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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253 comments
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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

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