isn’t set up pedagogically as a catechism. It just isn’t. It’s not exhaustive, its corrective. What’s implied is that where there is silence there is orthodoxy (Paul wasn’t worried about what 20th century theologians would try to do to his words when he was in prison). Words and ink were too scarce to do otherwise in the face of persecution. (2) the apostles admit to previous messages spoken, reflection on what they had taught, admonishment in forthcoming instruction, etc. all of which admits to extra-biblical instruction. I’m not implying something contrary to scripture, but we find this in the Sacred Tradition.

    2. Do you hold to this position I suggested here?

    John, you are obviously a learned and sophisticated gentlemen. My day job is the director for adults who need to learn english or get a GED for the county I live in. Reading through your posts, it is quite obvious that you do not fall in either category. I said:

    However, in an low-educated society, an oral culture, and in many places a syncretistic region, your argument was one of the reasons why I became Catholic. I made this paradigmatic shift before ever reading or considering the Catholic Church, so there’s no “you adopted the Catholic IP so therefore” going on here. It is just unreasonable to assume it works, and appears historically to be a novel narrative that only works better the further you are from the said sources. In addition, it seems reasonable that someone from this culture would come to many of the “hair-brain” heresies they came up with, but what PEIP seems to do is to say, “If you had only had what we had then you would not have said that” which seems to be arguing for some type of development or at the least saying that the PEIP isn’t taught by Christ or the Apostles since they didn’t have what you have now.

    3. How do you respond to that?

    God bless.

  141. Brent (#140):

    Thanks for your kindness. It’s getting late where I am, but I’d like to take a stab at answering before going to bed.

    1. The disagreement between the IPs isn’t quite about the ethics of belief. A few years ago I heard Nicholas Wolterstorff give a talk on the authority of reason. His major take home point was that there’s something deeply wrong any outlook that leaves the poor, illiterate widow in the pew as a second-class Christian. This, he seemed to fear, was the inevitable outcome of Locke’s conception of responsible religious belief. But the PEIP’s concern for the accessibility of tradition isn’t directed towards how individual Christians responsibly assent to the gospel. Rather, it’s directed towards how the Church assesses which doctrines to impose and which to forbid as terms of communion. What’s key is that apostolic tradition be accessible to all in principle. To go back to the geometry analogy for a moment, the student isn’t irresponsible when he takes his teacher’s word that the Pythagorean Theorem is true. But there is no necessary epistemic dependence on the teacher, because the truth of the theorem is accessible in principle to students and teacher alike. This idea of equal accessibility is what the PEIP understands by publicity. With regard to the constitution, its meaning is public and thus accessible to the same extent to rulers and to ruled. It’s for this reason that I can be confident the Supreme Court got Roe v. Wade wrong as a legal and not just as a moral matter. Now I agree, the courts have often messed things up in their rulings. But that doesn’t imply that the constitution lacks a public meaning. It merely demonstrates that, mirable dictu, fallible human beings have sometimes erred in their interpretations.

    2. In the section here on “Apostolic Tradition and Succession,” Fr. Behr nicely explains how the PEIP approaches the relation of scripture and tradition. I fully agree with you that the New Testament isn’t a catechism. But I don’t believe there are articles of faith to discover which we must go outside scripture. The reason is that, in Behr’s paraphrase of St. Irenaeus, “what the apostles taught in public is identical to what they wrote down.” And it’s the public teaching of the apostles that is normative for the Church’s faith. As to the status of the Nicene Creed, I believe it is without error. I also believe it is infallible in what I’ve called a de facto sense, as described in point 1 of comment #131. I’m not sure whether your question was about the “sure charism of truth” of AH 4.26.2. Mike and I have discussed that before; I take the same position as Congar. The charism isn’t a grace of infallibility that necessarily attends upon any bishop. As Congar observes, such an interpretation doesn’t really fit Irenaeus’ theology, and in context, the charism is more likely a personal spiritual gift of steadfast devotion to the objective tradition. Not all charisms have ceased, and I find no reason to think this one has, but that’s a big topic, and not immediately relevant to the comparison of IPs.

    3. Honestly, I don’t see the novelty of the PEIP… it worked fine in St. Irenaeus’ day, when people were no better educated than in the apostolic age. The norm is apostolic tradition; and if Catholicism could trace its distinctive dogmas back to what the apostles openly said, the PEIP would drop all objections. When it comes to contemporary theological disputes, Protestants and Orthodox play broadly speaking by the same rules, inasmuch as neither posit a privileged interpreter on whose authoritative decisions the faithful must be epistemically dependent. This means that if the apostles really were silent about something, then it can’t be dogma under the PEIP. Because the CIP recognizes an infallible interpreter, it plays the game by somewhat different rules. Catholicism can afford to be more relaxed about the criterion of apostolicity, because the Magisterium can certify that the apostles would have said something, even if they were silent or ambiguous about it. That spooks the PEIP, because it seems to undercut the publicity of tradition, and in doing so to surrender the ground on which St. Irenaeus took his stand. But proponents of the CIP seem either unpersuaded that their position implies Irenaeus was mistaken about tradition, or else they think that implying he was mistaken isn’t a big deal.

    Sorry if that’s still not addressing your questions. I’d be happy to try again, but for now, I need to get some sleep.

    God bless,
    John

  142. John,

    You wrote:

    A belief’s reception by the faithful cannot stand in as a substitute for the belief’s attestation by the apostles.

    Because revelation has ceased with the death of the last Apostle, and because the Spirit guides the Church into all truth, therefore, a belief’s reception by the faithful attests to its having been taught (either explicitly or implicitly) by the Apostles.

    nothing can be an article of faith in that sense which is not demonstrable from scripture.

    If by “demonstrable from scripture” you mean “follows by logical necessity from Scripture alone,” then your claim is neither in Scripture nor is a teaching in the Tradition, but is a novel tradition of [Renaissance] men. However, if by ‘demonstrable from scripture’ you mean “can, by the light of Tradition, be seen in Scripture,” then a Catholic can affirm it, in keeping with Dei Verbum.

    If it weren’t accessible, the teacher’s accountability would be diminished. He could then pass off his mere opinions as knowledge–which is, more or less, what Protestants and Orthodox believe Catholicism has done with its distinctive doctrines.

    A teacher on the natural order and a teacher on the supernatural order are not both subject to the same standard of rational demonstration. To claim otherwise begs the question, by denying that there is a supernatural order, by demanding that the supernatural be no less directly verifiable to human reason than the natural.

    and revealed theology is more akin to history than to geometry.

    You think about what has been divinely revealed as entirely past, as buried in books, when it is ever present in the supernatural life of the Church.

    According to the PEIP, the faithful can reliably identify what the apostles taught without leaning on definitions from the Magisterium. They can do this because apostolic tradition is public in a meaningful sense.

    ‘Public’ does not mean rationalism. The deposit is public within the universal Church, in the sense that it is found in her particular Churches throughout the world. But that does not mean that the full scope, meaning and truth of the Apostolic deposit can be independently determined outside the Church. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor 2:14)

    Thus, in the PEIP, when the Church forbids an erroneous interpretation of scripture, it does so because the interpretation is contrary to what the apostles publicly taught.

    If in the PEIP there was such a thing as “the Church,” such a statement would be coherent. But given the PEIP, there is no one universal thing that can forbid anything. There are local congregations of like-minded persons, and various denominations consisting of like-minded congregations. But there is no single universal entity that could forbid anything, or affirm anything. (See “Why Protestantism has no visible catholic Church.”)

    When they reject an heretical interepretation, they do so not merely because it is at odds with what the apostles would say, but because it is contrary to what the apostles in point of fact did say.
    The CIP relaxes this standard. I see a couple reasons why it does so. The first is that Catholicism has dogmas which by all accounts cannot be traced to the apostles historically.

    You are playing on an ambiguity in “cannot be traced.” You are using “cannot be traced” in the sense of cannot be historically verified. But “cannot be historically verified” does not mean or imply that the Catholic bishops have an ability to divine “what the apostles would have said.” Making explicit what is implicit is not the same as divining what the Apostles would have said; it is explaining what they did say. So it is false that “the CIP relaxes this standard,” and your evidence does not show that “the CIP relaxes this standard.”

    The PEIP asks how the Pope could know this to be true, inasmuch as the tradition from the apostles appears to be silent about the Assumption.

    And the Pope will explain in reply that the Tradition is not in fact silent about the Assumption, as I explained in #123. You assume that not-explicit means silence, as though ‘implicit’ is not even a category. And that begs the question.

    In holding that the Assumption is dogma, the CIP asserts that the belief is implicit in the apostles’ teaching as that teaching has come down to us. The trouble is that, as I’ve noted, the gnostics said the same about their thirty aeons. In fact, they alleged that there were intimations of the aeons scattered throughout the New Testament.

    Surely you’re familiar with abusus non tollit usum. The claim by the gnostics that their false doctrines were implicit in the Apostolic Tradition, does not thereby prohibit the Church from bringing out what is truly implicit in the Apostolic Tradition. So, this is not a problem for the CIP.

    This is one reason why the CIP, in that it allows things to be dogma which the apostles merely would have said, looks quasi-gnostic to the PEIP.

    If you wish to avoid the strawman, it is not “merely would have said;” it is “said implicitly.” The two are very different. And, “looks” gnostic is altogether different from being gnostic. No mere similarity between gnostics and Catholics is evidence that the CIP is gnostic, any more than similarity between your mug and that of a wanted criminal is evidence that you’re guilty of the same crime.

    besides the Nicene, there are also unorthodox theologies which are reasonable interpretations of what the apostles said.

    To this, the PEIP answers that the CIP concedes too much.

    As a Presbyterian, surely you are aware that Reymond and Breshears and Driscoll have denied that “eternally begotten” is an article of the faith. And Cornelius Plantinga Jr. embraces the social trinitarianism that follows from that denial. Surely you are aware that Wes White has declared that “baptismal regeneration is impossible in the Reformed system.” (See here.) Of course, I assume that you disagree with their rejections of those respective lines of the Creed (as those lines have traditionally been understood). Your reply presumably is that they are all being unreasonable, and you are being reasonable. But, that’s just too convenient, because it is entirely arbitrary. What reason is there to believe that anyone who, while holding to Scripture, rejects one or more articles of the Creed (or interprets it in way that is contrary to its traditional meaning) is being irrational? Such a claim, on your part, is special pleading.

    In addition, it is precisely at this point that the PEIP is self-contradictory, because the Protestants (within the PEIP) deny that dithelitism is an article of faith, while the Orthodox (also within the PEIP) maintain that it is. (See here.) So the Protestants (and you) must maintain that the 300+ million Orthodox holders of the PEIP are unreasonable, for believing there to be an article of faith that you deny is an article of faith.

    If the will is coerced by the intellect such that possession of knowledge would preclude the assent of faith, then the will is not genuinely free.

    This is a non sequitur. The will remains free even when coerced by the intellect to assent to first principles. That is why an attempt to deny them is culpable. According to Origen, the ‘law’ referred to in Romans 3:19-20 is the natural law, by which every mouth is closed and all the world accountable to God. But the natural law could do no such thing if intellectual assent to it were optional. We cannot but know the natural law, and yet the will remains free, even free to oppose what we already know.

    But because the will, unlike the intellect, can always withhold assent, I see no need to oppose faith and knowledge.

    Again, the strawman is unhelpful. Catholic teaching does not “oppose faith and knowledge;” it distinguishes faith and knowledge. In heaven, there is no faith, but there is knowledge. Hence, there is a real distinction between faith and knowledge.

    I believe that what the apostles openly taught and transmitted to posterity is normative for the Church’s faith.

    So do Catholics. One of the things that the Apostles taught and transmitted, is apostolic succession, which you, as a Presbyterian, do not retain. (On this point, the other half of your own PEIP believes you to be a heretic.)

    The reason is that ours is a religion founded on historical testimony by Christ’s authorized witnesses.

    Scripture does not say that our religion, or the Church, is founded on “historical testimony.” It says that the Church is built on the “apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.” (Eph 2:20) The Church is not fundamentally built on propositions, but on persons; and the propositions of the faith are found with the persons whom they authorized. And that’s why your rejection of apostolic succession leads you to a place in which, as I explained above, you have no catholic Church; you have only sets of congregations each united around various incompatible sets of propositions.

    I don’t think the PEIP is novel; it’s there already in St. Irenaeus’ defense of the catholic faith against the gnostics.

    No, it isn’t there. You are mistakenly assuming that St. Irenaeus’ argument against gnosticism is an argument against the CIP (and therefore an endorsement of the PEIP), but it is not, as I have shown above. Opposition to the claim by those not having the succession from the Apostles to have a doctrine that was secretly taught by the Apostles, is not the same thing as opposition to the unfolding and deeper exposition by those having the succession of what was handed down by the Apostles.

    Because what the apostles preached is also what they wrote, I don’t believe there are normative doctrines which perhaps are typified but not straightforwardly taught in scripture.

    Such a claim, again, simply begs the question, by assuming either that there is nothing implicit in what the Apostles preached, or that when what is implicit in what they preached is made explicit by the Church, the faithful need not believe it. Neither of those assumptions are part of the Tradition. They are rather products of the Enlightenment, and presuppose a denial that the Spirit of God lives in the Church, continually deepening the Church’s understanding of the deposit of faith. The Church has the authority to require the faithful to believe not just what the faithful can determine for themselves from the historical record, but what the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, understands in the Apostolic deposit. This authority of the Church is itself part of the deposit handed down by the Apostles, through the apostolic succession that you reject.

    If, as I think, the doctrine is at best compatible with but not necessitated by what the apostles taught, then its positive affirmation cannot be required of the faithful on pain of excommunication.

    Again, this begs the question, by assuming that there is nothing implicit; only what is [logically] necessitated. In your system, Christ and the Apostles handed down merely a set of propositions, like a set of lines of computer code. Only those lines and what is logically necessitated by them can be required of the faithful. But in the Tradition, the deposit of faith is Christ Himself, a living seed, and this seed grows not by addition or accretion, and not merely by logical deduction, but by organic unfolding as the Body of Christ grows not only numerically, but also in the depth of its understanding of the divine mystery.

    Other beliefs are admissible opinions, some of which I affirm, e.g. the perpetual virginity. In the PEIP, these beliefs aren’t eligible to be dogma, inasmuch as we lack an historical tradition from the apostles.

    Here again, the other half of the PEIP holds the perpetual virginity of Our Lady to be a dogma, and anathematizes anyone who denies her perpetual virginity. (Should we assume here again, that it is they, and not you, who are being “unreasonable?”)

    What’s key is that apostolic tradition be accessible to all in principle.

    It is, within the Church. But the a priori assumption that the fullness of what the Apostles taught can be found outside the Church in the writings preserved from the first century, is a kind of ecclesial deism. It denies that the Holy Spirit lives in the Church and not only preserves but also continually deepens the Church’s understanding of the Apostolic Tradition. Given your position, what we can know now of the deposit of faith is no more than if the Church had ceased to exist at the end of the first century, but all the manuscripts existing then had been preserved. The problem, of course, is that such deism is contradicted by the Tradition itself, and is therefore self-defeating. The Church isn’t merely a set of persons holding to beliefs logically deducible from apostolic manuscripts written in the first century. The Church is a living Body, and the Apostolic deposit lives in her, and is locatable in her, in the present.

    To go back to the geometry analogy for a moment, the student isn’t irresponsible when he takes his teacher’s word that the Pythagorean Theorem is true. But there is no necessary epistemic dependence on the teacher, because the truth of the theorem is accessible in principle to students and teacher alike.

    In addition to conflating the natural and the supernatural, this criterion does not fit with first century Christianity. The early Christians could not verify for themselves what Jesus had taught the Apostles in private, even if they could gather some things from what other people said or had written down (e.g. the first century equivalent of The Jerusalem Times). They had to trust the Apostles, through an act of faith in the divine authority of the Apostles. So likewise, in the second century those outside the Church could not verify for themselves the full scope, meaning and truth of what the Apostles taught to the early Church; they had to trust the successors of the Apostles in the Apostolic Churches. And it is the same today.

    But I don’t believe there are articles of faith to discover which we must go outside scripture.

    Again, this strawman presupposes the denial of implicitness, that what is implicit is illumined and made explicit by the oral Tradition and the Spirit-guided teaching of the Magisterium. In that sense, the strawman is question-begging.

    The reason is that, in Behr’s paraphrase of St. Irenaeus, “what the apostles taught in public is identical to what they wrote down.”

    More ambiguity. If by ‘identical’ here one means “is the same message,” then it is fully compatible with the CIP, in keeping with Dei Verbum. But if by ‘identical’ here one means Leibnizian identity, then there is no good reason to believe the claim.

    I don’t see the novelty of the PEIP… it worked fine in St. Irenaeus’ day

    You have not yet shown that it existed in St. Irenaeus’s day.

    Catholicism can afford to be more relaxed about the criterion of apostolicity, because the Magisterium can certify that the apostles would have said something,

    Again, this is a strawman of the Catholic position. It is not about what the Apostles “would have said;” it is about what they did say. Your criticisms of the CIP continually beg the question, by using your presupposition that there is no such thing as implicitness. But there is no point (except rhetorical) in engaging in question-begging criticisms.

    But proponents of the CIP seem either unpersuaded that their position implies Irenaeus was mistaken about tradition, or else they think that implying he was mistaken isn’t a big deal.

    We’re “unpersuaded” that the CIP implies that St. Irenaeus’s position was mistaken, because the CIP does not imply that at all, and you haven’t shown that it does (although you have asserted it a number of times).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  143. John,

    Thanks for your kind reply. I believe Bryan has moved the discussion in the direction that is more fruitful. As he as argued, and I said here, you seem to be arguing for a “Renaissance” view of the faith whereby whatever is “logically necessitated” by the deposit of faith is an article of faith and nothing else. In #1, you try to get out of the us/them paradigm of rationalism, but I don’t think you get all the way there. In principal, helps us all sleep at night, but it doesn’t practically work to bring unity to the Church, isn’t taught in scripture, and isn’t found in the Tradition.

    Also, as I’ve pointed out, and as Bryan demonstrates, you pick easy targets to “prove” how PEIP works. Bryan’s noted scholarly contradiction and the EO/Protestant tension. I think your analogy of the Supreme Court is telling. Roe might be a 1st grader on the playground, but what about Marbury v. Madison? Judicial review wasn’t explicit in the constitution, but what Marshall gets there, nonetheless in magisterial grandeur drawing implicit after implicit reasons for adducing the principal, is just that. So as I have said, the big boy kicks back.

    As I think about it, Roe is difficult as well, because the issue isn’t so much the constitutionality of their application of the 9th amendments as much as it is their extra-constitutional understanding of property (1st trimester unborn children) which demonstrates the formal insufficiency of any text as authority. There is simply no science that holds thusly. Further, had the Burger court interpreted the constitution in light of the developed tradition (science and philosophy) implicit in the concept of property and individuality, they would at the least put forward a position that safeguarded against what would have happened in PP v. Casey–the real tragedy. All that said, Christ didn’t come to build the USA and so the gates of hell are free to prevail against her.

    You say that “fallible human beings have erred.” True. That is not the same thing to say that the reason they err is univocal (in this case right use of reason) nor does it demonstrate that the Magisterium cannot err is per impossible from the premise. If that were the case, Paul may have interpreted the OT fallibly, but qua charism not qua reason he did not. St. Peter was’t simply adding up all the propositions when he said, “You are the Son…”. No, it was “revealed by the “Spirit”, and apparently honest and reasonable men thought he was a prophet, Jeremiah, Elijah or even John the Baptist come back from the dead.The Spirit, not rationalism, guides the Church into all truth. Charism not common sense.

    (I’m re-reading Congar this afternoon on St. Irenaeus, so I’ll get back to you)

    On the last point, I will wait like Bryan for you to demonstrate that CIP and St. Irenaeus are incompatible.

    Lastly, a question for Mike, Bryan or anyone else:

    Does CIP look different from the inside vs. outside of the Magisterium? I obviously don’t have the Magisterial charismatic gift. If a Church Father is speaking inside of the Magisterial charism, would it make sense that in some way certain aspects of the CIP would seem more plain view in my mouth than they would in the mouth of someone speaking in the charism? Or, is there something I don’t understand about this?

    Regards,

    Brent

  144. John (#137):

    Sorry for the delay. As you can verify, this comment runs to nearly 3,000 words; I had been working on it since I first saw your latest yesterday morning, but somehow life kept getting in the way. You know how that is, and sometimes ought to be.

    I largely agree with Brent’s last few comments, and I almost totally agree with Bryan’s, save for a reservation I have concerning St. Irenaeus. But that’s peripheral. What I want to do here is focus on the central issue as I now see it with the benefit of this weekend’s hindsight.

    The central disagreement between the CIP and the PEIP is about the method by which propositions purportedly expressing the doctrinal content of the apostolic deposit of faith are to be certified or rejected for that status. That’s an epistemological issue: it’s primarily about how to establish the criteria for determining doctrinal orthodoxy, and only secondarily about the content of doctrinal orthodoxy. Differences about the latter derive from differences about the former. So, where lies the heart of the contrast?

    Describing the CIP, I had written:

    Given the nature of revealed theology as distinct from the formal and natural sciences, there is no fixed, publicly accessible, and generally accepted method for determining either when the inductive inferences made from the sources are valid or how to delimit the sources, allegedly forming the original object for AF, which supply the premises needed even for deductive inferences. And so the faithful cannot, without the authority of an infallible certifier and interpreter of the sources, assent to the results of their inferences with the assent of faith as distinct from opinion.

    But according to you, there is such a method as I’ve said there isn’t, and the PEIP employs it. If you’re right, then the teaching authority of the Church can make binding on believers only those doctrines whose status as apostolic can be known as such independently of such authority. Thus, the full exercise of such authority can only be justified when it’s unnecessary. From a Catholic standpoint, of course, such a result renders the Church’s magisterial authority, as distinct from her disciplinary authority, toothless.

    Now as I have understood your response to that view, it is that, on the CIP, the teaching authority of the Church shares the basic epistemic defect of Gnosticism. The Magisterium could dream up any old doctrine D, claim that D is “apostolic” despite the absence of supporting documentation, and invoke some special, esoteric charism to justify such a claim regardless. In other words, the exercise of magisterial authority would be essentially arbitrary, and thus not credible, because not justifiable by any publicly accessible method. Certainly, arbitrariness is a result nobody can accept.

    My reply to that argument is that it poses a false dichotomy. A middle way can and should be posited between sheer arbitrariness and the methodology you prefer. Although we agree that the former is unacceptable, the latter’s similarity in principle to that of other human disciplines makes it inadequate to the subject matter. Although that is primarily a philosophical point, its fidelity to the nature of the Church and the experience of believers turns out to support it. I shall explain why at the end.

    The PEIP is attractive partly by virtue of its commonalities with the CIP. For one thing, the CIP and the PEIP both have it that, whatever method for identifying a doctrine as apostolic is adequate, that method yields some degree of knowledge of what the apostolic deposit of faith contains. Thus, the apostolic deposit is that which is transmitted to us by a publicly accessible tradition, the identity of whose vehicles—i.e. Scripture and Tradition as “sources”—is agreed on to a considerable extent. That at least we know, and we know it by ordinary epistemological methods. For another, both PEIP and the CIP utilize the method of studying those sources so as to draw theologically justifiable conclusions. All that is unexceptionable.

    The real disagreement is over how to resolve disagreements about two other questions: how the sources are to be delimited to begin with, so that we don’t omit what God wants included or include what God wants excluded, and the meaning of what the correctly delimited sources say, so that the resolution yields propositions that truly express the apostolic deposit, and are thus de fide as opposed to human opinions. The CIP differs from the PEIP in treating the formal study of source documentation as insufficient for such purposes, even though useful, and in seeing as necessary an ecclesial magisterium whose authority is genuinely epistemic, by virtue of how it is charismatic. By contrast, on the PEIP methodology, resolving disagreements of the aforesaid sort is no different in principle from how disagreements are resolved in other disciplines. The right method would be fixed, publicly accessible, and generally accepted—the sort of method other disciplines have and employ in a manner appropriate to their respective subjects, so that we don’t ultimately have to rely on authority to resolve the disagreements. Reason alone would suffice in principle, even though in practice most people have to rely on authority because they are not experts in the applicable rational methodology. Thus, the correct delimitation and interpretation of the sources would constitute knowledge, not faith, and as such would be clear in principle—in the sorts of way, e.g., that the explanatory force of the “laws of nature,” or the adequacy of historical explanations when they are adequate, are clear to competent practitioners of the respective disciplines. Thus the PEIP, unlike the CIP, purports to yield knowledge of the correct delimitation of the sources and the resolution of disagreements over what they mean. That’s what makes it so attractive to scholars, and this what, if it held, would supply a principled way to distinguish between articles of faith and theological opinions. By contrast, the CIP only purports to offer the correct results as a matter of reasonable faith, not knowledge. That is less attractive to scholars.

    Now the result purportedly achieved by the PEIP has two consequences. First, anybody who fails to accept theological resolutions achieved by the right method is either intellectually incompetent, morally obtuse, or both; second, the only epistemically useful teaching authority in the Church would be an academic magisterium as opposed to a charismatic magisterium. My contention is that the first consequence is not credible in itself, and that the second cannot resolve disagreements in a manner adequate to the unique nature of revealed theology as a discipline. Thus, the PEIP precludes identifying the FPOF as such and reliably.

    If we had evidence that those who dissent from the “orthodox” results allegedly achieved by the PEIP method were already knowable as incompetent, obtuse, or both, then the first consequence would enjoy independent support. But there is no such evidence. Given as much, and given also what a dyspeptic conclusion that first consequence is, it’s just not a credible conclusion.

    That makes sense in light of the second consequence. For as a matter of academic fact, theological propositions based simply on reasoning from the known sources are no more certain than theories developed by historians to explain what are known to be the historical facts. As instances of inductive reasoning, good theories of the latter sort are typically well-founded opinions that more or less account for the facts, but are not themselves mere expressions of fact. And the former are actually less secure than the latter, because some of the concepts involved are far more elusive, so that the interpretation of the data involving those concepts is accordingly less straightforward. Hence, from the standpoint of reason alone, theological propositions based on inductive reasoning from the known sources are typically, and at most, well-founded opinions. That is not the same thing as knowledge,, whose characteristic object is fact, not opinion. We can know what opinions are, and know how good or bad they are; but as opinions, they cannot be known to be true. To count as articles of faith, they need certification as such by divinely instituted authority.

    That points toward the fundamental difference between revealed theology and other human disciplines. The distinctive data of revealed theology are precisely those things that cannot be discovered by human rational methods alone, but can be apprehended only if God chooses to communicate them as such by his own supreme authority. Accordingly, assent to the apostolic deposit of faith as truth is proximate faith; primarily, faith is in God as revealer. Second and accordingly, the correct delimitation of the sources transmitting the revealed data to us must be made by the same kind and degree of authority, if they are to transmit what’s been revealed by such authority for the assent of faith, rather than just than the epistemic force of human disciplines such as history and literary criticism, whose results are always provisional. The same goes for resolving disagreements about the true meaning of what is thereby transmitted. The correct interpretation of the sources can only be made, for purposes of the assent of faith, by the same sort of authority by which the data they transmit were revealed in the first place. As Newman said: “No revelation can be given, unless there be some authority to decide what it is that is given.” That authority must ultimately be charismatic rather than academic, not necessarily in the sense of being divinely inspired, but in the sense of being divinely protected from error when exercising its full authority. That is how the correct delimitation and interpretation of the sources can present an object for the assent of faith, rather than of human knowledge or mere opinion. That’s what’s appropriate to the subject matter of revealed theology, and that’s what the CIP, unlike the PEIP, identifies them as being.

    Of course, the advocate of the PEIP could reply here that so far the disagreement is purely academic itself. To some people, he would say, the correct delimitation and interpretation of the sources is plain in itself, and there is sound scholarship to show why such people are justified in thinking so. That others disagree doesn’t mean that the truth isn’t plain; it just means that the former group is more competent and/or less obtuse than the latter. But that objection can and ought to be stood on its head. Thus, there is no plainly cogent, antecedent reason to believe that the nature of revealed theology permits the degree of clarity that would justify such a conclusion.

    It will be objected that none of the above shows that the CIP avoids the Gnostic defect of arbitrariness. And that would be quite true, if the sort of authority called for by the CIP were claimed and exercised in a way that didn’t at least make sense in the context of the public sources it claims to be delimiting and interpreting, when those are delimited and interpreted independently of its exercising its authority to do so. But in fact, the Magisterium’s claim to authority does make sense in such terms, unlike the Gnostics’ claim. That holds even though, on the CIP itself, neither the Magisterium’s claim for itself, nor other doctrines propounded by such a claim, can be established as items of knowledge by reasoning from the sources. How?

    First, and unlike the Gnostics, the Magisterium does not claim to propound, as articles of faith, any doctrines that are logically incompatible what the publicly identifiable tradition has been generally and independently understood to say. And that claim can be shown to be reasonable, even though not strictly demonstrable. For what the sources themselves say, when understood as knowable on the PEIP as well as the CIP, makes reference to an apostolic teaching authority that comes from God through Christ, and transmits truths to which assent can be rendered on divine authority. On the CIP, the Magisterium inherits that same degree of teaching authority. Even though that cannot be independently demonstrated in the sort of way the PIEP calls for, it at least makes sense in terms of the sources as jointly delimited.

    Second, and on the CIP, the Magisterium can and does take note of “the sense of the faithful,” where the faithful are understood to be the main body of those who accept the publicly expressible tradition as materially sufficient to transmit the apostolic deposit of faith. The disagreement between the PEIP and the CIP is not about that identification of “the faithful” as such, but about what sort of reasoning suffices to justify inferences from what is jointly taken as the materially sufficient public tradition. For reasons already set forth, it is not a defect of the CIP that such reasoning is not strictly demonstrative. Hence the Magisterium’s claim for itself makes sense in terms of what’s agreed to be the public expressible tradition, not merely by teaching doctrines logically compatible with it, but also by teaching doctrines that many of those who adhere to it are inclined to hold as an aspect of said tradtion.

    A good example of that is the dogma of the Assumption (DA)—your favorite example of a doctrine that, while it might be true, cannot qualify as an article of faith as distinct from a theological opinion. Your treatment of it reminds me of the view a Reformed Anglican once expressed to me about the Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church generally: “I’d be more inclined to believe them than I am, if Rome didn’t say that I had to believe them.” I find the attitude of Orthodox PEIP-proponents toward the “Dormition of the Theotokos” still more ironic. Even though their communion has been celebrating that event as a liturgical feast for over 1,500 years, they vigorously object to its definition as a dogma—as if, given their own tradition, the doctrine might conceivably be false. To my mind, such ironies bespeak something amiss.

    Now I have noted your objections to Bryan Cross’ defense of DA, which he made in terms of aspects of the public tradition. What your objections show is that the doctrine cannot be demonstrated by reason from those aspects, taken either severally or collectively. I grant that. But the objection begs the question; for on the CIP, there is no call for saying that articles of faith in general must pass the test laid down by the PEIP. On the CIP, what there is call for saying is that DA must cohere with what is already taken all around the public tradition as a whole, logically and otherwise, so that DA makes sense in terms of that tradition and serves to illuminate it if true. But that’s just what Bryan’s defense shows. So your objection does not show that defining DA exemplifies the epistemic defect of Gnosticism. Nor have I observed you mounting a similar criticism of other dogmas defined by the Catholic Magisterium.

    Viewed broadly, the “Gnosticism” objection amounts to saying that it’s a defect of the CIP that the Magisterium’s claim for itself is necessary for reliably delimiting and interpreting the sources. As such, the objection is broadly question-begging.

    Given as much, the remaining issue is about the nature of the assent of faith itself, as distinct from that of either knowledge or opinion. Prima facie, that would seem to be a purely philosophical disagreement; I notice that you characterize my approach as essentially “Thomist.” To an extent, the disagreement is indeed philosophical. Nevertheless we can and should ask, without begging the questions, which “philosophical” stance coheres better with the experience of believers within the Church, from the very beginning. I shall conclude by arguing that the CIP does that better than the PEIP.

    When Peter first confessed that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” he did not do so on the ground that, after due study of the scriptural, rabbinic, and historical evidence, the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah can be rationally demonstrated. Rather, Jesus rejoiced that “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” But the truth was not revealed to Peter in the absence of evidence. Peter had the evidence of what Jesus did as well as what he taught, which is what made Peter’s confession and assent reasonable, as well as an assent of faith. The pattern of “revelation” throughout the NT is like that. Jesus’ followers understood the true meaning of “the sources” not by study alone, or even primarily by study, but by an illuminative confrontation with the person, words, actions, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus—in short, in light of the “Christ-event.” Only then did “the sources” appear to mean what Jesus had said they meant, which was not what most Jewish academics and leaders thought they meant.

    It will not do to object that such a pattern applies only to the event of definitive public revelation, as distinct from the Church’s subsequent, unfolding understanding of that revelation. The evidence, rather, suggests that faith comes to us primarily by a confrontation with the Christ-event made present to us through his Body, the Church, so that the “sources” conveying the apostolic tradition of which the Church is the proper “subject” are properly understood only by grace within that Body, and thus charismatically. The Spirit leads the Body “into all truth” not by reason alone, or even primarily by reason, but by faith in what the Church presents to them as an object of the assent of faith, which necessarily includes the teaching authority of the Church herself. Thus the pattern by which doctrine authentically develops, beginning with the first generation after the Apostles, mirrors the pattern by which the gift of faith was first offered to and accepted by the Apostles. And that is what makes the CIP, rather than the PEIP, truer to the experience of believers within the Church.

    Best,
    Mike

  145. Brent (#143):

    You asked:

    Does CIP look different from the inside vs. outside of the Magisterium? I obviously don’t have the Magisterial charismatic gift. If a Church Father is speaking inside of the Magisterial charism, would it make sense that in some way certain aspects of the CIP would seem more plain view in my mouth than they would in the mouth of someone speaking in the charism? Or, is there something I don’t understand about this?

    What I’d say is this: it’s easier to understand the CIP from “within,” so to speak, as a Catholic who renders the assent of faith to the Magisterium’s claims for itself. And that includes Catholics who actually exercise the Magisterium. I have found that most non-Catholic Christians have a hard time understanding exactly what the doctrine of magisterial infallibility means and includes and what it doesn’t mean or include. But it’s by no means impossible for them. I think John gets it pretty well. He just doesn’t agree with it because he believes, on what I take to be largely philosophical grounds, that the PEIP is rationally preferable.

    But the greater ease of understanding the CIP from within doesn’t mean that bishops who exercise the Magisterium have privileged doctrinal insight that other Catholics can’t have in principle. It’s just that, when they intend to bind the whole Church to a doctrine, God saves them from binding the Church to whatever errors they might hold.

    Best,
    Mike

  146. Mike,

    Thanks and thanks. I enjoyed reading your last post which helped me better understand some of the finer points of the PEIP/CIP dialogue you and John have been having. Also, thanks for answering my question. I think your second paragraph (#145) got to the heart of what I was asking.

    In (#144)

    Prima facie, that would seem to be a purely philosophical disagreement…without begging the questions, which “philosophical” stance coheres better with the experience of believers within the Church, from the very beginning.

    The evidence, rather, suggests that faith comes to us primarily by a confrontation with the Christ-event made present to us through his Body, the Church

    Excellent!
    (this small post took my 35 minutes between helping 2 small children adjust to “day-light-savings-time”)

  147. Bryan, Brent, and Mike:

    Thanks! I’ve now twice read the comments from 142 through 146. Naturally, I don’t believe my remarks were nearly as question-begging as you have thought them. It’s tempting to leap in straightaway and write a comment of my own with one blockquote after another in seriatim style. Doing that, however, would make the discussion too haphazard.

    A number of issues are in the air. Two big ones are the nature of the assent of faith and the nature of doctrinal development. Other subsidiary issues include specific proposed counter-examples (Marshall, Reymond, etc.), as well as general impressions about how far the IPs further or hinder ecclesiastical unity.

    Honestly, from a practical standpoint, it’s impossible for me to take a crack at everything. So, I’d suggest we do one of the following:

    Option (a). If you gents could pose a few targeted questions, I’m happy to continue the conversation in this thread.

    Option (b). If that’s unduly limiting, we can save the dialogue for another time, say, in the thread under a future post on the development of doctrine.

    My preference is for (a), but either’s quite all right. What I’m not going to do is write a 20+ page reply to the past several comments. That would be a poor use of both your time and mine.

    Blessings in Christ,
    John

  148. John:

    I think that, at this point, trying to move things forward would probably mean spiraling into an exchange of “20-page” papers. My latest comment grew into 12 pages of double-spaced text as I composed it in Word, but all it really amounts to is an outline for something that should be much longer—like the book I should be writing! Enough’s been said for now to at least understand where everybody stands, and why. I’m going to wait for the DD post. Actually, I’m itching to contribute to it in some way!

    Hang on for now.

    Best,
    Mike

  149. Mike:

    Sounds good. If Bryan and Brent agree, let’s go for (b).

    By the way, thanks, guys, for some stimulating discussion.

    Best,
    John

  150. Awesome article and it was fun to read.

  151. I keep hearing the evangelicals state their view is something other than Solo scriptura.
    To deny Sacred Tradition and the full deposit of faith contained in the Church is anti-biblical and unworkable. It was a well presented critique of the Protestant assertions and the author’s thesis.
    I havent heard much of Reformed-Catholic dialogue since the ECT. Who’s debating who these days other than Sungenis vs White.
    Peace of Christ,
    John D’Arcy

  152. Hopefully this thread is still active …… I have, for years, found myself swirling in the eddies of that no-man’s-land between Reformed Protestantism and the RCC. On one hand, Protestant eccesiology (ecclesiologies?) seems untenable, and its epistemology fraught with internal inconsistencies. If Scripture can only be accurately and authoritatively interpreted through the lens of the Church, then it seems of paramount importance to be able to accurately define “Church”, and both Keith Mathison and Timothy George provide, to my amateur eye, less than adequate answers to this question. The canon question is the sharpest example of the illogic of Protestant epistemology (if Scripture provides the only infallible rule for doctrine, then how do we infallibly know the canon, and how useful is a fallible canon of Scripture as the sole infallible rule for doctrine, etc?)

    On the other hand, the RCC seems to have its own share of trouble with historical data regarding its claims to magisterial infallibility and the purported role of the Petrine office as the cornerstone of that claim. The Council of Constance is often cited (Mathison in his reply, and Timothy George in the letters section of the May issue of First Things) as a primary example of the historical inconsistencies that undermine the RCC’s claim to magisterial and papal infallibility. As one Protestant theologian has commented, the RCC suffers from a form of hemophilia, scratch her and she bleeds to death. Even one historical example of the RCC changing doctrine, and the whole house of cards collapses. Development of doctrine is then seen as a convenient euphemism to “stop the bleeding”.

    So, here we are, back in the swirling eddies. I hope and pray for an open heart and mind, a teachable spirit as I hope to firmly plant myself on one side or the other and start putting down some roots. I greatly appreciate CTC’s committment to limiting combox threads to the topic at hand. Any essays forthcoming on the historical issues (Constance etc) and development of doctrine question?

  153. Burton,

    I won’t pretend that I have the fullest grasp on the important parts of the problems that you are pointing at, but I would say this. If Protestantism is necessarily false because it either 1) goes against divine revelation, or 2) can be shown false by use of reason, then I would say that being true to your own conscience is going to require you to make some tough decisions.

    In my own case, I am positive protestantism can’t be true, because I am convinced of both 1 and 2. Then I look at Scripture, and see the promise of the Church to be founded on Peter in Matthew 16:18. And what this shows me is that, if there does not still exist some Church that is founded on the rock of Peter, then what Jesus said was false. If what Jesus said was false, then the Bible is false, unless there is some other Church founded on the rock of Peter that is still around, and that I just don’t happen to know about.

    I will send some prayers your way.

    Best,
    Mark

  154. Burton,

    We do intend to post an article on development of doctrine, see the queue. As for the Council of Constance, Mike discussed it above in comment #22. To understand that council from a Catholic perspective see Philip Hughes’s The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils, 325-1870 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday / Hanover House, 1961), John Murphy’s The General Councils of the Church (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1960), and Warren Carroll’s The Glory of Christendom (Front Royal, VA: Christendom Press, 1993).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  155. Mark
    thank you for your comments and your prayers – I’ll take all I can get!

    Bryan
    I look forward to reading the upcoming DD essay. I read Mike’s discussion of the Council of Constance, but it didn’t address Mathison’s and George’s argument that this council’s definition of the relationship between conciliar and papal authority was later radically redefined. If both dogmas were infallibly defined, and they are contradictory, we’re back to the collapsing house of cards. I don’t know enough about the doctrines of infallibility or the specifics of Constance to know if their argument holds water, but on the face of things it seems to. I was hoping to hear someone at CTC comment on this specifically.

    Thanks,

    Burt

  156. Burton,

    The council’s proposal concerning the relationship between conciliar and papal authority was not infallibly defined, because it was not ratified by the pope (in this case Pope Martin V) or any subsequent pope. Pope Martin V did ratify seven decrees of the council. These had to do with financial grievances, the appointments of bishops, exemptions from the jurisdiction of bishops, tithes from the clergy, simony, etc. But he did not ratify those that proposed conciliarism. The books I mentioned in my previous comment explain this, and I recommend them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  157. Bryan

    Thanks for the clarification. Is there any one of those books that you would recommend as a best starting point?

    Incidently, I think you may know my current pastor, Greg Thompson. I had a lengthy chat with him recently and he mentioned that you and he were fellow seminarians.

    Best,

    Burt

  158. Burton,

    I recommend Warren Carroll’s Christendom series, of which The Glory of Christendom is the third volume.

    Yes, I know Greg; we were at Covenant together. Barrett Turner also knows Greg; Barrett was a member of Greg’s church, if I remember correctly.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  159. Neal,

    This is a very witty reply; a very entertaining and clear headed analysis that demonstrates your command of language and logic.

    For all my Protestant bias (and I am still Protestant, although I find myself learning from Catholics more than “protesting” against them), arguments against Sola Scriptura came to my mind a long time ago without the help of any Catholic sources. It came to me in the form of what Aristotle called a “performative contradiction.” Performative contradictions can be seen more easily in examples such as the philosopher who offers a rigorously logical argument that concludes that we cannot trust logic (but believes this conclusion based on the logical arguments he has given), or wife who screams “I’m not raising my voice!” or the monk who says or writes “We monks don’t talk about our holiness with words, we live holiness out in our actions.”

    But I have for some time now begun to think of the way many Protestants who argue for Sola Scriptura as something similar to what Aristotle called a performative contradiction, for this doctrine has become (at least in many Protestant Circles) such a part of the Protestant Tradition (with a capital “T”) that dissent with it is considered as something like heresy. In other words, although nowhere can the substance of the doctrine be found explicitly in Scripture (even if for no other reason than that the books of the canon were never delineated therein) it becomes something functionally parallel to what Catholics call Tradition (e.g. it is taught in pre-baptism classes, it is used as a norm of orthodoxy and heresy, disbelief in it can cause you to be stripped of your formal leadership position by those who have authority and are committed to it as Protestant orthodoxy, etc.).

    At first I found this a delightful irony inasmuch as I felt enlightened myself upon seeing it this way, but now I find it a saddening irony, inasmuch this debate has severed a Church that is “called to communion.”

    T h e o • p h i l o g u e

  160. Hi there Bradley. Thanks for the comments. I agree that sola scriptura is hard to justify and ironic for some of the reasons you mention. I think it’s a useful way in to some of the authority issues, which are the central things, as I guess you know.

    Neal

  161. I find that the definition of sola scriptura is no where to be found in the Bible. The Bible does not have a principled distinction between Solo Scriptura and Sola Scriptura. As James White has made it clear that the Jesus and the Apostles did not practice any type of SS because oral revelation was still going on.

    “Evangelical James White admits: “Protestants do not assert that Sola Scriptura is a valid concept during times of revelation. How could it be, since the rule of faith to which it points was at the very time coming into being.” (“A Review and Rebuttal of Steve Ray’s Article Why the Bereans Rejected Sola Scriptura,” 1997, on the website of Alpha and Omega Ministries). By this admission, White has unwittingly proven that Scripture does not teach Sola Scriptura, for if it cannot be a “valid concept during times of revelation,” how can Scripture teach a doctrine since Scripture was written precisely when divine oral revelation was still being produced? Scripture cannot contradict itself. Since both the 1st century Christian and the 21st century Christian cannot extract differing interpretations from the same verse, thus, whatever was true about Scripture then must also be true today. If the first Christians did not, and could not, extract Sola Scriptura from Scripture because oral revelation still existent, then obviously those verses could not, in principle, be teaching Sola Scriptura, and thus we cannot interpret them as teaching it either.” (Not by Scripture Alone, page 128)

  162. Where does the Bible define any type of Sola Scriptura? Any definition that a Protestants puts forth what Sola Scriptura is nebulous. It seems to me all the dozens of different definitions what SS is and what’s not is all man made. It’s more of a reaction to Catholic arguments not literal interpretation (in context) from the Holy Scriptures It’s a moving target with conjectures as it foundation not Scripture Alone.

    As we know St. Paul the Apostle and St. Timothy did not practice Sola Scriptura so that means when Paul was writing to Timothy the literal interpretation of (2Tim 3:14-16) was not teaching Sola Scriptura because oral revelation was still going on. That means the Catholic literal interpretation (2Tim 3:14-16) is the right one. Also to point out that for Sola Scriptura to be true it must be taught as a public revelation from God before the death of the last Apostle. The problem is that all of the New Testament was written during oral revelation was going on, the New Testament was finish before the death of the last Apostle died. That means Sola Scrptura is not a revelation from God is a tradition of men.

  163. Good points Jerry. Sola Scriptura, as you say, “is not a revelation from God [but rather] is a tradition of men,” namely, men who were reacting (read: overreacting) to what they perceived as Catholic corruption. Once they lost faith in her moral uprightness, they lost faith in her doctrine via a hermeneutic of distrust and started a fragmentary Reformation (read: schism). They preferred, as it were, one vice for another—-corruption (however you want to label it) with schism. Not that they ever thought of it that way, but that is what they chose.

    Your pointing out the irony I mentioned. The very doctrine that is intended to do away with Tradition (with a capital T) actually establishes Tradition (with a capital T). The very doctrine whereby Protestants boast of having no Tradition (with a capital T) functionally establishes a Tradition (with a capital T)—namely, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

    Let’s call the following my “Phooey with Sola” Argument: If Sola is not a Tradition (with a capital T) then it has no authority and I am free, as a Protestant, to say “Phooey with Sola! Let’s give authority to whatever extra-biblical doctrine we find to be helpful in spelling out the truth and call people heretics who don’t agree with our extra-biblical Tradition.” If it is a Tradition (with a capital T) then it establishes extra-canonical doctrine as authoritative, and I can say “Phooey with Sola! We need Tradition (with a capital T) in order for her to be authoritative anyway, which is what we are trying to avoid.” Either way, it’s Phooey with Sola.

    T h e o • p h i l o g u e

  164. Bradley,

    That was probably the best thing I’ve read today. Thank you.

  165. Good points Bradly, funny but true.

    “Philip, presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See, said: There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: Our holy and most blessed Pope Celestine the bishop is according to due order his successor and holds his place….Accordingly the decision of all churches is firm, for the priests of the eastern and western churches are present….Wherefore Nestorius knows that he is alienated from the communion of the priests of the Catholic Church.”
    Council of Ephesus,Session III (A.D. 431),in GILES,252

  166. Brent,

    You must have done very little reading today. ;)

    Bradley

  167. Bradley,

    Tis true that I had very little reading time today. I was out of the office on Monday and have had a heck of a time getting caught up. Yet, sometimes truth seasoned with a bit of jest is welcome in a sea of too serious salt. I guess that is why I like Maritain so much. Really, I enjoy when a writer can capture both the intellectual and visceral aspects of an issue without doing damage to either, as it seems that we live our lives exactly in the place the two intersect. You did that.

    Cheers

  168. Brent,

    Fellow Maritain fan huh? Knew there was a reason I liked you :>). His “Degrees of Knowledge” was something of a philosophical watershed for me. I think he is possibly the most under rated philosopher of the twentieth century. He utterly unmasked “scientism” for me. His ability to show the proper placement of the modern experimental sciences within the broader framework of a philosophy of nature rooted in a still broader Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics and epistemology has gone a long way towards healing the fragmented intellectual life I contraced from the modern university system. “Uni-versity”; the irony in the use of that term in relation to what passes for modern academia never ceases to amaze me. Precious little unification of knowledge anywhere to be found.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  169. “Evangelical James White admits: “Protestants do not assert that Sola Scriptura is a valid concept during times of revelation. How could it be, since the rule of faith to which it points was at the very time coming into being.” (“A Review and Rebuttal of Steve Ray’s Article Why the Bereans Rejected Sola Scriptura,” 1997, on the website of Alpha and Omega Ministries).

    I looked this up because I found it strange. The Bereans passage in Acts 17 is used by protestants to claim precisely what White is here denying. White not only contradicts the Berean argument but he does so in an article he is writing in defense of that use of that passage. Incredible. He goes on to argue:

    The Greek text indicates that these were not two different activities: the receiving of the message and the searching of the Scriptures on a daily basis are one action in Luke’s description. The “daily examining the Scriptures” is a description of the means by which the Bereans received the word of the Apostles. A.T. Robertson points out that the term “searching” as in “searching the Scriptures” (avnakri,nontej) means “to sift up and down, make careful and exact research as in legal precesses as in Ac 4:9; 12:19, etc.).

    Now, the reason this passage is relevant is quite clear: here you have individuals comparing the Apostolic message against the Scriptures. What is the ultimate source of authority for the Bereans? Plainly, it is the Scripture. And just as obviously, the Apostles have no problem at all with this procedure.

    But does this follow? Does the fact that they were searching the scriptures imply scripture was their ultimate authority in the protestant sense? Not at all. Catholics are supposed to search the scriptures. We should imitate the Bereans. As a community with God’s ordained leaders in the light of sacred tradition we should discern what contradicts scripture and what does not.

    So White was right the first time. Sola Scriptura is not taught in the bible. It is not even described in the bible. One could imagine a text that pointed to a future time when the source of Christian truth would change completely and be based solely on an as yet unwritten book. But there is no text that comes close to that. If there was the Mormons would quote it a lot.

  170. When I heard Evangelical James White message as a Catholic I search the Scriptures daily like the Bereans, and I found White teachings not in the Bible. Searching the Scriptures daily does not mean Sola Scrputra at all, in the Catholic Church searching the Scriptures is a norm.

  171. Jerry & Randy,

    If you’re interested, I discussed the Berean passage in comment #69 of our article titled “Christ Founded a Visible Church.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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