Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium: What did Jesus Teach?

Mar 9th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Did Jesus provide for the continuing transmission of the Christian faith? What a simple and foundational question! And yet, oddly, it is one that Protestant apologists rarely ask. In the history of Protestant apologetics, great emphasis is placed on how we recognize the inspiration of Scripture (Church authority vs. internal witness of the Spirit), the witness of ancient Christianity, and the supposed “errors” of Catholicism. But the one question almost never asked is, “Did Jesus teach Sola Scriptura?”

The Ascension

Protestant dogma insists that Sola Scriptura is an article of faith.1 By its own criteria, articles of faith must be established by divine revelation. In the words of Zacharius Ursinus (d. 1583), author of the Heidelberg Catechism, “The doctrine of the church has God for its author . . . whilst the various religious systems of sectarists have been invented by men.”2 It is strange, then, that the Protestant apology for this article of faith rests almost entirely on an alleged logical inference, and not from the direct witness of divine revelation. The syllogism runs as follows:

1) We need a final authority,

2) Scripture, because of its unique attributes, is the best candidate,

3) Therefore, Scripture is the final authority.

This syllogism is found again and again, in various forms, throughout the history of Reformed dogmatics. The Dutch theologian Leonard van Rijssen, for example, argued simply, “From these attributes of Scripture it follows that it is a canon and norm of the things to be believed.” According to Richard Muller, Rijssen understood Scripture’s canonical authority “as a deduction, not directly from divinity or divine authority but from several attributes of Scripture.3 Rijssen’s argument was not unique. Luther and Calvin both suggest it. Others, like Musculus, Polanus, Turrentin, Hyperius, and Vermigli, teach it more explicitly.4

We can and should debate these premises of this syllogism, since they are not self-evident, but even if we grant them for the sake of argument, does this syllogism meet the Ursinus test? Can it demonstrate that sola scriptura is an article of faith, revealed by God?

The Catholic position has always been that Christ did give explicit instructions concerning the transmission of the Christian faith. We are not left to inferences, deductions, and “funny, internal feelings.” He gave us the Church. What follows below is a brief survey of some of the Biblical and historical evidence for this claim.

The Final Authority Established by Christ: the Teaching Church

All Christians agree that Jesus Christ is the ultimate authority. During his earthly ministry, He was the Final Authority. His authority superseded the Old Testament, human reason, Jewish Tradition, and the power of the state. But after His ascension, He did not leave us without direction. Before He ascended, He made provisions for a continuing doctrinal authority.

Jesus commissioned his apostles to teach with authority:

Jesus told his disciples, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

Jesus sent his apostles to teach, and promised to remain with them. Many passages of Scripture show that Christ’s authority accompanied their teaching:

  • “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
  • “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)
  • “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:18; Matt. 18:18)

These texts answer our question. Christ did give us a rule of faith before His ascension. He gave us the teaching of the apostles. It is important to note that Christ never mentions the writings of the apostles. He gave them no command to write, and never restricted their authority to the written word. His authority attached to their persons and their teaching.

The Apostles Appointed Successors to Teach with Authority

Protestants usually admit that the apostles taught with authority. They deny that the apostles transmitted this authority to their successors. However, Scripture and history refute them.

Scripture:

  • “They appointed presbyters for them in each church.” (Acts 14:23)
  • [Paul to Titus] “For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might . . . appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you.” (Titus 1:5)
  • [Paul to Timothy] “And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
  • “For a bishop as God’s steward must . . . be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents.” (Titus 1:7-9)

These texts show clearly that the apostles appointed the bishops and priests (presbyters) who took over the leadership of the infant church. They also show that leaders were 1) stewards of the Gospel, 2) given authority to teach and refute false doctrine, 3) ordered to entrust this charge to others.

History:

The earliest sources outside the New Testament attest the belief that the apostles appointed successors who continued to teach with authority.

  • The First Epistle of Clement, c. 42 (written sometime between A.D. 70-96): “Christ therefore was sent forth by God and the apostles by Christ . . . [T]hey [the apostles] appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe.”
  • St. Ignatius to the Ephesians, (between A.D. 98-117): “For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself.”

The Earliest Christians Confirm the Authority Established by Christ

Doctrinal controversy struck Christianity in the second-century church. The Gnostics taught esoteric doctrines, and claimed to be the inheritors of secret wisdom passed down from the apostles. They also appealed to the Scriptures. The Church Father Tertullian (ca. 160-ca.220) responded to their claims and offered one of the earliest and clearest statements of authority established by Christ.

From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed . . . Now, what that was which they preached — in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them — can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles founded in person. (Prescription against Heretics, 21).

Conclusion

The heart of the Protestant apologetic for sola scriptura is not the teaching of Christ, but the alleged failure of the Church’s magisterial authority. Consider Luther’s famous argument at Leipzig: Councils can err; therefore Scripture is the final authority. The Protestant position infers canonical authority from inspiration. But this is not a valid inference. God can inspire a text without intending that text to serve as a final authority for all matters doctrinal.

I am well aware that Protestants will dispute the Catholic understanding of the texts I have cited. This is not threatening, and we should have a lively discussion about what they mean. What Protestants must concede, however, is that Catholics attempt to ground their doctrine of authority on the teaching of Christ and the apostles. They do not resort to tenuous logical inferences. Can Protestant apologists do the same?5

  1. Cf. Westminster Confession, I.1-10. []
  2. The Commentary of Dr. Zacharius Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, trans. G.W. Williard, 2nd edition (Columbus: Scott & Bascom, 1852), 3. []
  3. Rijssen, Summ. Theol., II.xv. Cited in Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 409. []
  4. See Muller, Post-Reformation, 357-409. I also find it suggested by Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2001), .262-265. []
  5. My special thanks to Fr. Lambert Greenan, O.P., the inspiration for this article. []
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  1. David,

    Great article. I think you are moving the discussion forward. You’ve re-centered the debate in the person of Christ. Excellent.

    A couple reflections:

    (1) The questions Protestants ask about authority are shaped by 500 years of the wrong questions, or at the least that is what we are arguing. We rarely (I didn’t in seminary) take a step back and ask, “Are these the right questions?” Further, it is painstakingly difficult to make an abrupt halt to 500 years of rhetoric. Think about all of the journal articles, books, colloquies, etc. about how and why Scripture is the only rule of faith. Disrupting that tradition, although we claim man made, is difficult nevertheless.

    (2) I was struck by how a Protestant position of the “text as authority” is much more manageable up against the new skepticism we find in the enlightenment period. I wonder how much we might attribute its broad acceptance in Protestant circles as not just a way to say “Rome your wrong” but also to say “look we are right” to the general academic community? As Mike has pointed out, the Catholic IP doesn’t require rational unassailability, yet sola scriptura does in fact claim to meet that standard, a standard that appears to me to point not to Jesus teaching it but rather the enlightenment approving it.

    God bless.

  2. Brent,

    Thank you for the remarks. I see your point about rational unassailability. I believe Marc Ayers has touched on this in his podcast and recent remarks.

    When I was studying the social history of the Reformation, however, one of things that struck me was just how little reflection and argumentation went into the war cry, “Sola Scriptura.” It struck me, rather, as simply a propaganda tool, a rallying point, to focus popular discontent with the status quo.

    As an example, a cloth worker in Meaux was arrested on suspicion of heresy in the 1520s, and his interrogation is on record. He had this to say of himself:

    “There are many of us who study the Bible and the books of Luther of Germany . . . After we have read him, we go out preaching through the country, and there is no doctor or cleric who can stop us . . . No one is ever damned but the evil rich.”

    I find that kind of attitude everywhere in the early Reformation. In fact, Calvin encountered it, too, and he couldn’t stand it.

  3. Actually, Protestants have a high view of the Jewish Magisterium. I’ve heard many sermons on how inspired the high priests were even when they were corrupt (e.g. Caiaphas predicted the necessity of Jesus dying for us), and how important it was for Jews to obey the High Priest and Temple and how God stayed with his people even when they betrayed Him (even after the Northern Kingdom schism prophets were still sent to them). The Jewish Magisterium is also invoked in the Council of Jamnia in determining to omit the Deuterocanonicals and their Magisterium was assumed to be more powerful than the Christian Magisterium which always included at least some of the Deuterocanonicals (e.g. Baruch seems to be in all canons).

    Most Protestants will agree to this, but assume that there was a rupture when Jesus died the Magisterium was abolished and replaced by a book, and we’re on our own to either figure out what this 2000 year old book written to a different cultural context assuming different cultural norms means to us today or we’re on our own to figure out which faith community can explain it to us. We can’t even rely on the collective writing of earlier Christians since their best guess is as good as ours (and some of the early ones don’t seem to be reading their Bibles since they have so many “wacky” statements that offend “modern sensibilities”), and besides “we know more now since we have access to more materials than they did and have better scholarly techniques than they did”.

    Personally, I find it inconsistent that the Jewish Magisterium was so strong and that the Christian Magisterium is so weak. Either the Christian Magisterium is strong and you have be Catholic/Orthodox or the Jewish Magisterium was also weak and you have to side with Barth Erhman and liberal Christians which hold that the Christianity and Judiasm is our best guess at what God wants since we can’t know what actually happened and whether people who claimed to be inspired were either invented (e.g. by Josiah who found the Bible) or merely thought God talked to them (but we can’t know if it actually happened).

  4. David,

    Excellent article. To add to what you’re arguing, check out this article I recently put together quoting many well known Reformed apologists frankly admitting Sola Scriptura was functionally impossible during the Apostolic Age. The problem is, they don’t realize that they’re admitting Scripture never could have been teaching SS.

    And here is another sobering article exposing the logically bankrupt idea that Sola Scriptura can be assumed true until proven false, which addresses your claim “We can and should debate these premises of this syllogism, since they are not self-evident”.

  5. Nick, excellent quotes. I’m shocked at John Piper’s comments. It’s equivalent to talking to a World War II veteran and discounting his accounts, because you’ve read 27 official internal letters from Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, and Roosevelt to their top advisers on the war effort.

    Yes, the 27 letters might be authentic and accurate and might not have been available to the war vet, but they’re only 27 letters from a very narrow perspective on very specific issues. And even if those letters captured everything important these leaders had to say, there are other members of the allies that are not accounted for and other generals, and no representation from those in the trenches, people back home glued to their radios, and the occupied citizens.

    It is the height of arrogance to say that these can be dismissed because we have 27 letters we declare are everything we need to know about the war, a claim never made by the authors or even attempted by the authors. No-one would admit this about any 27 letters in real life about any situation (WWII, 911, the life of Abraham Lincoln, etc), so how can anyone claim this about the New Testament? This is especially the case when many Orthodox Protestants claim that false information slipped into the Bible (e.g. longer ending of Mark, Matthew 16:2b–3, Woman caught in adultery) and thus they avoid teachings based on these.

  6. “Did Christ teach sola scriptura?” If Christ taught the doctrine that the Protestant bible is the ONLY source of inerrant doctrine for Christians, then the church that anathematized heresy in the first seven Ecumenical Councils could not promulgate inerrant doctrine at those Councils (since that would make the church a source of inerrant doctrine, which contradicts the claim that the Protestant bible is the ONLY source of inerrant doctrine).

    The fact that obstinate heresy can cause one to be excommunicated from “the church“, is at the center of any debate involving the veracity of the doctrine of sola scriptura. Scriptures show us Christ teaching that the visible church that he founded against which he promised the powers of death will never prevail has the authority to impose the penalty of excommunication (Mathew 18:17). The formal heretic is a person that “refuses to listen to even the church”, and heretics are excommunicated because of their stubborn refusal to listen to “the church“. That means that the visible church founded by Christ is the ultimate arbiter of the interpretation of scriptures, since heretics within the church are often preaching a heresy based on a corrupt interpretation of the scriptures. I found this quote from Dr. Ander’s article How John Calvin Made Me a Catholic to be most enlightening:

    Calvin’s lifelong goal was to gain the right to excommunicate “unworthy” Church members. The city council finally granted this power in 1555 when French immigration and local scandal tipped the electorate in his favor. Calvin wielded it frequently.

    John Calvin was given the “right” to excommunicate Christians by a city council. Sheesh! How did Calvin ever come to believe “the church” of Mathew 18:17 was a personal reference to John Calvin, and how did a city council ever come to believe that they had the authority to grant John Calvin the power to excommunicate Christians? It seems to me that the city council’s private interpretation of Mathew 18:15-17 and Calvin’s private interpretation of the same would have to be this:

    “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 John Calvin; and if he refuses to listen even to John Calvin, let him be excommunicated or even tortured until he accepts John Calvin’s private interpretations of the bible.

    It is “the church” that rightly interprets scripture, and John Calvin isn’t “the church”.

    If one argues that the dogmas defined by the church at a valid Ecumenical Council are not inerrant, then one is arguing that the dogmas of a valid Ecumenical Council are no more than mere opinion, and they are, in principle, reformable. I have never yet met a Protestant that will affirm that the dogmas defined by any Ecumenical Council are inerrant. What they will argue is that only scriptures are inspired, and only scriptures are inerrant. The problem here is that the Protestant is conflating inerrancy with inspiration. The Catholic Church affirms, as she must, that the dogmas defined by an Ecumenical Council are not inspired (literally God-breathed). They can’t be inspired, because the Catholic Church teaches that the public revelation is closed. If new inspired doctrines were being received via the teaching of the living magisterium, then that would mean that the church can receive new public revelation via the magisterium. And that would mean that the public revelation isn’t closed. That is why the dogmas of a valid Ecumenical Council can only by a clarification (a summary, so to speak) of the closed public revelation which is wholly contained in the deposit of faith. It is not incorrect to say that the dogmas of an Ecumenical Council are inerrant non-inspired summaries of the apostolic doctrine.

    Keith Mathison writes this in his reply to Bryan and Neal‘s article Sola Scriptura and the Question of Interpretive Authority:

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

    As a Catholic I can agree with Keith Mathison that the Nicene Creed is an uninspired summary of apostolic doctrine (not that I would ever phrase it that way). But that is not the question. The question is this, is the Nicene Creed an inerrant summary of apostolic doctrine? I believe that Keith Mathison would deny that the Nicene Creed is inerrant, because if he affirmed that it was, the question that he would need to resolve is this: Since Ecumenical Councils can define inerrant doctrine for the whole church, how does a Christian know when a particular Ecumenical Council is valid? How could Mathison ever answer that question as a Calvinist? Is Mathison going to say that Calvin exercised the charism of infallibility when he declared which Ecumenical Councils were valid and which were not?

    What kind of authority does “the church” have if even her de fide definita dogmas promulgated at a valid Ecumenical Council amount to nothing more that reformable opinions?

  7. I believe that Keith Mathison would deny that the Nicene Creed is inerrant, because if he affirmed that it was, the question that he would need to resolve is this: Since Ecumenical Councils can define inerrant doctrine for the whole church, how does a Christian know when a particular Ecumenical Council is valid? How could Mathison ever answer that question as a Calvinist? Is Mathison going to say that Calvin exercised the charism of infallibility when he declared which Ecumenical Councils were valid and which were not?

    On the contrary, many Protestants would say that the Nicene Creed is inerrant. However, they do not believe that its inerrancy has any ontological cause found in the college of bishops itself. They just believe that this time, because things had not become totally corrupt yet, the bishops just happened to read scripture correctly. Some might even posit a special act of God’s gracious intervention…basically anything other than a sacramental charism passed on via apostolic succession.

  8. David,

    So let me understand you correctly, are you saying the Protestant (I’m a former one so this isn’t alien to me) would hold to some type of Nicene inerrancy whose causality isn’t in the one declaring it by charism, but in its relationship to a particular reading of scripture in this case the correct one? So would we then say there are two species of theological inerrancy, Biblical and extra-Biblical? In the former, the inerrancy has a causal relationship to the charism of the propounder, the later by an accidental charism of the interpretor of scripture.

    Or, could the Protestant simply develop a system of cessation that extends to say the 4th century, whereby everything up and until the particular Church Council they choose to accept was miraculously preserved from error, but than after the close of the Apostolic/Church Fathers age basic Christian principles were expounded so thoroughly and so self-evidently that there would be no more need for this charism? Of course this isn’t sola but it would be a kind of quasi-DD/apostolic succession/cessation Calvinist “way out” of all of this.

  9. Brent, that only works if you are an almost Catholic Protestant like the High Church Lutheran or High Church Anglican, because if you actually read the Early Church Fathers you’ll see that everything expressed in the Catholic Catechism is also present in their writings.

    There are many ways of explaining it away, such as the “Trail of Blood” (i.e. a small remnant of the faithful survived in secret from the begin, as witnessed by all the documented heretics down the ages, which eventually broke free in the Protestant Reformation), or the assumption that the apostolic age was a pagan infested husk of a seed that God used to produce the Bible and once the seed was brought forth, the husk was no longer necessary, or the Liberal Christian approach which says we know more about Christianity than early Christians knew and besides we’re smarter and more moral (which surprises me that John Piper holds this view), or the belief that early Christians did have Bibles, albeit truncated ones (e.g. one or two letters of Paul and maybe a Gospel and the Torah) and this was enough but politics and paganism got in the way and we ended up with the Catholic Church until the Reformers went back to the Bible “the way it was in the early Church”.

    All these assumptions have fundamental problems which have been hashed over many times in the forum.

  10. @Brent: “I was struck by how a Protestant position of the “text as authority” is much more manageable up against the new skepticism we find in the enlightenment period.”

    Maybe, but I find that the phrase ‘text as authority’ is a misuse of language. Yes, texts can be authoritative, but a text is not an ‘authority.’ Only persons have authority, but what they write might be authoritative. Furthermore, the one who has the authority also have the authority to confer this unto someone else, stating that he or they have the authority to interpret the authoritative text.

  11. Kjetil,

    I agree completely. I don’t think that, but that is certainly what sola scriptura–the text is the rule (authority) of faith–is getting at. David noted that SS amongst the lay really didn’t have any intellectual grip as much as it was a kind of emotional “battle cry”. Nevertheless, when you look at the new pyrrhonism of the 15th century, the rise of empiricism, and rationalism, and general anti-clericalism, you can see how SS took off later. The reductionism inherent in SS stripped Christianity of all non-empirical articles of faith and made it more rationally tenable, or so it was thought. Further, as the general epistemological mood became less magisterial and more individualistic, sola fed right into Moravian, Anabaptist and Evangelical stripes of Protestantism. To borrow from chief justice Marshall (with considerable modification), “Society is the mirror and motor of Protestantism” since the Reformation.

    All that said, you are right, someone is an authority not something.

    God bless

  12. “Doctrinal controversy struck Christianity in the second-century church. The Gnostics taught esoteric doctrines, and claimed to be the inheritors of secret wisdom passed down from the apostles.”

    You mean how your religion appeals to an unwritten verbal tradition that no one knows about until it pops up in a later teaching of your leader?

    Really?

    If this is the case, then why does Christ tell His accusers:

    “I have spoken openly to the world…I have said nothing in secret…Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them; they know what I said…”?(John 18:20-21)

    Christ taught nothing in secret. Therefore, He did not teach the apostles unwritten traditions that they somehow have managed to eke out to the papacy over the years, traditions that are in no way related to the doctrines contained in the only Word of God, i.e. Scripture.

    Christ, moreover, commissioned the apostles to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” adding these words: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Now, if John’s Gospel contains all that is necessary to know for salvation (cf. John 20:20-21), then why would he leave out the unwritten traditions of Rome? If Matthew’s Gospel is a detailed account of the Gospel, i.e. the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-3), then why does it not contain even a hint of a trace of your traditions? If Luke’s Gospel does not point us to the traditions of Rome in order to prove the veracity of the account given of Christ’s life, etc (cf. Luke 1:1-4), then why do you suppose that your traditions are necessary?

    If Peter, whom you suppose is your first pope, tells the church he is addressing in his second epistle that, through the “more sure word of prophecy” (i.e. the Scriptures, as he makes evident in 2 Pet 3:14-16), God “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (cf. 2 Pet 1:3-4 & 16-21), then why do we need your religion’s traditions?

    It’s as simple as this:

    “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

    Through Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have spoken definitively.

    Through the Evangelists and apostles the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have spoken definitively.

    There is no need for your phantom traditions that haunt the cathedrals of Rome but scatter when the light of the Scriptures is poured out upon them.

    Sola. Scriptura.
    -RB

  13. Reformed Brother:

    As I said to poster “Ron” in another thread, the contributors here at CtC are all converts who were afraid of moving towards Rome because of the strife and possible division that this decision would bring to their families. Many were terrified at the thought of conversion and looked for any little reason to avoid converting. Thus, coming up with an objection easily like this is probably not an easy thing and, as you can imagine, a lot of what you say in this comment has been addressed.

    On to a couple of your objections:

    If this is the case, then why does Christ tell His accusers:

    “I have spoken openly to the world…I have said nothing in secret…Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them; they know what I said…”?(John 18:20-21)

    Do you interpret the verse to mean that everything that Jesus told us was recorded in the Bible? I don’t see how you can make that leap based on this text alone. Furthermore, how do you construe Catholic teaching on Tradition to imply that it is secret? We teach what we have received from the apostles through their successors.

    Now, if John’s Gospel contains all that is necessary to know for salvation (cf. John 20:20-21), then why would he leave out the unwritten traditions of Rome?

    Does John’s Gospel really contain all that is necessary to know for salvation? The verses you cite read, “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” That certainly doesn’t seem like it says what you say it says. Perhaps you cited the wrong verses?

    In addition to this point, if all we need is the Gospel of John then why do we have Paul’s letters and the Synoptic Gospels, not to mention the Old Testament?

    Furthermore, John readily admits at the end of His Gospel that there are teachings of Jesus and stories about his life that aren’t contained in his Gospel. “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written (John 21:25).”

    “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

    Agreed, and as I have demonstrated (John 21:25), not every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Jesus) was contained in the scripture.

    Sola. Scriptura.

    Find it clearly articulated in the Bible and I’ll give you a fair listen. I’m sure others here will give you a fair listen as well. But before you do that, I’d suggest reading the articles that have been written about it here. Just so you don’t repeat something that has already been brought up.

  14. 1. “Do you interpret the verse to mean that everything that Jesus told us was recorded in the Bible? I don’t see how you can make that leap based on this text alone. Furthermore, how do you construe Catholic teaching on Tradition to imply that it is secret? We teach what we have received from the apostles through their successors.”

    I interpret it to mean what it says: What Christ taught in public is what Christ taught in private. There can be no discord between the two. There is, however, contradiction between what your religion teaches and what the Scripture teaches.

    2. “Does John’s Gospel really contain all that is necessary to know for salvation? The verses you cite read, “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” That certainly doesn’t seem like it says what you say it says. Perhaps you cited the wrong verses?”

    What I mean is this: John’s Gospel achieves the goal for which it is written. John’s Gospel was written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” If this is the goal, so to speak, and your traditions are necessary, then why doesn’t John refer to your traditions? If I can read the Gospel of John, believe in Christ, and be saved from the wrath of God, as well as have assurance of my salvation and know how to live as a Christian, then of what use are your religion’s contrivances?

    I meant to type John 20:30-31, btw. Thanks for catching that.

    3. “In addition to this point, if all we need is the Gospel of John then why do we have Paul’s letters and the Synoptic Gospels, not to mention the Old Testament? ”

    In order to be saved, then all one needs is the Gospel. This is presented in numerous places in Scripture. As I’ve noted, John’s Gospel was written for evangelistic purposes and yet he makes no mention of your religion’s traditions.

    The Scriptures indicate or expressly state the reason why they were written.
    John tells us that he writes for evangelistic purposes.
    Luke tells us that he is writing for the sake of giving Theophilus a certain account of those things that he has been taught.
    Christ tells us that the Old Testament was written about Him.
    Paul tells us that the Old Testament was also written for the instruction and encouragement of God’s people.
    etc…

    4. “Agreed, and as I have demonstrated (John 21:25), not every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Jesus) was contained in the scripture.”

    While I agree that not EVERY word that Christ spoke is contained in the Scriptures, John 21:25 does not say anything about what Christ taught; rather, this is the second time John speaks of signs that Christ did. There were many other signs that Christ performed that validated His claims. However, the ones that are recorded are what God has chosen to reveal to all subsequent generations. Why? Because these are the signs which have been written for the sake of converting the lost.

    So your objection here is not really valid. I suppose we could insert the Apocryphal Gospels in between the inspired Gospels, seeing as the Apocryphal Gospels contain “the rest” or “the hidden meaning” of Christ’s teaching.

    Now, the question is: What IS proceeding from the mouth of God? Scripture. Christ asks the Sadducees:

    “Have you not read what wassaid to you?”

    These words were proceeding out of God’s mouth, and are still. Hence we encounter the phrases “Moses says” or “David says” or “the Scripture says” – God speaks in the present via that which was written. There is no need for the traditions of men.

    5. I think my case is pretty simple. Scripture says of Itself that it IS the Word of God, the Law of God, and the Scripture (cf. John 10:34-35). It goes on to tell us that as bread is nourishment to the physical body, so the Scriptures are nourishment to the spirit of man. Christ makes no mention of anything else needed for the nourishment of man’s spirit/soul.

    There is, therefore, no need for your traditions.

    Sola Scriptura: Matthew 4:4.

    I could reference 2 Timothy 3:14-17, but you will probably deny that the text is saying what it actually says.

    -RB

  15. Reformed Brother,

    How does Matt. 4:4 demonstrate the validity of sola Scriptura?

    (“It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”)

    Catholics believe the “word of God” is contained in both Scripture and Tradition. So of course we would wholeheartedly accept this verse. You are just begging the question in attempting to use this verse to prove sola Scriptura. You are assuming “word of God” can *only* mean scripture, then using that assumption to interpret the verse as saying that only scripture matters. But the verse does not say that only scripture is the word of God.

    Here is Dei Verbum, which the apostle Paul would wholeheartedly agree with:

    “Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.
    “Thus, by the light of the Spirit of truth, these successors can in their preaching preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same devotion and reverence.”

    You say:

    There is, therefore, no need for your traditions.

    But the apostle Paul directly contradicts that:

    So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

    He instructs Timothy on precisely how the faith is to be transmitted and it’s not only through the written Scripture. Paul gives five generations of apostolic succession in this one verse!…

    What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Tim. 2:2

    I wish to point out that I believe when you say “there is, therefore, no need for your traditions” you are actually pointing at yourself. Both Catholics AND you yourself have many Traditions. Catholics just admit it, and like Paul says we should, Catholics see legitimate Apostolic Tradition as the Word of God. You have your traditions too. For one glaring example I will give the canon. The identity of the canon is a matter of Apostolic Tradition which is found outside of the written word of God. Unless you want to show me a table of contents penned by an Apostle.

  16. Dear Reformed Brother,

    What Christ taught in public is what Christ taught in private. There can be no discord between the two.

    I agree with this.

    There is, however, contradiction between what your religion teaches and what the Scripture teaches.

    No, there isn’t. What you mean is that what my Church teaches contradicts your own personal interpretation of what the scripture teaches.

    If this is the goal, so to speak, and your traditions are necessary, then why doesn’t John refer to your traditions? If I can read the Gospel of John, believe in Christ, and be saved from the wrath of God, as well as have assurance of my salvation and know how to live as a Christian, then of what use are your religion’s contrivances?

    Let’s carry out your reasoning to other conclusions. If you I can read the Gospel of John, believe in Christ, and be saved from the wrath of God, as well as have assurance of my salvation and know how to live as a Christian, then of what use are the other three Gospels, the Pauline epistles and the rest of the new testament? My point is that simply because John had his own purpose for writing does not mean that other teachings of Christ or his apostles are unnecessary.

    Now, the question is: What IS proceeding from the mouth of God? Scripture. Christ asks the Sadducees:

    “Have you not read what was said to you?”

    These words were proceeding out of God’s mouth, and are still. Hence we encounter the phrases “Moses says” or “David says” or “the Scripture says” – God speaks in the present via that which was written. There is no need for the traditions of men.

    While I completely affirm that Scripture proceeds from the mouth of God this fact in no single way whatsoever yields a conclusion that only scripture proceeds from the mouth of God.

    Furthermore, if we are take this statement of Jesus in context (who said this prior to the writing of the New Testament) and draw your argument out to its logical conclusion than we have no need for the New Testament since everything was revealed to these people God spoke to.

    And again, the fact that God has communicated through written words in no way implies that he has communicated only through written words.

    I think my case is pretty simple. Scripture says of Itself that it IS the Word of God, the Law of God, and the Scripture (cf. John 10:34-35).

    Unfortunately, not all books of the Bible refer to themselves as the Word of God. You, a protestant, just like me, a Catholic, require a non-biblical source to tell us what books make up the bible. The Table of Contents is not inspired. And, as David points out above, both of us accept our canons based on a Tradition that was handed down to us (yours beginning from Martin Luther).

    And, again, the fact that Scripture is the word of God in no way implies that Scripture alone is the Word of God.

    Christ makes no mention of anything [besides scripture is] needed for the nourishment of man’s spirit/soul.

    I will let Jesus speak for himself: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.” The disciples who heard this teaching took Jesus literally. Why doesn’t Jesus correct them and tell them that they misunderstood? Because he meant what he said. His own body and blood nourish our body and our soul. So, contrary to your own interpretation of the Bible, there is something else that is needed for our souls nourishment. The disciples who heard this teaching from the mouth of God took Jesus literally, and so did the early Christians, and so do most Christians today.

    Furthermore, I would doubt that you would say that, say, private prayer or fasting don’t have value in nourishing our spirit.

    There is, therefore, no need for your traditions.

    Absolutely nothing you have said yields this conclusion.

    Sola Scriptura: Matthew 4:4.

    Why should I believe that “every word from the mouth of God” means that every word from the mouth of God is contained in written tradition? This question is especially important in light of St. Paul who begs that we hold to traditions passed on by written word AND spoken word.

    I could reference 2 Timothy 3:14-17, but you will probably deny that the text is saying what it actually says.

    Hardly, because 2Timothy 3:14-17 does not say what you want it to say. This verse says that all scripture is God breathed. It does not say that only scripture is God breathed. You, Reformed Brother, are the one who denies what the text actually says because you are obscuring it into a proof for Sola Scriptura.

    Reformed Brother, all of the scriptural proofs you have given only prove that your own interpretation of scripture proves what you want to be true. By doing this, you run the risk of creating your own personal Jesus and your own personal Church, rather than conforming your life to the Jesus who actually existed in history, guided by the Church that he founded.

    The fact that Sola Scriptura isn’t true does not Conclude that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Christ. But this does mean that you must look at all the evidence to determine who teaches the truth of who Christ really is and which Church he established.

  17. Reformed Brother,

    “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

    I think an argument could be made that, in recalling this verse, Jesus was also referring to Himself as the final Word of God.

  18. Dear RB,

    I would appreciate if you would engage the central question of this paper:

    “Did Christ give us a rule of faith? Did he specify a doctrinal authority intended to settle all theological controversy? Or, did he leave us to our own devices to figure out doctrinal questions on our own?”

    All the verses you cite suggest that Scripture is inspired, authoritative, and efficacious. We Catholics also believe these things of Scripture. These things are not at issue between Catholics and Protestants.

    The question is, did Jesus also specify that Scripture was to serve as a rule of faith?

    Interestingly, most Protestant apologists admit that Jesus did not do this. Instead, they treat Sola Scriptura as an inference from inspiration. Is this also your position?

    Finally, I think you misunderstand the Catholic view of tradition. It was the gnostics who held to a secret tradition. Catholics have always held (against the Gnostics) that tradition is something public and can be identified by its agreement with the practice of the apostolic churches.
    Furthermore, it is not simply the oral teaching of Jesus passed on to the apostles, but also includes the Spirit-guided development of doctrine, liturgy, and devotion within the Church. Once again, this is not something secret, but very open and manifest.

    Thanks for commenting,

    David

  19. Dear Reformed Brother,

    One specific biblical text to which Dr. Anders’ closing paragraph (in #18) appeals is John 16:12-13. Here, we learn that further richness and depth not presently available to the apostles is in fact to be anticipated for the unspecified future on the basis of Jesus’ own statement.

    John 16:12-13 12 ¶ “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

    When Protestants assert that the Catholic Magisterium has “added” to the Scriptures or to the Deposit of Faith, each of these assertions requires a defense against the counter suggestion that it is in fact Jesus himself who has not “added” but rather clarified the depth he promised would be a future development of a presently unavailable theological datum.

    However those questions about ‘whose authority establishes the correct answer’ are navigated, this at least identifies the discrete points of departure for Catholic and Protestant exegesis. It is why a ‘literal interpretation’ hermeneutic — to the degree this means something like “one meaning, one text” — when it seeks as a method to constrict each text to a once-for-all-time meaning, is simply not understood by Catholics to be faithful to the Bible’s own statements.

    Pax,

    Chad

  20. Reformed Brother said (in #12):

    You mean how your religion appeals to an unwritten verbal tradition that no one knows about until it pops up in a later teaching of your leader?

    Really?

    If this is the case, then why does Christ tell His accusers:

    I have spoken openly to the world…I have said nothing in secret…Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them; they know what I said…”?(John 18:20-21)

    Christ taught nothing in secret. Therefore, He did not teach the apostles unwritten traditions that they somehow have managed to eke out to the papacy over the years, traditions that are in no way related to the doctrines contained in the only Word of God, i.e. Scripture.

    Ignorance of a Truth does not directly imply that it is a secret. Many people are ignorant of the Word of God in Scripture, yet that does not make the Truths in Scripture a secret, and therefore contradictory to John 18. Similarly, teachings held orally are not secretive just because another person may not know them yet. A need for a transfer of knowledge does not mean a secret was in place.

    “pops up later” implies the real issue you have and that is you have no faith that God can teach properly through humans as well as written word. You trust only what is held in writing because you feel it is not subject to human error. However, you’d do well to examine the amount of trust in humans you’re actually relying on in Scripture alone. Likely you’re trusting a publisher to have made no typos in the copy of God’s Word you thumb through every night. You’re trusting a translation of God’s Word, done by fallible sinful humans, thousands of years after the original texts were written. Most notably, you’re trusting that humans have been able to preserve and transfer by oral tradition (from generation to generation) the languages used in the original writings for those translations to even be made possible.

  21. RB is conflating development with oral teaching. RB is also supposing that any oral teaching counts as a “secret,” despite the fact that early fathers combatted gnosticism and its “secrets” precisely by appealing to public tradition, inclusive of (what did not yet count as) Scripture and the teachings of the apostles as preserved and handed down via succession from their sees. As an historical matter RB is resting on thin reeds; so too as a theological matter.

  22. I actually like RB’s rhetoric, by the way. He says things that I find literarily appealing. He should be a preacher or speech-writer or something. The glaring and tiring problem is of course that he’s cherry-picking proof-texts to support whatever he feels like saying at the time, declaring all these things obvious, perspicuous, clear, etc., and then moving on to the inevitable moral judgment against folks like us who don’t agree with him and who presume to use any sort of “tradition” whilst attempting to understand the doctrinal content of Scripture.

    Glad RB has shown up and is engaging. It would be good for RB to back up, take a breath, and read through the other stuff we’ve already posted. That would make for a much more fruitful exchange.

    Neal

  23. RB,

    I was reading through your answers and decided to note that I was not Reformed/Presbyterian, I was evangelical, before departing to arrive at the Church. I was a bible believing Christian. I wasn’t arguing theology ala Luther or Calvin. I had no interest in the creeds.

    I departed evangelicalism because, love of Jesus not withstanding, we did not trust Jesus. His words were commonly ignored, denied, or written off because they contradicted what we believed (noting varying belief systems within evangelicalism). While scripture can prove what I just wrote, and did so for me, it was the Yellow Pages under Church which did in evangelicalism, and then all of Protestant thought because it introduced me to history, and history is not kind to the fathers of Protestantism. The Yellow Pages had no depth, but they told everyone exactly what existed when that book went to the printer. No history before or beyond that date, but a hint leading to a question. The question was Why there would be such humongous disagreement about Who Jesus is and what Jesus says.

    Note that I really believed what was written in scripture, in particular what Jesus was saying in the gospels, and finding that my church did not hold to what He was saying, I also discovered that a lot of other churches did not believe Him either (I checked). I kept trying to find the Church where He was believed until I managed by grace to find the Church which did believe Him. Love and Truth are intended to reside together.

    Did the Church Jesus founded fail? He said it would not. The Yellow Pages say it fell and then splintered repeatedly. There was a lot of agreement over its failure, but not much over what He was saying. Who was right, Jesus or those claiming that the Church failed?

    Did Jesus fulfill the role of the Passover perfectly? If yes, does that include the the necessary meal? The description I was given called Catholic communion “the heresy of Jesus as bread,” scriptural descriptions in the old and new testaments not withstanding.

    Who forgives or retains your sins? Did Jesus give that authority to His Church? Who cares? We were important and went directly to God, without regard for what Jesus told us. We were free to ignore Him, so we did.

    What is the Gebirah and how does that affect us now?

    All of scripture was moving in a direction, with hints of what was coming here and there throughout the old testament and the old covenant, and it was being fulfilled in the new testament and the new covenant. But as an evangelical, I was outside of it and, factually, I was busy denying it.

    Either Jesus is right, or He is not. Either Jesus is in charge, or He is not. Either the authors He used for the scriptures wrote correctly, or they did not. Either the ideas He was setting up were how He wanted us to see Him and His Church with Its administration / His mother / His sacraments, or we were free to refuse what He wanted. To be sure, we are free. Adam and Eve were free. What we were hearing was, “Did God really say that?” I was busy reading His word and the answer was, Yes, He really did say that. Now will I believe Him and go with Him, or will I join those who denied what He was saying (John 6, near the end of the discourse on the Eucharist) who left Him? We are free.

    The cacophony of the Yellow Pages indicate a great deal of confusion (and we know that God is not the author of confusion), an outpouring of chaos (not a desirable spirit), and a lot of people who believe lots of things that contradict than what Jesus said.

    If you find the Church where Jesus is believed, the Church where He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, then you’ll be in the right place. Lay down your burden at that place, and don’t pick it up again.

    I’ve given you the clues, but you’ll have to hunt them down. That effort falls on you. If the Truth is important, you won’t be able to avoid hunting the citations down. Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.

    Cordially,

    dt

  24. Donald Todd wrote in #23

    “There was a lot of agreement over its failure, but not much over what He was saying. “

    Very good point. It’s easy to agree that someone else is wrong, it’s much more difficult to allow someone else to be right when you think they’re wrong. There’s a big difference between submitting to authority and agreeing with authority. We are commanded in Scripture to submit (Eph 5) so that we will agree on what we say(1 Cor 10) such that the world will know Jesus (John 17).

  25. David,
    You write -“Jesus commissioned his apostles to teach with authority:

    Jesus told his disciples, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

    Jesus sent his apostles to teach, and promised to remain with them. Many passages of Scripture show that Christ’s authority accompanied their teaching:

    “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
    “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)
    “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:18; Matt. 18:18)

    These texts answer our question. Christ did give us a rule of faith before His ascension. He gave us the teaching of the apostles. It is important to note that Christ never mentions the writings of the apostles. He gave them no command to write, and never restricted their authority to the written word. His authority attached to their persons and their teaching.”

    You actually make the case for Sola Scriptura here since Jesus told His apostles to teach ” to observe all that I have commanded you”. Matt 28:20. The only teachings we have of Jesus are found only in the gospels and those gospels do not teach indulgences, purgatory or the Marian dogmas for example.
    It is true that we have no command from Jesus to His apostles to write things down. However, in the Jewish culture the Jews wrote down and preserved the words of the prophets. Many considered Jesus at a minimum a prophet and a man who spoke for God so we should expect to see His oral teachings put in writing. The letters of the apostles were deliberately written to reach those who they could not meet with face to face with. Col 4:16; I John 2:7; and Jud 3 are just a few examples how the apostles passed on their teachings.
    We also don’t see that He taught them to pass on their authority to others either. There is not one reference in the gospels where Jesus commanded them to pass on their apostleship to others. A bishop, deacon and elder are not apostles in the sense the original apostles and Paul were. They do have apostolic authority but are to pass on the teachings of the apostles.

  26. Hi Henry,

    Glad to see you back!
    A major point of this article is that Jesus DID authorize the apostles to transmit their authority to successors, and that there is substantial biblical and historical evidence to support this. I notice that you don’t engage any of the arguments for this in the paper.

    Also, you state that the only record of Jesus’ teachings is that found in the gospels. I deny this. If I tell you that we also have oral traditions received by the Church, what text of Scripture can you point to, to refute me?

    Finally, I happen to believe that purgatory, indulgences, and Marian dogma are found in the Scriptures – in the same way that I find the Dogma of the Trinity in the Scriptures – implicitly. Ultimately, this boils down to our respective interpretation of Scripture. What authority do you have to tell me what I can and can’t find in the Scriptures? If you and I both read the same Bible and see different things, who will adjudicate?

    Mostly, I would encourage you to engage the arguments put forward in the article, and not simply to deny then without dealing with them.

    -David

  27. Henry, you said:

    You actually make the case for Sola Scriptura here since Jesus told His apostles to teach ” to observe all that I have commanded you”

    You seem to be forgetting about John 16:12-13
    “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

    There were clearly things that Jesus meant for the Church to know that would be revealed later by the Holy Spirit. So it continues 2000 years later; this is what we mean by “doctrinal development.”

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  28. David,

    Of course Jesus commanded His apostles to transmit His teachings to others including the leaders of the church. We know specifically and exactly what Jesus taught and that is found only in the NT.

    Paul is a good example of this in relationship with Timothy. Since you deny that Jesus’ teachings are found only in the written Scripture then you have to demonstrate where else there are outside of the Scripture. What other teachings from the mouth of Jesus that are not recorded in the NT? Please give me an example that conclusively shows this is a teaching directly from Him.

    You do realize that your interpretation of Scripture is private since the RCC has never infallibly interpreted the Scripture.
    For example, how are you going to show from Scripture that Mary was assumed into heaven? What verse mentions this?

    You write–“He gave them no command to write, and never restricted their authority to the written word. His authority attached to their persons and their teaching.” This is not entirely correct. I forgot to add a direct command by the Lord Jesus to write down what He was about to say in Rev 1:19 to John.
    It is true that there is no indication from the mouth of Jesus that they were restricted in authority to what they wrote down. As apostles they had authority while they were alive. However, this does not help your position since there are no apostles in the church today and no one in the church today has the same kind of authority that they possessed. There is nothing in the writings of the apostles that bishops were to have the same kind of authority that they had. For example. Paul in his writings to Timothy never mentions the idea that he would be equal in authority or position as he was. Your quote from above supports my view of what Timothy was to teach: “[Paul to Timothy] “And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.” (2 Timothy 2:2)” Timothy was to teach what Paul taught him. The only teachings of Paul we have are found only in the NT. There are no teachings of Paul outside the NT. So again, we are limited by the NT to what Jesus and Paul taught.

  29. Aaron,
    Did you notice that in John 16: 12-13 that Jesus is only speaking to His disciples and not to anyone else? Jesus is not talking to the church. There is no mention of the church in this passage.

  30. David,
    You write-“These texts answer our question. Christ did give us a rule of faith before His ascension. He gave us the teaching of the apostles. It is important to note that Christ never mentions the writings of the apostles. He gave them no command to write, and never restricted their authority to the written word. His authority attached to their persons and their teaching.”
    If I understand you correctly, you have written elsewhere that the Scriptures are not a rule of faith. How can it be that the writings of the apostles i.e. the NT cannot be the rule of faith since their writings are Scripture? These are the very teachings of Jesus Himself as you know. So it must follow that these are the rule of faith since that is the only thing we have left from the apostles. It is not found in the leaders of the church since these leaders have and can err while the Scripture cannot.

  31. Hi Henry,

    You wrote:

    “We know specifically and exactly what Jesus taught and that is found only in the NT. Paul is a good example of this in relationship with Timothy.”

    When Paul charged Titus and Timothy with transmitting the Gospel, what source do you think he had in mind for their teaching? The NT? Surely, you don’t think Titus and Timothy had access to a New Testament that had not as yet been written. No, Titus and Timothy were to convey the truth about Jesus that they had received from the Church. There was no written tradition about Jesus in the form of 4 canonical Gospels. However, there was already a liturgy and a hierarchical authority.

    If you deny that these Bishops possessed the authority to offer an authoritative account of the Christian faith, who or what was to correct them? There was no New Testament against which their teaching could be compared. However, there was the consensus of the Church. (Acts 15).

    -David

  32. Henry,
    You said:

    Did you notice that in John 16: 12-13 that Jesus is only speaking to His disciples and not to anyone else? Jesus is not talking to the church. There is no mention of the church in this passage.

    Is Christ only speaking to his disciples and not the Church in the following?

    19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

  33. Hi David,
    Titus and Timothy had personal contact with the apostle Paul. He could have taught them the gospel orally. So long as the apostles were alive there was apostolic authority in church. Once they died, then that apostolic authority is found only in their writings because their writings are inspired-inerrant.

    The responsibility of the bishops and all leaders in the church was to teach sound doctrine. (see Titus 1:9 2:1) Sound doctrine is that which is clearly grounded in Scripture because it is in Scripture alone that we find the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. If it is not grounded in Scripture then it is not apostolic but the teachings of men.
    You also have to keep in mind that Jesus never promised the church that it would be protected by some kind of divine power from teaching error. As you know there are a number of warnings in the NT itself that warn of false teachers coming into the church itself and deceiving many. Such warnings would be unnecessary if it was true the church was protected from error.
    I have no problem with the leaders in Acts 15 getting it right. After all they had the apostles there and Jesus promised to guide them into all the truth. The problem comes with those leaders who came after them that taught doctrines not found in the Scripture.

    I didn’t see your answer to my question: “Since you deny that Jesus’ teachings are found only in the written Scripture then you have to demonstrate where else there are outside of the Scripture. What other teachings from the mouth of Jesus that are not recorded in the NT? Please give me an example that conclusively shows this is a teaching directly from Him.”
    Should I assume that this cannot be shown but must be believed because your church says so?

  34. Henry (re: #30),

    You wrote:

    These are the very teachings of Jesus Himself as you know. So it must follow that these are the rule of faith since that is the only thing we have left from the apostles.

    First, on an important technicality, it’s actually more accurate to say that ‘These are the teachings of the apostles themselves’, or ‘These are the teachings of Jesus as transmitted by the apostles‘, or ‘These represent the apostolic version of Jesus’ teachings’. Whichever wording, it is important to acknowledge that we are dependent at every moment on apostolic mediation.

    Relatedly, it is not the case that the Scriptures are the only thing we have left from the apostles. We have a Tradition (originally oral, now largely written down in various places, such as the Catechism), protected and transmitted under the providential guidance of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus promised. So it does not follow that the Scriptural deposit alone is the only thing that might function as [part of] what you are calling the rule of faith, because it is not the only eligible part of the inheritance the Church has received from the apostles.

    You also wrote:

    It is not found in the leaders of the church since these leaders have and can err while the Scripture cannot.

    On what grounds are you certain ‘the leaders of the church’ have not erred with regard to ‘the Scripture’? Wouldn’t it be easier to say with the Catholic Church, ‘The Holy Spirit protects and presides over the deposit of faith (whether we are talking specifically about Holy Scripture and/or Tradition) and the apostolic mediation of it’?

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  35. Henry, (re#29):
    you wrote:

    Did you notice that in John 16: 12-13 that Jesus is only speaking to His disciples and not to anyone else? Jesus is not talking to the church. There is no mention of the church in this passage.

    ?
    Upon whom did the tongues of flame descend on Pentecost at the founding of the Church in Acts? The Apostles, yes?

    At its founding the Apostles are the Church. The reason you can’t find any trace of the church in John 16 is because you’re looking for a Protestant concept of church. You’re right that this did not exist at that time. But you’re wrong about there being no Church in John 16. It’s there right on front of your eyes, but to see it, you’d have to see “Church” as something very different from the way you conceive of it.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  36. Chad,
    Can you give me one example of an oral tradition of an apostle? It is easier to say that the “Catholic Church, ‘The Holy Spirit protects and presides over the deposit of faith (whether we are talking specifically about Holy Scripture and/or Tradition) and the apostolic mediation of it” but difficult to prove.
    Exactly what is the deposit of faith? I have no problem with the Scripture part but claim about Tradition is a problem. Is there some official list somewhere what specifically these Traditions are and where they started?

    Thanks

  37. Frank,
    There is no church in existence in John 16. That does not happen until Pentecost. The church is said to ” having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,” Eph 2:20
    It is important to see how the Scripture describes the church and its purpose.

  38. Dear Henry,

    There are quite a number of oral traditions that we have received from Christ and the apostles. I’ll list a few.
    1) The Canon of the New Testament.
    Catholics believe the 27 books are of apostolic origin. We believe this on the basis of tradition. Protestants admit that they have no sure knowledge of this, and that the canon of the New testament is not infallible.

    2) the interpretation of Christ’s teaching on marriage. Catholics believe that Christian marriage is inviolable. Protestants deny this. And, while we believe Scripture supports this, ultimately, the Christian teaching on marriage is a received tradition of the Church. Related to this – the whole Catholic teaching on human sexuality is a teaching received from apostolic tradition.

    3) The Doctrine that Mary is the 2nd Eve. This is a tradition received by all the 2nd century fathers, east and west, latin, syriac, and greek – North African, Asian minor, and Europe. So is the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity.

    4) The sitz-im-leben of John 6: Catholics receive the tradition that this text is liturgical, and to be understood in light of the liturgy.

    I could go on and on.

    My grounds for believing these traditions is no different from my grounds for believing everything else in the deposit of faith – the motives of credibility, the Church’s unity, the harmony of the faith, the witness of saints and martyrs, miracles both interior and visible, etc. etc.

  39. David,
    1) Jesus nor His apostles ever said anything about the canon of the NT. They never spoke about it. This is not an oral tradition from them but the church of the 4th century used various tests to determine which books were inspired and which were not.

    2) How can marriage be inviolable when Jesus Himself made a provision for divorce in Matt 19:9? Pleas don’t tell me the RCC does not allow for divorce. Annulment is another name for divorce and this is how the RCC circumvents the Scripture.
    Did the OT allow for divorce?

    3) Do the church fathers have infallible knowledge and do they speak for the entire church? The other problem you have with the perpetual virginity of Mary is that its not supported by Scripture. Scripture is quite clear she had other children. See Mark 3:31-35 for example.
    Do any of the writers of the NT refer to Mary as the 2nd Eve? Does Jesus or any of His apostles make this claim about Mary?

    4) Just because you want to understand John 6 in a liturgical way does not mean that is what Jesus meant. In fact there are serious exegetical problems with this.

  40. Henry (re: #39),

    You wrote:

    the church of the 4th century used various tests to determine which books were inspired and which were not.

    On what grounds are you certain ‘the church of the 4th century’ did not err with respect to the books it finally decided were inspired, or with respect to the selection of criteria by which to conduct those tests? This was essentially my question from earlier, which I asked in #34 about the two claims you made in #30: that ‘leaders can err while Scripture cannot’. You’ve not yet my question about this claim. To be specific, the problem with such a claim is that, as you rightly acknowledge, the ‘leaders’ are inextricably involved in the process of discerning which writings are part of the ‘Scripture’ you claim to be inerrant.

    How are you certain that 1) the correct writings were chosen and the incorrect writings were discarded in the first place; and that 2) the hermeneutical positions the leaders adopted to make these decisions were the correct ones? What if the leaders you claim ‘can err’ did err on precisely these points? Or, what protected them against this potentiality?

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  41. Hi Henry,

    I never said that Jesus and the apostles gave us a list of books to include in a New Testament. However, as you rightly note, the 4th century church used certain criteria to determine which texts should be in the canon. One of the foremost tests was apostolicity. And, the apostolic origin of a given text was very, very much something that could only be known from tradition.

    As for your other remarks, I would not expect you to accept the apostolic origin of these traditions. You are a Protestant, after all. But surely you must realize that simply saying, “These traditions are not biblical” seems very unpersuasive to me. Obviously, I don’t think they conflict with Scripture at all, and neither did the Church Fathers. Why should I trust your interpretation (which you have inherited from your own Protestant tradition) instead of the interpretation that held sway by the very disciples of the apostles themselves?

    As I recall, you simply wanted some examples of oral traditions that purport to have come from the apostles. I have provided some. I could list others. Whether or not you believe them is really of very little importance. Many people also deny the divine origin of the Scriptures. But my faith in Scripture does not depend on the universal consent of the human race. Likewise, my faith in the Teaching Church does not rest upon your consent, but upon the miracles of Christ, the apostles, martyrs, and saints, the unity of the faith, the witness of history, and my trust in Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church.

    It is very easy with any historical argument to contend for discontinuity, change, or corruption. Think how easy it would be for a skeptic to allege contradiction between Old and New Testament! To contend for continuity, by contrast, proceeds from a position of faith. It is not a blind faith. It has reasons, motives of credibility – but it is faith, nonetheless.

    I have faith in Christ’s Church and I have faith that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. I believe her traditions come to us from the apostles. I take comfort in knowing that this was the faith of the earliest Christians, that it has endured for 2,000 years, that it has informed my culture, heritage, law, civilization for the better. That it has inspired philanthropy, sacrifice, sublime music, art, and philosophy, that it has utterly transformed my life and my family, that I have seen miracles, repentance, hope, and healing, and reconciliation come from it. I take comfort, as well, in knowing that it comports with my reading of Scripture (though, I do not trust myself to arrive at the final truth in matters of exegesis).

    If I wanted to, could I find reasons to doubt it? Could I find reason to doubt the Scriptures, even? Could I find reasons even to doubt the religious impulse natural to every man? Of Course! Nothing would be easier! Taking pot shots at an institution staffed by sinful men is like shooting the broad side of a barn. The whole religious history of mankind – with its history of self-aggrandizement, exploitation, superstition, gullibility, and ignorance – presents a pretty sorry picture.

    Nonetheless – I invite you to believe, Henry. I, too, was once as you are. I hated the Catholic Church and thought her a thoroughly corrupt and godless institution. I began to change my mind in reading Augustine. I learned how far from Protestantism he was. Then, I re-examined St. Paul in light of modern biblical study (all Protestant), the Church fathers, and the history of the doctrine of justification. I came to the conclusion that Luther and Calvin had misread St. Paul profoundly. For this, and other reasons, my Protestantism fell apart on me. I was then left with a choice – to lapse into skepticism, or to seek for ways to believe. I found a seamless, rational thread in Catholicism. I could see a way to make sense of Scripture, tradition, history, and philosophy from within the Catholic story. This, I could not do as a Protestant. And, because I wanted Christ – I needed him more than anything – I did what I had never anticipated doing. I submitted myself to the authority of the Roman Pontiff. And, I can honestly say, I have never made a better decision (By God’s Grace!).

    I’m not sure what you are after on this site, Henry. Perhaps you would persuade me to be a Protestant again? Are you intellectually curious about Catholicism? We are all here because we are persuaded that Catholicism is true, it brings us joy and enriches our lives and our families, and we want to share it with the world. We are fully persuaded of its rationality, its fidelity to Scripture, to the earliest history of Christianity, and to its development in time. Explore the site. Look at our archive of featured articles. Read up on justification, sacraments, church, and morality. Read the personal testimonies. Enjoy. And keep writing.

    I hope you are well, Henry.

    Yours in Christ,

    David

  42. David,
    Would you say that it is not necessarily an either/or in terms of whether dogmas come from Scripture or Tradition in the Catholic paradigm? T0 cite 2 examples, consider the doctrines of baptismal regeneration and real presence in the Eucharist. I think an honest and sophisticated case from the Bible alone can be made for or against either of these teachings. In other words, I don’t think the Biblical data logically requires a particular conclusion. Do you agree?
    I think when one looks at the teachings of the earliest Church Fathers on these subjects, it’s (I’ll say almost) impossible to conclude that the early church did not universally believe in doctrines of real presence and baptismal regeneration that would not be accepted by most Reformed Protestants today. However, the sola scriptura paradigm says that if the Scriptures do not logically necessitate a doctrine, no one is required to believe it. I find this problematic, especially with respect to these 2 doctrines. These are basic and fundamental practices of Christianity. An early gentile convert could have asked St. Paul what these practices meant and received a reliable answer. No doubt, given all the pagan rituals and practices in those days, many converts did ask about their meaning. But, the sola scriptura paradigm tells me that today we have no clarity about the nature of these essentials of the faith.
    Like Henry, I am skeptical about the reliability of some dogmas of the church because they are not so clearly present in the early church as the teachings on baptism and Eucharist. I understand the philosophical advantage of the Catholic paradigm given that Christ came to deliver the faith reliably to His people and thus there must be a reliable way to identify the content of the faith. I understand that the history of conciliar pronouncements on heresy and orthodoxy makes little sense if those church leaders did not believe that, by virtue of their offices, they had authority collectively to pronounce such things and that their conclusions were trustworthy. But, let me ask you this question in addition to what I’ve asked above:
    Do you think there are some teachings of the Catholic Church that are virtually impossible to accept as clear dogmas of the faith on the basis of Scripture and Tradition alone, apart from the Magisterium? In other words, are there teachings that you would say no one can plausibly contend that they clearly belong as part of the Deposit of Faith, apart from one’s prior acceptance of the authority of the magisterium to teach them?

    Thanks,
    Mark

  43. Hi Mark,

    You are correct to say that there is not some absolute either/or paradigm with respect to Scripture and Tradition. It is also correct to say that Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium are closely bound together. The 2nd Vatican Council, and the Catechism teach:

    “It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.”

    You question about: “Are there teachings that are impossible to accept as clear dogmas apart from the Magisterium?” I’m not exactly sure how to understand your question. At one level, I would say, there is almost no dogma of the faith that cannot be called into question apart from the magisterium. Can you name me a single Christian doctrine that has not been doubted somewhere, by some heretic? The Trinity, the divinity of Christ, even the authority of the Old Testament – all these have been called into question and called for the authority of the Magisterium to define. I don’t really know of any dogma that is clearly and indubitably a part of the deposit of faith if you once discount the magisterium. Do you?

    Furthermore, with respect to your skepticism – you say some dogmas are not so clearly presented in the early history of the Church. How early are we talking, here? 3rd Century, 2nd century? I mean, you can take almost any arbitrary starting point and then do away with every dogma that comes afterward. What if you restrict yourself to the apostolic fathers and apologists, for example? You are left with a body of evidence that strongly suggests only one possibility of repentance after baptism. Tertullian, Hermas, and Clement of Alexandria all seem to teach this doctrine. It was left to the Holy See to define the doctrine on absolution. If your cut off is 3rd century, then you do away with the Trinity. If your cut off is 4th century, then you do away with the two natures of Christ. Do you see my point?

    It seems to me you either admit the possibility of authentic development, which necessarily entails some kind of magisterium to guarantee the process, or you are left with the most radical kind of primitivism that must entail a rejection of the very idea of dogma and thus becomes self-refuting, or ultimately skeptical. But perhaps I have misunderstood your question. Would you care to revisit it?

    Thanks for writing,

    David

  44. Chad,
    There were various tests for the canonicity of the NT books. It was not like someone proclaimed these books to be Scripture but they were tested and found to be Scripture by the church at the time. It was not required nor necessary for the church to be infallible nor incapable of error themselves. No divine protection was necessary either to determine which books would be included in the NT canon. Even fallen men can discover the truth.
    If you think that those who determined the canon of the NT in the 4th century had to be infallible and incapable of error then you have another problem. You could never prove such a claim but only assert it.
    Can you answer my question: What oral traditions of the apostles are there that is not recorded in Scripture? Roman Catholics make this claim quite a lot and I’m asking for the proof of it.

    Peace

  45. Henry,

    you wrote in #45 “they were tested and found to be Scripture.”

    Please tell us exactly what sort of testing you think was done to determine this.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  46. Henry,

    I’ve listed several oral traditions not contained in Scripture. When you say that you want proof of these, are you asking for proof that the early Church received these traditions as apostolic, or some proof, apart from the testimony of the Church, that they indeed came from the apostles? If the latter, what kind of proof exactly are you looking for? Perhaps what you mean is proof that the Church’s testimony is trustworthy? Or, do you mean proof that the Church actually held some things on the basis of tradition, rather than Scripture? What are you asking, precisely?

    With respect to the canon, Indeed, you are correct, the Church did not receive the 27 books simply because some authority declared them inspired. It is very plain from Athanasius, Eusebius, and others, that the primary ground for receiving these texts was the tradition of the Church: what had been handed down. Once again, for each of these books, there was a tradition that ascribed them to apostles or to companions of the apostles.

    One of the most important oral traditions, not found in Scripture, that was very important for the early church was the identity of the apostolic churches. As you know, Tertullian and Ireneaus considered this information to be public knowledge, public tradition, and they leaned rather heavily on it. However, this is not information contained explicitly in Scripture.

    I suspect you doubt the truth of this tradition. However, surely you don’t doubt that the Fathers held it?

    -David

  47. Hi Henry (re: #44),

    You wrote:

    No divine protection was necessary either to determine which books would be included in the NT canon.

    If there is no divine protection with respect to the determinations made by men, then it follows that there is no divine guarantee that such determinations are the correct ones. Are you happy with this arrangement?

    You also wrote:

    Even fallen men can discover the truth.

    This isn’t what we’re discussing. What you and I want to be certain about is that we actually have discovered it, not whether we (or others) are able to discover it. More precisely, what we want to have established is that those who ‘discovered’ it with respect to the canonical list of books actually did discover it, rather than something else. On what basis are you sure?

    You wrote:

    If you think that those who determined the canon of the NT in the 4th century had to be infallible and incapable of error then you have another problem. You could never prove such a claim but only assert it.

    I’m unclear about the identity of the first problem in relation to which these assertions now represent ‘another’. Nor is it at all clear how they in fact do represent anything like a ‘problem’. In fact, your own confidence rests on the joist of the claim you list above whenever you insist that the divinely inspirational character of Holy Scripture is not compromised by the involvement of men throughout the compositional and canonical process of biblical books. That is, if you do not think that ‘those who determined the canon of the NT in the 4th century had to be infallible and incapable of error’ with respect to the determinations they made, then I will just be repeating myself to remind you that you cannot have the confidence you want that the Bible you hold in your hands has anything like a divine stamp of approval. Eschewing divine protection leaves you with only your arbitrary opinion about which tribe’s library to endorse. Now, it would no longer be arbitrary if you simply agree that God has protected his Word, but then that’s all the Catholic Church is saying. Where’s the fire?

    Perhaps you are bothered about the words ‘infallible’ or ‘incapable of error’. You must understand that the Catholic Church does not ascribe such a status to men on the basis of their intellects (the apostles themselves were not always bastions in this regard), nor on the basis of their superior moral constitutions (here again, St. Peter’s own failures are chief among the cases), but purely on the basis of the Holy Spirit’s providential care, given eternally, as it was, by Christ.

    As for your question, David jumped in before I had a chance to respond the first time, and as you haven’t yet gotten to the bottom of it with him, and since you hadn’t–and still haven’t–substantiated your initial assertion that the deciders can err while their decisions cannot, there was no need to pile on. (If you’re curious, it occurred to me to refer you to the Catechism, and invite you to pick any section you like that doesn’t itself come from a direct scriptural quote. But I’m unclear why you request further examples of the [once-upon-a-time oral] Tradition functioning authoritatively for the Church when you haven’t yet established that it doesn’t or can’t.)

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  48. David,
    I’m confused how you are using “oral tradition”. When used of the oral traditions of the apostles what are you referring to? What is the evidence that an apostle taught something that is not recorded in Scripture?
    Do you agree that all that we have today from the apostles and the Lord Jesus is found only in the NT? If not, then please give me some concrete example of something that the Lord Jesus said or did that is outside of the NT.

  49. Chad,
    The divine guarantee for the NT canon are the writings themselves which are inspired-inerrant. This is why it is not necessary for the those who God used to determined what the NT canon was to be divinely protected. God used fallible men to work through. The confidence that we have the right canon rests on the power of God and not men.

    As for Tradition functioning authoritatively for the Church I’m still trying to figure out what that is. What are these Traditions and do you have a list of them?

  50. Henry (re: #49),

    You wrote:

    The divine guarantee for the NT canon are the writings themselves which are inspired-inerrant.

    This is circular reasoning: you beg the very question at hand by assuming the final conclusion in your opening premise. You’ve said essentially:

    The diving guarantee for the NT canon is the divine character of the NT canon.

    You’ve asserted this basic conclusion [that the NT writings are sacred Scripture] several times, but you have not yet explained the grounds on which you are confident they and not, for example, the Gospel of Thomas, are, or why Hebrews, James and Revelation are, against Luther, who insisted they are not. Instead of explaining the grounds on which your conviction rests when I inquire, you merely reassert your conclusion. This is table pounding, which doesn’t become any more compelling however loudly or earnestly you pound the table. I already know what you conclude, you needn’t repeat it. What I want to know is: Who told you so, and why do you believe the speaker? It’s clear enough that you are reticent to assign authority to the Church, which you prefer to describe as ‘discovering’ the authority of the present collection. But it won’t do to appeal to the Scriptures themselves, since they nowhere specify the extent of their contents. Other than your own previously chosen opinion, what have you?

    You wrote:

    The confidence that we have the right canon rests on the power of God and not men.

    This is exactly what the Catholic Church says about the infallibility of the magisterium, which was in place prior to the emergence of the NT canon and prior as well to the stabilization of the OT canon, and by whose divinely guided decisions the extent of each canon was finally determined. As such, it would be my answer to you if you had pressed me with the same question I’ve been asking. Insisting as you do that God simply ordained men to ‘discover’ the extent of the canon(s) (as though this excludes any kind of decision-making process) glosses the historical development of the Scriptures, and makes me wonder why you don’t also assert that God himself wrote the texts. (Or do you?) Certainly you would agree that it is no more problematic that men made determinative decisions with respect to the extent of the canon than it is problematic that men wrote the contents of the canon?

    You had written just above that line:

    This is why it is not necessary for the those who God used to determined what the NT canon was to be divinely protected. God used fallible men to work through.

    But you’ve got it exactly backwards: God did use fallible men, as you say, which is precisely why it is necessary for those God used [to determine the extent and contents of the NT canon] to be divinely protected. It is precisely this divine protection which renders the decisions of those otherwise fallible men infallible.

    Finally, the question you continue to ask is one that in fact has been answered several times by David, none of which has met your reciprocal engagement. There’s no need to ask it again. Simply read back through the various examples David has provided and interact with them.

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  51. Henry, re:#50,

    The divine guarantee for the NT canon are the writings themselves which are inspired-inerrant.

    For the second time I’ve seen, you’ve now made the circular argument: “the writings of the NT canon are divinely inspired, therefore the NT canon is divinely inspired.”

    Henry – No one is asking you about the content of the books on the list, they are asking you about the list itself – these are different things. Do you understand the difference in the two questions?

    How did the men know which books were inspired-inerrant and which ones were not? And please do not answer “they chose the ones that were inspired-inerrant and rejected the ones that were not.” That just continues the circular argument.

    Pax Tecum,
    Frank

  52. Hi Henry,

    I’ve already listed several oral traditions. Here is another one:

    Peter was the bishop of Rome.

    The proof of this is the lists of succession provided by the Church fathers, and the universal consent of the early Christians. Perhaps you don’t believe this?
    No matter. It is still an oral tradition that comes to us from the apostolic age.
    Are there good, rational grounds for believing it? Well, sure.
    Like any historical fact, it can be called into question, but there is sufficient historical (and theological) evidence of this for me to rationally assent to it as an article of faith in my own creed as a Catholic.

    God bless,

    David

  53. Henry,

    As you’ve probably noticed, my rewording (in #50) of your circular argument should have been written:

    The divine [not ‘diving’] guarantee for the NT canon is the divine character of the NT canon.

    And my first sentence after this quote

    The confidence that we have the right canon rests on the power of God and not men.

    could have been written more clearly to say: ‘This is exactly where the Catholic Church locates the source of infallibility [i.e. in the power and wisdom of God, rather than in the intellectual prowess of men].’

    I hope you and David and Frank and I can get to the bottom of what seems to be some confusion over terms and over the way we make claims and defend them. I confess to wondering if a significant part of our perceived disagreement(s) might boil down to the struggle to communicate with each other clearly. Not all of it, naturally, but a significant part of it. So let’s keep whittling away at that ‘significant part’.

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  54. Frank,
    I am not making a circular argument about the Scriptures being inspired but stating that they are inspired-inerrant because God is their author.
    We know that the books of the NT are inspired-inerrant because:
    1) Written by an apostle or one associated with an apostle.
    2) Does the book tell the truth about God?
    3) Did it come with the power of God? Is it able to edify and equip believers?
    4) Was it accepted by the people of God?
    5) Does it claim to speak by the authority of God? Many books in the OT are like this. Phrases such as “Thus says the Lord” would be an example of this principle.

    Hope this helps

  55. Chad,
    See my response at #53. Hopefully this will help. Let me ask you: did any of those men in the 4th century who came up with the NT canon claim to be infallible or to be divinely protected when they put the canon together?

  56. David (re: 43);
    I see your points about arbitrarily picking a time in history as the basis for making assessments about what is Orthodox. I also see your point about nearly every doctrine being doubted apart from the Magisterium. I’ll rework my question about doctrines that are impossible to believe apart from the Magisterium in this way. Let’s say I take a doctrine, like the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption of Mary, and analyze the history of views on these issues from prominent leaders, saints, and scholars of the church. Even if I limit myself to the views of people who the Catholic Church today considers saints, I find mutually exclusive opinions on these doctrines. So I guess I don’t see how it’s possible to hold to a de fide belief on these doctrines unless one accepts the authority of the magisterium. But, as I type this question, I’m reminded of the arguments by Michael Liccione and the article by Bryan Cross about the nature of faith according to Aquinas, where it’s been argued that it is impossible to for one to go beyond opinion and exercise real faith apart from faith in the authority of the magisterium. If you have and additional thoughts to share on this, I’d appreciate it. Otherwise, I’ll go back to doing more reflection.

    thanks,
    Mark

  57. Hi David,
    Where in Scripture does it say that Peter was bishop of Rome? If Peter was the supreme leader of the church, why don’t we see the other apostles acknowledging this in their writings? Peter wrote 2 letters and in none of them we do not see any reference by him that he is the supreme leader of the church nor that the church is built on him. It is also true that many of the fathers were silent on Peter being the head of the church. In fact many of them disagree with the current RCC interpretation that Peter is rock on which the church is built.
    I don’t expect this to be persuasive with you but it does show the shaking ground that the papacy if built on.
    Peace

  58. Hi Mark,

    I think I understand what you are getting at. You seem to suggest that some doctrines are more strongly attested in the Patristic consensus. Other doctrines are clear only in light of later magisterial pronouncement (but not necessarily in conflict with earlier formulations of the deposit of faith).

    So, you find yourself drawn more to some Catholic doctrines than others. Is this right?

    I think everyone investigating the Church has this experience. I know I did. Believe it or not, for me, the Papacy was one of the last doctrines I worked through. I started with justification, sacraments, Mary and the Saints, etc. etc. These things seemed very clear to me, but I wasn’t as sure about the Papacy and infallibility. In the end, I came to understand that Christianity is not just an accumulation of doctrines, or ideas, but a living, breathing CHURCH and I could not have Christ, Mary, Saints, and Sacraments apart from the only Communion that had preserved and cherished them. I finally embraced the Papacy in thanksgiving that this institution, as custodian of the Gospel, had actually preserved these things for me and posterity.

    Have you read much Newman? I think Newman is really required reading for any Protestant who is trying to see his way through to the “Symphony of Faith” that is Catholic tradition. And, in the end, I think that’s what we’re all looking for – a harmonious, integral expression of our love for Christ and his Church that embraces the widest possible perspective. This is one reason I could never be satisfied with Anglicanism, Orthodoxy, or any other communion that claims to single out the essential patristic doctrines from the whole panoply of Catholic Tradition. It ends up being just a highly rarified, antiquarian form of the same kind of particularism we want to flee from in Protestantism.

    One of the most satisfying things for me in becoming ROMAN Catholic was realizing that I could fully embrace my communion not only with Sts. Basil, Chrysostom, Augustine, and Jerome [East and West], but Thomas, Francis, Bellarmine, Therese of Lisieux, Catherine of Siena, and even Flannery O’Connor. East, West, ancient, patristic, medieval, modern, contemporary, Byzantine, Roman, Coptic, Syriac, Mallabar . . . . Everything! Catholic!

    God Bless,

    David

  59. David,
    Do you believe that for salvation that a person must be in subjection to the pope?
    “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
    Unam Sanctam

    Papal Bull of Boniface VIII

  60. Hi Henry,

    I am a bit puzzled by your response. You keep asking, “What are these oral traditions you talk about?”
    Well, I’ve listed a bunch. For a complete list, I refer you again to Denzinger’s Enchiridion.

    What I don’t understand is why you ask for a tradition not mentioned in Scripture, and then, when I produce one, you object that it is not mentioned in Scripture! I thought that’s what you wanted me to produce? So explain, what exactly was the purpose of asking me to produce an oral tradition not listed in Scripture? Was it just so you could object to it? Or did you have some more principled objective in view?

    In any event, for your specific objections to the Papacy, I’d refer you to Steve Ray’s book Upon This Rock.

    On another note, I appreciate your post on canonicity. You rightly acknowledge that Church tradition was an essential component in recognizing the canon. Once again, this is another example of oral tradition that Protestants accept de facto, and Catholic accept de fide. And, at the risk of repeating the obvious, the list of canonical books is nowhere mentioned in Sacred Scripture. Therefore, if the identity of the canon is an article of faith (which it is in many Protestant confessions), then Protestants tacitly admit that not every article of faith is established by Holy Scripture. Alternately, they must hold (as R.C. Sproul seems to) that the identity of the canon is not an article of faith. But, if the identity of the canon cannot be known with certainty, then, by extension, the content of the Christian faith FOR A PROTESTANT cannot be known with certainty – unless you acknowledge some extra-scriptural Rule of Faith.

    Incidentally, I suggest you look at the several posts and articles treating Keith Mathison’s book The Shape of Sola Scriptura. Mathison, a Protestant, acknowledges that Sola Scriptura as it is held by the majority of Protestants cannot function. He therefore attempts to construct a very selective approach to tradition in order to correct its deficiencies. Not a successful attempt, in my opinion, but instructive nevertheless.

    Hope you are well. Still wondering what exactly your goals are in engaging us here at Called to Communion. (Dialogue, curiosity, diatribe?)

    In Christ’s Peace,

    David

  61. Henry (re: #54 and #55),

    You wrote:

    I am not making a circular argument about the Scriptures being inspired but stating that they are inspired-inerrant because God is their author.

    It is true that simply asserting [that the set of Scriptures which are inspired, are inspired by virtue of God’s activity] is not circular, it’s definitional. But this is not the argument I have been calling into question (not least because it isn’t even yet an argument). It’s the point that you assert or assume [that the NT books in particular are part of the set of ‘Scriptures’ which are inspired] that you haven’t yet substantiated.

    In this regard, you wrote out five criteria, each of which continues to beg the same question:

    1) Written by an apostle or one associated with an apostle.

    Who decided for you that this criterion was axiomatic for determining whether a book should be included or excluded?

    2) Does the book tell the truth about God?

    Who decides?

    3) Did it come with the power of God? Is it able to edify and equip believers?

    Who decides?

    4) Was it accepted by the people of God?

    Which are they, and how are they delimited from others who claim to be the people of God (e.g. various Gnostic sects) but who [according to some standard you have not yet identified] are not? In other words, who decides?

    5) Does it claim to speak by the authority of God? Many books in the OT are like this. Phrases such as “Thus says the Lord” would be an example of this principle.

    Here, the phrases you note are being spoken by the prophet in order to declare the prophet’s own qualifications within the story told by the book. They are not phrases the book reports in order to claim anything about itself .

    So no, Henry, you haven’t yet managed to present a non-circular argument. And the issue is this, as Frank explained in #51: I have not been asking about the meaning of the contents of the books (and in any case, we agree; they are inspired). Instead, I have been asking for a non-circular defense of the grounds for your belief that certain books belong in the Canon and others do not. Once again, I agree that some belong and others do not, but that doesn’t help you, because it’s not up to me. Who is it up to, and how does that work?

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  62. Hello Again Henry,

    When I joined the Church I said, “I believe everything that the Catholic Church declares to be revealed by God.” I still believe this way and, God willing, will hold this faith until death.

    Now, the Church teaches that the authoritative interpretation of its own tradition (including the meaning of unam sanctam) belongs exclusively to the magisterium. Therefore, for the interpretation of this Papal Bull, and everything else in Catholic Tradition, I refer you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Incidentally, before you object to my implicit faith in the Church’s authority, I’d like you to take a look at my article on this site “John Calvin on Implicit Faith.”

    -David

  63. Henry,

    I’m dreadfully sorry that the last paragraph and a bit of my previous response (#61) is in bold, giving the possible impression that I meant to raise the volume or stress the points. It was an honest typing mistake on my part, and perhaps the moderator can adjust it and strike this then unnecessary comment from the thread.

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  64. Henry,

    Chad has responded very effectively to the questions you posed to me in #54, so I see no reason to reply separately. He said what I would have said (and with a bit more patience than I might have been able to muster, God forgive me). I look forward to your reply to Chad.

    Pax Tecum,
    Frank

  65. David,
    What I originally asked for were oral traditions of the apostles. You have yet to produce one oral tradition of an apostle. All you are doing is asserting these things because all we have from the apostles is found in the writings of the NT. This is why the claim there are oral traditions of the apostles does not hold.

    Peace

  66. Chad,
    The leaders of the church of the 4th century used specific tests to determine which books should belong in the NT. There is no indication that they considered themselves inspired or kept from error. There is a lot more to this issue but as I have said they did not consider themselves inspired or kept from making errors. No infallibility. Church leaders can determine what the truth is about something. They can also err. Agreed?

  67. Chad,
    How did the OT Jews know what was Scripture and what was not without a church to tell them?

  68. Henry (re: #66 and #67).

    You wrote:

    The leaders of the church of the 4th century used specific tests to determine which books should belong in the NT. There is no indication that they considered themselves inspired or kept from error.

    If the leaders of the Church of the 4th century did not consider themselves kept from error, what purpose was served by the tests? I have made no claim that the magisterium of the Church of the 4th century considered itself ‘inspired’. But it did consider itself to be kept from error, as the proceedings of the Nicene Council, and the Creed which it produced, make clear. What’s more, you agree with me, if you believe in the Council’s definition of Trinitarian Christology against Arius!

    If you do not agree that the Council was kept from error in its definition of Trinitarian Christology, then we should be having a different kind of conversation altogether.

    As to your question in #67:

    How did the OT Jews know what was Scripture and what was not without a church to tell them?

    That’s was so interesting about the absence of unanimity among the various traditions in the first century: they didn’t! The various Pharisaical groups debated among themselves about the status of certain books. The Sadducees disagreed with all of them about the canonicity of any of the books apart from the Torah. And the earliest record we have of anything like a consensus among Christians [which is the only relevant group for our purposes, isn’t it?] includes a more expansive OT canon than the present Protestant version.

    For your further engagement, there is a stellar discussion concerning just this point, between Shawn Madden (Professor of OT and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary), who takes a Protestant view, and (apparently) an attorney named Joe Heschmeyer, who takes a Catholic view. It begins here, and it draws to a close in an interesting way.

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  69. Henry,

    In your view, what exactly would constitute an “oral tradition of an apostle”?

    You appear to be asserting that all of the authoritative teaching which the apostles left for us is contained (explicitly, it would seem) in the New Testament. However, this would be an *assertion* on your part, a presupposition, rather than a provable statement. In fact, the New Testament itself disproves this assertion.

    In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, St. Paul commands Christians to hold to both the written and the oral traditions which have been handed down from the apostles. If all authoritative apostolic teaching were meant to be contained in the New Testament, why does St. Paul himself contradict such a notion?

  70. Hi Henry,

    I’m not sure how to understand these comments:

    “What I originally asked for were oral traditions of the apostles. You have yet to produce one oral tradition of an apostle. All you are doing is asserting these things.”

    I don’t understand. I have listed multiple oral traditions, and directed you to a source where you can find many more. It seems that what you are asking for is not an oral tradition, but some evidence – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that such traditions are in fact apostolic. Is this correct?

    If this is what you are asking for, I am wondering if you think any part of the Christian faith is beyond a shadow of a doubt. It seems to me that Scripture itself doesn’t rise to that standard. Plenty of people doubt the veracity of the Bible and its divine origin. As Christians, we confess that the divinity of Scripture is an article of faith – something that can be believed rationally (because of the motives of credibility) – but not something that can be known with a kind of mathematical certainty. That is, the divinity of Scripture is not self-evident or objectively verifiable to all rational people. No more so the Church’s traditions. My grounds for believing them is the same as my grounds for believing Scripture. (The witness of the Church, their unity and integrity, their transformative power, etc.) If you deny that such can be rational motives for belief in Church tradition, do you also deny that they can be motives for belief in Scripture?

    God bless,

    David
    P.S. Still wondering why you are here. Are you intellectually curious about Catholicism, interested in furthering Christian communion, anxious to convert Catholics? I’d kind of like to know your motives, if you don’t mind my asking.

  71. David,
    I’m here because i think its important to discuss these things. Its sites like this that seem more willing than most to discuss these things without getting nasty. We both claim to be Christians and yet we believe some radical different things that show we both cannot be right. I’m not here to convert anyone nor could I.
    I have no problem with being challenged with my beliefs. It help me grow. How about you? Do you think its a good idea for Catholics and Protestants to dialogue on important issues even if we may not agree?

    Peace

  72. Chad,
    The purpose of the tests was to determine which books should be in the canon. If the Bible fell out of the sky or something like that then there would be no need for tests. If those who determined the books of the NT were kept from error then how do you know that? Claiming to be protected from error is not the same as proving it.
    It is not necessary for anyone to be kept from error to determine the truth. We can discover truth and know truth without someone being kept from erring. If anything, the claim to be incapable of erring creates some serious problems later. For one, it makes it impossible for correction. I think it was the current pope in younger days that said something like this. I could be wrong though.

    I’ll check that debate out. Thanks

  73. Christ did give us a rule of faith before His ascension. He gave us the teaching of the apostles. It is important to note that Christ never mentions the writings of the apostles. He gave them no command to write, and never restricted their authority to the written word. His authority attached to their persons and their teaching.

    The Apostles Appointed Successors to Teach with Authority

    Protestants usually admit that the apostles taught with authority. They deny that the apostles transmitted this authority to their successors. However, Scripture and history refute them.

    Scripture:

    “They appointed presbyters for them in each church.” (Acts 14:23)
    [Paul to Titus] “For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might . . . appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you.” (Titus 1:5)
    [Paul to Timothy] “And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
    “For a bishop as God’s steward must . . . be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents.” (Titus 1:7-9)

    These texts show clearly that the apostles appointed the bishops and priests (presbyters) who took over the leadership of the infant church. They also show that leaders were 1) stewards of the Gospel, 2) given authority to teach and refute false doctrine, 3) ordered to entrust this charge to others.

    I’m mainly a lurker, but had to poke my nose in here and say that this is a really good point. I never looked hard at that issue before. Thanks.

  74. Dear Henry,

    There is a problem with your assertion, “It is not necessary for anyone to be kept from error to determine the truth.”

    One problem is that in phrasing that statement the way you do, it seems you are still not distinguishing the content of the books with the list of the books. Scripture, as God’s written word, is truth. The list of books is not a “truth” in that same sense. The LIST is not the Word of God.

    So, if they were not protected from error in compiling the LIST of books, then they might gotten the Canon wrong. Do you believe they got the Canon right? Do you believe there is anything in Scripture does not belong there? I do not, and I’m pretty sure you do not. On what, then, do you base your faith that the LIST of books that were chosen for the NT canon is exactly what God willed us to have?

    Again, I am not asking if the content of the books is inspired-inerrant. You and I agree that it is. This is a different question. What I’m asking is what allows you to believe with certainty that the LIST of books contains those, and only those books that God willed us to have?

    Blessings on your journey,
    Frank

  75. Kim,

    Thanks for stopping in!

    -David

  76. Hi Henry,

    Yes, of course, I believe Protestants and Catholics should dialogue. That is the purpose of this site!

    The reason I asked the question was because it seemed to me that perhaps this wasn’t your objective.

    On Matt’s thread, he suggested that you pick one topic and stick with it. I notice that now you’ve migrated to a different thread.
    Would you like to try again?
    Much of the discussion of late seems to have wandered about a good deal, and I, for one, know that I’m a bit confused about what you’re trying to argue. I’m not sure if you are discussing the basis for our belief in oral tradition, the credibility of that belief, the nature and content of specific traditions? I think several of your other interlocutors are equally confused about what you’re after.

    If I might suggest something:

    The major thesis of this article is that Sola Scriptura is grounded in an inference, not divine revelation.
    The Catholic doctrine of authority, by contrast, (rightly or wrongly) seeks to begin with the words and purposes of Christ.

    Perhaps that might be a good place to start. Would you like to discuss it? If not, what else?

    -David

  77. David,
    Perhaps I’m asking to much here. Sometimes when discussing these kinds of issues it does appear to wander. I don’t think its possible to sustain some of the claims of the RCC such as oral traditions of the apostles. An oral tradition would be something like what Acts 20:35 records-“”In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” This saying of the Lord Jesus is not recorded in the gospels. This is the kind of oral tradition of an apostle that I am looking for.

    I think I understand your position on authority and i agree with some of it. Church leaders do have authority and it is limited. Even here we would probably disagree how far this authority extends. For example, do you think that Jesus intended the leaders of the church to be in bed with secular leaders as we see in Europe hundreds of years ago?
    I think where we disagree is the claim that church leaders such as a pope cannot err in matters of faith and morals.

    BTW- I did respond to Matt a few days ago but he has yet to respond.

    Blessings

  78. Frank,
    As you say i do think the canon of the NT is correct. I base this on how they went about determining this in the 4th century and that God Himself made it clear through these tests what was the canon. Up to this point in my life, I have not seen anything yet that leads me to think that there is a book in the canon that should not be there or that something is missing. It would be interesting if someone did find another letter of Paul somewhere. That would certainly shake things up.

    Peace

  79. Hi Henry,

    Do I take it from your response that you would like to focus on the question of oral tradition?
    We can do that, if you’d like, although I think it is always best to start with first principles. That’s what this article was meant to do – what are the theological/philosophical assumptions underlying any claim to religious authority. My contention: that the Catholic doctrine of authority attempts to ground itself in revelation, whereas the Protestant doctrine of authority relies ultimately on logical inference from an intuition. But no matter . . . .

    With respect to your view of oral tradition, I take it that you are looking for something purporting to be a direct quote from an apostle or Christ. Yes? If so, I’ll just say – That’s not what Catholics mean by oral tradition. To repeat an earlier example :

    There is a tradition in the Church ascribing the Book of Romans to Paul the apostle. In spite of the claim of the author to be Paul, we don’t have any external criteria that can verify this claim except the tradition of the Church. This is the kind of tradition we mean when we talk about unwritten tradition.

    Now, for Catholics, this kind of tradition (under certain circumstances) is treated as a divine authority. For Protestants, its just helpful background, but not a divine authority. I think you’d probably agree with this so far. Yes?

    The point of this article was to look at the different philosophical assumptions implicit in these respective ways of looking at tradition. Ultimately, you and I are driven back to the fundamental question of whether or not to treat these traditions as divine authority and, if not, what we should treat as divine authority AND WHY. (And not just divine, but regulative authority i.e. Rule of faith).

    Do we base our rule of faith on the express teaching of Christ, or on logical inferences, intuitions, and subjective experience.

    -David

  80. Hi Henry,

    I think there may be a misunderstanding in terms between you and Dr. Anders. You are asking for Traditions of the RCC that are oral traditions of the Apostles. I think Dr. Anders is trying to give you oral Traditions of the Church. Not necessarily of the Apostles themselves. One such oral Tradition of the Church would be abortions are not allowed and are sinful. This is not a teaching that was directly touched on by an Apostle, however it has been an Oral Traditional teaching of the Church from the very beginning. Also the canon of the New Testament was an Oral Traditional teaching of the Church as well, as history shows. Not an Oral teaching of the Apostles themselves as the NT writings were not as yet completed in their time.

    Possibly clearing up this misunderstanding will help move the direction of the discussion along. If I am wrong in what I have said , then I beg your pardon for cutting in.. Thanks to both of you for an enlightening discussion.

    Blessings
    NHU

  81. Henry and David,

    Please excuse me for a quick chime in here as I am very interested in this discussion as I haven’t really considered this particular line of questioning much.

    My first observation is I think it is mistaken to think of Catholic Tradition as strictly and only Oral Tradition. I believe that the Church always refers to simply Tradition and never Oral Tradition except perhaps in the case of citing a a specificexample of an oral tradition. Just as as in a family (an idea I through out some time earlier in one of these discussions) a lot of tradition is in what we do and how we do it. Ex. 1: We celebrate Christmas with frosted cut out cookies and we always have fruit salad. Ex 2: We always eat dinner together as a family and say grace before meals. Other aspects of tradition may be partly “oral” but somewhat deeper than that because there is more depth to the tradition that the mere words. In this regards I am suggesting that even oral apostolic tradition needn’t necessarily be defined as a collection of sayings that got left out of the bible. I would suggest that Apostolic Tradition includes every action and moment of the lives of the apostles up to and including their death and in particular the passing on of the leadership of the Church to the men they appointed to carry forward for the next generation.

    My second observation regards actual examples of tradition. First and formost is the Liturgy itself. The liturgy is the prime example of the extra-biblical Apostolic Tradition. Within the liturgy there is a lot of theology that reflects back into how we read scripture. The second great example of Tradition is the Hierarchy of the Church itself and the sacraments of Holy Orders.

    Of course I would fully expect than Henry or any other Protestant would contend that we can’t PROVE that those are indeed authentic Apostolic Traditions. But then that really begs the question doesn’t it?

  82. Henry,

    Thank you for your reply in #78. Would you say that your statement, “God Himself made it clear through these tests what was the canon,” means that God made sure that the men who made the decisions arrived at the decisions God wanted them to (so that the Canon would be exactly what God wanted it to be)?

    Blessings,
    Frank

  83. Just to clarify – I do recognize that not all tradition within the Church is Apostolic Tradition. Nor does the Church find it necessary to catalog what in tradition is Apostolic Tradition and what is simply ancient tradition. I would think that his is part of the broader (not specifically doctrinal) considerations of the argument with the SSPX regarding the Mass of Paul VI. Specifically discerning which elements of the liturgy are in deed Apostolic Tradition and absolutely necessary and which elements are part of a venerable and ancient tradition but not immutable.

    Although actual historical considerations and scholarship and study of ancient documents is certainly part of that discernment, the element of being guided by the Holy Spirit is obviously essential. There is simply no way we could ever decide such issues by proving the point academically.

  84. David,
    I can agree that we have outside “traditions” of who wrote Romans based on the writings of various people. This is really a historical question that is based on historical analysis by scholars. There is also internal evidence within Romans that Paul is the author. Even if the RCC view that they know Paul wrote Romans based on some kind of divine revelation it still would not change anything about Romans being Scripture.

    You believe your church has “regulative authority i.e. Rule of faith”. Would I be correct to say it means also that it has divine protection against error?

  85. Frank,
    In regards to your question at #82, I would say yes.

  86. David, Nelson, and GNW,
    I do think there was a time in the early church that oral traditions of the apostles played a part in the lives of believers after the apostles died through those who knew them well. The same goes for the Lord Jesus. It would be awesome if someone found another letter of Paul or an apostle. Even a correspondence of an apostle to someone would be an amazing find.

  87. Henry (re: 77);
    As you already know, I’m a fellow Protestant seeking answers to similar questions as you, and I don’t understand what you are asking for regarding oral traditions from the apostles. In #77 you said,

    I don’t think its possible to sustain some of the claims of the RCC such as oral traditions of the apostles. An oral tradition would be something like what Acts 20:35 records-””In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” This saying of the Lord Jesus is not recorded in the gospels. This is the kind of oral tradition of an apostle that I am looking for.

    I think this means you are looking for a quotation by a reliable source of something an apostle said that is not recorded in Scripture. Like Polycarp quoting the Apostle John, or something like that. Why do you think this is a reasonable standard for determining an oral tradition of the apostles?
    Take the doctrines of baptismal regeneration or real presence in the Eucharist that I discussed with David above. Is it unreasonable to hold that an overwhelming majority of ECF’s believed, confessed, and practiced these doctrines? Is it unreasonable to hold that these doctrines are not explicitly taught or denied in the Bible? If the answer to these questions is ‘NO,’ like I think it is, then why wouldn’t one assume that these teachings were ultimately grounded in oral tradition from the Apostles and passed down through the teaching of the churches? I’m not saying this absolutely proves the case. But, I don’t think you can absolutely disprove this either. To do so, you would have to prove that this broad consensus of ECF’s got these doctrines wrong. How could you do that? By citing your own interpretation of the Bible? That would require denying that it’s at least minimally reasonable to hold that these doctrines are not explicitly taught or denied in the Bible. It would also require believing that these faithful men, many of which proved their faith by their own blood, and who were no more than a generation or 2 removed from Apostles, succumbed to a widespread error that would not be corrected for about 1500 years. Agree?

    Mark

  88. Henry (re: #72),

    In response to my rhetorical question in #68 [‘If the leaders of the Church of the 4th century did not consider themselves kept from error, what purpose was served by the tests?’], you wrote:

    The purpose of the tests was to determine which books should be in the canon. If the Bible fell out of the sky or something like that then there would be no need for tests.

    You have been insisting that there was no group of leaders (what the Church calls ‘the Magisterium’) who were kept from error as they ‘discovered’ or ‘determined’ the extent of the Canon. On the contrary, the point out in front of my rhetorical question in #68 was as follows: If those who conducted the “tests” (your word) were not kept from error as they conducted them, then the tests would not have been able to establish what those who conducted them concluded they did establish.

    At certain points, it seems either you must mean something different from what the words you type signify, or you have confused the relationship between the clauses in the statements you are making. Here is an example. You wrote:

    It is not necessary for anyone to be kept from error to determine the truth.

    This is a manifest contradiction. It is not possible for any person to determine what is true if that person is not kept from error. If the person is not kept from error, then what he has determined to be true will actually be false, or, what he has determined to be false will actually be true. This is the definition of ‘making an error’–while in the process of running tests, for example, in order to discern whether something is true or false, or whether a book does or does not belong in the biblical canon. The assurance you have that your Bible contains the right number of books is precisely that those who made such decisions (by “conducting tests,” as you have been saying) did not err. If they did err, then you have the wrong number of books. That’s just what it means to ‘err’.

    Or again, you wrote:

    We can discover truth and know truth without someone being kept from erring.

    Exactly the opposite is the case. At the very least, the person who ‘knows’ something to be true is not making an error, because if he was making an error, he would not ‘know’ it to be true. He would believe it to be true though in reality it is false. Relatedly, the leader whose statements or decisions you regard to be true cannot himself be making an error in respect to those statements or decisions, or you would not know to be true what he says is true. You would believe it to be true, but you would be mistaken precisely because he is mistaken.

    Finally, you wrote:

    If anything, the claim to be incapable of erring creates some serious problems later. For one, it makes it impossible for correction.

    It may indeed. But we have not been discussing the consequences of the act of claiming to be kept from error. Rather, we have been discussing actual states of affairs: whether certain leaders were in fact kept from error. And here, if it is the case that certain leaders were kept from error in certain instances (e.g. in their determinations about which books belong in the Canon), then the concern to ensure the possibility of ‘correction’ at some future date is made redundant, since by virtue of the situation, they will have gotten it right the first time. On the other hand, if you deny that certain leaders are kept from error in certain cases, then the whole concept of ‘correction’ is de facto a fiction in the first place, since what is presumed to be a later ‘correction’ may just as well be another ‘error’, with no guarantee that it is not, since on your view the category ‘kept from error’ has been rejected.

    Putting it as clearly and as succinctly as I am able:
    1. If you believe that the books in your Bible are the right books (to say nothing of what they mean by their message; only whether they are properly ‘canonical’), and that there are exactly no more and no fewer than there should be,
    2. And if you believe that God used human minds and hands to make those decisions and to compile those books into a codex you now hold in your hand and call a ‘Bible’,
    3. Then you do believe that God kept those human minds and hands from error–i.e. that in those instances where such decisions were made, those decisions were made infallibly.

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  89. Henry,

    In the many comments directed to you recently, you might have missed my earlier one (#69). I’d really like to hear your thoughts on it, if you have the chance. What do you make of St. Paul’s admonition in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 for Christians to hold to both the apostolic traditions handed down by letter (written) and by word of mouth (oral)? What do you, as a Protestant, believe that those oral traditions would be?

  90. Henry,

    You wrote;

    I can agree that we have outside “traditions” of who wrote Romans based on the writings of various people.

    Correct, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If at the end of the chain hangs the declaration that the book of Romans, far from being a mere historical letter authored by a mere man for a given 1st century religious community; is, in fact – and primarily – a work inspired by the Holy Spirit such that God is its primary Author; then the links of the chain from which this extraordinary assertion are suspended, as well as the ultimate anchor to which the first chain-link is attached, must command a strength and indefectibility as extraordinary as the jewel which they ostensibly support (i.e. the claim that the book of Romans has God as its principle author). Furthermore, one of the links in this chain which suspends the claim that the book of Romans has God as its primary author, crucially involves establishing that the book in question has either an apostle or apostolic associate (in this case St. Paul) as its secondary human author; since it is believed that only apostles or their associates enjoy the unique charism of Divine inspiration [and, of course, one could well ask what grounds there are for stipulating that apostles or apostolic associates (and only these) enjoy such an extraordinary charism. But that is yet another link in the chain requiring honest consideration at another time]. However, when it comes to this crucial link in the chain concerning apostolicity, whereby one seeks the grounds for establishing the Pauline authorship of Romans, you write:

    This is really a historical question that is based on historical analysis by scholars. There is also internal evidence within Romans that Paul is the author.

    If one has spent 10 seconds analyzing the various and disputatious scholarly opinions circulating around the question of the Pauline authorship of Romans, then I need not elaborate as to how ineffably weak is this particular link in the chain, given your account. Moreover, the “internal evidence” you refer to, is question begging in the extreme; for the only basis upon which a scholar may postulate that some manner of writing style or expression usage, or other syntactic indicator is “internal evidence” for Pauline authorship, is if he already conclusively knows that some other work was undoubtedly written by St. Paul, so that he has a literary metric by which to measure any purported internal similarity. Yet, the problem of conclusively establishing the Pauline authorship of some other work which might serve as a benchmark for the recognition of distinctive Pauline literary notes throughout the NT, falls prey to the very same ephemeral and shifting squabbles of the scholarly world, which always leave such questions in some greater or lesser state of perpetual probability and doubt. The bottom line is this: your appeal to scholarly historical and text criticism as constituting the tensile-strength of this crucial link in the chain of inspiration, entirely undermines the power of the ultimate claim hanging at the end of the chain – namely, that the book of Romans has God almighty as its primary Author. As one Protestant (now turned Catholic) theologian has well remarked concerning this very problem [I paraphrase]:

    “on such a view, every Protestant pastor is required by the demands of basic human integrity, after reading his bible aloud to his congregation, to conclude by saying ‘thus saith the Lord – I THINK?’ ”.

    Lastly, you wrote:

    Even if the RCC view that they know Paul wrote Romans based on some kind of divine revelation it still would not change anything about Romans being Scripture.

    Firstly, the RCC does not assert that she has received some special revelation when promulgating the canonicity of Romans at the synod of Rome (382) or the Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). She claims, rather, to enjoy the special charism of infallibility, whereby Christ, as the head of the Church and in view of the needs of all His sheep, protects His duly authorized sheppards (successors to the apostles) from teaching as true, that which is – in fact – false (see the Jerusalem Council in Acts as a prototype wherein the definitive decision of that council was promulgated to the churches with the following preamble: “it seemed good to us AND the HOLY SPIRIT”). Infallibility is the younger cousin of inspiration. In inspiration, the Holy Spirit concurrently and mysteriously uses true human instruments, in full possession of their human faculties, to insure that the very thoughts of God are conveyed to men in human words. Infallibility is a lesser, yet similar, charism to that of inspiration. It maintains that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, protects the Church’s leaders – only in their definitive decisions for the whole Christian world – from teaching error and thereby leading Christ’s flock astray. It is a negative protection, rather than a positive underwriting of each and every word or phrase used in any definitive dogmatic declaration. Like inspiration, its mysterious exercise is fully compatible with the use of all the human faculties employed by the Church’s leaders when coming to such decisions, including inquiries concerning the historical tradition regarding the authorship and liturgical usage of various writings in the Church as a basis for canonizing one book and rejecting some other. Just as with the human authorship of scripture under the influence of inspiration, no matter how human and precarious might be the process leading up to a definitive declaration by the Church from a purely historical point of view, one may yet have confidence that the decision ultimately and definitively promulgated enjoys the stamp of Divine authority due to the protection of the Hoy Spirit promised by Christ to His Church.

    It is affirmation of the Holy Spirit’s power to protect the Church from error in her universal and definitive teaching that enables Catholics to affirm dogmatic declarations such as the Divinity of Jesus or the Trinitarian nature of God in the early ecumenical councils. This why Catholics (unlike their Protestant brethren) view such dogmatic declarations as being, not only likely or reasonable scriptural interpretations concerning the nature of Christ or God, but as ireformable teaching, resting on the authority of Christ Himself. Likewise, it is this very charism of infallibility, exercised in the definitive promulgation of the corpus of the biblical canon, which rescues a Catholic’s faith in the Divine authorship of Scripture from the vicissitudes, probabilities, and skepticism inherent within the walls of academia. The Church established by Christ, and enjoying His Divine protection down through the ages, is the anchor for the first link in the chain of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. Therefore, it is also the anchor for the whole chain, wherein each and every link participates in, and is supremely strengthened by, the promises of Christ to His Church. In this way, the chain derives a supernatural quality whereby it easily supports the ultimate and audacious claim of biblical inspiration and Divine authorship. For this reason, your comment that to the effect that the nature of the Church’s role in relation to the canon

    “would not change anything about Romans being Scripture” is untrue.

    Without the authority of the Catholic Church, neither you nor anyone else in the world would have any way of knowing or reasonably asserting that the book of Romans is anything other than a human, historical production. Relying upon the reed of modern biblical scholarship to support the behemoth of a claim to Divine authorship, is like trying to suspend a planet from a shoelace. The logically possible proposition that some given book might actually be inspired by God is a useless proposition if there is no means, whatsoever, by which any human person might reasonably know that such a proposition is true in fact. A purported set of inspired books without a corresponding infallible means of ratification is theologically and spiritually useless.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  91. Henry,

    Let’s say the early Christians believed ABCDEFG. But only ABCD and E were written down as scripture. Why should they suddenly stop believing F & G once the canon was cemented?

  92. Hi Henry,

    Don’t see where you’re headed in #84. The question of how we recognize Scripture is different from whether or not the Church holds certain traditions. I never said we recognize Romans as Scripture simply because of Pauline authorship. I said that Pauline authorship was something that tradition asserts – not that this is the only grounds for recognizing the authority of the letter.

    But this comment doesn’t get to the underlying question of the article – “What is the basis for our ascribing ‘rule of faith’ status to some authority?” My contention – Protestants ultimately rely on inference and intuition; Catholics at least claim to ground their belief in objective revelation.
    -David

  93. Dear Henry, (re#85): you wrote:

    In regards to your question at #82, I would say yes.

    in reply to the question

    Would you say that your statement, “God Himself made it clear through these tests what was the canon,” means that God made sure that the men who made the decisions arrived at the decisions God wanted them to (so that the Canon would be exactly what God wanted it to be)?

    You and I agree on this. There are only two ways this could have happened:

    1. God (kind of like a Divine puppeteer) simply made the men do his will, or

    2. God let the men use the gifts they have by virtue of being made in his image (intellect, will, immortal soul) to decide the Canon, but protected them from making any errors as they did so (by the power of the Holy Spirit).

    Catholics say it is #2 that took place because Grace does not destroy Nature (as would be the case with #1), but Grace elevates (and ultimately, perfects) Nature (as in #2).

    And THAT is what is meant by the charism (Divine gift) of infallibility. Nothing more, nothing less.

    So you do believe in infallibility, at least insofar as the Canon of Scripture is concerned, you just didn’t realize it.

    Blessings to you,
    Frank

  94. Just my $0.02, which may be worth considerably less depending on who you ask:

    If:
    A. Christ promised (John 16:13) that he would send the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all Truth”
    and:
    B. What the Holy Spirit speaks is in fact True (ie – without error)
    then:
    C. There were/is/are some person(s) to whom have been give knowledge (Truth) that is without error.

    As a recently former Protestant I see no way that even as a Protestant I could disagree with stipulations A and B, and thus the conclusion C.

    So the question becomes: in what way are to we to correctly identify those who have been entrusted with this error-free knowledge? After all, there are many claimants…

    The argument could be made, I suppose, that the disciples were the ones to whom this knowledge was given and that with their death John 16:13 ceased to operate. This, however, would seem to me to be an assertion (opinion) that could not be known for sure since it is nowhere stated in what Protestants would consider to be their only source of divine-revelation.

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  95. Sorry, ‘C’ above should have read:

    There were/is/are some person(s) through whom this error-free knowledge (Truth) has been transmitted.

    Shalom

    Aaron Goodrich

  96. Frank,
    You have not shown that infallibility was required to determine the NT canon. We know that the canon was not “revealed” by divine revelation. If it was then the tests they used to determine the canon would have been unnecessary.

    Peace

  97. David,
    You wrote in regards to ““What is the basis for our ascribing ‘rule of faith’ status to some authority? “My contention – Protestants ultimately rely on inference and intuition; Catholics at least claim to ground their belief in objective revelation.”
    What do you mean you ground your belief in “objective revelation.”? Do you have an example of this?

    Thanks

  98. Jesse,
    What is the evidence for F & G in your example?

  99. Christopher,
    In regards to 2 Thes 2: 15 these would at least have to be traditions-teachings that Paul had taught them orally. Since he had a personal relationship with him I suspect that it would have included some or all his teachings as we have in his letters that are part of the NT canon. To go beyond what he wrote in the NT is to speculate without any evidence.

  100. Ray,
    How are you going to prove that Romans is inspired-inerrant by just claiming your church says so? How are you going to prove that “It is affirmation of the Holy Spirit’s power to protect the Church from error..” when Jesus Himself never promised such diving protection for the church?
    Keep in mind that Jesus, Paul, John and Peter warned that false teachers would come into the church and deceive many. If Jesus had promised divine protection then this would be an unwarranted warning.

    Peace

  101. MarkS,
    It is Roman Catholics who are making the claim of oral traditions and unwritten traditions of the apostles. It’s up to them to show this is the case with some evidence. It is not enough to “assume that these teachings were ultimately grounded in oral tradition from the Apostles and passed down through the teaching of the churches”. Better to say we don’t know than to say an apostle is responsible for it.
    As for what the early church believed about baptism and the Lord’s supper there are a number of different beliefs about these things in the early centuries.
    In regards to error, we know that some popes did indeed err.

  102. Chad,
    Don’t have time right now to respond to everything you wrote but I need some clarification on this point you wrote
    “It is not possible for any person to determine what is true if that person is not kept from error. If the person is not kept from error, then what he has determined to be true will actually be false, or, what he has determined to be false will actually be true.”

    Are you capable of determining what is true and false in your life? Must you be infallible to do so? Must anyone?

  103. “Jesus Himself never promised such divine protection for the church?”

    This is really an amazing claim, Henry. Have you considered how amazing?

    The whole Bible looks forward to the coming of the Messiah, the Renewal of the Human Race, the pouring out of the Spirit and the Kingdom of God. Paul tells us that the Church is to make manifest the mysterious and hidden plan of God to the angels, that she is pillar and foundation of the Truth. Christ promises that the Gates of Hell will never prevail against her, and that he will lead her into all truth. That He will present her “spotless.”

    I, for one, can hardly imagine a gospel in which God promises eternal redemption to those who “believe” without giving any guarantee that their belief is true.

    One reason I left Protestantism was the utter absurdity of the idea that everyone in Christian History before Luther had utterly misunderstood the Gospel – the article on which the Church stands of falls.

    Have you considered how arbitrary and tyrannical this makes God seem? “Believe ! But God won’t give you anyway to be sure you are correct in that belief! He might leave you an inspired text, but no guarantee that you can understand it!”

    Amazing! Do you really think this is how God operates?

    -David
    P.S. I do think God made such promises to the Church. How do you know my interpretation of the relevant Scripture passages is incorrect? Your own exegesis? How can you trust even that, given that God has given you no guarantee that it is without error, and by your own admission Christians do fall into grevious theological error?

  104. What do you mean you ground your belief in “objective revelation.”? Do you have an example of this?

    Yes, the present article lays out the evidence for this claim. You are free to dispute the evidence, but I am more interested in your response to the construction of the thesis. Catholics at least attempt to ground their claims to authority in objective revelation. Protestants, as the first several paragraphs attest, generally concede that they have no explicit teaching from God authorizing the Canon of Scripture as a rule of faith. Instead, they begin with intuition (we need a rule, it ought to be divine), and proceed by way of inference (Scripture is the only divine rule we know of; therefore it should be the rule of faith).

    The main point of the article is to show that if this is true, then Sola Scriptura cannot be considered an article of faith ON PROTESTANT TERMS since all articles of faith must be established by divine revelation. Do you agree?

  105. David,
    If divine protection had been promised to the RCC we would not see all the evil and errors in it that we see throughout the centuries. This alone is proof that such divine protection is not a fact. i wish Jesus had promised to protect the church from error but the facts are firmly against it.
    Can you tell me why your church has never infallibly interpreted the Scriptures?

    BTW- what must a person do or believe to be saved? What does the RCC teach about this?

    Regards

  106. David,
    You write from your article-““Did Jesus teach Sola Scriptura?”
    Jesus most certainly did believe in Sola Scriptura. Consider this from Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 15: “Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat.’ Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,” he is not to “honor his father” with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.'”

    Notice in this passage this is a rebuke of tradition. Jesus never appealed to tradition as a standard of authority. He used the Scripture to correct traditions.

    Can you think of any passage where tradition is said to be inspired or inerrant in Scripture?

  107. Henry, re#96,

    When you agreed to the proposition that “God made sure that the men who made the decisions arrived at the decisions God wanted them to (so that the Canon would be exactly what God wanted it to be)”, you narrowed down the logical possibilities to two.

    Either 1) God gave them the Canon directly, and in that way they came “arrived at the decisions God wanted them to”, or 2) God let them use their gifts as men made in his image but gave them guidance through the Holy Spirit so that they “arrived at the decisions God wanted them to.”

    There are only these two possibilities if they were to be certain to arrive at the correct Canon (“so that the Canon would be exactly what God wanted it to be”). We agree it was not by Divine Revelation (#1), so that leaves #2, and #2 is a description of what Catholics call “infallibility.”

    Henry, at a certain point you must submit to logic. I understand your reluctance. You seem to have been raised in a religious tradition that is strongly opposed to many Catholic teachings, and I can understand why you would try to resist the inescapable logic of this example. Logic is not a subjective thing. Even God cannot state that “A” and “Not A” are the same thing in the same sense — it is the law of non-contradiction.

    So if you refuse to accept #2, you’re left with either retracting your agreement with the proposition, “God made sure that the men who made the decisions arrived at the decisions God wanted them to (so that the Canon would be exactly what God wanted it to be)”, or claiming Divine Revelation for the Canon. There is no third possibility that guarantees the Canon to be correct.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  108. Henry (re: 101)
    You said,

    It is Roman Catholics who are making the claim of oral traditions and unwritten traditions of the apostles. It’s up to them to show this is the case with some evidence. It is not enough to “assume that these teachings were ultimately grounded in oral tradition from the Apostles and passed down through the teaching of the churches”. Better to say we don’t know than to say an apostle is responsible for it.

    And earlier to David you said,

    All you are doing is asserting these things because all we have from the apostles is found in the writings of the NT.

    So you too are making a claim for which you are not providing evidence. I provided you with evidence for oral tradition. You respond by denying what many prominent Protestant historians acknowledge about the ECF’s positions on baptism and the Lord’s supper. I didn’t say it’s ‘enough’ to assume. I only said I would assume oral tradition after finding that the Bible is not clear on an issue that the ECF’s are clear about. You say it’s better to say we don’t know. If that’s the case, it’s also better to say we don’t know that Luke’s writings are Scripture. He was not an apostle. He could have mistakenly transmitted something an apostle said or did. After all, humans can err. And God did not drop the gospel of Luke down from heaven or confirm by some other public miracle, so by your standards it’s better to say we don’t know. Or why assume Peter’s writings are Scripture? He erred in his treatment of Gentile Christians. He could have written something in error. Apostles were not automatically prevented from erring in everything they did.
    I think you apply a level of skepticism toward oral apostolic tradition that you do not apply to your own views without a principled reason for the different treatment. Sure, there are reasons (not proofs) for believing Luke’s writings are Scripture. I accept them. There are also reasons (not proofs) for believing baptismal regeneration is oral tradition from the Apostles.
    Thanks for the discussion.
    Mark

  109. Henry (98),

    Is it your position that the only words Jesus spoke are the red letters in your Bible? Or that the only actions he performed are those found in the Bible?

    But since you asked, here is a Church Tradition: John wrote a Gospel. There’s your “F” (91).

  110. Henry (re:#99),

    Thank you for your reply. I notice that you state, first, that you suspect the oral traditions of which St. Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 would have to include “some or all” of what is recorded of his teaching in the New Testament. In other words, in your view, it seems (please correct me if I’m mistaken), the oral traditions would include “some or all” of what we find taught in the NT (i.e. the written traditions).

    The first major question here is, though, “Which is it? Some or all?” The answer makes all the difference. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, St. Paul seems to say that not all of the apostolic traditions *were* written down– hence, his mentioning of the oral traditions, and the need for us to hold to them.

    Second, you write that in searching for oral traditions of the apostles, for us to go beyond what is written is written in the NT would be for us to “speculate without any evidence.” However, this is a presupposition on your part, not a provable statement. It is akin to more extreme claims by others that there is no evidence for the existence of Jesus outside of the New Testament (which is obviously incorrect).

    Moreover, there *is* evidence of the apostolic and post-apostolic (just after the original apostles) traditions– including oral teaching that is not explicitly found in the NT. We have the historical documents of very early Church Fathers, such as St. Polycarp, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, and others. Some of these men were taught by the last of the original apostles. For example, Polycarp was taught by John.

    I believe that you are really after the truth here, Henry. I take you at your word. In that spirit, though, if you don’t seriously investigate the documents of early Church Fathers, and if you simply assert that going beyond the NT is to “speculate,” then you are actually engaging in speculation yourself. I don’t believe that you want to do that– because you want the truth. There is evidence of the handing down of oral apostolic tradition, as mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. However, you have to look for it. A good place to start is http://www.churchfathers.org/

  111. Please excuse my above typos, Henry– if anything that I wrote was unclear, please let me know.

  112. Hi Henry,

    Regarding your 106:

    I am very, very glad that you have raised this issue, because now we can actually deal with Christ’s teaching, and his intent! Thank you!

    I notice that Jesus condemns the tradition of the Pharisees, and that he treats the OT as the inspired word of God. Very, very good. So do I. So does the Catholic Church.

    I notice some other things, too. I notice that Jesus claims the right to interpret the Old Testament with authority, to offer a definitive interpretation. I also notice that the apostles do the same thing. They don’t treat the Old Testament as self-interpreting. Nor do they assume the meaning of the text is automatically apparent to those who have the spirit.

    I also notice that Jesus does not think the Old Testament is sufficient. It is inspired and inerrant, but not sufficient. It requires an authoritative interpretation. It also needs to be supplemented with new cultus, new ritual, new liturgy, and a new authority structure.

    Then I notice that Jesus makes some provisions for the ongoing mission of the Kingdom of God. Nowhere does he indicate that any body of Scripture is to serve as the charter for this kingdom. Instead, he entrusts its administration to apostles, and promises them divine assistance.

    Then I notice that the apostles entrust the charge of teaching, defending, and rebuking to the leaders that they personally appoint, giving them charge, in turn, to appoint others.

    Then I notice that the early Church assumed this constitution would continue indefinitely. There is no indication in the Church fathers that this system of government would ever pass away or be replaced by a canon of Scripture.

    Then I notice that the Fathers explicitly taught Scripture alone was not a sufficient guarantee of orthodoxy. That Scripture’s interpretation had to be checked against the faith of the apostolic churches (whose identity could only be known from tradition).

    So, again, thanks for raising the teaching of Jesus. From the passages you identify, I see absolutely no evidence that Jesus did anything but condemn Jewish tradition and treat the OT as authority. This, too, the Catholic Church believes. I see no evidence that Jesus identified the 66 as the rule of faith.

    Could you explain to me how you get from this scripture passage to the conclusion that Jesus identifies the 66 as the Rule of Faith?

    Thanks,

    David

  113. Hi Henry,

    As regarding your statement: “If divine protection had been promised to the RCC we would not see all the evil and errors in it that we see throughout the centuries.”

    Why is that? Your statement implies a misunderstanding of the Church’s teaching about herself.
    I never said God promised to preserve the church from all evil and all error. Nor do I think that. Nor does the Church teach it.

    What the church holds is that She has faithfully preserved the deposit of faith, and the correct administration of the sacraments. These things are perfectly compatible with any numbers of sins, errors of judgment, and even atrocities. They are also no guarantee that individual Catholics – even Popes – are preserved from personal error, even theological error. You probably are aware the Dante and later renaissance catholic humorists were fond of populating hell with wicked prelates and Popes.

    So, the evils and errors of Catholics are no evidence against the claims of the Church.
    If you wish to disprove the Catholic faith, you have to demonstrate that Christ did not institute her.
    My contention is that Christ did establish a visible Church, with a recognizable leadership, who in turn passed on leadership to subsequent generations. We know that the early Church considered this state of affairs to be normative, and treated that authority structure as inviolable and divine.

    The point of my article is, in part, that the Protestant view of Church and authority is nowhere mentioned in either Scripture or tradition, and thus has no divine authority. The Catholic position has history, logic, and Scripture on its side.

    -David

  114. Christopher,
    You write-“The first major question here is, though, “Which is it? Some or all?” The answer makes all the difference. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, St. Paul seems to say that not all of the apostolic traditions *were* written down– hence, his mentioning of the oral traditions, and the need for us to hold to them.”
    Again, the only teachings of Paul and the apostles is found in the NT alone. We don’t anything else of what they taught beyond these writings. If you claim there is something beyond the written Scriptures then its up to Roman Catholics to produce the proof of what these traditions were.

    You write -“Moreover, there *is* evidence of the apostolic and post-apostolic (just after the original apostles) traditions– including oral teaching that is not explicitly found in the NT. We have the historical documents of very early Church Fathers, such as St. Polycarp, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, and others…”

    Have read the church fathers in their entirety?

    Thanks
    Can you give me some specific examples of oral teachings of an apostle that is not explicitly found in the NT?

  115. David,
    It is arbitrary to claim that the RCC cannot error in matters of faith and morals since Jesus never promised such protection for the church. You just assert this not prove it. We know that popes erred. Even you admit this. Now, this is strong evidence against your claim that the RCC cannot err. What good does it do to claim RCC cannot err in matters of faith when the pope who is the leader of the church does err? If the vicar of Christ can err, what hope is there for anyone else not to?

    The RCC is not the same as the church we see in the NT in structure nor doctrines. There is no office of celibate church leadership in the NT church. Nor are the Marian doctrines or purgatory part of the church that Jesus established. I could go on to show that there are many more things that separate the RCC from the church we see in the NT. I suspect you know these things.

    Protestant churches that I know of are based on the model of the NT church as we see in Eph 4:11, 1 Tim 3, Titus 1:5-9. I’m sure you are also aware that there is no mention of any supreme leader-pope in any of Scriptures as being part of the structure of the church leadership.

    Since you brought up history, do you think that Jesus intended the church to be in partnership with kings and emperors? Do you think Jesus intended the inquisitions to be used by the leaders of the RCC? Was this the way its authority was to be used?
    These are the kinds of questions that need to be addressed if you are claiming the RCC is the church that Jesus established and would protect from error.

    Regards

  116. Jesse,
    Jesus spoke and did more things than what we have in the gospels. The problem is that we don’t know what else He said (except Acts 20:35 and Revelation 1-3) or did. I wish we knew more but we are limited by what the NT says.

  117. David,
    You wrote in #106 -“I also notice that Jesus does not think the Old Testament is sufficient. It is inspired and inerrant, but not sufficient…”
    Where does make this claim that the OT is not sufficient?

    You also wrote-“Nowhere does he indicate that any body of Scripture is to serve as the charter for this kingdom. ”
    If Jesus did not indicate that any body of Scripture is not to serve as the charter for His kingdom then what should I make of Matt 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
    Since His teachings are found only in Scripture then Scripture is to serve as the foundation, the charter for His kingdom. How could it not considering He speaks in the place of God?
    Why should I not believe that He did not mean for me or you to live your life out by the sermon on mount as its recorded in Matt 5-7 for example?

    Do any of the fathers appeal to unwritten traditions or oral traditions as having authority over the Scripture?

    We know Jesus believed that the OT Scripture was authorative because it was the word of God. He rebukes those who nullify it and holds people accountable to it. He never does this with tradition.

    Matt 15 does not address the issue of how many books there are in the canon.

  118. Henry (#117),

    I hope David won’t mind me throwing in a couple of words. I just want to respond to one question of yours: “Do any of the fathers appeal to unwritten traditions or oral traditions as having authority over the Scripture?”

    Well, no one’s proposing any traditions as being “over” Scripture. But with that caveat in place, consider the following selection from any number of possible examples:

    “Concerning the teachings of the Church, whether publicly proclaimed or reserved to members of the household of faith, we have received some from written sources, while others have been given to us secretly, through apostolic tradition. Both sources have equal force in true religion. No one would deny either source – no one, at any rate, who is even slightly familiar with the ordinances of the Church. If we attacked unwritten customs, claiming them to be of little importance, we would fatally mutilate the Gospel, no matter what our intentions – or rather, we would reduce the Gospel teachings to bare words.”

    St Basil of Caesarea, On the Holy Spirit 27.66

    St Basil’s point is not primarily that some propositions are contained in the Bible and others are passed on orally, though I don’t think he would exclude that. His point is that the Christian Faith finds its normative expression in the living, breathing Church, the Body of Christ, above all in her sacred liturgy. To reduce that living, breathing, life-giving, and deifying Faith to words on a page is to strip it of its power–to strip Sacred Scripture itself of its power.

    best,
    John

  119. Henry,

    So you don’t disagree in principle with the idea of Sacred Tradition? Your disagreement is just incidental in that you question whether these Traditions are authentic?

  120. Henry,
    re: #115. How do you know the RCC is in error with her teachings? How do you know that she is not the model of the Church as described in the NT? If you say you know this by reading the NT, how do you know your interpretation of it is correct and the RCC interpretation is wrong? On what basis of authority do you make those claims?

    There cannot be any doubt that the Christian Church would have grown in 2000 years and would not look the same today as it did when it was first born and her teachings would certainly grow with her i.e. the development of the doctrine of the Trinity for instance. If the Church did not grow with the ages then she was dead from the beginning. But history does not show her dead, it shows her maturing in stature and in leadership.

    Can the leadership err? Of course even Peter was rebuked for error. Is there sin within the Church? Yes. No one has claimed that the leadership of the Church cannot sin or be in error, only that God Himself protects the Church from error in her teachings on doctrine and morales.

    Your ideas of what the Church does and teaches is only your interpretation therefore how can you say that you are correct and the RCC is wrong? I am looking for your Authority in this.

    Blessings
    NHU

  121. David Anders writes: I, for one, can hardly imagine a gospel in which God promises eternal redemption to those who “believe” without giving any guarantee that their belief is true.

    I have met many Protestants that really do imagine such a gospel is “true”. I know of one Baptist man that was honest enough to admit that he believed that salvation was by faith alone, and from God’s point of view, it is enough that one showed faith in order to be saved, even if what one believed might not be true. For the Baptist man, it was having faith that was of supreme importance to God, and not having faith in what was true.

    I believe that this Baptist man was at least being honest in the logical ramifications of two doctrines that he had built his religious house upon – the Protestant doctrines of sola scriptura and salvation of faith alone. There are, of course, thousands upon thousands of Protestants sects that are assuming that these two Protestant doctrines are true, and these doctrinally divided sects express no unity of belief about what the doctrines of Christianity actually are. This Baptist man recognized that this was certainly the case, but he also didn’t want to accept that salvation could in any way be dependent upon accepting correct doctrine, at least not doctrine that was completely correct in every aspect.

    The Baptist man was clinging to a belief, (a belief that that is not that uncommon among “evangelical” Protestants that I know), that most Protestant sects agree about the “essential” doctrines of Christianity. All one really needs to believe to be saved is to accept the “essential” doctrines of Christianity, without having to have correct belief in all the “non-essential” doctrines of Christianity. Which is why, is seems to me, that church shopping is no big deal for many evangelical Protestants. Sure, the Protestant sects that I am church shopping among don’t teach the same doctrine, but they agree on the “essentials”, right? The problem, of course, is determining what the “essential” doctrines of Christianity actually are. No one can tell you what they are, without a big fight breaking out among the Protestant sects, which is why there are thousands upon thousands of Protestant sects that teach contradictory doctrine! It seems to me, that the Protestant evangelical church shopper has an implicit belief that the “essential” doctrines of Christianity are whatever he or she thinks that they are, and if he or she is not entirely correct, what he or she believes is “close enough”.

    I have even encountered Calvinists with this “close enough” thinking – “No, I won’t admit that there are any teachers in my particular Reformed sect that can teach with an infallibility that is guaranteed by God, so I won’t admit that everything that I confess as a member of this sect is necessarily true. But I do believe that what I believe is ‘close enough’ to the truth that I will be saved.” Which exasperates me, since I don’t believe on some essential matters of doctrine that what the Reformed believe is “close enough”, or even close at all.

    “No one can know everything that we are supposed to believe as Christians, and God wants it that way” – that is also an argument I have heard many times from the Reformed. Who am I to argue with God? God wants us to be in the dark about what we are supposed to believe so that we can be saved by faith. My response to that is to ask the Reformed: Why did Christ personally found a church and command those who would be his disciples to listen to his church upon pain of excommunication? What, exactly, is the point of Christ founding a church, commanding his disciples to listen to her, if no one can ever identify the church that Christ personally founded, or know when his church has taught doctrine the binds the consciences of those who are members of his church?

    To sum up, one cannot deny that Protestants sects argue endlessly among themselves about what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of Christianity. I am asserting that long as these Protestant sects build their houses upon the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, they will never come to any agreement about what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of Christianity. The can’t come to an agreement, since the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is not, primarily, a doctrine that the Protestant bible is both inspired and inerrant, it is, rather, primarily a doctrine that veils an assumption. Namely, the assumption that that after the last Apostle died, the charism of infallibility could never be exercised by any living man, under any conceivable circumstance.

    David Anders writes: Protestants, as the first several paragraphs attest, generally concede that they have no explicit teaching from God authorizing the Canon of Scripture as a rule of faith. Instead, they begin with intuition (we need a rule, it ought to be divine), and proceed by way of inference (Scripture is the only divine rule we know of; therefore it should be the rule of faith).

    The main point of the article is to show that if this is true, then Sola Scriptura cannot be considered an article of faith ON PROTESTANT TERMS since all articles of faith must be established by divine revelation.

    Exactly! Since the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is nowhere taught in the Protestant bible, sola scriptura cannot, therefore, be an article of faith that is a foundation of my faith.

    Henry, Catholics and Protestants do not contest the idea that what is found within the covers of a Protestant bible are inspired and inerrant, since a Protestant bible is but a subset of a Catholic bible. Since Catholics believe that their bible is inspired and inerrant, then they must also believe that the Protestant bible is inspired and inerrant. The real point of contention over sola scriptura doctrine is not about the inerrancy of the Protestant bible, it is about the Protestant’s veiled assumption that after the last Apostle died, that no living man, under any conceivable circumstance, could ever define a doctrine of the Christian faith that is guaranteed by God to be inerrant.

    Henry writes: Church leaders can determine what the truth is about something. They can also err. Agreed?

    I agree that church leaders can err. What I want to know from you, Henry, is how anyone can know that the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is NOT an erroneous doctrine?

    Nowhere does the Protestant bible teach the doctrine of sola scriptura. So how can anyone know, for sure, whether or not sola scriptura is false doctrine? What “scriptural test” am I supposed to use to test whether or not sola scriptura is “scriptural”, when there are no scriptures that teach sola scriptura?

  122. Henry (re:#114),

    You asked for an example of orally handed down apostolic tradition that is not explicitly found in the New Testament. One example would be the table of contents for the NT. As a former Protestant, I am aware that the early Church had certain tests for which writings constituted Scripture (and thus, were canonical) and which writings did not constitute Scripture. One of the most important of these tests was which writings were generally read aloud in church services. Try as you might, you will not find, anywhere in the actual writings of the New Testament themselves, a list of the books which are to be considered canonical, and thus, which make up the New Testament. This is because the existence of the NT canon is result of the teaching authority of the Church– the Catholic Church, which gave us the canon at Church councils in the 4th century A.D.

    You accept the NT canon which the Church gave us, yet you reject the teaching authority of the Church. Without that teaching authority, however, we would not know which books even belong to the NT canon.

    Another example of oral apostolic tradition which is not *explicitly* found in the NT is, I would argue, the historic Christian practice of infant baptism. Now, certainly, the case for infant baptism can be *made* from Scripture alone (as my Presbyterian brothers and sisters would heartily attest!), but I do not see where infant baptism is *explicitly* taught in the NT. It can be *inferred* from the fact that Israelite infants were circumcised in the OT, and there are passages in the NT which seem to point to infant baptism, but the practice itself is not explicitly found in Scripture. However, St. Polycarp, who was taught by the apostle John, writes of himself as being a Christian basically since infancy– and significantly, we have no record of his being baptized as an adult. If believers’ baptism were the “Biblical model,” one would think that a godly man, a martyr, no less, such as St. Polycarp would have been baptized as an adult. Yet his writings seem to indicate an infant baptism. Moreover, the writings of the other early Church Fathers attest to the early Christian practice of parents having their babies baptized. This practice, again, may certainly be seen as being implied in Scripture, but it is not *explicitly* found there. It comes ultimately from the Church’s *oral* teaching authority, as she reasons *from* the Scriptures.

    This kind of oral teaching, based on reasoning from Scripture, is also where the Church derives her Marian thinking. I note that you write above, in your comments to other people here, that Catholic Marian teaching is “contrary to Scripture.” It is obviously contrary to your current *interpretation* of Scripture. However, for 2,000 years (since the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.), Catholic Scriptural scholars have had a very “non-Protestant” (for lack of a better term) view of Mary, based on reasoning from their readings of Scripture. How are you sure that the Church was wrong on Mary for so many centuries, and that you are right? The founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, himself, wrote that the veneration is Mary is inscribed in the depths of the human heart. Yet most Protestants today disagree with him, and with 2,ooo years of Church thinking, on the mother of Our Lord.

    You ask me if I have read the entirety of the writings of the Church Fathers. I have not read the entirety of those writings, and nor, I suspect, have most human beings currently alive in the world. However, I have read enough of those writings to convince me to leave a very happy life in Reformed Protestantism and to return to the Catholic Church– losing, in the process, most of my Protestant friends (many of whom no longer even consider me to be a brother in Christ, due to my return to Catholicism) and ruining a career life which I was building as a Protestant “Bible alone” counselor. The truth is worth any painful loss though. Again, if you want to begin investigating what I found in the early Church Fathers which convinced me to return to Catholicism, a good place to start is http://www.churchfathers.org/

  123. A slight correction– I meant to write above, in my reference to Martin Luther, that he said that the veneration *of* Mary is inscribed in the depths of the human heart.

  124. Christopher,
    How did the church of the 4th century know which books belonged in the NT?

    Infant baptism is not taught in the NT. There is not one specific example of it but it is inferred only. It is a denial of repentance and faith in Christ that precedes baptism. Infant baptism did not come into prominence until later centuries. One the fruits of infant baptism is that it has created millions of baptized unbelievers.

    As for Mary’s immaculate conception, where is that taught?

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your Protestant friends. I have many Catholic friends and relatives. Most don’t like to get into theological discussions like the ones were having here.

    Regards

  125. Aaron Goodrich writes:

    A. Christ promised (John 16:13) that he would send the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all Truth”
    and:
    B. What the Holy Spirit speaks is in fact True (ie – without error)
    then:
    C. There were/is/are some person(s) through whom this error-free knowledge (Truth) has been transmitted.

    As a recently former Protestant I see no way that even as a Protestant I could disagree with stipulations A and B, and thus the conclusion C.

    So the question becomes: in what way are to we to correctly identify those who have been entrusted with this error-free knowledge? After all, there are many claimants…

    The argument could be made, I suppose, that the disciples were the ones to whom this knowledge was given and that with their death John 16:13 ceased to operate. This, however, would seem to me to be an assertion (opinion) that could not be known for sure since it is nowhere stated in what Protestants would consider to be their only source of divine-revelation.

    Aaron, I believe that you are making a really good point when you write: “This, however, would seem to me to be an assertion (opinion) that could not be known for sure since it is nowhere stated in what Protestants would consider to be their only source of divine-revelation.”

    Known “for sure” is key. The only source of divine-revelation for sola scriptura confessing Protestants is, of course, their Protestant bible. Where does the Protestant bible teach that after the death of the last Apostle, that Christ would abandon his church? Where does the Protestant bible teach that after the Protestant bible was written down, that those who would be faithful followers of Christ, would also become sheep without a shepherd? Sheep that needed to embrace the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura since the church that Christ founded could no longer be trusted as soon as the last Apostle died. No Protestant can ever know “for sure” that sola scriptura is correct doctrine – it is merely a doctrine that the “Reformers” asserted as being true, while giving no scriptural basis for believing it is true.

    I don’t even see how Protestants can infer that sola scriptura is true, given the explicit teaching of Christ found in the Protestant bible about where one finds the authority to excommunicate heretics. The Protestant bible explicitly teaches that those who would be disciples of Christ must listen to the church that Christ personally founded or be excommunicated from his church. So how can one infer that he or she does not need to listen to Christ’s church? Even if what Christ’s church teaches is wrong, the Protestant bible still only gives us a teaching that we must accept what his church teaches or be excommunicated.

    The Protestant bible not only explicitly teaches that Christ is the head of his church, the Protestant bible also teaches that the powers of death will never prevail against Christ’s church, and that Christ will be with us until the end of time. So what rational reason can a Protestant give for believing that Christ, as the head of his church, would ever allow the church that he personally founded to teach, as her official doctrine, doctrine that is, in fact, heretical? If one posits that Christ has some “secret will” for allowing his church to teach heresy, then what reason could I ever have for believing that the NT is free from heresy? After all, the NT is but a product of the church that Christ founded, a church that Protestants are assuming is NOT protected from teaching heresy!

  126. Henry,

    I am not trying to preempt Christopher’s reply to these questions, which are after all addressed to him, but quickly:

    How did the church of the 4th century know which books belonged in the NT?

    By reference to Holy Tradition.

    Infant baptism is not taught in the NT. There is not one specific example of it but it is inferred only. It is a denial of repentance and faith in Christ that precedes baptism. Infant baptism did not come into prominence until later centuries. One the fruits of infant baptism is that it has created millions of baptized unbelievers.

    Infant baptism is taught in the NT, as interpreted by the Catholic Church, in keeping with Holy Tradition, which is the same source by which we come to know what is the canon of Sacred Scripture. It is true that infant baptism did not come into prominence until later centuries, that is, as attested by extant records, but the same thing is true for many essential doctrines, including the full deity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the canon of Sacred Scripture.

    As for Mary’s immaculate conception, where is that taught?

    The Immaculate Conception is taught in Sacred Scripture as interpreted by the Catholic Church, following Holy Tradition, as this comes to be more fully understood over time.

  127. Mateo,

    You wrote:

    “I don’t even see how Protestants can infer that sola scriptura is true,”

    I appreciate your coming back to this. My whole point in this article is that the Protestant position is based on an inference, grounded in an intuition, defended by question begging. Pretty shaky!

    1) There must be some divine authority to serve as rule of faith (intuition),
    2) It can’t be the Catholic Church (question begging),
    3) Therefore, it must be Scripture (inference).

    I think most Protestants are unaware of this unstated assumption in their thinking ( I know I was), but once you make it explicit, it shows how untenable Sola Scriptura is. The very argument they give for sola scriptura is, itself, based on something other than Scripture (namely, intuition, tenuous inference, and question begging). The Catholic Church, by contrast, grounds her doctrine in the teaching of Christ.

    -David

  128. Not to mention that even if you grant 1 and 2 above, 3 doesn’t logically follow.

  129. Henry, Andrew, and others

    I just wanted to state that Presbyterians believe in infant baptism because they believe that it is a biblical teaching. Tradition certainly plays a role in the argument…(the credobaptist has an uphill historical battle) but there are a number of biblical passages that us Presby and Reformed types appeal to. Acts 2:38-39; All of the household baptisms in Acts; Col 2:12 (I personally don’t find this one as persuasive); Gal 3; Rom 4:11; Jer 31 (with specific reference to 31:17); 1 Cor 7:14 to name a few.

    These are just a few examples of a much bigger argument. The reason I bring this up in this discussion is to point out that the Reformed or Presbyterian who baptizes infants does not have to do so on the authority of Holy Tradition. There is sufficient testimony from Scripture to put forth a persuasive case from Scripture.

  130. RefProt,

    I am glad that most Presbyterian and Reformed communities baptize infants. I believe that there is sufficient testimony from Sacred Scripture to construct an argument that renders this practice plausible (perhaps more plausible than not), and I too find some of these arguments to be “persuasive.” But the Anabaptists also construct arguments from Scripture alone, which they find to be at least as plausible, and apparently even more persuasive, than the Reformed arguments from Scripture alone. So your concluding claim is either relative (to you and others who happen to be likewise convinced), or it begs the question.

  131. Refprot – But it certainly seems obvious that Tradition is helping you to interpret the Bible. Do you agree? If so, then can we allow Tradition to help us interpret, say, John 6? Or John 20:21-23?

  132. Andrew,

    Certainly people disagree about the interpretation of Scripture. As much as I love my Baptist friends, I think that their exegetical method is faulty and they consequently have a faulty understanding of Scripture as it relates to baptism. I get the next response… But how do you discern between the varying interpretations?

    I’m sure people here get sick of rehashing the same arguments over and over, so forgive me. IMHO however, there is actually a discernible meaning in God’s Word, such that there is no need of an infallible interpreter to understand it. All I can give you is my opinion, but I believe Scripture substantiates the claim. If we want to debate the text, then let’s go there and discuss it.

    I understand that the Catholic claim is not that we don’t worry about the text and just have the infallible interpreter tell us what to believe, but sometimes I feel as if the polemic is presented that way. The Catholic still must put forth a biblical argument, right? And as such, you believe that Scripture teaches it.

    This is where I think addressing Dr. Bryan is appropriate.

    Certainly tradition helps us understand! The question is, how does Tradition help us interpret? Do we foist Tradition onto the text in order to make the text say what Tradition says or do we allow the Tradition of the Church to inform and correct our exegesis?

    I understand that Catholic will argue that they are not foisting tradition upon the text, but the Protestant will argue that he does. Discerning this can be a difficult and time consuming process…

  133. RefProt,

    Catholics can put forward exegetical arguments on behalf of the Church’s interpretation of Sacred Scripture (as found in Holy Tradition and the teaching of the Magisterium), but they need not do so in order to know that the Church’s interpretation of Scripture is correct.

    If we want to debate about the meaning of texts, we can go to those texts and debate their meaning. But if we want to know what the text of Scripture means with reference to some doctrinal matter that has been defined by the Church, such as infant baptism, we can simply turn to the Church’s Tradition and the teaching of the Magisterium (the latter of course being but the authoritative clarification of the content of Holy Tradition).

    This takes us to your turn to Fr. Bryan’s comment. You asked:

    Do we foist Tradition onto the text in order to make the text say what Tradition says or do we allow the Tradition of the Church to inform and correct our exegesis?

    The latter, obviously! The difference between us, I think, is that the Catholic allows the Tradition of the Church to inform and correct his exegesis as a matter of principle, while the Protestant does not.

  134. Refprot –

    Andrew got it. If I were to interpret the Bible and come up with a conclusion that said, “We should not baptize infants,” and then I came across a tradition – a practice passed down through history – that does say we should baptize infants, I am going to defer to that tradition and assume that I got it wrong.

    Similarly, if I hold an interpretation that says, “Priests can’t forgive sins in the name of God” and then come across a tradition that says, “Priests can forgive sins in the name of God,” I’m going to again defer to the tradition.

    Same with the disagreements on transubstantiation. Same with disagreements on sola fide and Sola Scriptura. If we look at the text alone these doctrines are all messy and uncertain. If, however, we read the text in light of the practices passed down to us through the ages, they become much clearer.

  135. My experience is that the Catholic allows the Tradition of the Church to inform and correct exegesis as a matter of principle, while the Protestant allows the tradition of his local church to do so as a matter of fact. This is not a bad practice. It is merely that Catholics come by it openly.

    Given the complexity of scripture and the necessity of apostolic truth in a real relationship with Christ and the necessary relationship between the two, how could we expect not to defer to some other authority of some preacher man somewhere? Catholics believe pretty much that God, who is Truth and knows everything, predicted this need.

    Money question: Given an omnipotent God who somehow manages to inspire an inerrant set of scripture, who is therefore clearly capable of the lesser miracle of preventing the Pope from teaching heresy, does the Church or does Protestantism require more mental contortion?

  136. Andrew,
    Not sure what you mean by “The Immaculate Conception is taught in Sacred Scripture as interpreted by the Catholic Church, following Holy Tradition, as this comes to be more fully understood over time.”
    Mary’s conception is not mentioned in Scripture nor does the Lord Jesus mention it. Its not even hinted at.

    Keep in mind that a number of church fathers believed she had sinned.

  137. The Ubiquitous,
    You write “My experience is that the Catholic allows the Tradition of the Church to inform and correct exegesis as a matter of principle…”
    How does this work when there are conflicting opinions on various church authorities? Take Mary’s being without sin. Not mentioned in Scripture and a number of fathers said she did sin. So who do you believe?

  138. Fr Byran,
    Why should “practices” of the church take precedence over the clear teaching of Scripture in regards to how men are forgiven? There is no teaching in Scripture nor example of a priest forgiving someone of sin. We don’t even see this apostles doing this kind of thing. What we do see is a person being forgiven of their sin when they repent and believe in Christ i.e. the gospel. Once that relationship with Christ has been established then that man will be forgiven.

  139. Henry,

    That is why it is so important to read Sacred Scripture with the Church that Christ established, and not on one’s own, or with some church or community that is in schism from the Church that Christ established. So much of truth, goodness, and beauty in the Bible is missed when we go solo or schism-wise, instead of submitting to the Church.

    I will clarify my meaning on the Immaculate Conception in Scripture as interpreted by the Catholic Church following Holy Tradition by referring you to some posts of other contributors to this website:

    Taylor Marshall explains what is meant by this in his post, Mary Without Sin (Scripture and Tradition).

    Sean Patrick cites a wonderful example of Marian typology in the Old Testament in his post, Mary in the Old Testament–One Example.

    And Bryan Cross refers us to a more general account of Marian typology in Sacred Scripture in his post featuring a lecture by Lawrence Feingold, Mary in the Old Testament.

    Finally, Bryan presents the audio version, and summarizes the content, of another lecture by Dr. Feingold, this one being particularly concerned with Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

    Man, this stuff is good. I am going to spend some time this morning (I go to the Byzantine Catholic Liturgy on Sunday afternoon) going over it again, reading and listening. I encourage you to do the same. Sacred Scripture sometimes cuts like a sword, and it can be harrowing to read. But it is also a Garden of delight, a veritable Eden, a source of salvation and renewal, when read with the Church, in the light of her Tradition and in submission to her authority. This is especially true of the Old Testament, that ancient and inexhaustible repository of divine wisdom, which testifies of Christ–and his Mother.

  140. Andrew,

    The difference between us, I think, is that the Catholic allows the Tradition of the Church to inform and correct his exegesis as a matter of principle, while the Protestant does not.

    I don’t think that’s fair. It would be like me saying, “The difference between us is that the Protestant lets the Bible determine his theology, while the Catrholic does not.”

    I just finished an article by a Catholic writing against another (liberal) Catholic, and the main thing the latter was accused of is reading Scripture and history in such a way as to be open to the evidence pointing him to a different conclusion than the one the Magisterium says must be true.

    So it seems that consistency would demand that whatever dismissiveness you see on our part toward Tradition is similar to the dismissiveness we see on yours with respect to the Bible.

  141. JJS,

    It would be like me saying, “The difference between us is that the Protestant lets the Bible determine his theology, while the Catholic does not.”

    So it seems that consistency would demand that whatever dismissiveness you see on our part toward Tradition is similar to the dismissiveness we see on yours with respect to the Bible.

    I agree that this is another way of saying that the Protestant always (in principle) retains the right to maintain his private interpretation of Scripture over and against the tradition and teaching of the Church, while the Catholic will always submit to the tradition and teaching of the Church, as a matter of principle.

    Moving forward, it is important to note that, for the Catholic, this submission to the Church also serves as a kind of exegetical principle. Holy Tradition is a tool of his hermeneutical trade, so to speak.

    Some interpretations are definitive as regards the meaning of a text simply because of the authority of the interpreter. St. Paul’s interpretation of the Pentateuch is a prime example. An Orthodox Jew might demure at St. Paul’s interpretation of the OT covenants, and claim that the Christian’s adherence to St. Paul is dismissive with respect to the Bible. He might ask: Shouldn’t we just take up the Hebrew text in openness to the evidence, even if that evidence leads to an exegetical conclusion different from that of St. Paul?

    The person that takes this line is failing to reckon with the crucial point that St. Paul’s interpretation, qua St. Paul’s interpretation, is itself evidence that is highly relevant to the hermeneutical task of discovering the meaning of the Old Testament. Because of the nature of St. Paul’s authority, the exegete who reserves the right to disagree with his conclusions is at an objective disadvantage in the hermeneutical process with respect to the goal of hermeneutical inquiry, which is to understand the meaning of the text.

    Of course, if the goal of Bible interpretation is specifically to discover the meaning of the text without recourse to authority, abiding by the rules of scientific exegesis alone, then the authority of St. Paul will be of little use, although we might still consult his interpretation. But I see no reason to so restrict the purpose of the exegetical endeavor. To do so would indeed be a kind of dismissiveness with respect to the Bible, insofar as one would only be interested in the meaning that could be extracted from it on one’s own, and not the meaning of the text simpliciter.

    A question (which turns out to be a hermeneutical question) that needs to be addressed by our Orthodox Jew is therefore: Does St. Paul have the kind of interpretive authority that Christians generally ascribe to him? If not, then carry on. If so, then its time for him to refurbish his exegetical paradigm (to say the least).

    Same thing goes for Holy Tradition and the teaching of the Magisterium, with respect to Protestants and Bible interpretation.

    Andrew

  142. JJS –

    I love it when you comment here. Thanks for joining. You said:

    So it seems that consistency would demand that whatever dismissiveness you see on our part toward Tradition is similar to the dismissiveness we see on yours with respect to the Bible.

    I’m not sure I agree. While it is true that we might accuse each other of dismissing Tradition or Scripture, we do so for different reasons. Protestants explicitly deny Tradition as a source of revelation, so any Catholic accusation of being dismissive would be done for this reason (though I recognize that denying Tradition as a source of revelation doesn’t necessarily mean you dismiss it as a means of helping you interpret scripture). Catholics, however, are accused of being dismissive of the Bible because we also look to the Tradition as a source of revelation.

    My point is that these aren’t very similar at all, so I don’t really buy it as a refutation of Andrew’s claim.

    What I would buy as a refutation of Andrew’s claim is to show how Protestant theologians do use the apostolic tradition to examine, inform, and correct their exegesis. How do you do this? And if your interpretation of the Bible were to contradict the practices of the early Church, would that alone be enough to cause you to seriously question your interpretation?

  143. Tooting my own horn: JJS, please address comment no. 135, especially the second paragraph. If there is an answer, I’d like to hear it.

  144. Andrew,
    I’m very familiar with the arguments for the immaculate conception of Mary. There is not one verse in Scripture that says Mary was sinless nor did many of the fathers believed she was sinless. The idea that Mary was sinless did not develop until many centuries after she died. Here are some fathers who taught she sinned:
    “Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220):

    Thus some men are very bad, and some very good; but yet the souls of all form but one genus: even in the worst there is something good, and in the best there is something bad. For God alone is without sin; and the only man without sin is Christ, since Christ is also God.

    Ambrose (c. 339-97):

    So, then, no one is without sin except God alone, for no one is without sin except God. Also, no one forgives sins except God alone, for it is also written: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And one cannot be the Creator of all except he be not a creature, and he who is not a creature is without doubt God; for it is written: “They worshipped the creature rather than the Creator, Who is God blessed for ever.” God also does not worship, but is worshipped, for it is written: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.”

    NPNF2: Vol. X, On the Holy Spirit, Book III, Chapter 18, §133.

    Augustine (354-430):

    This being the case, ever since the time when by one man sin thus entered into this world and death by sin, and so it passed through to all men, up to the end of this carnal generation and perishing world, the children of which beget and are begotten, there never has existed, nor ever will exist, a human being of whom, placed in this life of ours, it could be said that he had no sin at all, with the exception of the one Mediator, who reconciles us to our Maker through the forgiveness of sins.”

    There are many more quotes to show that many believed she was not without sin.

    BTW- has the RCC ever defined what Holy Tradition is and given a list of these Traditions?

    Thanks

  145. Henry,

    I will take your word for it concerning your familiarity with the doctrine. But I can judge for myself as to the quality of your arguments against it. There is not one word in Sacred Scripture about the Trinity, and some of the writings of the early Fathers can be plausibly interpreted as not being completely consistent with the doctrine. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Trinity is biblical, and is supported by the early Fathers, although we need the guidance of Holy Tradition, as this is clarified by the teaching of the Magisterium, in order to rightly interpret the sources.

    Likewise, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is biblical, and is supported by the consensus of the Fathers. Not one of the quotations that you gave mention Mary, and each is consistent with her being sinless, especially when considered in connection with the teaching of the Fathers that do mention her. For the teaching of the Fathers that actually mention Mary, I invite you to turn to the posts to which I linked, in my last comment to you. If you would like to mount an argument against these teachings and the interpretation of Scripture that they represent, then please do so on the comment threads following the respective posts on that subject.

    You asked:

    BTW- has the RCC ever defined what Holy Tradition is and given a list of these Traditions?

    The Catholic understanding of Holy Tradition, in relation to Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium, is authoritatively summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 74–100.

    Paragraph 78 is particularly instructive:

    This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, “the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.” “The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.

    Tradition is, therefore, not merely a list of items, any more than the life of a person is merely a list of events. There are of course concrete monuments of Tradition, that clearly mark out such-and-so as belonging to that total Deposit of Faith that Christ gave to the Church. These include, perhaps most prominently, the doctrines defined by an extraordinary act of the Magisterium. But the Church can no more give an exhaustive list of the items that belong to Tradition than a person can give an exhaustive account of the events that belong to his own life. Nevertheless, whenever occasion calls for it, both the Church and the individual can clearly state that something is definitely a part of her life, an essential facet of her being who and what she is.

    The point underlying all of this discussion, as related to David’s post, is that there seems to be little reason to suppose that the individual’s private interpretation of Scripture constitutes the Rule of Faith , and good reason to think that the Church’s interpretation of Scripture and Tradition does. The problem for Protestants is that the principle of Sola Scriptura entails that the individual’s private interpretation of Scripture constitutes the Rule of Faith. Now, a Protestant might just decide to admit this fact (though not many here have done so), but then he will have to find a way to deal with the seemingly untoward consequences of this admission.

  146. If your last question is an objection to the use of capital-T Tradition by a lack of “giving a list,” the answer is, of course, no, if your goal would be providing a comprehensive list, for surely a partial list is given in the Catechism. But this doesn’t reflect how and when Tradition has been invoked. I liken this to a similar objection against papal infallibility.

    Christianity, which is the positive claim for living as Christ, is only about the rules when rules are broken, and the referees only barge in when they are needed. Just as we dust off the furniture when it gets dirty, just so do we get our act together and invoke Tradition only when some heresy requires it.

    You say some Church Fathers did not believe it. By this, you imply that some did. This seems to point to the claim of Catholics that “it has been believed since the first” rather than “it has never been dogma.” To back up your claim you must additionally show that dissenters show more than mild disagreement or irritation. You will have to show that the dissenters are, in fact, not dissenters but the consensus. And then you will have to show that these dissenters were men of apostolic teaching.

    (If this ground smells suspiciously like the question of authority, I enthusiastically agree. Truth, after all, is not a democracy. Truth is a He, and He is the King.)

  147. Editing my comment — change “it has never been dogma” to “it was never believed.”

  148. Henry,

    It will not do to cherry-pick certain sections of certain fathers. You overlook the context of the patristic quotes you being forth, and show a selective reading of the corpus of their works as is evident by the following quotes:

    Tertullian

    “And again, lest I depart from my argumentation on the name of Adam: Why is Christ called Adam by the apostle [Paul], if as man he was not of that earthly origin? But even reason defends this conclusion, that God recovered his image and likeness by a procedure similar to that in which he had been robbed of it by the devil. It was while Eve was still a virgin that the word of the devil crept in to erect an edifice of death. Likewise through a virgin the Word of God was introduced to set up a structure of life. Thus what had been laid waste in ruin by this sex was by the same sex reestablished in salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing, set straight” (The Flesh of Christ 17:4 [A.D. 210].

    St. Ambrose of Milan

    “The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater [to teach by example] than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? What more chaste than she who bore a body without contact with another body? For why should I speak of her other virtues? She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind, who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue. When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbors? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy?” (ibid., 2:2:7).

    “Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a virgin not only undefiled, but a virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin” (Commentary on Psalm 118:22–30 [A.D. 387]).

    St. Augustine

    “Having excepted the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins—for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?—so, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?” (Nature and Grace 36:42 [A.D. 415]).

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  149. Andrew,
    I can agree that the quotes don’t mention Mary by name nor anyone by name either (except Christ). Here again is an example from Ambrose -“So, then, no one is without sin except God alone, for no one is without sin except God…” Mary would be included in the “no one”.

    Forget the exhaustive list of Traditions. How about just 5 Traditions that have been officially proclaimed?
    In regards to church fathers, where is it said they speak for the entire church when they write on something?

    Where has the RCC officially interpreted Matt 5:3-11? What Traditions would a Catholic use to determine the meaning of these verses?

    BTW- there is no way to get around “private interpretation”. You also have to do it to understand what your church means. You have to interpret the interpretation of rule of faith of your church.

    Do you think most Catholics know what the rule of faith is that David refers to?

  150. Ray,
    What we have with Ambrose and Augustine is that they contradicted themselves. At one time they write all have sinned (which includes Mary) and at another we find he believes Mary was free from the stain of sin. Anyone who claims Mary did not sin is not getting that from Scripture. Mary herself admits indirectly to sin by her praising God as her Savior. See Luke 1:47.

    Here is another quote from Augustine:
    “Augustine (354-430 AD):

    Say to this man [i.e., Ambrose], if you dare, that he makes the devil the creator of human beings who are born from the union of both sexes. He, after all, exempted Christ alone from the bonds of the guilty race, because he was born of a virgin. All the others coming after Adam are born under the debt of sin, the sin which the devil, of course, planted in them. Refute this man for condemning marriage, for he says that only the son of the virgin was born without sin. Charge this man with denying the attainment of virtue, since he says that vices are implanted in the human race at the very beginning of conception.

    See John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians III, Answer to Julian, Book II:2, 4, Part 1, Vol. 24, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1998), p. 306.”

  151. David Anders writes: Not to mention that even if you grant 1 and 2 above, 3 doesn’t logically follow.

    I am so glad that you added this comment, because when I first read your premises numbers one and two, I could not for the life of me, see any way to logically infer your conclusion number three!

    I am more than willing to concede that the Protestant bible is, in fact, inspired, and thus inerrant. So given a starting point of the inerrancy of the Protestant bible, a starting point that both sola scriptura confessing Protestants and Catholics can agree upon, my question is this: Is it possible to logically infer the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura from the Protestant bible? I claim that is not possible. There is no way that the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura can be inferred from a Protestant bible, because the doctrine of sola scriptura contradicts what is explicitly taught in the Protestant bible!

    The only way to have a rule of faith that claims that Protestant bible is the ONLY authority that a Christian must submit to, is to completely ignore the fact that the Protestant bible explicitly prohibits that as a rule of faith. The Protestant bible tells us that Christ personally founded his own church, and then commanded that all those who would be faithful followers of Christ must listen to the church that he personally founded. The Protestant bible also states explicitly that the powers of death can never prevail against the church that Christ personally founded, that Christ’s church has Christ as its head, and that Christ would send the Holy Spirit to guide us until he comes in glory. So if I want a “scriptural” rule of faith, I must do what the inerrant scriptures instruct me to do, and to do that, I must to listen to the church that Christ personally founded, or I will be excommunicated from Christ’s church.

    There simply is no way I can claim that it is “scriptural” to have as a rule of faith the rule that Protestant bible is my ONLY authority. And I think that is really important, because God is indeed the author of the Protestant bible, and I can know from reading the Protestant bible that God does not want me to have the false doctrine of sola scriptura as my rule of faith!

  152. Henry,

    In your last two comments, you wrote:

    So, then, no one is without sin except God alone, for no one is without sin except God…” Mary would be included in the “no one”.

    What we have with Ambrose and Augustine is that they contradicted themselves.

    Instead of asserting that these venerable Doctors of the Church contradicted themselves, it would be better to suppose that they clarified their own meaning. Thus, though it is true to say that all men *without distinction* have sinned, it would be false to say that all men *without exception* have sinned. The Fathers clearly make an exception in the case of Our Lord, and they also make an exception in the case of Our Lady, his Mother. So it does not follow from the assertion that all have sinned that Mary is included in the “all,” since we both agree that this cannot mean all *without exception.* The Catholic Church, following the Fathers in interpreting Scripture, tells us that Mary is also an exception to the rule that all have sinned.

    In your comment to me, you make one further claim, followed by four seemingly random questions.

    First the claim:

    BTW- there is no way to get around “private interpretation”. You also have to do it to understand what your church means. You have to interpret the interpretation of rule of faith of your church.

    Of course there is no way to get around private interpretation in the sense that all communication has to be interpreted. But that is not what I mean by private interpretation as the Rule of Faith. Private interpretation as the Rule of Faith means that the individual reserves the right to reject the interpretation of the Church (e.g., that Mary is completely free from all sin from the moment of her conception) in favor of his own interpretation. That is the sense in which the Catholic avoids private interpretation, and the Protestant does not.

    Now the questions:

    Forget the exhaustive list of Traditions. How about just 5 Traditions that have been officially proclaimed?

    The Canon of Scripture. The Immaculate Conception. The Seven Sacraments. The Infallibility of the Pope. The Use of Images.

    In regards to church fathers, where is it said they speak for the entire church when they write on something?

    Vatican I says, in the profession of faith, that Sacred Scripture is to be interpreted according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers. This is an accordance with 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us.”

    Where has the RCC officially interpreted Matt 5:3-11? What Traditions would a Catholic use to determine the meaning of these verses?

    Many Church Fathers have interpreted Matthew 5:3-11. The Catholic exegete is bound to understand that passage, like every passage, in accordance with the consensus interpretation of the Fathers. This does not mean that later generations of interpreters cannot explain and complete the consensus interpretation of the Fathers, only that they may not interpret Scripture in way that does not accord with the Fathers.

    Do you think most Catholics know what the rule of faith is that David refers to?

    David refers to the Teaching Church as the Rule of Faith. I suspect that most Catholics know about this claim.

  153. Henry,

    What Andrew said. The probability that eminent father’s like Augustine and Ambrose contradicted themselves on such matters, as opposed to clarifying their meaning in different contexts is quite low given the acumen and precision of their thought; nor is it the charitable assumption.

    Pax Christi

  154. Henry,

    Why are you do insistent that Catholic beliefs have explicit scriptural support, and yet when David asks you to provide scriptural support for sola scriptura, you seem unphased that you can provide none ?

    Second question: Do you believe that John wrote a gospel and what is your evidence to support that belief?

  155. This is not a comment! (Ceci n’est pas une pipe :-))

    This is a comment whose sole purpose is to get me onto the e-mail list for comments to this post. I have not been able how to figure out how to do this by any means but this! I have been reading these comments on a feed reader but e-mail would be more convenient.

    If there is some proper way to achieve this for a post I have never commented on without adding a comment, I would be glad to know what it is!

    jj

  156. Henry 137, read my response 146. I’ll ignore your specific example because it has been already addressed by comments since, but your question in the abstract remains a good one.

    How does this work when there are conflicting opinions on various church authorities?

    Rather than blather a guess, I’d wonder at a ruling from someone more in the know. How would this work if it did happen, as it surely does, cf. Kung? Is it merely a matter of sifting that particular German theologian from out of the Ratzingers and Von Balthasars? Or if a Church authority pulls an Origen by flirting a little too close to the edge, how is this discerned? Is Tradition treated like Scripture, requiring a living Magesterium to interpret it and set the boundaries, but only when it needs to? What principles have been introduced? Is it simply guidance of the Holy Spirit?

  157. Jesse,
    I have given Scriptural support for Sola Scriptura. Here are some reasons:
    1) The Scriptures alone are inspired-inerrant. They alone are infallible.
    2) The Scriptures cannot err. Men can and do.
    3) Jesus used Scripture to correct and condemn traditions.
    4) The only revelation of God that we have is found only in Scripture.
    5) God is the ultimate author of Scripture.

    Even though God used men to write Scripture and determine its content (canon), He is the source of Scripture. This is why Scripture alone is considered theopneustos, God-breathed.

    I do believe that John wrote a gospel because of internal evidence and external evidence.
    Here are some things to consider for the external evidence:
    Irenaeus (130-c. 200) identifies John the apostle, the son of Zebedee, as the author of the Gospel of John. Eusebius also comments that John wrote this gospel.

  158. Andrew,
    The book of Romans says that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Paul, who is the author of this book, never makes an exception for Mary when he wrote this. Who should I believe is telling me the truth? Paul the apostle or a church father?

    Would you happen to have the source where “The Canon of Scripture. The Immaculate Conception. The Seven Sacraments. The Infallibility of the Pope. The Use of Images”? In other words, is there some document that calls these things Traditions?

    You wrote about how Catholics are to interpret Scripture– “The Catholic exegete is bound to understand that passage, like every passage, in accordance with the consensus interpretation of the Fathers…”
    How does this work in practice? If I was at a Catholic bible study, how would they exegete a passage of Scripture in light of the consensus of the fathers? It would seem to me that a Catholic who was to apply this principle would have to have an exhaustive knowledge of the church fathers to determine if they have a correct understanding of a passage.

  159. Mateo,
    You wrote in #151 “The only way to have a rule of faith that claims that Protestant bible is the ONLY authority that a Christian must submit to..” is not correct. The Scriptures are the ultimate authority but not the only authority for a Protestant. The protestant is under the authority of leaders in the church. Hebrews 13:17 is an example of this. We are also under the authority of the state. See Romans 13:1.

  160. Henry,

    As we have seen, this passage does not mean all men without exception. So Paul and the Church Fathers are not at odds on this point.

    I do have sources. They are, in order:

    Trent, Session IV
    Ineffabilis Deus
    Trent, Session VII, Canon 1
    Vatican I, Session IV, Chapter 4
    Nicea II, Definition

    The Catholic Bible studies that I have participated in (cf. Catholic Scripture Study) interpret passages of Scripture in the light of the consensus of the Fathers by citing some of the relevant works of the Fathers in the study notes. These notes are prepared by Catholic Bible scholars and/or patristic scholars, or by those who have access to the excellent works produced by patristic scholars or teams of patristic scholars (cf. The Navarre Bible series).

    You wrote:

    It would seem to me that a Catholic who was to apply this principle would have to have an exhaustive knowledge of the church fathers to determine if they have a correct understanding of a passage.

    Catholics do not study the Church Fathers in order to “determine if they have a correct understanding of a passage.” We study the Fathers because we believe that they evince the correct interpretation of a passage.

    [Or it could be that by “they” you are referring to the Catholics who study the Church Fathers, not the Fathers themselves. But of course we don’t suppose that everyone who studies the Bible in this way has to have an exhaustive knowledge of either the Bible or the Fathers. This is why we have scholars and teachers and, ultimately, the Magisterium–to help and guide us in our understanding of divine revelation.]

  161. Henry
    # 157.. I don’t wish to cut in on Andrew as this is his question to answer. But I would like to add that the Sacred Scriptures of the New Testament are in fact part of the Sacred Traditions of the Church put down in written form. You have been asking for the writers of the blog to identify Sacred Tradition and you have been Quoting from Sacred Tradition all this time.

    All of the New Testament was written years after Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, therefore what was written was the Traditional teachings of the Church. But not necessarily ALL the Traditions were written down. If none of it was written down the Church would still exist to spread the word of Christ throughout the whole world. Jesus made no command to write but to teach.

    Why do you feel that the Churches teachings of her Traditions would be any different now than when she wrote the ones she has in the NT? If there are differences in the interpretations of those written Traditions, couldn’t those differences be caused because those who differ from the Church have misinterpreted her Traditions? If the Holy Spirit is the author of these written Traditions would He not insure that the Church who teaches these Traditions be kept from teaching error? The Holy Spirit does not teach a multitude of truths on the same subject. There is only one truth.

    Remember it is the Church that gave life to the NT. Not the NT that gave life to the Church and both the NT and the Church are under the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit. You say the Church has erred but how so? If the Church was commissioned to teach ( and she was) would the Holy Spirit not keep her in the Truth? The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of the truth not the Pope, or the Bishops or the Priests. They all can sin and do sin. But the Holy Spirit protects the Church in truth .

    Blessings
    NHU

  162. Jesse asks Henry: Why are you do insistent that Catholic beliefs have explicit scriptural support, and yet when David asks you to provide scriptural support for sola scriptura, you seem unphased that you can provide none ?

    Henry, would you please answer Jesse’s question? What scriptural support can you give for the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura?

    If you would, please, I would also like you to give a direct answer these two questions (which, from my point of view are but variants of Jesse’s question).

    Where, in the Protestant bible, are the verses of scriptures that justify the rejection of doctrine taught by the church that Christ personally founded?

    My next question is based on this claim by Martin Luther:

    Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason — I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the Word of God.

    Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, pp. 143-144.

    Here, Martin Luther is clearly asserting that his private interpretation of scriptures has more authority than that of “popes and councils”. Luther is claiming that because he was following his conscience, that he was justified in rejecting the teaching authority of the church that he belonged to.

    Where are the verses in the Protestant bible that back up Luther’ implicit claim, namely, that any man is justified in rejecting existing church authority, as long as he is following his conscience?

  163. Andrew,
    I’m sorry but the RCC is at odds with what Paul wrote in Romans about all men being sinners. Paul makes no exception for Mary. All that your church does is assert that Mary was without sin. It does not prove it nor can it since the Scripture is clear that all men are sinners because sin came through Adam. See Romans 3:23, 5:12.
    Either Scripture is wrong and the RCC is right or the RCC is wrong and the Scripture is right. They both cannot be correct.
    You say in a Catholic study bible “exegete passages of Scripture in the light of the consensus of the Fathers by citing some of the relevant works of the Fathers in the study notes.” Are the fathers the infallible interpreters of the Scripture or are they expressing their opinions of what they think it means (private interpretation)?

  164. Henry
    Are you dodging my questions? (See # 161) If you read it and answer my questions it will answer your problems that you mention in # 163 to Andrew.

    Blessings
    NHU

  165. Henry,

    Thanks for getting back to me. Here is the pretext of my question.

    I think you hold Catholics to a higher standard than you hold yourself when it comes to providing evidence for claims. If you cannot provide *explicit* scriptural support for sola scriptura, then it’s a double standard to cry foul on Catholics when we cannot offer *explicit* scriptural support for our claims.

    Second, the extra-biblical evidence for various Catholic Sacred Traditions offered here is at least as strong as the evidence you put forth for John’s authorship, and yet you say our evidence for various Traditions isn’t credible.

    Indeed, in accepting John’s scholarship, you in fact are believing in Sacred Tradition. So it seems to me that you are happy to accept Sacred Tradition provided that it is a Tradition that you already agree with.

  166. (There was a time when replies to Henry were supposed to be closed, so not sure if this is still true – if so, admins, apologies, please remove my comment).

    But – if the comment stays:

    @Henry:

    The Scriptures alone are inspired-inerrant. They alone are infallible.

    Henry, I once asked you why you believed this to be so. I think this is a fundamental question. You said, as I recall, that there was no need for you to explain why you believe this to be so, because we both agree that it is so. I do not think that is right. I think that your reason for believing in the inspired and inerrant nature of the Scriptures – let us limit ourselves, for the moment, to the New Testament – will tell us what your final authority of truth is.

    If you are willing, I really would like to hear a reasoned (not brief off-the-cuff) explanation for why you think these particular writings – we are unavoidably dealing with the canon question here, because the very question of what books constitute the New Testament is itself part of how you know they are inspired and inerrant – why, in a reasoned way, you think the 27 collections of writing, commonly referred to as the ‘New Testament,’ are, in fact, revelation from God (in fact, I think we could agree, that, if they are revelation, they must be inspired and inerrant).

    jj

  167. Henry,
    Pardon me. I made an error in # 161. I referred you to question #157 and it should have been question # 158. Sorry about that. I guess that means I’m not infallible either.

  168. Henry,

    I’ve followed a bit of this silently, watching from the wings so to speak. I don’t object to your piping up, as a general matter; not at all. I should however tell you that your comments, while quite welcome, are sophomoric and ill-informed. There are genuine Protestant objections lurking behind the things you say (or so I believe), and these objections really do deserve a reasoned and careful reply. But this proof-texting procedure of yours (e.g. “Romans says all men have sinned, so this disproves such-and-such Catholic doctrine”) makes you sound out of your depth when you post those things here. (Just an example, not meaning to pick on you for this one thing.)

    It’s obvious enough that you’re quite sure of yourself, and that you have the courage of your convictions etc. That’s fine in its way. You are however doing more harm than good for the anti-catholic cause when you lodge the kind of proof-texting arguments and rhetorical would-be zingers you’ve so far given here.

    My advice: Take a breath; and quit thinking that any old biblical proof-text is a stick good enough to beat silly Catholics with. We all of us, at one time or another, distrusted and maligned and indeed hated the ‘Institutional Catholic Church’. Been there, all of us. Consider the possibility that you might have something to learn,

    Neal

  169. Hi Henry,

    As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve essentially dropped out of the conversation. Part of this has to do with answering to other responsibilities, and part of it has to do with the number of other contributors who have entered it. A third part has to do with the concerns Neal explains above. When I read some of your most recent posts, I confess to wondering whether you are even familiar with the trends in Protestant exegesis. For example, the Protestant scholars who would insist that “‘All’ means ALL, and that’s all ‘all’ means” are thin on the ground. (The number of pastors on the other hand….)

    In connection, St. Paul’s point in the passage in Romans has everything to do with deconstructing an unhelpful contrast between Jews and Gentiles (and the perceived exclusivity of the Jewish reception of Christ’s salvific work), and very little if anything to do with advancing a metaphysical claim about humankind. I thought this years before I ever began to consider conversion seriously, and years before that I was aware that the word ‘All’ in Holy Scripture hardly ever means ‘ALL’. If it does in the statement from St. Paul, then Jesus cannot be excluded. If it doesn’t, you need to reckon with an alternative intention St. Paul may have for the adjective which relieves the pressure to read St. Paul’s statement into the Bible’s portrayal of people like Enoch, or our blessed Mother. (This is called ‘interpolation’, which many Protestants–yourself included–often accuse Catholics of doing.)

    In any case, once you’ve taken that deep breath. Perhaps we can resume.

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  170. Henry,

    Back on the thread Christian Unity and Life, I replied at some length to your challenge about the Immaculate Conception and asked you to refute it, using Scripture alone. You never did. I’ve seen you repeat this challenge to two or three others now, asking for a defense of the dogma.

    Why don’t you first respond to the post I made before issuing new challenges? Here is what I posted:

    Henry, (re#126),

    I think it will be a challenge to communicate to you the Scriptural evidence for Mary’s sinlessness because your view of Scripture seems very literal – sort of two-dimensional. Certainly there are things pretty plainly stated in Scripture, such as the necessity of Baptism for salvation (Jn. 3:5 ff). There are other doctrines that require a reading of Scripture that sees the broad arc of OT prophecy and its realization in the NT — not a literal verse or verses that simply state a doctrine. I challenge you to find the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in the Bible – not just the mention of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but the full-orbed doctrine of Three-in-One that is found the Nicene Creed.

    So, on to the Immaculate Conception.

    If Jesus is the “new Adam” – fulfilling that part of the bringing about the “new creation” who is the “new Eve”? Mary is the “new Eve”. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, here is something from St. Irenaeus, an early Church Father – one among many similar reflections from the early Church:

    As Eve by the speech of an Angel was seduced, so as to flee God, transgressing His word, so also Mary received the good tidings by means of the Angel’s speech, so as to bear God within her, being obedient to His word. And, though the one had disobeyed God, yet the other was drawn to obey God; that of the virgin Eve the Virgin Mary might become the advocate. And, as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a virgin it is saved, the balance being preserved, a virgin’s disobedience by a virgin’s obedience.

    Now it is a general principle that Old Testament foreshadowings of certain ideas or types find their fulfillment in a superior form in the NT. Adam/Jesus is one such example. Another such is Eve/Mary, as St. Irenaeus writes. Eve was born without the stain of original sin. If Mary is a superior type of “the woman” [Ge: 3:15 — who is “the Woman” whose seed will be the enemy of the serpent? Mary, of course. This is why Jesus refers to her as “woman” throughout the NT — he is calling her by her prophetic name] — how can she be born in any less a state of grace than Eve? This is precisely what the Angel means when he addresses her as “Full of Grace.”

    As to your Rm 3:23 objection, Jesus was a man and was born without sin (as were Adam and Eve), so already exceptions exist. As to HOW Mary was conceived without original sin, that was through the merits of the Cross being applied to her at the moment of her conception. God is not limited by time and so for Him to do this does not involve the problems of temporal sequence that limit us.

    Furthermore, nothing unclean can be in the presence the God — I’m sure you’d agree with that proposition. Well, in the uniting of Mary with the Holy Spirit that gave rise to the conception of the Son of God, Mary would have to be without sin or else the Holy Spirit could not have united with her, following the Biblical principle I have just cited.

    Will you find “Mary was born without original sin” in a Bible verse? No. Is this doctrine Biblical? Yes – if you read the whole of OT and NT in their proper relation.

    If you respond, please tell me where this explanation fails — and please cite the Scripture that makes your case.
    Do not jump to another objection before addressing this one.

    – Frank

    Frank

  171. Nelson,
    Are you saying that Sacred Tradition is the same as the Bible? It seems you agree with this and yet you write “..But not necessarily ALL the Traditions were written down.” This is what I’m trying to understand exactly what these other Traditions are. A number of posters here have given me what they think they are but I would like to see some kind of official list by the RCC. I would also like to know who started these Traditions and when if possible.

    You also ask-“Why do you feel that the Churches teachings of her Traditions would be any different now than when she wrote the ones she has in the NT?” The reason that the RCC has doctrines that are not grounded in Scripture and yet the Roman Catholic is commanded to believe them. As far as I can tell these Traditions are some of the things that separate Roman Catholics from Protestants.
    There is no divine protection by the Lord Jesus that the church would be protected from error. There are a number of warnings in Scripture itself that warn of false teachings coming into the church and deceiving many. These warnings would be unnecessary if divine protection against error were true. The problem is that men can and do err. Just look at the history at the history of the RCC and you will find error.

    To refute my argument you are going to have show from Scripture that Jesus would protect the church from error and to show that the RCC has never erred. Something like all teachers in the church would never teach error.

    Peace

  172. Hi John,
    I have answered your question a number of different ways already. Let’s go with the simplest and the one that Catholics want to here: the leadership of the church of the 4th century got it right. God used these men to determine what the NT canon should be.
    What should I conclude from this? Should I assume that because the church of the 4th century got this right I should believe it got everything right after this for the past 1500 years?

    Peace

  173. Mateo,
    What do you think the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is? How is it defined?

    Some passages that support Sola Scriptura are:
    Psalm 119:160
    2 Timothy 3:15,16

    As for Luther, he was well within his grounds to reject the leadership of the RCC. It was corrupt and they gave him good reasons to reject them. There is a close correlation between truth and the moral character of those who proclaim it. When a man proclaims to know truth and yet lives contrary to it, who would listen to such a person? This was not just some kind of abstract discussion with Luther and the reformers but they were well aware of the corruption of leadership of the church at the highest level. Yes he was justified in leaving.

  174. Henry writes: I have given Scriptural support for Sola Scriptura.

    Henry, you have not quoted a single verse from the Protestant bible that supports the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura!

    Henry writes:

    Here are some reasons:
    1) The Scriptures alone are inspired-inerrant. They alone are infallible.
    2) The Scriptures cannot err. Men can and do.
    3) Jesus used Scripture to correct and condemn traditions.
    4) The only revelation of God that we have is found only in Scripture.
    5) God is the ultimate author of Scripture.

    You aren’t giving us the verses of scriptures found in your Protestant bible that support the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, you are trying to infer that the doctrine of sola scriptura is correct!

    Let us look at what you believe.

    Point # 1 and Point # 2:

    If Scriptures are inerrant, then scriptures, by definition, cannot err. But where are the verses in your Protestant bible that claim that the books in the New Testament are either inspired or inerrant? Chapter and verse, please!

    Second, scripture cannot be infallible, since a book cannot be infallible. Infallibility is a charism of the Holy Spirit that men can exercise under certain conditions. Please read Ray Stamper’s post # 90 of this thread for more about this point.

    Henry, you claim that men can and do err. No one is disputing that point. Men can also be correct. So your point that men can err is lost on me.

    Point 3:What is your point here, and what are you trying to infer from this statement? You have lost me here too.

    Point 4: By “scriptures”, I assume that you mean the Protestant bible and not the Catholic bible. But no Catholic will ever concede that point, because Catholics believe that most modern Protestant bibles are missing books that are inspired. Which leads us to the canon question. Where are the verses found in any Protestant bible, new or old, that define the canon of the bible? There aren’t any, of course. So what source, outside of the Protestant bible, should I search out that has a guarantee from God to be inerrant when I ask this question, “What inspired books belong to the canon of the bible?”

    Point 5: Where are the verses found in a Protestant bible that claim that God is the ultimate author of the Protestant bible? Specifically, where are the verses in the Protestant bible that claim that the books of the New Testament have God as their author?

    I believe John Thayer Jensen is quite right when he says:

    I think that your reason for believing in the inspired and inerrant nature of the Scriptures – let us limit ourselves, for the moment, to the New Testament – will tell us what your final authority of truth is.

    Henry, what authority are you invoking when you claim that the books of the New Testament have God as their author?

    The bottom line for me is this, I still do not see one single verse of scriptures from a Protestant bible that testifies to the truthfulness of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. Why should I believe that the Protestant bible, and ONLY the Protestant bible, has a guarantee from God for being inerrant? Where are the verses found in a Protestant bible that makes this claim for the Protestant bible?

    Henry writes: You wrote in #151 “The only way to have a rule of faith that claims that Protestant bible is the ONLY authority that a Christian must submit to..” is not correct. The Scriptures are the ultimate authority but not the only authority for a Protestant. The protestant is under the authority of leaders in the church. Hebrews 13:17 is an example of this …

    You are the one that is claiming that ONLY the Protestant bible is known to be inerrant. So let us examine your claim that you are under the authority of the leaders of a church.

    First, what church do you even belong to?

    Second, what actual authority do the leaders of your church have over you?

    Hypothetically speaking, let us suppose, that based on your private interpretation of the Protestant bible, that the teachers in your church began teaching something, that you, in good conscience, did not believe was scriptural. Under that circumstance, would you reserve the right to go church shopping until you found a Protestant church that agreed with what you believed is scriptural?

  175. Hi Henry,
    re: #170 I am saying that the bible is a part of sacred Tradition. It is a part of the Tradition of the Church set down in written form. The Church existed long before the New Testament was written and it reflects the Oral Tradition of the Church. The Church was commissioned by Christ to teach and its teachings are Tradition, written and oral. As I stated the written Tradition is only some of the Churches teachings. Not everything the Church taught was set down in writing. Some of the Traditions carried on in Oral form. To understand all of those Traditions you need to learn the history of the Church and its Teachings. There is no list per se.

    Certainly if Christ commissioned the Church to teach ( which He did) He would insure that those teachings would endure as He required them to. Is Tradition equal to the bible? I believe that Tradition and the bible are both authorities in their own right. But the bible is not self interpretive, it requires an interpreter. As the Tradition of the Church belongs to the Church to start with it is for the Church to interpret. Now, you may believe that the Church has misinterpreted her own Tradition but then that has to mean that the Holy Spirit has failed in Jesus’ promise of Him leading the Church into all of the truth. The Church’s commission is through the Holy Spirit. The Sacred Tradition is through the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that keeps the Church and her teachings in the truth.

    You feel that the RCC has commanded her members to believe in teachings that are not grounded in Scripture but that is only your belief. There is a possibility that you might be wrong on this is there not? To be sure, all of the Churches teachings are grounded in her Traditions be they Oral or Written. There is a divine protection for the Church given by Christ when He sent the Holy Spirit to lead her in the truth. I would not believe in a God who could not even keep His own house in order. He in fact did and does. That doesn`t mean however that the members of the Church are not sinners of the worst kind, or that some of the leadership were not sinners. Christ did not send the Holy Spirit to keep the members of the Church from sinning but to protect her from teaching error.

    You are right there are warnings in the bible that there would be false teachers arise that would even deceive the elect if that were possible. But what does that have to do with the Holy Spirit protecting the Church? There have been false teachers from the very beginning and it will continue even until Christ’s second coming. Even individual members of the Church can err and the history of the Church are full of examples. ( I don’t think I need to tell you that).

    I believe that I have shown you where Jesus did send protection to the Church ( the Holy Spirit). I have admitted that there are sinners within the Church. I have admitted that some teachers within the Church teach error or at least can teach error as individuals. But the Church as a TEACHER cannot teach error. She is under God’s protection.

    When is the Church a teacher? When she teaches with AUTHORITY as Christ commanded. She teaches with that authority through her bishops who were given that authority through the Apostles in the laying on of hands. Sometimes it takes centuries for that teaching to become fully developed. For instance the teachings of the Trinity, the canon of the Old and New Testament and the teachings of the Blessed Virgin Mary to name a few. These are also part of the Traditions of the Church.

    I have looked at the history of the Church. You are right there is lots of error in there. Error in judgement, error in sin, error in decisions, even error in leadership. BUT never error in teachings. Have priests and bishops and leaders ever taught error? Yes, and some still do today. But as individuals, not as the teaching authority of the Church.

    I will stop with this. Yes there is a difference between Catholics and Protestants in Traditions, that is part of what makes us separate. But they need not keep us separate with understanding and love. God will heal us if we but let Him.

    Blessings
    NHU

  176. @Henry:

    Let’s go with the simplest and the one that Catholics want to here: the leadership of the church of the 4th century got it right. God used these men to determine what the NT canon should be.

    OK, very good. Then you agree that God made them infallible in recognising the canon – and, I presume you would agree, in recognising the inspiration of those books and their consequent inerrancy.

    You then ask:

    What should I conclude from this? Should I assume that because the church of the 4th century got this right I should believe it got everything right after this for the past 1500 years?

    Mightn’t you conclude that the very idea of God’s protecting a group of sinful men from teaching error in one subject matter, at least, is not ridiculous?

    jj

  177. Mateo,
    There really no such thing as a “Protestant” bible. Rather, the bibles we have are based on manuscript families that scholars use to translate the Bible into English. Did you know that the New American Bible (sponsored by American Catholic authorities) was done with the help of Protestant scholars?

    I most certainly have used Scripture to support the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Psalm 119:160 and
    2 Timothy 3:15,16 are a couple of passages that support the doctrine.
    Do you think that Jesus thought the the Scriptures were inspired-inerrant? Do you think that the teachings of the Lord Jesus are infallible i.e. not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint : certain, incapable of error in defining doctrines touching faith or morals? Did you think He taught with absolute authority and that His teachings as recorded in the NT have the same authority?
    These are the kinds of questions you need to answer negatively if you are going to claim “scripture cannot be infallible, since a book cannot be infallible.”

    If you answer in the negative then the Bible is but a mere guide book that can be dismissed since it has no authority over any man.

    On #3 I’m showing that men are not infallible. Since they are not, they can and do err. This is why we are commanded by Scripture to test all things and be on guard against false teachings. We should expect to see false teachers and teachings since we have been warned about this from the Scripture. You can’t do this since your church claims to be incapable of error. Even when there is evidence of error, you must deny it.

    On #4 I have already dealt with. Jesus certainly believed and taught the OT was the Word of God. The Jews had already defined the OT canon by the time of Christ. The church of 4th century defined the NT canon.

    #5- Are the books of the Bible found in “Protestant” bibles inspired-inerrant as the same 66 books of the RCC bible? Are at least these 66 books of Protestant and RCC inspired-inerrant?

    Inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible is not derived from any council or pope. Rather it is derived from the very nature of the Scriptures themselves. All that men have done is to recognize this fact. No man or church makes the Scriptures inspired-inerrant.

    I don’t always agree what my pastor teaches. That should be expected since he is not infallible. Do you believe everything that the pope, bishop or priest teaches?

    If my pastor taught something that contradicted the Scripture I would leave. For example, if he taught that Christ was not God and died for my sins I would leave. If he taught that the Scripture was not the Word of God, I would leave. If he embraced the practice of homosexuality I would leave.

    On what conditions would you leave the RCC?

  178. John,
    I have no reason to think that God made them infallible in recognising the canon. You would need to prove this was indeed the case. Did these men claim to be infallible and if so how?

    I suppose God could protect men from teaching error. The question is: did He?

    There is only one human being that was infallible and that person was the Lord Jesus. He is the “template” for infallibility. Conceived without sin and lived a sinless life. Demonstrated that He was God and infallible by His life and miracles He performed.

    Do you claim this for any leader or council in your church? If you can, then you will have shown your church is incapable of error in matters of faith and morals.

  179. @Henry:
    Just a follow-up on your:

    Let’s go with the simplest and the one that Catholics want to here: the leadership of the church of the 4th century got it right. God used these men to determine what the NT canon should be.

    I have had a thought about this. I want to be completely clear about what you are saying. Is it that you are saying you believe the books commonly called the ‘New Testament’ to be God’s Revelation to us, inspired and inerrant, because the “leadership of the church of the 4th century” got it right? In other words, you believe in the New Testament on their word?

    Or are you just saying that you believe it for some other reason and that, because they, also, believe this, you know they got it right? In other words, is it that you believe them, or just that you agree with them?

    This, I think, is the critical question. If your answer is that, simply, you agree with them. You know the NT to be God’s Word and they do – then I am still looking for your answer to the question why you believe the NT to be God’s Word.

    If, on the other hand, you believe the NT to be God’s Word precisely on the word of the leadership of the church of the 4th century, then we will have established a starting point on which to agree – and can move on from there.

    jj

  180. Henry asks: What do you think the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is? How is it defined?

    Good questions. Here is a typical Protestant definition of the doctrine of sola scriptura:

    The Protestant Bible alone is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.

    That definition cannot be correct, because the Protestant bible must be interpreted by someone, before anyone can decide whether or not a doctrine in dispute is “scriptural”. Thus, the final authority in matters of faith and morals is whoever has the final authority in interpreting the Protestant bible. This is a question of primacy – should I believe in the primacy of the individual conscience, or should I believe in the primacy of the church that Christ personally founded?

    The doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience is, of course, a Protestant doctrine, and not a doctrine that any Catholic can accept. There are Protestants claim that the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience is the foundation of the doctrine of solo scriptura and not the doctrine of sola scriptura. But there is no principled difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura, because in the end, the individual Protestant is always the ultimate (primary) arbiter of what he or she believes is “scriptural”. This is so, because all sola scriptura confessing Protestants deny that any living man, under any circumstance conceivable, can exercise the charism of infallibility

    A Protestant that reserves the right to church shop when he or she, in good conscience, thinks that his or her church is not teaching the biblical truth, is also a Protestant that believes (at least implicitly) in the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. And that describes every sola scriptura confessing Protestant, since every sola scriptura confessing Protestant reserves the right to go church shopping if he or she believes that his or her church has begun to teach doctrine that is “unscriptural”.

    The Westminster Confession of Faith has this to say about the authority of the Protestant bible, the Liberty of Conscience, and how the Liberty of Conscience relates to the “inward illumination of the Spirit of God” :

    Of the Holy Scripture

    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture … we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word …

    Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience

    God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

    http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/index.html?body=/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ch_XX.html

    The Westminster Confession of faith is claiming that the Protestant bible is the ONLY authority that has a guarantee by God to be inerrant, and that the individual maintains the liberty of conscience when interpreting the Protestant bible. From this statement of belief from the Westminster Confession we can arrive at a truly Protestant definition of the doctrine of sola scriptura:

    The Protestant bible is the ONLY source of Christian doctrine that has a guarantee from God to be inerrant.

    The individual maintains the liberty of conscience when interpreting the Protestant bible.

    Henry asserts: As for Luther, he was well within his grounds to reject the leadership of the RCC.

    On what grounds did Luther reject the teaching authority of the church that he had membership in? On the grounds conscience:

    Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason — I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the Word of God. – Martin Luther

    Here, Luther is making the exact same claim as is found in the Westminster Confession of faith concerning the Liberty of Conscience, which is this: Luther is not required to listen to any man besides himself, because his conscience is captive to his private interpretation of the scriptures. In no way does Luther have to listen to “popes or councils” if popes or councils disagree with Luther’s private interpretation of the scriptures.

    Henry asserts: When a man proclaims to know truth and yet lives contrary to it, who would listen to such a person? This was not just some kind of abstract discussion with Luther and the reformers but they were well aware of the corruption of leadership of the church at the highest level. Yes he was justified in leaving.

    This is a specious argument. In every Protestant sect one can find leaders that are also sinners. So what? If a Protestant leader sins, does that mean that the moral doctrine that his Protestant sect confesses is wrong? Of course not. Let us concede that Luther identified some leaders within the Catholic Church that were sinners. Luther’s complaint that some of the leaders in the Catholic Church were failing to live up to the moral standards of the Catholic church only proves one thing – that Luther agreed with the moral doctrines officially taught by the Catholic Church!

    Henry asserts:
    Some passages that support Sola Scriptura are:
    Psalm 119:160
    2 Timothy 3:15,16

    Let us look at those verses:

    The sum of thy word is truth;
    and every one of thy righteous ordinances endures for ever.
    Psalm 119:160

    This verse asserts that the scriptures are true. Who is disputing that? This verse does not say that the individual retains primacy when interpreting scripture.

    Next scripture:

    … from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness …
    2 Timothy 3:15,16

    First point. – when Paul writes about “all scripture”, what he is referring to is the Jewish scriptures he learned as a Pharisee . We don’t know from this verse what Jewish scriptures Paul is referring to. Does Paul mean the Jewish scriptures found in the Protestant canon of the OT, the Septuagint, the Torah, or some other collection of Jewish scripture unnamed by Paul? One can only answer that question by accepting the Tradition passed on by Christ’s church.

    Second point – Paul is saying that because the Jewish scriptures are inspired by God, that these scripture are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Which is a point that no practicing Catholic would dispute. What Paul is NOT saying is that the Jewish scriptures are the ONLY authority for the Christian, and less yet, that the Protestant bible (which had not yet been written in its entirety) was the ONLY source of doctrine that has a guarantee from God to be inerrant!

    Henry, there are no verses in the Protestant bible that support the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura.

    Going back to the question I raised earlier in this post – should I believe in the primacy of the individual conscience, or should I believe in the primacy of the church that Christ personally founded? Henry, if you and I disagree about a point of doctrine, who decides what is correct doctrine? The Protestant bible says that the church that Christ personally founded gets to decide that matter, not me, and not you.

  181. John,
    I believe the church of the 4th century got it right because of the various tests they applied to determine which books would be in the NT canon. I believe God made it possible for these men to recognize what the NT would be. There is no need for these men to be infallible to determine what the canon was. One does not need to be infallible to discover the truth about something nor does the HS require a man to be infallible to use him.

  182. Henry (re:#124),

    I apologize profusely for the fact that I am just now returning, so very late (literally, in this case– it’s almost 4 am here!), to your questions. I have had a health issue in the past several days (which is getting better, thanks be to God) which has caused difficulties, in terms of my writing online at length. I hope that this response to you here doesn’t get “buried,” with so many other threads being more active now (and with you being very active in some of those threads, which is wonderful!), but if so, then I certainly understand.

    In reply to my mentioning the historic Christian practice of infant baptism as part of oral apostolic tradition, you opined that infant baptism contradicts “Scriptural” teaching. First, does it give you any cause for pause, at all, that this view is a fairly recent one (i.e. Anabaptist), comparably speaking, in terms of 2,000 years of Christianity? As far as I know, from my study, the only disagreements in the early Church about infant baptism did not even involve the “believers only” position on baptism. Those disagreements had more to do with parents fearing that if their infants were baptized and then committed serious sins at a later age (while still in youth), then that baptism would somehow be “stained.” This was a theological misunderstanding on the parts of certain people in the Church, but the “credobaptist” position, again, as far as I know, was never part of the equation. Even with those early disagreements about infant baptism, the hard truth is, until the Anabaptists, infant baptism was the widely practiced and defended Christian position. Are we to believe that God simply allowed the Church to get baptism wrong, after the deaths of Jesus and the original apostles, until the Anabaptists?

    Also, I mentioned in an earlier comment, I do agree with my Presbyterian friends that a case for infant baptism can indeed be *made* from Scripture alone (RefProt provided some of the verses in his comment #129)– but not infant baptism as *explicitly shown* in Scripture.. which puts infant baptism, not wholly, but at least partially, into the category of the apostolic deposit of faith in the Church which involves *oral* apostolic tradition.

    Again, given your position about believers-only baptism, I must ask, did the early Church (after the deaths of the original apostles) just simply get baptism, seriously and widely, “Scripturally wrong,” until the Anabaptists finally got it “Scripturally right”?– a position with which the original Reformers vehemently disagreed, to the point of denying that Anabaptists were Christians? To be clear, the Catholic Church does not even take this last position. All Trinitarian Protestants who have been validly baptized are our “separated” (but genuine!) brothers and sisters in Christ.

    About locating the Immaculate Conception of Mary explicitly in Scripture, I have to admit, in a very humbling way (humbling to myself, I mean), that it was only after returning to the Catholic Church that I began to realize just how many Protestant assumptions I had been operating with for years– all the while *assuming* that those assumptions were basically “self-evident” from Scripture! An example of such a “Protestant assumption,” on my (former) part, would be the idea that all important Christian doctrines must be stated, very openly and explicitly, in Scripture.

    Though I would have strongly denied it as a Protestant, by this “explicitly Scriptural” standard, many, many Biblical passages and verses can be easily invoked to argue that the Trinity itself is “Scripturally wrong.” I have a long-time friend, a serious student of the Bible, who is not formally a member of any sect or cult, who professes to be a Christian, while making this exact, “non-Trintarian” case from Scripture alone. He thus describes himself as a “non-Trinitarian Christian,” believing Trinitarians to be the true herectics!

    Obviously, as a Catholic, I would not agree with my friend, on the “Scriptural wrongness” of the Trinity, and on various other essential matters of Christian doctrine. As much as I love him, as a friend, it is clear to me that his “Scripture alone, non-Trinitarian Christianity” highlights the serious danger of the Protestant idea that all important Christian doctrines and practices are, and/or should be, explicitly found in the Bible. Such thinking, in short, all too easily produces heresy.

    Which brings me back to the Immaculate Conception. You believe that it is heresy, based upon your interpretation of the Bible. I once agreed with you.. for many years actually. I thought that such a doctrine was clearly “un-Biblical,” and therefore, heretical. How did I come to believe otherwise?

    Is it that, as some of my friends seem to think, I have been willingly brainwashed by “Romanism” (an unfortunate term for Catholicism, among some Protestants)? Obviously, I don’t think this is so, but that certainly doesn’t settle the matter for you, as an inquirer, and I understand that keenly. It is important to know that everything the Catholic Church teaches about Mary is based on what the Church teaches, first and foremost, about Jesus, the Incarnation, God made flesh. Mary is not a “goddess” in Catholic teaching. She is a creature, a human being, not Divine. However, she is the greatest of all non-divine human beings, because in her very body, she carried, and brought to us, saving Divinity in human flesh– Jesus Christ, 100% God, 100% man, without whom no one can be saved.

    As a Protestant, I never considered the implications of a sinful human being (Mary, supposedly) carrying the God-man (God Himself) within her actual physical body and delivering Him to the world. I never considered that God Himself, in flesh, should be carried and brought forth by a physical body that had not been stained by original sin. However, if Mary had been sinful, given that original sin comes to all of us from our first parents, Adam and Eve (and as such, it has been “passed down” through the line to us, so to speak), this stain could have conceivably been passed to Jesus. If you reply, “Of course not. Jesus is God,” please consider at least this– why would the Father choose for the sinless, Divine God-man, the *physical* Incarnation, to spend months in a *physical* body stained and corrupted by sin? Would this have been a fitting physical dwelling place, even “only” temporarily, for the physical God-man?

    I realize that the above is not an “explicitly Scriptural” argument for the Immaculate Conception. Perhaps you are aware of the Biblical implications which the Catholic Church sees in the angel greeting Mary as “full of grace” in Scripture (some later Protestant translations, sadly, changing this verse). If you haven’t heard this Biblically-based argument for the Immaculate Conception, I would highly recommend the book, “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” (published by Ignatius Press), by David Currie, a former Protestant seminarian. The book, as a whole, is very helpful to Protestants who don’t see the strong *Biblical* basis for distinctively “Catholic” teachings. In particular, on this subject, the chapter on Mary contains serious thinking about her directly from Scripture. Any Protestant who can do so should read Currie’s book, and from it, reflect upon what the *Bible* tells us about Mary that we never realized as Protestants. (Martin Luther himself continued to believe in the Immaculate Conception, as an advocate and teacher of “Sola Scriptura”..!)

  183. @Henry:

    I believe the church of the 4th century got it right because of the various tests they applied to determine which books would be in the NT canon. I believe God made it possible for these men to recognize what the NT would be. There is no need for these men to be infallible to determine what the canon was. One does not need to be infallible to discover the truth about something nor does the HS require a man to be infallible to use him.

    Henry, I know that you believe this. Probably I am not being clear, but I’ll try again – Are you saying that you believe the NT is from God because the fathers of the 4th Century tell you so? Is it their word you are trusting?

    If it is not, then I still don’t understand why you think the NT is from God.

    jj

  184. @Henry – PS – in fact let me be even briefer: I understand what you believe about the NT – and now I understand what you believe about the ‘church of the 4th century.’ What I still do not understand is why you believe the NT to be of God.

    jj

  185. I think Henry is missing that Scripture is not a Catechism, nor does it contain a Catechism.

    There is simply no single text of the New Testament which says, “Here, for those of you who know next-to-nothing about Christianity, is everything that you need to know about it, from soup to nuts, in the clearest possible language, with all the terms clearly defined.”

    One can, at best, argue that Scripture is sufficient to know the dogmas of Christianity because it points the reader to Christ’s Church, where one can receive those dogmas in an authoritative way.

    And one can say that, provided one knows how to conduct typology without error, one can find all the dogmas of Christianity foreshadowed or assumed or mentioned in passing in Scripture, as well as many of them explicitly stated.

    But one simply cannot argue with any plausibility that all the dogmas of Christianity are explicitly stated in Scripture, with nothing left out, and everything stated so clearly that there is no room for misunderstanding.

    One cannot argue that, because:

    (a.) Scripture doesn’t say it;
    (b.) Scripture contradicts it;
    (c.) Scripture itself gives no teaching to indicate how the divine inspiration of a piece of writing may be determined for canonization;
    (d.) A given book of the New Testament could not, logically, give either an infallible list of the canon or an infallible teaching by which the canon could be derived, because of the circular argument involved;
    (e.) Sola Scriptura was not practiced, as an historical matter, by the early Christians;
    (f.) Sola Scriptura could not be practiced, as a functional matter, by the early Christians;
    (g.) Scripture, in Acts 15, gives us an example of the apostles wielding their authority to promulgate a decision on a matter of faith and morals which, to all surface reading, seems to firmly contradict the teachings of the only Scriptures they yet had available, and without any *written* warrant from Jesus, in favor of what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”;
    (h.) Scripture teaches that both the verbal teachings and the writings of the apostles are inspired and infallible when they taught/wrote in the exercise of their apostolic authority;
    (i.) Scripture teaches that Judas’ office of leadership was conferred upon Matthias after it became vacant, indicating that this office, like the Davidic Kingdom offices which prefigured it, was an office which outlived its occupant and transferred to successors;
    (j.) Scripture teaches that a comparable office of leadership was conferred upon Paul directly by Jesus, serving to indicate that as the Kingdom of Heaven grew, the number of binding-and-loosing stewards in that kingdom was not limited to twelve;
    (k.) But in ancient kingdoms, when the King was away on a journey, the stewards who governed the kingdom were not all equal in their locking-and-unlocking authority; one, the Head of House or Chief Steward or Prime Minister or Grand Vizier, was granted a tie-breaking or veto-wielding authority higher than that of the others, so that what he shut, no other could open, and what he opened, no other could shut, and as Head of House (I think the Hebrew term is “al beit” or something like that) he uniquely held the keys of the household (Isaiah 22);
    (l.) The Episcopate as understood by Catholics is the logical and sensible conclusion from reading the relevant New Testament Scriptures (Matthew 16, Matthew 18, John 20) in light of the Old Testament authority figures which prefigure it, and from understanding Jesus’ words the way a first-century Jew familiar with ancient kingdoms and the dynastic offices of the House of David would have understood them;
    (m.) The Episcopate as understood by Catholics gives the Church on earth the only usable and functioning way to maintain sufficient unity to allow the exercise of the authority of excommunication described in Matthew 18 and assumed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5;
    (n.) The Episcopate understood in this fashion gives the Church, in particular, its only plausible way to resolve a dispute between two Christians when one accuses the other of heresy for NOT including The Didache or the letter of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians in the canon as divinely inspired…or for INCLUDING Hebrews, or 3rd John, or Revelation?

    Consider that last. The earliest form of the Didache and Clement’s letter are first-century writings. The Didache’s claim to association with an apostolic ministry is probably as good as the book of Hebrews. And Revelation’s authority was in doubt until quite late, and we still don’t know the author of Hebrews with certainty.

    Jesus anticipates in Matthew 18 that one Christian might wrong another, and that the Church can resolve these matters with such firm certainty that heaven will ratify the decision (“what you bind on earth will be/will have already been bound in heaven”). Suppose one Christian’s complaint against another is that he is a heretic because he treats non-inspired writings as Holy Writ? Suppose the accused files a counter-complaint against the accuser, saying that the accuser is falsely calling him a heretic?

    In such a case, Jesus says to attempt to “win your brother,” to attempt to do so in the company of “two or three witnesses,” and so on, and if all that fails, to take the matter before “the Church.”

    What authority could “the Church” possibly have, that would allow it to render an authoritative judgment on this topic, sufficient to excommunicate anyone who contests the ruling?

    And, what “Church” are we to go to, in obedience to Jesus’ command to take the matter to “the Church?” How, with so many options in the phone book, shall we identify the right Church?

    And, to which persons in the Church shall we take the matter? Which, if not the persons whose authority to bind and loose is being established in this very passage?

    There is no functioning exercise of this authority outside of the Catholic Church except where the valid episcopacy exists, and there, disputes among bishops can never be resolved because there is no tie-breaking vote, no chief steward among the stewards.

    The person who realizes all of this is immediately thrust into no-man’s-land: He cannot any longer be Protestant; if he finds no other source for an authoritative teaching, then there is serious doubt whether he can remain Christian.

    It stinks to find this out. It’s like learning that the big California earthquake already happened, and the whole state dropped into the ocean, not minutes ago but years ago, and nobody ever thought to mention it to you. You find yourself protesting, “This is IMPORTANT! Why wasn’t I ever told?”

    So the desire to resist these conclusions is understandable, and emotion may run hot.

    But there they are.

  186. […] authority to determine the essentials and non-essentials from the Catholic perspective can be found here and here. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was […]

  187. […] more recommended articles on the Magisterium, see http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/03/sola-scriptura-vs-the-magisterium-what-did-jesus-teach/  For recommended articles on the Papacy see this article […]

  188. I have a question that hopefully someone can help me out with. I have only done a light review of the fathers so i dont assume to know the answer to my question. Let’s take the Marian doctrines. Since John was given charge of watching over Mary, then wouldnt John or his disciples be the best place to get the Marian doctrines from? Since that would be the most logical case, can someone point me to where his disciples teach the Marian doctrines (even in seed form)? Again, simply havent read enough, just a thought i had. Thanks!

  189. This is something of hearsay (Hurrah for Catholic Radio!) but Steve Ray apparently wrote about this in his book, The Gospel of John. He makes the point that John is very Marian in character not because she was a big obvious feature but because of where she was placed, narratively. (Birth and early life, Crucifixion.)

    Where it makes a kind of sense, remember that Jesus’ life before his death concludes, basically, with John 19:27: “Behold your mother …” Wouldn’t you ask your mother to pray for you? And if you did ask saints in heaven to pray for you, and your mother were a saint, how much more would you ask her to pray for you? And if she were also, and literally this time, the Mother of the Son of God — i.e., the Mother of God — how much more then? There’s Marian intercession, etc., taken care of.

    So far as her as the New Eve, this dates back very early to the Protoevangelium of James. Her as the New Eve is important because it directly implies every single other Marian doctrine, at least those that come to mind.

    Not sure if this all is true or effective or helpful — I’m something of a novice and I really just don’t get Protestantism — but maybe it is, and even if not completely accurate it”ll prompt the right kind of inquiry.

  190. Ryan (re: #188),

    See the articles here as well as the books listed in the “Mary” section of our “Suggested Reading” page.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  191. Hey Ryan,

    I know what you mean that you would think the Apostle John would be the man to go to on the Marian doctrines, and in some ways he is since they are in seed form in the Gospel of John, and also in the Book of Revelation right after the ark of the covenant makes an appearance. But I think that you won’t find the Marian doctrines being taught in John or any of the other Apostles explicitely since there wasn’t a need to address the topic just like they did not address every detain of the Trinity or original sin or at what age we are to baptize people. Some of these things were already assumed, all of these things are at least implicit in Scripture but for explicit teachings on Mary I don’t know if any of St. John’s successors in Ephesus spoke on the matter, although St. Irenaeus, a disciple of St. Polycarp who was a disciple of St. Ignatius who was a disciple of the Apostle John, did so in fair detail and I am not aware of anyone saying “hey wait, this isn’t the teaching of the Apostles”. Though I don’t believe St. Irenaeus was a successor to the Apostle John in his episcopal office, we can say he was a spiritual successor of the Apostle John who taught the Marian doctrines more explicitely than the Apostle John. Not all doctrines have to be explicit in Scripture, for if that were the case we wouldn’t end up with the Trinty in the way in which the church understands it as well as other doctrines.

    Hope this helps.

  192. Ryan,

    Thanks for asking the question. I echo Pio’s caution; given the way the Catholic Church develops and formulates her doctrines, one wouldn’t look to the Gospels expecting to see those doctrines explicated in their robust modern form. That form has come to us after much testing, troubles, imbalance, and the like.

    But that said, I agree that it seems logical to think that St. John would have had an especially heightened appreciation for the miracle that was Christ’s mother; and it seems logical to think that this could appear in his writings. St. Mary does have a dignified place in St. John’s Gospel, of course. But consider also the book of Revelation. Catholic tradition maintains that St. John the Apostle was its author (its apostolic authenticity is debated elsewhere, along with its canonicity, but these are uncertainties that do not need to trouble the Catholic). Revelation contains some of the more interesting references to St. Mary, especially her soteriological role. Consider reading some commentary from the early Church Fathers on Revelation.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  193. As a Protestant, I do not draw precisely the same conclusions from the Scripture verses that you cited. If you care to revive this thread, I’d be interested in any responses you offer.

    It is true that “the apostles transmitted this [Christ’s teaching] authority” to their successors. Post-apostolic bishops are fully authorized and sent to teach in Christ’s name, just as the apostles were. However, the apostles were inerrant in their teaching whereas post-apostolic bishops may err. Therefore the authority to teach is not necessarily accompanied by inerrancy.

    For example, the promise in Luke, “He who hears you hears Me”, was predicated in context, not of the Church catholic, but of individual preachers sent out two by two. Therefore if we see this preaching authority as a promise of inerrancy, then we would have to conclude that every individual preacher or pair of preachers is inerrant.

    Similarly, the promises in Matthew concerning binding and loosing do not provide grounds for uncritically accepting the decrees of post-apostolic bishops as necessarily inerrant. In Matthew 18 the example of a dispute between two brothers is given. Such a dispute could occur and be settled at the local church level on the basis of the promise. 1 Corinthians 6 describes such a scenario. While the promise regarding binding and loosing is capable of wider application as in Acts 15, the fact that this promise can operate at the local church level shows that it is not a promise of inerrancy, for no one believes that the decisions of bishops made at the local level are necessarily inerrant.

    Moreover, in Matthew 23 our Lord gave a similarly general approval regarding the binding authority of the Pharisees. The people were to do “all things whatsoever” (a pretty sweeping phrase!) that the Pharisees told them to do, because the Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat. The Pharisees inherited Moses’ authority but obviously they did not inherit Moses’ inerrancy. So again, we must distinguish between authority to teach and inerrancy of teaching.

    Thanks.

  194. I think that Roman Catholics can approach this debate about sola scriptura in much the same way as Protestants have continued to try to throw the issue of justification by grace through faith alone in Rome’s face over the same period (despite the conclusions reached at the Council of Trent). Though justification may have been an issue during the early Reformation/Great Schism, it has not remained so for the following 500 years and the same is true of sola scriptura on Rome’s side (the Protestant position in that regard has become much more nuanced than it was at the time of the Reformation). Rome has affirmed the doctrine of justification and the vast majority of Protestants have moved for beyond the Reformer’s simplistic/syllogistic doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

    Just survey the major scriptural studies among Protestants over those same centuries and you will see the development (not many Protestants who have studied the scriptures in depth today would continue to affirm sola scriptura in the same syllogistic fashion as the early Reformers did).

    I myself am a protestant who does not do so, but still I have much skepticism with regards to Rome’s claims to sole interpretive authority (if not for the simple reason that there was a doctrinal crust that had formed over the witnesses of scripture in Rome that had begun to distort the central witnesses’ testimony, and many, both Roman and Protestant alike, during the period of early Enlightenment effectively brought that problem to light; that Rome does not continue to use the vulgate today for its authoritative teaching purposes is testament to it).

    Authority remains the question of the day; Rome’s answer has been the Roman Magisterium, whereas the majority of protestants have fallen back on skeptical secular investigation (i.e. the critical disciplines). Neither of these, however, from my perspective can suffice as foundations. The critical approaches have proven fallible in that there isn’t sufficient data for us to make the proper analysis (i.e. those who approach the scriptures “critically” are trying to replace the witnesses, but the events were not given to us and so there is no way for us to become witnesses in the way we would like). At the same time Rome has not proven less than faithful in preserving the true witness through their methods. Their tradition very nearly lost us the scriptures as they became distorted through the crust of extraneous canon law.

    At the heart of the Roman/Protestant debate over authority stands an issue that both sides continue to ignore, at least from what I can see: what is the relationship of the Church to the Jews? It would seem that the real first schism of the Church lies at that point in our history (i.e. when the Church and Synagogue decided to part ways with each other). Obviously their differences could not be resolved at that time, and each side had their reasons for taking the positions they did. I do not believe, however, that the Church has listened carefully enough to the warnings of the apostles who spoke to us (the Church) at that crux of separation. As much as we as Christians must continue to hold firm to the witness of Jesus as Messiah, and as much as that testimony will make us outcasts among faithful Jews, the Jews themselves remain the people of God whose tradition must be authoritative for understanding the scriptures. That is not to say that Jesus’ teachings are to be trumped by Jewish teaching; it is to say that when God chose to become incarnate among us, he chose a particular flesh by which to do it (i.e. we must remain faithful to the incarnational foundation laid down for us by the wisdom of the apostolic fathers). The Word of God became flesh in the Jewish culture of the first century, and if we are to understand who Christ was and is we must see him with Jewish eyes. What neither Rome nor Protestantism has been able to do is preserve that essential interpretive lens (and I would dare say that scholars on both the Roman and Protestant side of the discussion are very keenly aware of this deficiency). Perhaps our contest to grab power from one another is evidence that neither of us are the people whom God formed to reveal his mysteries to the world. It took a great humbling for such a people to be readied for the task (and the Jewish people have experienced that humbling through the loss of their temple). As long as Rome and Protestants continue to ignore this question of Israel they will continue to be at impasse in their arguments over authority.

  195. Michael (#194

    At the heart of the Roman/Protestant debate over authority stands an issue that both sides continue to ignore, at least from what I can see: what is the relationship of the Church to the Jews?

    In a way, I think what you say here is quite right, though perhaps not in the way you mean it. As one who, after 25 years a Protestant (preceded by 25 years a nothing :-)), it has seemed to me that the fundamental issue is not this or that doctrine – nor even, I would say, the issue of infallibility. It is the sort of qahalekklesia – Jesus meant when He said He would found His Church.

    The Jewish people was meant, it seems to me, to be one people – one in the visible and organisational sense as well as spiritually one. Newman played a very large part in my own becoming a Catholic. At one point, Newman comforted himself with being separated – that is, being an Anglican – by saying something like “we are at least Samaria.”

    I think the germ of what I mean is there. Did Jesus not intend that the new Israel should be like the old: one in every sense?

    For me, coming to believe that was so meant that, however many difficulties I found – but a thousand difficulties do not make one doubt! :-) – however many difficulties I found in becoming a Catholic, and I found many, none could seem to me to make it possible for me to obey God whilst remaining deliberately outside His qahal.

    jj

  196. Michael and John,
    In my journey towards becoming Catholic, I have received assurance that my steps were correct for a number of reasons including noticing a definate continuity that Catholicism has with Judiasm……I think we know that we should find this to be so.

    What I am linking is long but well worth reading. Cardinal Ratzinger( in 2001) when asking if Christians can claim to be the legitimate heirs to the Jewish scriptures, says in the intro:

    “The question of how Jews are presented in the New Testament is dealt with in the second part of the Document; the “anti-Jewish” texts there are methodically analyzed for an understanding of them. Here, I want only to underline an aspect which seems to me to be particularly important. The Document shows that the reproofs addressed to Jews in the New Testament are neither more frequent nor more virulent than the accusations against Israel in the Law and the Prophets, at the heart of the Old Testament itself (no. 87). They belong to the prophetic language of the Old Testament and are, therefore, to be interpreted in the same way as the prophetic messages: they warn against contemporary aberrations, but they are essentially of a temporary nature and always open to new possibilities of salvation.”

    Am I wrong to understand then that it is incorrect to make a Law/Gospel distinction when God was always warning and chastising His people?

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/pcb_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20020212_popolo-ebraico_en.html

    Susan

  197. The issue brought up about binding and loosing being the issue of a local church is extremely overlooked in Catholic thinking. This binding and loosing is thought of in terms of the Papacy and the Magesterium legislating what is correct doctrine and what is not, but the issue at stake in the power of binding and loosing is the ability to get involved with a dispute even between just two people at a level where the ancient world would have been able to know these two people, which is very simply the small local church assembly. This binding and loosing operates in this small context. In this case, we need to speak about the inerrancy and infallibility of local bishops, which Catholics do not even think about.

    Think about it, when a Catholic read “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”, he/she thinks that infallibility is implicit in the promise, and yet the situation is a local church gathering of a few people in any church……the singluar bishop of Rome has really no ability to deal with every situation in every little church parish throughout the whole world……therefore who is Jesus really promising this to? The special and unique ocassion when the Pope speaks ex cathedra? It seems to me the promise involves all pastoral leadership in and throughout each individual local church. Therefore, the catholic doctrine of infallibility falls apart right from the text itself just on the breadth of the application of binding and loosing.

    Secondly, the doctrine of the Papacy has no possibility for development. The teaching of the papacy has an irreducible construct, namely, that the vicar of Christ’s authority remains functionally and divinely in the successors of Peter. Since this basic and simple construct is essential to the Papacy, then it is the irreducible maxim without which you do not have the doctrine at all. Since it took time for the bishops to agree that the Bishop of Rome had primacy in the catholic church, this reveals that this irreducible maxim was not an apostolic teaching. Clement speaks about apostolic succession for faithful men, in the plural, and never specializes the successors of St. Peter over the successors of the other apostles. Moreover, Clement is more concerned with the moral quality of the bishops being a reason for them to retain office, not the other way around.

    Finally, together with the irreducible maxim of Christ’s visible authority represented solely through the succesors of Peter is the idea that this will never change until the coming of Christ. These two elements cannot be reduced in any way as to allow there to be at one time absolute ignorance, or even partial ignorance, for to do so is to provide a gap in time between the apostles and when this idea came into existence.

  198. Is it possible for God who is all knowing and sinless to send his only begotten Son our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ (the word made flesh) to dwell for 9 months in a vessel that is with sin? With full faith I say it is impossible. She had to be pure and sinless for our Lord to become flesh and dwell inside her. And why is our mother Mary the only human being address by an Angel with the words Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you.

    To deny the sinless nature of Mary is to deny that Christ is who he says he is. This is an article of faith that our protestant brothers and sisters cannot comprehend (or are blinded from seeing) because they are outside of the fullness of the faith as established by Christ himself.

  199. It appears to me that there is cunning mis-step in the logic behind this supposed “transference” of authority from Jesus to our current Magisterium. This mis-step not only introduces the problem of adding to the scriptures by “the writings of the church fathers” (by the way, call no one father except God), but it has ultimately let to the unscriptural title “Vicar of Christ”. The error compounded has ultimately led the pope where no man should dare. But I digress. The mis-step in logic is here:

    1. Jesus told his disciples, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20) . Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:18; Matt. 18:18)

    Here, Jesus is speaking to his disciples, who had heard his teachings first hand, and would repeat them as they were stated. They would tell the people “Jesus said, _____”. Which is exactly what we see in scripture. They never would say, “I tell you”. It was most commonly “Jesus said”. And in the occurrence that they did say “Verily, I tell you, ______” the blank is always EASILY cross referenced to some other passage that “JESUS said” .. It is never NEW doctrine.

    2. They appointed presbyters for them in each church.” (Acts 14:23) [Paul to Titus] “For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might . . . appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you.” (Titus 1:5) [Paul to Timothy] “And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.” (2 Timothy 2:2) “For a bishop as God’s steward must . . . be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents.” (Titus 1:7-9)

    In section 1., Jesus is speaking to the apostles. Not to the presbyters.

    Keep in mind, I am not refuting the high importance of the scriptural appointment of presbyters. I am simply saying that their job was to teach ONLY what the apostles taught. They’re abilities would be limited to re-telling what Jesus said, and what the disciples said ABOUT what Jesus said, again, both of which are recorded in scripture. And NOT adding their own conjecture. Nothing more. THAT was the true “closing” of the cannon.

    The Catholic Church then began playing a multi-century long tradition of playing “telephone”. Where one “church father” writes his thoughts about scripture, and the next writes his thoughts about his thoughts, and so on down the line until one day, the Pope holds the title “Vicar of Christ”, Mary holds an equal share in our salvation as “Co-redemptrix”, the 7th day Sabbath is rejected in favor of Sunday (the first day of Gods work) which is then declared “obligatory” (obligatory or else what?! You can’t take my salvation, can you?), and oh yes, they can declare you anathema, even if you believe Jesus Christ is the son of God whose death and resurrection paid the price for our sins.

    Oh, and I just caught a glimpse of that last comment and I cannot resist —->Mary Dela wrote:”To deny the sinless nature of Mary is to deny that Christ is who he says he is. This is an article of faith that our protestant brothers and sisters cannot comprehend (or are blinded from seeing) because they are outside of the fullness of the faith as established by Christ himself.”

    Wow, that’s quite a Catholic-ish slap in the face! First of all, to deny a sinless Mary does not deny that Christ is who he says he was! How absurd. I am not blind to your logic. I totally get your logic. But your logic is flawed in several ways. The MAIN flaw is that you purport to understand the required mechanics of God manifesting in the flesh. I do not understand said mechanics, nor do I have to. For you to claim therefore that I am somehow “less” than you are , a.k.a. “outside the fullness of faith”, is to assume a position of religious superiority, a.k.a. leaning on your own works. Brothers and sisters, you assume your salvation will somehow be greater than mine, but we are both sinners saved by grace! Second, scripture never says Mary would remain sinless for her time on earth. Rather it says, “ALL have sinned and come short of the Glory of God {and therefore short of the Glory of Jesus, the only sinless human in history, both fully man and fully God}”. Scripture also says that Joseph knew her not UNTIL after the birth of Christ. Your exegesis about Mary is contradictory to the accepted scriptural cannon, and it is relatively YOUNG of an idea, born of the writings of the writings of the teachings of the teachings of a multitude of “presbyters” that are CENTURIES apart from the firsthand teachings of the JESUS CHRIST approved teachings of the disciples, which are fully recorded in scripture. Regarding the mechanics of God being manifest in the flesh, scripture tells of only two requirements, that Mary say YES, which she did, and that Joseph knew her not until after the birth of Christ. I am 100% certain that this limited information is not NEARLY enough for any mere human to comprehend how God is manifest in the flesh, especially the future requirements of the virgin Mary, who is full of grace. It simply isn’t required for my salvation, nor is it something that is even possible to know or understand. I take great offense at being labeled “anathema” when the bible says that Mary rejoiced over her own salvation in Luke 1:47. She admits her need of salvation, therefore was not sinless. It’s OK. She is in Heaven! I look forward to the day that the Lord may let me actually meet her! I believe that she would be very sad at all of this discussion which pulls glory away from Jesus Christ.

    Sola Scriptura is so elegant a solution to all of these problems, I am amazed at how anyone can NOT agree with it. It works so clearly with the Gospel message of salvation, too! There is not one word of the Bible that contradicts salvation through the free gift of Jesus Christ. There are multitudes of Catholic doctrine that contradict both salvation through Jesus Christ ALONE. Oh sure, they admit that salvation is by Grace through Faith, and that is great, but then they ADD so many other requirements, and failure to abide means you lose your salvation! This very post I am writing makes me worthy of excommunication. And yes, I am currently Catholic, with one foot out the door!

    So in summary, can I give you a passage that affirms sola scriptura?
    Revelation 22:18-19
    Psalm 119:142
    Psalm 119:160
    2 Timothy 3:15-16
    2 Peter 1:20-21
    Matthew 5:17-18
    Matthew 22:29
    Mark 7:13 (my favorite. It may has well just said “I’m talking to you, Catholics!)
    There is more, if you need it. The point is, the hard evidence supports sola scriptura for reproof, correction, and instruction.

    The notion of Sola Scriptura never contradicts scripture, and in fact is justified BY scripture. Can you give a passage that affirms an infallible presbyter? Nope. Luther himself was a presbyter. So what do you do when two presbyters disagree? That can’t both be infallible. Oh, yes, you set up “rules” about the “Magisterium” so that you can’t just use any old presbyter. The Pharisees had rules too. But wait, didn’t all of the proof you rolled out above transfer infallibility to all modern day presbyters? Hmmmm. This is quite a tangle web, wouldn’t you agree? Sola Scriptura is not a tangled web.

    My last bit: There is no “perfect church”. the reason is, there is no perfect man, except the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, one in being with the Father. You have a hard time accepting this truth. So you set up the Infallible Magisterium and then defend it by pointing out the flawed protestant churches. There is no perfect church. But at least they don’t claim to be.

  200. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the thoughts. I have a few things to say in response. First, you are correct that the move from the apostles to their successors is critical in the Catholic paradigm. However, you seem to think that that move is illegitimate unless Christ spoke directly to the successors of the apostles. Why would that have to be the case? If Christ entrusted the apostles with authority such that “whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven,” what prevents them from instituting authoritative successors, particularly if they were instructed by Christ to do so?

    You also make this claim:

    I am simply saying that their job was to teach ONLY what the apostles taught. They’re abilities would be limited to re-telling what Jesus said, and what the disciples said ABOUT what Jesus said, again, both of which are recorded in scripture.

    I agree that the successors are authorized to teach (and explain) only what the apostles taught. That is not in question between Protestants and Catholics. However, your claim that the apostolic teaching is contained fully in Scripture begs the question (and is, in fact contradicted by Scripture). How do you know that the apostolic teaching is contained fully in Scripture?

    Regarding the texts of Scripture you referenced, none of them identifies the 66 book Protestant Canon of Scripture as the sole Rule of faith intended by God for the Church. Would you mind showing me how you (or anyone) could arrive at the conclusion that God intends the 66 book Protestant Canon as the sole rule of faith?

    You made this claim: “The notion of Sola Scriptura never contradicts scripture.”
    Well, actually it does, and it is self-refuting. The doctrine of sola scriptura that we find in the major Protestant confessions holds that no doctrine can have divine authority unless it is found in the 66 book Protestant canon. However, that doctrine is found nowhere in the 66 book Protestant canon. (So, it’s self-refuting.) Furthermore, Scripture admonishes us to hold fast to tradition, the liturgy, and to the unity and catholicity of the Church as marks of authority and authenticity. (2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Cor. 11:23, 1 Cor. 11:16, 1 Cor. 1:10, 1 John 2:19). None of these are explicitly Scriptural.

    Finally, you misstate the Catholic doctrine of authority. Catholics do not teach that presbyters as such are infallible.

    As to whether or not there can be a perfect Church: No one ever claimed that the Catholic church was morally perfect in her members. However, the church could be perfect in the sense of having all of the elements intended by Christ for the preservation and transmission of the faith.

    If you are on the way out the door of the Catholic Church, I would ask you to consider whether the form of authority in the Church you join has been intended or authorized by Jesus explicitly for the transmission of the faith. For instance, let’s say you join a Protestant denomination that holds the 66 book Protestant Bible as the final, authoritative norm. Would you be able to say when or where or how Jesus ever indicated that body of literature as the Church’s final, authoritative norm? If you cannot show that Christ established such a norm, then we would have to conclude that this norm is of purely human authority as a norm, not divine authority. It might have divine authority under some other description (as an authoritative witness to the teaching of Jesus, for example, or as a book for liturgical worship), but it would not have divine authority as a final norm for the Church. In that capacity, it would have only human authority.

    I’d like to continue this discussion in a less diffuse way. Could we agree to address one key question at a time?
    I would recommend we address this question: “What provision did Christ make for the authoritative transmission of the Christian faith?”
    Would you consider discussing that?

    thanks,

    David

  201. I agree there this discussion is quite diffuse. However, I simply cannot concede your first 7 paragraphs to move into your controlled environment. I will be happy to discuss your final question, but first I must respond to your responses. That way I can have the final word on the bulk of the posts. (see how unfair that is?)

    I’m going to jump around a bit, because I have to untangle this. I’ll try to touch on all of your points, albeit in a different order.

    –>”Finally, you misstate the Catholic doctrine of authority. Catholics do not teach that presbyters as such are infallible.”

    Exactly. And therefore, the Magisterium is not infallible. Thank you. I didn’t misstate it. Your clarification suffices perfectly with what I was saying.

    You see, you try to prove infallibility of the Magisterium by using scripture that is directed to all presbyters. Then you say presbyters are not infallible. Presbyters are everyone in the history of “passing it on”! If you aren’t Jesus, and you aren’t an apostle, you are at the very BEST a presbyter! So now, I ask you, what system did Jesus Christ outline that would provide infallibilty to some of the presbyters, but not others? Who decides who is infallible? By the means that the article is claiming, it would be all of the presbyters. How absurd! Look, you can’t have it both ways, OK? Either Jesus established infallibilty for all of the presbyters, or none. There is a big difference between “teaching authority regarding the words of our Lord” and “Infallibility in all declarations from the Magisterium”.

    For example, Mathew 23 describe the words that Jesus said. I think we can all agree that Jesus said them. Therefore, anything that moves counter to these things that He said should be corrected. Let’s look at what he said:

    1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.

    Verse 8 and 9 are pretty key points here. Why does the Catholic Church ignore these edicts of Christ? They ask for my blind faith in their infallibility on great matters, when here they cannot be trusted with small matters! It says here that we are all brothers in Christ. That we have ONE teacher.

    Now, 1 Timothy 6 says if anyone preaches a gospel different that this, he is conceited and understands nothing!

    The article wrote:–>”He gave us the teaching of the apostles. It is important to note that Christ never mentions the writings of the apostles. He gave them no command to write, and never restricted their authority to the written word. His authority attached to their persons and their teaching.”

    This is a very interesting comment. First of all, the fact that Jesus didn’t specify the medium of their teachings is of no effect. The point here is that the authority was attached to the TEACHING. Which I agree with! But now we all have a problem. Who is to stop any old person from claiming teaching authority? This is what I am talking about with the game of telephone. The apostles knew this, and solved it with the WRITINGS.

    1 Timothy 6:3-19 clearly states “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness…..” The key point here being, it must agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ. HE is your higher authority. Thankfully, we have many of the things Jesus said written down. That would mean that anyone is capable of teaching sound doctrine, and we can easily tell if it is in harmony with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks to these writings. The whole REASON the 66 books are the 66 books is because they are in harmony with the sound words of our Lord. And for no other reason. Period. I thank everyone in history for their tireless work in preserving them. I am certain that includes many in the Catholic Church. BUT that doesn’t give carte blanch Infallibility to some self appointed Magisterium. Such a notion goes against the very scripture they had a part in preserving.

    You say Sola Scriptura is self refuting, but you have to first misrepresent Sola Scriptura for your argument to work. You claim a straw man basis of Sola Scriptura: that the 66 book canon is Doctrinally prescribed in scripture. Don’t be silly! What is prescribed in scripture is that which is in harmony with the sound words of Jesus Christ. In fact, the article above already agreed with me on this when it said, “His authority attached to their persons and their teaching.”

    Now, I suppose you have a two prong arguments against me: 1. “how can you use 1 Timothy, which is in the cannon, to prove what should be in the cannon? You see, a final teaching authority is needed to even give you the Book of 1 Timothy in the first place!” and 2. you wrote:–>”How do you know that the apostolic teaching is contained fully in Scripture?”

    For 2, the key word being “fully”. If that is the case, then no, I do not know that the apostolic teaching is 100% fully recorded in scripture. In fact, even scripture says that it isn’t. John 21:25 “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”

    But even if they were written, they wouldn’t be counter to any other part of what he said and did. That, again, doesn’t mean that there would be a continuing addition of doctrine outside of Christ! Unless the Magisterium has a time machine and witnessed these things that weren’t written down so that they could come and write them down! What we have is what we have. Period. All other teachings must pass the muster!

    And for 1. I will just say that the book of 1 Timothy itself is supported by the good words of our Lord, because it never contradicts those words. Likewise, I am quite willing to accept any of the Magisterium’s teachings when they do not contradict the good words of our Lord. This is the whole reason for the term Sola Scriptura. It isn’t to shut down all teachers of the faith. It is to have an authority to shut down false teachings. That authority IS Jesus Christ. The Magisterium I would hazard to say has introduced some doctrine that are refuted by scripture which is supported by the sound words of our Lord.

    For example, Jesus said, “Pray like this” and he gave us the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father.

    Fast forward to the Council of Trent, and the Church creates the petition “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen” Then they put some scripture quotes on the front end and the Hail Mary prayer is born. Then, Pope Pius IX in 1854 says “Let all the children of the Catholic Church … Proceed to worship, invoke, and pray to the most blessed Virgin Mary, mother of God. ”

    This supposedly infallible statement goes counter to the clear, good words of our Lord. Worship is reserved for God alone. Would you like to disagree with that? How do you reconcile Pope Pius IX’s statement with the First commandment? (This is my parting question for you!)

    Now, as for your parting question “What provision did Christ make for the authoritative transmission of the Christian faith?” He left the teachings of the Apostles ABOUT the things that Christ said. They in turn wrote them down and assigned presbyters to teach from what they had learned from the apostles and from the writings of the apostles ABOUT the things that Christ said. This is fully competent of transmitting the Christian faith. There is no need to add doctrine that is not contained therein. Oh, sure, we can discuss and debate. But when it comes to extra-biblical ideas, they should NEVER be declared into doctrine that is “make-or-break your salvation” (a.k.a., anathema), if their harmony with what Jesus actually said is the slightest bit questionable. Such things can be discussed and debated, but do not bully me into embracing worshipping Mary by threatening me with eternal damnation! I love Mary. I also love my earthly parents. But I worship only God.

    Please review my parting question above.

  202. I apologize for adding to my post before waiting for your response to the previous…but you said, “Furthermore, Scripture admonishes us to hold fast to tradition, the liturgy, and to the unity and catholicity of the Church as marks of authority and authenticity. (2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Cor. 11:23, 1 Cor. 11:16, 1 Cor. 1:10, 1 John 2:19). ”

    2 Thess. 2:15 “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” Notice, the past tense, and the use of the word “ours”. this ties neatly back with what I was saying about the teaching authorities not introducing NEW doctrines that are not supported by the good words of our Lord. This verse gives credence to “the traditions that you WERE taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of OURS”. You seem to think that NEW traditions may be created out of thin air in the 1500’s and beyond!

    1 Cor. 11:23 is a retelling of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. It is THE tradition instituted by Christ, and does not give credence to the creation of new traditions as doctrine.

    1 Cor. 11:16 Is about removing an unnecessary edict of covering a woman’s head, because it was causing arguments among the members of the gatherings in Christ! What a wonderful example of what the current Catholic Church fails to do!

    1 Cor. 1:10 …What can I say here? Is not all of 1 Cor 1:1-17 a testament against doctrines that are outside the Gospel message? You cherry pick verse 10 and apply it wrongly. You see, there is no solution to divisions among people over things like “who baptized you?” Verse 17 is the grand solution to the division: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.” You seem to think verse 10 is a command for all to fall into the same group of “I belong to Apollos”. That’s not at all what he meant. Read all the way to 17, my brother. Thank you for bringing me to this chapter, because it again validates the supremacy of the Gospel Message over all doctrines!

    1 John 2:19 tells of a group of teachers that were apostate, and proved it by departing from John and the group. You seem to think that this means anyone who ever leaves the Roman Catholic Church is therefore apostate. This verse is about a past occurrence regarding Johns group, (Johns number). Not the Roman Catholic Church.

    again, I apologize for posting two in a row….

  203. Hi Mike,

    Lots going on in this post, obviously. I’d like to address two points.

    First, you say:

    You say Sola Scriptura is self refuting, but you have to first misrepresent Sola Scriptura for your argument to work. You claim a straw man basis of Sola Scriptura: that the 66 book canon is Doctrinally prescribed in scripture.

    That’s not exactly what I said. I said this:

    “The doctrine of sola scriptura that we find in the major Protestant confessions holds that no doctrine can have divine authority unless it is found in the 66 book Protestant canon.”

    Do you disagree with this construal of sola scriptura? If so, I’d really appreciate it if you would explain what you mean by the term. When I read the Westminster Confession, for instance, the divines list the 66 books, then say that no doctrine has divine authority unless it is found therein. Love to hear your explanation of that.

    and then the second point:

    He left the teachings of the Apostles ABOUT the things that Christ said

    I wonder if you could clarify this a bit for me. Are you saying that Christ indicated the apostles themselves as authoritative ministers to expound the teaching, or that Christ indicated only the doctrine that they would pronounce, and only insofar as it aligned with some other criterion?

    Thanks!

    David

  204. –>”When I read the Westminster Confession, for instance, the divines list the 66 books, then say that no doctrine has divine authority unless it is found therein. Love to hear your explanation of that.”

    I see what you are getting at here, and I have to call it cunning. Which makes me sad. Your method is plain to see. When I agree that doctrine must be found in the 66 books, and then declare this statement as “doctrine” you ask me where in the 66 books it says “for there shall be 66 books”. I get it, OK. It doesn’t mean that the bible is not the Word of God. You have to start somewhere. You sound like an atheist, actually, saying I can’t prove God without using the Bible.

    The point of Sola Scriptura is to keep errors out of the Word of God. Period. Shall we make that a doctrine? To keep errors out of the Word of God? How can we do that? Perhaps we should forbid the addition and subtraction from the Word. But what is the Word? Which books shall be included before we commence this “forbidding of the addition and subtraction”?

    You seem to think that it doesn’t count as addition or subtraction when you put it in the form of a Council meeting with a Magisterium statement declaring new doctrine hundreds of years after Christ walked the earth!

    So in short, I cannot counter your claim that the doctrine of 66 books is not explicitly stated in the 66 books. But logic shows that if the Catholic Church accepts the 66 books (plus others), it is going against the 66 books by adding and subtracting via “doctrine” that are not compatible with the 66 books it claims to accept.

    I did notice that you chose not to respond to my parting question.

  205. Hi Mike,

    Calling me “cunning” is not an answer to my question. Your being sad is not an answer. And saying I sound like an atheist is not an answer. These are all ad hominems (and are actually against our posting guidelines). Furthermore, I never said you couldn’t prove God without the Bible. I’m not sure where you are getting that.

    My concern with Sola Scriptura is simply to know whether or not it is an article of faith in the Christian religion, whether or not it is a revealed doctrine. Either sola scriptura is a revealed doctrine, or it is not.

    “You have to start somewhere” is not a reason to accept any doctrine, but rather is fideism.

    The point of my article was to ask what provision Christ made for transmitting the deposit of faith. I’m trying to get at that with you.

    I’m not sure which was your parting question, but if it’s off topic, I’d rather get to it later. Let’s stick to the topic of the article: “Did Jesus teach the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura?” And if not, what did he teach regarding the transmission of Christian doctrine?

    Thanks,

    David

  206. Firstly, how you could possibly miss my parting question is completely beyond me. I labeled it. And then reminded you to answer it. Are you reading my posts? I will try to keep this one shorter.

    Here is your question: “Did Jesus teach the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura?”

    Mt 4:1-11 Jesus when temped by the devil replied three times with “For it is written….”

    Luke 20:17 “But he looking on them, said: What is this then that is written, The stone, which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?” This is a great example of what Protestants follow. For example, when Pope Pius IX in 1854 says “Let all the children of the Catholic Church … Proceed to worship, invoke, and pray to the most blessed Virgin Mary, mother of God. ” one might follow the example of Jesus and say “What is this then that is written, you shall have no other Gods before me”. I can write a hundred examples of things that Jesus would refute with scripture that the Catholic Church does, because the writings contradict them. He would say, “What is this then that is written, you shall not bow down before graven images?”.

    1 Cor 4:6 But these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollo, for your sakes; that in us you may learn, that one be not puffed up against the other for another, **above that which is written**.

    This passage clearly says not to add conjecture above that which is written. Plain as day.

    And here is more:
    Luke 10:26
    Mark 12:24
    Matthew 22:29
    Matthew 26:24
    2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for EVERY good work.” (including refuting false doctrines)

    So no, it never says, “There shall be 66 books, and here is the names of them….” But it clearly gives many examples of using scripture to refute error. MANY. I would like to talk about these errors. What it is exactly that makes you think scripture doesn’t refute them?

    Let’s start with the example of Pope Pius IX declaring it good to worship Mary. Scripture says to worship God alone. Can you cite anything that makes this work? For God is an unchanging God. He is the beginning and the End. The Alpha and the Omega. There are no “new” developments that suddenly makes God wish he had clarified who to worship.

    “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me. Mary would be OK, though. But that’s it. I am the Lord your God, and Mary. Two. Oh, and graven images of Mary, too. But that’s IT. OK? No more. Oh, and the bread. But don’t worry about that, Moses, I’ll clarify it all through the Magisterium in 2400 years or so. Slow down. For now, it’s just Me, the Lord your God. I know I said I am unchanging, but I’ll clarify that, too.”

    David, I really cannot see any possible way for you to explain this into acceptable!

  207. Again, I am double posting, and I apologize, so please do not miss my previous post. But I have to add, the topic of the article is “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium: What did Jesus Teach?”

    I feel I have to say, Jesus actually taught Sola Scriptura for everyone “post-apostles”. I believe scripture can be used to prove this, and all you need to prove this is above in the various passages.

    But the more apt question would be “Did Jesus teach us to set up a Magisterium for providing new teachings?” Although I see plenty of scripture transferring teaching authority over what was SAID AND WRITTEN by the APOSTLES, (which is, let’s be honest here, limited to basically the 66 books, and thus confirms sola scriptura), I do not see any scripture giving authority to create NEW TEACHINGS that contradict the former.

  208. Hi Mike,

    The Scripture verses you have cited all affirm that Scripture (whatever that might be) is an authority that is not to be contravened. But this is not at issue between us. Affirming the inspiration and authority of Scripture is perfectly compatible with Scripture not being the final authority to regulate Christian faith and practice.

    I’m very interested in this claim:

    Jesus actually taught Sola Scriptura for everyone “post-apostles”. I believe scripture can be used to prove this,

    I’d really, really like to see the argument (Not just a bunch of citations) that does this. Can you actually construct a valid argument from Scriptural premises that concludes with “God intends the Bible to be the sole rule of faith?”

    I take it your question has to do with the allegation of Catholic idolatry? Yes? that’s really beyond the scope of this article and would be better referred to another thread. But, simply put, Catholics only worship God. We venerate the saints. Thus, honoring the saints is not idolatry. But, please, let’s not get off topic. This thread is on sola scriptura and the magisterium.

    “Did Jesus teach us to set up a Magisterium for providing new teachings?”

    If by new, you mean things not contained at least implicitly in the deposit of faith, then the answer would be no. That’s not the Catholic claim.

    Finally, I see that you have conceded that the content of the canon is not given to us by Scriptural revelation. Since that is the case, the content of the canon is either not part of the deposit of faith (if the faith must be derived from Scripture), or Sola Scriptura is false.

    I am assuming you would affirm the former? Namely, that the content of the canon is not taught by divine authority?

    Peace,

    David

  209. —>”Finally, I see that you have conceded that the content of the canon is not given to us by Scriptural revelation. Since that is the case, the content of the canon is either not part of the deposit of faith (if the faith must be derived from Scripture), or Sola Scriptura is false. ”

    I conceded no such thing. The content of the cannon IS given to us by scripture. It is **what was transmitted by the apostles**. I’ve already proven THAT with actual scripture.

    You have introduced a new term here “the deposit of faith”. I am assuming that this is not synonymous with the Bible alone, but a much larger bucket of writings that I can find at, say, New Advent . org

    you wrote—>”If by new, you mean things not contained at least implicitly in the deposit of faith, then the answer would be no. That’s not the Catholic claim.”

    Now that you have conceded that the Magisterium is not to introduce new doctrine that is not implicitly contained in scripture….Oh no, wait, you slipped in “the deposit of faith” again. So what you are really saying is, “It is not the Catholic claim to introduce new doctrine that isn’t at least implicitly contained in writings of the historical documents that are housed at the Vatican, which includes not only the bible, but much, much more.”

    Whoopdie doo. This is why I call it cunning. Don’t you see that you just tried to pull a fast one? “It is not our claim to create new doctrine, unless it is at least implicitly contained….” that sounds great so far! “unless it is at least implicitly contained in the deposit of faith”. Oh. I see how it is. Now what is that “deposit of faith”? A collection of past implicitly derived doctrines?

    Let’s talk about this deposit of faith. What, to you, is actually contained in this giant bucket you call “the deposit of faith”?

    If something in the “deposit of faith” is used to “implicitly” create doctrine (your word, implicit) can this new doctrine then be put INTO the deposit of faith, and then later be used to implicitly derive MORE new doctrine?

    In other words, is there a provision to keep errors from compounding into errors? Or, more innocently but just as troublesome, is there a provision to keep truth from creating conjecture, which is then treated as truth itself, and subsequently creates error which is then included into the deposit of faith?

    I really hope you can follow that, because it is the crux of the matter!

  210. Hi Mike,

    The content of the cannon IS given to us by scripture.

    Please enumerate the contents of the canon of Scripture using Scripture. I’d love to see this.

    “Deposit of faith” means all the content of Christian revelation delivered by Christ and the apostles.

    Finally, please refrain from accusations of “cunning,” pulling “fast ones” and all rhetoric that is intended to insult or demean. This site exists to facilitate charitable dialogue. So, consider me (or any interlocutor) as if we were having a friendly conversation over coffee. IN the future, demeaning comments will not be approved.

    -David

  211. Hi Mike,

    There’s numerous articles that discuss Catholic devotion to Mary and the saints. Here’s three where you could post a question or start up a discussion:

    Mary without Sin, Scripture and Tradition
    All Saints Day
    Ancient Marian Devotion

    If you’re considering Protestantism, then you’ll need to make a choice between hundreds of different interpretations of scripture over very important issues (like infant baptism, the meaning of the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist, organizational structure, divorce, abortion, etc.). In my experience, each denomination can support its beliefs from scripture (to some extent surely), but they all disagree. (If they agreed, they wouldn’t be in schism with each other).

    So if you decide on Sola Scriptura and assume on faith that you’ve got the contents of the Bible right, the next question you’ll need an answer to is which church or pastor are you going to listen to for their interpretation of scripture. Will you find someone who has a “rightful” authority to interpret scripture, or will you have to decide for yourself who is right? In other words, the Magisterium of the individual. I would suggest some shopping around before just going with the first set of opinions you find.

    You could also go the Mormon route. If you believe the Catholic Church totally corrupted the gospel, but that the Church needs an authoritative interpreter of scripture in order to fulfill Christ’s prayer for unity, then you could look for a church which claims to have restored the gospel which was lost.

  212. In regards to your first post, I apologize. I’m bothered by what I see as self-evident truth vs. what the church teaches, and as such, when I read arguments that seem to “maneuver” I get upset. I need to realize that you aren’t particularly intending to “pull a fast one”, or whatever, so I’ll stop accusing. Again, I apologize.

    In regards to your second post, the “alternatives” to belonging to the Catholic Church is not a part of this discussion. I wouldn’t want to choose to stay with the Catholic Church because “it’s my best option”. Hopefully you can do better than to try and scare me into staying. Our highest authority is God of the Bible, and so I will work from there if and when I choose a new group to worship with. (Philippians 2:12)

    Now, onward with the discussion.

    In regards to Mary, I know you don’t think it belongs in this topic, but in this case it does. For it is NOT the act of Venerating Mary that I am debating with you at this time, but that the Pope declared it to be WORSHIPPING Mary. Of course, perhaps it has all been redacted and clarified with words like “venerating” etc…but that isn’t the point. The point is threefold.

    1. Pope Pius IX declared it “good to worship Mary”.
    2. You now say that Catholics do NOT worship Mary.
    3. Therefore Pope Pius IX was not infallible.

    So, that is the first thing I would like you to address.

    Next, you said —->”“Deposit of faith” means all the content of Christian revelation delivered by Christ and the apostles”

    Great! Can you list some writings of the apostles that are not in the 66 books of the bible? And by apostles, I mean, those that actually knew Christ as he walked the earth. After listing them, can you tell me which ones I can read that will validate bowing before statues?

    Exodus 20:4,5 ” You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God”

    What is unclear about this command? What in the deposit of faith makes this command null, or even “bendable”? (And no, the ten commandments are not nullified by Jesus Christ. He came to fulfill the law.)

    You wrote–>”I’d really, really like to see the argument (Not just a bunch of citations) that does this. Can you actually construct a valid argument from Scriptural premises that concludes with “God intends the Bible to be the sole rule of faith?” ”

    I will work on this dissertation. In the meantime, please review this post and respond. Also, I want to point out that you gave “a bunch of citations” in post #200 where you wrote:

    “Furthermore, Scripture admonishes us to hold fast to tradition, the liturgy, and to the unity and catholicity of the Church as marks of authority and authenticity. (2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Cor. 11:23, 1 Cor. 11:16, 1 Cor. 1:10, 1 John 2:19). None of these are explicitly Scriptural.

    I took the time to go read them, and I responded to EACH ONE in post #202. Is that of any effect? None of the 5 citations you gave give any semblance of “tradition, the liturgy, and the unity and catholicity of the Church as marks of authority and authenticity” as you claim.

  213. Hello, Mike,

    I’d like to speak to your comment in which you argue that an apparent contradiction falsifies the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

    Your point was that Pope Pius IX declared it “good to worship Mary”, but that Catholics today contradict this. The sentence at issue is originally from Ineffabilis Deus and runs « dulcius, nihil carius, quam ferventissimo affectu Deiparam Virginem absque labe originali conceptam ubique colere, venerari, invocare et praedicare. » (Pius XII, Fulgens Corona, quoting Ineffabilis Deus, Pius IX.) In English, this has been translated as “there is nothing more sweet, nothing dearer than to worship, venerate, invoke and praise with ardent affection the Mother of God conceived without stain of original sin.” However, the Latin verb here is not “adorare” or “glorificare” but “colere”, which has meanings circling around “fostering” or “cultivating” (as in “cultivating a friendship”). If you said that the translation is misleading, I would have to agree, but at the time of translation, “worship” had a somewhat less strong meaning than today – think of the Anglican marriage vow, “with my body, I thee worship.” Sometimes, languages just don’t provide exact translations, but you could think of the word here as shorthand for “prizing the Mother of God at her true worth.”

    So I believe the answer is that, appearances to the contrary, there is no contradiction, since it is the Latin text, not the English translation, to which infallibility attaches.

    Pius XII says: “[…] if we carefully and thoroughly consider the matter, we easily perceive that Christ the Lord in a certain most perfect manner really redeemed His mother, since it was by virtue of His merits that she was preserved by God immune from all stain of original sin.” He is in no doubt that Mary received her special grace through Christ!

    Thanks for your comment, which caused me to read Fulgens Corona. It’s well worth reading!

    With very best wishes,
    Jocelyn Jaquiery

  214. Hi Mike,

    You wrote:

    1. Pope Pius IX declared it “good to worship Mary”.
    2. You now say that Catholics do NOT worship Mary.
    3. Therefore Pope Pius IX was not infallible.

    This difficulty rests on a simple ambiguity of translation.
    In the encyclical Ineffabilis Deus, to which I assume you are referring, the Pope writes:

    “Atque exopantes in fidelium animis quotidie magis fovere hanc de Immaculata Deiparae Conceptione doctrinam, eorumque pietatem excitare ad ipsam Virginem sine labe originale conceptam colendam, .. . ”

    One older English translations render it this way:

    “In fine, desiring to render firm, each day more and more, in the minds of the faithful this doctrine concerning the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, and to excite their piety and their zeal for the worship and veneration due to the Virgin conceived without original stain, . . ”

    The ambiguity enters in the translation of “colendam” which is a participial form of “colo.” The 4th principle part of colo is “cultus” from which the French derive the “culte,” and that is how the French render the translation of the encyclical. “Pour le culte et la veneration.” If you know French, or if your familiar with the Latin “Cultus,” then you know that this refers in a broad sense to acts of reverence and devotion, and not to the adoration due to God alone. In English, the word “worship” once had this broader connotation (which is why English speakers could address fellow humans as “your worship” if they wanted to show deference). But today, the English word has taken on a much narrower sense.

    This is why more modern translations translate the passage this way: “to intensify the people’s piety and enthusiasm for the homage and the veneration of the Virgin conceived without the stain of original sin.”

    So, the objection you raise poses no difficulty for the distinction between “worship” and veneration.

    Next, you said —->”“Deposit of faith” means all the content of Christian revelation delivered by Christ and the apostles”
    Great! Can you list some writings of the apostles that are not in the 66 books of the bible?

    When did I say that these teachings were all committed to writing? In fact, I deny that. The apostles communicated many things orally and not in writing and these also belong to the deposit of faith. As for examples of such traditions, consider the claim that the Gospel of Mark is of apostolic origins. This claim is not found anywhere in the Bible. And yet, it is part of the Church’s deposit of faith. Likewise for for many other books of sacred Scripture. Other examples would be:

    “The epiclesis belongs to the Church’s liturgy by apostolic authority.”

    Or, how about this: “Christ does not intend for the exception clause in Matt. 19 to permit divorce between two baptized people in the case of adultery.”

    Both of these statements are also part of the church’s tradition, but not found in Scripture. We know them from liturgy, juridical tradition, and the writings of the Fathers.

    Here’s a tradition that I learned – believe it or not – from Doug Wilson: “Women should receive communion.” Nowhere mentioned in Scripture, no direct evidence from Scripture that women ever received communion. Better believe its in Tradition, however.

    Or, how about this one: “Christians are prohibited from procuring abortion.” Find that in the Didache as well as the Church’s unbroken teaching and juridical tradition.

    Should we get started on contraception?

    Or, “the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church”

    And by apostles, I mean, those that actually knew Christ as he walked the earth. After listing them, can you tell me which ones I can read that will validate bowing before statues?

    Again, I never said ever tradition was committed to writing. I explicitly deny it. But as for the veneration of holy icons and the relics of the saints, this is entailed by the Church’s unbroken tradition. I’ve written elsewhere on the evidence for the antiquity of this practice.

    You wrote–>”I’d really, really like to see the argument (Not just a bunch of citations) that does this. Can you actually construct a valid argument from Scriptural premises that concludes with “God intends the Bible to be the sole rule of faith?” ”
    I will work on this dissertation.

    Looking forward to it.

    “Furthermore, Scripture admonishes us to hold fast to tradition, the liturgy, and to the unity and catholicity of the Church as marks of authority and authenticity. (2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Cor. 11:23, 1 Cor. 11:16, 1 Cor. 1:10, 1 John 2:19). None of these are explicitly Scriptural.

    2 Thess. admonishes us to hold fast to traditions that are not written.
    1 Cor. 11 acknowledges the liturgical tradition established by Christ, and the consensus of the Church (we have no other practice, nor do the Churches of God) as an authority.
    1 Cor. 1:10 tells us to agree on everything. Doctrinal unity.
    1 John identifies schism as sin.

    Thanks Mike,

    Peace,

    David

  215. In English, the word “worship” once had this broader connotation (which is why English speakers could address fellow humans as “your worship” if they wanted to show deference). But today, the English word has taken on a much narrower sense.

    It seems eminently unfair that the Catholic Church would be punished for surviving multiple millennia worth of change in civilization and language. A perfectly orthodox statement in English at t=1 could appear unorthodox at t=2, not because the Church changed, but because the language did. But, to be fair, this issue may not regularly be on the Protestant radar because many interpretive and liturgical traditions don’t go back to the early church, or even to the reformers, but to the past century or two.

  216. Regarding languages and translations, fine, I will concede. There is another problem with this, however, in that as language HAS changed, I fear that the usage of “veneration” is not abundantly clear to the laity that actually perform the act, thus walking a razor sharp line between breaking God’s command to worship no other god or image.

    I take issue with much more of your post #214, but let’s take them one at a time. I’d like to focus on 1 Cor. 1:10. You claim that it says we should agree on everything. Doctrinal unity. I do not believe that this what this chapter is all about. I believe this chapter, when read in it’s entirely, rest on verse 17. The unity is in Christ and his work on the cross. Not in “who baptized whom, etc..”. These are the “Doctrinal” issues, and should not be held up above the work of Christ.

  217. Hi Mike,

    These are all good questions and not entirely unrelated to the topic at issue. But let’s remember the thesis of the article and the main point of the discussion: Did Christ teach the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura? Meaning, Did Christ instruct the Church to consult the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as their sole rule of faith? Or, did Christ entrust the transmission of the faith to authorized individuals, accompanied by a promise of divine assistance, irrespective of the mode that transmission might take (whether written, oral, ritual, or what not)?

    As for 1 Corinthians, here is the text:

    “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

    I take it from your comment that you believe this obedience to this verse is perfectly compatible with doctrinal division in the Church? And that the other biblical commands for unity in the “one faith” are also compatible with doctrinal division? And so, you believe that Christ does not intend for his faithful to agree on the content of the faith?

    Thanks,

    David

  218. I think you are asking the wrong question. The answer to the question you are asking is of course, Christ DOES want his faithful to agree on the content of the faith. But the question you SHOULD be asking is, should the church declare binding dogma that makes or breaks your salvation for topics outside the cross and saving grace? I feel that it isn’t Protestantism that causes the divide, but the RCC, with it’s doctrines of un-knowable requirements. You seem to believe that the unity will only come when protestants adhere to the doctrines of the RCC. I believe that the unity only comes when you lay down your doctrines and put 100% faith in Jesus Christ and His free gift of salvation. It is this view that we are called to have like mind and unity in one faith.

    On doctrinal issues like “women covering their heads” etc.., scripture says “why do you argue of these things? It empties the meaning of the cross.” It does NOT say, “for there shall be one correct view and the rest is at fault for leaving.” Scripture actually says “who could argue against the covering of women’s heads?” As though everyone is in agreement with this view. But then it says, “but if you argue about it, STOP. These arguments empty the meaning of the cross!”

    I guess what I am getting at is, why does the RCC make doctrine out of secondary, debatable issues? Thereby causing many to break away?

  219. [D]id Christ entrust the transmission of the faith to authorized individuals, accompanied by a promise of divine assistance, irrespective of the mode that transmission might take (whether written, oral, ritual, or what not)?

    I have a question regarding the reliability of Tradition (please file this elsewhere if it falls to far afield from the discussion of what Christ personally instituted). I know that several early Christian writings are legitimate (patristics and history) while others are not (spurious writings). This afternoon, I was reading one of the more systematic early fathers, Irenaeus, in his treatise Against Heresies. Irenaeus reported that several heresies used/abused Scripture to support their positions, and he often refuted them by appealing to tradition from the apostles.

    But, I was a bit shaken when I read Irenaeus’s statements on Christ’s age. Irenaeus was apparently refuting heretics who taught that Christ was baptized at age 30 and died 12 months later. In response, Irenaeus said that Jesus couldn’t have died twelve months after His baptism because the Gospels record Him celebrating annual feasts (i.e. Passover) several times. But, Irenaeus goes on:

    Being a Master, therefore, He also possessed the age of a Master, not despising or evading any condition of humanity, nor setting aside in Himself that law which He had appointed for the human race, but sanctifying every age, by that period corresponding to it which belonged to Himself. For He came to save all through means of Himself— all, I say, who through Him are born again to God — infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord. So likewise He was an old man for old men, that He might be a perfect Master for all, not merely as respects the setting forth of the truth, but also as regards age, sanctifying at the same time the aged also, and becoming an example to them likewise. Then, at last, He came on to death itself, that He might be the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence, Colossians 1:18 the Prince of life, Acts 3:15 existing before all, and going before all.

    They, however, that they may establish their false opinion regarding that which is written, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, maintain that He preached for one year only, and then suffered in the twelfth month.
    . . . .
    Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify; those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, [affirming] that John conveyed to them that information. And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan. Some of them, moreover, saw not only John, but the other apostles also, and heard the very same account from them, and bear testimony as to the [validity of] the statement. Whom then should we rather believe? Whether such men as these, or Ptolemæus, who never saw the apostles, and who never even in his dreams attained to the slightest trace of an apostle?

    Here, it appears to me that Irenaeus is reporting a tradition of apostolic origin (not only John, but “the other apostles also”) that Jesus possessed a fortieth and fiftieth year. If my reading is accurate (which it may not be), then either (1) the apostles directly taught that Jesus lived to an older age than many currently believe, or (2) the apostles did not spread that teaching, which would entail that despite his early witness, Irenaeus is not a reliable source of apostolic tradition. Also, if Irenaeus was mistaken or received bad information on this issue, how can modern folks distinguish reliable from unreliable traditions in the fathers?

  220. Mark,

    You will probably receive various attempts to explain how Irenaeus isn’t actually saying Jesus lived to his fortieth and fiftieth year. One example can be found here:

    http://www.biblicalcatholic.com/apologetics/a38.htm

    Protestants don’t really find this attempted resolution persuasive in any way. The Protestant perspective is outlined here:

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/06/irenaeus-and-reliability-of-early-oral.html

    For Protestants, this is an example where the testimony of Scripture (Luke 3:23) supersedes “apostolic tradition” that some of the Fathers claim goes back to the Apostles. This is the Protestant principle of Sola Scriptura at work.

  221. Mark, (re: #219)

    It would be an egregious strawman to treat the Apostolic Tradition as including every statement made by every Church Father. The Church has never believed or taught such a thing. Rather, the Apostolic Tradition is constituted by the moral consensus of the Fathers.

    Regarding the statement by St. Irenaeus, I’ve addressed that in comment #37 under my post on St. Irenaeus. I’ve also briefly addressed the moral consensus issue in comment #271 of the “Why Protestantism has no visible church” thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  222. Brandon (re: #220) and Bryan (re: #221):

    After reviewing the materials that you each presented, several things occur to me.

    First (to Bryan), it seems that there is a way to read Irenaeus that is consistent with the fact that Jesus did not attain a fortieth or fiftieth year. While that may be technically true, such an interpretation seems less persuasive (in my opinion) than an interpretation that Irenaeus indeed states that a “fortieth and fiftieth year . . . [is something] which our Lord possessed.” (My reasoning is simply that this appears, to me, to be the most direct reading that explains both the words and the reason Irenaeus is writing, namely, to show that Christ’s age advanced beyond that described by the heretics).

    Second (to Brandon), even if Irenaeus is indeed reporting what he was taught to be an apostolic tradition (that Christ possessed a fortieth and fiftieth year), I don’t think it follows that this example “the Protestant principle of Sola Scriptura at work,” or that we should infer that (as a RULE) “Scripture . . . supersedes ‘apostolic tradition.'” It is not necessarily the case that Scripture always corrects tradition–it could just as easily be the other way around (and in my study, this appears to have been the case often). Just as Scripture is profitable for correcting (possibly) misguided oral traditions in some situations, so Tradition can profitable for correcting erroneous interpretations of Scripture in other situations (hence, Irenaeus’s appeals to tradition to refute heretics who had twisted the Scriptures). When there are disputes over the interpretation of both Scripture AND Tradition, a Magisterial authority is profitable for correcting erroneous interpretations of both. In other words, it seems to me that any of the three “legs” of Catholic authority can have sufficient power to trump the others, if/when necessary, to ensure the preservation of Truth. (“trump” is a bad word, but hopefully you get the idea!)

    So, I am leaning toward concluding that (1) Irenaeus reported what he believed/heard to be an apostolic tradition that Jesus possessed a fortieth and fiftieth year; (2) Irenaeus was mistaken or misled that this was an apostolic tradition (in this particular case, the Holy Spirit’s voice in Scripture corrected a false tradition that was being reported as apostolic in origin); and (3) this “mistake” (if it was such) does not necessarily spoil Irenaeus’s credibility–he never claimed to write with infallible inspiration, but a great deal of his (other) teaching comports with “the consensus of the Fathers.”

    My only question is this (for Bryan): even if Irenaeus’s credibility is not destroyed, it now seems that I need to be on higher alert to identify which teachings are (or are not) in line with the “consensus of the Fathers.” I know that a canon of Tradition has not been conclusively established, but how does the Church identify the boundaries and contours of that consensus?

  223. It would be an egregious strawman to treat the Apostolic Tradition as including every statement made by every Church Father.

    I think this is the hub of the issue: identifying the appropriate expectation/use of each “leg” of authority. As a life-long Protestant who recently became Catholic, I find myself applying Scriptural standards that I’m familiar with (i.e. that all Scripture is true) to the other “legs” of authority, without applying the corresponding limitations (i.e. that not all interpretations of Scripture are true) to other “legs” of authority. I’m just needing some help (1) identifying what is (and is not) Apostolic Tradition, and (2) what is (and is not) Magisterial teaching.

  224. Hello, Mike,

    If the moderators permit, I’d like to discuss your concern in #216 about the worship practices of, shall we agree to say, simple Catholics. As it happens, I have two such simple Catholics in the house, my learning-disabled twelve-year-old twins. The idea that they might read Papal documents and then get confused is charming but off-base. They of course model their worship and devotion on that of the community around them.

    The twins use the set prayers of the Church, with which they can hardly go wrong, though teaching the boys to say them was sorry work indeed. They add to these with their small petitions. I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to how much they understand intellectually, but they love their Lord, and as long as they stay with the Church, I can have good hope for them. Also I rejoice that they can, if they want, pray the Mass as well as the greatest and wisest. If, on the other hand, you gave them a Bible, and told them to go away and read it, I fear to think what kind of worship they would come up with. It would probably involve a lot of livestock. So the guidance of the Magisterium for such as these is no tyranny. On the contrary, it’s the kindest and most comforting thing a mother could imagine. Thanks for your concern for the Catholic laity, but we’re in good hands.

    On your comment about making doctrines around secondary issues – the twins could not possibly hope to be able to tell a primary from a secondary issue. Why are you so sure that you can?

    Best wishes,
    Jocelyn Jaquiery

  225. Mark,

    Please note that I was not arguing that this *proves* Sola Scriptura. I was simply noting that this is an example of Sola Scriptura at work from the Protestant perspective.

    Also, I’d be very interested to know what you mean when you say,

    It is not necessarily the case that Scripture always corrects tradition–it could just as easily be the other way around (and in my study, this appears to have been the case often).

    Your question to Bryan about what is and what is not Apostolic Tradition is precisely the question that Robert has been pressing in this thread. What is it? Why isn’t it what Irenaeus says about Jesus’s age since Irenaeus claims that it *is* part of the Apostolic teaching? How do you know?

    This sort of situation has important evidential value in other discussions, like Irenaeus’s report on the governance of the church. Some would argue that critically reading Irenaeus and other Fathers is tantamount to skepticism. Examples such as these demonstrate, however, there is a continuum: unwarranted skepticism or gullible acceptance. Students of history must avoid these mistakes and navigate the continuum. I should emphasize that this is not a pot-shot at Catholic historians–there is nothing in Catholic teaching that says the church fathers are infallible or that we should not read them critically. I simply want to emphasize that the proper posture towards the writing of the Fathers is very important in accessing the “Tradition.”

  226. Interesting track you’ve taken here, Joycelyn. Could not the same be said for a Baptist child? Or an Episcopalian child? This discussion is not about the purity of children. They are all under the guidance of their caretakers, the parents, whom will be held accountable if they run off and start sacrificing livestock.

    As far as being able to tell a primary from a secondary, I’ll give you an example. To be anywhere close to being in a true Christian church, you must believe the Jesus is the Son of God, who’s gift paid the price for our sins. I do not think that this is an issue between Catholics and Protestants. It is THE primary issue of doctrine. It’s great that we all agree on that! How old Jesus Christ was when he was crucified, is NOT a primary issue. As such, the Catholic church and Protestants alike have made Jesus’s age at the crucifixion non-dogmatic. As such, his age is not in the profession of faith, nor is it punishable by excommunication if you have a “theory” regarding His age at the crucifixion. It’s great that we all agree on that as well!

    So on one end of the spectrum, you have the main Christian essential. On the other end, you have a mere “trivia” about Christ that has no bearing on the main Christian essential. The grey area topics in the middle may or may not be essential, but if anything IS essential, it should not take away from the MAIN essential, which is Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins. This is a great yardstick to measure all dogma, actually. Wouldn’t you agree?

  227. I am a faithful EWTN listener and I listened today to the caller who couldn’t reconcile that the bread and wine are the Real Presence of Jesus. You stated that a miracle occurred to change the bread and wine into the the Real Presence. I felt compelled to ask you to talk about a documented miracle from the website therealpresence.org. A Eucharistic Miracle occurred in Lanciano Italy 8th century AD. I believe that faith is required to believe but this might help the caller and the faithful would also benefit. Thank you for everything you do and God bless!

  228. Brandon (re: # 225):

    Please note that I was not arguing that this *proves* Sola Scriptura.

    Understood, thanks!

    I was simply noting that this is an example of Sola Scriptura at work from the Protestant perspective.

    I would agree that this is [Scripture correcting potentially-non-apostolic oral traditions] at work. However, I understand Sola Scriptura to mean that [Scripture alone is the final authority to correct and/or “supersede[]” oral traditions]. Accordingly, to me, it seems like an exaggeration to say that this is “Sola Scriptura” at work (as opposed to Scripture as one form of authority correcting oral tradition) because the exclusivity and preeminence of Scripture as the means of correction is not established simply by using Scripture to correct oral traditions in this instance (where tradition may correct interpretations of Scripture in other instances).

    Also, I’d be very interested to know what you mean when you say, “It is not necessarily the case that Scripture always corrects tradition–it could just as easily be the other way around (and in my study, this appears to have been the case often).”

    I’m not a scholar, so I don’t mean anything particularly profound. Perhaps just things like Nicaea promoting the Trinity to refute Arians who had their own interpretation of Scripture.

  229. Mark, (re: #222)

    that Irenaeus indeed states that a “fortieth and fiftieth year . . . [is something] which our Lord possessed.”

    Except St. Irenaeus does not actually say that. Inserting an ellipsis leaves out the referent of the relative pronoun. St. Irenaeus says “a quadragesimo autem et quinquagesimo anno declinat jam in aetatem seniorem, quam habens Dominus noster docebat” which can be translated, “for from the fortieth and fiftieth years a man declines more into the age of elder, which our Lord had as He taught.” Notice that St. Irenaeus does not actually say that Jesus was over forty or between forty and fifty. Rather he is saying that when our Lord taught, He had the age of an elder. St. Irenaeus has just pointed out that the first stage of life embraces the first thirty years of life. This stage ends when one has completed thirty years. But then St. Irenaeus adds that in a sense this first stage extends from thirty-one to forty, even though strictly speaking it ends after one’s first thirty years. He says this because the decline into the age of elder has only just begun during the decade from thirty-one to forty. Then he goes on to say the line in question, namely, that this decline into the age of elder becomes more manifest from forty to fifty. What St. Irenaeus is saying is not that Jesus was over forty, but that He had “aetatem seniorem,” namely, the age of an elder. And one who has entered into the decade from thirty-one to forty has already entered into that age, which wouldn’t be the case if Jesus had died at the end of his thirtieth year, as some were claiming.

    I know that a canon of Tradition has not been conclusively established, but how does the Church identify the boundaries and contours of that consensus?

    I don’t understand the question. Wherever there is a moral consensus among the Fathers in matters of faith and morals, that is part of the Tradition. To know the meaning of moral consensus is already to know how to identify what does and does not belong to it, so long as one knows who counts as a Church Father. Someone outside the Church, however, does not have the advantage of the authoritative guidance of the Magisterium regarding knowing who counts as a Father, or knowing that moral consensus testifies to the identity of the Tradition, or determining which judgments concerning the development of Tradition are authoritative and authentic. For the one outside the Church, Tradition as historical belief and teaching points to the Catholic Church as the Church of the Fathers. But access to Tradition as authoritative, and a clear delineation of its content and meaning is attained only by way of the view from within the Church, as I have explained in my reply to Matthew Barrett.

    Brandon, (re: #225)

    You ask:

    Why isn’t it what Irenaeus says about Jesus’s age since Irenaeus claims that it *is* part of the Apostolic teaching? How do you know?

    Assuming for the sake of argument that St. Irenaeus did believe that Jesus was 40+, that is not part of the Apostolic Tradition because there is no moral consensus among the Fathers that Jesus was 40+ when He died.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  230. Bryan,

    For Mark’s sake I’ll simply point out that your response doesn’t really answer the question, it just pushes it back.

    How many people need to claim something is Apostolic before it is recognized as part of the oral transmission of tradition? How geographically widespread does such a belief have to be to be regarded part of the oral tradition?

    Furthermore, Irenaeus is much closer to the historical Jesus than either you or I, so why should be believe that Jesus’s age is not part of the Apostolic deposit when Irenaeus believes that it is? One has to wonder where Irenaeus came up with the notion that,

    He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age. For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years,

    I’ll assume that we agree that rhetorically 16 or 17 years would be equally unreasonable to Irenaeus. Therefore, do you believe that Irenaeus was lying about Jesus’s age? Or do you believe the Irenaeus misunderstood or misrepresented apostolic teaching? Given that Irenaeus is one of the most well-read Christians of the second century and certainly one of the centuries most prolific writers, how do errors like this inform a Catholic excavation of oral tradition in the Fathers?

  231. Brandon,

    Consider the Catechism (95):

    “It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.”

    And,

    “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

    -David

  232. Brandon (re: #230)

    For Mark’s sake I’ll simply point out that your response doesn’t really answer the question, it just pushes it back.

    Which question, exactly, do you think my response does not “really” answer?

    How many people need to claim something is Apostolic before it is recognized as part of the oral transmission of tradition? How geographically widespread does such a belief have to be to be regarded part of the oral tradition?

    Moral consensus is not based on a particular number or people, or on a particular percentage of geographic distribution.

    Furthermore, Irenaeus is much closer to the historical Jesus than either you or I, so why should be believe that Jesus’s age is not part of the Apostolic deposit when Irenaeus believes that it is?

    Because, as I explained above, the Apostolic Tradition is not determined by only one person’s testimony, but is found in the moral consensus of the Fathers.

    Therefore, do you believe that Irenaeus was lying about Jesus’s age?

    Of course not.

    Or do you believe the Irenaeus misunderstood or misrepresented apostolic teaching?

    I have already answered that question in #229 above and at the first link in #221.

    Given that Irenaeus is one of the most well-read Christians of the second century and certainly one of the centuries most prolific writers, how do errors like this inform a Catholic excavation of oral tradition in the Fathers?

    Your question presupposes that St. Irenaeus made an error here; I don’t accept that presupposition, for the reasons provided at the comments I just referenced. Second, I don’t know what you mean by an “excavation of oral tradition,” or what it means for something to “inform a Catholic excavation of oral tradition,” so I can’t answer this question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  233. Bryan,

    Because, as I explained above, the Apostolic Tradition is not determined by only one person’s testimony, but is found in the moral consensus of the Fathers.

    Yes, and who determines the “moral consensus” of the Fathers? The church. Sola ecclesia. The Tradition is whatever the current Magisterium says the Tradition is.

    One would think that the Magisterium could at least point us to whatever it currently says falls under tradition, but apparently she can’t. More likely, she’s unwilling to.

    It’s hard to hold a church accountable that won’t tell you what its sources are. Of course, if you don’t believe the church needs to be held accountable to the laity, I guess this doesn’t matter. But talk about a recipe for abuse.

  234. Bryan (#229), thank you for pointing out that the key referent for what Jesus possessed was “the age of an elder,” not necessarily the fortieth/fiftieth year themselves (the attainment of which comes in the age of an elder).

    Brandon (#230), Bryan (#232), and David Anders (#231):

    For Mark’s sake I’ll simply point out that your response doesn’t really answer the question, it just pushes it back.

    How many people need to claim something is Apostolic before it is recognized as part of the oral transmission of tradition? How geographically widespread does such a belief have to be to be regarded part of the oral tradition?

    I appreciate input from each of you. I think this question (and in fact, your interaction) gets to the heart of my inquiry. As a new Catholic, I am personally persuaded that Sola Scriptura is unworkable (i.e. that other forms of authority are necessary to decide between mutually exclusive, yet rigorous and systematic, interpretations of Scripture). However, by what standard do I determine what is (and is not) Sacred Tradition? I hear Bryan explain that the standard is “the moral consensus of the Fathers.” Brandon then asks (as I do), how do we determine what is (and is not) “the moral consensus of the Fathers?” This question contains many others, including who is included among the Fathers, and what temporal or geographical or doctrinal or ecclesial attributes mark such a belief as among the consensus of Fathers, etc. Finally, I hear David Anders (and Bryan) indicating that the Church’s Magisterium is the basis for determining what is (and is not) among the “moral consensus of the Fathers,” making all three branches of authority necessary.

    My question then becomes: what has the Magisterium defined as among the “consensus of the Fathers,” and what (if any) early church teachings has the Magisterium excluded from that consensus? I’m still catching up on patristics, but from my very limited exposure, it seems that Origin is a good example of a mixed bag of accepted/rejected teachings.

    To make a long story short, I know for a fact that I am reading Truth when I read Scripture (though not all of its interpretations are truth, requiring guidance from other authorities). I’m just looking for a way (if there is one) to know when I’m reading Truth in the Fathers (even if, likewise, one must consult other authorities).

  235. Bryan,

    You asked,

    Which question, exactly, do you think my response does not “really” answer?

    The specific question I had in mind was Mark’s,

    Also, if Irenaeus was mistaken or received bad information on this issue, how can modern folks distinguish reliable from unreliable traditions in the fathers?

    Answering my question, along similar lines, you said,

    Moral consensus is not based on a particular number or people, or on a particular percentage of geographic distribution.

    Then upon what grounds is it based? Is there objective criteria? Who defines what the “moral consensus of the Fathers” is? Can you report on the moral consensus of the Father’s regarding Jesus’s age?

    Part of the issue here is that you don’t believe that Irenaeus actually articulates that Jesus was nearly 50 years old. I’m sorry for my block quoting error, but I meant to quote Irenaeus in this passage saying the following,

    He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age. For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years,

    Is it your interpretation that Irenaeus believed that it was unreasonable to suppose Jesus was 20 years younger than 50 but not 16 or 17 years younger than 50? Along these lines, are you aware of any published material arguing for the position that you’ve outlined, that Irenaeus is not teaching that Jesus is near 50 years old?

  236. Robert, (re: #233)

    Yes, and who determines the “moral consensus” of the Fathers? The church. Sola ecclesia. The Tradition is whatever the current Magisterium says the Tradition is.

    If by “who determines the “moral consensus” of the Fathers” you mean “who authoritatively determines the moral consensus of the Fathers,” then yes, only the Magisterium can do so with divine teaching authority. However, that does not mean that others cannot do so in a non-authoritative way. That is, the limitation of divine teaching authority only to the Magisterium does not entail either that those without such authority cannot apprehend the moral consensus of the Fathers or that the Magisterium can arbitrarily stipulate any claim or teaching to be the moral consensus of the Fathers. Neither of those two conclusions follow from the premise that the Magisterium alone has authoritative teaching authority. And for that reason, your argument above is a non sequitur. The necessity of x for y does not mean or entail the sufficiency of x for y (i.e. sola ecclesia). Hence the necessity of the Magisterium for the authoritative determination and functional authority of Tradition does not mean or entail that the Magisterium is in itself sufficient and that Tradition is neither truly authoritative (and thus disallows teaching that opposes it) nor necessary for the life and teaching of the Church.

    One would think that the Magisterium could at least point us to whatever it currently says falls under tradition, but apparently she can’t.

    Instead of hand-waving with generalities, where, precisely, do you think the Magisterium cannot point to something it says falls under tradition?

    More likely, she’s unwilling to.

    Negative speculation of this sort is cheap and easy, but entirely unhelpful.

    It’s hard to hold a church accountable that won’t tell you what its sources are. Of course, if you don’t believe the church needs to be held accountable to the laity, I guess this doesn’t matter. But talk about a recipe for abuse.

    Now you’re switching to a different topic, namely, that of the laity holding the “Church” accountable. First I should say for the sake of clarify that the laity are part of the Church. But in addition, there is in fact a way in which Catholic laity hold priests, bishops, and even the pope accountable to the faith. I have talked about that here at CTC. See, for example, the paragraph that begins “Fourth, the lay faithful have always been called to hold on to the Apostolic Tradition, and be on the watch for false teachers” in comment #179 of the “Habemus Papam” thread, and the two paragraphs specified at the link in that paragraph. We do this by way of what is called the sensus fidelium, which I have discussed in comments #52, #97, and #98 of the “Short Video on the Identification of the Apostolic Faith” thread.

    However, your rejection of Magisterial authority as a way of providing authoritative determination of what does and does not belong to Tradition does not allow you to avoid the same problem with regard to your proposal that the laity hold the Magisterium accountable, because without the Magisterium, who counts as “laity” are only those who in belief and/or practice sufficiently conform to your own interpretation of Scripture. Thus your rejection of Magisterial authority leaves you in a “solo scriptura” position regarding who counts as the laity, as I have explained in my reply to Mark Galli of Christianity Today, and my reply to Carl Trueman in comment #89 of the Brad Gregory thread. This, in part, is precisely why without the Magisterium, what does and does not get to count as “Tradition” reduces to what does and does not agree with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. But as I’ve argued elsewhere with Neal Judisch (see here), when something is labeled an authority on the basis of its agreement with oneself, the actual authority is oneself. Or, in another words, apart from the Magisterium, there can be no Tradition functioning with divine authority, as I argued in my reply to Matthew Barrett titled “Sola Scriptura Redux: Matthew Barrett, Tradition, and Authority,” and thus no laity holding their leaders accountable to the Tradition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  237. Brandon, (re: #235)

    Then upon what grounds is it based?

    It is based on the doctrine that universality (properly understood) is a testimony to apostolicity. As St. Irenaeus said,

    It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. (AH III.3)

    You can see it again in St. Augustine where he says:

    But, regarding those other observances which we keep and all the world keeps, and which do not derive from Scripture but from tradition, we are given to understand that they have been ordained or recommended to be kept by the Apostles themselves, or by plenary councils, whose authority is well founded in the Church. (Letters, 44; To Janarius)

    You can see it also in what St. Vincent of Lérins says about identifying what does and does not belong to Tradition, as I have explained in more detail here.

    You asked:

    Is there objective criteria?

    Yes, the actual agreement of the Fathers.

    Who defines what the “moral consensus of the Fathers” is?

    If you mean who defines what the term means, it is a technical term in sacred theology. If you mean who authoritatively defines what belongs to the moral consensus of the Fathers, see my comment #236 above.

    Can you report on the moral consensus of the Father’s regarding Jesus’s age?

    Not with certainty without first studying what they all said about this question. Though my preliminary answer, based on the patristic study I have done to date would be that they believed that Jesus was in His thirties when He died.

    Is it your interpretation that Irenaeus believed that it was unreasonable to suppose Jesus was 20 years younger than 50 but not 16 or 17 years younger than 50?

    No. To word it that way is to presuppose a contemporary scientific mindset. St. Irenaeus’s point is that what wouldn’t make sense is saying that Jesus had not yet reached the age of fifty, while Jesus was in fact still in His third decade of life, and thus still in the first stage of life. Concerning what you said in comment #220 above, St. Irenaeus was fully aware of Luke 3:23, and what St. Irenaeus says here is fully compatible with the truth of Luke 3:23.

    Along these lines, are you aware of any published material arguing for the position that you’ve outlined, that Irenaeus is not teaching that Jesus is near 50 years old?

    If you want to make the question depend on an argument from academic authority (or competing appeals to arguments from academic authority), then I’ll answer your question after you provide an argument from academic authority showing that what I’ve said above is false. It would be better (in the sense of more fruitful), in my opinion, not to resort to competing appeals to academic authority.

    My purpose here in this thread is not to steer it into a debate about St. Irenaeus’s beliefs concerning the age of Jesus at His death (something that should instead be discussed on the thread dedicated to the topic of St. Irenaeus, linked in #221 above, if it needs to be discussed), but instead to address the topic of David’s post, namely, the role and authority of Tradition. For reasons I’ve already explained in my comments above, even if St. Irenaeus were wrong about when Jesus died, that would be fully compatible with what the Catholic Church teaches concerning the identity and authority of the unwritten Tradition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  238. Bryan,

    Psst. You’re a RC because you decided that Rome agrees with your reading of Scripture and tradition.

    If by “who determines the “moral consensus” of the Fathers” you mean “who authoritatively determines the moral consensus of the Fathers,” then yes, only the Magisterium can do so with divine teaching authority. However, that does not mean that others cannot do so in a non-authoritative way. That is, the limitation of divine teaching authority only to the Magisterium does not entail either that those without such authority cannot apprehend the moral consensus of the Fathers or that the Magisterium can arbitrarily stipulate any claim or teaching to be the moral consensus of the Fathers. Neither of those two conclusions follow from the premise that the Magisterium alone has authoritative teaching authority. And for that reason, your argument above is a non sequitur. The necessity of x for y does not mean or entail the sufficiency of x for y (i.e. sola ecclesia). Hence the necessity of the Magisterium for the authoritative determination and functional authority of Tradition does not mean or entail that the Magisterium is in itself sufficient and that Tradition is neither truly authoritative (and thus disallows teaching that opposes it) nor necessary for the life and teaching of the Church.

    Yes Bryan, sola Ecclesia. I can apprehend the moral consensus of the Fathers as long as I come to the same conclusions as the Magisterium. If I don’t, then I haven’t apprehended the moral consensus of the Fathers.

  239. Robert, (re: #238)

    Psst. You’re a RC because you decided that Rome agrees with your reading of Scripture and tradition.

    No, that’s not why or how I became Catholic. That objection is called the tu quoque objection, and I addressed it four and half years ago in a post titled “The Tu Quoque.”

    Yes Bryan, sola Ecclesia. I can apprehend the moral consensus of the Fathers as long as I come to the same conclusions as the Magisterium. If I don’t, then I haven’t apprehended the moral consensus of the Fathers.

    Once again, the “sola Ecclesia” conclusion does not follow from the necessity and authority of the Magisterium. The necessity of submission to authority x does not entail that x is the only authority, just as the necessity of submitting to the Holy Spirit does not entail that the Father and Son have no authority. The conclusion does not follow from the premise, and is thus a non sequitur.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  240. Bryan,

    No, that’s not why or how I became Catholic. That objection is called the tu quoque objection, and I addressed it four and half years ago in a post titled “The Tu Quoque.”

    10,000 words to say that you “discovered” the church, as if that is different from what anyone else does Protestant or RC, is not impressive. I’m sorry, I don’t know how else to say that. You decided that you had to have ‘principled means” that had to look a certain way, and then you found a version of RC that agrees with that interpretation.

    Once again, the “sola Ecclesia” conclusion does not follow from the necessity and authority of the Magisterium. The necessity of submission to authority x does not entail that x is the only authority, just as the necessity of submitting to the Holy Spirit does not entail that the Father and Son have no authority. The conclusion does not follow from the premise, and is thus a non sequitur.

    Yeah, there are other lesser authorities that are true and binding but are subject to the final arbitration of the Magisterium. So in Romanism, you have the Magisterium as the final infallible authority. In Protestantism, you have Scripture.

  241. So in Romanism, you have the Magisterium as the final infallible authority. In Protestantism, you have Scripture.

    And which of those authorities was instituted by Christ as the authentic bearer and interpreter of divine revelation?

    -David

  242. David,

    And which of those authorities was instituted by Christ as the authentic bearer and interpreter of divine revelation?

    Authentic? That seems like a strange word to use. The church is the authentic interpreter; it’s not the infallible interpreter. And church is broader than the Magisterium.

  243. Thanks Robert,

    If you believe Christ established the Church as the authentic interpreter of divine revelation, that its authority to interpret the word of God is divine and given by Christ, then we have something important in common, whether or not you believe the Church is infallible. & I agree the Church is broader than the Magisterium.

    Peace,

    David

  244. Robert, (re: #240)

    10,000 words to say that you “discovered” the church, as if that is different from what anyone else does Protestant or RC, is not impressive. I’m sorry, I don’t know how else to say that.

    The soundness of an argument is not measured by its impressiveness or by its word count. Pointing to either of these does not refute the argument.

    You decided that you had to have ‘principled means” …

    No, I didn’t. I found a principled means; I did not decide that I had to have one.

    Yeah, there are other lesser authorities that are true and binding but are subject to the final arbitration of the Magisterium. So in Romanism, you have the Magisterium as the final infallible authority.

    We’re making some progress, as you now concede that there are other authorities. You claim, however, that Scripture and Tradition are *lesser* authorities. But that is not true. Just because something is subject to another thing in one respect, it does not follow that it is a lesser authority. For example, as a child Jesus was subject to Mary. But that doesn’t mean or entail that Mary had more authority than Jesus. Likewise, just because the Magisterium has interpretive authority with respect to Scripture, it does not follow that Scripture is a lesser authority than the Magisterium. Similarly, just because the Magisterium has the authority to determine for the Church what does and does not belong to the Tradition, it does not follow that the Magisterium has more authority than does Tradition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  245. In pro-life dialogue, there is the helpful question of “when does a fetus become a person.” If you posit that the fetus was not once a person but becomes at some stage, it is your responsibility to show where it did, or why it must be so that there was such a change.

    Likewise, in the general debate over the role of scripture, it is seems clear that the Church did not begin with having any documents of the New Testament, and yet there was new knowledge about Christ not in the Old which was necessary for the apostles to proclaim. Later, writings were canonized into scripture. Nonetheless, there is still that embryonic period between having merely the Old Testament and having the complete Bible.

    Question: If the Church did not from the Ascension or Pentecost have the whole Bible, which it didn’t, at what point did a Church founded on the authority of persons (whose authority rests on and was granted by Christ) become a Church founded on all inspired documents? If you posit that the only place where the authority of the apostles is in scripture rather than in their living witness, why must that be the case? At what point was the transition?

    It seems as if the preference in this question lies with the model of Church NOT having changed, therefore with the model of the Church that we have at Pentecost, therefore the Church founded on persons who are founded on Christ, therefore the Churches in communion with Rome.

  246. Bryan,

    No, I didn’t. I found a principled means; I did not decide that I had to have one.

    Sorry, but that is not the case. You have written of the crisis you experienced because you thought you didn’t have a principled means. IOW, you decided that you had to have a principled means that looked a certain way because Protestantism already gives a principled means: the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture.

  247. Robert (re: #246)

    You have written of the crisis you experienced because you thought you didn’t have a principled means.

    Where, exactly, have I written this?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  248. Bryan,

    You write of the “crisis” here:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/07/ecclesial-deism/

  249. Robert, (re: #248)

    What I describe there (in that article) is realizing that I did not have a principled way of appealing to the Church Fathers, on account of my belief in what I would later come to see as ecclesial deism. What I’m talking about in “The Tu Quoque” post, by contrast, is not a principled way of appealing to the Church Fathers, but a principled difference between the authority of the Catholic Church and that of Protestant confessions. So the “Ecclesial Deism” post makes reference to a principled difference distinct from the one in “The Tu Quoque” post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  250. Bryan,

    What I describe there (in that article) is realizing that I did not have a principled way of appealing to the Church Fathers, on account of my belief in what I would later come to see as ecclesial deism. What I’m talking about in “The Tu Quoque” post, by contrast, is not a principled way of appealing to the Church Fathers, but a principled difference between the authority of the Catholic Church and that of Protestant confessions. So the “Ecclesial Deism” post makes reference to a principled difference distinct from the one in “The Tu Quoque” post.

    That really means nothing. You admit that you did not have a “principled way” of appealing to the CC or the Fathers when tons of Protestants say that yes, we do have a “principled way.” Our principled way doesn’t look like yours. You decided that you needed a principled way that looked and talked in a certain matter, and then you looked for a communion that most lined up with what the principled way—in your opinion—should look like.

    IOW, you looked for a church of the sort that agreed with what your interpretation of Scripture and tradition said it should look like. Kinda like how all people make all decisions.

    You’ve done nothing different than anyone else.

  251. Robert, (re: #250)

    That really means nothing.

    Claiming that one’s interlocutor’s words “mean nothing” is an example of sophistry, a verbal violence in which one stipulates that the other person’s words have no meaning, and thereby ‘mutes’ him. Genuine dialogue, by contrast, responds to cases where the author’s meaning is unclear to the reader not with stipulations that the words have no meaning, but rather with a request for clarification.

    You admit that you did not have a “principled way” of appealing to the CC or the Fathers when tons of Protestants say that yes, we do have a “principled way.”

    The truth of what I said in #249 does not depend on whether or not “tons of Protestants” claim to have a principled way of appealing to the Fathers.

    You decided that you needed a principled way that looked and talked in a certain matter, and then you looked for a communion that most lined up with what the principled way—in your opinion—should look like.

    That’s not true. There is a basic ground rule of ecumenical dialogue, according to which, out of respect and charity, each person gets to define, articulate and specify what is his own position and how he arrived at his position, such that no one ought knowingly to attribute to or impose upon another, a position or account his interlocutor denies is his own. Your method throughout this conversation is violating that basic ground rule, by repeatedly attributing to me beliefs and choices I did not hold or make, even after I have explicitly denied the beliefs and choices you attribute to me. This is not only uncharitable; it is also rude. CTC is a forum only for those committed to basic rules of courtesy and respect, among which is the basic ground rule described above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  252. Bryan and David Anders:

    Several comments ask/answer questions for my benefit, but could either of you shed some light on my question in #234:

    My question then becomes: what has the Magisterium defined as among the “consensus of the Fathers,” and what (if any) early church teachings has the Magisterium excluded from that consensus? I’m still catching up on patristics, but from my very limited exposure, it seems that Origin is a good example of a mixed bag of accepted/rejected teachings.

    Frankly, I’m just anxious to dive into exploring Tradition, but I want to ensure that I’m reading trustworthy content, and I don’t have enough background with the Church’s history to know whether the Church has provided any guidance/scope to the Fathers (or if so, what that is). Thanks.

  253. Hi Mark,

    I think that apocatastasis would be a very good example of something excluded by the magisterium from that consensus. Or, what about the canonicity of 1 Clement, the Epistle of Barnabas, or the Didache?

    The definition of Nicaea/Constantinople would be a good example of something the magesterium defined as belonging to the consensus of the Fathers.

    Consider also the opening words of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

    Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches.

    When the question of the ordination of women arose in the Anglican Communion, Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition, and also with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church: “She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.”(1)

    Thanks,

    David

  254. Dr. Anders,
    Big fan, great article. During a recent class in Logic, I considered ‘sola scriptura’ in light of some logical fallacies I was learning about. It seems to me that sola scriptura is guilty of ‘affirming the consequent’, which fits with the syllogisms and commentary in your first few sections of this article.
    Modus ponens, a valid method of logic, looks like this:
    1. If A, then B
    2. A
    3. Therefore, B
    The Catholic understanding of the relationship between the Scripture and Truth looks like this and is supported by the Bible (2 Tim 3:16):
    1. If something is in the Bible, then it is true/inspired by God
    2. XYZ is in the Bible
    3. Therefore, XYZ is true/inspired God.

    The protestant/Sola scriptura position, though, is affirms the consequent on a given controversial issue to the following effect:
    Affirming the consequent:
    1. If A, then B
    2. B
    2. Therefore, A.
    The result of affirming the consequent is:
    1. If something is in the Bible, then it is true/inspired by God.
    2. XYZ is true/inspired
    3. Therefore, XYZ is in the Bible

    Protestants who use 2 Tim 3:16 to prove sola scriptura, in my amateur opinion, are affirming the consequent, which in effect violates logical principles and thus falsely narrows the scope of divine authority, even against the overwhelming evidence of heritable Apostolic Authority found in the Bible. When a Protestant affirms the consequent, he seems to paraphrase 2 Tim 3:16 to say “If something is God-breathed, then it is in Scripture”, when St. Paul actually means “If it is Scripture, then it is God-breathed.”
    I also think it’s hard to ignore that “God-breathed” is illustrated in two other major places in the Bible, the Creation in Genesis and in John 20. In these three examples of God-breathing or divine ‘inspire’-ation, God is infusing the recipients of His breath with Authority. Adam attained authority over all Creation which was inherited by his successors, as well as a sharing in His creative power, and in the NT, the Eleven were given authority over the Church (“as the Father has sent me, so I send you…”), as well as a sharing in His power to forgive sins. The Scriptures likewise received from His breath the ability to empower the reader to teach, reprove and train in righteousness.

  255. Jamie, I certainly appreciate your ability to use logic and remain calm in your posting! However, what I beleive you have presented is a very clever straw man argument. Yes, you are correct that there is very clearly a difference in the two logic paths you have presented, but it is a fallacy to say that Catholic positions in general follow the first, so easily recognizable as truth, logical path, while Protestant positions in general follow the second, so easily recognizable as error, logical path. In fact, it can easily be shown that the catholic positions on a number of issues are guilty of this same thing, for example infallibility of the Pope. But since you didn’t intend on generalizing, I will leave it at that, for the reader to not use such a simple logic presentation as a measure of truth. The fact is, many times XYZ is truth. Whether you find it in the bible or not. Many times XYZ is not truth, whether you find it in the bible or not. Now, on the surface, this appears to be an endoresment for the Catholic position, but that would require a misrepresentation of the Protestant position. You see, it is not that which isn’t in the Bible that solo scriptura is concerned with, but that which IS in the Bible. If it is in the Bible, it is inspired. Yes. If XYZ is not in the Bible, it does not mean it isn’t truth. But if it is in the bible, it is truth. And more importantly, if it is negated by the bible explicitly, it is not truth. It is in this way that sola scriptura holds up. True, there are things that aren’t in the bible that may be truth. But regarding 2 Timothy 3:16, we have a very clear measure to know. On things that the bible is wholesale silent on, what purpose would such a thing have? Is the bible somehow insufficient? You simply cannot say Sola scriptura is false without saying that scripture is deficient.

  256. Hi Mike and Jamie,

    Is the bible somehow insufficient?

    There’s a couple of articles about this:

    Regarding the sufficiency of scripture, see this article.

    Regarding the Church as the authoritative interpreter of scripture, see this article.

    Scripture itself does not say it is the sole authoritative word of faith, so we have to rely on another source of authority to know in what way scripture is sufficient, and for what purpose.

    Jonathan

  257. Mike,
    Thank you for your charitable reply. I am a novice at apologetics, logic and exegesis, so y’all will have to bear with me. I just have a couple of points on your remarks.
    1.I used that passage (2 Tim 3:16) because it seems to be the go-to proof for sola scriptura, which, when it is used as a proof text, is in fact a generalization. It is used by Protestants to make a generalized statement about the whole of Scriptura, and it’s formal sufficiency. To say that the Bible is not formally sufficient is not to denigrate it in any way, because the Bible never claims to be formally sufficient. For example, St. Paul tells the Thessalonians ( 2 Thes 2:15) to hold fast to the traditions, whether these teachings were given to them by word of mouth or by letter. This puts the spoken testimony on authoritative par with written letter. St. Paul’s (and St. John’s) letters are elsewhere littered with subtleties that exhort his audience to remain true to the Apostles’ teachings and to their bishops, and to also acknowledge the likes of Timothy, Silvanus, Titus, and Demetrius as authoritative because of their personal tutelage under the Apostles themselves. Thus, even the Bible grants authority to other sources.
    Additionally, the context of this passage cannot be overlooked. The Scriptures Paul is referring to were those of the OT. The prior verses indicate that Timothy learned these Scriptures from his “childhood”. His childhood learning of Scriptures would have been from the Greek Septuagint (because Timothy was a Greek speaking Jew), which contained the so-called ‘apocryphal’ books of the Maccabees, Tobit, etc., because the NT was not compiled before his childhood. This passage also vindicates the canonicity of the Deuterocanonical books rejected by the Reformers, but that’s a separate issue.
    We have to also read the NT letters from a historical perspective. These letters chronicle the founding of a Church. What modern Church do these accounts resemble? A sacramental Church that has a definitive and heritable authority structure with the power to excommunicate, to establish articles of faith, with a hierarchy of Apostles, bishops, priests and deacons, and an extra-biblical -yet, authoritative- Tradition that is passed down by letter and spoken word.
    2. The Epistles of the NT read as compendiums or appendices of what was either previously taught or was to be taught in the future. St. John for example, in 2 and 3 John, tells his audience that he would rather tell them these things in person (3 John v13-14) because he has much more to say, and that his letters are less sufficient for spreading the Gospel than his personal interaction(2 John v12). Why should we exclude these traditions, passed by word of mouth, when the Apostles themselves would prefer to pass Truths by word of mouth in the same way that they themselves had learned?
    3. All the biblical evidence, part of which I just touched on, flatly contradicts the quintessential “tradition of men” that is sola scriptura. The Bible is authoritative, but according to the Bible, so are those who are successors of the Apostles. Therefore, we agree on the statement “if it is rejected by the Bible, then it is false”.

  258. Over at your (David Anders’) article on Calvin making you a Roman Catholic, I had made this comment (originally #953):

    Are we agreed that 66 books of your biblical canon are inspired by God? I mean that while we certainly do not agree on the extent of the canon, we can both say that 66 books (out of your 73 book canon) *are* the inspired words of God.

    About the canon. We know by its Author which are included. We don’t follow Rome’s list any more than we follow Marcion’s, Luther’s, or anyone else’s.

    Your rule is Rome – what she says, goes. So if she decrees a 73-book canon, then, by God, there are 73 books in it! And if anyone questions her authority (and he’s not doing so at the time of the inquisitions and counter-reformation), he’s told to have simplicity faith in her say-so. Her word is God’s word. So we both can be accused of circular reasoning.

    While your group may at times back its claim to supreme authority with the sword, we say it is the Spirit that bears witness with God’s regenerate elect through his inspired words.

    David, you had written: “The text* presumes that those who come to Christian faith after the resurrection will come to faith because of the witness of the apostles, whose witness is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit-leading-them-into-all truth.”

    Indeed, and their testimony (“traditions,” dare I say?) is enscripturated for us.

    And you said, “I don’t see anything in the text about the Spirit leading me into all truth.”

    That’s here: Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. {John 16:13}

    St John would later write in his 1st letter:
    2:20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
    21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
    22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son…

    25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
    26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
    27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him…

    3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
    24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us…

    5:11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
    12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
    13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God…

    The main point of my quoting these being that a great deal of vital knowledge *is* conferred to the one believing in Jesus.

    Including, all (kinds of) things, eternal life, a very thorough teaching anointing(!), the command to believe and love, as well as knowledge that the Spirit lives within us. And again the gift of eternal life, with the knowledge thereof.

    * Jesus bearing witness to the internal witness of the Spirit, as well as to the inspiration and authority of his words- It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. {John 6:63}

  259. Correction: …And if anyone questions her authority (and he’s not doing so at the time of the inquisitions and counter-reformation), he’s told to have implicit faith in her say-so. Her word is God’s word…

  260. Hi Hugh,

    Whether or not we agree on the inspiration of the 66 books of the Protestant Canon is irrelevant to the question of warrant. For the sake of the discussion, it would bet better to assume we do not agree, and then ask, “How do you (or I) know that these 66 (or 73) books are to be considered the word of God?”

    Your answer, near as I can tell, is that “The Author” (meaning God) tells us. I assume that you mean God tells us – or, at least tells someone – by some sort of internal suggestion – the witness of the holy spirit. Is that correct?

    If I have understood you rightly, then that prompts me to ask:

    Is this witness an experience of revelation? Does God tell you in words that these books are inspired?

    If the witness of the spirit is not a matter of verbal inspiration, then is it a particularly elevated form of religious experience? You read the texts and have elevated emotions and infer from those emotions that the text must have God as its author.

    Or, perhaps you claim to have an immediate, intuitive knowledge that these books are inspired. Not verbal revelation. Not an inference from religious experience. Simply an unshakable conviction “These books are inspired,” that strikes you as incorrigible.

    Or, perhaps your conviction arises in some other way.

    I wonder if you could unpack this for me a bit. Calvin, I think, held to the 2nd option – inference from religious experience. What is your view?

    Thanks,

    David

  261. David, you write: “Whether or not we agree on the inspiration of the 66 books of the Protestant Canon is irrelevant to the question of warrant.”

    Well, says you. I take it as pretty significant that we both at least *say* that those books are authoritative and God-breathed.

    Of course it’s terribly important that we have differing authorities. But we do have some overlap. You view us as being terribly deficient; we see you all as dangerously adding to the word[s] of God. But that we can go to the 66 and call them God’s word is quite relevant.

    You ask, “How do you (or I) know that these 66 (or 73) books are to be considered the word of God?”

    You may call us fideistic; we see you all as calling for implicit faith in Rome. She says she has all authority, so she does! How do we know God; how do we know anything?

    How do you view 2 John as referenced above?

  262. That should read, “How do you view 1 John 2 as referenced above?”

  263. Hi Hugh,

    When it comes to determining the content of Christian faith, John points to the principle of apostolic tradition and to Catholicity:

    John’s admonition is, “Let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.” (1 J. 2:24). He also points to a doctrinal rule of faith, “Every spirit confessing Christ in the flesh.”
    Finally, John acknowledges the criterion of Catholicity: “”They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” (2:29)

    When John says that his readers need no one to teach them, this is because they have already received the word of truth to which the Spirit bears witness. They should not, therefore, abandon the gospel for a proto-gnostic heresy that denies Christ in the flesh.

    There is nothing in John’s text that suggests individual Christians need to consult a canon of Scripture in order to discern the content of Christian faith.

    Initially, you engaged the question of certainty and authority. My contention is that God has not revealed that individual Christians are to discern the contents of Christian faith by Spirit-led reading of Sacred Scripture.

    If I understand your most recent post, you suggest that your own position is fideistic and circular – that you have no rational grounds for asserting the doctrine of sola scriptura. You also seem to suggest philosophical skepticism when you ask, “How do we know anything?”

    I may be misreading you. However, if this is your position then we can at least agree that there are no reasons to accept the doctrine of sola scriptura. Because, on fideism and skepticism, there are no reasons, ground, or warrant for any claim to knowledge.

    Nevertheless, my contention still stands: God has not revealed that we are to discern the christian faith through spirit-led reading of Scripture.

    -David

  264. I was researching the Magisterium and found the article on this page. I guess we will always have problems when terms like ‘protestant’ are bandied about as though they were not in an essential sense catholic. “Protestants” don’t have everything right (I’m preaching to the choir here, lol as I can hear the amens) but let’s remember that men like Hus, Tyndale and Luther were not intending to start a new denomination, they were trying to bring about a reformation in the Roman brand and ironically, after being labeled as ‘protestants’, Rome decided to get all its bishops on the same page, so to speak, and implemented over time many of the things these catholic priests were trying to accomplish. We call it the counter-reformation, but from the council of Trent, we must remember that certain things were made Dogma from that time, and things continue to reform in our day with Vatican II.
    But the article is polemical and could be more irenically approached, in my opinion towards “protestants”.
    Protestants do not deny the passages of scripture cited which demonstrate that the Apostles were to choose “faithful” men to appoint as bishops. This is clearly part of the vehicle or system by which the holy deposit was to be transmitted. When I was a ‘protestant’ or a ‘separated brother’ I understood and knew that the Apostolic teaching was to be handed on. I was in no way “denying” that qualified bishops were to be the leadership to hand down the Deposit of the Faith.
    The issue of the article is whether the Magisterium or Sola Scriptura is basis of unity and authority. Studied “protestants” admit that the Apostles taught the gospel first Orally, and then committed what they taught Textually. So we get this Scripture and Tradition. But the question is really not a question of sola scriptura or Tradition, but whether the Magisterium is taught in either the Scriptures or Tradition handed down by the Apostles. The question is whether the Magisterium teaches infallibly as the catechism asserts unequivocally. The priest, and the chief theologian of our Archdiocese both admitted to me that the concept of the Magisterium is a ‘little t’ tradition. So its CLAIM to teach infallibly and to be the sole interpreter of BOTH Scripture and Tradition is NOT something handed down by either Scripture or Tradition.
    Keep in mind that Cardinal Ratzinger (pope Benedict) resigned mysteriously. It was discovered that some of his views were found to be inconsistent with being a pope; however, he was appointed by the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Sometimes the popes and bishops in union with them make mistakes. But if we hold ourselves accountable to be well-read, we can see that the Tradition (big T) as found in the patristic texts of the Ante-Nicene period, we discover the consensus of catholic interpretation held by all the churches. The Tradition handed down by the Apostles as held by the church universally in the first 100 years is all we need for a ‘magisterium’. The Magisterium came about over time and is a small ‘t’ tradition and it cannot authoritatively give us new Dogmas and interpretations and practices, because whenever it acts, it creates a new ‘protestant’ somewhere. It is easy to label anyone who doesn’t play Simon says as a dissenter or protestant whenever a new Dogma is established. The claim to infallibly decide new Dogmas for ALL Christians is the mother of all schisms. When the Apostles and Ante-Nicene Consensus in the patristic texts has spoken, the thinking has already BEEN DONE. Let’s work together for true unity. The little ‘t’ must decrease, the Big ‘T’ must Increase.

  265. Doug Gibson:
    You wrote

    Keep in mind that Cardinal Ratzinger (pope Benedict) resigned mysteriously. It was discovered that some of his views were found to be inconsistent with being a pope; however, he was appointed by the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Which of Benedict XVI’s views, specifically, were ‘inconsistent with being a pope’?

    Pax Christi,
    Frank La Rocca

  266. Dave said ” My contention is God has not revealed that individual Christians are to discern the contents of the Christian faith by Spirit led reading of sxripture.” This kind of statement has always amazed me. If Paul says thatvfaith comes from hearing the Word of God, tand Peter, Paul, and Jesus warn individual believers to beware of false teaching that comes from within the church. Then God has indeed revealed to the believer that He communicates His word directly to us. His mouth to my ear Paul says. Its the words that we hear that we as believers are to make a determination on. For instance, Jesus says ” If someone comes to YOU and says I am the Christ, dont believe him. This is written to believers to make determinations about those teaching them, and yet your paradign wants to remove this from the believer. 1 John 2″27, John is telling his congrgation, ya listen to your teachers, but in the end you have the Spirit and have no need of a teacher. Paul said if even I preach a different gospel, let me be accursed. Your contention Dave is exactly opposite of what scripture teaches believers. Ill bet when you joined the Catholic church you made those same determinations. God bless hope you are well. K

  267. Hi Kevin,

    Protestant Dogmatics points to a definitive list of 66 books as the final rule of faith for Christians.
    The doctrine of sola scriptura asserts – as an article of faith – that God intends these books to be the final authority for all matters of Christian faith and practice.

    Thus, We could state the doctrine of sola scriptura this way:

    “God intends these 66 books to be the final authority for Christian faith and Practice.”

    If you think that this is a fair statement of the doctrine of sola scriptura, then please indicate where this doctrine is taught by divine revelation or by divine authority. Othewise, I will stick to me contention that the doctrine of sola scriptura has not been revealed by divine authority but is a mere human tradition.

    -David

  268. David,

    The “article of faith” is 2 Tim. 3:16–17, wherein Scripture is declared to be sufficient for every good work, including the good work of establishing doctrine. There is no divine revelation such that “Hey guys, infallible God speaking here, this is a list of the infallible books,” nor is one required if Scripture is self-authenticating.

    “Article of faith” is a bit of an ambiguous concept. Strictly speaking, Protestants don’t put their faith in an article that says “the 66 books are the final authority.” The faith is placed in Jesus, in God, and the consequence of that is believing what they have spoken.

    The question then becomes where do we find what they have said. But demanding a revelation of divine authority of a canonical list is a bit silly. It’s like the Apostles walking around with Jesus and believing what He has said. They didn’t need an infallible list to know what He had said. They knew because they knew Him. They had both objective factors such as seeing him speak and subjective factors (“that sounds like the Jesus we know”) to recognize what He said.

    Scripture, because it is living and active, operates the same way. We know what Scripture is because of a combination of objective factors such as Apostolic authorship and subjective factors (“that sounds like the Jews we know.”)

  269. David,

    Catholics can’t ground their doctrine of authority in the Apostle’s until they provide the Apostolic teaching that identifies the person(s) called successor. The teaching of Jesus identifies the person(s) called Apostle. Identity must be a revealed subject and believed as a revealed truth.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  270. Kevin,
    Why don’t you phone into Dave’s show sometimes?

  271. That is, “Jesus we know.”

  272. Hi Robert,

    Article of faith is not an ambiguous concept. An article of faith is simply an article that Christians are bound to believe by divine authority. Christ taught that there are articles of faith. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” he said. He enjoins belief upon the Christian faithful. Likewise, Christ commanded the apostles to teach “everything I have commanded you.” (Which teaching was oral and not written, by the way.) We are enjoined by divine authority to believe everything belonging to the deposit of faith. Christ entrusted the transmission of that deposit to the teachers of the Church, not to the Scriptures of the Protestant Bible.

    The passage you cite out of context references the books Timothy new from childhood – namely, the LXX. These books are, indeed, sufficient for every “good work,” (Ergon agathon.) The phrase in Scripture does not apply to establishing doctrine, but to morally good deeds, like almsgiving. In any event, if the LXX were sufficient, it would prove too much.

    Regarding the doctrine of self-authentication – if the canonicity of 2 Timothy is established by self-authentication, then the doctrine of sola scripture is false. Consider the following:

    1) Christians are to believe that Timothy is inspired Scripture.
    2) Christians know thesis one by the testimony of the spirit, or self-authentication, not by any explicit teaching of Scriptural revelation.
    3) Therefore, some article of faith ( 1) is known by self-authentication/spirit witness and not from the teaching of Scripture.
    4) Therefore, not all articles of faith are known from the teaching of Scripture.
    5) Therefore, Sola Scriptura is false.

    Alternatives:

    1) The canonicity of Timothy is not an article of faith, enjoined by divine authority.
    2) We expand the doctrine of sola scripture to include propositions that occur to the illumined intellect even if such doctrines are not taught by Scripture itself.

    Dilemma – if the contents of Sacred Scripture is an article of faith, then sola Scriptura is false.
    IF the contents of Sacred Scripture is not an article of faith (taught by divine authority), we cannot have the certainty of faith concerning the contents of revelation. Therefore, we cannot know if Paul’s letter to Timothy is divine revelation.

    -David

  273. Hi Eric,

    We know that the apostles appointed successors. Titus 1:5-9, for instance, teaches that Paul left Titus in Crete for the express purpose of appointing men who would have authority to refute false doctrine. The identity of the sacred office holders in antiquity is known by sacred tradition, a divinely authorized mode of transmission, guaranteed by the promise of Christ.

    -David

  274. David,

    Thanks for your reply. Please provide the teaching of Titus that identifies the men appointed. If you think it’s not required for grounding catholic doctrine of authority, then explain why teaching and person are divided in this case.

    Eric

  275. Hi Dave, you said ” then please indicate where this is taught by divine revelation or divine authority.” Dave, are you denying that the bible is ” divine revelation ” or ” divine authority.” This also amazes me” You believe in the pope’s ( a man) ability to speak ex cathedra, infalibly. Where is that taught in divine revelation or divine authority. You miss my point and didnt adress it. Scripture commands individual believers to make determinations about truth and error. For instance Luke 24, Jesus on the road to Emmaus, two men were walking and Jesus comes up to them and says ” oh foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken” Dave here is the first example in this section of Jesus expecting these men to understsand what they read. Next He says ” and beginning with Moses and the prophets He interpreted in all the scriptures things concerning himself” there again Dave. And then in 2 Peter 5 ” take care that you are not carried away by error of lawless people.” Peter taught the priesthood of believers, we are God’s cleras clergy, and we make determunations on the leaders that teach us, because we are told that apostasy will rise within the church, and we are supposed to hold ourselves back from it and idols. I was having this discussion with Bryan when he was faulting Reformed theologians from picking and choosing from the fathers truth and error. This is what scripture commands individual believers to do. ” if someone comes to you and says i am the Christ, dont believe Him” Jesus says this to me. If 1 John 5:13 says i can know i have eternal life, and that i must take account of myself to see if im in the faith, then i can know error apart from the church. K

  276. David,

    We are enjoined by divine authority to believe everything belonging to the deposit of faith. Christ entrusted the transmission of that deposit to the teachers of the Church, not to the Scriptures of the Protestant Bible.

    Actually, I agree. The Church transmits the deposit of faith. Where I disagree is the assumption that the deposit of faith is not equivalent to the Scriptures. The deposit of faith is the Scriptures.

    The passage you cite out of context references the books Timothy new from childhood – namely, the LXX.

    Prove that Timothy read the LXX from childhood and viewed anything more than the Jewish canon as inspired, please.

    These books are, indeed, sufficient for every “good work,” (Ergon agathon.) The phrase in Scripture does not apply to establishing doctrine, but to morally good deeds, like almsgiving. In any event, if the LXX were sufficient, it would prove too much.

    False dichotomy. Establishing doctrine is a morally good deed. If not, what is it? Morally bad? Morally neutral? I don’t think you’d want to say either.

    <i Consider the following:

    1) Christians are to believe that Timothy is inspired Scripture.

    Yes.

    2) Christians know thesis one by the testimony of the spirit, or self-authentication, not by any explicit teaching of Scriptural revelation.

    Christians know thesis one by the testimony of the Spirit and by good and necessary consequence based on Paul’s Apostolic authority. So an explicit teaching is unnecessary.

    3) Therefore, some article of faith ( 1) is known by self-authentication/spirit witness and not from the teaching of Scripture.

    False as noted above.

    4) Therefore, not all articles of faith are known from the teaching of Scripture.

    False as noted above. There need be no infallible declaration “This here is inspired Scripture.” If such is needed, then Jesus sinned by expecting first-century Jews to recognize as Scripture the book of Genesis and many other books that make no such direct claim to be God’s Word. So even a non-SS model raises significant problems since there was no infallible canon declaration prior to Trent.

    5) Therefore, Sola Scriptura is false.

    The syllogism breaks down at 2, so the conclusion is false.

    Alternatives:

    1) The canonicity of Timothy is not an article of faith, enjoined by divine authority.
    2) We expand the doctrine of sola scripture to include propositions that occur to the illumined intellect even if such doctrines are not taught by Scripture itself.

    Or we say that the canonical list itself is not an article of faith, or that it is an article of faith by good and necessary consequence, or that it is not part of the deposit of faith but is merely an artifact of it, or a host of other possibilites.

    IF the contents of Sacred Scripture is not an article of faith (taught by divine authority), we cannot have the certainty of faith concerning the contents of revelation. Therefore, we cannot know if Paul’s letter to Timothy is divine revelation.

    The explicit claim of something to be taught by divine authority is insufficient and unnecessary to make something an article of faith. There are a host of beliefs that Jesus expected first-century Jews to have, such as the fact that the book of Genesis is inspired Scripture, for which there is no infallible claim to divine authority made. Genesis doesn’t make one for itself. There is no infallible authority prior to Jesus that made such a declaration. Yet Jesus expected the Jews to believe, and how can Jesus expect one to believe anything without the certainty of faith?

    The Roman system, because it cannot be applied to the old covenant people of God, ends up refuting itself by making it possible and good to believe something without the certainty of faith that Rome demands or by undermining its own claims for what is necessary and sufficient to ground an article of faith.

  277. Dave said ” Christ entrusted the transmition of that deposit to the teachers of the church, not to the scriptures of the Protestant bible.” Really, show me ? Peter and Paul when they were ready to check out commended the faithful to the Bishop of heaven and His Word. Acts 20, 1 and 2 Peter 1, 3, 5. My point about scripture giving the determination of truth and error to the individual believer allows us to judge our teachers for the apostasy. If we didnt have that ability we would be misled, and unable to judge truth from error. And the warnings from scripture to avoid error would be an impossibility. I believe God specifically gives this to the believer specifically so we could identify false teachers and teaching that He said is coming from within the church at the top level and we would know, just like John said these things have been written to you who believe that you may KNOW you have eternal life. You want to tell me I cant judge your church about error because I dont have divine perogative. Scripture says I do. Great discussion. Hope you are well. K

  278. Hi Dave, here is my 3rd post. I hope you allow them all becauase its fun doing apologetics with you. You are one nice cat. 2 John is written to ” the elect lady and her children” he says ” if anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house”here again believers are to make determinations about truth and error and whether to let someone in the house. Earlier John tells them ” watch yourselves so that you may not lose what you worked for, but win a full reward. ” again in the same vein as 1 John ” keep yourselves from idols” Dave, how else are believers going to know that their church is telling them the truth if we cant interpret scripture with the Spirit. Lets just assume that the Roman Catholic churchbis lying to you, how would you know? If the fathers feared most that the apostasy would come among them and they not recognize it, Tim Kauffman ” What the Fathers feared most” then why should I just trust a church that tells me they are a divine institution with infalibllity. Jesus said ” if someone comes to YOU and says I am the Christ, dont believe him” Rome tells me it is the Christ, and it might be, but what should I do Dave according to the Lord? Thanks Dave.

  279. Eric,

    Thanks for your reply. Please provide the teaching of Titus that identifies the men appointed. If you think it’s not required for grounding catholic doctrine of authority, then explain why teaching and person are divided in this case.

    Not necessary for me to know the genealogy for the see of Crete. Only necessary for me to know the genealogy of the See of Rome. If I have credible evidence for the valid succession of the Roman Pontiff, I have all I need to be certain of the validity of an episcopal consecration. The pope’s communion with or recognition of another see would be a secondary object of infallibility. Knowledge of who is a valid bishop is necessary for the faithful, since Christ established the Church with an episcopacy. Therefore, Christ has given us a means to know who is a valid priest or bishop.

    But, the question you pose causes me to think of another. Without the infallibility of the Church’s ordinary magisterium, how can we be certain that our biblical texts reflect the original autographs? There is no inspired witness to the transmission of the sacred text through time. If it is necessary to have an inspired witness to every episcopal consecration, aforteriori it is necessary to have an inspired witness of the textual transmission.

    -David

    -David

  280. Kevin,

    Dave said ” Christ entrusted the transmition of that deposit to the teachers of the church, not to the scriptures of the Protestant bible.” Really, show me

    Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    -David

  281. Kevin,

    Dave, are you denying that the bible is ” divine revelation ” or ” divine authority.”

    For the sake of argument, let’s say yes. Can you demonstrate to me that Esther is infallible and inspired by God? How about 3 John? or 2 Peter? Or, heck, why not Romans? Can you prove that the book of Wisdom is not inspired Scripture? How about the long ending of Mark?

    Would you like me to believe that you independently verified the inspiration or non-inspiration of each of these books by reference to your own private experience of illumination? If so, would you urge me to do the same? What If I come up with a different list from you, appealing to the very same criterion of self-authentication? Does this matter?

    -David

  282. Hi Kevin,

    All the appeals to the individual in Scripture regarding religious knowledge have to do with accepting the apostolic doctrine when presented – not determining what it is.

    There are many texts of Scripture in which Christians are confronted with Competing claims about the Gospel, but in no case do the apostles admonish them to consult their interior experience to adjudicate these claims (not even in 1 John). Instead, they are instructed to consult –
    Apostolic Traditiion:
    1. Galatians 1:8: ” if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
    2. 1 John 2:24: “Let that abide in you which you heard from the Beginning.
    3. Hebrews 2:3; 5:12: How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? which having begun to be declared by the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard him . . . You have need to be taught again what are the first elements of the words of God:
    4. 1 John: Here’s how you know whether a Spirit is from God – every Spirit that confesses Jesus Christ come in the flesh is from God. (I.e. – those “trying to deceive you” were denying.)

      The principles of Unity and Catholicity:

    1. 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.”
    2. 1 Cor. 11: If anyone wants to be contentious about this, know that we have no other practice, nor do the churches of God.
    3. If there are schisms among you, you are already completey defeated.
    4. Galatians 2: Paul desiring Peter’s approbation, to avoid divisions in the Church. (Though he didn’t need it to authorize his gospel).

      Apostles identify “Spiritual Men” as those who accept their message;

    Specifically those who make factions, or dissent, are carnal not spiritual:
    iv. is no text of Scripture wherein Christians are presented with competing claims about the gospel and then told to adjudicate on the basis of an interior witness.

    -David

  283. Dave said to Eric ” Therefore, Christ has given us the means to know who is a valid Priest or Bishop” Ya, the scripture. In the early church it is clear that apostolicity of a Bishop had to do with his faithfulness to the Word and passed down ( thats what tradition means passed on) . And where Bishops got out of line ( no offense, but Stephen and a whole host of other bishops of Rome were alwayscin trouble for straying from sound doctrine), they were rebuked by other Bishops. Incidentally Dave, can a valid priest or bishop invaldate himself? According to scripture yes! The apostasy comes as a man puts himself up as God in the church 2 Thess 2. According to church history yes! Bishops always out of line doctrinally. You continued to Eric ” There is no inspired witness to the transmission of sacred texts thru time. God is an infalible witness to the transmission of sacred texts thru time. Look at the dead sea scrolls. ” All scripture is inspired by God” not all magisteriums. God bless. K

  284. David said ” all the appeals in scripture regarding religious knowledge have to do with accepting the apostolic doctrine when presented- not detrmining what it is.” This fails, because scripture says that the presenter can apostasize, therfore believers have a biblical mandate to determine the truth and error by scripture and not apostolic succession. K

  285. Hi Dave, all authority in heaven and earth has been given ME, not teachers.” Jesus said. Christ entrusted that transmission to the only vicar of God, rhe Spirit. Pastors who understand this never claim infallibility for themselves, but ascribe it to the only infallible transmiter, the Holy Spirit. And that infalible person is God and always points to Word of God. Churches dont connect us to God. No church owns God. The church isnt the same as Jesus in the world. He comes to us in the gospel by his choosing. Where the Spirit blows Jesus tells Nocodemus. Sometimes thats in the church, and sometimes outside. Churches can only pass down the deposit, and to the extent they do they are valid. And to the extent they dont, they arent valid. It is the Spirit brings fiducia to the heart, not the church. Churches are recepients of grace, not providers. Paul uses church as a metaphor for the body of Christ. It is the Spirit that delivers all of God’s graces, not the church. Thanks God bless. K

  286. Hi Kevin,

    Christ commissioned the apostles to teach “everything I have commanded you,” promised that “he who hears you, hears me,” stated that “as the Father sends me, so I send you,” promised, “I will be with you till the end of the age,” assured “whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven,” and guaranteed that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it [the Church].” Christ said nothing about a set of New Testament documents to be consulted by individual believers.

    The reason I don’t believe that God intends the 66 books of the protestant canon to be the final authority for the Christian faith is that no divine authority has taught that doctrine. That doctrine is taught by the magisterial reformers, but they are not divine authorities. They are merely human authorities.

    But Christ taught that the transmission of the christian faith was by the apostles and that their transmission of the faith would be guaranteed by divine authority. Thus, the council of Jerusalem could confidently proclaim, “It seems good the holy spirit and to us.”

    The apostles appointed presbyters in ever church (Acts 14:23), and authorized some (like Titus) to appoint others, giving them charge to teach the truth and refute error. That commission preceded the writing and the compilation of the New Testament texts by some time. The actual compilation of the New Testament and its official promulgation by the Church can only be considered irreformable if the process of its compilation is guaranteed by divine authority. If not, the contents are open to question. Maybe Luther was right to question the antilegoumena? Maybe the Ethiopians are right to include more than 27 books? Who knows? But if the Church is protected by divine authority, then we can have certainty regarding the contents of the canon.

    -David

  287. Kevin’s reply is ignorant upon the fact that believers who discern between sound and unsound doctrine does so on the basis of what they had been taught. In the case of the exhortations given by the Apostles to the faithful, that involves learning from them and using what they learned to do such a thing.

    This even a Catholic laity can do. The problem really is where the instrument for deliberation comes from. Is it solely from Scripture Alone or is it from a teacher who teaches, documents which informs on the meaning of Scripture and how it should be read, creeds and so on apart from such Scripture?

    Certainly one must read Scripture to be able to do this. But NOT by Scripture Alone but through what they had been taught that enables determination on what is Biblical and Unbiblical.

    Another thing that would shoot down Kevin’s position is how really the laity would need to “hear” the Scriptures and must get it from the Church. Reading or more precisely hearing the Scriptures is a communal task and not individual. Any discussions on this in the Early stages of Christianity itself would take this form as well and be more akin to a scholarly and philosophical discussion between a teacher and his students(For more detail on this see Ancient Christian Worship, pg 74-75). The faithful present can indeed participate in this discussion but there are still authoritative guidance to interpretation(Mcgowan concludes that this also implies the development of authoritative interpretation on pg110 when concluding the chapter on “Word: Reading and Preaching”. This itself was even prior before the New Testament Scriptures were even written down. It is ironically Tradition that caused it to arise which I think Mcgowan explains nicely in a nutshell, citing from Alexander Olivar’s, “Reflections on Problems Raised by Early Christian Preaching,” in Preacher and Audience: Studies in Early Christian and Byzantine Homiletics, ed. Mary Cunningham and Pauline Allen, A New History of the Sermon€1 (Boston: Brill, 1998), 21–22,

    “Much of what is contained in the NT writings was certainly spoken, if not prior to being written then subsequently; it is true “that the New Testament sprang from early Christian preaching, rather than the other way around.”-pg 73

    Given these historical contexts and factors, how the Scriptures themselves attest to Sola Scriptura is beyond me. If any it shows just how intertwined it is with Tradition. It certainly does not rule out being able to discern between “truth” and “error” but it certainly does involves using what he/she had learned through Scripture and Tradition to do so, not by a mere reading of Scripture Alone outside a communal context.

  288. Dave said ” Christ said nothing about a set of NT documents to be consulted by individual believers.” Jesus said ” you are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God” This is divine authority from the mouth of the Lord saying inspired scripture can be known and the power of God can be known. Biblicist say thru the Spirit by and with the word of God. Incidentally true biblicist dont do this apart from tradition, orthodoxy, our teachers, history, prpoer hermenutics and exegesis, but it light of all these things. You continued ” the reason I dont believe God intends the 66 books of the Protestant canon to be the final authority for the Christian faith is that no divine authority has taught that doctrine” so let me get this right, all scripture is God breathed, sufficient for every good work, God’s written Word, and you say your hung up on no divine authority? But you have a split vote on infailbility in 1856 on the pope, and you believe that is by divine authority? Ok God bless K

  289. David (#279)

    You have no credible evidence for a valid succession of a Roman Pontiff unless you know the valid Bishops who are necessary for the faithful. Regarding your question, I think we measure how certain we are by an “insofar” they express the exact characters in the originals. I will borrow Aquinas and say that nothing false falls under faith. I believe the originals.

  290. Hi Dave, hope you had a good weekend. This is a really good discussion. Im really interested to how you address Robert’s points, which I think are good ones. Dave, question, in John 5: 38, 39, Jesus says this, You do not have His word abiding in you , for you do not believe Him who He sent.” By good and necessary consequence we can say that those who believe in Jesus have the word abiding in them. And if the word abides in them, it can only get their 2 ways, hearing and reading being applied by the Spirit in our life. He goes on to say ” You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, it is these that testify about me.” Here Jesus is saying that the scriptures can be searched and understood and it is the scriptures that testify about Him and eternal life. Now, your statement that christians can’t sit down with their bible in the Spirit and discern truth and error is refuted here by Christ, who says that we can. And I think Robert’s point that old testament saints were expected to and could know things from scripture, without the existence of an infallible interpreter works against Rome’s position.And finally, John 8:31, ” So Jesus was saying to the Jews who believed in Him, if you continue in my in my word, and you will know the truth and the truth makes you free” It is His word that brings us truth and we can know truth and error, just like in 1 John 5:13 we can know we have eternal life. God bless K

  291. Kevin,

    You wrote:

    so let me get this right, all scripture is God breathed, sufficient for every good work, God’s written Word, and you say your hung up on no divine authority?

    The question is not whether inspired Scripture (whatever that might be) has divine authority. The question is as to the nature of that authority. Do we have any warrant for believing that God intends the 66 books to be rule of faith for Christian life and practice? Or, as Paul writs, is it rather something “useful for teaching, rebuke, training in righteousness?” Pounding the table and yelling, “Inspired, inerrant, infallible, divine!” does not establish that the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is true. Inspiration is not at issue between us.

    You have not actually engaged the argument of the article, which is that Protestant apologists from the 16th century acknowledge this lack of warrant and try to address it by making an inference from inspiration. But, as I argue, the inference is invalid. Inspiration does not necessarily entail final, regulative authority.

    -David

  292. Hi Kevin,

    Regarding John 5. I nowhere stated that Christians are incapable of reading the Bible and arriving at doctrinal truth. You are attacking a straw man. Rather, I argue that God has nowhere indicated he intends the 66 books of the Protestant canon to be the final authority for Christian faith and practice.

    Consider an analogy: I believe that Christians can sit down with a microscope or a telescope and arrive truth regarding the microscopic or astronomical worlds. But God has not indicated that these scientific instruments are to be the final authority for Christian faith and life. The fact that microscopes (together with human reason) reveal truth about the natural world does not entail that they are our final authority.

    Similarly, I believe God has inspired the Bible to be an authoritative, reliable witness to the life and teachings of Jesus and the people of God. By hearing or reading Scripture, I can arrive are real truth about God, the Church, and the Christian faith. But that does not entail that God intends for me to regard those texts as the final, regulative authority for matters of Christian faith and life.

    So far, I have not encountered any evidence that God intends Scripture to function as Protestants wish for it to function. Pointing out that the Bible is inspired, divine, and an infallible witness to Christian truth does not show otherwise.

    -David

  293. Dave, the evidence that scripture functions the way Protestants wish for it to function is the biggest movement of God in history, the Reformation. It dealt a fatal blow to Roman Catholicism, gave a believer assurance, and was the foundation of free societies. Go watch a youtube video ” The legacy of John Calvin.” Thanks K

  294. Kevin,

    The fact that Protestants treat Scripture some way does not imply that God intends for Christians to treat Scripture that way. The fact that Protestants successfully split European Christianity in the 16th century does not mean that God is pleased that Christianity be split in this way.

    -David

  295. Eric,

    Why would my ability to know the validity of Roman succession depend on my ability to know the valid succession of every valid Bishop in the world?

    -David

  296. David,

    Or, as Paul writs, is it rather something “useful for teaching, rebuke, training in righteousness?”

    If it is sufficient for teaching, its sufficient for the rule of faith because what is the rule of faith besides divine teaching?

  297. Friends,

    Let me recall us to the thesis of the attached article.

    The Reformed apology for Sola Scriptura rests on an inference from Scripture’s attributes, not directly from the data of revelation itself. As Muller states, Scripture’s canonical authority is “a deduction, not directly from divinity or divine authority but from several attributes of Scripture.”

    The Catholic doctrine of the magisterium, by contrasts, rests (rightly or wrongly) on the explicit teaching of Jesus and the apostles.

    It is important to engage the first half of the thesis: Richard Muller’s admission that Reformed dogmatics builds its case on an inference from Scripture’s alleged attributes (including the attribute of self-attestation.)

    Until we engage that explicitly, the conversation runs in circles.

    My request is this: either affirm or deny Muller’s admission.
    If you deny, show where Revelation teaches explicitly that the 66 are to be the regula fidei.

    If you affirm Muller’s admission, then explain whether or not the identity of the canon is an article of faith. (And thus constitutes an exception to the rule that articles of faith must be drawn from the words of Scripture).

    Thanks,

    David

  298. Dave, I disagree with Mueller. The validity of sola scriptura rests directly upon the expliciy teaching of Jesus. John 20:31 ” but these things have been written so that you would believe” The direct cause and effect thar the divine authority draws between the word and knowing and believing is divine valdity for sola scriptura. Now show me the specific teaching of Peter that he appointed and onfalible institution to interpret scripture for me. We are led by the Spirit in all truth, not the church. The church isnt the same as Jesus in the world. It can only pass on the word. The Word is the master and the church the minister. Thanks K

  299. David,

    I think you are conflating things with Muller’s quote.

    The doctrine of sola Scriptura states that “Scripture alone is the infallible, sufficient authority for the church.” That is an issue related to but separate from the canon.

    I don’t have the broader context of Muller’s quote, but it appears that he is saying that according to the early Reformed, the extent of Scripture is drawn by deduction and inference, which I think is largely accurate. But the issue of what the final authority is and the extent of the final authority are two different issues.

    So the fact that Paul doesn’t say, “here is the extent of Scripture” has no bearing on whether or not Scripture is the final authority for faith and practice.

    I would not agree that Scripture as the final authority is not stated in Scripture but is merely a deduction. I would agree that the extent of Scripture is a deduction.

  300. Kevin,

    Does John 20:31 teach that we are to regard the 66 book Protestant Canon of Scripture as the Rule of faith, or does John 20:31 teach that the Gospel writer composed his book so that readers might come to believe that Jesus is the Christ?

    I am perfectly capable of believing the latter without believing the former. The one is not entailed by the other.

    -David

  301. Hi Robert,

    Muller’s argument is that Scripture (however you enumerate the books) possesses certain attributes (including the note of self-attestation). People illumined by the holy spirit recognize those attributes, and conclude infallibly that the Scripture (however enumerated) is divine. Since there are no other divine authorities [sic] it follows that Scripture must have been left by God as our only infallible and sufficient guide for faith and practice.

    In other words, according to Muller, believers infer the doctrine of sola scriptura from the fact that scripture is the only divine and infallible authority around.

    I believe that is a fair presentation of the Reformed position. It effectively systematizes and elaborates Luther’s position at Leipzig, Calvin’s doctrine in the Institutes, and the explicit teaching of the Reformed scholastics.

    Now, I don’t think the argument works logically. It is not a valid inference. (You cannot infer final regulative authority from the fact of inspiration without begging the question.)

    However, even if it is a valid argument (which I deny) it leaves the Reformed position with the following dilemma:

    Scripture does have a determinate content. For the doctrine of sola scriptura to function, it is necessary to give an account of the books.
    The contents of that list either are or are not an article of faith in the christian religion.

    If the list is an article of faith (as Westminster considers it to be), then at least one doctrine of the Christian faith is derived by inference from religious experience and not from the teaching of Scripture. (Scripture itself does not give a list of books.)

    If the list is not an article of faith, then we cannot have certainty regarding the contents of the canon, and no rational basis for unity in the faith.

    -David

  302. Dave, that is actually the right question. I always think about the verse in 1 Corinthians 4, I believe, where Paul says dont go beyond what is written. God has always written things down and for example and said dont add to it. We would both agree that after the apostles there was no added revelation. And it is important to note that Jesus chastises the pharisees for sacrificing the scriptures for the sake of their tradition. The only traditions passed down, were written down.Even the oral teachings of the Apostles were written down. And when they were, nothing was to be added or subtracted. And Jesus and the Apostles continue to refer us to the scriptures. For instance in the NT 90 times ” it is written”. So we would say God wrote the NT canon, not the church. Its extent is irrelevant to its infalibility. If we learned anything from what Jesus said to traditioms outside the wordi is they get it wrong. If scripture is profitable for teaching and every good work, and John 20 says it is written so thst we come to faith, then yes rule of faith. Again the Word is the infalible master, the church the minister. God bless K

  303. Hi Kevin,

    You suggest that I asked the right question, but then you didn’t answer my question. Does John 20:31 teach that we are to regard the 66 book Protestant Canon of Scripture as the Rule of faith, or does John 20:31 teach that the Gospel writer composed his book so that readers might come to believe that Jesus is the Christ?

    The fact that God “writes things down,” or that there is no revelation after the apostles, or that Christ rebukes the Pharisees for preferring their traditions to the Word of God are all things that Catholics affirm. None of them, however, establishes that God intends the 66 to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    If you think that Muller is wrong, then it would be helpful if you could explain which divine authority teaches that we are to regard the 66 as the church’s rule of faith. Just a suggestion – it is not helpful for you to list verses explaining that the Scriptures are authoritative and divine. This is not at issue between us. Catholics also believe the Scriptures are authoritative and divine, so those verse don’t get to the differences. Rather, if you think Muller is incorrect, it would be necessary to show where God identifies the 66 specifically as the Church’s rule of faith. Otherwise, Muller is correct and the Reformed position is merely an inference.

    -david

  304. Dave, you said ” I dont think it is a valid inference, it doesnt work logically.” Well, I believe Mueller is wrong, and so are you. An inference is a guess. Our 66 book bible exists. It exists becsuse God identified the canon for us as inspired. It is self attesting, and believers know this thru the Spirit. You take the same position about the RC magisterium. How are you in a better epistemological position? Is this an inference, a guess. Your premise that unless you have an outside authority or a seond authority seems illogical. Thanks k

  305. Kevin,

    Inference, as I am using the word, does not mean guessing. An inference, rather, is the act of deriving a logical conclusion from premises known to be true. Inferential reasoning can be deductive (reasoning to a logically certain conclusion) or inductive (probable conclusion based on generalization).

    The position you have articulated is essentially the same as Muller’s.

    You write:

    Our 66 book bible exists. It exists becsuse God identified the canon for us as inspired. It is self attesting, and believers know this thru the Spirit.

    The argument runs like this:

    1. The Spirit shows me that the 66 biblical books are inspired and divinely authoritative.
    2. Only what is inspired and divinely authoritative can serve as the Church’s rule of faith.
    3. Only the 66 are inspired and divinely authoritative.
    4. Therefore, the 66 are the Church’s rule of faith.

    The position is inferential (rather than directly revealed doctrine) because one arrives at the conclusion by reasoning from the first 3 premises. The conclusion is not actually taught directly by divine authority (no revelation directly identifies the 66 as the Church’s rule of faith). The conclusion is an inference from the alleged experience of personal illuminiation/self-attestation together with the assumption of premises 2 and 3.

    Is that clear?

    If it is clear, then I contend that the argument is both invalid and question begging (it assumes what is at issue between us).
    First of all, the conclusion does not follow from the premises. Second, premises 2 & 3 are bare assertions. Catholics explicitly deny 2, which begs the question (namely, that only an inspired text can be the rule of faith) and 3 (there are other inspired texts).

    -David

  306. David,

    Muller’s argument is that Scripture (however you enumerate the books) possesses certain attributes (including the note of self-attestation). People illumined by the holy spirit recognize those attributes, and conclude infallibly that the Scripture (however enumerated) is divine.

    Well that is an accurate statement of the traditional Reformed position on how we recognize the canon of Scripture, though “conclude infallibly” isn’t exactly right. It would be more accurate to say the church, through a fallible process, recognized correctly/inerrantly the canon.

    Since there are no other divine authorities [sic] it follows that Scripture must have been left by God as our only infallible and sufficient guide for faith and practice.

    But this is where things go a bit awry. This is an inference drawn, but the doctrine of sola Scriptura is not built exclusively on inference. 2 Tim. 3:16–17 clearly teaches the sufficiency of Scripture for every good work, including the good work of establishing doctrine. The only way out of it is to deny that establishing doctrine is a good work, which is an extraordinarily odd position to take for a Protestant or a Roman Catholic.

    In other words, according to Muller, believers infer the doctrine of sola scriptura from the fact that scripture is the only divine and infallible authority around.

    I believe that is a fair presentation of the Reformed position. It effectively systematizes and elaborates Luther’s position at Leipzig, Calvin’s doctrine in the Institutes, and the explicit teaching of the Reformed scholastics.

    But you are missing something here, as is Muller if your summation is accurate. It’s not a mere inference. There’s direct teaching regarding the sufficiency of Scripture in 2 Tim. 3:16–17.

    Now, I don’t think the argument works logically. It is not a valid inference. (You cannot infer final regulative authority from the fact of inspiration without begging the question.)

    Actually, in a divinely revealed religion, it is a valid inference that divine revelation is the final regulative authority. The question is what constitutes divine revelation. The Apostles say Scripture is divine revelation, so the burden of proof is on anyone who wants to believe they say something else is divine revelation. And the only way that works is if the something else consists of teaching not found in Scripture. If Scripture and tradition are identical, tradition is superfluous as a source of divine revelation.

    If the list is an article of faith (as Westminster considers it to be), then at least one doctrine of the Christian faith is derived by inference from religious experience and not from the teaching of Scripture. (Scripture itself does not give a list of books.)

    But it’s not derived merely from religious experience. Scripture doesn’t have to give a list of books any more than Rome has to provide an infallible list of infallible dogma in order to function as a final regulative authority. Besides, the canon is derived from the teaching of Scripture. Jesus gives us the Jewish canon. If you understand what an actual Apostle was, it’s relatively easy to demonstrate that the NT is Scripture. Sola Scriptura doesn’t depend on explicit statements. Good and necessary consequences are part of it as well.

    If the list is not an article of faith, then we cannot have certainty regarding the contents of the canon, and no rational basis for unity in the faith.

    Well it depends on what an article of faith means. For the Protestant, an article of faith is something that must be believed in order to be saved. One can get the canon wrong and still be saved, so it’s not clear that the WCF is proposing the canon as an article of faith in the way you think it is. Which begs the question from the get go.

    For example, if you trust in Jesus alone to save you, the fact that you may have doubts about the canonicity of 3 John isn’t going to send you to hell. It might be detrimental to your long-term spiritual health, but it’s not in itself going to damn you.

  307. Hi David, Robert and I are making the same point to you, that, it isnt an inference. In divine revelation it is valid that scripture is the final infallible authority. If it itself tells us that it is profitable for every good work. You are trying invaidate on the basis of the need for another authority. We have the only infalible authority necessary. The extent of the canon is not necessary to believe, as I showed you in John 20. I believe your argument isnt logical. Thanks K

  308. Robert,

    David,

    But this is where things go a bit awry. This is an inference drawn, but the doctrine of sola Scriptura is not built exclusively on inference. 2 Tim. 3:16–17 clearly teaches the sufficiency of Scripture for every good work, including the good work of establishing doctrine. The only way out of it is to deny that establishing doctrine is a good work, which is an extraordinarily odd position to take for a Protestant or a Roman Catholic.

    This is a very good point that deserves detailed discussion. By way of summary, my response (which I don’t have time to develop deeply) is that
    1) Luther at Leipzig actually does present Muller’s argument (in essence). “Popes and Councils err; therefore Scripture!” Zwingli does as well in is “Clarity and Certainty,” as does Calvin (but that’s a long discussion.)
    2) Nevertheless, if the spirit witnesses that 2 Tim. is divinely authoritative, then you have to exegete 3:16. To begin with “ergon agathon” in Scripture never (to my knowledge) refers to function of exercising religious authority. In Fact, Titus 3:1 says that submission to religious authority is a good work. 2 Tim. 2:21 says that “good work” is the fruit of holiness, not religious authority. 1 Tim. 5:10 explains “good works” this way:

    well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deed.

    The Epistle explains that Timothy, as a bishop, is to make use of the Scriptures “for teaching, rebuke, and training in righteousness.” Part of his job description is to refute error and teach the truth. So, the job of defending the truth and refuting error is given to a bishop (using Scripture) not Scripture per se.

    Finally, the Scriptures in question are those Timothy has known from childhood (the LXX) not the 66.

    Actually, in a divinely revealed religion, it is a valid inference that divine revelation is the final regulative authority.

    No, that is an assumption. Not a valid inference.

    The question is what constitutes divine revelation.

    No, that’s question begging. The question is whether the final, regulative authority must be direct revelation. (Catholics deny.) Catholics admit that the final authority must be divine, but not that it must take the form of direct revelation.

    The Apostles say Scripture is divine revelation,

    Without specifying the contents.

    so the burden of proof is on anyone who wants to believe they say something else is divine revelation.

    Except that’s not what Catholics claim.

    And the only way that works is if the something else consists of teaching not found in Scripture. If Scripture and tradition are identical, tradition is superfluous as a source of divine revelation.

    Except that’s not what Catholics claim.

    But it’s not derived merely from religious experience.

    No, but it is derived essentially and ultimately from religious experience. Reformed dogmatics teaches explicitly that the contents of the canon are not known with certainty from the authority of the Church, but rather by religious experience. Church authority comes in after the fact as non-essential confirmation only.

    Scripture doesn’t have to give a list of books any more than Rome has to provide an infallible list of infallible dogma in order to function as a final regulative authority.

    As a Catholic I believe with certainty in a determinate religious authority.
    The Protestant, if he doesn’t need a list of books, has an indeterminate religious authority.
    Whether or not Scripture or the Magisterium provides a determinate list of doctrines is another issue.

    Besides, the canon is derived from the teaching of Scripture. Jesus gives us the Jewish canon.

    But the Christian canon is not the Jewish canon. Jesus, moreover, says nothing of the New testament.

    If you understand what an actual Apostle was, it’s relatively easy to demonstrate that the NT is Scripture.

    I don’t understand this statement. Apostolic authorship is not a requirement for canonicity even in the Protestant paradigm.

    Sola Scriptura doesn’t depend on explicit statements.

    Agreed.

    Good and necessary consequences are part of it as well.

    Which ones that we haven’t already discussed?

    Well it depends on what an article of faith means. For the Protestant, an article of faith is something that must be believed in order to be saved.

    No, an article of faith is something we are bound to believe by divine authority. Most protestants (including Calvin) believed we could hold doctrines erroneously (in good faith) and still be saved, but that does not absolve the Church of the moral responsibility to achieve doctrinal unity.

    One can get the canon wrong and still be saved,

    Agreed.

    so it’s not clear that the WCF is proposing the canon as an article of faith in the way you think it is.

    Go back and look at Westminster I.2. It’s an article of faith as I am using the term.

    the fact that you may have doubts about the canonicity of 3 John isn’t going to send you to hell.

    I never said otherwise. In fact, I don’t think ignorance of the Christian faith as a whole necessarily damns you to hell. (We are damned for our sins and invincible ignorance is not a sin.) But, for the sake of argument, what if I have doubts about the canonicity of the Masoretic Old Testament, Mathew, Mark, Luke, Johh, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Cor. Galatians, Epphesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thess. Titus, Timothy, Hebews, 1,2 Peter, 1,2 Johh, Revelation, but I am REALLY, REALLY SUBJECTIVELY CERTAIN of the canonicity of James chapter 2, Hermas, 1 Clement, the Protoevangelion of James, and the Gospel of Thomas?

    -David

  309. Kevin,

    Robert and I are making the same point to you,

    Actually, you and Robert made very different points. You alleged that Scripture’s final regulative authority could be known from the fact of inspiration. Robert argued it was an exegetical conclusion from the words of 2 Timothy.

    In divine revelation it is valid that scripture is the final infallible authority. If it itself tells us that it is profitable for every good work.

    see my response to Robert’s point about 2 Tim.3:16

  310. David,

    The content of the account of the Books is revealed but not an article of faith. The very act of accounting attempts to identify the parts contained in the universal of an article. The article is in scripture known as “all scripture.”. This doctrine from accounting is a theological conclusion.

    The mere words ” all scripture” are believed on the authority of the true God revealing. Faith in scripture is secured before we consider certainty related to canon. This should not surprise us or be too difficult because the catholic camp has something similar. Faith is resolved in “all church teaching.” Can you give a list of the “all” in this case ?

  311. Eric,

    Thank you. I appreciate the response. I take you to be saying that Christians are bound to believe that a canon exists, but not bound by divine authority to agree on the contents of the canon. That is R.C. Sproul’s position, I believe. Arguably, it was Luther’s position as well. It is not the doctrine of Westminster as I read the text. But no matter.

    If Christians are not bound by divine authority to agree on the contents of the canon, and the canon is the Church’s rule of faith, then Christians are not bound to a determinate rule of faith but to an indeterminate rule of faith. With an indeterminate rule of faith, I cannot have certainty that doctrines received from that rule have divine authority. Therefore, I cannot have certainty that any alleged Christian doctrine has divine authority.

    I don’t know how to make sense of such a religion. I have no reason to embrace it, seeing that it proposes no reasons, but only feelings and opinions.

    -David

  312. David,

    This is a very good point that deserves detailed discussion. By way of summary, my response (which I don’t have time to develop deeply) is that
1) Luther at Leipzig actually does present Muller’s argument (in essence). “Popes and Councils err; therefore Scripture!” Zwingli does as well in is “Clarity and Certainty,” as does Calvin (but that’s a long discussion.)

    Sure the argument is there, but it is not their exclusive basis for their belief. It simply isn’t the case that their argument consists merely of “churches err,” therefore only Scripture. They all ground their teaching on direct statements of Scripture itself.

    2) Nevertheless, if the spirit witnesses that 2 Tim. is divinely authoritative, then you have to exegete 3:16. To begin with “ergon agathon” in Scripture never (to my knowledge) refers to function of exercising religious authority. In Fact, Titus 3:1 says that submission to religious authority is a good work. 2 Tim. 2:21 says that “good work” is the fruit of holiness, not religious authority. 1 Tim. 5:10 explains “good works” this way: well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deed.

    I believe you are committing an exegetical fallacy here, which requires you to explain how establishing doctrine is not a good thing or a good work. Frankly, it blows my mind that you are trying to make this argument. And you can’t radically separate fruit of holiness and religious authority, since religious authority is necessary to understand what holiness is.

    The Epistle explains that Timothy, as a bishop, is to make use of the Scriptures “for teaching, rebuke, and training in righteousness.” Part of his job description is to refute error and teach the truth. So, the job of defending the truth and refuting error is given to a bishop (using Scripture) not Scripture per se.

    I don’t necessarily disagree, nor does sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura merely explains what the final arbiter is. Bishops/elders are to use Scripture to refute error. They can even rely on tradition as a secondary authority. They just can’t overturn Scripture with non-scriptural traditions.

    Finally, the Scriptures in question are those Timothy has known from childhood (the LXX) not the 66.

    1. You haven’t established that the Scriptures in question are the LXX. Perhaps you can do that, but you haven’t. The mere fact that the NT quotes the LXX doesn’t prove that the Apostles viewed Scripture as anything more than the Jewish canon, particularly when the NT doesn’t always quote the LXX but also incorporates quotes that hew more closely to the Masoretic canon, etc.

    2. So I agree that the specific Scriptures which this verse has in mind are the Old Testament. I would also include Luke’s gospel, since Paul quotes it as Scripture. But so what? My point is not that 2 Tim. 3:16–17 establish the canon. My point is that such a text proves that the argument for sola Scriptura is not merely an inference. The limits of the canon of Scripture might be an inference/deduction, but the final authority of Scripture isn’t.

    No, that is an assumption. Not a valid inference.

    So it is invalid to infer that God’s revelation is not the final regulative authority? Isn’t that kind of like an Apostle telling Jesus that he doesn’t get to have final say even though He is the revelation of God?

    No, that’s question begging. The question is whether the final, regulative authority must be direct revelation. (Catholics deny.) Catholics admit that the final authority must be divine, but not that it must take the form of direct revelation.

    So when Jesus gave a teaching to His Apostles, they could prefer their own understanding of it over the teaching itself? I’m not sure why you should have such a problem with believing that final, regulative authority must be direct revelation. If God were to speak directly to you such that you were fully certain it was Him and He told you to do one thing but the Curia tells you to do another, are you telling me you would go with the Curia?

    Without specifying the contents.

    They don’t give us a list of 66 books. They do give us the Masoretic canon, the gospel of Luke, and the Pauline Epistles. That’s the vast majority of it.

    But in any case, the doctrine of sola Scriptura and the issue of canon are related but not identical.

    Except that’s not what Catholics claim.

    I know RCs don’t claim that the burden of proof is on them to show revelation outside of Scripture. But if they want to convince Protestants, they have to prove that there exists divine revelation in addition to Scripture. We all agree that Scripture is divine revelation. Proving that there must be something more is on you, especially when there was nothing like an infallible arbiter of dogma like the Magisterium or tradition under the old covenant.

    And the only way that works is if the something else consists of teaching not found in Scripture. If Scripture and tradition are identical, tradition is superfluous as a source of divine revelation.
    Except that’s not what Catholics claim.

    I know RCs don’t claim that. But if Scripture and tradition have identical content you don’t need both. You only need both if there is access to the deposit of faith that one can’t give you.

    No, but it is derived essentially and ultimately from religious experience. Reformed dogmatics teaches explicitly that the contents of the canon are not known with certainty from the authority of the Church, but rather by religious experience. Church authority comes in after the fact as non-essential confirmation only.

    That’s not exactly right. The Spirit is the final persuading agent. But in any case, a final authority must be self-authenticating or it isn’t a final authority. If Rome itself is not the final reason you are Roman Catholic, the church isn’t your highest authority. Whatever it is that convinced you is.

    As a Catholic I believe with certainty in a determinate religious authority.
The Protestant, if he doesn’t need a list of books, has an indeterminate religious authority.
Whether or not Scripture or the Magisterium provides a determinate list of doctrines is another issue.

    Couple of things here:

    1. Yes, your determinate religious authority is the church. It doesn’t bother you that there is not determinate list of dogmas because such a list is unnecessary in your system. Whatever the church says today is what is true. Typically we refer to this as your affirmation of sola Ecclesia. Most RCs don’t like that, but I don’t understand why. If things are settled when Rome speaks, then Rome is your final infallible authority.

    2. I don’t see why, in theory, Scripture can’t function in the same way. Scripture is the final determinate authority even if it does not determine its contents. That’s how Rome functions. There’s no universal agreement on the content of the deposit of faith, and Rome has never provided a determinate canon of dogma.

    But the Christian canon is not the Jewish canon. Jesus, moreover, says nothing of the New testament.

    Actually if Jesus binds people by the Jewish canon, the Jewish canon is the Christian canon. I have no right to accept as Scripture something my Master did not accept. But you are right that there is no explicit NT given by Christ. Its indirectly referenced as the teaching of the Apostles.

    I don’t understand this statement. Apostolic authorship is not a requirement for canonicity even in the Protestant paradigm.

    If an Apostle is one commissioned to speak on behalf of someone else, then what the Apostles teach is de facto divinely inspired. That’s all I mean. If I know that Paul, Peter, James, Jude, Matthew, and John are Apostles of Christ, then its quite easy to get the NT canon. The only truly hard case is Hebrews, but even that is not so difficult. There’s a reason why the early church knew what the NT long before anyone said a dogmatic pronouncement of contents was necessary.

    No, an article of faith is something we are bound to believe by divine authority.

    That’s a RC definition. I’m not sure it applies to Protestantism. We don’t begin from the same Thomistic starting points.

    Most protestants (including Calvin) believed we could hold doctrines erroneously (in good faith) and still be saved, but that does not absolve the Church of the moral responsibility to achieve doctrinal unity.

    I agree.

    Go back and look at Westminster I.2. It’s an article of faith as I am using the term.

    Wait. I’ve had other RCs claim that Westminister doesn’t claim divine authority for itself. If that’s true, nothing it says can be an article of faith under your definition. I’m not saying I agree with that assessment, but I would say that Westminster does not claim to have divine authority in whatever it says. It would have derivative authority insofar as it accurately reflects divine revelation. So, if we go with your definition, I could say that whatever Westminster teaches that agrees with Scripture has divine authority.

    But, for the sake of argument, what if I have doubts about the canonicity of the Masoretic Old Testament, Mathew, Mark, Luke, Johh, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Cor. Galatians, Epphesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thess. Titus, Timothy, Hebews, 1,2 Peter, 1,2 Johh, Revelation, but I am REALLY, REALLY SUBJECTIVELY CERTAIN of the canonicity of James chapter 2, Hermas, 1 Clement, the Protoevangelion of James, and the Gospel of Thomas?

    Your individual subjective certainty can be wrong, which is why the Protestant argument for canon doesn’t put all its eggs in that basket and why every defense of the Protestant canon includes “motives of credibility.”

    As I said to another RC on another board, what you all really seem to want is a light or something to go off whenever the Protestants get something correct. It’s insufficient for you to trust the Spirit unless He works through a dogmatic statement (which would be the equivalent of the light going off to get something correct). That’s quite odd. It wasn’t as if the Apostles had that with Jesus. All they had was His Word and His miracles in order to be convinced that what He was teaching was true. Why do we need something more than that for the Bible?

    don’t know how to make sense of such a religion. I have no reason to embrace it, seeing that it proposes no reasons, but only feelings and opinions.

    It’s unclear to me why a fallible church can only propose opinions. If that’s true, then what you are trusting in is your opinion of what the infallible church teaches, so you really aren’t in a different or better position.

    You alleged that Scripture’s final regulative authority could be known from the fact of inspiration. Robert argued it was an exegetical conclusion from the words of 2 Timothy.

    I agree with the first point actually. All I’m arguing is that sola Scriptura is not a mere inference from Scripture, which is what you say Muller is arguing. Frankly, of that I am doubtful, though I haven’t read Muller on the topic. If it were a mere inference, no one would turn to 2 Tim. 3:16–17 to exegetically demonstrate that Scripture alone is our final authority.

  313. More later,

    But I thought it would be a good idea to cite the text in context to illuminate our discussion:

    But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and[a] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,[b] 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

    4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.

  314. The structure of the passage:

    Timothy is to continue in what he learned from faithful witnesses:

    To remember that the Scriptures of his youth make him wise unto salvation, and equip him for every good work.

    That he is to preach, exhort, correct, etc.

  315. David,

    Why offer these arguments when you belong to a religion that has an indeterminate rule of faith ? Are you bound, by divine authority, to believe a canon of church teaching exists and to agree to its contents ? You and I will have very similar answers to these kinds of paradigm problems.

    A religion of scripture alone for today is resolved in “all scripture” and these little scriptural words are canonical, revealed and bound by divine authority to be believed. They are irreformable and indispensable to the paradigm.

  316. David,

    I’m not sure where you are going with this:

    Timothy is to continue in what he learned from faithful witnesses:

    To remember that the Scriptures of his youth make him wise unto salvation, and equip him for every good work.

    That he is to preach, exhort, correct, etc.

    But if you mean that Paul is saying that Timothy learned from faithful witnesses that the Scriptures make him wise unto salvation and equip him for every good work, that is not exactly correct. The point is that he is to continue in the Scriptures that he has known since childhood are profitable for teaching, learning good works, etc. It’s not that the witnesses told him that and he did not know that from his youth.

    The structure is actually this:

    Timothy is to continue in what he has learned and believed:

    1. Because he knows from whom he learned it (i.e., the Apostles such as Paul, not the false teachers)

    AND

    2. Because He has been acquainted from childhood with the Scriptures (unstated assumption is that His acquaintance with these Scriptures corroborates this belief.

    Then a parenthesis about Scripture and its qualities, including its usefulness to make complete the man of God, equipped for every good work. Teaching, reproof, correction, training and righteousness all have reference not only to good works such as feeding the poor but also doctrine. There’s no perfection in works without perfection in doctrine; even Rome must agree with that. If you do not know or believe the doctrine that only works done in agape are worthy of reward, then you aren’t equipped to do them unto that end.

    Paul is stating most directly that Timothy is to follow Apostolic teaching and the OT Scriptures. So the question is where do we find that Apostolic teaching today. Both of us agree that the NT contains Apostolic teaching, so in this discussion, the burden of proof is on you to prove that Apostolic teaching is found anywhere else besides the NT. If it is, then please give me something Jesus or Paul or another Apostle said that never got written down in the NT.

  317. Eric,

    Why offer these arguments when you belong to a religion that has an indeterminate rule of faith.

    The Catholic Church does not have an indeterminate rule of faith.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone.” (CCC 85)

    “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals…. the infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself. (CCC 891)

    The Catechism gives a clear, determinate definition of the Church’s rule of faith.

    Westminster also gives a clear definition of the Protestant rule of faith.
    It lists 66 books, and declares them to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    Not all Protestants adhere to this definition, however.

    -David

  318. Hi Robert,

    But if you mean that Paul is saying that Timothy learned from faithful witnesses that the Scriptures make him wise unto salvation and equip him for every good work, that is not exactly correct. The point is that he is to continue in the Scriptures that he has known since childhood are profitable for teaching, learning good works, etc. It’s not that the witnesses told him that and he did not know that from his youth.

    No, I didn’t say that. I agree with your 2 points summary.

    Teaching, reproof, correction, training and righteousness all have reference not only to good works such as feeding the poor but also doctrine.

    I agree that it is good to know true doctrine. I agree that Timothy has been entrusted with the task of teaching doctrine. I agree that Timothy is to consult the Scriptures in his task of teaching doctrine. I agree that Scriptures make Timothy wise unto salvation, and is useful for all these tasks.

    However, The passage does not instruct Timothy to offer the Scriptures (whatever they are) to the faithful as a rule of faith.

    The Anglican Hawkins clearly articulates a position close to what I take to be Paul’s position in this passage:

    The sacred text was never intended to teach doctrine, but only to prove it, and if we would learn doctrine we must have recourse to the creeds and formularies of the Church. . . Surely the sacred volume was never intended, and is not adapted to teach us our creed; however certain it is that we can prove our creed from it, when it has once been taught us. . . From the very first, that rule has been as a matter of fact, for the Church to teach the truth and then appeal to Scripture in vindication.

    There is another question about the meaning of “Good work” in this passage. I offered Scriptural evidence that the phrase is idiomatic in Scripture. You have asserted, but not shown, otherwise.

    -David

  319. Dr. Anders,

    I just wanted to take the time and tell you how much I appreciate and enjoy your afternoon show on EWTN radio. I recently joined the Catholic church last Easter and it was about a 6 to 7 year journey. I’m in constant awe of your knowledge and how you are able to give substantive and logical answers based on scripture and scared tradition on every question thats asked. When I win the lottery one day (and I will) I’m gonna throw money at EWTN and your show. I think its an extremely important and invaluable program. Anyway, thank you for all that you do in spreading the Catholic faith. God Bless to you and yours and I hope you all have a great and safe Thanksgiving.

    Matt Johnson

  320. David,

    Church teachings function as the rule of faith, so show us the determinate character of all church teachings. They are determinate with the catch-all “all church teaching.” But the teachings increase by composition and division whenever an accounting of particulars takes place. In this sense they are indeterminate. Give us a canon of particulars.

    Also, explain why Jesus and the Apostles didn’t canonize their teachings. If I am right about all of this, then how would it affect your view of the catholic religion ?

  321. David,

    here is another question about the meaning of “Good work” in this passage. I offered Scriptural evidence that the phrase is idiomatic in Scripture. You have asserted, but not shown, otherwise.

    So according to you, establishing doctrine is not a good work? That’s exceedingly odd. Plus it turns Scripture into a moralistic treatise. It’s sufficient to give you good morals, nothing else. Sounds quite Pelagian to me.

    You need to do more than just point out other places where the phrase refers to good works such as feeding the hungry, etc. etc. It’s an exegetical fallacy to think that the phrase is exhausted by where it is used elsewhere, especially when the same passage says that Scripture is fit to make a man perfect for good works AND teaching.

    I mean, as it is, you are basically saying that the Scriptures can make you perfect for good works but not for doctrine, and yet Paul says the Scriptures make you wise for salvation. You are separating deeds and doctrine in a manner that is not feasible, particularly since in the Pauline epistles, the moral instruction always follows getting the doctrine right.

    And if you are appealing to the Scripture for vindication, that makes Scripture the final arbiter. If something can’t be vindicated from Scripture, it can’t be part of the rule of faith.

  322. Robert,

    So according to you, establishing doctrine is not a good work?

    I address this in comment #318

  323. Eric,

    You wrote: “Church teachings function as the rule of faith, so show us the determinate character of all church teachings.”

    This seriously misstates what I said in #317

    The task of offering an authoritative account of the faith belongs to the Magisterium, not to the teachings themselves.

    -David

  324. I am willing to engage any further comment that interacts with the argument of the article, that attempts to disprove the truth of its premises, or the validity of its conclusion. I will engage any comment that seeks to offer evidence that God intends the 66 as the Church’s rule of faith, or any position that argues a determinate rule of faith is unnecessary. But I will not engage comments that attack straw men or offer unsubstantiated assertions.

    If anyone has posted a comment recently that went unapproved, it is because I deemed it did not meet those criteria.

    -David

  325. David,

    The task of offering an authoritative account belongs to the Magisterium, but a combination of that Mag. ( with ST and Scripture) and its teachings exceeds the rule of faith. “I believe all church teaching” is a creedal form showing how church teaching alone captures everything related to the rule of faith. I didn’t try to state or re-state what you wrote in #317.

    Can you agree that church teaching, if it functions as the rule of faith, is indeterminate when a canon of particulars is considered ? And, if catholics must agree on the rule of faith (church teaching alone), then the contents should be known.

  326. Further clarification:

    The thesis of the article above is that the doctrine of sola scriptura (meaning that God intends the 66 book Protestant canon of Scripture to be the Church’s rule of faith) is not taught by any divine authority, whereas the Catholic doctrine of religious authority is grounded in the express words of revelation.

    I cite Reformed theologian Richard Muller and the Dutch Reformed Leonard van Rijssen to show that my position is not tendentious. Muller and van Rijssen admit that the Protestant position is an inference from the fact of inspiration, not a divinely revealed doctrine per se.

    There are two substantive questions to be engaged in comments.

    1) Has God revealed that the Protestant canon is the Church’s rule of faith?

    or,

    2) Do the data of revelation show that Christ founded a Church, led by apostles, to which he gave the task of authoritatively transmitting the Christian faith.

    I’d like to approve comments purporting to show that God has revealed the Protestant canon to be the rule of faith, or comments purporting to show that Christ did not found a Church to which he gave the task of authoritatively transmitting the Christian faith.

    What is not at issue in the article is whether or not the Scriptures are inspired or divinely authoritative or whether or not the Spirit can guide believers in reading or hearing the word of God. Spirit-guided reading of inspired Scripture is perfectly compatible with the existence of a Church founded by Christ and given the task of authoritatively transmitting the Christian faith.

  327. Dave, also, we have conceeded that the church authoritatively transmits the word of God, and doctrines of christian faith. But not infalibly. WCF says reformed and always being reformed by the word of God. As far as the Protestant canon, I believe the Spirit has revealed this to the true church. Those 66 books are an article of faith for me. Dave, I know this is a subject dear to your heart, but if God tells us we can know that we have eternal life thru what has been written, not interpreted, but written, then i will never trust any magisterial authority more than his word. God bless.

  328. Kevin,

    Thank you so much for your last comment. I think you have hit upon some very key points. You wrote, “As far as the Protestant canon, I believe the Spirit has revealed this to the true church.” I take you to be saying that God reveals the contents of the canon to true believers, immediately, by the power of his Spirit. He reveals in the passages you cite that “Scripture,” as such, is to be the final authority, and the specific contents of Scripture are made known by illumination.

    This touches precisely on the point I raise in the article and I appreciate your agreement. In the end, the Protestant doctrine of religious authority rests essentially (even if not entirely) upon an experience of interior illumination. The believer’s ability to identify a determinate body of texts as “Scripture” depends not upon objective revelation or history, but subjective illumination.

    I also appreciate our agreement that the Church possesses divine authority to transmit the word of God and the doctrines of the Christian faith. Whether it does so reliably (and what use it might be if it’s unreliable) is another question.

    I suspect that is about as close as we are going to get to an agreement at this point. Thank you for your contributions.

    -David

  329. Eric,

    I think we are talking past each other.
    It is the teaching office that I regard as the rule of faith, not the particular pronouncements made by that office. The task of analysis, definition, and clarification is potentially infinite, inasmuch as one can always consider a truth from different points of view. But the one tasked with that analysis can be easily and clearly identified. Who has the job of offering an authoritative explanation of Christina faith? The pope and the bishops. We know who those guys are. They are not hard to find.

    -David

  330. David,

    It is the teaching office that I regard as the rule of faith, not the particular pronouncements made by that office.

    This is a very interesting statement. I have interacted with other RCs who have said that the RC rule of faith is Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium, a STM triad. But this statement vitiates the the S and the T as the rule of faith. It’s a rather bold statement of what some Protestants have called sola ecclesia.

  331. David,

    1) Has God revealed that the Protestant canon is the Church’s rule of faith?

    or,

    2) Do the data of revelation show that Christ founded a Church, led by apostles, to which he gave the task of authoritatively transmitting the Christian faith.

    I guess the big issue is that you seem to be treating these two points as if they are mutually exclusive. Traditional Protestantism agrees with number 2. I’m not as sure of #1, not because they wouldn’t say that the Protestant canon is the rule of faith but because the rule of faith is typically seen as something more akin to the Apostles Creed or the Apostolic kerygma, which can be derived from Scripture.

    But an interesting question I have tried to discuss with some RCs on another blog is this one, and I think it has bearing here:

    How did John Doe Christian know that the deity of Christ was part of the rule of faith/infallible teaching before Nicea? There is no infallible statement before then (if you grant Nicea’s infallibility). You can’t say Scripture without then wondering how you can say that if there is no infallible canon declaration. I don’t see how you can say it is the common witness of the church because we know that many churches with apostolic succession entertained ideas that were later condemned as heretical. The only options I can see are:

    1. You couldn’t know it was infallible teaching (in which case, anyone who trusted in it had no warrant for the assent of faith)
    2. Orthodoxy is self-authenticating in some sense (welcome to Protestantism)
    3. You don’t need an infallible declaration in order to be warranted in giving the assent of faith (welcome to Protestantism)

    What do you think?

  332. Hi Robert,

    We find the content of revelation in Scripture and tradition. It authoritative explication belongs to the hierarchy. The historical record of that explication passes into subsequent tradition.

    -David

  333. Hi Robert,

    According to WCF XXXI.4, “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith.” #1 and #2 are mutually exclusive if considered as differing conceptions of the rule of faith. They are not mutually exclusive if the Church’s authority is not considered the rule or norm for Christian faith.

    In answer to your question, John Doe in the 3rd century would know the divinity of Christ from the Church’s ordinary teaching authority, from liturgical practice, and law, and from Scripture. St. Athanasius makes this point explicitly and repeatedly in his dialogue with Arians. The Arians claimed Scripture for their position, but tradition and the Church were on the side of the Orthodox position. Of course, it finally required the extraordinary magisterium to clarify and define what the ordinary magisterium had been teaching all along. That’ why Christ gave it to the Church, after all.

    -David

  334. Dr. Anders–

    About three years ago, Carl Trueman came out with book entitled “The Creedal Imperative.” Confessional Protestants look askance at the whole notion of “no creed but the Bible.” We have an interpretive authority even as Rome does. We have our confessions and catechisms same as you. And I think it superficial to speak of the authority of the living magisterium since it is entirely hemmed in by precedent. The true buck-stops-here for Rome is her authoritative catechisms: Trent and the CCC.

    In other words, such documents as the WCF and the TFU should be considered part and parcel of our “regula fidei.”

    (I am the same Eric who engaged you in a fairly lengthy discussion on the “John Calvin and the Reformation” thread, but you already have an Eric in this particular dialogue.)

  335. David,

    In answer to your question, John Doe in the 3rd century would know the divinity of Christ from the Church’s ordinary teaching authority, from liturgical practice, and law, and from Scripture.

    But the only one of these that consistently teaches the deity of Christ is Scripture. There are other liturgies and traditions that don’t teach it. But even if there were, not everything proclaimed in the church’s ordinary teaching authority is infallible, is it? The ordinary teaching authority has included lots of stuff such as special marks for Jews in Rome, kidnapping of baptized infants, and other such things.

    And in any case, there is no infallible canon declaration, and we know that some churches were reading books as Scripture that never made it into the canon. So how does John Doe know?

    St. Athanasius makes this point explicitly and repeatedly in his dialogue with Arians. The Arians claimed Scripture for their position, but tradition and the Church were on the side of the Orthodox position.

    So there was no one in the church prior to Arius that failed to teach the deity of Christ? What if you’re in a parish that has embraced Arianism? At best it seems you could say that the majority of churches with Apostolic succession taught the deity of Christ. But the majority isn’t enough to constitute orthodox dogma in the RCC, otherwise there could be no papal infallibility.

    Of course, it finally required the extraordinary magisterium to clarify and define what the ordinary magisterium had been teaching all along. That’ why Christ gave it to the Church, after all.

    Okay, but before the clarity and definition are given, what is the warrant to believe that the deity of Christ was being taught as an infallible dogma? At best you have it commonly taught. And not everything that is commonly taught is infallible or makes it to infallibility. If that were so, there would be no repentance over anti-Semitism and other things.

  336. David,

    We find the content of revelation in Scripture and tradition. It authoritative explication belongs to the hierarchy. The historical record of that explication passes into subsequent tradition.

    But that’s at variance with the Apostles who view tradition as a fixed body of content.

    According to WCF XXXI.4, “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith.” #1 and #2 are mutually exclusive if considered as differing conceptions of the rule of faith. They are not mutually exclusive if the Church’s authority is not considered the rule or norm for Christian faith.

    I’m not sure I follow you here. Other RCs have told me that the rule or norm for Christian faith is the deposit of faith, so to view the church’s authority as the rule of Christian faith would go against that. The church’s authority at best can be an element of the deposit of faith. It can’t be identical to it because the deposit of faith is much broader, unless you want to say something like the resurrection isn’t part of the deposit of faith, which seems nonsensical to me.

  337. Robert,

    We must disambiguate terms. “The Rule of faith” can mean the summary of Christian doctrine that we find in the creeds, or it can mean the doctrinal authority that defines the content of such summaries.

    For purposes of this discussion, I am using the term in the second sense.

    -David

  338. Dr. Anders–

    In other words, you’re pitting the authority of the Westminster Divines or the Synod of Dordt against the authority of the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (who composed the CCC) or the participants of the Council of Trent (who composed its catechism)?

  339. Hi Kevin (302),

    Kevin says:

    Dave, that is actually the right question. I always think about the verse in 1 Corinthians 4, I believe, where Paul says dont go beyond what is written. God has always written things down and for example and said dont add to it. We would both agree that after the apostles there was no added revelation.

    Hi again Kevin, I’m glad to see that you always think about 1 Corianthians 4 and you make this claim that you also “believe Paul says don’t go beyound what is written.” You also claim, rightly so, “God said “….don’t add to it.” Very interesting you claim this yet when Martin Luther REOPENED Sacred Scripture and added the word ALONE to Romans 3:28, you have no problem with that despite the Canon being closed from the 4th century.

    Doesn’t opening of the Sacred Canon and adding, or subtracting words and altering the meaning of a verse something you would be against any man or women doing. But because Luther did it, you are one of his advocates? By what authority do you claim Martin Luther to have had to actually add something to sacred scripture? Also, just so you don’t waste anybodies time, Luther readily admits to adding the word ALONE which he knew the original Greek text does not contain.

    And when they were, nothing was to be added or subtracted.

    And Jesus and the Apostles continue to refer us to the scriptures. For instance in the NT 90 times ” it is written”. So we would say God wrote the NT canon, not the church. Its extent is irrelevant to its infalibility. If we learned anything from what Jesus said to traditioms outside the wordi is they get it wrong. If scripture is profitable for teaching and every good work, and John 20 says it is written so thst we come to faith, then yes rule of faith. Again the Word is the infalible master, the church the minister. God bless K

    Kevin, Above you claim God wrote the NT canon, not the Church. Explain to me how and why you allow the man, Martin Luther, (NOT GOD), to add to sacred scripture which has been closed from the 4th Century. Was Martine Luther prompted by the Holy Spirit? Was Luther granted by the Holy Spirit to have Apostolic Authority to add something to Romans 3:28?

    Kevin and I have discussed this before on another blog; and Kevin claimed that Martin Luther did have Apostolic Authority to rewrite Romans 3:28.

    Question Kevin, can anybody now add or subtract to sacred scripture and that sacred scripture still be the infallible word of God? Or was it ok just this once? You stated “Yes” previously.

    Blessings,

    Ron Sr.

  340. Robert and Kevin–

    I think it commendable that C2C keeps these threads alive almost perpetually. Back at #140 on this one, Jason Stellman makes a great point (as a Protestant, no less!):

    “So it seems that consistency would demand that whatever dismissiveness you see on our [Protestant] part toward Tradition is similar to the dismissiveness we see on yours [the Catholics’ part] with respect to the Bible.”

    Those identifying with Rome. make such a big deal out of Sola Scriptura even though they themselves use it for the vast majority of biblical passages (those not bound by an intervening tradition). In these few intervened cases, they employ what might be called Sola Traditio. So it is that each side gives precedence–Protestants to Scripture and Catholics to Tradition–whenever the two sources conflict, claiming all the while that they don’t ACTUALLY conflict but merely appear to do so.

    I get ticked (I’m sure you two must, as well) whenever Catholics quote Newman’s adage: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” Not only is it insufferably cheeky, but also demonstrably false. Plenty of Protestants have become Patristics scholars without jumping ship. Plus, it is quite vulnerable to an equally cheeky rejoinder: “To be deep into exegesis (or even superficially into exegesis, for that matter) is to cease to be Catholic.” I would maintain, furthermore, that to be deeper still into history would be to revert to Protestantism or, at the very least, to side with Eastern Orthodoxy.

    Fr. John Erickson, professor emeritus of history at St. Vlad’s in New York, strenuously differs with the Roman take on the early church, saying the following:

    “We all know the old adage, that you can prove anything by Scripture. Much the same could be said of church history.”

    The early church’s obsession with baptismal regeneration and the veneration of the saints is undoubtedly embarrassing for Protestants. The New Testament’s dealing with Mary as a virtual afterthought, without a single mention of her immaculacy or assumption or worthiness of hyperdulia, must be similarly embarrassing for Catholics.

    I think the situation more dire for the adherents of Rome, however, since a good number of Anglicans and Lutherans have no problem with either baptismal regeneration or a measured veneration of the saints. On the other hand, the historical evidence for truly Roman distinctives (Marian devotion and sinlessness, intercessory powers for either her or the saints, purgatory, indulgences, and papal primacy) are TOTALLY absent from the Apostolic Fathers! Why, Mary is only mentioned three scant times, all in the letters of Ignatius and all generic references to her virginal maternity.

    The secular academy does not believe that Rome’s teachings
    are in direct continuation with those of the Apostles. Protestantism obviously doesn’t agree. Eastern Orthodoxy has all kinds of problems with Rome’s supposed infallibility. Really, all one is left with are adherents of Rome agreeing with themselves. (Admittedly, conservative Protestants are in a similar boat, but we at least admit that some amount of fideism is inescapable.)

    Personally, I don’t find Rome’s “motives of credibility” very credible. The academy almost uniformly has branded Rome as merely “the winners.” Unless one can convincingly show one’s chain of distinctives going ALL the way back, into those crucial first couple hundred years, then all that Catholic continuity shows is that they are very good at holding onto their innovations.

    Without a credible continuity of apostolic succession, no “magisterium” retains any discernible validity, and one has no choice but to side with Sola Scriptura.

  341. David–

    I have meant the inclusion of your title as a sign of respect, but as it could also be taken as impersonal or dismissive, I’ll conform to the manner others are addressing you.

    I have often heard it said by Christian apologists that the notion that ethical “truths” are relative is logically self defeating (since one is claiming this “relative” truth to be “absolutely” true). But, of course, such is simply not the case. We are talking about different orders of truth. If there is no God, no ultimate Lawgiver, then relative ethics IS INDEED absolutely etched in stone.

    Those truths which are axiomatic, foundational, “properly basic,” or whatever presuppositional label you care to stick on them are not “proven” in the same way as more contingent or derivative truths.

    I think it might be worth discussing whether Sola Scriptura fits into such a category. It isn’t blatantly commanded in Scripture because its employment is assumed: it’s a given. Minus an unambiguous order to proceed in a contrary fashion, Sola Scriptura should be taken for granted. It’s just what has always been done with divine revelation.

  342. Erik,

    Thank you for this most recent message. I appreciate your honesty and insight.
    You are honest because you acknowledge that the doctrine of sola scriptura does not derive from the objective data of revelation.
    You also see that the only recourse left is an appeal to non-verifiable, interior experience/innate knowledge.

    Calvin, as you know, argued from “divine feelings” to the divine authority of Scripture.

    Kruger, in his book The Canon Revisited rejects that view, and argues instead something very similar to what you have said. He makes use of the notion of proper basicality and argues that knowledge of the canon is simply implanted in us immediately by God.

    This is precisely the point I make in the article. The Reformed doctrine of Scripture is not derived from the objective data of revelation, but from interior experience and inferential reasoning. For the reasons I state in the article, I don’t think the reformed apology amounts to a valid argument.

    Also, I don’t think Kruger’s position is without difficulty.

    There are some things we see immediately. The law of non-contradiction, for example, can be known to be true as soon is it is thought. Furthermore, no one can deny the law of non-contradiction in thought, but only in words. This is not the case with the Protestant doctrine of Scripture or with the canon. The opposite can be thought without incoherence. In fact, even Luther did not experience knowledge of the 66 book Protestant canon in this immediate way, since he strongly doubted it. Certain, intuitive Knowledge of the Protestant canon has never been part of the “small-c” catholic tradition. Modern Lutherans doubt the antilegomena. Ethiopians, Copts, Armenians have different canons. There was historical disagreement on the canon even among big C Catholics in the patristic age. This is hard to square with the doctrine that indubitable knowledge of the canon is implanted in us by God, except on the most narrowly sectarian lines.

    Finally, the thesis is pretty egregiously ad hoc. All Christian doctrine is derived from Scripture except the doctrines we need to get the system off the ground! The Mormons are even less ad hoc than this, as they appeal at least to interior experience as evidence (like Calvin does). Kruger denies that there is any evidence for his position at all. He just knows it to be true and you will too, if you are elect.

    When your interlocutor is reduced to asserting utterly tendentious, question-begging premises and rules out the demand for evidence de juro, there is very little left to say.

    -David

  343. David,

    This is hard to square with the doctrine that indubitable knowledge of the canon is implanted in us by God

    But that’s not Kruger’s view. Actually, if you look at Kruger’s argument he is making a case for the canon based at least in part on John Frame’s perspectivalism. I’m assuming you are at least somewhat familiar with that case.

    Kruger essentially suggests a three-legged stool:

    Apostolic authorship/association (Frame’s normative perspective)
    Corporate church reception (Frame’s situational perspective)
    Inner witness of the Spirit (Frame’s existential perspective)

    All three perspectives are interrelated, none can stand on its own, and all are mutually reinforcing. So it’s simply not a matter for the Reformed Protestant that all one can do is appeal to subjective experience. It’s not the Mormon argument.

    Furthermore, being that in religious matters we are talking about matters that are both objective and subjective (Jesus vs. my relationship/faith in Jesus), you cannot dismiss subjective evidence as out of hand. If you could, you’d have to throw out every testimony to the resurrection in the New Testament. The Apostles all had a subjective experience of the resurrection. It wasn’t subjectivistic—there was objective evidence as well—but it incorporated the subjective experience.

    But having said that, you still need to disambiguate between the doctrine of sola Scriptura and the canon. They aren’t the same thing, and it is misleading to say that either one is based totally on inference and not on direct data, whatever that means.

  344. Dear Robert,

    Thank you for your remarks. I think that Kruger’s appeal to history and tradition is somewhat gratuitous because it does not warrant his position. In fact, Kruger explicitly denies that any appeal to history or tradition could warrant the protestant doctrine of Scripture.

    As Kruger puts it, “If we try to validate an ultimate authority [viz., the canon] by appealing to some other authority, then we have just shown that it is not really the ultimate authority.” (( Michael Kruger, Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 91. )

    Again, Kruger argues that the Canon is not even known from religious experience. It is just known. He writes:

    The ground for our belief [in the Canon] is the apprehension of the divine qualities of Scripture itself, not the testimonium or our experience with it. . . . It seems, then that our belief in the truth of Scripture via the work of the Spirit is best construed not as an inductive inference from some aspect of our experience, but, . . . as a more immediate or intuitive belief. (( Ibid., 103. )

    In the end, Kruger summarizes the Reformed position thus: “The canonical books are received by those who have the Holy Spirit in them.” (( Ibid., 101. ))

    For Kruger, history doesn’t warrant belief in the canon. History and tradition are merely the context in which one encounters the canon. But the warrant for belief (according to Kruger) is not history, but the innate knowledge implanted in us by the holy spirit.

    Again, the position is very ad hoc and needlessly sectarian, since it implies that great swaths of the Christian past lacked the holy spirit, or were insensitive to his voice. If the Spirit gives clear and certain knowledge of the canon, and provides the illumination to interpret it properly, then how do we explain the novelty of the Reformation? How do we explain Luther’s truncated canon? The Armenian, Coptic, or Ethiopian canon, the Catholic canon, the Orthodox canon? The world outside of Westminster looks pretty grim.

  345. David,

    How do you know the teaching church is in fact the rule of faith ? It seems to me that objective data of revelation needs to be determined before you know this sort of rule of faith. In order to avoid this determination, one will need to identify an attribute(s) of this alleged rule of faith. You cannot rely on its voice or teaching in this case.

    It seems we will end with identifying this church as authoritative because we identified it as “a true agent teaching the truth.” How do we know it’s true to know it’s authoritative ?

  346. Eric,

    You asked, “How do you know that the teaching Church is in fact the rule of faith?”

    Answer: From the historical record, which indicates that Christ 1) founded a church, a visible society, 2) authorized leaders of that society to teach, 3) promised his divine assistance, and that those leaders 4) understood themselves competent to resolve doctrinal disagreement, which competence they ascribed to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and 5) appointed leaders in the communities they started and charged them with the same task.

    Since the historical record indicates that Christ established this society with a determinate constitution and there is no evidence that he intended that constitution to be temporary (and positive evidence to conclude otherwise), then it is with the utmost presumption that anyone (Luther) propose another constitution, one not authorized by divine authority.

    -David

  347. David,

    Thank you for the answer. I think your rule of faith, if the church and it’s teachings are taken together, is determined the same way as the Protestants determine their rule of faith. You identified the church attributes as revealed truths and words from God. Also, it’s created truth participating in uncreated truth. Why you, or other catholics, identify this church this way remains to be explained.

    Protestants and Catholics are in the same boat and I don’t think the Catholic can distinguish himself.

  348. David–

    I’m sorry that you find Dr. Mathison’s thesis to be makeshift and desperate, argument for argument’s sake, if you will, revealing that “the emperor has no clothes.” **

    I, however, was heaving no such a hail Mary. Neither was I capitulating to your supposed perch upon the catbird’s seat. Yes, there are logical positions which cannot be gainsaid (such as the law of non-contradiction), but there are also default settings which unless undone must be left standing.

    Ancient Israelite Religion, First and Second-Temple Judaism, and Rabbinic Judaism all use some form of Sola Scriptura (or one might even say Solo Scriptura). There are no catechisms employed until Medieval times, and then only to counteract Christian ones. Theological tenets are not set in stone but are delineated in dialogue, one Tannaitic house pitted against another, take your pick. Heresy proper is left for extreme situations: complete abandonment of the faith through apostasy or through the utter rejection of halakha. There exists no clearcut interpretive authority.

    If Catholic magisterial authority is to be maintained, there must be a clear change marked out in the New Testament: we must be commanded to obey NOT ONLY the Word of God written, BUT ALSO Apostolic tradition. And it must be in that form (not only…but also) or any other form that makes it crystal clear that the two authorities are not one and the same in content, in other words, that they merely overlap to some extent.

    For example, 2 Thessalonians 2:15 does NOT so specify:

    “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.”

    These could quite easily contain the EXACT same content.

    Because of the practice of the Jews over time, the burden of proof is in your court to show the introduction of a “still more excellent way” involving the Magisterium.

    Once again, I AM NOT invoking some sort of subjective “testimony of the Holy Spirit” or some sort of “innate knowledge” restricted to the elect. We’re talking precedents here…and your side’s lack of them.

    The Mishnah, Judaism’s oral tradition, is expansion on the inscripturated tradition in terms of detail. But no new ground is ever broken. (Lilith, for example, is not mentioned in the Mishnah, but is relegated to Jewish folklore and mythology.) The Gemara is rabbinic commentary on the Mishnaic expansion. And unlike RC oral tradition, Jewish oral tradition is written down in its entirety around 200 CE.

    ** I haven’t read Mathison’s book, but my guess is that Robert’s correct and that you have misconstrued the good doctor’s thesis. (There is no ULTIMATE authority besides Scripture though many things–reason, tradition, consensus, subjective experience–corroborate its spirit-wrought place in our hearts and minds.)

  349. David–

    I think what Eric is asking is how you know the RC constitution is the selfsame constitution permanently established by Christ.

    As I stated above (in #340), the Ante-Nicene era is not kind with respect to RC distinctives, many of which are virtually if not totally non-existant. I know of no serious academic–secular, Protestant, Catholic–who believes the sort of significant continuity exists which you and other traditional Catholics maintain.

    On what basis do you hold that Luther’s constitution is not a proper restoration of the one inaugurated by our Lord?

  350. Erik,

    You asked, “On what basis do you hold that Luther’s constitution is not a proper restoration of the one inaugurated by our Lord?”

    On the grounds that Jesus never identified the Bible as the Church’s rule of faith.

    and you asked, “I think what Eric is asking is how you know the RC constitution is the selfsame constitution permanently established by Christ?”

    Answer: Christ founded a Church with a hierarchical government that included one apostle identified as the rock, given the keys, and charged especially with the feeding of the sheep. That society of Christians was visibly demarcated in antiquity in ways that allowed it to be distinguished from rivals. As such, it became an historical institution whose continuity is open to historical investigation and verification. Whether or not you think that historically continuous society did a good job preserving and teaching the faith, its historical continuity is fairly obvious, I think.

    -David

  351. Dear Eric,

    We do not identify the Church as rule of faith in the same way that Protestants identify the canon as rule of faith. Catholics see from the historical record the Christ established a church and authorized it to teach. There is no evidence, however, that Christ composed a text or identified the bible as the authoritative source for Christian faith. This is why Protestants do not point to the teaching of Christ to identify their rule of faith. Instead, they point to innate knowledge, religious experience, and such things.

    -David

  352. Dear Erik,

    I don’t remember discussing Matthison’s thesis in this exchange. I did discuss Kruger and his claim that knowledge of the canon is implanted in us by God. I am puzzled by your claim that Israel followed the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. In the Bible, Israel was instructed by living Prophets. Finally, I agree that we need positive revelation to establish a rule of faith. That’s why Christ commanded the apostles to hand on “all that I have commanded you,” which included, of course, Christ’s oral tradition, ritual, and example. It did not include any written texts. In handing on that oral tradition, moreover, Christ promised his divine assistance. (I will be with you to the end of the age, the gates of hell will not prevail, what you bind on earth, etc.) We see a living example of that Spirit-guided ministry in Acts 15.

    -David

  353. David,

    Luke 24 is the historical record concerning my rule of faith. It’s based on Christ’s teaching. Each book that can be identified under “All Scripture” didn’t need to be identified by Jesus.

  354. Eric,

    Luke 24 establishes the the law and the prophets testify to Christ. Catholics agree with that. Luke 24 does not establish that Scripture is to be the final, regulative authority for the Church. Christ really doesn’t address the question of the Church’s rule of faith in this passage. At most, one could conclude that Scripture is divinely authoritative – something Catholics accept.

    -David

  355. David,

    For Kruger, history doesn’t warrant belief in the canon.

    Not finally, no.

    History and tradition are merely the context in which one encounters the canon. But the warrant for belief (according to Kruger) is not history, but the innate knowledge implanted in us by the holy spirit.

    His point is that whatever serves as one’s final authority must be self-authenticating, and on that he is absolutely right. You can’t appeal to anything outside of that as the decisive factor for WHY one believes the authority is the authority. If you do, then you’ve just established your reason or some other standard for the ultimate authority.

    Again, the position is very ad hoc and needlessly sectarian, since it implies that great swaths of the Christian past lacked the holy spirit, or were insensitive to his voice.

    It’s not ad hoc. Kruger also holds that the work of the Spirit doesn’t happen ahistorically. Which is why he puts so much space into historical reception and apostolic authorship.

    But it’s no more ad hoc than saying that God placed an intuitive sense of Himself in all our consciences. An atheist could say that’s ad hoc reasoning. But it’s what Paul says.

    If the Spirit gives clear and certain knowledge of the canon, and provides the illumination to interpret it properly, then how do we explain the novelty of the Reformation?

    The Reformation wasn’t novel with the canon. They followed Jesus’ canon.

    How do we explain Luther’s truncated canon?

    Luther didn’t take any books out of the canon. He expressed some reservations at various points about various books, but he never removed them.

    The Armenian, Coptic, or Ethiopian canon, the Catholic canon, the Orthodox canon?

    Well ultimately, if these canons are wrong, then they weren’t listening to the Spirit.

    The world outside of Westminster looks pretty grim.

    Not really. Everyone agrees that the Protestant canon recognizes canonical books. The only debate is over whether it doesn’t recognize enough books.

  356. David,

    We do not identify the Church as rule of faith in the same way that Protestants identify the canon as rule of faith. Catholics see from the historical record the Christ established a church and authorized it to teach.

    Actually, you are doing exactly the same as a Protestant. We see from the historical record that Christ established a church, authorized it to teach, and appointed that teaching to be checked against the Apostles and the prophets. I don’t see how that in itself would be objectionable to RCs. What the RC has to prove is:

    That there is something not in Scripture that the Apostles and prophets taught
    That the Magisterium inherits the selfsame authority as those organs of revelation

    >i?There is no evidence, however, that Christ composed a text

    That’s irrelevant

    or identified the bible as the authoritative source for Christian faith.

    Jesus doesn’t identify anything else besides the Jewish canon and the Apostles as the authoritative source. So the RC must prove that the Magisterium=Apostles.

    This is why Protestants do not point to the teaching of Christ to identify their rule of faith. Instead, they point to innate knowledge, religious experience, and such things.

    We point to Jesus all the time to identify our rule of faith. The argument of the Prot OT canon depends almost entirely on the witness of Jesus.

    That’s why Christ commanded the apostles to hand on “all that I have commanded you,” which included, of course, Christ’s oral tradition, ritual, and example. It did not include any written texts.

    Has the RCC identified any ritual that Jesus prescribed that never got written down? Any words he spoke that never got written down?

    What Christ commanded the Apostles to hand on from him is the tradition (and the Apostles were to hand it on as well to later generations). There is no contest between us that the NT is tradition. The question is whether there is anything else that falls under that category, any words or content from the Apostles that never got written down. Tradition is a fixed body of teaching from Christ and the Apostles, not whatever the church says today. At best the church can interpret the tradition correctly. It’s teaching isn’t tradition itself. The earliest post-Apostolic documents testify to this.

  357. David,

    Jesus didn’t address any question, but He did address the rule of faith. See verse 25. Your own words show how He addressed it. If He “established” testimonies by authority, and faith will always require regulation, then those testimonies share in a few things: (a) authority (b) truth (c) regulatory power. If there is or will be any final, regulative authority, then those established testimonies will be part of it. You say at most but that’s too strong. We should conclude scripture is divine authority and a regulatory travelmate beginning from Jerusalem. See verse 47.

  358. Dear Eric,

    vs. 25 says, “He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” Catholics also believe that it is foolish to disbelieve all that the prophets have spoken. That is not at issue between us. But nothing in verse 25 indicates that Christ intends the Bible to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    I also agree that the Church’s rule of faith should have authority, truth, and power. But to conclude that Scripture is the rule of faith simply because it possesses authority, truth, and power is to commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent. [The fallacy reasons as follows: if p then q. q, therefore p.] It confuses necessity with sufficiency. It is possible for something to have authority, truth, and power, and yet not be the church’s rule of faith. It is even possible for something to have divine authority and infallible truth and still not be the Church’s rule of faith.

    A private revelation, for instance, might have divine authority and infallible truth. But we could not conclude from that fact that God intends that particular private revelation to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    -David

  359. Robert,

    You said, “Actually, you are doing exactly the same as a Protestant. We see from the historical record that Christ established a church, authorized it to teach, and appointed that teaching to be checked against the Apostles and the prophets.”

    Could you please show me where Christ indicates that the teaching of the apostles is to be corrected by non-apostles on the basis of their reading of Scripture?

    Then you wrote: “What the RC has to prove is: That there is something not in Scripture that the Apostles and prophets taught.”

    Do you believe that the apostolic origin of the New Testament is something that the apostles taught? Is it necessary to hold that the texts of the New Testament came down to us from the apostles? If you believe that, then you admit that there is Christian doctrine not contained in Scripture. Scripture itself does not tell us that the individual texts of the New Testament proceeded from the apostles. Some of the epistles do make that claim for themselves, of course. But it would be entirely circular to conclude that Paul wrote the pastoral epistles simply because the author claims to be Paul. The Church does not accept all claims of apostolic authorship, and many pseudepigraphical texts were rejected.

    You said, “Jesus doesn’t identify anything else besides the Jewish canon and the Apostles as the authoritative source. So the RC must prove that the Magisterium=Apostles.”

    I mostly agree with you here. Except, I don’t think Jesus ever said that the Jewish canon + the apostles is the Church’s rule of faith. That’s not even what Westminster says. It says the Jewish canon and the New testament are the rule of faith. But, not matter. I agree with you that the burden of proof is on the Catholic Church to show that the Bishops are the successors to the apostles. The Burden of proof is on the one asserting. If Luther asserts, for instance, that the Bible is the rule of faith, he has the burden of showing that God intends the Bible as the rule of faith. If Catholics assert that the Church is the rule of faith, they have the burden of showing that God intends the Church to be the rule of faith.

    You wrote, “We point to Jesus all the time to identify our rule of faith. The argument of the Prot OT canon depends almost entirely on the witness of Jesus.”

    Do you think that the Old Testament is the Church’s rule of faith? That’s not what Westminster says. It says the Bible (OT + NT) is the rule of faith. And, in any event, I don’t see any evidence that Christ indicated the OT as the Church’s rule of faith. On the contrary, Christ abrogated old testament commands and was perfectly willing to subsume OT authority under his divinely authoritative interpretation.

    You asked, “Has the RCC identified any ritual that Jesus prescribed that never got written down? Any words he spoke that never got written down?”

    Yes. Lots. But it wouldn’t matter if that were not the case. Let us say, for instance, that I held to the material sufficiency of Scripture. (Which I don’t, by the way.) Even if all the data of special revelation were contained in Scripture, it would not follow that the Bible is the Church’s rule of faith. The authority to teach doctrine and infallibly correct error is not the same as the power to convey divine revelation.

    -David

  360. David–

    So, according to you, our “rule of faith” need not include Jesus’ own words (passed down to us only in Scripture) nor whatever teachings he passed on orally to his Apostles (available to us only in the Scriptures)? Why on earth would it not include these things, and why on earth would it include more?

    The hierarchical continuity of the church is not particularly open to verification during the first couple hundred years, and few historians buy the RC take on things.

    In Matthew 18:18, ALL of the Apostles are granted “the keys.” Surely, during his lifetime, John the Evangelist, an actual Apostle, would have held hegemony over the supposed successors of Peter (Linus, Anacletus, and Clement I). Would he not? (St. Polycarp certainly thought so.)

  361. Robert,

    You said, “His point is that whatever serves as one’s final authority must be self-authenticating, and on that he is absolutely right.”

    I don’t see that at all. To illustrate, the final executive authority in the U.S. government is the presidency. The presidency is not self-authenticating. I know about the presidency from the constitution. Kruger confuses the order of discovery and the order of authority.

    -David

  362. Erik,

    You wrote, “So, according to you, our “rule of faith” need not include Jesus’ own words.”

    Did Jesus tell his words to go into all nations and teach? Did he tell his words to baptize? Did he tell his words to make disciples? Did his words ordain St. Timothy? Did his words appoint presbyters in every town? Did his words decide to write to the Churches in Acts 15?

    -David

  363. Hi David,

    First of all, thank you very much for your ministry. Your show on EWTN is very impactful to me and I am trying to listen through all of the episodes to get caught up! I very much enjoy how your thought process.

    As I study the church fathers, it certainly seems that there is a consensus among the fathers recognized by both protestants and Catholics in deferring to apostolic succession so that the Christian knows the information that is being transmitted is of authentic origin. It certainly seems logical, if a concern is identifying the truths of the practices of the faith, to go back as close to the teaching of the apostles as possible. Even if the Canon of the NT was objectively evident from the moment the epistles and gospels were penned, there still is a 20 year or so gap between Christ’s death and resurrection and the first penning of the letters. How were the Christians to understand the gospel during that time?

    If they were taught a dogma, for example, the belief in the real presence, would it not stand to reason that the content of the writings of the new testament would be in line with the teachings that the Apostles were passing on to their successors? If so, it would seem much more plausible that the ability to trace the lineage through history back to the successors of the apostles would be more logical than my relying on the subjective understanding of the Scriptures as my mind would process them in the 20th century. So it would seem that one has to rely on an external source for interpretation. The Ethiopian Eunuch didn’t rely on the internal witness of the spirit to interpret Scriptures, he needed someone to teach him. The question becomes, who can you rely on as your teacher?

    Knowing myself, I know that I can seemingly convince myself of anything if I wanted to, which makes it very difficult to objectively identify when the Holy Spirit is speaking to me and when it is the enemy and when it is simply my own conscious. Based on all of the interpretations that people come up with deriving from Scripture, I would have to conclude that this is not an issue isolated to myself. Therefore, how can I OBJECTIVELY know that I am receiving the truth from God?

    The apostles had objective knowledge right in front of them in Jesus. Someone that they could reason and find clarification with. If my subjective problem is normal of the human condition, I would suggest divine revelation can’t objectively be know unless we were provided with an objective authority that we can look to continuously for that objective truth. Something or someone tangible that we can be assured has the divine assistance to lead us to the truth in the way that the apostles had. That way the modern day “Ethiopian Eunuchs” have someone that can teach them with authority.

    Those are just a few thoughts I wanted to mention and would love your feedback David if you have the time. As for a main question, I am curious:

    From the church fathers, does there happen to be a document that shows the first time a mention to one of the new testament books as “Scripture” is? I thought I recalled one such area, but am uncertain.

    I appreciate your candor David and look forward to your input!

    God Bless,
    Joshua

  364. David–

    Did the Apostles go into all the world and teach ACCORDING TO HIS WORDS? Did they baptize and make disciples ACCORDING TO HIS WORDS? Did they ordain and appoint elders ACCORDING TO HIS WORDS? Did they make plans and judgments for the church IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS WORDS?

    The “church” is amorphous and contentless in and of itself. It acts in accordance with its ruling principles: its rule of faith.

  365. Robert asked:

    Has the RCC identified any words that Jesus spoke that didn’t get written down?

    According to “Catholic Answers,” the answer is “no.”

    All of the recognized non-canonical “logia Jesu” (otherwise known as the “agrapha”), are considered of questionable authenticity.

  366. Erik,

    You asked, “Did the Apostles go into tall the world and teach according to his words?”

    Answer: Of course. Christ commissioned them to do exactly that. If you want to know what the Christian faith is, it is necessary to receive the faith from those authorities established by Christ. The only reason we have any authoritative record of Christ’s life and teaching is because his apostles made it known.

    I don’t understand why you think that the Church is amorphous and without content. I’m not even sure I know what that means. The Church is the society of believers founded by Christ. In Matthew 18, Christ indicates that it is a society to which one can appeal for judicial decisions. How can that be without form or content?

    -david

  367. In response to a recent question about why some posts were not approved, I would like to recall the following instruction from our posting Guidelines.

    Nor is the combox merely for the exchange of unsupported assertions, because that sort of activity is not fruitful for resolving disagreements. This is a forum for the charitable exchange and evaluation of evidence and argumentation, through which the underlying reasons for our disagreements can be brought to light and mutually evaluated.

    Note also that the comment boxes at CTC are for discussing the corresponding posts or articles, not a forum for merely voicing one’s opinion or expressing oneself. Please stay on topic. Fruitful dialogue requires disciplining ourselves to focus on the topic in question, rather than allowing ourselves to engage in the ‘throw everything at the other person and hope something sticks’ approach. That’s debate, not dialogue.

    -David

  368. David,

    You said, “His point is that whatever serves as one’s final authority must be self-authenticating, and on that he is absolutely right.”

    I don’t see that at all. To illustrate, the final executive authority in the U.S. government is the presidency. The presidency is not self-authenticating. I know about the presidency from the constitution. Kruger confuses the order of discovery and the order of authority.

    Maybe it would be clearer to say ultimate authority. One’s ultimate authority must be self-authenticating, otherwise it’s not the ultimate authority.

    But to the example, the president doesn’t have authority over the constitution. The president is supposed to submit to and uphold the constitution. So the ultimate authority over the whole system is the constitution, at least in theory.

    Could you please show me where Christ indicates that the teaching of the apostles is to be corrected by non-apostles on the basis of their reading of Scripture?

    Paul says that an Apostle who denies the Apostolic gospel is to be rejected. Now one has to prove that we can find the Apostolic gospel anywhere but Scripture.

    But in any case the church and the teaching of the Apostles are two different things. The teaching of the Apostles is what the Apostles actually said.

    Do you believe that the apostolic origin of the New Testament is something that the apostles taught? Is it necessary to hold that the texts of the New Testament came down to us from the apostles?

    Yes.

    If you believe that, then you admit that there is Christian doctrine not contained in Scripture. Scripture itself does not tell us that the individual texts of the New Testament proceeded from the apostles.

    Sure it does. The one possible exception is Hebrews. Every other book either has a claim from an Epistle writer or the titles of the books bear an Apostolic name. Every extant single gospel copy that has the first page includes the title. The idea that the gospels are anonymous works can’t be substantiated by the actual textual evidence.

    Some of the epistles do make that claim for themselves, of course. But it would be entirely circular to conclude that Paul wrote the pastoral epistles simply because the author claims to be Paul. The Church does not accept all claims of apostolic authorship, and many pseudepigraphical texts were rejected.

    That’s good because my argument isn’t that we conclude that Paul wrote the pastorals simply because the author claims to be Paul. Neither does Kruger as far as I am aware.

    I mostly agree with you here. Except, I don’t think Jesus ever said that the Jewish canon + the apostles is the Church’s rule of faith. That’s not even what Westminster says. It says the Jewish canon and the New testament are the rule of faith.

    For Westminster, the New Testament and the Apostles are equivalent. There is no other place to find infallible Apostolic teaching but the NT.

    Do you think that the Old Testament is the Church’s rule of faith?

    It’s part of the rule, certainly.

    And, in any event, I don’t see any evidence that Christ indicated the OT as the Church’s rule of faith. On the contrary, Christ abrogated old testament commands and was perfectly willing to subsume OT authority under his divinely authoritative interpretation.

    I don’t like the word abrogation because it carries with it in my mind the willy-nilly getting rid of stuff. Christ fulfills OT commands and some of them we now observe differently, but it’s not as if it’s as simple as “now you don’t have to do this because I say so.” “Scripture cannot be broken.”

    Yes. Lots.

    So where is that infallible list of what Jesus and the Apostles said that never got written down?

    But it wouldn’t matter if that were not the case. Let us say, for instance, that I held to the material sufficiency of Scripture. (Which I don’t, by the way.) Even if all the data of special revelation were contained in Scripture, it would not follow that the Bible is the Church’s rule of faith. The authority to teach doctrine and infallibly correct error is not the same as the power to convey divine revelation.

    If the rule of faith is the STM triad, then a full infallible canon of all of it is necessary if you are going to demand an infallible canon of S for us.

    But special revelation must be the rule of faith by definition in a revealed religion. What God has revealed must be the standard. What is taught must be measured against that standard. If not, it is not a rule or standard or measuring stick. So the data ultimately reigns supreme. Even to establish the role of the Magisterium, it’s claims must be measured against what God has revealed its role is to be.

  369. David,

    It’s not consistent to say Luke 24 establishes a testimony of Christ from the law and prophets then say v.25 gives no indication that Christ intends the Bible to be the Church’s rule of faith. Imagine a walk on the road to Emmaus with the Pope. He says, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the Church teaches” Should we reach the same conclusion you did in this case ? We should focus on the word “all.”

    Only a straw man was knocked down if you think I concluded scripture is the rule of faith simply because of those qualities I listed. You overlooked the most important thing I wrote.

    I wrote: If He “established” testimonies by authority….

    Focus on “by authority”. It was my argument based on the historical record in Luke. You need to deal with my argument in light of this historical record.

    It is right to say all PR is divine authority and infallible truth and your conclusion is true in part. But notice a distinction exists between PR to the church teaching and PR to members of the church taught. Aquinas said the Apostles received a special revelation to baptize in the name of Jesus. In this case, it was because of the PR’s qualities and source that the Apostle’s obedience, faith and teaching were ruled. I want to stress the fact that it wasn’t because of their Christ given authority as the church teaching.

  370. Eric,

    I apologize Eric, but I’m afraid I don’t follow you. I’m looking for an argument showing that Christ intends the Bible to be the Church’s rule of faith. That is to say, Christ intends Scripture to be the highest and final authority to determine what is or is not the Christian faith. Christ does not entrust the task of discerning true from false doctrine, finally, to the Church but rather to Scripture itself and to the individual, spirit-illumined conscience reading the Scripture.

    I don’t see how you are getting there from Luke 24. I’m not following your argument. Can you spell it out for me?

    Thanks,

    David

  371. Robert,

    You wrote: “One’s ultimate authority must be self-authenticating, otherwise it’s not the ultimate authority.”

    I understand that Kruger makes that claim, but it remains unproven. I think that Kruger mistakes priority in the order of discovery with priority in the order of authority. I see no reason why the means that demonstrate the existence of an authority cannot be distinct from the authority demonstrated. If I tell my kids to obey their teacher as the ultimate authority in the classroom, the way they come to know this authority is something really distinct from the authority itself. The teacher is the ultimate authority in the classroom, but that authority is not “self-authenticating.”

    Similarly, if Christ tells me to obey a text as the ultimate authority for my life, it’s not necessary for that text to be self-authenticating. It’s enough that Christ told me so.
    Similarly, if Christ tells me to obey my bishop, it is not necessary for the bishop’s authority to be self-authenticating. It is enough that Christ tells me so.

    I’m not even sure what “self-authenticating” is supposed to mean? Does it mean self-evident? Incorrigible? Scripture’s authority as the rule of faith is certainly not self-evident or incorrigible. It is perfectly possible for me to conceive of another rule of faith without contradiction. Even Christ’s authority is not “self-authenticating” in the sense that Kruger uses the term. Paul tells us that God demonstrated Christ’s authority by raising him from the dead. That’s objective evidence, not self-authentication.

    You wrote: “Paul says that an Apostle who denies the Apostolic gospel is to be rejected. Now one has to prove that we can find the Apostolic gospel anywhere but Scripture.”

    This is a non-sequitur.

    You wrote: “Sure it does. The one possible exception is Hebrews. Every other book either has a claim from an Epistle writer or the titles of the books bear an Apostolic name. Every extant single gospel copy that has the first page includes the title.”

    I’m not a textual scholar, so I don’t know about the truth of this claim. Can you document? But, if it is true, are you arguing that the title attached to the manuscript is inspired? If so, are you arguing that the author appended his name to the first line of the gospel text? I never heard any such claim in the Protestant seminary. Or, are you claiming that inspiration attaches to extant copies or only to the autographs? I’ve never met a Protestant who claimed inspiration for any copies, but only for the autographs.

    You wrote: “So where is that infallible list of what Jesus and the Apostles said that never got written down?”

    In the liturgy, the canons, and the practice of the Catholic Church. Remember, also, that Revelation is more than words or propositions. It includes ritual, practice, and custom. As Paul notes, the ritual actions of eating and drinking were also part of the kerygma. “We proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes,” etc. Similarly, Paul takes it as obvious that the Corinthians would understand their baptism as an incorporation into Christ’s body, even though that sort of language isn’t used explicitly in the Gospels. Paul himself indicates that these elements were part of an oral tradition that came down to him from the Lord, and he claims that the Catholicity of the Church itself has normative significance. (“If anyone wants to be contentious about this, know that we have no other practice, nor do the Church’s of God.”)

    The Fathers of the 2nd to 4th centuries appeal to this unwritten practice as an authority, and even indicate specific practices (such as the epiclesis) which are not biblical, but which they regard as part of the deposit of faith. The same could be said for the whole shape of the Church’s liturgical and canonical tradition. Scripture doesn’t give us a treatise on liturgy, but viewed through the lends of subsequent tradition we can see the major elements reflected in it. In other words, if you start with patristic liturgical texts, you can read their elements back into Scripture. But you couldn’t derive the liturgies by reading them straight off the pages of Scripture. The subsequent tradition illuminates what was present (but implicit) in texts which were merely occasional and not intended to answer every question.

    You wrote: “But special revelation must be the rule of faith by definition in a revealed religion.”

    This is an assertion. I deny.

    -David

  372. David,

    Before making any arguments from Luke 24, I should have started with the historical record of Jesus being born under the Law. He inherited the existing OT bible as the highest and final authority to determine doctrine. That includes His own doctrine. Luke 24 records Jesus acting and teaching on this supposition. Also, He was the best man of God recorded in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. Paul operated under this supposition like Jesus. I hope to focus on the first part of your request because in the article you wrote:

    All Christians agree that Jesus is the ultimate authority.

    I take this as true and try to remember that Jesus was sent to Israel alone, but opened a way to the gentiles by his blood. These facts are important because one new man was formed, namely the church.

  373. David,

    A part of your reply to Robert (#371) caught my attention. You answered his question by appealing to liturgy, canons and practice. I agree that revelation is more than words and propositions, but never less than these. Do you think believers (John 17:20) are revelation or revealed subjects ? And are we able to say things about individual believers like other revealed truths ?

  374. Eric,

    I am puzzled by your statement that Jesus regarded the texts of the Old Testament as the highest and final authority to determine doctrine. Clearly, Jesus regarded the Old Testament as a divine authority. But it seems to me that he regarded his own authority as superior and supplementary to that of the Old Testament. He took the initiative to abrogate dietary laws, and to offer authoritative interpretations of the law. He also fulfilled the law, and the specific ceremonial precepts passed into obsolescence.

    -David

  375. Eric,

    I’m not sure I understand the question.

    -David

  376. David,

    To help understand I will make a comparison to what you wrote. You wrote:

    As Paul notes, the ritual actions…part of the kerygma.

    Perhaps the believers, in the very act of believing by the gift of faith, is part of the kerygma. We in “we proclaim” may be intended by Christ to be discovered by all. Can we even imagine a naming or list of believers from the magisterium ?

    We proclaim is revealed.
    I proclaim is a revealed truth in particular.
    I is equal to David if you state it in an objective sense.
    David is revealed.

  377. If I may chime in here, I would have to say that it is an untenable anachronism to hold that Jesus or any of the New Testament authors taught Sola Scriptura if Sola Scriptura requires a completed cannon in order to function. If the entire cannon of scripture is needed in order for scripture to be formally sufficient as a rule of faith, no one would be able to make the claim of Sola Scriptura until after the completion of the New Testament books and the closure of public revelation. If Sola Scriptura needs the full cannon, they cannot then teach Sola Scriptura in the scriptures because they (the apostles) would be incorrect. If one was to claim that Sola Scriptura is only supposed to be the way the Church functions after the New Testament books were finished, then the claim itself is conceding to be unbiblical and therefore self-defeating.

    The only way out of the predicament above is to claim that one does not need a completed cannon in order for scripture to be formally sufficient as the Church’s rule of faith. But that position quickly becomes absurd. It would be like saying the Old testament books were formally sufficient for the Church prior to any authorship of the books of the New Testament. While I can agree that the books of the Old testament do contain the Gospel concealed within them, it took Jesus and the Apostles to explain that. They did that for around two decades before any New Testament author put quill to papyrus.

    I suppose one could try to claim that the apostles intended for Sola Scriptura to be the rule of faith for the Church after they died, but that doesn’t really make much sense. First of all, I would love to see where the scripture would indicate such a thing. But if that were the case, it would mean that for some reason, the authoritative structure that the apostles used was somehow flawed and could not be sustained after them and the Church would have to go through massive overhaul in its authoritative structure. Any way you slice it, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura just does not square with the time period.

    May God be with you all.

    Matthew

  378. David,

    I’m not even sure if having a superior and supplementary authority is relevant to your examples. I put more weight on the idea that those examples are “malleable.” Certain points of tension exist between the old and new law under the Divine law. I see no conflict with my assertion.

    We have the LORD declaring foods unclean, but the one Lord and Christ declared all foods clean. Paul finds all foods clean in Christ because of Christ’s authority and the objective truth that none are unclean in themselves. Yet, after saying all that, some Christians can without problems return to LORD’s original declaration. I mean if they regard it unclean then it’s unclean for them. I see malleable.

  379. Eric,

    I’m still confused. Are you suggesting that the identity of every individual believer is to be considered part of the deposit of faith?

    -David

  380. David,

    Why not ? If ritual actions then the ritualist too.

  381. Matthew–

    We would say that the teachings of Jesus, the 12 Apostles, and Paul are and were authoritative. Scripture is simply this body of teaching written down and thus codified. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere of Jesus or his Apostles teaching anything incompatible with Scripture or even in addition to Scripture content-wise.

  382. David–

    I wrote lengthier reply, but unfortunately it disappeared when my smart phone powered down. Such is life.

    Any “church” is a company of adherents to a set of theological beliefs. If you untether that particular tie between hierarchy and rule of faith, you are left with a contentless framework. Believers must believe in SOMETHING. Identifying a rule of faith with a body of believers makes absolutely no sense to me. I have no clue what you’re saying.

  383. David (responding to #352)

    You are correct, of course. I meant Kruger. (My life has centered of late around my toddlers’ pink eye, high fevers, and ear infections. Fun times!)

    I was correct, however, in maintaining that that was NOT Kruger’s only argument.

    You appear to be easily puzzled. I was generalizing about Jewish history in overview. Yes, Ancient Israel was instructed by living prophets, but they came in various stripes, both false and true. True prophets not only successfully predicted the future, but also maintained basic theological fidelity (Deuteronomy 13, for example).

    There simply was no infallible interpretive authority, and there still is not to this day. It is strictly up to the individual believer to decide things. No one has ever adjudicated between the Houses of Hillel and Shammai, between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, or between the Orthodox and the Reform. Yes, Hillel and the Pharisees won out over time, but not through “excommunication” or heresy trials.

    And talk about differences in canon! The Sadducees acknowledged no inspired books beyond the Torah. I have always considered the canon to be one of Christendom’s shining miracles of unity. (We’re not talking Marcion or Thomas Jefferson here!) Protestants accept 100% of the Catholic NT and 85% of the OT. Plus, one could include all of the Deuterocanonicals in the canon and the WCF wouldn’t need to change a single word, other than in the enumeration of biblical books!

  384. Dear Erik,

    You wrote about me, “You appear to be easily puzzled.”

    All day long, my friend. All day long.

    Then you said, “There simply was no infallible interpretive authority, and there still is not to this day. It is strictly up to the individual believer to decide things. No one has ever adjudicated between the Houses of Hillel and Shammai, between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, or between the Orthodox and the Reform. Yes, Hillel and the Pharisees won out over time, but not through “excommunication” or heresy trials.”

    This is a very, very good point. Judaism lacks any interpretive authority, with the result that it has no doctrinal or disciplinary unity. The only thing that unites Jews in the world today is their self-identification as Jews. There is absolutely no determinate content beyond that self-identification. Anything else proposed as the “essence” of Judaism is contradicted by some Jewish constituency somewhere. But, then again, the religion called Judaism does not possess divine authority. It is historically and theologically distinct from the tradition of Yahwist prophetism among the Hebrews (which did sometimes have divine authority). Furthermore, The religious tradition called Judaism was formed in the first century at least in part around the decision to reject the divine authority of Jesus. God gave the people of Judea a divine authority capable of settling these interminable theological debates. Some people flocked to that authority and became the Church. Others rejected it, an assimilated to the evolving tradition known as Judaism.

    The Jews had the law of Moses, that wholly insufficient rule which St. Paul rails against so eloquently. Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17) It is not through adherence to that Jewish standard that we will fulfill the Lord’s prayer in John 17. Instead, Christ appointed another means to bring unity to the people of God.

    To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church. (Eph. 3:8-10)

    -David

  385. Eric,

    Of course nothing Jesus and the Apostles taught is incompatible with scripture. Nothing the Catholic Church teaches is incompatible with scripture! lol. If I thought that, I wouldn’t be Catholic. But you still didn’t address my anachronism charge.

    Also, John 20:30 and John 21:25 strongly indicate that there are things Jesus did “in addition to scripture content wise” and those things would be authoritative divine public revelation. The same is indicated by the apostles in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 John:12, 3 John:13-14, and probably others. There is absolutely no passage of scripture which says that all the teachings of Jesus and the apostles is to be found in the scriptures.

    Consider this: Acts 4:8 refers to Peter as “filled with the Holy Spirit” when he speaks before the Sanhedrin. What he spoke is a divine and public revelation. This was the case long before Luke recorded his speech decades later! Peter’s speech did not become inspired by the Holy Spirit when Luke decided to include it in Acts. This shows that at the time Peter spoke to the Sanhedrin, Sola Scriptura was not the function of the church because Peter gave divine public revelation that was outside of the scriptures for several decades. There are numerous other examples of this.

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  386. Erik,

    You wrote:

    I wrote lengthier reply, but unfortunately it disappeared when my smart phone powered down. Such is life.

    Any “church” is a company of adherents to a set of theological beliefs. If you untether that particular tie between hierarchy and rule of faith, you are left with a contentless framework. Believers must believe in SOMETHING. Identifying a rule of faith with a body of believers makes absolutely no sense to me. I have no clue what you’re saying.

    I think perhaps you misunderstand my use of the phrase “rule of faith.” I am not using the term to refer to the body of beliefs held by the christian faithful. Rather, I am using the term to mean that authority established by Christ which defines the content of that body of beliefs. According to Westminster, God entrusted that task to a book. According to the Catholic tradition, God entrusts that task to a a living society. If you want to know what the Christian faith is, you look to the teaching of the Catholic Church in her organs of infallibility: the pope, the councils, the ordinary and universal magisterium of Catholic tradition, to the sensus fidelium in union with the magisterium.

    So, to respond to you question, what Believers believe is the deposit of faith – all those truths revealed and defined by divine authority.

    A good summary statement of that deposit of faith can be found in the Nicene Creed. A more extensive treatment can be found in the catechism of the Catholic Church.

    -David

  387. David–

    I don’t think I misunderstood. I merely disagreed that such a definition was even possible.

    According to liberal judicial theory, the Constitution of the U.S. is a “living” document which can change along with changing times. Decisions which the Supreme Court makes are authoritative despite their dubious relationship to the supposedly authoritative founding document.

    For most people, that is what a “living” magisterium would imply. Their authority is not derivative. They are not tied to a text.

    In fact, this was C. S. Lewis’ principal objection to Catholicism. Objecting to the dogma of papal infallibility, he observed:

    “The Catholic Church doesn’t offer a previously compiled list of doctrine for the inquirer to accept; it instead requires him to convert, pledging that he will believe any and all other new doctrines the Catholic Church might propose in the future.”

    Well, I think he fundamentally mistook Catholicism’s reliance on its “deposit of faith,” as you call it. It is an unchanging religion predicated on precedent. It is tied by the umbilical to its version of Sacred Revelation (written and spoken).

    In other words, its “rule of faith” cannot be the magisterium without reference to the “deposit of faith” to which it is tied as infallible interpreter. Your “rule of faith,” then, is the “deposit of faith” circumscribed by the interpretive parameters of the magisteria throughout the history of the church.

    And after two centuries, virtually nothing of importance is left to be decided upon. You have a “paper pope” just like us. The CCC performs the same role as the WCF.

  388. David–

    You admit that Judaism had no infallible interpretive authority, and yet you have provided no biblical passages describing the church (in general) as a newly assumed interpretive power, let alone the church in its hierarchical/visible sense AS OPPOSED TO its spiritual/invisible sense. Methinks you have your work cut out for you!

  389. Matthew–

    Yes, both Jesus and his disciples taught things which were not inscripturated. Now, quote a few of these to me vebatim, if you’re not afraid. Or show me a single biblical passage that indicates any of these spoken instructions added one iota of content to the Apostles’ overall gospel presentation. One can, you realize, speak and write what is basically the exact same message!

  390. Matthew–

    Very little that Rome teaches directly conflicts with Scripture…though there ARE a few things: bishops being the husband of one wife, for example, and the 1442 abrogation of the Apostolic prohibition on the eating of blood and strangled meat (which the East still observes). **

    What does happen, however, are multiple significant additions to Scripture: papal primacy and infallibility, purgatory, Mary’s sinlessness, her assumption into heaven, and her worthiness for hyperdulia. We are quite strictly cautioned NOT to add to the biblical texts and NOT to go “beyond what is written.” [1 Corinthians 4:6] Besides, idolatry is not cool. Look what happened to OT believers who decided to test the Most High on this issue: zapped!

    A few RC traditions are incompatible with known Apostolic teachings handed on orally. For example, prominent scholars (Lutheran Joachim Jeremias, Catholic Louis Bouyer, and Orthodox Alexander Schmemann) agree with St. Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John, that Rome got it wrong concerning the official early church date for the celebration of Easter. The Quartodecimans were right!

    ** Protestants join you in this abrogation, so we’re no better. Baptists, who ironically emphasize literalism, change wine into grape juice, reversing Christ’s miracle. Albert Mohler agrees with this assessment but maintains the flagship SBC seminary’s policy against alcohol consumption for “practical reasons.”

  391. Erik,

    You wrote, “I don’t think I misunderstood. I merely disagreed that such a definition was even possible.”

    To make sure I understand your objection, are you saying that God cannot entrust the task of preaching and teaching the faith to a group of men and to guarantee by his divine power that they do so faithfully? If that is your objection, why do you think God cannot entrust the transmission of the faith to men, or why do you think that God could not preserve the integrity of their teaching?

    You wrote:

    In other words, its “rule of faith” cannot be the magisterium without reference to the “deposit of faith” to which it is tied as infallible interpreter. Your “rule of faith,” then, is the “deposit of faith” circumscribed by the interpretive parameters of the magisteria throughout the history of the church.

    That’s not what I mean by the term “Rule of faith,” so please don’t attack a straw man. When I claim that the Church is the rule of faith what I mean is that God entrusted the task of handing on the deposit of faith to authorized individuals and that he guaranteed the integrity of what they teach. I am talking about the authority to define what is or is not part of the deposit of faith. I’m not talking about the deposit of faith itself. These things are conceptually distinct, even if connected.

    I don’t think you are correct when you says there is nothing of importance that might require the intervention of the Church’s magisterium. JP2’s letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis is an outstanding example of why the Magisterium is necessary, even when the doctrine in question is clearly taught in Scripture and sacred tradition. As long as their are sophists willing and able to distort the deposit of faith, there will be need for a magisterium competent to give authoritative refutation to their errors.

    Finally, the CCC does not perform the same role as the WCF nor does it possess the same kind of authority within the respective traditions. Westminster, as I understand it, presents itself as a faithful representation of the teaching of Scripture and its authority is subject to the individual conscience comparing and contrasting its statements with that of Scripture. At best, if provides a rough rallying point for people who share a relatively stable interpretation of Scripture.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church was, by contrast, promulgated by the teaching authority of the Church and the individual Catholic is not held to be competent to dissent from its teaching on the basis of a private interpretation either of Scripture or of tradition. The doctrines of the catechism vary in terms of their weight and authority. Some of its teachings require the assent of faith, others the religious submission of intellect and will. One cannot reject the catechism in its entirety without severing himself from the Catholic faith.

    -David

  392. Eric,

    You said:

    “Yes, both Jesus and his disciples taught things which were not inscripturated. Now, quote a few of these to me vebatim, if you’re not afraid. Or show me a single biblical passage that indicates any of these spoken instructions added one iota of content to the Apostles’ overall gospel presentation. One can, you realize, speak and write what is basically the exact same message!”

    That’s actually a red herring. I have no need to give you verbatim quotes of Jesus or the Apostles outside of scripture because not being able to do so does not weaken my case. The fact is that during the period of time between Jesus’s ascension into heaven and the writing of the first book of the New Testament (really until the close of the New Testament) there were divine and public revelations being given outside of scripture. Therefore, scripture was not formally sufficient as a rule of faith at that time and therefore, sola scriptura was false and Jesus and the Apostles could not have taught it without being incorrect. Since Jesus and the Apostles have to be correct in their teaching, Sola Scriptura could not have been taught be Jesus or the Apostles and is therefore an invented doctrine outside of the deposit of faith.

    You also said:

    “Very little that Rome teaches directly conflicts with Scripture…though there ARE a few things: bishops being the husband of one wife, for example, and the 1442 abrogation of the Apostolic prohibition on the eating of blood and strangled meat (which the East still observes). **

    What does happen, however, are multiple significant additions to Scripture: papal primacy and infallibility, purgatory, Mary’s sinlessness, her assumption into heaven, and her worthiness for hyperdulia. We are quite strictly cautioned NOT to add to the biblical texts and NOT to go “beyond what is written.” [1 Corinthians 4:6] Besides, idolatry is not cool. Look what happened to OT believers who decided to test the Most High on this issue: zapped!

    A few RC traditions are incompatible with known Apostolic teachings handed on orally. For example, prominent scholars (Lutheran Joachim Jeremias, Catholic Louis Bouyer, and Orthodox Alexander Schmemann) agree with St. Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John, that Rome got it wrong concerning the official early church date for the celebration of Easter. The Quartodecimans were right!”

    Many of these things are side issues and I don’t want to lose focus but I will briefly address some of these concerns. First of all, I do believe there are scriptural supports for papal primacy and infallibility, purgatory, Mary’s sinlessness, her assumption into heaven, and her worthiness for hyperdulia. Each of those could use it’s own thread though lol. Speaking of which as a side comment, I would love to see a dedicated article on C2C related to mariology which is an important discussion for communion to be reached with our separated brethren. As far as the Quartodeciman controversy goes, this was not a dispute over doctrine or even dicipline, but custom. There is a good case to be made that the Apostles had different customs on this matter and that the west followed after Peter and Paul while the east followed after John. Either way, this dispute was not over doctrine and Ireneaus elaborates more on the issue.

    However, I will address the use of 1 Corinthians 4:6. First of all, this still falls under my anachronism charge that whatever Paul is teaching here, he cannot be teaching sola scriptura. 1 Corinthians was one of the first books of the New Testament ever written (around AD 51 I think). Unless you want to hold that Paul is teaching the formal sufficiency of scripture from AD 51 and prior (which would exclude most of the New Testament cannon), he cannot be teaching sola scriptura. It seems to me to be more of a “keep it simple stupid” message for the Corinthians (and for us) who were being factious. The phrase “not to go beyond what is written” looks like some kind of idiom and may in fact be a gloss that does not belong to the original text (I’m not so sure about that though). Also, Paul may be (like in 2 Timothy) referring only to the Old Testament books as well as that is what would have been considered as “written” at the time. And not to harp on this too much but I believe that there are also more textual variances in that verse than in any other verse of the New Testament.

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  393. Erik (re: #390)

    We are quite strictly cautioned NOT to add to the biblical texts and NOT to go “beyond what is written.” [1 Corinthians 4:6]

    I have discussed this passage in three places here: (1) here in 2010, (2) then in comment #69 of the Atonement thread in April of 2012, and then here in June of 2012. If you interpret this verse in a way that is not in keeping with the Tradition, you beg the very question under discussion.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  394. Bryan–

    There is little doubt that Protestant employment of the verse is a tad too cavalier, given its inherent textual difficulties. Anglican theologian Anthony Thistelton spends 8 or 9 pages just on this verse, concluding that, beyond the immediate Pauline citations you mention, it may well refer to the OT in general, as well as the emerging concept of NT canonicity. So, Protestants may not be that far off the track even if we do pin too many hopes on the passage, as it were.

    J. N. D. Kelly emphasizes the Apostolic Fathers’ use of the whole “deposit of faith” in their defense against the Gnostics. According to him, this foe’s great proclivity for twisting the written revelation of Scripture made orally transmitted teachings a fertile resource for apologetics. These teachings tended to be simpler, more straightforward, less ambiguous…in other words, far more difficult to twist. Nevertheless, in general, the very early fathers actually made very little distinction between spoken and written varieties of Apostolic testimony, seeing them as almost completely coincident contentwise.

    Only later would theologians such as St. Augustine write of Tradition AS OPPOSED TO Scripture (i.e., as supplementing one another). Before that, to talk of Holy Writ AND Sacred Tradition would have been more or less functionally redundant (as it probably is in 2 Thessalonians 2:15). Kind of like telling students to review both the required text (written by the professor himself) AND their class notes covering his lectures. After all, it’s only prudent.

  395. Matthew–

    Unfortunately, as far as I can see, agreement will never–indeed, can never–be reached on Mary. There is simply no common ground. One side or the other, must either capitulate or die out. (I vote for Rome, just so we’re clear. :) )

    In truth, I believe it to be the principal stumbling block to reconciliation.

  396. Erik,

    You wrote:

    Only later would theologians such as St. Augustine write of Tradition AS OPPOSED TO Scripture (i.e., as supplementing one another). Before that, to talk of Holy Writ AND Sacred Tradition would have been more or less functionally redundant

    In 1 Corinthians 11, St. Paul discusses the liturgy as something received from the Lord and handed on (paradoka) to the Corinthians Church. It is the paradigm case of tradition. He includes liturgical rubrics drawn from common custom (vs. 16), and indicates that their catholicity is a sign of their normativity. He also indicates that further rubrics not included in the text of his letter are forthcoming (verse 34).

    So, in this text, we have

    1) Awareness of the liturgy as a tradition (paradosis) received from Christ and handed on to the faithful,
    2) Specific mention of unwritten rubrics to be delivered later,
    3) the principle of catholicity (as opposed to Scriptural canonicity) as a liturgical norm.

    Paul gives no indication whatsoever that the Corinthians are to derive liturgical norms from a single authoritative text or even a collection of texts.

    So, I don’t think contrasting Scripture and tradition in this context would be redundant. It would be anachronistic. Augustine didn’t introduce the idea of tradition as something distinct from Scripture. If anything, the fourth century fathers introduce the idea of Scripture as something distinct from tradition. Tradition is the original norm. Scripture-as-a-completed-canon-of-old-and-new-testaments only emerges as a norm as that canon takes shape, a process that presupposes the normativity of tradition and the episcopacy.

    -David

  397. Erik said – Unfortunately, as far as I can see, agreement will never–indeed, can never–be reached on Mary. There is simply no common ground. One side or the other, must either capitulate or die out. (I vote for Rome, just so we’re clear. :) )

    In truth, I believe it to be the principal stumbling block to reconciliation.

    Me – it’s seems to me Mary is the symptom but the Church’s authority is the cause. If one accepts the authority, then then the remaining stumbling blocks become bumps that eventually can be embraced.

  398. Erik,

    It’s always baffled me on just how big of a stumbling block the Catholic Doctrines on Mary and Catholic devotional practice concerning Mary are for protestants. But that is a discussion I would love to have on another thread lol. I would still like to see you interact with my charge of anachronism against sola scriptura.

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  399. Erik (re: #394)

    Insofar as your use of 1 Cor. 4:6 denies the truth of the distinction between the written and unwritten Tradition, it begs the question against the Catholic Church. I’ve briefly addressed the basis for that distinction in “VIII. Scripture and Tradition.” See, there, for example, St. Irenaeus’s explicit distinction between Scripture and Tradition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  400. Bryan–

    Thiselton’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 4:6 doesn’t directly speak to the concept of an unwritten tradition though indirectly it is consonant with Kelly’s observation that unwritten tradition was more or less coincident with written tradition (in which case, one need not transgress either in obeying the parameters of either).

    From what I can pick up, neither Irenaeus nor Trent nor Vatican I, portray the two modes of transmission of Apostolic testimony as either supplementary or in any sense contradictory to one another. These quotes are all compatible with their being corroborative of one another.

    Athanasius speaks of the “actual original tradition, teaching, and faith of the Universal Church which the Lord bestowed, the Apostles proclaimed, and the Fathers safeguarded.” This infers the existence of a static, unchanging revelation which may be clarified but never added to. Apostolic tradition should be just that: Apostolic…and in no sense magisterial. (This is not the sort of ongoing and progressive revelation to the church that the Mormons endorse!)

    More than likely, whatever is not there (in at least incipient form) in the Apostolic Fathers was not there in the Apostolic tradition.

  401. CK–

    To my mind the Catholic Mary is a symptom of Rome’s arrogant intransigence: of its not commanding my respect, of its not being worthy of my submission to its (supposed) authority. The two go hand in hand. If the church’s truth is true, it cannot hide behind a cloak of infallibility. Parents often remind their youngsters to obey simply “because we said so.” Older children reasonably demand an explanation. Luther asked to be convinced by reason and Scripture. In petulantly denying his request, the Church showed itself to be undeserving of any (allegedly) God-given charism. Both humility and an honest reliance on the Almighty require a willingness to be held accountable. It’s what genuine leadership would necessarily display.

  402. David–

    I should have made myself clear. I believe that “tradition” in terms of wearing a chasuble, in addition to a simple cassock, is an entirely different conversation. I’ve been discussing the Apostolic transmission of doctrine: christology, soteriology, theology proper, sacramentology. Those things.

  403. Erik,

    I never mentioned the chausible, so this objection attacks a straw man. I am also discussing the transmission of doctrine. Eucharistic theology is a matter of doctrine. But the fact is, the deposit of faith is not restricted to matters of abstract or dogmatic theology, but includes matters of cult and moral theology. (John 4:23) As you know, St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians interweaves these questions in his treatment of the Church’s liturgy. In each case, his appeal is to the normative practice, interpreted in light of the tradition received from Christ. To his mind, the church’s cult is relevant to such disparate matters as what you buy at the grocery store, contracting with prostitutes, church factions and discipline, and eschatology (to name a few). Paul knows nothing about a normative text that supplies final and sufficient rulings on these things. He appeals instead to tradition and contemporary practice.

    -David

  404. Eric,

    From our perspective, Luther was the petulant one. He forgot that we are called to be like children as Christ said. The Church is our Mother and we are bound to listen to her. Jesus said to become like a child. I am happy to submit to the authority of the church He established. Also, Luther’s issues didn’t really have anything to do with Mary. And you still have not yet interracted with my charge of anachronism.

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  405. David–

    Sorry, just me being fancy. I was employing “chasuble” as an example of a class of tradition I wanted excluded from the conversation for the time being. I didn’t mean for you to take me literally. I simply believe that liturgies and rubrics and rituals and accoutrements and observances (and the like) deserve their own discussion. Yes, at times they overlap with sacramentology, but it’s difficult to draw the line. Besides, at other times they overlap with mundane incidentals of worship, such as chair arrangements and service times. You certainly did not explicitly mention the Eucharist or any other sacrament. Feel free to give me any direct evidence of their involvement.

    In terms of the biblical text not being considered normative/exhaustive/sufficient, this would apply just as well to Apostolic tradition, which would of necessity be finite in scope. It couldn’t possibly cover every contingency, except in a general sense, but then, such can also be said of Scripture. (Besides, a number of early fathers rather pointedly describe the written Word of God as “sufficient.”)

  406. Hi Erik,

    Paul’s discussion of tradition in 1 Corinthians 11:23 is explicitly eucharistic. His discussion of food in 8 and 10 is also explicitly eucharistic. His discussion of moral theology in 6 presupposes his baptismal theology (expressed in Romans 6 and Galatians 3, among other places).

    But I don’t know why we should exclude rubrics from a discussion of the sufficiency of Scripture and the principle of tradition. The reformed tradition has, at times, clearly affirmed its adherence to the “regulative principle.” Whether or not there are liturgical rubrics known from tradition seems very on point.

    Finally, I agree that tradition alone cannot “possibly cover every contingency.” This helps explain the Catholic triad – scripture, tradition, magisterium.

    -David

  407. David–

    There is no indication that the 1 Corinthians 11:2 mention of tradition carries on through to verse 23, nor that Paul is discussing oral tradition in chapters 6, 8, or 10.

    Furthermore, 11:16 probably says little if anything about catholicity. According to Thiselton (and Chrysostom and Calvin, for what it’s worth), the custom practiced “in all the churches of God” is NOT headcovering itself, but instead, the lack of a contentious attitude about such topics. (Besides, the Greek text literally says the same thing.)

    Where do you get the impression that the Lord is impressed by “correct” rubrics?

    “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”

    Ostensibly accurate rubrics can and often do leave the heart of God untouched.

    After all, aren’t historical events–such as the Russian Orthodox “Raskol” (schism fomented over whether the sign of the cross should be made with two or three fingers) and the Anglican squabble over the prayer book’s “Black Rubric”–scandals of the first order?

    Quite honestly, I don’t give a fig about the whole fight over normative vs. regulative principles of worship, nor the contemporary vs. traditional “worship wars.” If you want to be contentious about such things, knock yourself out, but the churches of God have no such practice. Adiaphora is adiaphora.

    It is looking more and more to me that Rome employs a four-legged hermeneutical stool: doctrinal authority stems not only from Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, but from magisterial interpretive infallibility and the magisterial reception of ongoing revelation.

    The current meticulous Catholic liturgy could not possibly harken back to Apostolic times. Descriptions of Eucharistic observances in the Didache and in Justin Martyr, for example, reveal a far more inchoate and informal practice, with a “preside-ent” distributing the elements.

    And, as I keep hammering home, most Marian dogmas don’t even appear in the first couple hundred years. Since “innovation” is ruled out, all that can be going on is ongoing revelation. The Spirit leading the RC hierarchy into all truth: step by step, generation by generation.

    (By the by, the “catholic” custom of women’s headcoverings, covered in 1 Corinthians 11, is no longer officially required–and, for the most part, not practiced–in RC churches, at least not here in the U.S.)

  408. Erick,

    There is no indication that the 1 Corinthians 11:2 mention of tradition carries on through to verse 23, nor that Paul is discussing oral tradition in chapters 6, 8, or 10.

    But verse 23 refers specifically to what Paul received from the Lord and then handed on to the Corinthians. That is precisely what tradition means.

    Chapter 7 distinguishes clearly between the tradition Paul received from the Lord regarding marriage and the instruction he gives as an apostle.
    Chapters 6, 8, and 10 reason from points of sacramental theology to direct moral implications. My reason for making the point is that Paul understands the liturgy itself to be a form of proclamation (11:26) from which dogmatic conclusions can be drawn. We see Paul reasoning to conclusions about sexual morality from baptismal theology, to rules about eating, drinking, and schism from eucharistic theology. He doesn’t appeal to the Lord’s words, but to the meaning embedded in rituals instituted by the Lord. That meaning is, itself, another evidence of something the Church means by tradition. We find an unwritten consensus about what these ritual acts mean, how they’ve always been understood, even though there is no direct textual evidence from Christ’s own words.

    The points you make about Rubrics are very apt. As Catholics, we are able to adjudicate such things because we have an authority competent to legislate these questions.

    Considering whether or not the “meticulous Catholic liturgy” could hearken back to apostolic times – no one claims that every prayer or gesture currently in use is of apostolic provenance. But for a robust defense of the apostolic origins of the mass, you might consider Fortescue’s book.

    The apostolic origin of Marian dogma is beyond the Scope of this article and is, quite frankly, irrelevant to my thesis: the catholic dogma of religious authority is grounded in the data of revelation; the protestant doctrine of authority is grounded in the appeal to subjective experience. Whether or not the Catholic magisterium has faithfully fulfilled the task entrusted to it is obviously a very important question, but not the one I was addressing in the article.

    -David

  409. David–

    Our dispute is not over whether the Apostles transmitted tradition orally. Furthermore, it is not over whether some of these traditions would be, by varying degree, authoritative (either temporarily or permanently).

    It is more over whether these traditions would ever go “beyond what is written” in terms of the trajectory of biblical theology. More precisely, it is over what it means for a teaching to be derived “by good and necessary consequence” from Scripture. (Catholics consistently proclaim that even such doctrines as papal primacy and Marian immaculacy are backed up by the written Word.)

    Did the church catholic get the high christology of Ephesus right, only to get the resulting high marianology wrong?

    In the document on the topic of Mary produced by Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), the Evangelical contingent observed the following:

    “Our different perspectives on Mary stem, in part, from our differing understandings of the Church and its teaching authority. Both require ­further elaboration. More attention must also be given to the development of doctrine in the history of the Church. Evangelicals need to explain how we can accept the doctrine of the Trinity and the Person of Christ developed in the early Church while not embracing some later developments. We ask further explanation from Catholics on how doctrinal deviation is checked and on how genuine reformation of dogma can take place.”

    In other words, Evangelicals admit how difficult it is to sort out where the church has stayed the course and where she has strayed. They are adamantly unanimous, however, that the Roman version does not appear to have been completely indefectible, even in core teachings. Either Rome finds a way (at least in theory) to reform purportedly irreformable dogmas, or no unity will ever be possible. **

    Both sides believe in Semper Reformanda, in constantly returning to the teachings of Christ in letter and in spirit. But they disagree as to what this entails. For the Catholic, much of what has been derived from Scripture (or derived from Apostolic Tradition), though not unambiguously discernible in Scripture, is still sacrosanct and cannot be questioned, cannot be reformed. For Protestants, only that which is unambiguously discernible is beyond questioning.

    High marianology, part of the Roman Catholic DNA, is detectable neither in Scripture nor in the Apostolic Fathers. This needs to be factored in in determining WHICH church, if any, was commissioned by Christ. You, David, cannot demonstrate that the Church of Rome is the valid continuation of the Apostolic Church…or just one of many contestants for hegemony, the one who finally won out.

    ** Genuine ecumenical dialogue requires one to acknowledge that your side may be wrong and that the other side may be right on whatever particular point of theology is being discussed.

  410. Hi Erik,

    The thesis of the article is that the Protestant doctrine of religious authority (i.e., God intends these 66 books to be the Church’s final authority for faith and practice) is not grounded in the objective data of revelation, but is rather an inference from religious experience and/or the presupposition of the divine inspiration of the canonical books.

    I also argue that the Catholic doctrine of religious authority at least purports to reason from the data of revelation rather than from interior experience.

    So, the dispute is about more than whether Catholic dogma can or ought be derived from Scripture. It is also (and primarily) a dispute about theological first principles and whether or not purely interior, subjective experience supplies sufficient warrant for public claims about normative religion.

    -David

  411. Eric,

    As David and I have pointed out, you are still failing to interact with the argument against Sola Scriptura on the basis of it’s being an anachronism in the Apostolic Age. Complaining about Catholic teaching on Mary does nothing to prove Sola Scriptura or demonstrates how my argument that Sola Scriptura is anachronistic fails.

    You quoted the evangelical half of the ECT as saying “We ask further explanation from Catholics on how doctrinal deviation is checked and on how genuine reformation of dogma can take place.” The answer is actually contained within the question. Doctrinal deviation is checked specifically because the dogmas of the Church cannot be reformed. There is no “reforming” the dogma of the Trinity. There is no “reforming” the dogma of the two natures of Christ. There is no “reforming” the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The only questions left are, “are these things true?” and “does the Church have this authority?” If the Catholic Church is the Church instituted by Christ and given the Divine Authority to speak in His name, then you along with everyone else should be Catholic and believe all that the Catholic Church proclaims and professes. If not, then no one should. This article and thread however is not about the Catholic Church’s claims to authority. It’s about Sola Scriptura. You don’t defend it by attacking the Catholic Church.

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  412. Hi David,

    I still think we are in the same boat. Our respective rules of faith are secondary rules compared to the primary rule of God’s revelation. In this sense my primary rule is identified in Matt. 4:4. If the tables were turned, you would need to show the teaching church is intended by God to be the final authority (secondary) for the whole church. It seems the sources of revelation must be included as secondary.

    Protestants have a number problem just like you. You would need to ground two sources of revelation in the objective data of revelation. Anyone who thinks Scripture has material sufficiency could limit their search to 66 books (unless the disputed books are required for the grounding process).

    Keep in mind that this data of revelation may not include post-apostolic church teaching. If I’m wrong, and this teaching can be included, then we may need to revisit my comment on canon accounting as a theological conclusion.

  413. David–

    Sure, but my point is that the Roman hierarchy of authority is not truthfully grounded in objective data either. If one accepts that fact, then what alternative does one have? If one does not have a charism of infallibility to rely on, what is left other than Sola Scriptura or something similar?

    Besides, isn’t it kind of silly to suggest that all historical truth claims are based on purely subjective evaluations? After all, what other facets of historical interpretation are backed by charisms of infallibility? Are you a cynic when it comes to what we can know concerning history? Are you doubtful when it comes to the existence of any particular historical personage before, say, George Washington? Do you truly believe that any branch of history involving philosophy, literature, and religion (i.e., the history of thought) is an exercise in futility? (“Everybody and his brother has an opinion. With 30,000 different interpretations out there and counting, we just cannot say anything objective about thus and so.”)

  414. Erik (re: #409)

    It is more over whether these traditions would ever go “beyond what is written” in terms of the trajectory of biblical theology. More precisely, it is over what it means for a teaching to be derived “by good and necessary consequence” from Scripture. (Catholics consistently proclaim that even such doctrines as papal primacy and Marian immaculacy are backed up by the written Word.)

    Not only does this beg the question regarding the oral tradition, it also presumes a false dilemma regarding the development of doctrine, namely, that development is either by logical deduction, or by progressive revelation. I’ve explained the alternative in the comment thread under “The Commonitory of St. Vincent of Lérins,” and in comments #211 – #218 under the Tu Quoque post.

    In other words, Evangelicals admit how difficult it is to sort out where the church has stayed the course and where she has strayed.

    And since (as I argued in the last paragraph of “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?“) the burden of proof is on those who would claim that the Church has strayed, the onus is on the Evangelical to show that the Catholic doctrine in question is not an authentic development.

    They are adamantly unanimous, however, that the Roman version does not appear to have been completely indefectible, even in core teachings. Either Rome finds a way (at least in theory) to reform purportedly irreformable dogmas, or no unity will ever be possible.

    Unanimity of a group on doctrine x, when membership in that group is determined at least in part by their agreement on doctrine x, is evidentially worthless, as I explained in my reply to Mark Galli of Christianity Today, and in my reply to Carl Trueman in the last paragraph of comment #89 of the Brad Gregory thread.

    Genuine ecumenical dialogue requires one to acknowledge that your side may be wrong and that the other side may be right on whatever particular point of theology is being discussed.

    On the question-begging character of this a priori stipulation, see comment #3 in the Virtue and Dialogue thread.

    In the document on the topic of Mary produced by Evangelicals and Catholics Together … (ECT)

    We have a post here at CTC devoted precisely to the discussion of this ECT statement. The post is titled “Underlying Disagreements in ECT Evangelicals’ Objections to the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  415. Bryan,

    membership in that group is determined at least in part by their agreement on doctrine x,

    But your membership in the RCC is determined at least in part by your agreement on the doctrine that Rome is the church Jesus founded. So that makes Rome’s unanimity on that point worthless?

  416. Erik,

    Thank you very much for your most recent message. You have put your finger precisely on a point I try to make in the article. You wrote:

    the Roman hierarchy of authority is not truthfully grounded in objective data either. If one accepts that fact, then what alternative does one have? If one does not have a charism of infallibility to rely on, what is left other than Sola Scriptura

    I believe that you have aptly restated Luther’s argument at Leipzig. Popes and councils err. That leaves us with Scripture only as an inspired, infallible teacher.

    This is the heart of the Protestant apology for Sola Scriptura, as I understand it. The Catholic argument for Magisterial authority is not credible. Scripture, by contrast, is both infallible and inspired (which I know by the Spirit’s witness). Scripture, therefore, is the only divine authority to which we can appeal for the resolution of religious conflict or as an infallible guide for life and faith. therefore, God must intend Scripture (the 66) as the Church’s rule of faith.

    What I have been at pains to point out is that the conclusion of this argument (God intends Scripture as the Church’s rule of faith) is a non-sequitur. Consider the premises:

    1. The Catholic Magisterium does not have divine authority.
    2. Scripture (the 66) does have divine authority.
    3. Therefore, God intends Scripture to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    The conclusion simply does not follow from the premises.

    Thus, the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not taught by divine authority, nor can it be demonstrated by logical necessity.

    As to your question, “Isn’t it silly to suggest that all historical truth claims are based on purely subjective evaluations?” I don’t think I’ve made that claim. What I have argued is that the Protestant insistence on the inspiration, infallibility, and regulative authority of the Bible is warranted (so the argument goes) by appeal to religious experience or to innate knowledge. I didn’t say all claims to knowledge were warranted this way, only the Protestant doctrine of religious authority.

    -David

  417. Eric,

    What provision (if any) did Christ make for the authoritative transmission and interpretation of the Christian faith? He did not indicate the Bible as that provision. Indeed, the Bible as we know it did not exist at the time of Christ’s ascension (and we have no revelation subsequent to that). Rather, Christ said to the 11, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Thus, he referenced his oral tradition (all that I have commanded you) and the authority of the apostles (till the end of the age). Part of that oral tradition was the liturgy, “do this in memory of me.”

    I grant to you that Christ considered the Old Testament Scriptures to be authoritative. That is not in dispute between us. We cannot do or teach anything contrary to the Scriptures. But Jesus never indicated that those Scriptures were to be the final authority for transmitting or interpreting the Christian faith.

    I hold that Jesus entrusted the transmission of the faith to authorized men, and that that delegation is part of recorded history.
    You hold that Jesus entrusted the transmission of the faith to a book that was unwritten and incomplete at the time of his ascension. You have produced no evidence in support of this position.

    So we are not in the same boat.

    The Protestant apology for Scripture traditionally understands these facts and tries to account for them by an appeal to religious experience or innate knowledge, and by assaulting the catholic claim for continuity with the Magisterium founded by Christ.

    If you think I have not properly characterized the nature of the debate, you will need to show where Christ entrusted the transmission and interpretation of the faith to the Bible. Merely citing texts in which Christ appeals to Scripture does not do this, for the authority of the Bible is not at issue between us. Only the nature of the Bible’s authority. And, you will need to show that Christ did not entrust the transmission and interpretation of the faith to authorized men, since that is my position.

    -David

  418. Robert:

    Bryan’s word “worthless” is not unqualified; he is talking about evidentiary value. A unity which only exists only as a consequence of previously excluding alternative views may have other value, but it cannot be used as an argument that their unanimously-held opinion must be true.

    Moreover, if you follow the links Bryan provided, you’ll see that he was claiming “evidentiary worthlessness” only for ad hoc unanimity. From comment 89 in the Brad Gregory post (linked by Bryan above) please note the following:

    There is, however, a principled difference between an ad hoc ‘consensus’ created when an unauthorized person selects as members of the set of persons among whom to find consensus only those persons who agree (or mostly agree) with himself or his interpretation, on the basis of their agreement with himself, and a consensus formed or maintained on the basis of submission to a teaching and interpretive authority in relation to which membership in the community is independently defined.

    So Bryan is not saying that unanimity of the kind created by the Catholic epistemology is worthless. It is a principled unity, in that persons first submit to the Apostolic Successors who are in communion with the Petrine Successor, and then wrestle with determining and assenting to what that Magisterium teaches. (Any of us who’ve “crossed the Tiber” can tell you: Some doctrines come easily; others, not so easily, but because you’re convinced that the ecclesiology is correct, you grit your teeth and work through it until comprehension dawns. That’s a principled submission, so the resulting unity is also principled.)

    If that kind of unanimity is the kind we should expect Christ’s church to have, then the fact that Catholic epistemology produces that kind of unanimity does have evidentiary value: It becomes one of the “motives of credibility.”

    But Bryan is saying that ad hoc unanimity is worthless as evidence of the rightness of that group’s position. So the question is: Is the Protestant unanimity in saying “Hey, those Catholics have got to be wrong, one way or another!” a principled unanimity or an ad hoc unanimity?

    Well, the first thing to notice is that, while Protestants are unified in saying that the Catholics are wrong, they are not unified in saying exactly what’s right. Some say it’s about ministerial priesthood; some about transubstantiation, some about Apostolic Succession, some about the distinction between episkopoi and presbyteroi, some about baptismal regeneration, some about the form or matter of baptism, some about various attributes of Mary, some about ordination of women, some about the permissibility of artificial contraceptives, and on, and on, and on. Moreover, the same group will sometimes agree with Catholics early on, then reject the Catholic view later (e.g. Protestants re: artificial contraception prior to 1930).

    So given that “Protestants” as a group are “those who’re protesting one thing or another about Catholic doctrine” and given that they don’t in fact agree with one another, but only agree that the Catholics must be wrong, even if we can’t agree on who’s right…well, that looks like a very ad hoc kind of unity. It looks more like organizational inertia (“If the Catholics are right after all, what happens to the organization or ministry in which I’ve invested so much time, and have so many friends?”) than a real confidence that a particular non-Catholic doctrine is true.

    As an illustration: Were the Catholic Church to suddenly vanish from earth in an extremely ironical twist on dispensational rapturism, the Protestants would NOT suddenly find themselves in unity. On the contrary: Their primary locus of unity would be gone. They would grasp for other unifying attributes (“we all believe in infant baptism” or “we all agree that bishops and elders are not distinct offices”) only to find Al Mohler or N.T. Wright raising objections! A lot of jostling would ensue. Because “the principle of unity is authority,” there is a sense in which the Petrine office, typologically fulfilling that of the Al Bayith (c.f. Isaiah 22), is a “tent-peg in a secure place, holding the tent [the household of faith] together.” It serves this role for the Catholics; but it even serves a similar unifying role for non-Catholics by covering over a multitude of differing opinions.

  419. David,

    I agree that the Apostles were a secondary rule of faith entrusted with Christ’s teaching. That’s easy to show from the data. Also, we agree that the Apostles appointed men in their day to keep the ball rolling. That data is still on your side. Authorities ? Yes Authorities for today ? No. They are dead and gone.

    In the post-apostolic times we find the so-called catholic doctrine of authority. You made a modest attempt to ground your received doctrine of authority in Christ’s teaching. If you limit your rule of faith to authorized men intended by Christ, then you made a very strong case. I even agree at some level. But why the narrow limit ? The two sources of revelation are next to this rule, and they function as co-equal rules.

    Here’s the stage where grounding becomes weak for both of us. This is the famous same boat. The same kind of explicit evidence offered for authorized men is not found when you wish to ground the two sources in Christ’s teaching. If it’s hard for you, then you can imagine how hard it is for me. In fact, I know it’s hard for me because my “merely citing texts” is an attempt to show the path from implicit to explicit.

  420. David,

    1. The Catholic Magisterium does not have divine authority.
    2. Scripture (the 66) does have divine authority.
    3. Therefore, God intends Scripture to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    But that’s not the argument. The Protestant argument is:

    1. God established a church that is to be governed by divine infallible authority.
    2. Scripture is the only source with divine infallible authority.
    3. Therefore, God intends Scripture to be the Church’s rule of faith.

  421. David,

    I hold that Jesus entrusted the transmission of the faith to authorized men, and that that delegation is part of recorded history.

    We agree with you on this.

    You hold that Jesus entrusted the transmission of the faith to a book that was unwritten and incomplete at the time of his ascension.

    This isn’t exactly right. We agree with the transmission of faith via delegated men. The question is whether those who follow those delegated men have the same kind of authority. Even Rome draws some kind of distinction between the Apostles and their immediate followers, or at least the RCs I know do. In fact, one RC apologist I know accepts that the Apostles’ successors are not inspired like the Apostles were.

    The Protestant position is that the rule of faith is the fixed Apostolic deposit. This deposit was taught by delegated men. But once taught, that’s it. It’s a fixed body of content. There’s no business of adding to it after the fact. It’s the actual words of the Apostles that are the deposit. Everything else that comes after that (bishop’s teaching, ecumenical councils, practices, etc.) may reflect the deposit accurately, but they are not part of the deposit.

  422. David,

    E.g., the word homoousios is not a part of the deposit of faith. Based on our sources, the Apostles never used such a term. It’s a good term to summarize the actual deposit—the words of John that “The Word was God,” for example—but it’s not the deposit. John’s words are.

  423. Robert,

    You said:

    “The Protestant argument is:

    1. God established a church that is to be governed by divine infallible authority.
    2. Scripture is the only source with divine infallible authority.
    3. Therefore, God intends Scripture to be the Church’s rule of faith.”

    The problem with this is that premise 2 is demonstrably false. Scripture was emphatically not the only source with divine infallible authority while Christ was on earth and likewise while the apostles were on earth. They had divine infallible authority. What they said and taught did not start out as fallible and then magically become infallible once what they said and taught was written down. To suggest otherwise is incredibly anachronistic which has been my point since comment #378.

    How can you claim that Scripture is the only source of divine authority when you know that there was a gap between Christ’s ascension and the writing of the first book of the New Testament? Was everyone just biting their nails until the apostles decided to start writing? God obviously established His church before the scriptural cannon was complete. Therefore, Scripture was not the only source with divine infallible authority during that time. The only thing Catholics say is that nothing has changed in this regard whereas the protestant claim is that somehow, something that neither Christ or the apostles could have possible taught (sola scriptura) is somehow supposed to be in force after the apostolic age.

    May God be with you.

    Matthew

  424. Hi Robert,

    The Conclusion is a non-sequitur.

    The premises establish that the Church needs a divine authority and that Scripture is a divine authority. It does not follow that Scripture is the particular divine authority appointed to the task.

    All humans need to breathe gasses.
    Carbon Monoxide is the only gas in the room.
    Therefore, humans need to breathe carbon monoxide.

    Premise two also begs the question against the Catholics.

    -David

  425. Robert,

    The Protestant position is that the rule of faith is the fixed Apostolic deposit.

    Jesus never said that the fixed apostolic deposit was to be the Church’s rule of faith. And he never indicated that any such deposit would be contained uniquely in the words of the Bible. Nor do the apostles teach any such thing. So, my criticism remains. The Protestant doctrine of religious authority is not derived from the objective data of revelation.

    -David

  426. Eric,

    I did not argue that the apostles were a secondary rule of faith. I said that the rule of faith is the apostolic teaching office. The successors to the apostles in the second century teach that that office is perpetuated in them. There is no evidence that second-century Christians reacted with consternation at this novelty, but that they accepted it as apostolic. They certainly did not contest the doctrine by appeal to the 66.
    -David

  427. David,

    Very well. You appeal to a second century teaching describing a teaching office as a rule, apostolic and perpetuated. Please ground that teaching in Christ’s teaching. I stress teaching. You can even throw in His explicit teaching of “office.” At the very least, you must show Christ explicitly commanding the Apostles to appoint men who are commanded to appoint men etc. I think anything less will expose the very narrow limits assigned to your rule. This comparison of respective rules is becoming more and more a comparison of apples and oranges. Fruit ? Yes, but you have other fruit to get a closer one-to-one comparison with our rule.

  428. Matthew,

    The problem with this is that premise 2 is demonstrably false. Scripture was emphatically not the only source with divine infallible authority while Christ was on earth and likewise while the apostles were on earth. They had divine infallible authority. What they said and taught did not start out as fallible and then magically become infallible once what they said and taught was written down. To suggest otherwise is incredibly anachronistic which has been my point since comment #378.

    I misstated the argument, assuming only the present situation. Let me try again:

    1. God established a church that is to be governed by divine infallible authority.
    2. This divine infallible authority is the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.
    2. Scripture is the only place today where we find the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.
    3. Therefore, God intends Scripture to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    How can you claim that Scripture is the only source of divine authority when you know that there was a gap between Christ’s ascension and the writing of the first book of the New Testament? Was everyone just biting their nails until the apostles decided to start writing? God obviously established His church before the scriptural cannon was complete. Therefore, Scripture was not the only source with divine infallible authority during that time.

    During that period, you had living Apostles who were organs of divine revelation.

    The only thing Catholics say is that nothing has changed in this regard whereas the protestant claim is that somehow, something that neither Christ or the apostles could have possible taught (sola scriptura) is somehow supposed to be in force after the apostolic age.

    The bolded point is incorrect. The Apostles all affirm the sufficiency of Scripture. Christ corrected oral tradition with Scripture. and on and on.

    And the RCC does say something has changed. The Magisterium, in theory, is not an organ of revelation.

  429. David,

    Jesus never said that the fixed apostolic deposit was to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    By definition, a rule is a fixed standard. And many, many RCs I have spoken to affirm that the fixed Apostolic deposit is the church’s rule of faith. Furthermore, if the Magisterium is bound by the deposit, which should not be objectionable to you, then the deposit stands above the Magisterium as a rule.

    Something like this can be found in the material sufficiency view of tradition, which if I am not mistaken is the majority position among modern RCs.

    And he never indicated that any such deposit would be contained uniquely in the words of the Bible.

    The burden of proof is on those who claim the words and example of Jesus can be found elsewhere. To my knowledge, Rome has not infallibly defined anything Jesus or the Apostles said or did that did not get written down. So maybe if we had some kind of canon of those words and teachings we could talk, but until then, since we both agree that the NT is Apostolic tradition, the burden of proof is on you to prove otherwise.

    Nor do the apostles teach any such thing. So, my criticism remains. The Protestant doctrine of religious authority is not derived from the objective data of revelation.

    There is a pattern throughout Scripture of written revelation following revelatory events such that the written revelation judges anything else that is claimed to be revelation. God revealed Himself to Israel, we get the Pentateuch as the covenant document. God spoke through the prophets, we get their words as the covenant document. Same with the NT regarding Christ and the Apostles.

    Jesus judges oral tradition claimed by the Jews according to Scripture. Paul extols the sufficiency of Scripture. The Apostles affirm that the church should not stray from their teaching. All of those point to Scripture as the infallible rule of faith. The Protestant position is not established by simple proof-texting, but that doesn’t mean that the position is not established by objective divine revelation.

    For the RC position to hold together and not finally be sola ecclesia, the fixed deposit must be the rule of faith. Otherwise, the rule of faith is whatever the current Magisterium says and, frankly, the Scripture and oral tradition become rather pointless.

  430. Robert,

    For the purposes of this discussion, when I use the term “Rule of faith” I mean “Christ’s provision for the authoritative transmission of the deposit of Christian faith.”
    So, for purposes of this discussion, the deposit of faith cannot be the rule of faith. The deposit of faith is what is conveyed by the rule of faith.

    So, for Westminster, Scripture is the rule of faith because it is Scripture that God has designated as the means of transmitting the deposit of faith.
    For the Catholic, the Rule of faith is the teaching Church because God authorized the teaching Church to transmit the deposit of faith.

    You wrote:

    There is a pattern throughout Scripture of written revelation following revelatory events such that the written revelation judges anything else that is claimed to be revelation

    I don’t see this pattern in Scripture. Rather, I see a pattern of written revelation being misappropriated and God raising up prophets to correct the superstitious religion derived from that written revelation. I see a pattern of God promising to supersede written revelation, and to carve the truth on men’s hearts by the holy spirit, conveyed by sacramental mysteries. I see a pattern of Jesus and Paul moving far beyond the literal sense of the Old Testament, and reinterpreting it in surprising ways, abrogating ritual commands, and conveying that teaching by personal commission.

    But, the question of “patterns in scripture” is largely irrelevant unless we assume that God wants us to determine the content of Christina faith by means of discovering such patterns and treating them as normative for Christian faith. Which begs the question, of course, against those who deny that God wants any such thing.

    -David

  431. Eric,

    At the very least, you must show Christ explicitly commanding the Apostles to appoint men who are commanded to appoint men etc.

    Such is the explicit teaching of sacred tradition, which is also a bearer of divine revelation. The mind of the second century Church accurately reflects the mind of Christ.

    If, however, the second century church cannot be trusted to convey divine revelation by way of tradition, it cannot be trusted to have conveyed even the Scriptures, which are also part of sacred tradition. But, Christ promised to accompany the apostolic transmission of the faith to the end of the age, promised it would be “bound in heaven as on earth,” promised the gates of hell would not prevail, etc. Christ established apostolic authority with the utmost clarity, “As the Father sends me, so I send you.” And, the apostles themselves testify to their consciousness of this divine commission not only in teaching and ruling, but in commissioning and sending with the laying on of hands. Sacred Scripture establishes not only the principle of tradition and apostolic authority, but also witnesses to the birth of second generation Christian leadership, which leadership also evidences knowledge of that divine commission.

    –David

  432. David,

    For the purposes of this discussion, when I use the term “Rule of faith” I mean “Christ’s provision for the authoritative transmission of the deposit of Christian faith.”
    So, for purposes of this discussion, the deposit of faith cannot be the rule of faith. The deposit of faith is what is conveyed by the rule of faith.

    But if you are going to critique the Protestant position, you need to display it more accurately. In Reformed thought, the rule and deposit are identical. That makes a big difference if you are to say that its not based on the objective data of revelation. If in fact the deposit and rule are identical according to the Apostles, then there’s tons of objective data in favor of sola Scriptura.

    So, for Westminster, Scripture is the rule of faith because it is Scripture that God has designated as the means of transmitting the deposit of faith.
    For the Catholic, the Rule of faith is the teaching Church because God authorized the teaching Church to transmit the deposit of faith.

    Sure Scripture transmits the deposit of faith. But Westminster also says Scripture is the deposit of faith.

    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

    The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.

    The bolded portions of the WCF quotes is “deposit of faith” language. The deposit of faith is divinely inspired. The church appeals finally to it. Scripture is everything we need to know for salvation. All of that is deposit of faith stuff.

    In ordinary ways of speaking, we always distinguish between a rule and interpreter because those are different things. What’s the “rule of faith” for the U.S. It’s supposed to be the U.S. Constitution. It’s a fixed document to which the Supreme Court refers. The Supreme Court in theory applies the rule to new situations, but it isn’t the rule itself. You have the “rule of faith” being the deposit, namely, the founding document (s) and the interpreter and applier of that rule being the courts.

    WCF’s contention is that Scripture is the rule of faith because it is the deposit of faith. By making the Magisterium the rule of faith, you are illegitimately conflating the Magisterium with the deposit itself, which Scripture never does and I’m not exactly sure that Rome does formally, even if it does so in practice.

  433. David,

    If, however, the second century church cannot be trusted to convey divine revelation by way of tradition, it cannot be trusted to have conveyed even the Scriptures, which are also part of sacred tradition.

    1. There is not unanimity among the second-century church as to what is divine revelation and what isn’t, so that presents a problem for your view as well. Rome solves that problem by saying, in essence, “we trust what the church has conveyed as sacred tradition based on what we say is the consensus of the fathers.”
    2. The church’s witness is only one evidential line pointing to Scripture, so your point doesn’t follow. If it were the only witness to Scripture, your point would have more validity.
    3. This all-or-nothing approach isn’t consistent with Rome, which freely rejects the second century church at points. Nobody is teaching Irenaeus’ view of the age of Jesus.

  434. Robert,

    You restated your argument as this:

    “1. God established a church that is to be governed by divine infallible authority.
    2. This divine infallible authority is the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.
    2. Scripture is the only place today where we find the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.
    3. Therefore, God intends Scripture to be the Church’s rule of faith.”

    I think it was a typo to have two “premise 2” lol. But in any case, this premise “Scripture is the only place today where we find the teaching of Christ and the Apostles” still has the problem of begging the question against the Catholic position. And your conclusion still does not follow from the premises as David pointed out in comment #422.

    You also said:

    “The bolded point is incorrect. The Apostles all affirm the sufficiency of Scripture. Christ corrected oral tradition with Scripture. and on and on.”

    None of that suggests the protestant position of the formal sufficiency of scripture. I would love someone to interact with what I said in comment #378. In order for Sola Scriptura to be in force, you need the completed cannon do you not? I have a very hard time seeing how scripture can somehow be formally sufficient while being incomplete. Given that, it follows that Christ and the apostles could not have taught the formal sufficiency of scripture because they only could have taught it after the cannon was complete. Christ certainly rose and ascended into heaven before that happened. You would then have to claim that the last apostle taught Sola Scriptura outside of scripture after the cannon was finished and frankly, that’s a silly position. That’s why Sola Scriptura is a total anachronism in the Apostolic age. And if they (Christ and the apostles) didn’t teach it, it’s a novel tradition of men from the Protestant reformation and is as Jesus said in Mark 7:13, “making void the word of God through your tradition.” It makes void passages such as 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 1 Corinthians 11:2, and others.

    May God be with you.

    Matthew Paolantonio

  435. David,

    Explicit teaching of sacred tradition ? That is your opinion as an interpreter within the catholic paradigm. I disagree and maintain that Christ didn’t command them to appoint. The Apostles received a special revelation to appoint apart from public revelation. Therefore, they didn’t transmit their Apostolic authority given by Christ.

    The Apostles testified to their consciousness of this divine commission…in commissioning and sending ? You beg the question against my position by assuming public revelation. I, however, do not beg the question against the catholic position because there’s nothing definitive right now.

  436. David:

    I need to verify whether something is true, regarding the Apostles’ teaching as constituting a “rule of faith”:

    Is it correct to say that that the Apostles had both…
    (a.) a unique dignity/gift/authority which attached to their persons; and,
    (b.) a dignity/gift/authority which attached to their offices and thus was passed to their successors?

    And likewise, is it correct to say that Peter, as the Al Bayith of the newly-reconstituted royal stewards of the Kingdom, had both…
    (a.) a unique dignity/gift/authority attached to his person; and,
    (b.) a dignity/gift/authority which attached to his office and thus to his successors in that office?

    If I’m correct in saying that the Apostolic successors get some, but not all, of the dignity or charisms or authority of an original Apostle, and likewise a Petrine successor gets some, but not all, of what Peter had, then: What exactly did the original Apostles have, that their successors don’t? What exactly did Peter have, that Linus and Cletus and Clement and Sixtus and the rest didn’t?

    I’m trying to tease out various distinctions about which I’m unclear.

    For example, I get that the Old Testament Al Bayith described in Isaiah 22 could “bind what other [stewards] loosed, and loose what others bound; but no other stewards could loose what he bound, nor bind what he loosed.” This made his decisions, rendered in the king’s name, especially powerful: When there was a debate between other royal stewards, the chief steward could settle it, and once it was settled by him, no other steward could resurrect the issue.

    So it makes sense that Peter, having the “keys of the kingdom” granted to him by Christ, is in a position to definitively settle disputes about which the other Apostles might disagree among themselves.

    And since this is a fulfillment of the type of an Old Testament office with successors (Shebna and Eliakim being examples), so too should we expect the New Testament office to be a more glorious fulfillment (“what you bind on earth is bound in heaven”) but still have successors.

    BUT, was there ever any risk that one of the Apostles would have “bound” something in error, the way that a modern bishop might “bind” something in error, requiring a papal override?

    It seems like there might have been such a risk: How might the Acts 15 proto-council have been settled, had Peter been absent?

    But the New Testament doesn’t all come from the pen of Peter or someone connected to his ministry. Instead, it comes from the pens of various apostles (John, Matthew, Paul) and their cohorts (Luke, John Mark). Now, had Peter written it all, we would know it was beyond Petrine reversal. But he didn’t, and we don’t know that Peter specifically approved every book. So…could a Christian in A.D. 125 know for sure that a letter of Paul was “inspired inerrant?” Or did Christians only gain that assurance once a pope rendered that judgment a dogma, later on in history?

    It seems to me that if, and only if, each Apostle had a special gift of teaching, not only infallibly, but with inspired inerrancy, can we claim that the books of the New Testament are more authoritative than Bishop Athanasius’ Easter Letter of 370 A.D.

    BUT, if the Apostles had that gift, then apparently it attached to their persons, not their offices, since their successors do not have the gift of inspired-inerrant writing or speaking.

    Is it, therefore, the case that the Petrine office’s “override” authority was really not needed, at least on doctrinal matters, until after the Apostles were gone? That every Apostle was more infallible than a pope is today?

    I think it likely that I’ve stated something erroneously in the above. Can you help me clarify the distinctions?

    Thanks,

    R.C.

  437. Robert,

    You wrote: “But if you are going to critique the Protestant position, you need to display it more accurately.”

    Westminster enumerates the canon and then concludes: “All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.”

    I don’t think I have misrepresented the Reformed tradition in saying that it holds Scripture to be the Rule of faith. Whether or not the deposit of faith is coextensive with the rule of faith, they are conceptually distinct. What we believe and how we know what to believe are not the same thing. That’s all I’m trying to specify with my use of the term “Rule of faith.”

    -David

  438. Matthew–

    Robert used the following syllogism:

    1. God established a church that is to be governed by divine infallible authority.

    2. This divine infallible authority is the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.

    3. Scripture is the only place today where we find the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.

    4. Therefore, God intends Scripture to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    There are a few things slightly lacking in this syllogism. First, he hasn’t established premise #1 biblically or otherwise. Second, he needs to show why #2 doesn’t include the authoritative interpretation of the Apostles’ successors, or else he begs the question. The third premise is fine as stated though perhaps he should qualify it: Scripture is demonstrably the only place where we find the UNINTERPRETED teachings of Christ and his Apostles, in other words, it is our only primary source. And finally, Robert’s conclusion is essentially correct, as long as one means by the “rule of faith” what the early church meant by the “regula fidei”: roughly the equivalent of the RC “deposit of faith.” If one means by “rule of faith,” as Dr. Anders does, the “authoritative transmission of the deposit of faith,” then we are into a whole new discussion, involving the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the consensus of the early fathers, the ecumenical councils, the development of doctrine, the identity of the true church, as well as which creeds and catechisms can be viewed as authoritative. Protestants have parameters in place every bit as much as do the Romans. You do not grant our idea of a “teaching charism,” incorporating a consensus of the regenerate faithful through time, protected by a Holy Spirit whom you all describe as a mere “warm fuzzy” or “delusional ecstasy” on our part. And we do not grant your “teaching charism” of a church hierarchy through time which has often been racist, violent, pagan, greedy, sexually immoral, and politically corrupt, somehow remaining all the while so doctrinally faithful as to be infallible. You all speak of our virtual ecclesial docetism. We could speak of your virtual Paraclete deism, for you have relegated the third person of the Trinity to a perpetual on-deck circle, never quite allowed to enter the ballgame.

    I assume you’re not really serious about bringing up #378 again. Asked and answered. No one finds Apostolic oral teaching added to the established OT writings insufficient.

  439. David:

    As a follow-up to the previous post, perhaps I should add:

    I’m trying to grasp what is the Catholic understanding — if there is an official Catholic understanding — of inspired-inerrant writing, and how it relates to charisms like the charism of infallibility. I’m guessing that there is a charism which conveys the ability to compose an inspired-inerrant writing (as opposed to writing something that merely doesn’t contain any errors as a result of caution), and that this charism is similar to, but not identical to, the charism which comes with the papal office.

    If that’s correct, then the question “Which writings are inspired-inerrant?” is answered not by looking at the writings, but by looking at the authors: If it was written or at least approved by someone with the requisite charism, and if it wasn’t merely their grocery-list but was the kind of writing where they were clearly intending to exercise their inspired-inerrant charism (something having to do with faith and morals), then the writing was inspired-inerrant.

    And I’m guessing that the Apostles are believed to have had such a charism just by virtue of being Apostles, which is how their writings (some parts of the New Testament) and writings which, subject to their review and (if needed) correction, summarized their preaching and deeds (other parts of the New Testament) became inspired-inerrant.

    If that’s all correct, then the episcopal office has a lesser charism than that of the Twelve-plus-Paul. Paul could write inspired-inerrant Scripture; Athanasius could not. But the entire episcopal college in communion with the successor of Peter does have a charism of infallibility, but not of inspired inerrancy…or something like that.

    I feel like I’m blundering around in the dark here, and would appreciate some guidance.

    Thanks,

    R.C.

  440. Erik:

    In response to Matthew, you say, “I assume you’re not really serious about bringing up #378 again. Asked and answered. No one finds Apostolic oral teaching added to the established OT writings insufficient.”

    It looks as if you intend this to be a restatement (you say, “Asked and answered”) of your earlier reply re: the impossibility of pre-canon Christians using Sola Scriptura to know the content of the Christian religion.

    In that reply, you stated, “We would say that the teachings of Jesus, the 12 Apostles, and Paul are and were authoritative. Scripture is simply this body of teaching written down and thus codified.”

    Speaking for myself, I can’t (yet) assent to the sentence, “Scripture is simply [the teachings of Jesus, the 12 Apostles, and Paul] written down and thus codified.”

    That doesn’t sound right to me. But perhaps I don’t understand you properly. Do you mean to assert that all the teachings of Jesus, the 12 Apostles, and Paul — the whole content of the Christian religion in all its theological, moral, and liturgical details — were “codified” in such a way as to make them plainly discernible to a reader who didn’t already know them?

    Or, are you only (more modestly) asserting that the authors of the New Testament books knew and believed the full required content of the Christian religion, knew that their intended audience (other Christians) already knew and believed most of that content, and therefore wrote documents which left much of that content unstated-but-assumed? …such that, if you didn’t already know most of it, you might misunderstand them, but if you already knew all the fundamentals, you could fill in the assumed-but-unstated parts while you were reading, and thus understand the whole?

    If you are asserting the first (and far bolder) of those two options, then (a.) I can’t see why you would think that; and (b.) it seems to me that the Protestant idea of “how we know what the required content of the Christian religion is,” is not really Sola Scriptura, so-to-speak.

    It is, instead,

    Assertion #1, that “the Holy Spirit guided the authors of the Scriptures in what they wrote such that, when all the (66) books of the (Protestant) canon are put together, they constitute a perspicuous and exhaustive presentation of all the required content of the Christian religion”;

    …plus, Assertion #2: “There exists a clear rule by which anyone can objectively know which texts should (and which texts should not) be in the canon of Scripture. This rule can be found, clearly spelled-out, in a text which we can reasonably know to be divinely-inspired and inerrant prior to our knowing what the content of the canon should be…and this rule, when applied to all the Christian texts we currently have available, happens to spit out the 66-book Protestant canon, though of course if we could ever find Paul’s lost earliest letter to the Corinthians it would probably become book 67.”

    …plus, of course the actual content of Scripture.

    It is those three things, taken together, provide the Protestant with Scriptures to interpret, in order that he might learn the required content of the Christian religion. (All the rest of it, that is. The two assertions are the sine-qua-non starting point which, once followed, gives you everything else.)

    At least, that’s what it seems like you’re saying. And if that’s the case, then, well, I just don’t see where you’re getting those first two assertions from.

    Finally, I have a quibble with something else you wrote: “There is absolutely no evidence anywhere of Jesus or his Apostles teaching anything incompatible with Scripture or even in addition to Scripture content-wise.”

    Isn’t “incompatible” a straw-man? Catholics wouldn’t ever say that Jesus or the Apostles taught something “incompatible” with Scripture, right? They’d just say that Jesus and the Apostles taught something which was incompatible with your interpretation of Scripture, but compatible with their own interpretation (plus all the more-papist-sounding Church Fathers, from Clement of Rome through Augustine).

    As for, “in addition to”: It seems perfectly reasonable to me to claim that the New Testament doesn’t fully describe the liturgy of the Apostolic Era church, or its sacramental theology. How could it, in so few pages? Why would it, when that was not among the purposes for which any of the New Testament books were written? It consists purely of books written to a bunch of Christians who were already doing the liturgy and sacraments, so there was no reason to describe those in detail. We should expect large gaps in what’s actually formally spelled-out, shouldn’t we? (After all, not a single one of the New Testament books was written to be a Catechism.)

    Of course, the authors all knew the full content of the Christian religion, so anything they don’t explicitly state would still be present as a background assumption in what they did write. And sometimes it’s possible to tease out an author’s background assumptions from what he says. In that sense, one could plausibly argue that “the whole content of the Christian faith can be derived from the Scriptures, in one way or another.”

    But if the author doesn’t out-and-out tell you something, unambiguously, then conclusions drawn from attempting to tease out his background assumptions are necessarily speculative. Any two interpreters trying to derive all the background assumptions in such a fashion would inevitably come to different conclusions.

    Or so it seems to me.

    But, if I’ve misstated either the meaning of your words specifically, or the Protestant view generally, please say so.

  441. Erik said – And we do not grant your “teaching charism” of a church hierarchy through time which has often been racist, violent, pagan, greedy, sexually immoral, and politically corrupt, somehow remaining all the while so doctrinally faithful as to be infallible.

    Me – you left out a church that denied Jesus and betrayed Him for a few silver pieces. We would be crazy to think they were doctrinally faithful as to be infallible. A few apples spoil the barrel.

  442. Eric,

    The problem with the syllogism is that it just isn’t a valid argument. Even if all three premises were true, the conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow from them. Even if premise 3 were true (which still begs the question against the Catholic position), God might still intend for whatever other divine infallible source (if there is one which the premises allow) to be recovered and used. While I think you are closer to the mark when you said “scripture is our only primary source,” we still don’t have autographs. I think the earliest New Testament manuscripts are circa 200AD but I’m not sure. Either way, I trust that the Church faithfully copied and translated them such that we have a reliable text today and similarly, I trust that the Church faithfully handed on the sacred oral Tradition she received as well. That process is the work of the Holy Spirit so I emphatically disagree with your assertion that Catholics put the Paraclete “on deck” as it were.

    Now I can agree that Scripture contains the deposit of faith and if I believed in material sufficiency, then I would believe it contained the whole deposit of faith (personally, I’m on the fence in that regard). But either way, sacred oral Tradition also contains the deposit of faith (according to Catholics) so both could be considered the “rule of faith” if that is equivalent to the “deposit of faith.”

    The problem with a protestant “teaching charism” is that neither you nor any other protestant has any way of defining what is the “consensus of the regenerate faithful” as you put it. You cannot define either what the “consensus” is, nor who the “regenerate faithful” are prior to the protestant reformation. Who counts as the “regenerate faithful” between the apostles and Calvin? How do you know? Protestantism has no infallible dogmas. It has no magesterium. It says there is no such thing. You may love Augustine for his opinions on grace and predestination (and everything he affirmed on that point, a Catholic may also affirm) he without a doubt believed in baptismal regeneration. If he were here today, no reformed community would have him. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Augustine being incongruous with reformed theology and we’ve barely started as far as Church Fathers go! Protestantism has no authority and therefore cannot define a “consensus.” This is the reason for the Catholic challenge the protestant idea of an “invisible church” is a kind of ecclesiastical docetism. The Church is the Body of Christ. Christ has a visible body right now. Therefore, the Church is a visible body with the same authority He does and speaks with His voice (Luke 10:16).

    You also said:

    “we do not grant your “teaching charism” of a church hierarchy through time which has often been racist, violent, pagan, greedy, sexually immoral, and politically corrupt, somehow remaining all the while so doctrinally faithful as to be infallible.”

    This is a kind of ad hominem attack. Even if the Church hierarchy were indeed at times (and I think you have grossly overstated this) racist, violent, pagan, greedy, sexually immoral, and politically corrupt, it would not mean that the Holy Spirit failed to protect their teaching from error. God’s grace and gifts are stronger than man’s sins. And remember “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” Every single member of the Church hierarchy could very well be on their way to hell and that would still not demonstrate that their teaching was incorrect. Furthermore, it would not justify schism either. This is a kind of donatism.

    And I must have missed where you answered my anachronism challenge. If sola scriptura requires a complete cannon then sola scriptura could not have been the case during the apostolic age. Will you admit this?

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  443. Matthew,

    In order for Sola Scriptura to be in force, you need the completed cannon do you not? I have a very hard time seeing how scripture can somehow be formally sufficient while being incomplete.

    Ultimately, the point of SS is to state that the final authoritative rule of faith for the church is the actual teaching of the inspired Apostles and prophets. That’s the ultimate principle at work both while the Apostles are alive and after they have died. I suppose one could say that the Apostles’ teaching doesn’t become Scripture until it’s written down, but in one sense that is irrelevant. Given that Roman Catholics affirm the uniqueness of the Apostolic office, there should be no disagreement between us that the final determiner of the church’s faith is the Apostles themselves. The only question becomes where do we find the Apostles’ teaching. Sola Scriptura says that the only sure place to find the Apostles’ teaching is the Scriptures. Since we both agree that the NT is Apostolic, the burden of proof is on the RC to prove that any “tradition” other than Scripture is verifiably Apostolic. To my knowledge, Rome has never dogmatically defined one word spoken by Jesus or the Apostles that never got written down as Scripture. Tradition is not definable in Roman Catholicism until after the fact.

    Given that, it follows that Christ and the apostles could not have taught the formal sufficiency of scripture because they only could have taught it after the cannon was complete. Christ certainly rose and ascended into heaven before that happened. You would then have to claim that the last apostle taught Sola Scriptura outside of scripture after the cannon was finished and frankly, that’s a silly position.

    The point of sola Scriptura is the formal sufficiency of the Apostles’ teaching. So yes, it could be taught before the canon was complete. Basically Rome’s position either denies the formal sufficiency of the Apostles’ teaching or it ends up holding that the Apostles’ teaching continues today. Rome effectively becomes an ongoing organ of revelation akin to the Mormon prophet. Granted, Rome doesn’t actually claim that, but it’s where you have to go. The only way out of it is to have an actual defined body of what the Apostles taught. Protestants have that—the NT. Rome really doesn’t have that because nobody can really identify the full scope of tradition.

    That’s why Sola Scriptura is a total anachronism in the Apostolic age. And if they (Christ and the apostles) didn’t teach it, it’s a novel tradition of men from the Protestant reformation and is as Jesus said in Mark 7:13, “making void the word of God through your tradition.” It makes void passages such as 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 1 Corinthians 11:2, and others.

    You’d have to explain how sola Scriptura makes those passages void. The only way it does is if those passages are endorsing a partim-partim view of tradition, which isn’t Rome’s official position. It’s acceptable, but not definitive. And as far as I am aware, it’s actually the minority position currently. I’ve even had RCs tell me that the partim-partim view is novel and that material sufficiency is the historic position of the church. I don’t know enough about RC history to identify that. But I know enough that hold fast to what was taught by mouth or by letter is only contra sola Scriptura if there is a body of content taught by mouth that never got written down. But we have no evidence of that, and Rome has not identified anything Jesus, Peter, Paul or anyone else said that never got written down.

  444. RC–

    The Roman magisterium has the charism of infallible INTERPRETATION of Apostolic teaching. It cannot add to the “deposit of faith” except (in a certain sense) through the appropriate development of established doctrine.

  445. Bryan (re: #416)

    1. I apologize for being imprecise. I did not intend to imply that Protestants approve of doctrinal development solely on the basis of logical inference from Scripture. You speak of an “organic unfolding” of dogma, using, I assume, Newman’s analogy. I don’t see this as a “third way,” but simply as an acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit’s leading (which, from a human perspective, is never wholly predictable). Still, such organic development must never be simply capricious or in any other sense ad hoc.

    Development of the growing “body” of orthodox doctrine must ever remain “genetically” derived from the original deposit of faith. It must also be shown to be healthy growth rather than a cancerous tumor, for example, or the degenerative results of aging.

    We reject those elements of Roman dogma which are in clear conflict with Scripture and/or which appear in neither the biblical text nor the Apostolic Fathers. Thus, their most likely origin is innovation. ***

    (You, on the other hand, reject Sola Fide, which appears unambiguously in both Scripture and the AF. Plus, many modern Catholics of significant stature accept JBFA: Peter Kreeft, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Francis Cardinal George, Richard John Neuhaus, Francis Beckwith, Ralph Martin…perhaps even Benedict XVI. JBFA is in nowise divorced from the gift of agape. It is, after all, grounded in Union with Christ. The “separation” between justification and sanctification is merely abstract. It safeguards Sola Gratia by precluding anything even resembling Pelagianistic self-effort.)

    2. Protestants do not maintain that the True Church strayed but that Rome did. You Catholics cannot even speak of our supposed “schism” without begging the question. There is no such thing as a “valid” schism, and we do not seek to validate our “withdrawal.” An apostate church is no longer an authoritative entity (if it ever was) from which one can be “in schism.” After all, you yourself would not speak of Athanasius’s being “in schism” though he set up shop as bishop outside the city gates of Alexandria after he had been “officially” deposed. As far as I can see, the burden of proof is equally on each of us to demonstrate that we belong to the legitimate continuation of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and that our opponent does not. ****

    3. My “a priori stipulation” is fully in accord with statements you yourself have made. (I’ll take the time to find them if need be.)

    I did find this of yours:

    “One doesn’t have to believe that one’s present beliefs are false in order to be committed to following the truth, even the truth that comes to light through dialogue. This is why I said in the post, “The intention to hold on to what is true and the intention to reach agreement in the truth through the mutual exchange and evaluation of evidence can both be maintained simultaneously without contradiction.” In my experience, this is not easy for some people to see, and so they see dialogue as presupposing a sort of skepticism about the truth, and/or a willingness to compromise regarding the truth. But I’m claiming that one can enter into genuine dialogue…without believing that one’s present beliefs are false, and while firmly intending not to compromise what one believes to be true.

    One can, as I do, hold wholeheartedly to this final sentiment without relinquishing a commitment to an honest “evaluation of the evidence,” an evaluation which, at least theoretically, may end in one’s repudiation of present firmly-held beliefs. You have stated as much elsewhere, and for that, I commend you. Many Catholics, however, imply that their trust in the magisterium is such that they would back the RC interpretive hierarchy even in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.

    *** Personally, I have no major beef with tenets derived from custom or tradition (big “T” or little “t”) which do not compromise the broader arc of Scripture. For example, neither the Assumption of Mary nor her perpetual virginity obligate one to anything further. ECT Evangelicals point these out as potential pious options, as would I. Mary’s sinlessness is more problematic if only because one has to finesse biblical passages where she appears to be lacking in a faithful response. All Protestants would adhere to her immaculacy at least in terms of transmission and may not ultimately object to Aquinas’s version of her sinlessness as not beginning at her conception. In fact, the only Marian dogmas completely “beyond the pale,” as it were, are those connected with hyperdulia: intercession, Queen of Heaven, co-redemptrix, and the like. Those which any objective observer, regardless of stated Catholic intentions to the contrary, would deem idolatrous. These are totally absent from the Scriptures and the AF’s, not to mention in conflict with the basics of monotheism.

    **** I have found myself, with as much “good faith” as I can muster, unable even to begin to take the Roman “motives of credibility” seriously, especially when it comes to its claims concerning the miraculous status and progress of your church through the centuries: One? Holy? Catholic? Apostolic? (Are you kidding me?) Faithful? Stable? Merciful? Vibrant? (You’re joking, right?)

    Can you see how a life-long Protestant conversant in church history might have difficulties with such undemonstrated assertions (which appear, at least at first blush, to be utterly contrary to fact)?

    Can you point to any article or book which attempts to flesh out this argument? You don’t seem to do so. Feingold certainly doesn’t. You all behave as if it is somehow self-evident!

  446. Robert,

    You said:

    “Ultimately, the point of SS is to state that the final authoritative rule of faith for the church is the actual teaching of the inspired Apostles and prophets. That’s the ultimate principle at work both while the Apostles are alive and after they have died.”

    I think we’re making some progress lol. But it’s not irrelevant that the teachings of the Apostles don’t become scripture until they are written down. That’s kinda the whole point! lol. You aren’t really claiming sola “scriptura” anymore. It seems to me that your position is more like “sola teaching of the apostles.” I think that’s basically a concession that “sola scriptura” is indeed anachronistic but I’ll move on then. I think you are taking your position from Ephesians 2:20 but that’s not what the verse says. You’re making the same mistake Calvin did (I forget where but he said something very similar to you in his Institutes). The household of God is NOT based on the “teachings” of the apostles and the prophets, it’s simply built ON the apostles and the prophets (Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone). The word “teachings” is not in the verse. Your position is a kind of nominalism where the “teachings” of the apostles and prophets seem to float around irrespective of the people themselves. But authority lies with a person. A text only has authority if its source is authoritative. Scripture can only be said to have authority because they are products of people who have authority (divine authority in fact). Also keep in mind that authority and inspiration are two different things.

    You said:

    “Given that Roman Catholics affirm the uniqueness of the Apostolic office, there should be no disagreement between us that the final determiner of the church’s faith is the Apostles themselves.”

    This isn’t exactly what Catholics believe. The Apostolic office is only unique in that they were given public divine inspiration that has now ceased. Their authority however continues on through their successors. Matthew 16:18-19 and Matthew 18:17-18 are still in force today! They did not stop with the death of the apostles. The ONLY thing that stopped was public divine inspiration. Your issue is you have equated “Apostles” with “teachings of the Apostles.” The apostles aren’t alive (on earth) right now so that kind of equivocation cannot be made.

    You said:

    “The point of sola Scriptura is the formal sufficiency of the Apostles’ teaching. So yes, it could be taught before the canon was complete.”

    This goes back to my point that you’re moving the goal post! lol. You still have the issue of interpretation of the Apostles teaching. The bible doesn’t scream out “Wait stop! You’ve misinterpreted me!!” lol. Since you believe that all interpreters of the apostles’ teaching are fallible, it follows then that there are no infallible dogmas or interpretations. Everything is up for grabs (I believe Charles Hodge admitted something like that but I forget where).

    What I can agree with is that certainly the “teachings of the apostles” are materially sufficient (whether or not all of their teachings are found in scripture is another matter). But without a divine authority to piece the material together, we are all “tossed back and forth and carried about by every wind of doctrine.” Even though you have the divine material (and according to R.C. Sproul, the cannon is a “fallible list”) you are left completely on your own to piece it together.

    And finally, you said:

    “But I know enough that hold fast to what was taught by mouth or by letter is only contra sola Scriptura if there is a body of content taught by mouth that never got written down.”

    This again is a weird kind of nominalism that assumes that oral revelation is out there floating around and then vanishes when what was spoken is written down (or gets gobbled up by writing it down). The Catholic position is that Scripture and Tradition are the same gospel given in two forms. They need each other. Sola Scriptura is denying that sacred oral Tradition continued on but that is again anachronistic because that was all the vast majority of the faithful had during the early centuries of the Church. This was especially true before the councils of Carthage and Hippo. Even after St. Jerome completed the Vulgate, bibles were enormously expensive and almost all of the faithful were illiterate. While scriptures would be read to them during mass, the way they knew the faith was primarily through oral Tradition. And I always find it a bit puzzling whenever I hear someone claim something to the effect of “there is no evidence that all the oral revelation was NOT written down.” This is a attempt at proving a negative through silence. A better statement is that “there is no evidence that all the oral revelation WAS written down.”

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  447. CK–

    Although St. Francis probably never actually spoke such words, the maxim regularly attributed to him concerning our need to constantly preach the Gospel, using words only when necessary contains an essential truth: our actions TEACH…often more powerfully than our words. The magisterium simply cannot hide behind the notion that its “official” teaching is infallible even if its visible behavior is anything but. For example, for quite a while, the papacy endorsed slavery by its actions and inactions. We’re not talking about slip ups–a pope got drunk and uttered a pro-slavery comment–but an enduting policy of several generations of popes.

    Donatism had zero tolerance of past mistakes of the clergy. It basically denied any path to reconciliation for the fallen. This is utterly different from defrocking priests who are both corrupt and unrepentent. Today’s RC often refuses to discipline whole dioceses of priests who hold to aberrant doctrine. In certain areas of the U.S., the Catholic church is NOT a mixture of tares (which bear a strong resemblance to wheat) and wheat itself, but a mixture of tares, on the one hand, and weeds which bear absolutely no resemblance to wheat, on the other. You have become so tolerant of unrepentent sinners and heretics that they have taken over regional leadership.

    Protestants do not claim an infallible leadership. Neither do we claim that the Apostles were infallible or sinless. Paul upbraided Peter with good reason. The Apostles were infallible only when reflecting the teachings passed on to them by Christ.

  448. Matthew–

    I’ll have to keep it short and pithy for the next few weeks. My wife is due to deliver any day now.

    What exactly would induce you to trust the RCC implicitly when it comes to sacred oral Tradition? As Robert points out, not a single word of oral Apostolic teaching has ever been authenticated. P52, a fragment from the Gospel of John, goes back to around 120 C.E., and a recently discovered fragment from the Gospel of Mark, may come from before 100 C. E.

    But besides that, academia seems content that we more or less possess the content of the original autographs. Conversely, other than Irenaeus’ use of antitypal language for Mary (the BVM as the “second Eve”), there is virtually no evidence for any of the Marian dogmas before 350 C.E.

    In fact, the online Catholic Encyclopedia at newadvent.org states the following:

    “Seeing that this doctrine [Marian devotion] is not contained, at least explicitly in the earlier forms of the Apostles’ Creed, there is perhaps no ground for surprise if we do not meet with any clear traces of the cultus of the Blessed Virgin in the first Christian centuries.”

    Do you routinely accept the word of the magisterium even when they are backed by not one single shred of evidence?

  449. Matthew–

    I’ll just quickly echo what Robert had to say: Sola Scriptura is basically the same thing as “Apostolic Teaching Alone” (spoken or written).

    Kind of like what Rome ought to advocate were she to follow “the better angels of her nature.”

  450. Matthew,

    You said:

    I think we’re making some progress lol. But it’s not irrelevant that the teachings of the Apostles don’t become scripture until they are written down. That’s kinda the whole point! lol. You aren’t really claiming sola “scriptura” anymore. It seems to me that your position is more like “sola teaching of the apostles.” I think that’s basically a concession that “sola scriptura” is indeed anachronistic but I’ll move on then.

    I’ll just reiterate that the primary point of SS is to state that the final judge of church teaching are the organs of divine revelation, namely the Apostles. Sola Scriptura is not an anachronistic doctrine. The question ultimately has to do with where we find the teaching. When there are no Apostles living, we can’t go to a “person” in the flesh. We can go to their writings, however. The question as to whether SS applied when we had apostles is “yes and no.” Yes it applied in the sense that the only source of doctrine is Apostolic teaching. No it didn’t apply in that the book of Romans may not have been written yet. But again, the burden of proof is on your side to show that Paul taught stuff that never got written down but is passed on orally.

    I think you are taking your position from Ephesians 2:20 but that’s not what the verse says. You’re making the same mistake Calvin did (I forget where but he said something very similar to you in his Institutes). The household of God is NOT based on the “teachings” of the apostles and the prophets, it’s simply built ON the apostles and the prophets (Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone). The word “teachings” is not in the verse.

    The context has to do with teaching. Eph. 2:21–22 says we are built on that foundation to grow into holiness and other such things. Eph. 4: (“11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”) employs teaching imagery. We grow into holiness and maturity by teaching, and what is the content that is taught? The deposit of faith. From whence does the deposit of faith come? The prophets and Apostles. Even Rome doesn’t say the deposit is added to, formally speaking. We simply come to a better understanding of the revelation that is already there.

    Your position is a kind of nominalism where the “teachings” of the apostles and prophets seem to float around irrespective of the people themselves.

    Not at all.

    But authority lies with a person.

    This is ambiguous. Does this mean I am free to pick up a Bible, having never read it and having no church access and then reject its authority? God’s Word has no inherent authority? That’s a strange position. If this means that God’s Word has authority because God, a person, has authority, that is correct.

    A text only has authority if its source is authoritative. Scripture can only be said to have authority because they are products of people who have authority (divine authority in fact).

    Sure.

    Also keep in mind that authority and inspiration are two different things.

    Yes. But Apostolic authority is inseparable from Apostolic inspiration. Where is the idea of infallible authority found apart from the particular inspiration that the Apostles enjoyied.

    This isn’t exactly what Catholics believe. The Apostolic office is only unique in that they were given public divine inspiration that has now ceased. Their authority however continues on through their successors. Matthew 16:18-19 and Matthew 18:17-18 are still in force today!

    Yes, but wouldn’t you say that a teaching of a bishop has no authority if it contradicts the Apostles? I hope you would. In fact, I believe the RC teaching on conscience would allow you in good faith to reject a crazy bishop’s command to murder your uncle because such teaching would violate the deposit. So, actually, even Rome says the deposit of faith supersedes the Magisterial authority, at least in theory. Where you differ with us is in the belief that the Magisterium can never err collectively. You agree that the Magisterium must submit to the Apostolic deposit.

    They did not stop with the death of the apostles. The ONLY thing that stopped was public divine inspiration. Your issue is you have equated “Apostles” with “teachings of the Apostles.” The apostles aren’t alive (on earth) right now so that kind of equivocation cannot be made.

    But it is the teachings of the Apostles that have authority, and even the Apostles were to be followed only insofar as as they taught the truth. Hence, Paul could correct Peter.

    But the key point is that the Apostles aren’t alive on earth right now. So since the Apostolic deposit supersedes all, that’s the final authority. So the only question is where do we find the deposit?

    This goes back to my point that you’re moving the goal post! lol. You still have the issue of interpretation of the Apostles teaching. The bible doesn’t scream out “Wait stop! You’ve misinterpreted me!!” lol.

    Yes, we have to interpret. No, the Bible doesn’t scream out. :) No we don’t have Apostles to ask. You don’t have them either. Non-Apostolically inspired teachers who we can ask questions of aren’t the same as the Apostles themselves. Rome’s position, in my mind, really fails in denying the same kind of inspiration. If the authoritative interpreter in personal flesh form is so important, Mormonism actually has a more reasonable claim if a less historically grounded one. The Apostle in Utah is inspired just as the Apostles are.

    Unless the Magisterium is inspired like the Apostles were, which Rome denies, I get no better help from Rome in screaming out where things have been misinterpreted than from Geneva.

    Since you believe that all interpreters of the apostles’ teaching are fallible, it follows then that there are no infallible dogmas or interpretations.

    I think a more accurate description would be that I have inerrant dogmas/interpretations that were discovered via a fallible process of interpretation. Fallible people can produce inerrant statements.

    Everything is up for grabs (I believe Charles Hodge admitted something like that but I forget where).

    Not so. At least no more up for grabs than your reception of Roman teaching. You are fallible, so if everything is up for grabs in my system, everything you believe about what Rome has taught is up for grabs as well.

    What I can agree with is that certainly the “teachings of the apostles” are materially sufficient (whether or not all of their teachings are found in scripture is another matter). But without a divine authority to piece the material together, we are all “tossed back and forth and carried about by every wind of doctrine.” Even though you have the divine material (and according to R.C. Sproul, the cannon is a “fallible list”) you are left completely on your own to piece it together.

    No. The church has divine authority. It has it wherever it accurately reflects the teaching of the prophets and Apostles. I just don’t have a red light that goes off when that happens.

    This again is a weird kind of nominalism that assumes that oral revelation is out there floating around and then vanishes when what was spoken is written down (or gets gobbled up by writing it down).

    All I am assuming is that the Apostles never taught anything that is not found substantially in Scripture. And Rome can’t give me the words or teachings of Paul, Peter, or Jesus that never got written down.

    The Catholic position is that Scripture and Tradition are the same gospel given in two forms. They need each other.

    That doesn’t seem to encompass the partim-partim view of Scripture and tradition that says the gospel is partly in one and partly in another. It is more amenable to the material sufficiency position, which as an outsider I think is the better one

    Sola Scriptura is denying that sacred oral Tradition continued on

    SS denies that divine inspiration continued past the Apostles. Which Rome formally denies as well. Hence a complete deposit of faith that we only grow in understanding of.

    SS affirms that the Spirit continues to guide the church. It just affirms that the guidance is recognized not by a council or pope saying “This here is infallible, no questions asked” but by conformity to Scripture.

    but that is again anachronistic because that was all the vast majority of the faithful had during the early centuries of the Church. This was especially true before the councils of Carthage and Hippo. Even after St. Jerome completed the Vulgate, bibles were enormously expensive and almost all of the faithful were illiterate. While scriptures would be read to them during mass, the way they knew the faith was primarily through oral Tradition.

    No doubt illiterate people only had access to church teaching and the oral reading of Scripture, but this has nothing really to do with SS. The church could still be accountable to test all by Scripture. In fact, the onus is far more on the church in that regard. SS isn’t a license for individuals to believe whatever they want.

    And I always find it a bit puzzling whenever I hear someone claim something to the effect of “there is no evidence that all the oral revelation was NOT written down.” This is a attempt at proving a negative through silence. A better statement is that “there is no evidence that all the oral revelation WAS written down.”

    The absence of verifiable evidence for the existence of some oral tradition that differed in substance from the NT or that contains information not found in the NT means I have to rely on the evidence I do have, the NT. If someone could produce words from the Apostles that never got written down, then we could talk. But even Rome can’t do that, nor does she claim to. So where is this oral revelation?

    Happy new year!

  451. Robert,

    A sincere “Happy New Year,” to you, and yours, and everyone here.

    But,

    “I’ll just reiterate that the primary point of SS is to state that the final judge of church teaching are the organs of divine revelation, namely the Apostles. Sola Scriptura is not an anachronistic doctrine. The question ultimately has to do with where we find the teaching. When there are no Apostles living, we can’t go to a “person” in the flesh. We can go to their writings, however.”

    …just compels disagreement, with nearly every sentence.

    Re: “I’ll just reiterate that the primary point of SS is to state that the final judge of church teaching are the organs of divine revelation, namely the Apostles.”: But, SS demonstrably doesn’t have the effect of making the Apostles the final judge of church teaching. On the contrary, SS demonstrably has the effect of making Scripture’s modern interpreters the final judges…judges whose judgments conflict with one another, generating several hundred disparate and conflicting “church/denomination/tradition teachings.”

    This is not a matter of theory. I need not argue that that’s what SS would do if applied. For we can observe that this is what actually happened. History provides us with experimental falsification of the hypothesis that SS makes the Apostles the final judges. (For we can safely assume that the Apostles themselves, if they were actively judging such matters, would not be issuing disparate and incompatible teachings.)

    Moreover, the standards of orthodoxy and orthopraxis generated by means of SS typically don’t look much like a plausible reconstruction of the life of the early church based on the historical data available. Since we can safely assume that the time it would take for early Christianity to depart wholesale from the beliefs and practices of the Apostles should not be less than the time it took for Lutherans and Calvinists to noticably depart from the beliefs and practices of Luther and Calvin, it is reasonable to think that witnesses describing early Christian belief and practice in 150, 200, or 250 A.D. will be not that far from what the Apostles taught to Papias, Ignatius, Evodius, Polycarp, et cetera.

    Re: “Sola Scriptura is not an anachronistic doctrine.”: That’s an assertion, which ought to be supported by arguments. Arguments have already been offered here to demonstrate the opposite. An unbiased observer — an atheist or Buddhist, perhaps — would, I think, find those arguments persuasive. So far as I can tell, your only counter-argument (in support of the assertion) is your statement that SS has the effect of making the Apostles the arbiters of church teaching. But, as I mentioned above, that statement itself isn’t convincing, because the output of SS is not remotely similar to what one would expect from the output of the Apostles if they were acting today as judges of orthodoxy and orthopraxis, nor does it generally resemble what we know of early Christianity.

    Re: “The question ultimately has to do with where we find the teaching.”: Yes! Precisely. How do we come to know the content of the Christian religion?

    If the only permissible Christian answer is “by Sola Scriptura,” which (as stated above) doesn’t work, then we can only conclude that we don’t and can’t know the content of the Christian religion: It is lost in the mists of time, much like originalist British-Isles Druidism. The idea that Sola Scriptura is the best we have obligates us to be agnostic about what the original Christianity really was. All modern denominations and churches (and subsets within them) would therefore constitute reconstruction attempts, much like those poor slobs in togas who congregate periodically at Stonehenge and wave daggers around trying to resurrect paganism.

    But, the modern denominations and churches which could be expected to come closest would be those whose orthodoxy and orthopraxis most-closely resembled the earliest evidence we have of ancient Christian belief and practice, especially on each of the many topics (e.g. liturgy and sacramentology) that scripture does not perspicuously describe. One could never be certain, but one’s best bet would be something resembling Antiochan Orthodox or Nestorian or Coptic or Tewahedo or ancient Thomasite Christianity. The more one’s candidate differed from one of these, the less probable it would be as an accurate reconstruction.

    But “we are merely reconstructors” is not our only option. IF we reject at the outset the possibility that Jesus was as unwise as Mohammed (that is to say: so unwise that He provided Christianity with a non-functioning epistemology and the Christian community with a non-functioning succession-plan) THEN we need only ask ourselves: Which Christianity (a.) reasonably resembles the ancient practices and beliefs of all the geographically-diverse oldest Christian communities; and (b.) has an epistemology which allows disputed doctrinal questions to be adjudicated and resolved NOW, in such a way that you know, and know that you know, that it has been settled; and, (c.) can plausibly show its epistemology being used during the early centuries both before and after the canon was settled, and can event point to Old Testament precedents of which that epistemology could plausibly be the New Covenant fulfillment?

    Catholicism’s Magisterium plausibly matches those criteria. Does anything else?

    Re: “When there are no Apostles living, we can’t go to a “person” in the flesh.”: That assertion begs the question. When there are no Apostles living, then we can go to a person in the flesh if God has provided us with persons-in-the-flesh to whom we can go, coupled with some divine guarantee that these particular persons, under some set of identifiable circumstances, will give us answers that at minimum would not contradict what the Apostles would have said. And that is precisely what the Catholic church claims to provide. And the claim, formulated varyingly but always compatibly, is already witnessed in the earliest centuries. Irenaeus arguably made it. And Clement of Rome arguably acted as if he believed it, and the church in Corinth which received his letter arguably acted as if they believed it, too.

    Re: “We can go to their writings, however.” Sure, you can go to them, but you can’t unambiguously extract from them all the necessary answers to the important questions unless you start off by assuming that “any question I can’t unambiguously answer from this text, sans other sources, must be unimportant and unnecessary.” But that would require us to categorize a great many moral, sacramental, and soteriological (!) questions as “unimportant and unnecessary!”

  452. Robert,

    You said:

    “I’ll just reiterate that the primary point of SS is to state that the final judge of church teaching are the organs of divine revelation, namely the Apostles.”

    This once again isn’t really sola scriptura anymore so we might as well give up the name lol. And the problem with this statement is that the Church’s teachings either can be known by human reason (in addition to being revealed) or they are indeed divine revelations. The Church teaches what is divinely revealed. So to me your statement boils down to something like “the final judge of church teaching is the teaching of the church” which is entirely circular. The apostles are members of the Church, therefore the scriptures (especially the New Testament) are Church teaching! I mean, if St. Paul came to both of our homes to evangelize, do we tell him “well that’s nice Paul, let’s see if it lines up with my interpretation of scripture!” Of course not! lol.

    You said:

    “When there are no Apostles living, we can’t go to a “person” in the flesh. We can go to their writings, however.”

    We can go to the Church as Jesus said in Matthew 18. Writings that were written 2000 years ago in another language in another culture with different issues can be somewhat difficult lol. Now I don’t think that scripture is impossible to decipher (personally I think parts of it are easily understood and some parts are rather difficult to understand). But sometimes you have a question that requires follow ups and clarifications and it’s really difficult to converse with a book (or collection of books). In the Catholic Church, you can get definitive answers to those questions, even though it may take some time. In Protestantism, all you get are fallible opinions. Moving on, you said:

    “The question as to whether SS applied when we had apostles is “yes and no.” Yes it applied in the sense that the only source of doctrine is Apostolic teaching. No it didn’t apply in that the book of Romans may not have been written yet. But again, the burden of proof is on your side to show that Paul taught stuff that never got written down but is passed on orally.”

    Again, the answer is no if “sola scriptura” actually refers to “scriptura” lol. You had it right when you said the apostles teaching doesn’t become scripture until it is written. As for who has the burden of proof, it’s on the one who makes the claim. Understand that theoretically, the Catholic position could be completely wrong but that would not prove the protestant position correct. You can’t prove or defend sola scriptura by attacking the Catholic position. It also doesn’t protect it from attacks or cover up it’s flaws.

    I agree with most of what you said concerning Ephesians 2:20. The only issue is I think you are conflating the “teaching” with the teacher. “Teaching” has only derivative authority (this includes scripture). The primary authority is Jesus Christ. He gives His authority to the apostles and then they teach (and ordain others to “succeed their ministry” as Pope St. Clement 1 said it). As far as Mormonism goes, while they certainly believe a ton of very kooky things, I do respect them recognizing the need for an authority. Just because they falsely claim to be that authority does not mean one does not exist.

    I also don’t understand why you continue to conflate inspiration with infallibility. If something is a divinely inspired revelation, it is a divine truth made known when it was previously unknown. Infallible simply means: unable to err. For example, the Nicene Creed said nothing new. No new revelations were given. It is however infallible, binding, and completely trustworthy. It is those things because the Church spoke with her God-given divine authority on the matter. So the Nicene Creed is infallibly authoritative, but uninspired by God. Infallibility is however a gift from God and all the infallibility the Church enjoys is because of the promise of Christ and the protection of the Holy Spirit.

    But now most importantly you said:

    “SS affirms that the Spirit continues to guide the church. It just affirms that the guidance is recognized not by a council or pope saying “This here is infallible, no questions asked” but by conformity to Scripture.”

    And who decides what teachings do and do not conform to scripture? You Robert? Me? Who gave either of us that authority? As I have read the reformers and recent protestant literature, the only answer I could come up with from that perspective is the individual’s own conscience. This has lead to rank subjectivism, relativism, and thousands of denominations with no end in sight. As even Martin Luther himself even remarked once the reformation got going “there are as many churches as there are heads!” You said “sola scriptura isn’t license for individuals to believe whatever they want,” but that is exactly what has happened! And the reason for that is that in protestantism, every man is his own pope who decides for himself “what conforms to scripture.”

    Happy New Year to you as well! And may God be with you!

    Matthew

  453. Erik, (re: #445)

    We reject those elements of Roman dogma which are in clear conflict with Scripture and/or which appear in neither the biblical text nor the Apostolic Fathers. Thus, their most likely origin is innovation.

    If you would like to discuss development of doctrine, please do so on “The Commonitory of St. Vincent of Lérins” thread.

    (You, on the other hand, reject Sola Fide, which appears unambiguously in both Scripture and the AF.

    If you would like to talk about JBFA, I’d be glad to discuss this under the “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” thread.

    2. Protestants do not maintain that the True Church strayed but that Rome did. .

    If you wish to discuss the subject of schism, please do so under the “St. Optatus on Schism and the Bishop of Rome” thread.

    3. My “a priori stipulation” is fully in accord with statements you yourself have made.

    I have never affirmed your a priori stipulation, nor is anything I’ve said semantically equivalent to it. Your claim that “Genuine ecumenical dialogue requires one to acknowledge that your side may be wrong …” is not semantically or logically equivalent to my claim that one does not have to believe that one’s present beliefs are false in order to enter into genuine ecumenical dialogue.

    Mary’s sinlessness is more problematic if only because one has to finesse biblical passages where she appears to be lacking in a faithful response.

    Addressing this would require looking at the paradigm differences between Catholic and Protestant approaches to Scripture, and how in the Catholic paradigm Tradition guides us in the proper interpretation of Scripture. See “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

    In fact, the only Marian dogmas completely “beyond the pale,” as it were, are those connected with hyperdulia: intercession, Queen of Heaven, co-redemptrix, and the like.

    If you would like to discuss those Marian dogmas, I would recommend doing so in the order and location I laid out in comment #542 of the “How John Calvin Made Me a Catholic” thread.

    I have found myself, with as much “good faith” as I can muster, unable even to begin to take the Roman “motives of credibility” seriously, especially when it comes to its claims concerning the miraculous status and progress of your church through the centuries: One? Holy? Catholic? Apostolic?

    If you’d like to discuss the motives of credibility, please do so on the motives of credibility thread.

    I’m pointing you to these different threads because we believe that fruitful authentic dialogue is focused dialogue, taking on one question at a time, and not allowing oneself to engage in throw-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink tactics. As we say in our comment guidelines, “Fruitful dialogue requires disciplining ourselves to focus on the topic in question, rather than allowing ourselves to engage in the ‘throw everything at the other person and hope something sticks’ approach. That’s debate, not dialogue.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  454. Bryan–

    Here is my statement:

    “Genuine ecumenical dialogue requires one to acknowledge that your side may be wrong and that the other side may be right on whatever particular point of theology is being discussed.”

    And here is a statement of yours (expressing the sentiment I referred to as being in agreement with mine):

    “The purpose of dialogue is not to get the other person to compromise or change, but to reach agreement in the truth. And that can be done so long as both persons love the truth more than whatever position they presently hold as such, as I explained in the post. In order to enter ecumenical dialogue the Catholic need not state up fro