The Catholic and Protestant Authority Paradigms Compared

Jun 24th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

This is a guest post by Ray Stamper. Ray lives near Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife Amanda and five children. After an early conversion to Christ, Ray began pursuing Old Testament studies at Oral Roberts University. However, being unprepared to cope with the skeptical philosophical bias latent in much of the “higher critical” literature in biblical scholarship, Ray drifted away from Christianity and embraced agnosticism for several years. Eventually Ray became convinced of theism on strictly philosophical grounds leading to a reassessment of Christianity generally and culminating in his reception into the Catholic Church at Easter of 1999. He is the CEO of Petwow, a forty staff member company that provides mobile and traditional veterinary care in the Greater Cincinnati region. In addition, he is currently pursuing a Master’s in Theology with a focus in Church History through Holy Apostles College & Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.


The Stamper Family

Here at Called To Communion, much has been said about the epistemic problems with sola scriptura and the way in which the Catholic paradigm is not subject to those criticisms. In addition, much has been written by Bryan and others in response to the tu quoque rejoinder brought to bear on the Catholic position.1 Nevertheless, the refrain seems to keep recurring, even from the pens (keyboards) of well regarded Reformed theologians. For example, in a recent article written by Michael Horton titled “Which Church Would the Reformers Join Today? Avoiding a False Choice,” Dr. Horton wrote the following in the second to last paragraph:

And make no mistake about it: Anyone who does convert out of a desire to surrender responsibility for interpreting Scripture in exchange for the infallible certainty of an earthly teacher is making a very “Protestant” move. At least that first leap is a personal judgment and interpretation of Scripture, every bit as individual as Luther’s “Here I stand.” The decision to embrace any confession or ecclesiastical body is a personal commitment that involves (at best) one’s own discernment of the plain teaching of Scripture.

In fact, having read Dr. Horton’s recent articles, as well as “Keith Mathison’s Reply” to Bryan and Neal’s article “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority,” it seems to me that the general approach of Reformed theologians to the Catholic authority critique of Protestantism reduce to the following 1-2 response: 1.) “tu quoque,” namely, the claim that the Catholic epistemic approach fares no better than the Protestant approach, and 2.) The Catholic position must be false because there is either zero or grossly insufficient New Testament or early evidence in the sub-Apostolic writings to warrant the embrace of Catholic (and especially Petrine) ecclesiology.

While I think response number 2 is worthy of a broad and substantial response by Catholics, I would like to offer some thoughts that might clarify further why response #1 fails. In particular, I take my lead from Bryan’s recent response to the Horton quotation provided above. In Bryan’s recent post titled “Some Thoughts Concerning Michael Horton’s Three Recent Articles on Protestants Becoming Catholic,” he responded to Horton’s quote as follows:

“. . . Horton here conflates the role and position of human reason in coming to faith, and the role and position of human reason after discovering divine authority. His claim presumes that because we must rely on human reason in coming to faith, therefore human reason must remain the ultimate arbiter once we are in a state of faith. But surely he himself does not believe that. He knows that even if one must use human reason in coming to believe that the Bible is God’s word, that does not entail that human reason must remain the authority to which Scripture is subject. Of course Horton doesn’t believe that. So likewise, the fact that the use of human reason and private judgment are necessary in order to come to discover the divine authority of the magisterium of the Church Christ founded, it does not follow that human reason must remain the ultimate arbiter standing in judgment over magisterial teachings on the basis of one’s own interpretation of Scripture.” (emphasis mine)

What I wish to do in this post is expand upon that last line of Bryan’s response to Horton, in an effort to clarify further why it is that the Protestant tu quoque challenge to the Catholic authority paradigm fails, and, therefore, why the Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms are not epistemic equivalents.

Persons and Books: A Thought Experiment

The tu quoque challenge has been met repeatedly by Catholics who point out the crucial difference between the role of human reason before and up to the moment of recognizing a locus of some divine authority; and the role of human reason after having recognized such authority. Both Catholics and Protestants use (as they must) fallible human reason in coming to embrace the claims of some purported divine authority. For instance, both Catholics and Protestants use reason as it considers the motives of credibility for the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was sent from God. Further, I think both Catholics and Protestants would readily admit that if Jesus Christ were physically still walking the earth, we would all face a lesser quandary differentiating between orthodoxy and heresy.

We could go straight to Jesus and ask for clarification on any given issue. It is true that we would still have to use our fallible intellect to understand whatever responses He might give to our doctrinal questions. But even if we were unclear as to His exact meaning with reference to some point, He would be personally available such that we could come back to Him again and again for further clarification until the precision of His responses reached something approaching a yes/no level of simplicity. In other words, with a living, speaking, Jesus Christ right in front of us, we could ask first order, second order, third order, fourth order questions (and so on) until simple clarity was achieved. And this is possible because the fact that the human intellect is fallible does not entail that it must, or always, does fail. With sufficient clarification, the human intellect is perfectly capable of reaching such clarity – we do it all the time in common areas of life.

As a thought experiment, imagine that Jesus Christ personally and directly began commenting on the Called To Communion site. Further, imagine that both Catholic and Reformed Christians acknowledged that it was indeed He who was submitting combox responses. Is there any doubt that the very best Catholic and Reformed theologians could join the discussion and begin asking Him precise questions about a highly divisive doctrine like justification (questions about semi-pelagianism, synergism/monergism, grace as infused versus imputed, merit, cooperation, etc., etc.) in such a way that after “x” amount of entries we would know, with certain clarity, whether the Catholic or Protestant (or neither) position was correct? Under this scenario no one is going to enjoin theological blog debate with Jesus! There will simply be a sequence of clarifying questions, at the end of which, there will be a definitive, precise resolution. And this brings me to the key point with reference to the Catholic versus Protestant authority paradigms.

Why will no one in such a scenario use their reason to argue with Jesus? Or asked another way, why will all parties in the discussion (both Catholic and Reformed) restrict the use of their reason simply to gaining a clarified understanding of Jesus’ position? Why will all theological argument or dispute with Jesus be off the table? It is because, having used reason to arrive at an acceptance of Jesus’ divine authority, thereafter whatsoever He says – no matter how counterintuitive or contrary to our previous confessional commitments – simply must be accepted as the truth – as theological orthodoxy.

Comparing the Authority Paradigms

With that scenario in mind, we can temporarily set exegetical and historical debates aside and ask how the Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms compare – as paradigms. Given what I have just said above, the paradigm difference becomes clear. Both Catholics and Protestants use (as they must) their fallible intellect in coming to an acceptance of the real-world locus of some divine authority based on various motives of credibility. In the case of Catholics, we use our fallible reason to assess the motive of credibility and thereby come to accept that Jesus is from God, that Scripture has divine authority, and that the Catholic Church was founded and organized by Christ and invested with the Holy Spirit such that she can act as the living voice of Christ in the world. Protestants use their fallible intellects to come to an embrace of the first two propositions, but not the third.

Keeping the above scenario in mind, let us explore the Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms (again, prescinding from exegesis and historical quarrels). Jesus Christ has ascended to heaven and is no longer among us in the same way as He was in first century Palestine. So in what way – from a communicative point of view – is He still with us? The Catholic paradigm claims that by leaving us with a living, personal, communicative authority that can speak repeatedly and definitively in His name, we therefore, still have a means of reaching clarity and certainty regarding the orthodox understanding of revealed data, not entirely unlike if Christ were still personally walking among us. Hence, Christians can repeatedly ask clarifying questions and arrive at doctrinal clarity and certainty over time – and that is just what the history of Magisterial pronouncements and the development of doctrine entail.

Therefore, similar to the scenario mapped above, the Catholic use of reason changes radically after having come to recognize the locus of Divine authority in the living voice of the Magisterium centered in the Petrine office. There is no theological arguing with the Magisterium about the content of her definitive statements, because she speaks with the authority of Christ in such instances. Yet, we necessarily use our reason to understand what the Magisterium teaches. And, in fact, the people of God, across time, have required repeated input from the Magisterium to gain clarity on this or that issue, as will continue to the end of time. But there is no question of “holding our own” in matters of theological doctrine, over against the definitive teachings of the Magisterium. That notion would be as bizarre as a Reformed theologian having a combox dialogue with Jesus Christ, and after reaching a clear understanding of Jesus’ position on some theological matter, then beginning to offer exegetical and/or historical arguments to rebut Jesus’ theological claims!

The Protestant paradigm, on the other hand, insists that the sole remaining divine communicative authority after the ascension of Christ and the death of the last apostle is a book. However, a book cannot answer for itself; it cannot respond to second, third, fourth order questions, and so on.2 No doubt there are sections of Scripture (“Thou shall not kill”) that are already so precise that no second order questions are necessary, because the compact quality and clarity of such passages fall easily within the competence of human reason to understand without error (remember fallible means only that we are subject to the “possibility” of failure).

But given the diversity of authors, genres and historical epochs from which, and out of which the various books which comprise the biblical codex are derived, it is no surprise that other questions – often of great theological and salvific import – simply evade the possibility of clear, certain, understanding in the absence of some means of asking second, third, fourth order clarifying questions and receiving some definitive answer. This is the only reasonable explanation of the widespread disagreement among Christians who do not follow the magisterium but instead rely on Scripture alone. It is implausible and ad hoc to assume that all who disagree with one’s own interpretation of Scripture are either not intelligent enough to understand what is plain in Scripture, or so depraved as to deny the truth they see plainly in Scripture. The bible is no systematic theology text.

Here again the controverted doctrine of justification provides an excellent example of just the sort of crucial theological doctrine that does not lend itself to a simple, clear, grasp by the intellect upon first reading of scripture. As anyone who has engaged in high-level Protestant – Catholic debates about the correct Pauline understanding of justification knows, it is a theological matter which simply begs for answers to second, third, and fourth order clarifying questions. The hard truth is that scripture is only partially perspicuous and that perspicuity – quite frankly – does not cover all the essential doctrines of salvation. For however the “essential” doctrines might be defined, justification is clearly one of those essential matters, if not the penultimate case. Yet, the biblical data pertaining to the doctrine of justification, perhaps more than any other doctrine, requires assimilation and coordination of more texts from more authors and from more biblical books than any other. Moreover, each one of those texts, in turn, are open to serious scholarly disagreement as to the proper “context” in which the text itself is to be interpreted. Hence, from a strictly exegetical point of view, the doctrine of justification is possibly the most synthetically difficult doctrine known to theology – but it lies at the soteriological core of Christianity!

However, according to the Protestant authority paradigm there is no magisterium that acts as a personal, living voice imbued with Christ’s own divine authority, to offer second order, third order, fourth order (and so on) communicative clarification. As a result, the Protestant is left to his own fallible resources in concert with the fallible resources of his coreligionists to achieve clarification and definition with regard to such a difficult theological matter. When faced with the necessity to ask second, third, and fourth order questions in order to achieve clarity and certainty about some crucial theological matter – such as justification – he must appeal to a person rather than the book, for only persons can provide that kind of clarification. But within the Protestant authority paradigm, there is no person recognized as possessing divine authorization to speak with the infallible authority of Jesus Christ so as to achieve the sort of clear, certain, and binding clarifications that one could expect within the context of my thought experiment above. Any and all persons working within the Protestant authority paradigm specifically deny such authority so that they must carry with them – so to speak – their rational fallibility with each order of theological precision they attempt. No matter how many second, third, or fourth order questions are asked within the Protestant authority paradigm, whatever clarifying responses are given always carry with them the explicit qualification of fallibility.

It is for this reason that no matter how much theological precision goes into the drafting of a Protestant confessional creed, nor how much deference is given to the ecumenical councils of the first millenium, all such theological clarifications must remain forever provisional and open for debate in principle. In the Protestant paradigm, there is no dogma, because there can be nothing like the thought experiment discussed above, where the theological argument is off the table and the role of reason humbly limits itself to attempting to understand through asking second, third, fourth order clarification questions concerning the authoritative teaching of Christ. But the role and limits of reason in the Catholic authority paradigm essentially mirror the role and limits of reason in the thought experiment discussed above. And that should reveal something important about the difference between the two paradigms.

Like the Catholic, the Protestant theologian must use his fallible intellect to locate the source of divine authority. Also like the Catholic, the Protestant theologian must use his fallible intellect to construct clarifying questions regarding the content of divine revelation. But unlike the Catholic, the Protestant theologian must also utilize his fallible intellect to construct clarifying answers to whatever second, third, or fourth order questions must be asked in order to arrive a definition or determination of the content of a revealed doctrine. For in order to clarify or determine the content or scope of some theological matter, such as justification, one must necessarily seek answers to second, third, and fourth order questions as described above.

The problem with this last move, wherein human reason is utilized to provide answers to clarifying questions asked about the content of divine revelation, is that human reason has neither the competency nor the authority to provide such clarifications. In order to entertain and answer a series of increasingly precise clarifying questions, the person providing clarifying answers must have a sufficiently comprehensive grasp of the subject matter so as to guide the questioner to the point of intellectual clarity. But when the subject matter is divine revelation, only God can possibly possess such comprehensive knowledge. For according to the very notion of divine revelation, if revealed articles of faith were not knowledge that transcends the capacities of the human intellect, they would not need to have been divinely revealed. But clear and certain knowledge of crucial matters of faith such as justification require that human beings ask and receive answers to second, third, or fourth order questions.

Further, as I have argued, only persons, not texts, are capable of supplying such answers. Further still, only God ultimately (or remotely as the scholastics might say) possesses a sufficiently comprehensive knowledge of divine revelation to answer a series of increasingly precise clarifying questions with regard to any matter of revealed truth. Therefore, in seeking to gain clarity and certainty regarding crucial matters of faith, unless God invests His own authority and guidance in a proximate, living, personal authority that can speak in the world on His behalf, we are left with either fallible human opinions or a gratuitous and unfalsifiable appeal to bosom-burning or direct divine illumination.

But within the Protestant authority paradigm, no persons are recognized as possessing divine authority when offering clarifying answers regarding crucial matters of faith. Therefore, such answers can only be the product of fallible human reason – they are at best educated guesses. As such they remain perpetually open to educated debate. Within the Catholic authority paradigm, however, a living, personal voice is recognized as the very voice of Christ, such that second, third, and fourth order questions can be asked and answered with increasing clarity and even finality.

Reply To An Objection

Protestants sometimes claim that their submission of reason to Scripture is equivalent to the way in which a Catholic submits to the living teaching authority of the Catholic Church. Yet, that claim is not defensible because a book has absolutely no means of answering second, third and fourth order questions in the repeated, clarifying manner that a person can. And in lacking any recognition of a living personal authority vested with the authority of Christ to answer such questions, the Protestant is forced to clarify and determine his understanding of the orthodox content of divine revelation by means of his fallible reason as just described. He can attempt to play down this fact by reading widely the clarifying answers of other fallible persons who themselves deny any divine authorization. This may give the illusion that his doctrinal positions are arrived at in a more democratic or intellectually sophisticated manner – but this does not make the problem go away. When it comes to divinely revealed truths, his use of fallible reason does not end with the task of asking second, third, or fourth order questions designed to gain clarity with respect to answers offered with divine authority (as is the case with the Catholic). He must go further and deploy fallible reason not only to ask the clarifying questions, but also to provide the clarifying answers! That is the crucial epistemic difference between the two paradigms. And that is why, contrary to Horton’s claim, Luther’s famous “Here I Stand” speech simply takes reason into domains which no Christian had taken it before.

The bottom line is that by placing a book, rather than a divinely authorized living authority, at the center of his epistemic paradigm, the Protestant not only must use his fallible human reason to arrive at the locus of divine authority and to ask clarifying questions regarding the content of divine revelation, as the Catholic also must do. He must continue the use of fallible reason to construct the clarifying answers to the questions he asks. But as I explained above, fallible human reason has neither the authority, nor the competency to supply such answers. Hence, the Protestant cannot escape the fallible interpretive spiral that does not allow him to achieve clarity and certainty on some crucial matters of faith (such as justification). Such is the problem with any “religion of the book” or any other system which exclusively places a text at the fundamental base of its epistemic edifice.

The Catholic, while in the same boat up to the point of locating the source of divine magisterial authority in the world, leaves that boat (for the solidity of dry land) after having located such a divine source. For the Catholic discovers a divine magisterial authority, thereby placing a divinely authorized, living, personal, voice at the center of his epistemic paradigm. And the ability of such a voice to provide clarifying responses to second, third, forth (and so on) order questions over time, removes the requirement for the Catholic to continue utilizing his fallible intellect to define or determine the orthodox content of revelation, a job description for which fallible human intellect has no competency as discussed above. For while the clarifying questions must necessarily arise from the fallible intellect, the clarifying answers that provide the clarification, definition, and determination of a doctrinal matter arise from a divinely authorized source. Within the Catholic authority paradigm, in order to know the orthodox content of revelation with certainty and clarity, a Catholic need only utilize his reason to gain an increasingly clarified understanding of the Magisterium’s definitive teachings. He can do this by researching the Magisterium’s responses over twenty centuries, where such clarification has often reached a significant level of perspicuity, and this activity of the intellect does indeed fall within the competency of fallible human reason because “fallible” human reason which is merely able to fail, does not generally do so when the questions it asks and the answers it receives have reached a sufficient level of simplicity or perspicuity.

For all these reasons, the tu quoque response fails to achieve its goal. The two paradigms are simply not epistemic equivalents. Therefore, if there be even equal persuasive force to the exegetical and historical arguments for the Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms, the Catholic paradigm would remain manifestly superior because of its fundamental epistemic superiority even prior to an assessment of the data. If the exegetical and historical data should, in addition, weigh in favor of the Catholic paradigm (as I think it does), that would only solidify the warrant for embrace of the same. As stated at the beginning of this post, a successful reply to the Protestant tu quoque rejoinder only addresses one of the two principal lines of objection generally brought to bear against the Catholic position by Protestant theologians. To further the cause of Christian unity, it remains for Catholics and Protestants to survey and discuss charitably the question whether or not Christ did indeed establish a living, personal, enduring teaching authority in His Church.

  1. See, for example, “The Tu Quoque.” []
  2. Bryan Cross has provided a helpful explanation of the significance of the ontological difference between persons and texts in his Modern Reformation “Dialogue” with Michael Horton in the section titled “Persons and Texts.” []
Tags: , ,

229 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. You are probably going to get an avalanche of comments saying pretty much the same thing, but still I want to thank you for both your original comment and this post. I am constantly amazed at how the authors on this site, both the authors and commenters, are able to articulate the reasons why I decided to enter communion with the Catholic Church years ago, so much more capably than I can myself. I commend you and the editors for your efforts, and for the charity with which you try to articulate the Church’s beliefs.

    Pax Christi,

    Alypius

  2. Ray,

    Beautiful family!

    I’ve often wondered what sola scriptura would have looked like in the Old Testament. Imagine an Egyptian, grabbing the Scrolls, and proclaiming that he would start true Judaism (“Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Who needs them? I have the Scrolls!!!!”). Or, imagine a Jew — like Korah — usurping the authority of Moses in the name of “The Scroll alone!” Never mind…

    Pax Christi,

    Brent

  3. Hi All.
    Great article! In my journey I’m currently weighing up the two sides and it seems to me that in the Catholic view of reality, the rules of the game are such that, even for important issues which are not discussed in the New Testament, “theological checkmate” can occur.

    Whereas in the Protestant view of reality, for these very same issues, the best that can be achieved is an ongoing “stalemate”, which seems devastating for the Protestant case.

    Eg. the topic of abortion could be used as a test case. Surely God could’ve been much clearer on this topic in the NT had he wanted to do so., given the gravity and ramifications of a decision either way! This doesn’t bode well for Sola Scriptura, and opens up the possibility for me to consider whether a divinely protected magisterium might not be such a bad idea after all.

    There are so many issues in which you Catholics have a much better, deeper answer. If only there weren’t such large obstacles to accepting the whole of your faith, I’d be in already!

    (I’ve been a lurker for a while, and can I just say a big “thank you” for all of the discussions on this website!! – to all contributors, both Catholic and protestant, but especially the authors of all of the articles)

    JP

  4. Hi Brent

    (Not meaning to sidetrack the comments already :)

    A quick “hello” – we spoke over emails a while back – I fizzled out of the discussion fairly quickly back then as I was excruciatingly busy. But I’m still searching for truth…

    God bless!
    JP

  5. IMO, authority can be determined using the same methods that are used to verify the authenticity as the Bible.

    Namely, examine all surviving Churches (especially Churches separated by geography and politics) that were founded before the Reformation and look for what is common to all since any difference might be a corruption. I specifically mention the Reformation since the claim is that it is trying to get back to the Early Church, so if you’re Martin Luther and want to be sure that you’re not just creating another “tradition of man”, you have to start on sure footing. Sure you can hunt down documents, but documents can be lost of corrupted and might not reflect the popular piety.

    Looking at the witnesses:
    * Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorian), separated 431
    * Oriental Orthodox (Miaphysites), separated 451
    * Eastern Orthodox, separated 11th century
    * Roman Catholic

    It’s possible to see a remarkable similarity between all these branches, despite bitter feuds and geographic distances and isolation (e.g. the Indian Oriental Orthodox Churches).

    The 5 solas are no-where to be found in this mix and neither is the Protestant Biblical Canon. Whatever the Early Church was, the witnesses of this age say it was not Protestantism and the authority paradigm (even if it has nothing to do with the Pope) is founded on Tradition not the Bible. Given the similarities between the Churches, sometimes in spite of Christology differences, that Tradition does appear to be reliable.

  6. Hi JP,

    Thanks for commenting. Its good to know the articles are helpful to those on the journey. Hopefully we can help out with some of those “large obstacles”.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  7. JP

    Welcome.

    You mentioned abortion, which was such a criteria for me back in the early 70s. My own denomination had no authority regarding this, and frankly was not willing to take a stand. The usual fare at that time was, “We are sorry to hear that, but….” and it was the “but” that got to me.

    A human life in utero is innocent of any crime worthy of execution yet was subject to execution; which means that human life has no intrinsic value. In the real sense of the word, that seemed and still seem a hell of a place to reside. It looked to be an atheistic position, a denial that life is a gift of God.

    Scripture from Genesis on seemed to militate against the “no intrinsic value” position, and original sin is not a crime, let alone something to be prosecuted by the secular authorities. Jesus purchased us at a great price, and that fact worked against abortion on demand.

    At that time, only the RCC and Mormonism were pro-life. (Note: I don’t know the position of the Orthodox.) Mormonism, sadly, has left that turf for a different location, their current claims to contrary not withstanding.

    Abortion was not the only issue that moved me to Catholicism, but it was one of them, and a very important one at that. God came to save the world, not to condemn it, and abortion was the condemnation of human beings for no good reason. The Catholics were right.

    The best on your journey.

    dt

  8. This is a ray of light. And yes, pun intended.

    I related to your description of formulating the questions and the answers. Before my conversion this was key. I didnt feel odd or ‘dirty’ having questions about theological topics, but I certainly did feel filthy dirty when I ended up formulating the answers (after all the study and consultation with experts I could manage of course). Especially when the answers seemed to “fit” a bit to easily with what I was hoping they would be. Answers tend to do that when you get to make them up. This focus of yours on the “answers” being the difference between the paradigms is yet another great way to bring clarity to this discussion. This fits well with Bryan’s framing the issue in terms of the monologue of a book and a dialogue between persons. A monologue forces me to make up the answers… like a ventriloquist or something… while a dialogue is just that: a back and forth requiring only my questions and some grey matter to understand.

  9. Thanks for a thought-provoking article! Some excellent points were made, but after reading it, it still seemed to me that you didn’t actually respond *directly* to the tu quoque challenge. You wrote,

    “Both Catholics and Protestants use (as they must) their fallible intellect in coming to an acceptance of the real-world locus of some divine authority based on various motives of credibility. In the case of Catholics, we use our fallible reason to assess the motive of credibility and thereby come to accept that Jesus is from God, that Scripture has divine authority, and that the Catholic Church was founded and organized by Christ and invested with the Holy Spirit such that she can act as the living voice of Christ in the world. Protestants use their fallible intellects to come to an embrace of the first two propositions, but not the third.”

    I get that *after* Catholics accept that the Catholic Church is the church that Christ founded, they will never face the kind of problem that adherents of sola Scriptura have to deal with, i.e., the problem of having an authority (a book) that cannot answer questions directly. All that is clear to me. What this article does, IMO, is point out the superiority of having a living teaching authority of whom we can ask second-, third-, and fourth-order questions until we reach clarity. That point is made well. What the article doesn’t do–unless I’ve missed something–is explain how the Catholic’s decision to accept the Catholic magisterium can be relied upon since that, too, is based on fallible human reasoning. That is the whole point of the tu quoque.

  10. Going off what Alypius said in #1, consider me one of smaller stones in the avalanche. I mostly lurk, but I do want to congratulate you, Ray, on this exceptionally clear post, including what I would consider a C.S. Lewis-esque analogy. When I was struggling with the decision to become Catholic, I eventually reached the point that I suspect most converts from Protestantism reach, the question of authority. You have expressed in remarkably clear language the distinction that I felt but could not really articulate – i.e. the distinction between a living authority to which questions can be addressed and answers can be received, and a static authority which offers no help to anyone seeking to understand what it says. The former offers hope, because questions can eventually be answered; in the latter, it seems we are forever doomed to uncertainty and division. I know this language is a little harsh, but for me I ultimately saw my choice as between Catholicism or agnosticism – there was no level ground on which to rest in between.

  11. Jeremy,

    Thanks for your comment. Technically, the tu quoque (“you also” ) response to the Catholic authority paradigm amounts to the claim that the two authority paradigms are equivalent. In other words, the Protestant is saying that the Catholic authority paradigm suffers from all the same weaknesses that Catholics criticize in the Protestant authority paradigm – “you too”! I have set out to show that such a claim fails and that the two claims are not epistemically equivalent, for the relationship of epistemology to doctrinal authority does not apply only the first steps which the mind takes in considering revelatory claims, but also to those steps involved in defining and determining the content of any purported revealed data. It is in this second way that the Catholic paradigm is epistemically superior to the Protestant paradigm, thereby rendering the two paradigms non-equivalent. That is all the post sets out, or claims, to accomplish.

    The Catholic critique of the Protestant authority paradigm to which the tu quoque is a rejoinder, never described the fallible use of reason in locating a source of divine authority as a weakness in the Protestant paradigm. Rather, it critiques the way in which the content of divine revelation must be defined or determined within the Protestant paradigm. Therefore, when Protestant theologians respond with the tu quoque rejoinder, their response would be pointless unless it intended to accuse the Catholic paradigm of equivalent weakness in the area of doctrinal definition and determination, since the epistemic situation prior to coming to a recognition of a locus of divine authority was never put forward by Catholics as a weakness.
    The post, therefore, rebuts the only meaningful way in which the tu quoque might have any force against the Catholic authority paradigm.

    The issue you are focused on, has rather to do with the relationship between faith and reason and their conjunction with the motives of credibility and motives of faith. I would only point out that whatever epistemic concerns you might have in this area regarding the use of fallible reason to locate either Scripture or the Catholic Church as sources of divine authority, will equally apply to the use of fallible reason as it comes to embrace the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was sent from God. That may be worth thinking upon if you have not already done so.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  12. Jeremy (#9)

    What the article doesn’t do–unless I’ve missed something–is explain how the Catholic’s decision to accept the Catholic magisterium can be relied upon since that, too, is based on fallible human reasoning. That is the whole point of the tu quoque.

    I think, Jeremy, that the point is that up to the point of identifying the source of the Word of God, both Catholic and Protestant are in the same boat. Both Protestant and Catholic must conclude by reason that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and therefore that what He says is true. The Protestant finds by reason that the Bible is Jesus’s Word to us. But there he stops. The Catholic must conclude by reason that Jesus appointed the Church as His infallible interlocutor to understand the Word of Jesus.

    The point of the tu quoque from the Protestant’s point of view is that the Catholic must continue to use his reason to understand the teachings of the Church after concluding that the Church is Christ’s mouthpiece, but Ray’s point is that this is not so. The Protestant, having identified the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, but finding anything in it less than clear (e.g. is divorce and remarriage possible? should infants be baptised? what is the role of works in salvation?), is now reduced to the use of fallible reason – his own or that of others, whether early Church fathers or the theologians of his own group – to try to understand these things. The Catholic is not, since he can dialogue with the Church which he believes he has identified as infallible about them.

    You are quite right to say that the question whether the Church is infallible or not is itself based on human reason – but so is the question whether the Bible is inerrant. Both are in the same boat regarding that. But the point of tu quoque is supposed to be that after the identification of the source of divine truth is identified, the two are in the same situation; they are not.

    jj

  13. Jeremy,

    What the article doesn’t do–unless I’ve missed something–is explain how the Catholic’s decision to accept the Catholic magisterium can be relied upon since that, too, is based on fallible human reasoning. That is the whole point of the tu quoque.

    I think what you imply is a different form of the tu quoque in question. Your form of the tu quoque would put the Buddhist and the Christian on equal footing. For that and other reasons, I recommend Wilson Vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  14. I think there’s no disputing that the Catholic position allows for _relatively_ greater certainty (and hence unity without compromising truth, which for me is the main point) than the Protestant.

    But I think Protestants are right to argue that the absolute, qualitative contrast often claimed by Catholic apologists falls to a “tu quoque” response. The claim one often hears from conservative Catholics is that a _kind_, not just _degree_ of certainty is possible for them that isn’t possible for Protestants. I don’t think your response answers this objection.

    If your analogy of Jesus on a blog were a sound one, perhaps your response would work. (It isn’t clear to me, given the record of the Gospels, that Jesus would be at all interested in providing the kind of clarity you suppose–but then that’s presumably one reason why He didn’t stick around “in His natural dimensions” to answer our questions.) But it clearly isn’t. When a Pope issues an encyclical, or when a Council draws up a document, these texts (and a fortiori the many lesser expressions of the Magisterium) are not the Word of God in the way that the words of Jesus Himself would be. They are not even the Word of God in the way Scripture is. They contain, preserve, clarify the Word of God. But they do so using _human_ words–protected from actual doctrinal error, true, but still subject to all kinds of limitations and imperfections.

    Furthermore, there are endless debates among Catholics as to which particular magisterial statements belong to which levels of Church teaching. One can of course simply declare that one particular faction within Catholicism is “orthodox” on this point and the others aren’t–but then we’re basically back to something like the Protestant situation.

    I can’t see that your picture of how authority works within Catholicism corresponds to the fractured, fractious, messy reality. It’s an ideological abstraction.

  15. Ray,

    I mean this question in all sincerity and not tongue-in-cheek. Are you saying the Tu Quoque does not work because Protestants do not claim to have the same sort of doctrinal certainity that Catholics do (to those points which have been specified)?

    If I postulate myself as an infallible interpreter of the inerrant Word of God, would I then have the right to use the Tu Quoque? Can a Jehovah’s Witness use the Tu Quoque? Can a Mormon? Old Catholic? Eastern Orthodox? Oriental?

    I know this question has been asked numerous times and been answered in various ways but I’m still unclear on this issue and would appreciate your patience. Thank you very much for your time.

  16. Ray,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to spell this all out. Although I am a cradle Catholic, God blessed me in a way such that pondering the divide between Catholicism and Protestantism has become an important question to answer succinctly. I too, arrived at this simplicity in paradigms with the example of “if Jesus were in his pre-Assencion body among us how would we handle the questions that divide us?”

    The last step I came to (as I have mentioned in comboxes here on CTC before) is really that the Catholic’s last step involves a great act of humility.

    As is often stated by Protestants with a deep sympathy for Catholicism, they would become Catholic except for the Church’s teaching on (fill in the blank). It is here, that a Christian must humbly submit, and allow for himself to be in the wrong, instead of assuming that the other guy.. or Church is the one who is necessarily wrong. And *this* is a difficult submission to follow through with, especially the more convinced you are that you’re right, and you are risking matters of Eternal Truth.

    I figure the first step to being able to humbly submit is to get to the point that you realize you can not be any more knowledgeable about these difficult matters than they other guy, or the Magisterium. Admitting that God has not illuminated you more than your neighbor allows you to realize that your neighbor is no more wrong than you are right. Now that both of you are equally wrong, or equally right, then what’s the more Christian position to take, that of two equals you are still more right, or perhaps humble yourself and allow someone else to be right instead of you. If it were between you and Christ, you would submit. So, for those would-be-Catholic-except folk out there, it’s a hard thing to do, but admitting that you may not be more right on the difficult topics of Mary, Purgatory, Salvation, Authority, Saintly Intercession than the Catholic Church affords you the opportunity to let go of control and allow for God’s Truth to be universally taught instead of individually discerned. Even the Pope submits wholly to what he was taught by his predecessors, just like every Pope, back to Christ.

    Christianity is based on humble submission, to Christ, His Teachings (Word), and to one another.

    Peace be with all,
    Adrienne

  17. Edwin,

    But I think Protestants are right to argue that the absolute, qualitative contrast often claimed by Catholic apologists falls to a “tu quoque” response. The claim one often hears from conservative Catholics is that a _kind_, not just _degree_ of certainty is possible for them that isn’t possible for Protestants. I don’t think your response answers this objection.

    Would you mind articulating what, in fact, you think the tu quoque objection is? Is it something like Jeremy’s proposition (above)? If so, then the tu quoque objection is a skeptical response to certain knowledge in general — not the particular Catholic claim regarding theology. If that is the tu quoque you have in mind, then the course of our conversation takes on a completely different contour.

    To understand the unique Catholic position between faith and the Church, I highly recommend this article by Bryan Cross:

    St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church

    I think this article sums up the epistemic difference between the Catholic and the Protestant.

    Furthermore, there are endless debates among Catholics as to which particular magisterial statements belong to which levels of Church teaching. One can of course simply declare that one particular faction within Catholicism is “orthodox” on this point and the others aren’t–but then we’re basically back to something like the Protestant situation.

    Is that what you really see in Catholicism? Seriously, is there a question you have regarding a doctrine that you cannot find the irreformable teaching?

    I can’t see that your picture of how authority works within Catholicism corresponds to the fractured, fractious, messy reality. It’s an ideological abstraction.

    Maybe in academia, because that is what academics do. However, are you saying that the average Catholic, with a Catechism of the Catholic Church in tote, cannot know what the Church really teaches?

  18. Edwin,

    Thanks for your comment. You wrote:

    But I think Protestants are right to argue that the absolute, qualitative contrast often claimed by Catholic apologists falls to a “tu quoque” response. The claim one often hears from conservative Catholics is that a _kind_, not just _degree_ of certainty is possible for them that isn’t possible for Protestants. I don’t think your response answers this objection.

    Within the protestant authority paradigm, the answers which Protestants offer to second, third, and fourth order questions designed to achieve definition and determination of a revealed truth are explicitly acknowledged to be fallible – that is – not protected from error. Within the Catholic authority paradigm, the answers which the Magisterium offers to second, third, and fourth order questions designed to achieve definition and determination of a revealed truth are explicitly acknowledged to be protected from error. Those are two different kinds of answers (one set protected from error, the other not). Accordingly, the kind of certainty attached to the reception of those different kinds of answers differs as well. Therefore, having once reached their respective locus of divine authority, when the matter turns to the definition and determination of the content of divine revelation, the difference is in fact a difference in kind, not merely in degree.

    You wrote:

    If your analogy of Jesus on a blog were a sound one, perhaps your response would work. (It isn’t clear to me, given the record of the Gospels, that Jesus would be at all interested in providing the kind of clarity you suppose–but then that’s presumably one reason why He didn’t stick around “in His natural dimensions” to answer our questions.) But it clearly isn’t. When a Pope issues an encyclical, or when a Council draws up a document, these texts (and a fortiori the many lesser expressions of the Magisterium) are not the Word of God in the way that the words of Jesus Himself would be. They are not even the Word of God in the way Scripture is. They contain, preserve, clarify the Word of God. But they do so using _human_ words–protected from actual doctrinal error, true, but still subject to all kinds of limitations and imperfections.

    The point of the analogy is to establish how answers to second, third, and fourth order questions provided by one with divine authority works to yield definition and determination of the content of divine revelation. This is all that is necessary to achieve the stated goal of the post. The analogy is not designed to highlight the qualitative differences between the spoken words of Jesus, the inspired words of scripture, or the error-protected expressions of magisterial teaching. Within the article, I was careful to state that the activity of the Magisterium in responding to second, third, or fourth order questions is “not entirely unlike if Christ were still personally walking among us”. For, of course, there are qualitative ways in which they are not alike. The point, for the purposes of my analogy and the general argumentative strategy of the post, is that the Magisterium, being composed of living persons and unified by a living person in each age of the Church, provides the Catholic with functional clarificatory capabilities akin to those exercised by a person; namely, the ability to answer second, third, fourth order (and so on) questions with reference to matters of revealed faith. Therefore, while the distinctions you point to are accurate and important, they have no bearing upon my analogy with respect to its ability to achieve the work for which it was deployed.

    You wrote:

    Furthermore, there are endless debates among Catholics as to which particular magisterial statements belong to which levels of Church teaching.

    Your statement here can either mean that there are some magisterial statements which Catholics debate as to their authoritative status within the Church, or your statement can be construed as asserting that all magisterial statements are debated with respect to their authoritative status within the Church.

    If you intend to assert the former, then your assertion is entirely compatible with the way in which I have described the workings of the Catholic authority paradigm. For the very history of magisterial pronouncements and the development of doctrine establish a dynamic in which historical and cultural factors give rise within the Church to rich and sometimes heated theological debate. Such debates are the primary way in which the people of God across time construct second, third, and fourth order clarificatory questions with regard to matters of revealed truth. When the Magisterium responds to such questions through formal promulgation, she effectively clarifies the matter at hand by taking previous options off the table; even if, in doing so she leaves some questions or aspects of some questions unresolved. After Nicaea, Arianism is off the table, even though the very act of providing irreformable clarification regarding Jesus’ divine status, simultaneously gives rise to new questions about how that divine status is to be understood ontologically. New debates ensue with regard to monophysitism and monothelitism; debates which embody new clarificatory questions to which the Magisterium eventually responds through additional clarificatory promulgations. After Trent, certain views of justification are eliminated through precise negations: “if anyone shall say that . . .”, etc. Yet, in responding to second or third order questions about justification arising from the turmoil of the Reformation, other questions arose such as the Dominican and Jesuit debates regarding free will. This is how increasing clarification through the asking and answering of second, third, and fourth order questions works. A precise and perspicuous resolution to one line of questioning, gives rise to new lines of questions. In this sense the debates are indeed endless. I stated as much within the article when I wrote: “And, in fact, the people of God, across time, have required repeated input from the Magisterium to gain clarity on this or that issue, as will continue to the end of time.”

    But notice carefully that although new questions may always arise both before and after any given doctrinal promulgation by the Magisterium; this does not entail that prior questions never reach a point of clarity and finality through definitive and perspicuous definition. Arianism, monophysitism and monothelitism are heterodox. There are innumerable instances throughout the magisterial corpus where one finds language such as the following: “If anyone shall say ‘x’ . . . , let him be anathema” where ‘x’ is some very specific proposition which can no longer be regarded as an orthodox position. In this way, and as I stated in the article: “Within the Catholic authority paradigm . . . a living, personal voice is recognized as the very voice of Christ, such that second, third, and fourth order questions can be asked and answered with increasing clarity and even finality.”. Therefore, if your statement is intended to convey the idea that all magisterial statements are in a perpetual state of flux with respect to their authoritative status within the Church, such a claim is manifestly false.

    You wrote:

    “One can of course simply declare that one particular faction within Catholicism is ‘orthodox’ on this point and the others aren’t–but then we’re basically back to something like the Protestant situation.”

    Neither people nor factions, properly speaking, are “orthodox” or “heterodox”. Doctrinal propositions are orthodox or heterodox. And because, within the Catholic authority paradigm, various doctrinal propositions can and have been defined or anathematized with perspicuity and finality by a divinely authorized magisterium, such definitions can be effectively utilized to differentiate between orthodoxy and heterodoxy with respect to those specific doctrinal matters. Such is not the case within the Protestant authority paradigm. The fact that many other theological matters have yet to reach a similar level of perspicuity and finality through the clarificatory process of receiving authoritative answers to second or third, or fourth order questions, is not only compatible with the argument I make within the article, it is indicative of the workings of the Catholic authority paradigm as I have explained it.

    You wrote:

    “I can’t see that your picture of how authority works within Catholicism corresponds to the fractured, fractious, messy reality. It’s an ideological abstraction”

    The “fractured, fractious, messy” reality to which you refer is only a rhetorical way of describing the ongoing dynamic relationship between the people of God and the Magisterium across time wherein some matters of revealed faith eventually reach definitive resolution, but where a host of others remain in some greater or lesser degree of perspicuity at any given time (such as the debates in our lifetime arising from new questions prompted by Vatican II). Because that real-world situation, as well as the examples you offer to explicate it, are perfectly compatible with my construal of how authority works within Catholicism, the conclusion that such a picture is only an “ideological abstraction” does not follow.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  19. RefProt,

    Thank you for your comment.

    You wrote:

    I mean this question in all sincerity and not tongue-in-cheek. Are you saying the Tu Quoque does not work because Protestants do not claim to have the same sort of doctrinal certainty that Catholics do (to those points which have been specified)?

    I am saying that the tu quoque does not work because within the Protestant authority paradigm, the second, third, and fourth order questions which must necessarily be asked in order to define and determine the scope and content of many revealed matters, can only be answered by persons who explicitly deny their own ability to answer such clarificatory questions with divine authority.

    You wrote:

    If I postulate myself as an infallible interpreter of the inerrant Word of God, would I then have the right to use the Tu Quoque? Can a Jehovah’s Witness use the Tu Quoque? Can a Mormon? Old Catholic? Eastern Orthodox? Oriental?

    I don’t think such a postulation would entail a tu quoque response; rather, you would be using something more akin to an et ego (me also) response :>). You or anyone can claim to speak with divine authority, in which case on the theoretical, comparative level (and prescinding entirely from a survey of the motives of credibility which might support such claims), your authority paradigm would mirror that put forward by the Catholic Church with respect to the definition and determination of divine revelation (although without an way to institutionally instantiate your personal authority, that authority would end with your death – so the JW comparison may better represent your question). But Protestantism does not even make the claim; therefore, its authority paradigm is immediately rendered non-equivalent to the Catholic authority paradigm, even prior to an assessment of the motives of credibility.

    Of course ultimately, and as I stated at the end of the article, one must turn to the motives of credibility which are offered in support of the authority claimant itself. Comparing the motives of credibility which support your claim to possession of divinely authorized interpretive authority as compared to the motives which support the claims of the Catholic Church, would not be entirely unlike comparing the motives of credibility which support your claim to being Christ (should you wish to make such a claim), with the motives of credibility which support the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  20. Faramir,

    You wrote:

    “. . . but for me I ultimately saw my choice as between Catholicism or agnosticism – there was no level ground on which to rest in between.”

    I can identify with this quite well, although for myself I would say that the choice came down to Catholicisim or agnosticism with respect to any communicative content conveyed from God to man. For I think that the existence of God in the sense of classical theism can be demonstrated from reason alone; so that I could not, with integrity, embrace agnosticism in the strict sense as I once did.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  21. I can’t wait to read the Magisterium’s answers to my second, third and fourth order questions in this combox.

    Is everything promulgated by the Magisterium perspicuous?

  22. Robert Hugh Benson’s, The Religion of the Plain Man, is an excellent work on this topic from 1906, and incorporates a variation on the ‘What if Jesus was here, right now?’ thought experiment, too…
    http://archives.nd.edu/episodes/visitors/rhb/bensonm.htm

    From Chapter II

    A train of thought has been suggested to him by CHRIST’S words that although He was going to the Father,{15} yet He would still be with His own until the end of the world.{16}

    “Let us picture,” says John, “what would have happened if these words were carnally fulfilled, and CHRIST were still on the earth in bodily form. We shall understand better so what is the effect of His spiritual presence; for His spiritual presence, unconfined by laws of space, cannot at any rate be less effectual than would have been His earthly presence in Jerusalem or Rome.”

    First then, with reference to truth, he meditates, how simple would have been the appeal! When disputes arose, on vital matters at any rate, they could have been settled within a few days.

    “Tell us,” he imagines a deputation saying, “tell us, LORD, what is the meaning of Thy words, ‘This is My Body.'{17} There are some of us that are inclined to hold that the words are literal, and that in the holy Sacrament we have Thy Body actually and really present upon our altars. Others of us, who claim equal piety and learning, declare that such a thing is impossible, that the significance can be no more than a symbolical one; others again name the presence virtual, not real; others declare that the presence is real to the receiver, not in the bread. From this divergence there are countless quarrels, disputes and recriminations. We confess with shame that the sacrament of unity has been for many amongst us a sacrament of discord and hatred.

  23. Ryan,

    Thank you for your comment.

    No, not every magisterial promulgation achieves simple clarity or perspicuity. Nevertheless, many in fact achieve such clarity once a series of clarification questions reach a point at which the answer to a third or fourth (or later) order question is arrived at. In some cases, the doctrinal point at issue is already so concise that only one order of questioning need be put to the Magisterium. The council of Jerusalem in the book of Acts is a good example of such a case. The question was: “does becoming a Christian require circumcision”. This question does not leave much room for explanatory nuance, such that any additional questions would need to be asked after the initial answer is promulgated. It requires a yes/no response, and that is exactly what the council of Jerusalem promulgated to the Church, and the question has been settled from that time forth. But compare that question to the theologically loaded question: “who exactly is Jesus Christ”, which occupied theological minds throughout the early Christian centuries. That is a first order question which contains within itself so many subsidiary questions that there is simply no way to anticipate, and so respond, to all the embedded questions with one magisterial stroke. Therefore, it took many centuries and multiple magisterial promulgations to achieve a fully Catholic Christology.

    There are other reasons why not every magisterial promulgation achieves clarity. The definitive teachings of the Magisterium are protected from error by the Holy Spirit. Some theologians actually use the term “negative protection”. It can be stated positively by saying that the Holy Spirit guides the Magisterium in her definitive promulgations such that the expressed result is free from error. This does not mean that every magisterial statement makes the best use of language in drawing up definitive statements. It is possible that any given expression of the magisterium could be stated with greater clarity or precision. Nor does such protection and guidance entail that every magisterial promulgation will explicitly anticipate and respond to possible objections or secondary questions. The guidance of the Magisterium by the Holy Spirit entails only that what is formally expressed will be true (free from error) so far as it goes. Hence, either due to the intrinsic complexity of the question being asked, or due to the manner in which the Magisterium expresses herself, or both; it is often the case that additional (second, third, fourth) order questions must be asked before arriving at a clarificatory question so precise that the corresponding magisterial response is perspicuous enough to bring the dialogical spiral to an end.

    With respect to the notion of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Magisterium, the events of the Jerusalem council in Acts can again be helpful. It is important to understand that the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Magisterium is not to be thought of as magical or mystical, or in any manifest way noticeable in the concrete reality of magisterial activity. The Holy Spirit’s guidance is more subtle, powerful, and comprehensive than that. In reading the account of the gathering and conducting of the Jerusalem council, there does not appear to be anything especially divine about how the proceedings develop. There is heated argumentation and debate, and finally, after various opinions and objections have been placed on the table; Peter, as the recognized leader of the Church, speaks and makes something like an executive decision with respect to the question of circumcision. From a purely human point of view, it does not appear to be much different from what one might encounter in a Fortune-500 board room. And yet, when the decision or decrees of the council are drawn up for promulgation to the various churches, it includes a rather extraordinary claim regarding the identity of one of the parties involved in the process. For it begins: “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”. This correspondence between the activity of the Magisterium and the Holy Spirit in promulgating definitive teaching is the prototype for all magisterial activity going forward.

    For more detail and concrete examples concerning how Magisterial promulgations achieve perspicuity over time with respect to a given theological matter, please see my comment #18 above, and also this recent comment by Bryan Cross.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  24. Ryan (re: 21);
    I love a good snarky comment every now and then. But, generally, I like snarky comments that try to illuminate the logical consequences of an argument. Yours on the magisterium commenting in a combox doesn’t do that.

    Here’s one for you on this same perspicuity issue: Can those of you who love Jesus, have PhD after your name, and insist to me that Scripture is perspicuous finally get around to giving me clear answers on whether I should baptize my children, what the baptism does, and whether or not I should teach my children they can or can’t fall away from grace?

    My Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Methodist friends all give different answers to these questions and they’re sort of basic to Christian family life, right? When I ask these friends how important it is to believe a very difficult and mysterious formula for the two natures in one person of Christ (something they agree with Catholics about) they will say it’s very important. Ask them about baptism and many will say it’s a non-essential as long as you believe in justification by faith alone. But, there’s no principled basis in the sola scriptura paradigm for saying one is essential and the other is not. Further, most Christians who have ever lived are probably not capable of understanding Chalcedonian Christology. But, almost every Christian has been or will be baptized and billions of them have or had families and needed to follow Christ’s will for their children.

    To this Protestant, it’s seeming completely crazy for us to charge that Catholics are out there subverting the Word of God when there are so many basic issues that intelligent, sincere Protestants cannot agree on.

    As to your question on the perspicuity of the magisterium, the obvious answer is no. But, it seems to me that for the average Christian who wants to follow the will of Christ, there’s no comparison between the 2 paradigms. The difference is enormous.

    Mark

  25. @John Thayer Jensen,

    You wrote,

    The point of the tu quoque from the Protestant’s point of view is that the Catholic must continue to use his reason to understand the teachings of the Church after concluding that the Church is Christ’s mouthpiece, but Ray’s point is that this is not so. The Protestant, having identified the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, but finding anything in it less than clear (e.g. is divorce and remarriage possible? should infants be baptised? what is the role of works in salvation?), is now reduced to the use of fallible reason – his own or that of others, whether early Church fathers or the theologians of his own group – to try to understand these things. The Catholic is not, since he can dialogue with the Church which he believes he has identified as infallible about them.

    Thank you for your explanation. That helped me understand the point of the post better. All the same, my question still nags me. I understand that the Catholic doesn’t have to rely on fallible reasoning *after* he or she accepts the magisterium, since at that point he or she feels no need to analyze and figure out the magisterium’s teaching. After all, there is no need to test or cross-examine a teaching if you already accept it as infallible. It is what happens before that point, though, that I am concerned about–the point at which the Catholic uses fallible reasoning to conclude that the magisterium is infallible–since the Catholic’s trust in that infallibility is entirely dependent on that previous step. I would summarize it as follows:

    1. The Catholic uses fallible reasoning to conclude that the Catholic magisterium is infallible.
    2. The Catholic now does not have to rely on fallible reasoning to determine the truth of any Catholic teaching since he has accepted it as infallible, based on step 1.

    My nagging question is this: If step 1 is done with fallible reasoning, then it involves a private interpretation. That means that step 2, though not involving private interpretation, is dependent on step 1, which did involve private interpretation. The unquestioning acceptance of magisterial teaching is dependent on the previous fallible private interpretation. The Catholic might not have to rely on private interpretation at and after step 2, but step 2 has its origin in a fallible process. Therefore, the Catholic has a fallible belief in an infallible teacher. Although this provides great peace since one can obtain clarification from that teacher, that peace rests upon a fallible foundation.

  26. MarkS (re:24)-

    Thanks for that comment. As my wife and I were received into the Church about 4 years ago, this very issue meant a lot to us as we had small children at the time who were NOT yet baptized. Baptism is indeed an essential doctrine. The myriad beliefs/practices in its regard among non-Catholic christians say more about the non-Catholic approach to Scriptural interpretation than they do about the importance of the sacrament.

    Thanks again

    herbert

  27. Jeremy,

    If we place our selves in the shoes of a believer in first century Palestine (or even as a participant within my article’s thought experiment), I think you would have to agree that the epistemic situation with regard to Christ and His teaching mirrors the situation you explain with reference to the Catholic Church and her teaching:

    1. The Christian uses fallible reasoning to conclude that Christ is infallible.
    2. The Christian now does not have to rely on fallible reasoning to determine the truth of any Christ-ian teaching since he has accepted it as infallible, based on step 1

    I realize that my pointing that out does not necessarily help with the nagging concern you have, but I think it helps to contextualize the situation. In either case there is no avoiding the use of fallible reason to assess the “motives of credibility” which support (or as modern philosophers often say “warrant”) step 1. Now as I explained within the article, the fact that reason is fallible does not mean that it must or always does fail. There are some truths which can be demonstrated according to a scientific (in the traditional philosophical sense) procedure, such as the existence of God, considered as First Cause of all contingent things. Of course, such demonstrations are often difficult and require great patience. But there are other truths for which there is no scientific methodology available for arriving at a strict demonstration, even though there is strong cumulative evidence so as to warrant intellectual assent. This later is the case with regard to the intellect’s assessment of divine authority claims. There are strong motives of credibility rooted in history proper, historical prophetic fulfillments, miracles, etc. to warrant intellectual assent to Jesus of Nazareth’s claim to be sent from God, as well as to support the claim that Jesus established the Catholic Church and authorized her to speak in His name.

    Notice that this epistemic situation is neither “fideism”, wherein one simply makes a “leap of faith” and chooses to believe with no good reason(s) for doing so; but nor is it a situation where strict scientific demonstration is possible. In fact it is a situation which opens up just the proper space for the role of the gift and virtue of supernatural faith (as traditionally understood) to elevate and complete what reason has good grounds for embracing. There is much more that can and should be said on this topic; for as you rightly point out, there is a sense in which it is foundational to the arguments I make in the article. I highly suggest you read (if you have not already) the Wilson vs. Hitchens article which Brent recommended earlier, and especially the comments attached to that article.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  28. Ryan (#21)

    I can’t wait to read the Magisterium’s answers to my second, third and fourth order questions in this combox.
    Is everything promulgated by the Magisterium perspicuous?

    It seems you meant this as a rhetorical question with the obvious answer being ‘no’, which is ironic. Because I think the answer is pretty clearly ‘yes’.
    This would not necessarily apply to any one promulgation, but I think that as a living body, the Magisterium itself is perspicuous. And in that same sense so are you. And so am I.
    If I say “all is fair in love and war”, you can keep asking me what I mean by that. I can keep clarifying until you and I are satisfied that you understand what I meant. I could clarify “all” to mean “all except doing evil”. Then I could clarify what I mean by evil to mean the decalogue. Then I could clarify those one by one… etc, etc, on and on until we both understand each other.

    MarkS (#24)

    To this Protestant, it’s seeming completely crazy for us to charge that Catholics are out there subverting the Word of God when there are so many basic issues that intelligent, sincere Protestants cannot agree on.

    Amen brother. This is what drove me crazy as a Reformed father and husband. You can pray for wisdom all day and still there will be 10 different PhDs with 10 different takes on baptism and the sacraments. And each of those will give their doctrine a different “importance level”, either exalting it to “quite important that we all agree on this” or relegating it to “not so important that we all agree”. But unfortunately, I think you are being too generous to say that most Protestants give the titles “intelligent” and “sincere” to their fellow Protestants they disagree with. In my experience they will accuse them of either one or the other when the point of disagreement is pressed. And for the convert to Catholicism… they will almost always accuse them of one or the other. I believe this is because their notion of perspicuity cannot stand in a world where sincere, intelligent scripture scholars disagree. Something must give, and it will usually be the assumption of sincerity or intelect rather than the denial of perspicuity. After all, if the scriptures are perspicuous, what reasons for disagreement could there be other than ignorance or malice?

    Peace to you.

    David Meyer

  29. Folks,

    Since we have a had a few questions touching upon how one goes about assessing divine authority claims, I think this comment might be helpful so some.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  30. “This would not necessarily apply to any one promulgation…”

    But that was my question. I know you consider the Magisterium itself to be perspicuous.

    Since it’s not necessarily the case that any one promulgation is perspicuous and we have no practical means of actually asking the infallible Magisterium second, third, and fourth order questions, then how do you determine which promulgations are perspicuous?

  31. Ryan and David –

    I’m going to have to disagree with David on this, at least as far as I understand the definition of perspicuous (which I might not understand at all, seeing as how I’ve never been reformed and never really encountered the doctrine until I came here). I don’t believe we can say the magisterium is perspicuous. But, the magisterium can clarify itself and clarify itself until the meaning is understood widely.

    For example, I could say, “My favorite team to watch is Seattle.” Somebody might then buy me tickets to see the Storm, our WNBA team – a team that I have no desire to see. I can then clarify that my favorite team to watch is the Seattle Mariners (I know, I know. I like pain).

    If I were to write down that my favorite team to watch is Seattle, and then I were to die, the meaning of my words would remain ambiguous and confusing. You wouldn’t know if I was talking about the Storm, the Mariners, the Seahawks, the Sounders, or the Sonics (RIP). Seahawks fans might say, “He’s obviously talking about the Seahawks! How could you possibly think he would like the Mariners?” But they would be wrong. My favorite team is the Mariners (though I do like the Seahawks).

    Does perspicuity mean something different than I think it means?

  32. Ryan,

    You wrote:

    I know you consider the Magisterium itself to be perspicuous.

    No, the Magisterium itself is not perspicuous, but some of its formal promulgations are. At any given moment, the Magisterium itself is composed of living bishops, in union with a living pope. People are not perspicuous, but their communication can be (though it not always is).

    You wrote:

    Since it’s not necessarily the case that any one promulgation is perspicuous

    No, that is not correct. Please see my #23 above where I explained that some promulgations are in fact perspicuous, even though to be a magisterial promulgation, it is not perspicuity is not necessary.

    You wrote:

    “. . . we have no practical means of actually asking the infallible Magisterium second, third, and fourth order questions, then how do you determine which promulgations are perspicuous?

    In fact, on many theological matters, those second, third, or fourth order questions have already been asked and answered within by the Magisterium within the context of Christian history as I explained in #18 above. Moreover, such questions can be asked and answered even within one’s own lifetime as explained in Bryan’s link to which I referenced you in #23.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  33. Fr. Bryan,
    I defer to you on this Father. And I think we are perhaps saying the same thing. When I said the magisterium was perspicuous, I am saying that over time it has the ability to clarify with exhaustive precision, just as over time you or I do.
    Ironically, me clarifying what I meant in this very comment is a great example of what I am trying to convey!
    As far as I know, perspecuity just means that something is totally clear and understandable. So I would say the magisterium is perspicuous overall, because it has the ability to clarify (unlike a book), but perhaps there are certain documents of the magisterium that in themselves are not perspicuous, because they require further clarification. But as I said, I defer to you and the CTC guys on this one.

  34. I missed Ray’s comment before posting.

  35. Fr. Bryan,

    I see the point that you are getting at, but do you see how for a Protestant this is unconvincing? We are not talking about which sporting teams God supports (though I will dogmatically believe that He is a Colts fan). We are talking about God’s revelation of Himself to His people. For example, Heb 1:1 tells us that long ago God spoken in many times and many ways but now he has spoken in His Son. The NT revelation is good, but now we have the definitive revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

    I say this only to point out that your analogy faces apologetic difficulties. I see what you are trying to say but there is such a disconnect between your analogy and the revelation contained in Scripture that the connection is formally non-existent. The way us Protestants will hear this type of answer is that God’s revelation is somehow incomplete to understand Him.

    I don’t think that is what your intend to say, but that is what I struggle with in these discussions. While I understand Rome does not want to denigrate God’s revelation, I am sometimes puzzled at how Catholics can appear to make the Word of God say nothing of meaning outside of the Church. Perhaps you can at least sympathize with us Protestants who are struggling to understand Rome on her own terms with being incredulous at these claims.

  36. Mr. Stamper,

    Excellent article. I think you’ve done a great job of clarifying the differences between the Catholic and Protestant paradigms of authority. Incidentally, I believe that this emphasis on understanding the Reformation divide in terms of paradigms is one of the strongest points of Called to Communion’s apologetics, and a significant reason of why the team here has been so successful in persuading several people to convert from the Reformed faith. I recall one Catholic journalist (can’t remember his name) giving his reasons for being Catholic and stating that the whole question of Catholicism really hinged on whether the Church is what she says she is–and once that issue is resolved, all the other difficulties (for Protestants) are seen in quite a different light. Even though they may still be hard to accept, you really have no grounds for rejecting them once you have good reason to think that the Church is divinely invested with infallibility.

    Your clarification about the epistemic differences between the two paradigms was helpful also. It has always seemed rather strange to me to see various Reformed apologists (i.e., James White and co.) arguing that the Catholic is in no better epistemic position than the Protestant, since his decision to submit to the Church is based on fallible reasoning. Such an objection seems little better than arguing that a student who uses his newly-developing mathematical skills to try to complete a calculus problem has no better grounds for confidence about his answer than he would if he consulted a college professor and received help on the problem–after all, he’s using his fallible faculties to evaluate the teacher’s credentials for helpfulness and to understand his answers, just as much as he’s using those same faculties to try to arrive at the answer himself. The answer to that fallacious line of reasoning is fairly obvious, and you’ve done a great job of providing it.

    Spencer

    PS Mr. Stamper–I’d like to discuss something with you privately via email. If you could shoot me a message to barukh2@gmail.com, it would be very much appreciated. Thanks!

  37. RefProt,

    I hear what you are saying and just to be clear, I sure hope Catholics are not asserting that everything in Scripture requires Magisterial input. As I stated in the article, passages like “thou shall not kill” and many other moral injunctions (though not all – think of the debates over passages dealing with homosexual activity and whether those are culturally conditioned or part of the deposit of faith), as well as whole sections of narrative, etc. seem sufficiently perspicuous to avoid the need for clarificatory questions. And of course, there are other passages which, while not at all perspicuous, deal with things of such a mundane or historical non-theological nature that our inability to agree upon their meaning hardly threatens our unity in faith. So its regrettable if you encounter Catholics who have over-stated the case.

    The truth is that the bible is only partly perspicuous. That’s frequently the case with books. Some of their parts are clear upon first reading to almost anyone with basic reading skills, while others parts are far less clear (I am remembering all those painful college English classes where we sat around discussing the meaning of some poem and one could only wish that the author were personally available to disabuse us of the nonsense we were attributing to him!). The problem is, in fact, amplified with respect to scripture because scripture is a codex composed of many authors, and genres, written within the context of a diverse set of historical and cultural milieus. Thus, when we want to “nail down” – as it were – some theological matter based on texts endowed with that level of intrinsic diversity, the assimilation and coordination process required simply undermines the notion that the entire codex is perspicuous, or even that it is perspicuous for all essential theological matters. That is why I went straight to the divisive issue of justification to make that case:

    Here again the controverted doctrine of justification provides an excellent example of just the sort of crucial theological doctrine that does not lend itself to a simple, clear, grasp by the intellect upon first reading of scripture. As anyone who has engaged in high-level Protestant – Catholic debates about the correct Pauline understanding of justification knows, it is a theological matter which simply begs for answers to second, third, and fourth order clarifying questions. The hard truth is that scripture is only partially perspicuous and that perspicuity – quite frankly – does not cover all the essential doctrines of salvation. For however the “essential” doctrines might be defined, justification is clearly one of those essential matters, if not the penultimate case. Yet, the biblical data pertaining to the doctrine of justification, perhaps more than any other doctrine, requires assimilation and coordination of more texts from more authors and from more biblical books than any other. Moreover, each one of those texts, in turn, are open to serious scholarly disagreement as to the proper “context” in which the text itself is to be interpreted. Hence, from a strictly exegetical point of view, the doctrine of justification is possibly the most synthetically difficult doctrine known to theology – but it lies at the soteriological core of Christianity!

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

    PS: BTW, if you make another Colts reference I am going to have to ask Bryan to start blocking your comments!
    (just joshin :>)

  38. Jeremy (#25)

    I understand that the Catholic doesn’t have to rely on fallible reasoning *after* he or she accepts the magisterium, since at that point he or she feels no need to analyze and figure out the magisterium’s teaching.

    Depends what you mean by ‘rely’ I think. Certainly you must use your reason to understand – and, on occasion, analyse and ‘figure out.’ This is the same as for the Protestant. You can’t understand what the Bible says without using your reason. And in both cases we have a source we can rely on.

    But the Catholic has, as Ray says, the possibility of 2nd-, 3rd-, and 4th-order responses to his queryings – and he can rely on them as he can on the first teachings.

    jj

  39. Jeremy (#27)

    1. The Catholic uses fallible reasoning to conclude that the Catholic magisterium is infallible.
    2. The Catholic now does not have to rely on fallible reasoning to determine the truth of any Catholic teaching since he has accepted it as infallible, based on step 1.

    My nagging question is this: If step 1 is done with fallible reasoning, then it involves a private interpretation. That means that step 2, though not involving private interpretation, is dependent on step 1, which did involve private interpretation. The unquestioning acceptance of magisterial teaching is dependent on the previous fallible private interpretation. The Catholic might not have to rely on private interpretation at and after step 2, but step 2 has its origin in a fallible process. Therefore, the Catholic has a fallible belief in an infallible teacher. Although this provides great peace since one can obtain clarification from that teacher, that peace rests upon a fallible foundation.

    The situation here is the same for both Protestant and Catholic. As a Protestant, you believe that the Scripture is inerrant. You had to come to that belief by fallible reasoning. But as Ray says, ‘fallible’ means ‘able to fail,’ not ‘certain to fail.’

    ‘Belief’ is itself always a matter of the will. To believe – even in the human sense – is to count something true on the basis of the testimony of someone else – someone else who knows directly what you can only know indirectly.

    If you tell me your birthday, and I consider you a reliable witness to the fact, then I believe it. I do not wonder whether I might have reasoned incorrectly in trusting you. I trust you on the basis of my knowledge of you.

    When we come to believe in the Scriptures or in the Church, it is because we have come to believe that it is God speaking in them. If it is God, then it must be true. You might lie to me about your birthday; God would not lie to me about anything.

    jj

  40. Hi Ray,

    Thanks for your reply. I just want to point out that I am not out to attack the Catholic Church. Rather, for the past two months or so I have been eagerly, sincerely researching various aspects of Catholicism. Although I used to be staunchly against the CC, even confidently accusing it of preaching another gospel, now I don’t take that hostile stance.

    There are strong motives of credibility rooted in history proper, historical prophetic fulfillments, miracles, etc. to warrant intellectual assent to Jesus of Nazareth’s claim to be sent from God, as well as to support the claim that Jesus established the Catholic Church and authorized her to speak in His name.

    I’m interested in reading your description of the “motives of credibility” to support the claim that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded.

    Thanks and God bless,

    Jeremy

  41. RefProt (re: #35)

    That argument runs something like this.

    Premise 1: God’s revelation of Himself to His people is “the revelation in Scripture.”

    Premise 2: Unless Scripture is perspicuous, God’s revelation is somehow incomplete and inadequate to understand Him.

    Premise 3: God’s revelation of Himself to His people is not incomplete, since that would be unbecoming of God, who is not incompetent.

    Therefore,

    Conclusion: Scripture is perspicuous (the magisterium is unnecessary, etc., etc.)

    I’ve seen variations of this argument repeatedly used by Protestants as an argument for the perspicuity of Scripture. I’d like to point out that this argument begs the question, i.e. presupposes what it is trying to show. If God intended Scripture to be understood by His people only by the light of Tradition under the guidance and explication of the Magisterium, then the inability of Scripture to lead all sincere Christians of at least moderate intelligence to unity of faith, shared communion, in the same visible community under a unified government does not show that God’s revelation of Himself is incomplete or inadequate, but is precisely what we would expect. The argument, therefore, presupposes that Scripture was divinely intended to function apart from both Tradition and the Magisterium, which presupposition entails that Scripture is perspicuous. And in that respect, the argument is question-begging. It presupposes in its premises, precisely what it reaches in its conclusions.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  42. Ryan, you write:

    Since it’s not necessarily the case that any one promulgation is perspicuous and we have no practical means of actually asking the infallible Magisterium second, third, and fourth order questions, then how do you determine which promulgations are perspicuous?

    To answer you question, let me make an analogy between a student and a math teacher. A student could ask a math teacher for a proof of the Pythagorean theorem. A competent high school math teacher could easily teach an average student the steps necessary to go from the axioms of Euclidean Geometry to a proof of the Pythagorean theorem.

    But suppose the student asked a math teacher for proof of the Goldbach conjecture? There is no teacher that can answer that question because the Goldbach conjecture is one of the unsolved problems of mathematics.

    The above is somewhat analogous to what happens in a typical RCIA program. A person in the inquiry stage of RCIA might ask a question about what the Catholic Church formally teaches about the sacramental graces bestowed by infant baptism. The catechist doesn’t need to call the Vatican for help in answering that question, anymore than a math teacher needs to talk to Pythagorus to teach a math student a proof of the Pythagorean theorem. The catechist has plenty of written resources available to him that show what the Magisterium has solemnly taught about that particular question. With the catechist’s help, the inquirer’s question can be answered without the need to call an Ecumenical Council.

    Back to my analogy. If a student asks for a proof of the Goldbach conjecture, the math teacher needs only to be knowledgeable enough know that this is one of unsolved problems in mathematics. The teacher’s answer to the student is that this is a good question, but that there is no definitive answer to that question (yet).

    In my analogy with RCIA, an inquirer might ask a question that has never been answered by a formally defined as a dogma, and is, in fact, is a question that has not been settled within the Catholic Church. For example, the inquirer might ask what the Catholic Church formally teaches about the final state of being of infants that die without being baptized. In this case, the catechist is like the math teacher that has been asked about the Goldbach conjecture. The catechist needs to know that this question about infants that die without baptism is still an open question within the Catholic Church.

    My point here is about the “perspicuity” of the teachings of the Magisterium. Some questions that a catechist receives in RCIA have a straightforward answers that can be settled through the solemnly defined dogmas of the Magisterium. Some questions do not have that quality. It is the job of the catechist to know the difference.

    The questions about Catholic doctrine that appear in the comboxes at CTC are no different than the questions asked by inquirers in an RCIA class. Some questions have straightforward answers that can be answered by quoting the relevant Ecumenical Council’s promulgated dogma, etc. Other questions cannot be answered this way. Which gets to the point of my reply, that contrary to what you say, that there are indeed “practical means” of answering at least some question involving Catholic dogma that are raised in the comboxes at CTC, and these are the same practical means that are used by Catholic catechists in an RCIA program.

  43. Jeremy,

    I did not take your questions or comments as any sort of attack on the Church, they were perfectly reaonable. I hope my responses did not give the impression that I thought otherwise.

    As for the motives of credibility which support the Catholic claims, of course, I could reference you to various articles on this site which speak to various aspects of the case to be made; but what I have in mind when I speak of the motives of credibility which support the Church’s claims for herself is a more comprehensive and unified picture of how ancient history in general, the history of God’s dealing with Isreal in particular in both her ritual and institutional life, and prophetic historical fullfillment, all point to and converge upon the earthly activity of Christ in his fullfillment of the Davidic promises. This casts a light on Christ’s stated intention to “build My Church” as the new Israel, the fulfilled and elevated Davidic kingdom where the apostles are established as 12 ministers and Peter as the Chamberlin and keyholder, and Mary the Queen mother (notice Elizabeth’s respnose to Mary, “who am I that the mother of my Lord should visit me” – a very royal greeting indeed, etc.).

    When the documents of the NT are looked at firstly from that angle, as history converging in “the fullness of time” wherein the Christ establishes His kingdom which shall never end (a stone cut without human hands that destroys other kindgoms and becomes a mountain in the earth), the activity of Peter and the apostles suddenly jumps to life as coordinate with a Catholic understanding.

    Going the other direction, wherein we survey what the patristic documentary evidence, the history of Christianity, and more broadly the movement of world history generally, from the coming of Christ to our own day, there arise a whole additional set of motives of credibility which support the Catholic account of God’s revelatory economy in human and cosmic history. Of course, even sketching the outline of this approach would require so much more than can be acomplished in a combox.

    If I can find the time, I will try and spell out the picture I have in mind in greater detail. In the mean time, if you are interested in pursuing the motives of credibility which support the Catholic claims from within the context of OT prophecy and Hebrew history generally, I would recommend an online lecture series by Dr. Lawrence Feingold which you can find here.

    I am sure there are others here who can point you toward helpful resources in this regard.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  44. Refprot (#35) –

    Great post. I do see why an analogy of the sort that I laid out would be unconvincing to you. Obviously, you see what I was getting at, though and it is that I don’t think God intended scripture Alone to be the final authority in resolving doctrinal disputes.

    On the other hand, I hope you can see why Catholics are unconvinced that the Bible Alone was God’s plan for doctrinal unity. Not only do we have theological arguments, but historical arguments as well (lots of people using Scripture Alone and believing different things). Ray did a great job of accounting for there is more disunity in protestantism by comparing the paradigms.

    What we need to do is discern God’s intention. For this, I think, we can certainly use the scriptures as revelation. Did God intend all doctrinal disputes between Christians to be resolved by the Bible Alone? Or did he intend some other way? If he did intend for us to resolve disputes with the Bible Alone then perspicuity would be a necessery doctrine. If he did not intend for us to resolve doctrinal disputes, then perspicuity would be a meaningless doctrine – it wouldn’t serve any purpose.

    I don’t see a whole lot of evidence that God intended Scripture Alone to be the final arbiter of doctrinal disputes. I see a LOT of evidence that God appointed certain people to be the final arbiter of doctrinal disputes.

    Hope that made sense. Gotta go pray Vespers and eat dinner before a meeting.

  45. Hi Ray,

    No, your comments did not make me think you were taking my posts as attacking the church. I just like to reassure people from time to time that I’m not attacking because when I disagree with people, I can be blunt and direct, and that can easily be misconstrued as hostility.

    Thanks for your explanation and the link to the lectures.

  46. Jeremy,

    One other thought, a work which takes a similar approach to what I was trying to convey is Henri de Lubac’s “Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man”. While it may not provide all the detail you need (I know the devil’s often in the details), its quite good at painting the broad strokes.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  47. Ray,

    I was replying to David in my previous post to which you replied. I’ll address who I’m replying to from now on so there is no confusion.

    “No, that is not correct. Please see my #23 above where I explained that some promulgations are in fact perspicuous, even though to be a magisterial promulgation, it is not perspicuity is not necessary.”

    That’s what I just said. Please reread my statement you quoted. I didn’t say you thought no promulgations are perspicuous, I said you thought none are necessarily perspicuous.

    “In fact, on many theological matters, those second, third, or fourth order questions have already been asked and answered within by the Magisterium within the context of Christian history as I explained in #18 above. Moreover, such questions can be asked and answered even within one’s own lifetime as explained in Bryan’s link to which I referenced you in #23.”

    Even in regards to those answers given by the Magisterium to such questions, since none of their answers are necessarily perspicuous, my question stands: “how do you determine which promulgations are perspicuous?” Intuition? Common sense? An objective criterion?

  48. MarkS,

    “To this Protestant, it’s seeming completely crazy for us to charge that Catholics are out there subverting the Word of God when there are so many basic issues that intelligent, sincere Protestants cannot agree on.”

    I don’t really see how this is relevant to my post, but I might as well ask why you think all Protestants need to agree in order to charge Catholics with subverting the Word of God. That you subsume Baptists, Methodists, et. al. under the label “Protestant” implies there is some common ground upon which they may all charge RCs for disagreeing, no?

  49. mateo,

    “The questions about Catholic doctrine that appear in the comboxes at CTC are no different than the questions asked by inquirers in an RCIA class. Some questions have straightforward answers that can be answered by quoting the relevant Ecumenical Council’s promulgated dogma, etc. Other questions cannot be answered this way. Which gets to the point of my reply, that contrary to what you say, that there are indeed “practical means” of answering at least some question involving Catholic dogma that are raised in the comboxes at CTC, and these are the same practical means that are used by Catholic catechists in an RCIA program.”

    The obvious reply is to draw an analogy between your example and Protestant teachers who cite Scripture, which they consider the perspicuous source material, for students who have a question. If a fallible intermediary between the student and source material is sufficient, then there really isn’t a difference between Protestants and RCs here, which was what I thought was the point of the OP.

    Sorry to the mods if posting consecutively isn’t allowed. Feel free to wait until some others have commented before approval. I’m done replying for now though.

  50. Ryan,

    An objective criteria. It is an observable fact that human potentcies for communication enable persons to exchange second and third and fourth order questions until the precision of the question asked and the precision of the answer given leave no room for misunderstanding among those who are capabale of at least modest use and understanding of the language employed. Human culture would be in chaos without this linguistic reality.

    Police officer: Get out of the car and put your hands on your head.

    Criminal: Do you mean the hands of my clock-watch?

    Police Officer: No I mean your hands

    Criminal: Oh, you mean my bodily hands?

    Police Officer: Yes

    Can you imagine the criminal responding: “yes what?” Any english speaker understands that the dialogical spiral has come to an end. Further commentary by the criminal would amount to a wise crack.

    Similar instances may be found throughout the magisterial corpus, where clarifying questions have been asked and answered over time until a response reaches a linguistic precision which necessarily ends the dialouge. Its not intuition, nor a mystery, nor a nebulous “common sense”. It is an observed linguistic reality (we determine what is objective but what we robserve in reality) of the human species that communicative dialouge has the capacity to reach a threshhold beyond which interpetive divergence ceases. Magisterial promulgations, as one side of a particular form of communicative dialouge, participates in this capacity. I gave examples in #18 above and I now repost Bryan’s example here.

    Yes, there are debates and disagreements among Catholics concerning the meaning of magisterial teaching. When such a debate is widespread and enduring, the magisterium issues a clarification. This happened recently when the CDF issued Responsa ad quaestiones in 2007 to clarify one aspect of Vatican II’s teaching regarding the Church. And Pope John Paul II did something similar regarding the question of the ordination of women, in his 1994 Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, in which he wrote:

    ‘Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.'[italics mine]

    And when it was asked subsequently whether this teaching is part of the deposit of faith, the CDF issued a Responsum ad Propositum Dubium Concerning the Teaching Contained in ‘Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’ in which the answer given was “Affirmative.”

    Should we deny perpiscuity to this last response because someone can verbalize or write the words: “Affirmative what?”

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  51. Ray,

    If it is objective, then what is the point at which “the precision of the question asked and the precision of the answer given [can] leave no room for misunderstanding”? Your example appears to me to be an instance of intuition or common sense. After all, you ask:

    “Can you imagine the criminal responding: “yes what?” Any english speaker understands that the dialogical spiral has come to an end. Further commentary by the criminal would amount to a wise crack.”

    To your question, I would say it’s no less believable than a criminal asking if a policeman meant to refer to the hands of his clock-watch, which you think can be imagined. But our opinions as to what is imaginable aren’t objective. If there is an objective criteria, it should not based on individual experience.

  52. Ryan, you write:

    The obvious reply is to draw an analogy between your example and Protestant teachers who cite Scripture, which they consider the perspicuous source material, for students who have a question.

    I posed two doctrinal questions in my analogy:

    – what the Catholic Church formally teaches about the sacramental graces bestowed by infant baptism

    – what the Catholic Church formally teaches about the final state of being of infants that die without being baptized.

    My analogy was with teachers. I am saying that a Catholic catechist can give answers to both of those doctrinal questions without being a member of the magisterium. The catechist only needs to know what the magisterium has formally taught. He does NOT need to exercise the charism of infallibility to know how to answer these questions, nor does he need to personally consult the Vatican to know how to answer these questions.

    I don’t see the point of your “obvious” reply. Protestant teachers do, of course, attempt to answer both of my doctrinal questions by citing verses from their Protestant bibles (bibles that they, no doubt, consider to be “perspicuous”). And what is the result of all that private interpretation of the bible? Nothing but a morass of conflicting opinions, with no prospect of every achieving consensus about these points of doctrine. If I cling to sola scriptura doctrine, then I must draw an obvious conclusion from the state of doctrinal confusion that exists within the world of sola scriptura confessing Protestantism – that either the bible isn’t perspicuous about these two points of doctrine, or that the millions of Protestants that disagree with my private interpretation of the perspicuous bible are either illiterate or evil.

    If a fallible intermediary between the student and source material is sufficient, then there really isn’t a difference between Protestants and RCs here, which was what I thought was the point of the OP.

    A Protestant that is studying the bible to learn the answers to the two doctrinal questions that I raised in my post does indeed have a fallible intermediary between the source material (the bible) and himself. He has himself as the fallible intermediary, since he must interpret the bible to try and answer these questions. If he could exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility, then his interpretation of the bible would be inerrant, with an inerrancy that is guaranteed by God. The point of Ray’s article is a point about the charismatic gift of infallibility. The sola scriptura confessing Protestants don’t believe that any man in the post-apostolic age, under any circumstance conceivable, can ever exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility. That means that no Protestant, under any conceivable circumstance, could ever offer anything more than a fallible opinion about a matter of doctrine that requires an interpretation of the scriptures. The Catholic interpretive paradigm is not the same as the interpretive paradigm of the sola scriptura confessing Protestants, precisely because the Catholic believes that in the post-apostolic age, men can, under certain circumstances, exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility .

    CCC 2024 & 2035 The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are “authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.” … The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed.

  53. Ryan (re: 48);

    I don’t really see how this is relevant to my post, but I might as well ask why you think all Protestants need to agree in order to charge Catholics with subverting the Word of God. That you subsume Baptists, Methodists, et. al. under the label “Protestant” implies there is some common ground upon which they may all charge RCs for disagreeing, no?

    I think it’s relevant because if we believe God has willed and acted to give us divine truth that all sincere people of reasonable intelligence can identify, then we can compare the 2 paradigms and see what sort of consistency of beliefs we find among such people. Most common folk want answers to basic questions like those I mentioned in my post. The Catholic paradigm provides more consistency and clarity in it’s answers than does the Sola Scriptura/perspicuity of the Bible paradigm.
    On your question, the basis for the Protestant charge that Catholics subvert the word of God is the idea of perspicuity. If Protestants did not hold to perspicuity, it would be completely ridiculous to make the charge. Do you agree? However, the basis is undermined when highly intelligent and sincere Protestants from these varying traditions cannot agree on basic issues of the Christian faith, all the while claiming that the Bible is clear on the basics/essentials.
    Mark

  54. Ryan,
    On my point about relevance above, I should have added that my understanding of your position is that you do believe God has willed and acted to give us divine truth that all sincere people of reasonable intelligence can identify. I visited your site and take it you hold to the Protestant sense of perspicuity of Scripture.
    Enjoying your exchanges here.
    Mark

  55. Ryan,

    You wrote:

    If it is objective, then what is the point at which “the precision of the question asked and the precision of the answer given [can] leave no room for misunderstanding”?

    What you are asking here is a question which touches upon philosophy of language, and while I do not want to turn this thread into a venue for debating linguistic technicalities, I will answers the above question in broad strokes.

    A communicative sign or set of signs such as a verbal or written proposition, question, imperative (or other semiotic vehicle) is perspicuous when the person or persons upon which the sign acts, understand the meaning which the sign-maker intended to convey. Since the act of understanding on the part of the person or persons upon whom the sign acts is internal to the person, knowledge that the sign-maker’s meaning has been successfully understood must be indicated in an external way. In interpersonal dialogue one external indication that a person has understood the sign-maker’s meaning takes the form of an affirmation or negation on the part of the sign-maker in response to a clarificatory question. Another external indication that a sign or set of signs is perspicuous, is that the person or persons upon whom the sign acts cease asking additional clarificatory questions and/or the cessation of corporate or cultural debate regarding the sign-maker’s intended meaning. A final external indication that a sign or set of signs is perspicuous is when nearly all persons upon whom the sign acts, behave in an identical way in response to the sign or set of signs.

    An example of the first sort of external indication is entailed by Bryan’s example:

    Person or persons: “May women be ordained”

    Sign-Maker: “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful”

    Person or Persons: “Does the fact that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the faithful entail that said judgment is part of the deposit of faith?”

    Sign-Maker: “Affirmative”

    Examples of the second way in which the perspicuity of a sign or sign may be externally indicated would include the Jerusalem council’s statement regarding the non-necessity of circumcision or the Council of Nicaea’s statement regarding the Divinity of Christ. With regard to the questions of whether circumcision is incumbent upon Christians, or whether Christ is a created being, the counciliar promulgations in the negative brought cessation both to additional clarificatory questions as well as to corporate and cultural debate – on those specific questions. In that sense, and to that extent, the promulgations are known to be, and have been, perspicuous.

    An example of the third way in which perspicuity may be externally indicated is the nearly universal behavior observed among American motor vehicle operators when they encounter a red octagon bearing the text symbols “S” “T” “O” “P”.

    In my previous reply, I intended both of the criminal’s questions as examples of absurdity. The police officer’s original imperative “get out of the car and place your hands on your head”, as well as his affirmative “yes”, are both examples of perspicuous signification. The perspicuity of the former is externally verified according to both the second and third means of indication, the perspicuity of the later is externally verified according to the first mode of indication.

    Objectivity is rooted in the shared human experience of reality, not in our private experience, simpliciter. It is because human persons experience the external world in a similar way that we are able to speak truthfully about the intelligible aspects of the external world. We know that animals are animate and rocks are not, through a communal and repeated observation of the behavior of animals and rocks. In the same way, we know that some sign or set of signs is perspicuous when:

    a.) Sign-makers in interpersonl dialouge offer a simple negation or affirmation in response to a clarificatory question (affirmation and negation are a trans-cultural, trans-linguistic phenomena)

    b.) Clarificatory questions and/or corporate/cultural debate cease in response to a sign or set of signs

    c.) A near universally consistent behavior follows upon encounter with some sign or set of signs.

    In this way, the criteria for recognizing perspicuity are objective.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  56. “The Catholic paradigm provides more consistency and clarity in it’s answers than does the Sola Scriptura/perspicuity of the Bible paradigm.”

    I obviously disagree, but if you think this, why are you a Protestant?

    “However, the basis is undermined when highly intelligent and sincere Protestants from these varying traditions cannot agree on basic issues of the Christian faith, all the while claiming that the Bible is clear on the basics/essentials.”

    Do you agree that a group of people can correctly agree that one argument is valid (perspicuity) while the individuals in said group can disagree about whether other arguments are valid (“basic issues”)? If so, then you should realize this is simply a fault of the persons, not the source material.

  57. mateo,

    “My analogy was with teachers. I am saying that a Catholic catechist can give answers to both of those doctrinal questions without being a member of the magisterium. The catechist only needs to know what the magisterium has formally taught. He does NOT need to exercise the charism of infallibility to know how to answer these questions, nor does he need to personally consult the Vatican to know how to answer these questions.”

    My analogy was with teachers. I am saying that a Protestant teacher can give answers to such doctrinal questions without being infallible. The catechist only needs to know what Scripture has taught. He does NOT need to exercise a charism of infallibility to know how to answer these questions, nor does he need to personally consult the Vatican et. al. to know how to answer these questions.

    “And what is the result of all that private interpretation of the bible? Nothing but a morass of conflicting opinions, with no prospect of every achieving consensus about these points of doctrine. If I cling to sola scriptura doctrine, then I must draw an obvious conclusion from the state of doctrinal confusion that exists within the world of sola scriptura confessing Protestantism – that either the bible isn’t perspicuous about these two points of doctrine, or that the millions of Protestants that disagree with my private interpretation of the perspicuous bible are either illiterate or evil.”

    Or irrational. But assuming that was a possibility included in the latter alternative, I agree. So what’s the problem? You yourself have provided me with an answer other than “Scripture isn’t perspicuous,” and since, as the OP states, “the Catholic… must use his fallible intellect to locate the source of divine authority,” you do in practice what you condemn me for doing: privately judge.

    “The Catholic interpretive paradigm is not the same as the interpretive paradigm of the sola scriptura confessing Protestants, precisely because the Catholic believes that in the post-apostolic age, men can, under certain circumstances, exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility .”

    So what? Ultimately, you’re going to have to fallibly interpret statements made by said allegedly gifted individuals.

    Also, this has nothing to do with the OP as I understood it. The point of the OP was that Scripture is a dead document whereas the Magisterium is living. The latter can provide new answers. That’s what differentiates the “paradigms of authority.”

  58. Ray,

    I appreciate your willingness to answer questions which relate to other disciplines.

    “A communicative sign or set of signs such as a verbal or written proposition, question, imperative (or other semiotic vehicle) is perspicuous when the person or persons upon which the sign acts, understand the meaning which the sign-maker intended to convey.”

    As I noted before, this means the criteria is subjective, not objective. You predicate perspicuity upon the ways in which persons respond to signs. At best, those three reasons you provide would be inferences that a proposition is perspicuous.

    “Objectivity is rooted in the shared human experience of reality, not in our private experience, simpliciter. It is because human persons experience the external world in a similar way that we are able to speak truthfully about the intelligible aspects of the external world. We know that animals are animate and rocks are not, through a communal and repeated observation of the behavior of animals and rocks.”

    It seems we have different views about a correct philosophy of science. I would argue that divine revelation is a precondition for knowledge.

    I would also argue that “objectivity” is not “rooted in the shared experience of reality,” regardless of how you would define reality. That which is “objective” is [true] independent of human opinion.

  59. Ryan,

    Thanks again for your comments here.

    You wrote:

    “As I noted before, this means the criteria is subjective, not objective. You predicate perspicuity upon the ways in which persons respond to signs. At best, those three reasons you provide would be inferences that a proposition is perspicuous.”

    Perspicuity is a quality of a relationship between a knower and a sign. Your notion that a “proposition”, properly speaking, is perspicuous seems untenable to me. Propositions are conventional linguistic signs, which in the absence of any knowers, have no relation to understanding at all – whether perspicuous or otherwise.

    The understanding of the meaning of any sign is in the knower, not in the sign. Yet, nothing is understood without the sign (whether natural, artificial, or conventional). Therefore, perspicuity involves the relationship between a sign and a knower. And since “understanding” pertains to the psychological state of a knower, no other person can be aware of that state unless the knower gives an indication of his psychological state such as can be detected by the sensory awareness of others. That is why, if there is to be any objective standard by which perspicuity is detected at all, it will necessarily involve inferences from external behavior.

    You wrote:

    “I would also argue that “objectivity” is not “rooted in the shared experience of reality,” regardless of how you would define reality. That which is “objective” is [true] independent of human opinion.”

    “Objectivity”, “Objective Criteria”, etc, are statements about human knowledge of, or in relation to, the real. Reality is not “objective”, nor is reality imbued with “criteria”. Again, these terms involve some relation to a knower. Reality simply “is”. If that which is “true” = that which is “objective” as your statement entails; this too shows that what is “objective” is not independent of human experience. For “truth”, properly speaking, is the adequation of the mind to reality. Again, mind-independent things are not “true”, things simply “are”. Our knowledge of the real is either “true” or “false”. Therefore, “truth” also is a term which describes a relationship between and knower and the thing known.

    You wrote:

    “It seems we have different views about a correct philosophy of science. I would argue that divine revelation is a precondition for knowledge.”

    I agree, we have a fundamental difference in both epistemology and philosophy of nature (as I would call it) and I would not want to take the thread in that direction. If you are interested in getting a feel for why I would reject the presuppositionalist notion of revelation as a precondition of knowledge, whether in its Van Tillian or more moderate expression (or even the epistemological starting point of a thinker such as Alvin Plantinga); I would recommend this comment by Bryan Cross.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  60. Ryan (re: 56):

    Do you agree that a group of people can correctly agree that one argument is valid (perspicuity) while the individuals in said group can disagree about whether other arguments are valid (“basic issues”)? If so, then you should realize this is simply a fault of the persons, not the source material.

    I don’t know. If the group is made up of highly trained Biblical scholars who sincerely love Jesus and the Scriptures then I don’t see how perspicuity and disagreement on basics can both be there.

    Do you agree that the lack of perspicuity in the source material is not the fault of the material or the author if the author did not intend the material to be perspicuous?

    Consider: Say a Rerformed Baptist man is reading Mere Christianity with a non-beliving family man at work who converts. The convert knows from Lewis that there are different views on baptism. He reads the Bible, but isn’t sure what it teaches on baptism. He sincerely wants to know what God’s will is for Christian families regarding their children. He gets one answer from his RB friend. He talks to a Confessional Lutheran and gets a different answer. Both the RB and CL friend give plausible, well thought out theories, but they both also admit they and their confessions are fallible. If the CL view is correct, baptism is a big deal. The convert has to choose. But, he knows whatever choice he makes will only be his best guess. Is this what God wants for humble Christian families? What does the man teach his kids at the dinner table? Are the kids already in the family of God by virtue of their baptism or are they hell-bound sinners who need to be converted? If they are in the family, do they need to beware lest they later fall out of the family through sin? This is real life. What answer does the sola/perspicuity paradigm give this man?
    Peace,
    Mark

  61. Do you agree that a group of people can correctly agree that one argument is valid (perspicuity) while the individuals in said group can disagree about whether other arguments are valid (“basic issues”)? If so, then you should realize this is simply a fault of the persons, not the source material.

    Ryan,

    Do you take this, then, as a presupposition? What I mean, is that do you assume a priori that the Scriptures are perspicuous? Do you believe this presupposition on the grounds that God communicating to us in the Bible must – as a rule – be perspicuous (or some simliar reason)? In other words, no matter what a posteriori evidence, the claim that the Bible is perspicuous (for however you would qualify that statement) is unfalsifiable because it must be true?

  62. Ryan, you wrote:

    I am saying that a Protestant teacher can give answers to such doctrinal questions without being infallible.

    Of course Protestant teachers can give answers! But can they give correct answers so that they are teaching orthodox doctrine? I simply look at the reality of sola scriptura confessing Protestantism. For the two questions that I raised, Protestant teachers do NOT give the same answers, therefore, someone must be teaching heresy.

    If the scriptures were perspicuous as regards my two questions, then men of reasonable intelligence and good will would give the same answers to my two questions. If the scriptures are not perspicuous as regards my two questions, then it would be expected that men of good will that do not exercise the charism of infallibility would give different answers.

    The catechist only needs to know what Scripture has taught.

    So how does the catechist know what the scriptures really “teach” as regards my two questions? How does any sola scriptura confessing Protestant ever know with certainty what constitutes orthodox Christian doctrine, when every interpretation of scriptures is said to be fallible?

    I wrote:

    “And what is the result of all that private interpretation of the bible? Nothing but a morass of conflicting opinions, with no prospect of every achieving consensus about these points of doctrine. If I cling to sola scriptura doctrine, then I must draw an obvious conclusion from the state of doctrinal confusion that exists within the world of sola scriptura confessing Protestantism – that either the bible isn’t perspicuous about these two points of doctrine, or that the millions of Protestants that disagree with my private interpretation of the perspicuous bible are either illiterate or evil.”

    You responded:

    Or irrational. But assuming that was a possibility included in the latter alternative, I agree.

    I don’t cling to sola scriptura doctrine, so I am not bound by the consequences of that doctrine. But you do believe in sola scriptura doctrine and in the private interpretation of the scriptures. So if a Protestant teacher doesn’t agree with your personal interpretation of the scriptures, then that is proof that the Protestant teacher with a contradictory interpretation of the scriptures is irrational, illiterate or evil? That is quite an accusation to make, especially since you are not claiming that your private interpretations of the scriptures are infallible. Or am I misunderstanding what you are trying to say?

  63. Ray,

    I didn’t mean to imply some sort of mind-independent Ding an sich when I mentioned that objectivity is independent of human opinion. That was an epistemic reflection of my view of human “experience.” Since we don’t agree about what constitutes a correct philosophy of science, what you consider to be knowable is a wider than what I do. I have no objections to ending the conversation here either, but just so you know, I am neither a Van Tilian nor a Plantingan. I guess you could say I’m a Clarkian, though I don’t really like that moniker.

  64. MarkS,

    “Do you agree that the lack of perspicuity in the source material is not the fault of the material or the author if the author did not intend the material to be perspicuous?”

    Of course not, but it’s insinuations like which exhibit the ridiculous nature of RC opinion on the nature of Scripture. As if God breathed out His word with the intention of being vague. As if the authors of Scripture would purposefully write imperspicuous letters to their audiences.

  65. Brent,

    Given my view on the epistemic necessity of divine revelation, I would call perspicuity a necessary precondition for knowledge and, in that sense, a presupposition. And yes, it is also a priori.

  66. Ryan;
    I too think that once one comes to believe in the triune God it’s ridiculous to hold that He has been vague about what He wants his people to believe. By “his people” I include every humble, illiterate believer that has ever walked the earth and who needs simple guidance on the basics of faith. That’s why I have serious problems with any paradigm that is claimed to be the only clear way that God has made His will known that does not also convey consistent, clear, basic truths of the faith to the most humble of hearers. Your comment suggests that when you hear a fellow Christian challenge your paradigm, you hear an attack against God. It’s not. It’s a challenge to your view of how God has communicated to us. The Catholics are saying that God has been clear and consistent via Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium together. I think it’s an argument we have to take seriously and acknowledge that regardless of whether their paradigm is true or not, it is much more clear and consistent on the basics than what we find from the Sola/Bible is perspicuous paradigm. I’ll let you have the last word in your exchange with me if you choose to respond.
    Peace,
    Mark

  67. So do roman catholics really has a better ground in gaining certainty by believing that roman catholic magisterium is the ONLY infallible determiner and interpreter of divine revelation?

    Based on the article, I am not convinced. The article argued that roman catholicism is in a better boat because he/she can ask clarificatory questions from the hierarchy! (I don’t know how practical/real this in the real RC world.) But, we only have to move the epistemic process one step back and we see that the foundation of believing in the infallibility and perspecuity of the roman catholic magisterium is gained through fallible means. As the author admit, he can’t have absolute certainty on his choice of an infallible determiner and interpreter of divine revelation. Therefore, the advantage that the author is claiming is debunk by his own admission for ultimately he is basing his hope that he is not in error in fallibly determining and submitting himself to a group of people he believes to be the voice of God on earth.

    I submit to the author, that he has to prove that the Roman Catholic Magisterium is the sole determiner and interpreter of divine revaltion based on his take of history/facts and his exegesis before he can claim that he has real advantage in his epistomology. Otherwise, all these claims that somehow – “we are better”- is empty to me and to anyone who sees the ill-logic of the whole argument.

  68. Hello Mr. Stamper,

    Could you write a follow-up on this dealing with the experience of Christian authority in daily experience?

    It’s my experience that actually Catholics and Protestants use EXACTLY THE SAME METHOD in daily experience; the substantial difference is that Catholics acknowledge it.

    Hence it’s quite possible to find genuine “revival” of Catholic faith and life among Protestant communities, as they faithfully follow the Catholic Tradition that has come to them, well, maybe not exactly “through the Apostles” but as a necessary condition for accepting any Christian tradition (including the notion that the Bible is inspired).

    The necessity of a living authority is actually a basic fact of life; it’s just that in Protestant communities, this is sort of censored or if acknowledged, reduced somehow.

    It would be great doing a more nuanced follow-up to show how “Catholic” Protestants are already…

  69. It’s probably worth noting that to outsiders who come from neither tradition, the whole discussion looks, at best intriguing – and more likely absurd.

    The Bible *as such* says literally nothing to modern people. Liberalism treats it as “literature”, which, outside Catholic Tradition as a living thing, it is.

    No part of it (unless you add bits, as most Christians do, thus proving they follow some kind of Catholic Tradition) is actually addressed to the reader; the last “addressees” of the Bible as such died roughly 2000 years ago.

    At least Orthodox Judaism credibly deals with this by having a mountain of oral tradition and written commentary around the Scriptures; but again, they do openly acknowledge the authority of their Rabbis and a Tradition going back to Moses himself.

    A good test of how such a debate is going is “how would I explain this to a total atheist with no Christian literacy?” If you don’t know where to start… such people are not hard to find…!

  70. MarkS,

    You said: It’s a challenge to your view of how God has communicated to us. The Catholics are saying that God has been clear and consistent via Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium together. I think it’s an argument we have to take seriously and acknowledge that regardless of whether their paradigm is true or not, it is much more clear and consistent on the basics than what we find from the Sola/Bible is perspicuous paradigm.

    Comment: The principle of sola scriptura has never denied that within the covenant community there are mature exegetes who can guide the newly born of the faith. There church practices handed down in history, historical facts, science and others that aids us. Handed down teachings (creeds and confessions) and church leaders (the elders of the church, teachers and others) are indeed authorities. Thus, it is not an accurate statement that sola scripturist denies the authority of creeds and church leaders and that together with Scripture, God can indeed communicate to us clearly. The argument against RC structure of authority is with regards to how tradition and church leaders relate to Scriptures? Are they of equal footing? Are tradition and church leaders’ proclamation beyond the correction of Scripture? Are they infallible by nature and beyond reproof or correction in relation to “what saith the Lord”? I don’t think the RC belief on the nature of their authority structure is “much more clear and consistent on the basics”. It is only becomes clear and consistent once a person refuses to subject the teachings/traditions of the church and church leaders to what is theopneustos.

  71. Joey Henry,

    Thank you for your comment. You wrote:

    Therefore, the advantage that the author is claiming is debunk by his own admission for ultimately he is basing his hope that he is not in error in fallibly determining and submitting himself to a group of people he believes to be the voice of God on earth.

    In the post, I am not claiming an epistemic “advantage” with respect to the assessment of claims to the possession of divine authority – a point I make clear throughout the article. The limited goal I have in the article is to show that the Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms are not epistemic equivalents. And that is due, not to any difference in the epistemic situation with respect to identifying the locus of divine authority, but rather, with respect to the definition and determination of revealed content after that first step has been taken. It is for that specific reason that the tu quoque response fails. Please see comment #11 above where I have already given a fuller response to this objection.

    You wrote:

    I submit to the author, that he has to prove that the Roman Catholic Magisterium is the sole determiner and interpreter of divine revelation based on his take of history/facts and his exegesis before he can claim that he has real advantage in his epistemology. Otherwise, all these claims that somehow – “we are better”- is empty to me and to anyone who sees the ill-logic of the whole argument.

    To be clear, my argument is not that we [Catholics] are “better”. My argument is simply that – all things being equal with respect to the motives of credibility which underwrite the Catholic or Protestant embrace of their respective locus of divine authority – the Catholic paradigm would remain preferable due to the clarity and finality by which it is capable at arriving at definitive determinations of the scope and content of revealed truth. As I stated in the last paragraph of the article:

    Therefore, if there be even equal persuasive force to the exegetical and historical arguments for the Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms, the Catholic paradigm would remain manifestly superior because of its fundamental epistemic superiority even prior to an assessment of the data. If the exegetical and historical data should, in addition, weigh in favor of the Catholic paradigm (as I think it does), that would only solidify the warrant for embrace of the same. As stated at the beginning of this post, a successful reply to the Protestant tu quoque rejoinder only addresses one of the two principal lines of objection generally brought to bear against the Catholic position by Protestant theologians. To further the cause of Christian unity, it remains for Catholics and Protestants to survey and discuss charitably the question whether or not Christ did indeed establish a living, personal, enduring teaching authority in His Church.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  72. Michael,

    You wrote,

    It’s probably worth noting that to outsiders who come from neither tradition, the whole discussion looks, at best intriguing – and more likely absurd.

    It’s definitely intriguing to me and not at all absurd, as a Protestant who is wholeheartedly exploring Catholicism to determine if it is the church that Christ truly founded. If it is, then Protestants need to submit to her teachings regardless of what they think is true based on their own private interpretation. That is not an absurd issue at all.

    You also wrote,

    The Bible *as such* says literally nothing to modern people.

    It says enormous amounts to those who have ears to hear. That was true in Jesus’ day, for it was He who said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear,” and it is no less true in our day. Jesus’ sheep hear His voice. Contrary to what many think today, the Bible is altogether relevant to the modern person since it addresses issues that are at the core of our lives: suffering, evil, sin, what God is like, Christ’s death and resurrection as the solution to sin, and more. For example, the Ten Commandments speak to people loud and clear since everyone, because of general revelation, can relate to them on the deepest level. Adultery, stealing, and lying all resonate with each person in this world regardless of when they lived, or where.

  73. #67

    Joey,

    You are right. We Catholics have to prove our point. Happily for you, you have arrived in the right place, unless you are unwilling to be convinced even when the truth of these matters is pointed out to you. I note that because while many of the people who come here are honestly searching and desirous of the truth, not all are. Some arrive with an agenda which is incompatible with this site. They won’t be served here because no matter how well they are responded to, they have no place to accept that response.

    First, I come from an evangelical Pentecostal background. My first conversion found me joining the Assemblies because I found joy there, and I found people who believed that God both heard them and then answered their prayers. I noted this because I did not find joy in the Good News of what Jesus had done everywhere in Christendom, a fact which I found and still find amazing.

    My own evangelicalism is presumably comparable to most evangelicalism in that we purported to rely on scripture, literally on the “plain meaning of scripture.” The reality is that we relied on our interpretation of scripture. An easy check of this involves my first “interdenominational” apologetic which occurred with the Baptists. The Baptists were quite specific that the charismatic gifts were no longer in operation, because Paul said that the gifts would come to an end. By way of contrast, we in the Assemblies were speaking in tongues, interpreting the same, prophesying , asking for and receiving healing, and experiencing other charismatic gifts of the Holy Ghost. Accordingly, we had no idea of why the Baptists were in denial; and the Baptists wondered what spirit we were invested in. There was no happy meeting between us. No agreement.

    I was not immune to the fact that there were Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, United Pentecostals, Catholics, Mormons and other religions claiming Christ in the city where I lived.

    The issue between the Baptists and us was also the issue between all the competing names just listed. The issue is one of Truth. Who has the Truth? This is of great import because, as all the evangelicals who can read scripture know, the Truth is a Person. Did that Person suspend the charismatic gifts? Did that Person permit the charismatic gifts to continue? Did that Person, or His Holy Ghost, ratify the competing and disparate claims of even the minimal names I listed above? If they are in denial about the truths being proclaimed by one another, could they all be right? On that one, it seemed that if the Holy Ghost was agreeing with each of the names above, our future is the same as our past, which is chaos. I did not then believe, and do not believe now that Jesus came to give us chaos. Scripture does not read, “Jesus Christ, different yesterday, today and tomorrow,” rather it reads, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.” Competing and antithetical claims don’t cut it. God is not the Author of chaos and strife.

    How to decide truth?

    One of the issues for me is that we who claimed to believe in the “plain meaning of scripture” were busy denying what Jesus said when it conflicted with our position. For instance, Jesus said “this is My Body” and we said NOPE. Jesus said, “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them.” We said we can go directly to God for forgiveness. Who is right? Jesus? Me? My denomination? The Baptists? One of the other names listed above? Some other unnamed group?

    It was the place I least expected (and least wanted) that believed Jesus when He said things. Jesus said, “This is My Body” and It said YES. Jesus said, “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them,” and It established a rite of reconciliation which included one’s confessing one’s sins so that those sins could brought out in the open and then forgiven.

    Over and over and over I found that Church doing what our Lord told His Church to do. It did so unfailingly. It did so in spite of opposition, whether internal or external, in spite of Judas and his progeny, or Caesar and his progeny, or anyone else and their progeny. It fulfilled the roles and responsibilities given to the Church as noted in scripture, and to boot, it compiled and promulgated the very scripture It wrote which described the functions placed on the Church by Jesus. It was not hiding anything.

    It was promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it, but it was never promised that hell would not try to prevail.

    When I found this Church, I found the sacraments, I found Mary, I found Peter, I found the communion of saints. I found authority which flowed from Jesus through His vicar (Peter and his successors) addressing issues such as the triune nature of God, the divine humanity of Christ Jesus, the place of Mary.

    It addressed the dignity of human life from the perspective of God, and then specified the value of unborn human life . I found that early in the abortion debates. I found that authority lacking in the church I was in, which had no real authority.

    That is the short form of how I became Catholic. It took some years and copious amounts of grace. It cost me friends who could not abide the fact that I became Catholic.

    If I am true, when you are reading the scripture, should Jesus say one thing and you/your denomination say something else, find out why. You will see justifications and explanations for the fact that Jesus is saying A and you are saying NOT A. When I found the Church Jesus founded, It wasn’t using justifications and explanations for denying what Jesus said. Rather this Church was agreeing with the Head of the Body. He said A, therefore A must be true.

    Importantly agreement (faith) and obedience are better than knowledge. The Church did not believe Jesus because the Church understood, the Church believed Him because He said it. That is one of the differences between Gnosticism (knowledge) and Christianity (faith in a Person). It was a difference I found coming out of the church I was leaving when I was coming into the Catholic Church.

    Last item, and important. Is Jesus limited to the Church He created? No, not at all. He is free. He is not shackled to the Church or its members. God is God and He is not subject to me or any created being. His purview is the salvation of the world, and His ordinary means of bringing that about is the Church He founded and is the Head of. He is not limited to His ordinary means of bringing salvation to the world, however for those of us graced to find His ordinary means of bringing salvation to the world, He expects to find us obedient to His will by joining that Church. Amen.

    Cordially,

    dt

  74. Michael,

    Thank you for your comment. You wrote:

    It’s probably worth noting that to outsiders who come from neither tradition, the whole discussion looks, at best intriguing – and more likely absurd. . . A good test of how such a debate is going is “how would I explain this to a total atheist with no Christian literacy?” If you don’t know where to start… such people are not hard to find…!

    That is quite right. However, this specific forum is not designed or intended to achieve a broad-based apologetic, directed at modernity generally. The goal of this site is very specifically to encourage dialogue between Reformed and Roman Catholic Christians as a pathway to reunion. However, I would point out that the issue concerning how the content of any purported revelation from God is to be defined or determined has vast apologetic implications. For how useful is a broad-based cultural apologetic which makes the case that God has intervened to reveal Himself within the context of human culture, yet is unable to say clearly or definitively what it is that God has to say? I do, however, agree that the issues which dominate dialogue between Reformed and Roman Catholic Christians are parochial in comparison to the much broader and more difficult case which must be made to the culture at large.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  75. Joey Henry –

    Responding to MarkS you said:

    Comment: The principle of sola scriptura has never denied that within the covenant community there are mature exegetes who can guide the newly born of the faith. There church practices handed down in history, historical facts, science and others that aids us. Handed down teachings (creeds and confessions) and church leaders (the elders of the church, teachers and others) are indeed authorities. Thus, it is not an accurate statement that sola scripturist denies the authority of creeds and church leaders and that together with Scripture, God can indeed communicate to us clearly.

    I think most of the Catholic commenters here get that, but it just leads to other questions. Which creeds and confessions are authoritative? Which Church leaders have the authority you speak of? How do we locate them? The common response to these (unless I’ve missed something) is that the creeds, confessions, and authority figures we should follow are the ones that teach the truth of the Bible. Moving to its logical conclusions, a Christian will ultimately submit to whoever he thinks is teaching the truth of the Bible, which isn’t submitting to anyone at all. For this reason, Sola Scriptura and SolO Scriptura really aren’t that different.

    A Catholic, on the other hand, doesn’t do this. We don’t submit to people simply because they teach what we think is true. We submit to people because of who they are – people who received the authority to interpret the Bible and celebrate sacraments through apostolic succession. Thus, the Catholic locates orthodox doctrine in a different way then protestants. It isn’t what is being said, but who is saying it.

    I’m not going to go through all your questions, but I’ll try to answer one.

    Are [magisterial pronouncements] infallible by nature and beyond reproof or correction in relation to “what saith the Lord”?

    Depends on what you mean. Infallibility is a negative guarantee. In other words, it can’t be wrong. But, they can be elaborated upon and clarified, and certainly scripture is used to do this.

  76. I think a lot of the confusion can be cleared up by applying the two methodologies to concrete examples and seeing the results.

    A Practical Approach:

    Let us take three very plausible situations in which Church Discipline must be as functional and usable as the Son Of God expected it to be when instructing His apostles about it in Matthew 18:

    Scenario 1: A married Christian woman becomes pregnant and decides she wants to have an abortion. Her Christian husband tries to convince her otherwise, but is unable. He gathers “two or three” to talk to her, and they’re still unable to convince her otherwise. He attempts to take the matter before the Church.

    Scenario 2: A married Christian man is sick of his dysfunctional (but let us assume, valid) Christian marriage and wants out. He doesn’t divorce his wife, but takes up living with another woman, which is expensive, so he takes money from his and his wife’s joint accounts, much of which is money inherited from the wife’s deceased father. He begins attending the church where the other woman attends. The wife doesn’t want to divorce him (because she doesn’t believe divorce should exist in Christianity) but obtains a civil divorce to prevent her accounts from being drained to poverty. The man goes on to marry the other woman, in a Christian marriage ceremony, at which he and the other woman assist in the serving of communion to the wedding guests. He goes on to serve as a Sunday School teacher, choir member, and deacon in the new church in which he was married.

    The man’s wife thinks all this is horribly against the teachings of Christ. She wants to “take it before the Church” as to (a.) some Church discipline re: her husband’s infidelity, (b.) whether the man, as a Christian, may divorce and re-marry at all, (c.) whether he can take, let alone serve, communion after doing so, (d.) whether he may serve as a deacon after doing so.

    Scenario 3: Two Christians engage in a debate about the canon of Scripture. The first claims the book of Hebrews shouldn’t be in the canon and that the second is a heretic for saying that it should be. The second claims that Baruch shouldn’t be in the canon and that the second is a heretic for saying that it should be. They each take the matter before the church, each complaining that their brother has sinned against him by unjustly accusing him of heresy.

    Instructions: In each of these scenarios, can you describe with confidence how the Church Discipline process will go and how it matches with Jesus’ expectations in Matthew 18?

    In particular, can you answer such questions as:

    (a.) How many Churches did Jesus found?

    (b.) Which Church will the aggrieved persons in each scenario take the matter before? How can the plaintiff know they’re taking the matter before the right Church?

    (c.) Which persons in that Church will render judgment? How can the plaintiff know they’re the correctly-authorized persons?

    (d.) After the judgment has been pronounced, is there any appeal? Any final appeal?

    (e.) Supposing that someone is found at fault by the resulting judgment. Will the judgment be correct? Or might the Church, even after any final appeal, have made errors?

    (f.) If there are any errors possible, then in what sense is the individual obligated to listen to the Church? Can’t he just say, “Well, that judgment was wrong” and ignore it? Show up the next Sunday like nothing happened?

    (g.) If errors are possible, in what sense are all the various “local churches”/”parishes”/”congregations” which make up Christianity obligated to listen to the original judgment and act in union with it? (For example, if the judgment includes that Mr. X may not serve as a teacher or leader in the church, what’s to prevent another Christian congregation from inviting him to serve as a teacher or clergyman even when they’re aware of the original judgment?)

    (h.) Supposing that a judgment finds a person at fault, and that person refuses to listen “even to the Church,” what does it mean to say that they are to be treated like a Gentile or tax collector? Would it be wrong to treat them that way if you couldn’t be certain that the Church was correct in its judgment?

    Comment:

    In my view the Catholic Church’s answers to these questions about each scenario are far more faithful to Scripture.

    In particular, it is important to note that “when your brother sins against you” does not exempt those judging in a matter of Church Disciple from being obligated to render infallible decisions about matters of theology or Scripture interpretation or morals or the canon or other dogma.

    For of course if my brother calls me a heretic for my opinion about the status of Hebrews or of Baruch, or for my opinion about the morality of abortion or the permissibility of divorce and remarriage for Christians, or about whether remarried Christians can serve as teachers or clergy…if my brother calls me a heretic for my opinion in any of those matters, and I take him before the church accusing him of falsely accusing me of heresy, the Church is going to have to decide whether I am a heretic, or not, for those opinions.

    If I am not a heretic, then my brother is wrongly accusing me, and must stop, and if he refuses to listen to the Church, he is to be treated as an outsider to the faith, like the man Paul orders expelled in 1 Corinthians 5.

    If I am a heretic, then the Church will have to say so, and I must change my views, and if I refuse, then I am to be treated as a Gentile or tax collector.

    There’s no way around it: Matthew 18 presupposes a Church which not only judges on matters of doctrine, but which is sufficiently reliable in its judgments that it can expel the disobedient without worrying that it has just, institutionally, cast out a true member of the flock.

    Can the Sola Scriptura paradigm say the same? How on earth can Sola Scriptura, on its own, render a judgment about what’s to be in the canon of Scripture, with those who fail to heed that judgment being expelled?

    And how can one know whom to bring the matter before, if the process of adjudicating the matter is all about interpreting Scripture, and Scripture interpreters all disagree about these topics?

    And how can we interpret Scripture to judge the case rightly, if the case involves what is or is not Scripture?

    And if the Church’s “oneness” is only an invisible unity, not a visible organization, then how can a believer know which Church (or which persons in a church) to take a disputed matter before? (When clearly different denominations, or different local churches within a denomination, would render very different judgments on the three cases I listed?)

    The longer one examines the Protestant paradigm, the less functional it looks when faced with such situations. It is truly like the time of the Judges: “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Let us hope we don’t soon see chopped-up concubines being mailed parcel post as a result…but we already see a lot of abortion and chopped up marriages, don’t we?)

    In fact, the longer one examines the Protestant paradigm, the more confident one becomes that if Sola Scriptura is true, then the Person who gave the Matthew 18 instructions for Church Discipline could not possibly have been God. God would not be such a fool. If Protestantism is true, then Christianity is false.

    Pondering these things in my own life, I realized I could easily become an atheist over this. But I thought Jesus was God (for other reasons). So I became a Catholic.

    Those are the stakes.

  77. Fr.Bryan,

    You said:

    Moving to its logical conclusions, a Christian will ultimately submit to whoever he thinks is teaching the truth of the Bible, which isn’t submitting to anyone at all. For this reason, Sola Scriptura and SolO Scriptura really aren’t that different.

    A Catholic, on the other hand, doesn’t do this. We don’t submit to people simply because they teach what we think is true. We submit to people because of who they are – people who received the authority to interpret the Bible and celebrate sacraments through apostolic succession. Thus, the Catholic locates orthodox doctrine in a different way then protestants. It isn’t what is being said, but who is saying it.

    The reason being put forward in your resposnce is not really convincing at all. You said, the difference is that RCs, “submit to people BECUASE OF WHO THEY ARE”. That, in itself, contains a perception/intepretation of WHO THEY ARE which is your own judgement. In other words, you just move the process outside the biblical foundation such that a “Christian will ultimately submit to whoever he thinks has the authority to interpret the Bible and celebrate sacraments through apostolic succession”. This is what you have done. You have not escaped the fact that since you decided to interpret data to suit your own basic rule on who to submit; thus, you submitted to yourself i.e. to your own conclusion that some group of people represents your infallible intepreter and determiner of divine revelation. In the first place, how do you know that the rule on which christians after the apostolic age are called to submit should be on whoever they think are infallible intepreters of the divine revelation? Where do you get this epistimic rule?

    Regards,
    Joey

  78. Ray,

    In the post, I am not claiming an epistemic “advantage” with respect to the assessment of claims to the possession of divine authority – a point I make clear throughout the article. The limited goal I have in the article is to show that the Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms are not epistemic equivalents. And that is due, not to any difference in the epistemic situation with respect to identifying the locus of divine authority, but rather, with respect to the definition and determination of revealed content after that first step has been taken.

    I get your point. You should also understand my criticism of that point. You reasoned that there is a difference in the epistemic situation “with respect to the definition and determination of revealed content after that first step has been taken.” But that is exactly where we argued that there’s no difference at all! You just move the epistemic process back one step i.e. “with respect to the assessment of claims to the possession of divine authority” (in which you claim you have no “advantage”) and you are back to square one. In other words, all the perceived advantage that an RC could give “after he has taken the first step” is empty if the the first step in itself has no epistemic advantage.

    My argument is simply that – all things being equal with respect to the motives of credibility which underwrite the Catholic or Protestant embrace of their respective locus of divine authority – the Catholic paradigm would remain preferable due to the clarity and finality by which it is capable at arriving at definitive determinations of the scope and content of revealed truth.

    But that is exactly where I gave my criticism over the argument. To say that “all things being equal” — the catholic paradigm has no real advantage. The perceived/chosen infallible interpreter may claim clarity and finality but only because the inquirer hopes that all the data that he intepreted in his fallible capacity to judge that such group of people is infallible — is not in error. The sense of advantage over knowing what is true by having an infallible interpreter is gone once one realizes that determining that infallible interpreter is a fallible exercise. Further, interpreting the interpretation of the infallible interpreter is a fallible exercise.

    Regards,
    Joey

  79. Joey (#77)

    …how do you know that the rule on which christians after the apostolic age are called to submit should be on whoever they think are infallible intepreters of the divine revelation?

    I think you have misunderstood what Father Bryan is saying. The Catholic does not submit to ‘whoever [he thinks is] an infallible interpreter’ He thinks exactly as you do, that Jesus intended him to submit to those to Whom Jesus gave authority and to whom Jesus gave the charism of infallibility. It is just that you think that authority and that charism was not passed on, but ended with the death of the Apostles. The Catholic thinks the authority and charism continued with the Church.

    This is a far cry from submitting to ‘whoever they think are infallible interpreters.’

    jj

  80. John,

    You said,

    He thinks exactly as you do, that Jesus intended him to submit to those to Whom Jesus gave authority and to whom Jesus gave the charism of infallibility. It is just that you think that authority and that charism was not passed on, but ended with the death of the Apostles.

    I hope the context is clear here. We are talking about a situation in a post apostolic era. Given that, your argument is that Fr.Bryan “THINKS” that authority and that charism paased on to the church. That act of thingking is, in itself, done by yourself. Your interpretation of what the church should be is done by yourself. You judged the data on your own to arrive at your defined rule or measure. Therefore, I don’t see the point on why it is a far cry from submitting to “whoever they think are infallible interpreters”. Fr.Bryan “THINKS” therefore he submits to his own reasoning. Isn’t that the case?

    Regards,
    Joey

  81. Joey Henry –

    You said:

    The reason being put forward in your resposnce is not really convincing at all. You said, the difference is that RCs, “submit to people BECUASE OF WHO THEY ARE”. That, in itself, contains a perception/intepretation of WHO THEY ARE which is your own judgement.… You have not escaped the fact that since you decided to interpret data to suit your own basic rule on who to submit; thus, you submitted to yourself i.e. to your own conclusion that some group of people represents your infallible intepreter and determiner of divine revelation.

    True. I have had to use my judgement and I have had to weigh evidence. But why is that? I have to do it because there are false teachers and false churches, which were not part of God’s plan for his Church (even if he knew that it would happen). If everything went according to his plan, I would not have to do this research because there would only be one set of Church leaders to submit to.

    The reason I have to do this research and use my judgement and weigh evidence is because of people’s sin. People have been disobedient and have caused schism. Our confusion as to which leaders we should submit to is sin. Satan is ultimately responsible for this.

    The protestant paradigm, the confusion is built into the paradigm itself. God is the one responsible for the confusion. Because I don’t believe God wills confusion like this, I reject this paradigm in favor of the Catholic paradigm.

    That doesn’t mean that the Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus established. However, I now have several options I can pick from and evaluate. The reason I remain Catholic is because I believe that the Catholic Church has the best claim to be this Church that Jesus established.

    Now I am going to be busy so I can’t really get around to your final question, where you asked, “In the first place, how do you know that the rule on which christians after the apostolic age are called to submit should be on whoever they think are infallible intepreters of the divine revelation?” I must admit, in my haste, I’m not quite sure what you are asking. Can you rephrase so I can do my best to answer it (when I have time, which might be a little while)?

  82. MarkS,

    “Your comment suggests that when you hear a fellow Christian challenge your paradigm, you hear an attack against God.”

    What you really mean is that you do not believe my paradigm is necessary. Of course I think mine is – I wouldn’t defend it if I didn’t. Would you? Do you?

    “The Catholics are saying that God has been clear and consistent via Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium together. I think it’s an argument we have to take seriously and acknowledge that regardless of whether their paradigm is true or not, it is much more clear and consistent on the basics than what we find from the Sola/Bible is perspicuous paradigm.”

    At most, this would mean they are more clearly wrong. But if you have been following the conversations I’ve been having with others, you may be surprised to hear that 3/3 RCs with whom I’ve discussed Magisterial perspicuity here all think that its promulgations are not necessarily perspicuous.

  83. Ryan (#82)

    But if you have been following the conversations I’ve been having with others, you may be surprised to hear that 3/3 RCs with whom I’ve discussed Magisterial perspicuity here all think that its promulgations are not necessarily perspicuous.

    . I have also been reading this thread, and I have to say your characterization of those RC’s statements is an oversimplification that verges on distortion.

    In Him,
    Frank

  84. Joey (#80)

    I hope the context is clear here. We are talking about a situation in a post apostolic era. Given that, your argument is that Fr.Bryan “THINKS” that authority and that charism paased on to the church. That act of thingking is, in itself, done by yourself. Your interpretation of what the church should be is done by yourself.

    Yes, of course it is clear. This is the radical form of the tu quoque problem. Every man has to start with coming to believe that God has spoken by some particular means. Discovering the means is itself done using fallible human reasoning. There is no substitute for this. The Protestant has come to believe that the Bible is that means. His coming to that decision is itself a product of his own fallible human reasoning. The Catholic has come to believe that the Church has been authorised by God to interpret God’s revelation to him – through, but not limited to, the things written in the Bible. That decision is, again, arrived at using fallible human reasoning. There is no escaping this.

    The Protestant might be mistaken – in principle, of course; I do not think he is – about the character of the Bible. The Catholic might, again, be mistaken – again, only in principle, since I do not think he is – in identifying the Church as an infallible interpreter.

    But the point is that, just as it would be at least misleading to say that the Protestant has decided to believe ‘whatever books he thinks are inerrant’ – because he thinks there are good grounds for believing that just those books contain the Word of God – so it is misleading to describe the Catholic’s approach as submitting to ‘whoever he thinks is infallible,’ as though it were the Catholic choosing his authorities based on his own judgement. The Protestant believes God ordained the Bible; the Catholic does, too, and he thinks God ordained the Catholic Church as its guardian.

    In short, you would not say that the Bible is God’s Word because you happen to think so, and nor does Father Bryan think that the Catholic Church is authoritative because he happens to think so.

    These two claims – of the inspiration, or at least inerrancy, of the Bible, and of the authority of the Church – are both factual claims, which, naturally, need their own justification. They are not, however, simply what someone happens arbitrarily to think. Your language did not have to be read as implying that – but as it seemed at least susceptible of just that interpretation, I wanted to comment on it.

    jj

  85. Joey Henry (#78) You wrote:

    The sense of advantage over knowing what is true by having an infallible interpreter is gone once one realizes that determining that infallible interpreter is a fallible exercise. Further, interpreting the interpretation of the infallible interpreter is a fallible exercise.

    May I ask how you have determined that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who died on the Cross for our salvation?

    In Him,
    Frank

  86. Joey (#80) – PS – you say:

    We are talking about a situation in a post apostolic era.

    It seems to me possible that what you mean here is that, somehow, after the age of the apostles, even if Jesus intended there to be a successor of the Apostles (in terms of authority, I mean), now that they are gone, you can’t tell what modern claimant to be that successor should be accredited? If that is what you mean, I am a little puzzled. Is there any credible claimant other than the Catholic Church that says it is the unique infallible guardian of the faith??

    jj

  87. Joey (#80)
    PPS – That is, in my opinion, the scandal of the Catholic Church. There are many churches that claim to be inerrant – that is, they claim they follow the faith in truth. I am sure most Orthodox bodies claim this. The Reformed Church that I belonged to before becoming a Catholic had me say that I believed we were following the truth. There could, for what I know, be some that claim also to be infallible.

    The Catholic Church claims to be the Body of Christ, to think with the Mind of Christ, and to be that in a unique sense. That implies, of course, not only inerrancy and infallibility but authority. This is the substance of the extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    If it is false, I do not see how one could consider the Catholic Church to be other than precisely what the Reformers labelled it as: anti-Christ; a substitute Christ.

    I do not think that claim is false. And if the claim is true, then it is good news, indeed.

    jj

  88. La Roca,

    “I have to say your characterization of those RC’s statements is an oversimplification that verges on distortion.”

    What did I oversimplify or distort?

  89. Ryan (#88): Here’s what you wrote in #82:

    you may be surprised to hear that 3/3 RCs with whom I’ve discussed Magisterial perspicuity here all think that its promulgations are not necessarily perspicuous.

    Here is what Ray Stamper said to you in #23 regarding the perspicuity of Magisterial promulgations:

    Hence, either due to the intrinsic complexity of the question being asked, or due to the manner in which the Magisterium expresses herself, or both; it is often the case that additional (second, third, fourth) order questions must be asked before arriving at a clarificatory question so precise that the corresponding magisterial response is perspicuous enough to bring the dialogical spiral to an end.

    Your comment #82 made it sound like Magisterial promulgations do not ever achieve perspicuity – that doubt remains about the ability of the Magisterium to achieve perspicuity in what it teaches.
    And that is not what Ray said. Now, if that is not what you meant to say, you should have made a more detailed statement to the effect of, “3/3 RCs with whom I’ve discussed Magisterial perspicuity here all think that its promulgations are not always immediately perspicuous in case of complex questions, which may require additional clarification until a final answer is given.”

    In Him,
    Frank La Rocca

  90. Joey,

    You just move the epistemic process back one step i.e. “with respect to the assessment of claims to the possession of divine authority” (in which you claim you have no “advantage”) and you are back to square one. In other words, all the perceived advantage that an RC could give “after he has taken the first step” is empty if the the first step in itself has no epistemic advantage.

    Let me use an analogy. You walk out into a busy street. I do too. You close your eyes. I don’t. We both *THINK* and use our fallible judgment to decide where to go. You get hit by a car. I don’t. Are we in the same epistemic boat?

    No.

    Your argument basically says that because we all have to use our noggins, we are all in same the epistemic boat. Yes, we are in one sense. However, we aren’t in another. “That we have a noggin” puts us in a similar epistemic situation. “How we use that noggin” can dramatically change our epistemic situation with regards to the type of knowledge we possess. All knowledge is personal. Not all knowledge is subjective. To personally know something (not some thought) is to know it’s cause. Regarding theology, there is a unique relationship between faith and the Church. I again (to anyone reading) recommend Bryan’s article “St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church“. It, to me, is the best summary of this situation. I would enjoy more interaction on it, given that there is only 29 comments to date (2/13/10).

    Fr.Bryan “THINKS” therefore he submits to his own reasoning. Isn’t that the case?

    If my kids are watching television and I tell them to turn it off, and they think “Daddy said turn it off” and they turn it off, they are not “submitting to their own reasoning” if they turn it off. However, if I asked them to turn the television off, and one of my children decided that what I really meant was to turn it off after the end of the next show, then he or she would be submitting to their particular interpretation of my statement. The difference is in the “o” word: obedience. In the former case, my children’s epistemic situation is dependent upon my statement, on the later upon their interpretation.

  91. In the thread about Josh Lim’s conversion story, commentor John Bugay links to his own blog in which he calls out a regular CtC commentor. The post beneath, which he has titled Musical Popery is a fantastic case study on the point Ray Stamper makes in this article.

    Bugay draws his reader’s attention to controversial and somewhat confusing comments Pope Benedict made concerning the use of Condoms and attempts to use the confusion of many Catholics as evidence that the papacy is a “beacon of darkness” in the culture’s state of moral confusion. However, Bugay fails to realize that the confusion of these Catholics can be remedied by further papal pronouncements on the issue at hand. The magisterium is capable of clarifying the comments and ending the confusion of many of its members.

    A great example of this type of clarification concerned the necessity of providing nutrition and hydration to patients in a vegetative state. After the Vatican ruled that nutrition and hydration were obligatory, even if they were provided by artificial means, many people were confused and wanted to know if this applied to people who were so sick that their bodies had stopped assimilating food and water. The Vatican offered a clarification that said they did not. Affirming Church teaching, they ruled that a patient is obligated to receive treatment *unless* the treatment is overly burdensome or will yield disproportionate results.

    So, the Church did not change its teaching but clarified it as it can do for any moral or doctrinal question and reaffirmed that she is far from a “beacon of darkness” in this morally confused culture.

  92. Fr. Bryan (#91),

    Let me just add that the alleged *confusion* was minimal (from the Pope’s comments — and as we know a clarification was issued immediately), while the discord (and subsequent confusion) sown by dissenters, detractors, and haters of the Catholic Church was significant. Again, the confusion was largely on account of the discord sown by the dissenters, detractors and haters of the Catholic Church.

    If one really wants to find confusion rendered by a theology with regards to the use of condoms, one only need to look within those Christian sects who approve of them ubiquitously. It is those theologies that approve of the use of condoms (and other forms of contraception) that have become a “beacon of darkness” in our day.

  93. #76 RC

    Those scenarios were so well drawn that I am copying it and storing. I have given thought to the “where do we go to for final authority” over and over again. Unless we have a person who makes the final decison, even in an eccumenical council, we still have a stalemate over the question. If 7 of 10 make the decision, it is still an educated guess even among educated equals. Someone still must adjucicate, if it is 1 or 10. The Reformed have never declared their confessions to be infallible, but if you question sola scriptura you are thought to be bordering on heresy. The problem with dogmatic ministerial authority is that is has the species of magisterial authority. Take the Geneva Robes for instance, they bespeak either a court of law or priesthood to a person who has eyes, and of course is a universal symbol for authority.

    I would like to ask for help with this below. Can someone explain what Jesus meant when he said to call no man “Father”. Is there any resemblance to The Seat of Moses and The Papal Office?

    Matt 23:1-12: “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, v.2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. “They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, “greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    Thank you,
    Alicia

  94. The fact that the Magisterium can clarify itself isn’t as much help as some folks are claiming, because one can debate endlessly the status of particular clarifications.

    So, for instance, JPII said that women couldn’t be ordained, in language that sounded like it might meet Vatican I’s criteria for infallibility.

    Then the CDF said that the statement was infallible, but _not_ that it was ex cathedra.

    Is that clarification itself infallible? Clearly not.

    And so on, and so forth.

    If you confine magisterial teaching to clearly infallible teaching (on Catholic principles), you have equivalent difficulties of interpretation to those you have with Scripture (maybe not quite as great, but still pretty serious).

    If, however, you appeal to the “endless clarification” possible for the Magisterium, you run into a level of teaching that is _clearly_ fallible and on which the Magisterium has _clearly_ contradicted itself.

    Either way, no absolute certainty.

    If you want to argue that there’s greater relative certainty possible in Catholicism than in Protestantism, then sure, that’s obviously true. And perhaps that’s all you are arguing. But Catholic apologists generally seem to be arguing something more than that. They seem to be saying that there’s a kind of absolute certainty possible in Catholicism that isn’t possible in Protestantism. And that seems plainly bogus to me.

    I find William Abraham’s arguments in _Canon and Criterion_ generally persuasive (though I think he misunderstands medieval Latin Christianity and mistakenly applies his argument to Aquinas and the medieval West generally). I think the epistemological approach favored by the Reformed and many Catholics is fundamentally misguided and distorts the proper purpose of Church authority. With all due respect, it seems to me that many folks on this website have brought Reformed preoccupations with them that might have been better let drop.

    I would argue that infallibility is important for a completely different reason–not to give one absolute certainty that what one believes right now is true (which doesn’t actually seem that important to me, and which I’m reasonably certain is impossible), but rather to allow me to commit myself unconditionally to a community without the fear of abandoning the Word of God.

    In other words, on Catholic principles I accept by faith that one of two things is true of any Catholic teaching:
    1. It is true; or
    2. It is not in fact the permanent teaching of the Church and the Holy Spirit is in the process of guiding the Church, from within, to a better understanding.

    I don’t need to know which of these is true for any one issue (aside from the basic creedal truths without which Christianity would not be Christianity at all), and I don’t need absolute certainty for any part of revealed truth–as Aquinas said long ago, this is impossible anyway except for those doctrines that aren’t distinctive parts of Christian revelation (like the existence of God). But I need to have reasonable confidence that the Church will not bind my conscience to error, which would require me to separate from the Church.

  95. Alicia –

    Perhaps this will help (I haven’t read it. It was the first thing that came up when I googled, “Call no man father.”)

    I personally make sense of this on the idea of participation in the life of God. God is the only true father, but he shares his paternity with people. Thus, you are free to call your father, “Father” (or any similar term) because God has shared with him the ability to be a father. Similarly, I – a priest – have been blessed with a share in God’s fatherhood as well in a different way, which I believe is similar to what Paul meant when he said that he became the father of Onesimus (see the letter to Philemon).

    Hope that helps a little.

  96. Frank,

    “Your comment #82 made it sound like Magisterial promulgations do not ever achieve perspicuity – that doubt remains about the ability of the Magisterium to achieve perspicuity in what it teaches.
    And that is not what Ray said.”

    Explicitly, no. But it is a logical implication of what he and the others said, as I touched on here (before Ray said he wasn’t inclined to pursue a discussion on the philosophy of science) and have pointed out on my blog which MarkS says he read.

  97. Brent,

    The crazy thing about analogy is that it often fails to illustrate the situation at hand. For example, your analogy of the situation as being like crossing the street is highly suspect since for several reasons. The correct analogy perhaps is that we are both crossing the same busy street. You closed your eyes hoping that the one who is guiding you gives you all the right answers since you believe the guide you’ve chosen among the many who claimed to be guides can’t err. I on the other hand opened my eyes asking guides, testing what they are saying, reading the map, asking fellow pilgrims, observing the signs, accept when in error and willing to be corrected. Your sense of advantage of having an infallible guide hangs on your fallible belief that you’ve chosen an infallible guide. How is that an advantage at all?

    The daddy-told-you illustration suffers the same criticism above. You are thinking child who thought that someone shoulf be a dad to decide whether the tv has to be turned off or not. So many children raised their hands claiming to be your dad. So, you picked your child-wannabe-dad and ask him, “Daddy, should I turn off the TV?” Then this child hou’ve picked said, “Go ahead. Turn it off…”. That’s what happened…

    Regards,
    Joey

  98. Ryan (#96)
    “but it is the logical implication of what he and the others said…”

    To be sure I understand you, I think you’re saying that the logical implication of the statements Ray and others made is that Magisterial promulgations cannot achieve perspicuity. If that were the case, it would have to include what was promulgated at Nicaea and I’d guess you would not agree about that.

    This establishes that the Magisterium can be perspicuous. And any “logical” implication would have be expressed like this:

    Some A are B
    Some A are not B
    Therefore all A are not B.

    Where A is Magisterial promulgation and B is perspicuous. This does not follow any rules of logic I am familiar with.

    In Him,
    Frank

  99. Joey #97

    So, you picked your child-wannabe-dad and ask him, “Daddy, should I turn off the TV?” Then this child hou’ve picked said, “Go ahead. Turn it off…”. That’s what happened…

    That analogy would be apt if there were no actual father in the room. However, in a room full of children with a father, where the father is clearly recognized the father actually does have legitimate authority to decide when to turn off the TV. That is the heart of the epistemic difference we are talking about. Your comment above begs the question by assuming the protestant paradigm, that we are all a bunch of leaderless children and that anyone we elect as an authority is arbitrary. The Catholic paradigm is that there is indeed a Catholic Church that was founded by Christ himself and that he promised to protect from error.

  100. Frank,

    “I think you’re saying that the logical implication of the statements Ray and others made is that Magisterial promulgations cannot achieve perspicuity. If that were the case, it would have to include what was promulgated at Nicaea and I’d guess you would not agree about that.”

    Then again, I don’t agree with Ray’s beliefs regarding how we can identify something to be perspicuous.

  101. Joey Henry,

    I think you missed the point of my first analogy. It was to only illustrate that we are all not in the same epistemic boat. Your analogy would prove me a fool, and an epistemic dim-whit to boot. So, even on your analogy, you prove that how we use and what methods we choose for knowing “x” can significantly impact our epistemic situation. Crazy as it is, thank you. : )

    You closed your eyes hoping that the one who is guiding you gives you all the right answers since you believe the guide you’ve chosen among the many who claimed to be guides can’t err.

    First, this misses the point. My saying, “you closed your eyes” in my analogy, was only to evince that under some circumstance you would agree that we are not in the same epistemic boat — despite both of us using our fallible noggins. I also cited an article by Bryan Cross regarding the relationship between faith and the Church in St. Thomas Aquinas. I hope you have read it, and I hope you interact with it. Though, let’s consider your analogy:

    What if I said, “You closed your eyes, hoping that Jesus would lead you.” OR “I closed my eyes, following those who Jesus left His authority, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to lead me.”

    On the former, you would fight back. On the latter, you would pile on. So, I don’t think your train of thought works as is. Let me put it another way. I think you would agree that if St. Peter were here today, you would be in a different epistemic boat following him rather than Jim Jones. The difference would not be just in your motives of credibility for following St. Peter versus Jim Jones. The epistemic difference would relate to what you get after exercising prudential judgment given the motives of credibility (the point of Ray’s article) or namely, Spirit-led-infallible guidance versus Purplesaurus Rex kool-aid.

    and willing to be corrected

    Unless, of course, you don’t agree. Nevertheless, even at your job, there is authority (at least, there is at mine). I may not agree with a decision, but I have to go with it. Now, at work, I don’t require an infallible guide because the goal is not eternal truth. The goal is a natural end. Nonetheless, even given a natural end, my willingness to be corrected at work is not correlative to only my agreeing with the correction. Instead, I have to submit to the authority and receive the correction as a sub-ordinate, whether I agree or not. That is precisely the difference. In the Protestant paradigm, submission is an act of the will, but not of the intellect. For the Catholic, it is an act of the intellect and will.

    So many children raised their hands claiming to be your dad.

    Actually, since no Protestant church claims to be the church Jesus personally founded, there were actually not many options (since I’m a former Protestant). In other words, since no one wanted to be called “Father” in the Protestant world, no one was telling me to turn the tv off. Once one realizes that Protestantism has no “visible catholic Church”, that the emperor, in fact, has no clothes on, then all the shouting voices saying, “Look at me, I’m a Bible scholar” or “Look at me, I’m a Bible scholar”, or “Look at me, I’m a Bible scholar,” begin to look indistinguishable from each other.

    So, you are right. Either we are left to ourselves, or there is such a Church worthy of submitting to. As St. Paul said, “you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers.”

  102. Ryan,

    The breadth and scope necessary to discuss (what I would think is) the error of pre-suppositionalism would simply derail this thread. I, personally, don’t have time (as I indicated on your blog), because — to be frank — I find presuppositionalism to be unthinkable. I cannot even think it. And, to be straight-forward, I think dialoging with you without addressing this fundamental difference of how we view the world, knowledge, etc., would only mean that we would constantly disagree with endless frustration; and, there are plenty of people I can talk to who don’t share your worldview, and therefore there is the possibility of not endless frustration. : ) (I’ve said something like this before to someone else here)

    The closest relevant thread is the Hitchens post, and I think Ray linked you to a very good comment by Bryan. You might try making a comment there, since you said you were disappointed about not pursing “that line of dialog“.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  103. Brent,

    You have proven your point. You said that we are in a different epistemic situation. Point being that, if I follow St. Peter versus Jim Jones then I will be in the advantage. We’ll of course. But you see, that situation again is different from what we are discussing. In your case you are in choice between a claimant(s) of the voice of Christ or his apostles whetherit be Jim Jones or Benedict. So are you really better of than the protestant next door? The strength on the advantage only depends on whether jim or benedict are truly whl they claim to be. But, that assessment will depend on your own reasoning and in take of historical and philosophical data which is as fallible than a protestant who reads his new testament and assess on the authorial intent and meaning. I say, the advantage RC claims by having an infallible interpreter is weak given that the identification infallible interpreter comes from fallible reasoning.

    As to the daddy-wannbe illustration, you have not given an argument except that you came from a protestant background and no one claimed to be your dad. Good to know that! But there are child-daddy-wannabe who raised their hands and you handpicked them to be so in your life. They have authority in your life only because you submitted to your set of rules and measures and reason which I would rmind you is fallible. So what advantage do you have over the protestant next door who reads the new testament and reads it fallibly? Nothing. The illusion of certainty is only as weak as to the belief that you’ve arrived at it because of a child who raised his hand and claims to be your dad… So would you turn the tv off? That’s a loaded question..

    Regards,
    Joey

  104. Ryan (#100)I wrote:

    Ryan (#96)
    “but it is the logical implication of what he and the others said…”

    To be sure I understand you, I think you’re saying that the logical implication of the statements Ray and others made is that Magisterial promulgations cannot achieve perspicuity. If that were the case, it would have to include what was promulgated at Nicaea and I’d guess you would not agree about that.

    This establishes that the Magisterium can be perspicuous. And any “logical” implication would have be expressed like this:

    Some A are B
    Some A arenot B
    Therefore all A are not B.

    Where A is “Magisterial promulgation” and B is “perspicuous”. This does not follow any rules of logic I am familiar with.

    You replied:

    Then again, I don’t agree with Ray’s beliefs regarding how we can identify something to be perspicuous.

    This seems a non sequitur. Please address the logical argument, not the preface to that argument. The point at issue is your statement about “the logical implication” of what Ray and others said regarding perspicuity. I am challenging the validity of your logic.

    In Him,
    Frank

  105. Ryan;

    What you really mean is that you do not believe my paradigm is necessary. Of course I think mine is – I wouldn’t defend it if I didn’t. Would you? Do you?

    Judging by how your conversations with some other guys have wrapped up, it appears we take different approaches in examining paradigms. I’m looking for evidence that these paradigms are or are not true. When I say that the Catholic paradigm, if true, provides greater clarity and consistency on what God would have us believe then does the Sola/perspicuity paradigm, your response is to say that if that’s the case it would only make the Catholic teachings more clearly wrong. I don’t see how that response works. For it to be that it makes the Catholic position clearly wrong, some other paradigm must present an interpretation of the content of divine revelation in at least as clear and consistent a manner as does the Catholic paradigm, and that paradigm must have stronger evidence that it is the true paradigm. A big piece of that evidence has to be the paradigm’s clarity and consistency, in my view. You seem to me to say (per 56) that because of the fault of interpreters who hold the perspicuity paradigm, it may seem that the sola paradigm is not perspicuous, when it fact it is. If that’s the case, must it not be clear who is at fault and who’s not? Otherwise, you seem to me to be saying that it must necessarily be true that Scripture is perspicuous even though we cannot know what its perspicuous teaching is because that would require, at a minimum, that we know which interpreters are faulty and which are not, including whether or not we are being faulty in making any of these assessments.

    I’ll finish by going back to my hypothetical scenario of the new convert in #60. I take it you are going to tell the convert that it’s necessary that Scripture is clear on baptism and then give your view of it. Say he responds saying yeah, but the Lutheran (or whoever, just pick a tradition different than yours that is full of smart guys like you) also tells me Scripture is clear on this and that it teaches his view, not yours. I take it you’ll respond (like in #56) and tell him this is the fault of the interpreters, not the Scripture. He says ok, but you are both great guys who love God and demonstrate fruit of the Spirit’s work in your lives. So how could he determine if you, the Lutheran, or both of you are at fault while maintaining adherence to the sola paradigm himself?

    Mark

  106. Joey Henry,

    But you see, that situation again is different from what we are discussing.

    No, Joey. That is precisely what we are debating. I’m saying that the situation is the same, and if the same, there is a difference (which you admit).

    The strength on the advantage only depends on whether jim or benedict are truly who they claim to be.

    Yes, we agree.

    But, that assessment will depend on your own reasoning and in take of historical and philosophical data which is as fallible than a protestant who reads his new testament and assess on the authorial intent and meaning.

    So, epistemically speaking, you are arguing that the one following Jim Jones and Christ are in the same epistemic boat, because…

    I say, the advantage RC claims by having an infallible interpreter is weak given that the identification infallible interpreter comes from fallible reasoning.

    Which reminds me of the sophist Protagorus, who said, “man is the measure of all things.” That is more or less what you are advocating, a kind of skepticism rooted in an epistemological position that doubts greater certainty because “we are all using our fallible noggins” to get off the ground. Because, you argue, we are all using our fallible noggins, all subsequent knowledge is equally dubious (what I would think of as a kind of 1 + 1 = 2, and 1 + 3 = 2, because we start with “1”). However, how can you be certain of that first principle? In other words, what if you are wrong that we are all fallible? What if you have fallibly deduced the first principle of fallibility? This is the fundamental problem with skepticism: it cannot account for its first principle.

    I say that despite our fallibility, we can transcend our limitations through the right use of reason and obtain, through the right use of reason, more certain knowledge — despite our human frailty.

    So what advantage do you have over the protestant next door who reads the new testament and reads it fallibly?

    Again, I recommend Bryan’s article “St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church“. I would engage with you on that article as much as you want, for I believe it lays out the fundamental difference between the Protestant interpreting Scripture and the Catholic following the Church. An excerpt:

    The reason of this is that the species of every habit depends on the formal aspect [ration] of the object, without which the species of the habit cannot remain. Now the formal object of faith is the First Truth, as manifested in Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church. Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Sacred Scripture, has not the habit of faith, but holds the [other articles] of faith by a mode other than faith. If someone holds in his mind a conclusion without knowing how that conclusion is demonstrated, it is manifest that he does not have scientific knowledge [i.e. knowledge of causes], but merely an opinion about it. So likewise, it is manifest that he who adheres to the teachings of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teachings of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. Hence it is evident that a heretic who obstinately disbelieves [even] one article of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things (but if he is not obstinate, he is not a heretic but only erring). Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will.”3

    So, what I am getting at is the formal aspect of Christian dogma, and whether or not the species of the habit can obtain. The Catholic position, per St. Thomas, is that one cannot obtain more than opinion without the Church. Again, I would be happy to dialog with you on that article.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  107. Joey,

    What if everything you could imagine came up and, after giving each of those items the fullest of your prayer and study, the Roman Catholic Church was telling you the truth about each and everyone of those things? That is where I found myself. I had been and could be wrong. My denomination did not even demand adherence to its tenets, albeit that it had no authority to do so. However I wanted the truth no matter where it led.

    My search found the Roman Catholic Church was there, giving right answers to each question, and completely in agreement with scripture (important for those of us coming home from evangelicalism). The Roman Catholic position was also coherent. I was not expected to believe two disparate things. Jesus is God and Man. That is what I thought I was seeing in scripture, and the Church had defined that exact thing. Jesus had a mother who was virginal (scripture again) and she proved His humanity. Jesus has one human parent. St. Joseph, the holiest of carpenters, was Jesus’ stepfather, per scripture.

    The Church defined the triune nature of God, noting the three Persons of God, each of Whom inhabits the divine nature completely, which maintains the unity of the triune God. We did not get three
    Gods each inhabiting His own divine nature. We don’t get the divine nature shared, like rooms in a house. We get the three Persons of God all completely inhabiting the divine nature. Of note, I did not need to understand “how” that happens, but I found it coherent within the limits of my reason. I did not always need to understand, but I did need to believe.

    Over and over and over I saw the same thing. I had questions and the only Authority answering those questions coherently and authoritatively was the Roman Catholic Church.

    Of great import to me, in Acts Peter is given a revelation and acts on it. (Reference Cornelius and his household.) He justifies his completed action and everyone accepts it. Later, Paul, who is having a running battle with the Judaizers, brings his issue to the Church in Jerusalem. It is Peter who makes the ruling (based on the earlier revelation), which is then agreed to (again) by the other apostles, and that ruling is promulgated to all the Churches. We don’t have to be circumcised because Peter spoke. That ruling was not limited to Jerusalem, nor to the Churches Paul was having the arguments with, it was a ruling incumbent on all the Churches, and it came from a Council where Peter set the direction.

    Peter and Paul are both apostles, but Peter acts. Paul refers the problem he is seeing back to the Church in Jerusalem, and Peter speaks. I love them both, but I see a difference in authority, and it is my impression that Paul saw that difference as well, which is why he referred the issue back to Jerusalem, back to Peter, a pillar of the Church.

    I saw Authority in action. It did not look anything like the church I was in. I saw it in the Roman Catholic Church.

    They had the right answers. They displayed authority from early in Acts. So this fallible man submitted to the Church Jesus founded. When I want to know something now, I reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I am not the expert, I am the disciple.

    Cordially,

    dt

  108. Hello Mark (24),

    You wrote regarding baptism:
    My Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Methodist friends all give different answers to these questions and they’re sort of basic to Christian family life, right? When I ask these friends how important it is to believe a very difficult and mysterious formula for the two natures in one person of Christ (something they agree with Catholics about) they will say it’s very important. Ask them about baptism and many will say it’s a non-essential as long as you believe in justification by faith alone.

    A couple things…
    Was baptism essential for the thief on the cross? and…
    The Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, and Methodists Confessions are not at odds on baptism, rather they are quite consistent… and
    Talking with different Catholic friends of mine I get a wide variety of understanding regarding their faith and practice. Maybe not the best source to argue from…

    And, we wouldn’t say one must believe in justification alone in order to be saved. Belief in Christ and His finished work alone suffices quite well as He counts my faith alone in Him as a righteousness sufficient unto salvation. And that true faith (a gift of God) shows forth in a sanctified life of godly works by His Spirit’s work in the believer.

    Blessings…

  109. Jack (re#108):

    And, we wouldn’t say one must believe in justification alone in order to be saved. Belief in Christ and His finished work alone suffices quite well as He counts my faith alone in Him as a righteousness sufficient unto salvation.

    So in this Protestant soteriology, what happens to the infant who cannot make this confession of belief in Christ and His finished work? What happens to mentally disabled who cannot grasp the concepts involved?

    In Him,
    Frank

  110. Brent,

    Jim or Benedict is not Christ or His apostles. I would gladly follow Christ and His apostles… But claimants of the voice of Christ and His apostles are merely claimants. And, the point in all of this is that believing these claimants (as infallible interpreters of the divine revelation) do not add an advantage epistomologically as the original posts would like to argue.

    Regards,
    Joey

  111. Jack (re: 108);

    Was baptism essential for the thief on the cross? and…

    That’s a common question asked of leaders of the traditions that believe in the (ordinary) necessity of baptism and they have plausible arguments dealing with them. I imagine you probably know that.

    The Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, and Methodists Confessions are not at odds on baptism, rather they are quite consistent… and

    If we are going to let the leaders and confessions of these traditions define their own positions as they see them, your statement simply isn’t true. As an example, I recommend you Google ‘Issues, etc’ and listen to some well done presentations by Missouri Synod Lutherans on their view of baptism (and other issues) where they very directly explain from Scripture and History why they think their view is true, why baptism is important, and why other views are not true. It’s not hard to find authoritative teachings from each of these traditions on the matter. Generally, they go out of their way to explain and distinguish their views and argue for their truth. They do not contend that their views are consistent with all the other Protestant traditions.

    Talking with different Catholic friends of mine I get a wide variety of understanding regarding their faith and practice. Maybe not the best source to argue from…

    Fair enough. But, if you read my exchange with Ryan, I think you will see that the heart of my argument is that the obvious disagreement over the basics of the Christian faith by sophisticated and devout adherents of the sola/perspicuity of the Bible paradigm causes serious problems (that I have yet to find a way to resolve) for the paradigm. If it’s the true paradigm by which God conveys divine truth to us, it seems to me it ought to be clear and consistent. So I’m trying to work through the arguments to see if they can be resolved.
    Peace,
    Mark

  112. Joey,

    I would gladly follow Christ and His apostles

    But, one could just as easily reduce Christ and His Apostles to “claimants” of what in fact they claim(ed) to be. Therefore, you trusting them — from your argument — would be a fallible decision and make you no better off than a follower of Jim Jones. Epistemologically speaking, of course. I disagree with this conclusion (b/c I disagree with the premises), but it would seem to follow from your own premises.

  113. Joey,

    Thank you for your comments here. You wrote:

    “And, the point in all of this is that believing these claimants (as infallible interpreters of the divine revelation) do not add an advantage epistomologically as the original posts would like to argue.”

    Epistemology may roughly be described as the science of human knowing, or the study of how human beings come to know. With respect to divine revelation, the end goal is not merely to know that some authority source possesses divine revelation (communication from God); the end goal is that we humans come to know the content of divine revelation: that we come to know what God, in giving us revelation, intends us to know (say for instance, with respect to a crucial matter such as justification). Achievement of that goal entails a two step epistemic ladder. Not only must we locate a divine authority source in possession of God’s revelatory content; that authority source must also be capable of communicating said revelatory content in such a way that we come to know that content as God intended.

    Therefore, the relationship of epistemology with respect to human knowledge of the content of divine revelation is not monolithic. Completion of the epistemic goal (knowing the content of divine revelation as God intends) requires a two-step epistemic process, even though there is a sense in which the second step depends upon the first. Hence, any comparative evaluation of the Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms involves a comparative evaluation of both steps. My article explains why it is that the Catholic paradigm makes possible and achieves this second epistemic movement, while the Protestant paradigm in principle does not. And because this second epistemic step is a necessary step with respect to the original epistemic goal of coming to a knowledge of the content of divine revelation, the Catholic paradigm in that respect entails an epistemic advantage over the Protestant paradigm.

    In a similar (though even less dramatic) way, if one’s goal is to take pictures of a rare animal species deep within the Amazon forest, one’s likelihood of successfully achieving that goal will depend not only upon arrival at the tourist information office near the entry to the forest (where information about how to reach the rare species is located), but also upon the communicative means by which the information office further directs you to your goal deep in the forest. With respect to achieving your goal, it may make a very great difference whether they hand you a guide book or assign you a tour guide!

    In more technical terms, the problem with your recent line of argumentation nets down to this: from the fact that A is, in one or more senses, dependent upon B, it does not follow that A is redundant or superfluous, with respect to the achievement of some goal C, for which B is also necessary. Dependency does not entail dispensability.

    From the fact that the movement of the hand depends upon the function of the brain, it does not follow that the movement of the hand is redundant or superfluous, with respect to handwriting, despite the fact that brain function is also necessary for handwriting.

    Now the fact that A depends upon B certainly highlights the importance of determining whether or not B is a fact. But that in no way undermines the force of my argument wherein one account of A is superior to another account of A, such that given equally persuasive accounts of B, upon which A depends, the paradigm possessing the superior account of A, maintains an overall paradigmatic advantage. And that is because from the fact that A is, in one or more senses, dependent upon B, it does not follow that A is redundant or superfluous, with respect to the achievement of some goal C, for which B is also necessary.

    Therefore, in order to establish the claim you make in the quote above, you would need to show why it is that the proposed means by which divine revelation is communicatively defined and determined (A) within the two paradigms (a book versus a living Magisterium) is superfluous with respect to our achieving God intended knowledge of the content of divine revelation (C), even though the means by which divine revelation is communicatively defined and determined (A), depends upon our recognition of the respective authority sources from which such communication flows (B), where (B) also is acknowledged by both paradigms as necessary to achieve (C). You have not done so, therefore, the following quote with which I ended the article remains sound:

    “Therefore, if there be even equal persuasive force to the exegetical and historical arguments for the Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms, the Catholic paradigm would remain manifestly superior because of its fundamental epistemic superiority even prior to an assessment of the data.”

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  114. Hi Frank (109),

    A little short on time at the moment, but to answer your question: So in this Protestant soteriology, what happens to the infant who cannot make this confession of belief in Christ and His finished work?

    Speaking as a Reformed Christian (defined by Westminster Standards, Belgic, and Heidelberg), baptism is efficacious for all infants who, by God’s secret election (known only to Him), have been chosen unto salvation. That is why baptism wasn’t necessary for the thief on the cross. We would say that baptism is “generally necessary” for salvation and that infant baptism is the teaching of Scripture and the Church.

    - even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will… (Eph. 1: 4-5).

    Ye did not choose me, but I chose you… (John 15: 16)

    For many are called, but few chosen. (Matt. 22: 14)

    So baptism works in conjunction with election, God’s election being the ultimate determining factor. That is the point of Paul’s teaching in Rom. 9-11. Likewise, one’s profession of faith works similarly in conjunction with God’s secret election.

    blessings…

  115. Hi Mark (111),

    Re: the thief, yes there are sufficient explanations as I noted in my previous comment.

    As to the various confessional views on baptism among the denominations you listed, I spoke too loosely in that I had in mind your words, “Ask them about baptism and many will say it’s a non-essential as long as you believe in justification by faith alone.” Confessionally that isn’t affirmed by any of those traditions. They don’t define baptism as optional or unnecessary.

    That being said, the Anglican (39 Articles), Presbyterian (WCF), and Reformed Churches (Belgic, Heidelberg, Dort) are consistent. And as to baptism, I would add the Lutheran (Augsburg 1530 and 1540)) to that list. Calvin and the other Reformers accepted the Lutheran article on baptism. These are the official confessions of those churches. Now, certain leaders may make the case that one particular confession is more exact or clear, but the confessions are essentially in agreement.

    As to Methodist and Baptist teachings you are correct regarding their whole teaching on baptism. But as I wrote above I had in mind as to an optional nature on baptism being taught. The Methodist short article on baptism, except for the unfortunate Arminian clause at the the end, is consistent. The London Baptist Confession is consistent save their rejection of infant baptism and insistence on immersion as the only valid mode.

    As a Reformed churchman, I see no need to explain their Arminianism and rejection of infant baptism any more than I feel the need to explain what I see as a semi-pelagian understanding in certain teachings of the Roman Church. I obviously believe the Reformed confessions to be faithful to the teachings and doctrines of Scripture.

    Yes, the Roman Church has one “official” voice for its teaching. But I don’t see that as an air-tight argument that its doctrine is Scriptural and therefore correct, only that it is officially unified. Unless, of course, that one voice is defined as unable to err. By the way, am I accursed because I believe the doctrine of justification by faith alone as taught in the WCF?

    blessings…

  116. Joey (#110)

    Jim or Benedict is not Christ or His apostles. I would gladly follow Christ and His apostles… But claimants of the voice of Christ and His apostles are merely claimants. And, the point in all of this is that believing these claimants (as infallible interpreters of the divine revelation) do not add an advantage epistomologically as the original posts would like to argue.

    This, however, is a factual question. Jim Jones is neither Christ nor one of His apostles. The claim of the Catholic Church is that the bishops – including the Bishop of Rome – are apostles of Christ. To be sure, the Church does not suggest – in fact, denies – that they enjoy the gift of inspiration that the Twelve had. But it is precisely the Church’s belief that the bishops are the Sent-Ones of Christ, with His authority to rule, to teach, and to minister to His sheep – and that when, in union with that one bishop whom we call the Pope, who is the successor Peter, they teach something to be held definitively by the faithful, they will not – by the protection of God, not by their own wisdom or holiness – they will not teach error.

    You, of course, do not believe this, but your simple assertion that it is not so does not make it false. It is true that merely making the claim does not give you any epistemic advantage. If, however, the claim is true, then it does.

    jj

  117. Re #114

    That is why baptism wasn’t necessary for the thief on the cross.

    I just wanted to point out that baptism wasn’t necessary for the thief on the cross for the same reason it wasn’t necessary for Moses, David and Abraham. It hadn’t been instituted before they died.

  118. Edwin (#94):

    You wrote:

    The fact that the Magisterium can clarify itself isn’t as much help as some folks are claiming, because one can debate endlessly the status of particular clarifications. So, for instance, JPII said that women couldn’t be ordained, in language that sounded like it might meet Vatican I’s criteria for infallibility. Then the CDF said that the statement was infallible, but _not_ that it was ex cathedra. Is that clarification itself infallible? Clearly not. And so on, and so forth.

    I think you’re running together two issues that need to be kept distinct, though obviously they are related to an extent. The first is whether magisterial doctrines themselves can be clarified over time by the Magisterium. The second is whether the Magisterium can, over time, clarify the degree of authority enjoyed by this-or-that doctrine without explicitly invoking infallibility. The answer to both questions is yes, but it’s important to note that they are also independent of each other: the one thing can be done without doing the other. One might want to argue that, for any given doctrine D, there’s little pastoral use in trying to clarify the degree of authority enjoyed by D without clarifying D itself. And in most cases that’s probably true. But logically speaking, the two tasks are distinct.

    In the case of the doctrine you use as an example–that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women” (from Ordinatio Sacerdotalis; call it ‘NAW’ for short)–the fact that the CDF’s responsio on NAW was not itself infallibly set forth does not affect the question whether the Magisterium had thus clarified NAW itself. Clearly, it had; the formulation I’ve quoted was new, even though the doctrine expressed by that formulation was not. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis merely made more explicit what had been becoming more explicit over time, in response to repeated (and continuing) challenges. But what about the question whether NAW itself had been infallibly taught?

    Clearly the CDF responsio, which did not exhibit the traditional source or form of a de fide pronouncement, could not make NAW any more infallible than it already was, and for that reason could not make NAW any more inherently “certain” than it already was. (I’ll return to the question of certainty below.) But that is ultimately irrelevant, for it did clarify the fact that NAW is irreformable. How? John Paul II signed off on Ratzinger’s responsio, which is what gave the ruling its magisterial weight in conjunction with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. The Magisterium itself thus asserted that NAW “has been infallibly set forth by the ordinary and universal magisterium.” That is not the sort of assertion that can be negated later without discrediting the Magisterium’s claims for itself. And that’s why it clarified that NAW is irreformable, even without issuing a formal definition in the traditional sense.

    Many besides you have objected nonetheless that such a “clarification” is useless for that purpose because, as everybody acknowledges, the clarification itself was not infallibly set forth. But that same objection could be leveled even against traditional dogmatic definitions propounded by the extraordinary Magisterium. That canons of the form “If anyone denies D, let him be anathema” are exercises of the (extraordinary) Magisterium’s infallibility is a tenet of Tradition that has not, itself, been formally defined. And why not? Because there’s no apparent reason why one could not raise the same question about that new, recursive definition itself, and so on to infinity. At some point, Catholic theologians and faithful must accept the fact that Tradition itself defines the boundaries of infallible teaching, without its doing so being formally defined by the means usually associated with particular dogmas. And the same applies a fortiori to doctrines that have been infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium, which by definition have not (yet) been formally defined. Besides NAW, an example of that would be the teaching on contraception; if you want, I will give a detailed argument showing why; but Hans Küng, of all people, already did that forty years ago in Infallible: An Inquiry. (He thought that was a reductio ad absurdum of the Church’s claim to infallibility; in light of the cultural developments of the past forty years, I’d say it was further evidence thereof.) The upshot is that the category labeled “infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium” would be empty if the Vatican could only resolve controversies about what belongs in that category by an act of the extraordinary magisterium. But clearly that is not the case; and on pain of infinite regress, we cannot insist that it should be.

    Does all that mean that Catholics cannot attain the vaunted “certainty” which affirming the Magisterium’s infallibility-under-certain-conditions supposedly gives us? No and yes. No, because the formal “notes” of infallibility are no more certain than the assent of faith rendered to the doctrines to which such notes are attached. Such notes clarify; they do not amplify. But yes, in that the clarifications afforded by such notes facilitate the assent of faith to the doctrines so marked, for those who already have implicit faith in the Magisterium.

    To that, your objection would appear to be to pose the following dilemma:

    If you confine magisterial teaching to clearly infallible teaching (on Catholic principles), you have equivalent difficulties of interpretation to those you have with Scripture (maybe not quite as great, but still pretty serious). If, however, you appeal to the “endless clarification” possible for the Magisterium, you run into a level of teaching that is _clearly_ fallible and on which the Magisterium has _clearly_ contradicted itself. Either way, no absolute certainty.

    We may leave the first horn aside, since nobody here confines magisterial teaching to “clearly infallible teaching” in the sense you mean. What about the second horn? Well, since you offer no examples of where magisterial clarification of allegedly infallible teaching has “contradicted” such teaching, or contradicted other “clarifications” thereof, I’m not sure what your objection amounts to. So I’ll have to leave things at that for now.

    You continue:

    If you want to argue that there’s greater relative certainty possible in Catholicism than in Protestantism, then sure, that’s obviously true. And perhaps that’s all you are arguing. But Catholic apologists generally seem to be arguing something more than that. They seem to be saying that there’s a kind of absolute certainty possible in Catholicism that isn’t possible in Protestantism. And that seems plainly bogus to me.

    Again, I’m not sure which “Catholic apologists” you have in mind. A remark you make about the Reformed converts who write for this site suggests that you have encountered some of them here. But I’ve spent a lot more time on this site than you have, and I don’t know whom you might be talking about.

    On the merits, what’s possible in Catholicism that isn’t possible in Protestantism is what I’ve long called “a principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion.” Although this is not the place for me to repeat my arguments to that effect, the distinction in question is clearly necessary for rendering the assent of faith as distinct from that of opinion. If Catholicism supplies that and Protestantism does not, then that’s as good a reason as any to profess the former rather than the latter–assuming, of course, that one recognizes the distinction between the assent of faith and that of opinion, and is more interested in the former than in the latter.

    Now such a distinction clearly does not induce “absolute certainty” to the doctrines allegedly expressing divine revelation rather than human opinion, if by that phrase you mean a psychological state permanently free of all doubts. But it does do something essential: it presents some doctrines as proximate objects for an assent of faith that is, itself, a gift of divine grace. Accepting such a gift freely, and rendering the corresponding assent, is quite compatible with experiencing periods of uncertainty; we are after all human-all-too-human. But the gift can abide all the same, so long as one does what you describe next.

    Thus:

    I would argue that infallibility is important for a completely different reason–not to give one absolute certainty that what one believes right now is true (which doesn’t actually seem that important to me, and which I’m reasonably certain is impossible), but rather to allow me to commit myself unconditionally to a community without the fear of abandoning the Word of God. In other words, on Catholic principles I accept by faith that one of two things is true of any Catholic teaching:

    1. It is true; or

    2. It is not in fact the permanent teaching of the Church and the Holy Spirit is in the process of guiding the Church, from within, to a better understanding.

    I think that’s basically right, and it fairly describes what many theologians have called “implicit faith” in the Magisterium as one component of the formal, proximate object of faith, namely Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium. I would add just one qualification.

    To identify the propositional objects for the assent of faith as a Catholic, one must and can note that what the Magisterium teaches with its full authority is, in some cases, quite easy to identify: the creeds, the dogmatic canons of councils ratified by popes for the assent of the whole church, and the rare unilateral definitions set forth by popes themselves. Controversy often arises about what has not been set forth by such means; there, implicit faith of the sort you describe is both necessary and sufficient for as much psychological certainty as we’re likely to get in via.

    Best,
    Mike

  119. John,

    You, of course, do not believe this, but your simple assertion that it is not so does not make it false. It is true that merely making the claim does not give you any epistemic advantage. If, however, the claim is true, then it does.

    Thanks for the admission that there is no epistemic advantage. However, I have studied the assertion and I came to the conclusion that the claim of the roman hierarchy and the popes are not historically defensible and biblical. God bless.

    Regards,
    Joey

  120. Ray,

    And because this second epistemic step is a necessary step with respect to the original epistemic goal of coming to a knowledge of the content of divine revelation, the Catholic paradigm in that respect entails an epistemic advantage over the Protestant paradigm.

    You must note also that the assertion that “this second epistemic step” IS NECESSARY does not make it so. Gaining and understanding divine revelation does not require an infallible interpreter to have an upper ground of certainty given the weakness of this model — i.e. knowledge of an infallible intepreter is gained from fallible means.

    In a similar (though even less dramatic) way, if one’s goal is to take pictures of a rare animal species deep within the Amazon forest, one’s likelihood of successfully achieving that goal will depend not only upon arrival at the tourist information office near the entry to the forest (where information about how to reach the rare species is located), but also upon the communicative means by which the information office further directs you to your goal deep in the forest. With respect to achieving your goal, it may make a very great difference whether they hand you a guide book or assign you a tour guide!

    The problem with this assertion is that it makes the guide infallible which the real and practical world is not necessary. Secondly, it misrepresents my position. Guides are in fact authorities but not infallible. They can help the new comers but they are not beyond correction. Given the guide book, the inquirer can point out errors and the guide can be corrected given the facts at hand. In the same manner, God has spoken through the Scriptures and the christian listens to it, others guiding, others correcting, others helping each other discover the power of truth. My paradigm is real and practical in that there is one source of infallible divine revelation which is Scripture and that each person in the covenant community though fallible can learn the meaning of the truth contained in the Scripture by helping each other discover it. The moment one asserts infallibility and exclusivity of that infallibility, that one asserts that he/she is beyond correction and beyond the reproof of the divine revelation.

    where (B) also is acknowledged by both paradigms as necessary to achieve (C). You have not done so…

    I have not acknowledged that B is necessary to achieve C. I question it and I question the advantage that it would give an inquirer on the epistemic process.

    Regards,
    Joey

    Regards,
    Joey

  121. Brent,

    But, one could just as easily reduce Christ and His Apostles to “claimants” of what in fact they claim(ed) to be. Therefore, you trusting them — from your argument — would be a fallible decision and make you no better off than a follower of Jim Jones. Epistemologically speaking, of course. I disagree with this conclusion (b/c I disagree with the premises), but it would seem to follow from your own premises.

    Epistomologically speaking yes. The advantage of the inquirer is only shown when one is ready to present facts that hold water with regards to the inquirer’s understanding of the claims. It is a dillusion to claim that an inquirer has the upper hand of certainty because he believes he has chosen the right infallible interpreter and therfore his gaining knowledge is more secure. I have challenged that argument.

    You disagree with my conclusion and with my premises and that is ok. But check your conclusion and premises also… We are both fallible, you know and therefore we can learn from each other.

    Regards,
    Joey

  122. * Moderator: Please replace 121 with this post:
    Jack (re: 115);

    the Anglican (39 Articles), Presbyterian (WCF), and Reformed Churches (Belgic, Heidelberg, Dort) are consistent. And as to baptism, I would add the Lutheran (Augsburg 1530 and 1540)) to that list. Calvin and the other Reformers accepted the Lutheran article on baptism.

    I’ve interacted with several confessional pastors, professors, and serious Christians on these questions as well as reading the different confessions.  You are the first person I’ve come across to state that the Lutheran view of baptism is consistent with Reformed.  I do not pretend to be an expert on this.   But, Francis Pieper and Keith Mathison are experts and they disagree with your characterization:  http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/we-believe-bible-and-you-do-not/
    Further, Augsburg teaches that one can fall out of the state of having been saved and be restored again.  It teaches private absolution of sin and that the substance of Christ’s body and blood are present in the Lord’s supper.  Then, as you acknowledge, the Baptists and Methodists have differing views on these matters as well.

    The point is that it’s problematic to hold to a paradigm that does not give clear and consistent teaching on the faith. I believe Jesus Christ left us with a reliable way for humble believers to identify divine truth that they must believe and what is heresy. But, I do not see how the sola/perspicuity paradigm does this when even intelligent, sincere experts from this paradigm disagree on the basics of the faith.

    Yes, the Roman Church has one “official” voice for its teaching. But I don’t see that as an air-tight argument that its doctrine is Scriptural and therefore correct, only that it is officially unified. Unless, of course, that one voice is defined as unable to err.

    To my knowledge, no one here at CTC has claimed this is an airtight argument and I have not done so either.
    Blessings to you as well.
    Mark

  123. Joey (#118)

    Thanks for the admission that there is no epistemic advantage.

    Cute, but I would only have admitted that if I admitted that the Catholic claims were uncertain. Of course, I do not. And nor, I suppose, would you admit that your belief that the Bible is God’s Word is uncertain.

    You may think that, because we both believe in the inspiration of the Bible, we are on the same grounds in that respect, but we are not, because our respective reasons for believing in the inspiration of the Bible are different. I think that the historical and rational grounds for believing in the divine nature of the Church are stronger than those for believing in the divine nature of the Bible independently of the Church. If my belief is true, then, of course, I get inspiration of the Bible thrown in free.

    jj

  124. Joey,

    Thanks for your comment. Let’s redact it this way:

    A. The Catholic Church is what she says she is
    OR
    B. The Catholic Church is fallible, and therefore NOT what she says she is

    If A, then I have an epistemic advantage listening to the Catholic Church. If B, then you and I are equals (epistemically) because the Catholic Church is just like a Protestant church: fallible.

    So, either way, I’m better off being Catholic — it is epistemically preferable to choose to be Catholic — maybe not morally if she is not what she claims to be — but epistemically, it would. Analogy: If I could hire a tour guide and have a map, or just have a map, it would be epistemically preferable to have the tour guide also, if only as a possibility the tour guide new what the heck they were doing. In other words, all I need you to do is grant “A” is possible to make following the Catholic Church epistemically preferable. Given your inquiry into the Catholic Church, do you find A to be impossible?

    If so, let’s see your evidence, and let’s talk about it under the appropriate thread.

  125. Moderator, please correct comment number (122)

    Mark (122),

    Yet, historically Calvin in the the 16th century and a hundred years later the Reformed churches of Germany accepted the Lutheran article on baptism. I’ll choose Calvin over Keith. Read and compare the articles. By the way, if I’m the first you’ve heard make this claim then, by all means, do more research. Cranmer had no diasgeement with Luther on this article. The disagreement between Reformed and Lutheran always centered on the Lord’s Supper.

    Blessings…

  126. Joey Henry, you write:

    However, I have studied the assertion and I came to the conclusion that the claim of the roman hierarchy and the popes are not historically defensible and biblical.

    That is your opinion, of course, but you are not claiming that you are exercising the charism of infallibility when you render your opinion, so your opinion could be in error.

    Personally, I think that your opinion is in error, but I am not claiming that my opinion is infallible either. We would be at a stalemate, except for one thing. The scriptures explicitly spell out how those who would be disciples of Christ are to resolve such disputes. The ultimate temporal authority for resolving our dispute is vested with the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. We must both listen to the church that Jesus Christ personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication. (Matt 18:15-20)

    RC’s post # 76 makes the same point that I am making:

    If I am a heretic, then the Church will have to say so, and I must change my views, and if I refuse, then I am to be treated as a Gentile or tax collector.

    There’s no way around it: Matthew 18 presupposes a Church which not only judges on matters of doctrine, but which is sufficiently reliable in its judgments that it can expel the disobedient without worrying that it has just, institutionally, cast out a true member of the flock.

  127. Joey,

    Perhaps you are thinking that we have ended up in something like the following scenario.

    Whatever is deduced from P, and, whatever is deduced from Q (in cases where both P and Q are arrived at by fallible reasoning), enjoy the same epistemic support.

    [Replace P with something like: the Bible is inerrant. Replace Q with: the Roman Catholic Church possesses the charism of infallibility.]

    What falls under the set of things deduced from P? What falls under the things deduced from Q?

    Under the set of things deduced from Q, we get all the claims of the Church. And under the set of things deduced from P? Any thing that falls under this second set is going to have to be arrived at by the following structure of reasoning:

    The Bible is inerrant.
    The Bible claims X.
    X is true.

    Okay, this reasoning works, but you have to defend the second premise, in order for the deduction to be sound (the argument is logically valid, at least in structure). You reply that I have the same problem, because my belief that the Church’s claims can be deduced from Q, relies on a similar structure of reasoning:

    The Church is infallible
    The Church claims X.
    X is true.

    In such reasoning, my argument is also logically valid, but is not logically sound unless the second premise is true.

    Now, here we are, in a standoff. We both want the other to defend their second premise. While we are facing each other in this standoff, we make an observation. It is easier for us to defend our second premise than it is for you to defend your second premise. Our second premise is supportable in a way that your second premise is not. Our second premise is supportable by the sorts of reasons that you could not possibly resort to. The reason for this is that, the nature of what is being claimed in our second premise, is altogether different from, the nature of what is being claimed in your second premise.

    Your second premise is a claim which requires divine revelation, to be arrived at. The truth about what Scripture claims (at least not in many many cases) is not a truth that can be arrived at by natural reason on it’s own, but also requires divine revelation from God. The truth about what the Church claims is a truth which can be arrived at by natural reason, and does not require divine revelation from God. The atheist should be able to know what the Church claims, even if he does not himself believe these claims.

    Put this way, I think the Catholic is in an epistemically advantageous position. It’s true that both of our beliefs about the locus of authority rely on fallible reasoning, but it’s not true that both of our beliefs about the content rely on further divine revelation. Yours does rely on further divine revelation, and ours does not.

    So, as for the original proposition, it is still (I think) true. However, it’s only true where the manner of deduction are relevantly similar. And in each of our cases, the manner of deduction is not similar; for yours involves a gap that can only be filled in by further divine revelation, and ours does not.

    Maybe I don’t really understand you. I’ve tried to work with the things you have said, putting myself in your position and trying to present a logically valid defense for it.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  128. Brent,

    Finally, you got my point. If the RC popes are who they claimed to be then we will start talking about epistemic advantage. In fact, every religionist who claims to be the voice of Christ (Mormons, Watchtower, etc) has an epistemic advantage if indeed their claims are true.

    So, either way, I’m better off being Catholic — it is epistemically preferable to choose to be Catholic — maybe not morally if she is not what she claims to be — but epistemically, it would.

    Anyone who would follow an infallible interpreter will be epistemically preferable if true. But if wrong, then it is devastating. Given that Christ said there would be false Christs, and given that Paul said that wolves would rise even among their successors… I would take heed of the Scriptures advise to test every claim subjecting it to the Scriptures.

    If you believe that RC church is true, then present your case. The affirmative has the burden of proof. Having studied the claim, it will be my pleasure to be instructed once again.

    Regards,
    Joey

  129. Brent, I hope you don’t mind, but I found part of your post (quoted below) so intriguing that I copied and pasted it onto my Facebook group, “Catholic-Protestant Discussion.” I didn’t mention your name, of course, but if you object, I’ll delete it.

    A. The Catholic Church is what she says she is
    OR
    B. The Catholic Church is fallible, and therefore NOT what she says she is

    If A, then I have an epistemic advantage listening to the Catholic Church. If B, then you and I are equals (epistemically) because the Catholic Church is just like a Protestant church: fallible.

    So, either way, I’m better off being Catholic — it is epistemically preferable to choose to be Catholic — maybe not morally if she is not what she claims to be — but epistemically, it would. Analogy: If I could hire a tour guide and have a map, or just have a map, it would be epistemically preferable to have the tour guide also, if only as a possibility the tour guide new what the heck they were doing. In other words, all I need you to do is grant “A” is possible to make following the Catholic Church epistemically preferable. Given your inquiry into the Catholic Church, do you find A to be impossible?

    So yes, this post is also kind of a shameless plug for that new group I set up over on FB. The URL is http://www.facebook.com/groups/325038947570670/. If it’s not appropriate to put a plug like that here, I have no objection to its being deleted from this post, and I apologize in advance if it’s inappropriate. It’s just that the great thing about a FB group is that anyone can post and ask questions.

    Jeremy

  130. Joey Henry,

    Finally, you got my point.

    Yes, I got it the first time, and…

    Anyone who would follow an infallible interpreter will be epistemically preferable if true.

    You got mine! We are making progress…

    Given that Christ said there would be false Christs, and given that Paul said that wolves would rise even among their successors… I would take heed of the Scriptures advise to test every claim subjecting it to the Scriptures.

    Versus “take it to the Church”? Where in Scripture does it say that a completely unauthorized Joe-Sixty-Six Books can claim to have the “Bible-answer” regarding doctrine “x”, then start a church, and compel others to join that Church? It seems that your entire argument rests upon the “Berean case”, when the rest of the New Testament teaches about a Church for which is the “ground and pillar of truth”, able to “bind and loose on earth” for which a corresponding action in heaven is enacted. Now, I can make the “Berean case” compatible with the Catholic position regarding the later, but I cannot make the “Bearean case” as interpreted by the Protestants compatible with the later. If so, we would have expected someone to have jumped up and corrected St. Peter in Acts 2:

    “I don’t see any visions or dreams going on St. Peter! I don’t think “this is that”, I think you misinterpreted Joel”. — “proto-Berean” Christian

    If you believe that RC church is true, then present your case. The affirmative has the burden of proof.

    That is the piont of this website, or Newman’s Apologia, or Ronald Knox’s The Belief of Catholics or Karl Adam’s The Spirit of Catholicism. So, it is not as if a case has not been made. If I say, “I rest my case”, and I point to the coutless brilliant converts to Catholicism, am I proved right? Of course not. So, that is why the burden is upon you to falsify the evidence presented as I motioned in my previous comment. In other words, it is now the prosecutors turn.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  131. Joey,

    I was reading Brent’s answer to you and was moved to go back through the comments. I saw your questions and I saw answers. Lots of answers. Good answers, often by people who understood exactly where you are coming from, because that is where they had once stood.

    I know something else, in this case, because it is my experience but it seems a rather common experience for those of us leaving Protestantism in its various forms to become Catholic. The something that I do know is this: Once the preponderance of answers arrive and prove themselves true to the best of one’s intellectual capability bolstered by prayer, one must act on that.

    In my case, I found that the Catholic Church was true. It was true in the areas where my old denomination was true, and it was true in the areas where my old denomination was false. It was true in the areas of my life where I was false. That is an indictment. I was wrong and needed to be straightened out and neither my old denomination or myself were capable of providing that straightening. It was beyond either of us to do that.

    “Pick up your cross and follow Me” is what Jesus said. Peter, speaking to Jesus, said, “You have the words of eternal life.”

    In my case, had I failed to act, I would have been condemned. I was required to walk with our Lord, and not He with me. I was required to act on the gift He had given me. I could not shirk that gift. I had to count the cost, which I did, and then cost not withstanding, I made the move. I haven’t looked back. I found the company that I had desired from the first. I found the Authority and Leadership I was searching for (and it was not me). In accepting this cross, I found my burden lightened.

    If Jesus is standing at the door of your heart knocking, what will you do?

    Cordially,

    dt

  132. Jack (re: 125);

    Yet, historically Calvin in the the 16th century and a hundred years later the Reformed churches of Germany accepted the Lutheran article on baptism. I’ll choose Calvin over Keith. Read and compare the articles. By the way, if I’m the first you’ve heard make this claim then, by all means, do more research. Cranmer had no diasgeement with Luther on this article. The disagreement between Reformed and Lutheran always centered on the Lord’s Supper.

    I think your comment illustrates the very problem I’m talking about. You say that Calvin and the German Reformed agreed with the Lutheran view of baptism. Even if they did, as I pointed out from the article linked to, there are serious, authoritative scholars within both confessional Lutheranism and Prebyterianism that deny there is agreement today. And of course this is just one issue. There is falling away from justification, private absolution, and as you pointed out, the nature of the Lord’s Supper. These are basics of Christian doctrine and worship. I think comment 127 from a different Mark brings great clarity to the issue. The sola paradigm, even if true, at best seems to me to give us more or less well informed, but often contradictory teachings on the basics of the faith. This doesn’t prove the Catholic paradigm is true. But, it’s a serious problem.
    Mark

  133. Brent,

    Versus “take it to the Church”?

    I guess you are quoting Matthew 18:17. The context of this is found in v. 15 where it is clear that this applies when “a brother sins against you” not to settle doctrinal disputes. The sin is clear and undeniable and the only thing to do is to let the sinner acknowledge it. In Jewish context (Deut 19:5) there is a requirement that one or two witnesseses establishes the sinner’s fault. But if this fails, one has recourse to the “ekklesia”. This is not referring to a single institution like the Roman Catholic hierarchy. This is rather the local community (Jewish believers) upon which the sinner communes. The thrust is for the sinner to realize his mistake and if not will be treated just like a “Gentile or a tax collector” (17b). The nature of the “church” is even expanded by Jesus himself: “For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them (20)” This lies it’s authority to bind and loose because whenever “two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you” (19).

    I don’t think this is a support for the Roman Catholic claim or of the Pope’s claim upon himself.

    Where in Scripture does it say that a completely unauthorized Joe-Sixty-Six Books can claim to have the “Bible-answer” regarding doctrine “x”

    The nature of Scripture is explained in Hebrews 4:12 where it says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.” So that when it is quoted, it is the voice of the God himself that is heard (3:7). Its divine function is clear also as it is the source for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). It is able to “thoroughly equipped those who belong to God in all good works” (3:17). The Psalmist says, “Indeed you are my Lamp, Lord. My God illuminates the darkness around me.” (Psalm 18:28) And yet, God uses the Scripture so that His commandments or His word is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (119:105; Prov 6:23). The Prophets, Jesus and His Apostles taught that this “Joe-sixty-Six Books” is the source of answers when it comes to the life and doctrine of the church. I fail to see them taught that it is the Roman Magisterium who can do that for the church. Would you care to point me where you gained such belief?

    then start a church, and compel others to join that Church?

    I believe that foundation has been laid already with its chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ (Eph 2:20).
    Thus, after Jesus built it, no man can start another church. We are instead added to the church (Acts 5:14). The modern English word for “church” where it is a human organization registered in SEC is not the same as when the Bible speaks of the “church” and thus should not be confused. No human institution can add to the church but only the Lord himself. The church as the Scripture explains are those whom He “obtained with the blood of His own Son” (Acts 20:28). I don’t think the Roman Catholic Church is the church of the New Testament.

    It seems that your entire argument rests upon the “Berean case”, when the rest of the New Testament teaches about a Church for which is the “ground and pillar of truth”, able to “bind and loose on earth” for which a corresponding action in heaven is enacted.

    The Berean case is a good example where the Scripture is able to guide believers to arrive at the truth. But, I don’t base my entire argument on that as can be seen. Regarding the church being the “ground and pillar of truth” (1 Tim 3:15), the church is identified as “God’s household”. In Hebrews 3:6, it is said that “Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are the household if we hold on to courage and confidence of our hope.” In Ephesians 2:19-20, Paul said that Jews and Gentiles who put their faith in Christ and not of works (2:8-10) are “no longer foreigners and strangers , but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s houseld, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the conrnerstone.” I don’t think the Roman Catholic Magisterium owns the copyright of the New Testament church according Scriptures. The church are those who belong to Christ by faith and as the text says, they will support and uphold (ground and pillar) the truth.

    Now, I can make the “Berean case” compatible with the Catholic position regarding the later, but I cannot make the “Bearean case” as interpreted by the Protestants compatible with the later.

    I don’t know how your exegesis would go but you can share it with me if you want.

    If so, we would have expected someone to have jumped up and corrected St. Peter in Acts 2: “I don’t see any visions or dreams going on St. Peter! I don’t think “this is that”, I think you misinterpreted Joel” — “proto-Berean” Christian.

    Divine revelation was taking place through the Apostles. Yes, it is within the rights of the people during that time to scrutinize what Peter and the rest of Apostles were preaching. That is why Paul engaged in debates and went to the synagogue explaining the Scripture. And they spoke with power and wonders… So a Christian who is living at the time when Divine Revelation is being revealed through the Apostles (being the foundation of the church) will follow that voice. Not because they are more intellectual or spiritual but because their hearts were opened by God.

    That is the piont of this website, or Newman’s Apologia, or Ronald Knox’s The Belief of Catholics or Karl Adam’s “The Spirit of Catholicism.

    I am hoping that you will put the case on the table as you understand it.

    So, it is not as if a case has not been made. If I say, “I rest my case”, and I point to the coutless brilliant converts to Catholicism, am I proved right? Of course not.

    You haven’t made your case. Simply apealling to other’s work will not work for me. We can study together Newman or Knox or Adam’s arguments. However, I am more interested in your argument. What’s your case Brent? Why do you believe the RC church is the exclusive voice of Christ on earth with the charism of infallibility? Where did you get this notion, what facts, what history will support this? Pointing to countless brilliant converts will not work either. Converts are converts and their case has to be studied. I can point to many prominent people who converted to agnosticism and atheism. That doesn’t make the agnosticism or atheism’s claim true, right? So, what’s your case Brent?

    So, that is why the burden is upon you to falsify the evidence presented as I motioned in my previous comment. In other words, it is now the prosecutors turn.

    You have not made your case.  How can I scrutinize it when there’s none offered.
    Regards,
    Joey

  134. Joey Henry,

    But if this fails, one has recourse to the “ekklesia”. This is not referring to a single institution like the Roman Catholic hierarchy. This is rather the local community (Jewish believers) upon which the sinner communes.

    There are multiple problems with this:

    1. Your argument must assume that the “ekklesia” cannot fail. If it could fail, one would not have recourse to the “ekklesia” if what was prior failed.

    2. If there were two witnesses, there would be no difference, on your definition, from the “ekklesia” and what was prior; making the “ekklesia” superfluous.

    3. If the local “ekklesia” was Arian (see #1), it would not constitute an “ekklesia” I could take my brother to who is in the sin of the heresy of Arianism. This makes the “local community” theory unworkable.

    The nature of the “church” is even expanded by Jesus himself: “For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them (20)” This lies it’s authority to bind and loose because whenever “two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you” (19).

    Would that apply to two JW’s who “gather in his name”?

    The Prophets, Jesus and His Apostles taught that this “Joe-sixty-Six Books” is the source of answers when it comes to the life and doctrine of the church.

    Please point to the Scripture passage(s) that show(s) that The Prophets, Jesus and His Apostles taught that anyone (Joe, Jim or Sandy) can grab the 66 book Bible (versus 73) and become the source of answers when it comes to the life and doctrine of the church.

    Would you care to point me where you gained such belief?

    Suggested Reading
    The Chair of St. Peter
    We don’t need no magisterium: A reply to Christianity Today‘s Mark Galli
    The Commonitory of St. Vincent of Lérins
    Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium: What did Jesus Teach?
    Desperately Seeking Certainty, or the Obedience of Faith?
    The Tradition and the Lexicon
    The Canon Question
    Is Sola Scriptura in the Bible? A Reply to R.C. Sproul Jr.
    Ecclesial Deism

    Thus, after Jesus built it, no man can start another church.

    What did Alexander Campbell, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Charles Taze Russell start?

    Are JW’s the “ground and pillar of truth” because they “belong to Christ by faith” as the text says?

    Regarding the Bereans:

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/04/thoughts-on-bereans-and-searching.html

    You have not made your case.

    I don’t have to make my own, personal case. That is not how it works. You don’t have your own, personal case against Catholicism. You, too, have inherited positions against the Catholic Church. So, like I said, pick an article from above (which makes a case that I would make personally, you can just add my name to the top of it if you like to make it personal), make your case against the evidence, and then I would be happy to discuss it with you.

    If that is not something you are interested in doing, then I say we can just drop this discussion. Fair?

    Happy 4th!

    Peace in Christ,

    Brent

  135. Brent,

    There are multiple problems with this:

    1. Your argument must assume that the “ekklesia” cannot fail. If it could fail, one would not have recourse to the “ekklesia” if what was prior failed.

    2. If there were two witnesses, there would be no difference, on your definition, from the “ekklesia” and what was prior; making the “ekklesia” superfluous.

    3. If the local “ekklesia” was Arian (see #1), it would not constitute an “ekklesia” I could take my brother to who is in the sin of the heresy of Arianism. This makes the “local community” theory unworkable.

    1. I don’t assume that the “ekklesia” will fail to function as the context intended. Just like my parents or the government to funtion, they don’t need to be infallible though they are authorities.

    2. It would make the difference. One or Two witnesses is required. In some very special case if the you and the one who wronged you are trapped in the island where there is only one more person left then that would be a rare case and the three of you constitutes the church as you seek God. The context in the passage assumes that they are living in a larger community of Jewish believers.

    3. The context is not about doctrinal disputes. The context is about a brother in the Lord who wronged you and how you as a brother in Christ make him/her realize his/her mistake. In fact, the preceding verses requires you to forgive the offending brother again and again. I wouldn’t think that if you are a believer in Christ, you would commune in an Arian community in your locality? Would you

    Would that apply to two JW’s who “gather in his name”?

    Non-believers can apply the Lord’s teaching just as they can follow “Thou shalt not kill” and reap the benefits of such command. But, the passage is directed to believers in Christ.

    Please point to the Scripture passage(s) that show(s) that The Prophets, Jesus and His Apostles taught that anyone (Joe, Jim or Sandy) can grab the 66 book Bible (versus 73) and become the source of answers when it comes to the life and doctrine of the church.

    That is not in the Scripture and I have not read anyone from Reformation Theologians to our confessions who/that said, “Joe and Sandy” can be become the source of answers i.e. infallible source of answers. However, the Scripture provides for teachers of the church and elders who are “not new in the faith” (1 Tim 3:6) and are able to nurture the young (i.e. new believers) with milk which is the Scripture (1 Peter 1:23-24; 2:2). These people are authorities (Heb. 13:17; cp Eph 6:1) but not infallible (Acts 20:29-30). If you want to discuss about the canon, it’s my pleasure to share my faith with you why I don’t accept the Apocrypha.

    What did Alexander Campbell, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Charles Taze Russell start?

    Are JW’s the “ground and pillar of truth” because they “belong to Christ by faith” as the text says?

    They started a human organization. Do you think a person who believes Micheal is Christ and that Christ is not God because he is Micheal belongs to Christ? I don’t think so unless you want to prove that and I will patiently listen to your proofs.

    If that is not something you are interested in doing, then I say we can just drop this discussion. Fair?

    Thanks for the offer. I am glad to have shared my faith with you. I would say, there are many books already written in response to the articles you have provided. It is not as if those things has not been challenged. But, I guess it would be futile for me to list some materials and say, “this is my position, just write my name above it, and refute it all you want!” So yes, I agree to just drop this discussion as it will not be beneficial for both of us.

    Thank you once again.

    Regards,
    Joey

  136. Dear Joey Henry,

    Thanks for the conversation. In recap, we were discussing in this thread the tu quoque, and whether or not the Catholic, because they use their fallible judgment to find an infallible Church, are in the same boat as a Protestant. I said:

    A. The Catholic Church is what she says she is
    OR
    B. The Catholic Church is fallible, and therefore NOT what she says she is

    If A, then I have an epistemic advantage listening to the Catholic Church. If B, then you and I are equals (epistemically) because the Catholic Church is just like a Protestant church: fallible.

    So, either way, I’m better off being Catholic — it is epistemically preferable to choose to be Catholic — maybe not morally if she is not what she claims to be — but epistemically, it would. Analogy: If I could hire a tour guide and have a map, or just have a map, it would be epistemically preferable to have the tour guide also, if only as a possibility the tour guide new what the heck they were doing. In other words, all I need you to do is grant “A” is possible to make following the Catholic Church epistemically preferable. Given your inquiry into the Catholic Church, do you find A to be impossible?

    And we’ve decided to not dialog about the possibility or impossibility of A. Remember, though, if you want you can engage an article on this site (and I hyperlinked about 10 of them in my last comment), and I would be happy to dialog with you.

    1. I don’t assume that the “ekklesia” will fail to function as the context intended. Just like my parents or the government to funtion, they don’t need to be infallible though they are authorities.

    2. It would make the difference. One or Two witnesses is required. In some very special case if the you and the one who wronged you are trapped in the island where there is only one more person left then that would be a rare case and the three of you constitutes the church as you seek God. The context in the passage assumes that they are living in a larger community of Jewish believers.

    3. The context is not about doctrinal disputes. The context is about a brother in the Lord who wronged you and how you as a brother in Christ make him/her realize his/her mistake. In fact, the preceding verses requires you to forgive the offending brother again and again. I wouldn’t think that if you are a believer in Christ, you would commune in an Arian community in your locality?

    1. You admit the “ekklesia” will not fail to function. However, you think the “ekklesia” that Jesus established by His authority and power is like a natural institution — as in it “works” like a natural institution. However, for many contexts where natural institutions (even parents) need not fail, they do. So, can the “ekklesia” (like other natural institutions) fail in this context or can it not? If not, why?

    2. Please explain how you adduced that the context provides that the meaning of the text is only relevant for those that are living in a larger community of Jewish believers? What if I am not living in a larger community of Jewish believers? Does it render this instruction from our Lord irrelevant?

    3. You may not have an option. Think about it. Aren’t there, on your view, places where the “true Reformed Gospel” is not preached? Many even? What do the people do there? Could they take it to the local Roman communion?

    Non-believers can apply the Lord’s teaching just as they can follow “Thou shalt not kill” and reap the benefits of such command. But, the passage is directed to believers in Christ.

    You don’t think JW’s are believers. That’s cool. They think they are. They think they “gather in his name”. They are convinced that they are a true church of Jesus Christ. In other words, if I picked up the Bible and read the passage in question, and I was a JW, and interpreted it on your view, wouldn’t I just apply this to my JW congregation as “ekklesia”?

    That is not in the Scripture and I have not read anyone from Reformation Theologians to our confessions who/that said, “Joe and Sandy” be become the source of answers i.e. infallible source of answers.

    I’m sorry, we must have misunderstood each other. I was responding to when you wrote:

    “The Prophets, Jesus and His Apostles taught that this “Joe-sixty-Six Books” is the source of answers when it comes to the life and doctrine of the church.”

    Then you said:

    However, the Scripture provides for teachers of the church and elders who are “not new in the faith” (1 Tim 3:6) and are able to nurture the young (i.e. new believers) with milk which is the Scripture (1 Peter 1:23-24; 2:2). These people are authorities (Heb. 13:17; cp Eph 6:1) but not infallible (Acts 20:29-30).

    Looking at your litany of proof texts, I would only note two things:

    1. Given the criteria for being a teacher in the church, it would appear I would qualify. So, am I an authority?

    2. You cite Acts 20:29-30 against infallibility. However, the Catholic Church affirms the charism of infallibility in the Church and the possibility of heresy from within. In other words, there is nothing in Acts 20:29-30 that is incompatible with the Church’s teaching office being able to teach without error under certain conditions.

    If you want to discuss about the canon, it’s my pleasure to share my faith with you why I don’t accept the Apocrypha.

    You and I were discussing the canon here. I left a comment here, that was never responded to (I understand we are all busy!). However, if you would like to pick that back up, I’m okay with it. Regarding the Deuterocanon, I recommend you go follow the posts over here, and comment on them. Joe does a lot of work on the Deuterocanon.

    They started a human organization.

    So, is the church for which you are a member merely a human organization/institution? If not, how is your church as an institution different from the institutions started by Campbell, McPherson or Russell?

    Regarding your last comments, if you want, just link to the book or article that you think sufficiently disproves one of the articles I linked above. The articles I hyperlinked represent essay-length arguments I would make for the given positions (it wouldn’t make sense for me to copy and paste the articles in the combos). You could also peruse the comments in the articles and show me the comment that defeats a particular point in the article if that would be easier for you. If you just want to drop the entire conversation all together, that is fine as well.

    Peace,

    Brent

  137. Brent,

    Wow, you really have a thing with blogging. Well, as much as I want to keep up with your responses, my world is not in this thing. :) I have a beautiful family and covenant community (we call it church, btw) who has nurtured me and reflected God’s love in my life that deserves my time. But thank you for the time. I remember one sermon which my elder pointed out that “You may win the arguments but you lose the person”. Though I have not met you personally, writing this much made me feel that you are my friend who disagrees with me in theological matters, and that is ok.

    Remember, though, if you want you can engage an article on this site (and I hyperlinked about 10 of them in my last comment), and I would be happy to dialog with you.

    From time to time, I will. :) If I am bored enough studying volumes of text books. :) I am reading Kruger’s book regarding the canon so I have to finish that up.

    1. You admit the “ekklesia” will not fail to function. However, you think the “ekklesia” that Jesus established by His authority and power is like a natural institution — as in it “works” like a natural institution. However, for many contexts where natural institutions (even parents) need not fail, they do. So, can the “ekklesia” (like other natural institutions) fail in this context or can it not? If not, why?

    Scriptural data showed many instances that local assemblies fail as revealed by John in Revelations, 1 Cor and Galatians. Elders fail to uphold their role. It is via the Word of God that one is able to seek correction delivered by the Apostles themselves. Interestingly, after divine revelation is given Paul said that “even we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell!”. They bound themselves to this body of revelation that no Apostle or angel should add or subtract. I am convinced given the Christian worlview that it is the Word of God that we possessed today in our hands in the Scriptures that is why Paul said the Scripture functions as a source of correction, exhortation and training. As my wise teacher told me, “One has to accept that one can err so that one can accept correction.”

    Natural versus Supernatural. I don’t really think that the distinguishing factor is infallibility. Christ founded His church because the church are people (fallible in anyway) that were bought by His blood as the new covenant community. It is supernatural in the sense that it is only through the redemptive sacrifice of Christ towards His people that the church exist and are kept by the power of God. Governments are supernatural in a way since since it exist because it is ordained by God and are given specific authorities over which it dominates (Romans 13:1-6). The same with parents. That is why Paul said, “So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Rom 13:2). But these are not infallible as the Scriptural data also asserts.

    2. Please explain how you adduced that the context provides that the meaning of the text is only relevant for those that are living in a larger community of Jewish believers? What if I am not living in a larger community of Jewish believers? Does it render this instruction from our Lord irrelevant?

    It so happens that the audience of the Lord during his sermon are Jewish believers. The community of believers expanded even to Gentil localities. If I have to take account several Scriptural data and systematized them, the concept would apply even to local congregations composed of gentile and jewish believers. But the context is about a person who wronged a fellow believer who is not aware or not convinced that he has sinned against him. The context is not about doctrinal disputes and it doesn’t provide for an infallible assembly.

    3. You may not have an option. Think about it. Aren’t there, on your view, places where the “true Reformed Gospel” is not preached? Many even? What do the people do there? Could they take it to the local Roman communion?

    There are local gatherings of believers where the purity of the Gospel is compromised. This can be seen in the Scriptural data. But this is not the context of the passage as already explained.

    I’ll respond to the rest when I have time. I will try to answer your queries. Thanks for probing on what I believe and I am glad to have shared it with you.

    Regards,
    Joey

  138. Mark (132),

    Hard to keep up as the goal post of a particular comment gets moved. My baptism response had to due with the comment as to it being “optional.”

    Yes, there are disparate voices within the many Protestant denominations regarding a number of doctrines. It’s a bit unfair, though, that the Reformed churches are asked to account for positions other than their own. And the Reformed churches’ teachings are officially summed up in their confessions and catechisms which are in agreement. Aren’t there any number of disagreements among certain RCC teachers/scholars as to doctrine? Granted the Papal voice settles it as far as official church teaching, but that doesn’t cause everyone within to necessarily say Amen.. And it doesn’t necessarily prove that the Papal authoritative voice is always correct, unless one accepts the premise of Papal infallibilty. But I will agree, confusion as to doctrine in the Church is always disconcerting.

    Blessings…

  139. Hello Mark,

    I have been confused about the different views about the Lord’s Supper and when I look around at the choices, I don’t like it that choices exist. It makes me wonder why there hasn’t been an agreement among all Reformed and Protestant when we all believe that it is sacramental and very important. If I were still in a Calvary Chapel, I wouldn’t have had my children baptised and I would still being taking the Lord’s Supper, in memorial, both of which would be detrimental to myself and my children without my knowing it and based on my reading of scripture and/or listening to that particular faith community that has its agreed thought commitments. If I had not searched outside my faith community I would still be within a broader evangelical paradigm. Catholics don’t disagree about the Eucharist even if many Catholics can’t articulate the Rome’s belief.
    In honesty, I don’t like this kind of epistemic uncertainty. Some I have to live with, but if Rome has a consistant doctrine that wasn’t in dispute until the Reformation, I am left wondering.
    I have done a thought experiment that perhaps really isn’t very smart, but it helped me. If it lacks soundness please help.

    1. If the RCC as an institution disappeared from off the face of the earth, which church would fill the role of the visible church?
    2. How do I know if the Reformed Churches are correctly preaching the Gospel; rightly administering the sacraments; practicing right church discipline without presupposing that it IS doing so? Further, if I leave the Reformed church and became Catholic, can I rightly be called apostate if it stands to reason that Rome is at least part of the invisible church?

    ~Alicia

  140. Jack (re: 138);
    Blessings to you as well and thanks for the exchange. I do think it’s fair for the Reformed to have to account for other positions from those who follow the same paradigm as the Reformed for arriving at divine truth. Unless, that is, there is a reason to believe the Reformed are obviously following that paradigm faithfully while those others are not. I agree the Reformed agree on the their confessions. But, so does every other group of “in agreement” people who put together a confession.

    Granted the Papal voice settles it as far as official church teaching, but that doesn’t cause everyone within to necessarily say Amen.. And it doesn’t necessarily prove that the Papal authoritative voice is always correct

    I think the Catholics here would agree wholeheartedly with that.
    Mark

  141. Brent,

    You don’t think JW’s are believers. That’s cool. They think they are. They think they “gather in his name”. They are convinced that they are a true church of Jesus Christ. In other words, if I picked up the Bible and read the passage in question, and I was a JW, and interpreted it on your view, wouldn’t I just apply this to my JW congregation as “ekklesia”?

    Just because they think they are does not make them so. Conviction is not truth. JW can present their exegesis and we can test the truth of it. Why do you think this is relevant Brent? You are able to interpret historical and scriptural data and to discriminate true from false church according to your own discernment, why can’t we do that with JWs? Let’s test their claim.

    1. Given the criteria for being a teacher in the church, it would appear I would qualify. So, am I an authority?

    So are you leading a local assembly Brent? If so do you fulfill the Scriptural mandate in 1 Tim 3 and 2 Tim 4?

    2. You cite Acts 20:29-30 against infallibility. However, the Catholic Church affirms the charism of infallibility in the Church and the possibility of heresy from within. In other words, there is nothing in Acts 20:29-30 that is incompatible with the Church’s teaching office being able to teach without error under certain conditions

    “Under certain conditions”… Is this found in Scripture? Those conditions that you think comprises infallibility? The thing is Paul and the rest of Apostles did not teach infallibility. They instead teach that even their successors could fail to deliver proper doctrines. You can point me to passages that you think supports infallibility and lets test them.

    You and I were discussing the canon here. I left a comment here, that was never responded to (I understand we are all busy!). However, if you would like to pick that back up, I’m okay with it. Regarding the Deuterocanon, I recommend you go follow the posts over here, and comment on them. Joe does a lot of work on the Deuterocanon.

    I did not respond because I think the conversation has ended. You have the last words and I am ok with that. But if you think your arguments are sound, I have tosay they aren’t. We can discuss the canon more if you want. I am studying the theology of the canon this quarter and I’d be happy to test your theory on canon formation.

    So, is the church for which you are a member merely a human organization/institution? If not, how is your church as an institution different from the institutions started by Campbell, McPherson or Russell?

    It is! An instution that is registered in SEC as non-profit organization. However, the meaning of the “church” in modern times significantly differs from the “church” as spoken in the New Testament. We may be talking past each other. There are true expressions of the invisible church in different localities even in persecuted localities which maynot be formally organized. I see the church where the people bought by His blood gather together to commune and worship the Lord. I can talk of my ecclesiology too… if you want. There are a lot of aritcles in this site that claim that only the RC Churchis the true church of Christ and I want to challenge that claim based on the biblical data.

    Regarding your last comments, if you want, just link to the book or article that you think sufficiently disproves one of the articles I linked above. The articles I hyperlinked represent essay-length arguments I would make for the given positions (it wouldn’t make sense for me to copy and paste the articles in the combos). You could also peruse the comments in the articles and show me the comment that defeats a particular point in the article if that would be easier for you. If you just want to drop the entire conversation all together, that is fine as well

    I don’t think that is beneficial Brent. I would rather be interested if you systematized your own belief and present your case. That way we can number your best arguments and let’s see, for the sake of knowing, since you are fallible, if it is really the case. Otherwise, the method above is like a machine-gun type method where there’s no real trajectory or system upon which we can discuss why you think your chosen infallible teacher is really the infallible teacher you fallibly claim to be. (it’s a tongue twister! hahaha…)

    God bless,
    Joey

  142. Joey Henry,

    First, I just type fast (80wpm). I actually tire of blogging. In fact, I just had a conversation with a friend about wanting to give it up completely and just go back to anonymity (which would quantitatively speaking not mean a lot!). Also, I, like you, am lucky to have a beautiful family; not to mention a demanding job that takes up A LOT of time and mind-share. That being said, thanks for your willingness to dialog.

    writing this much made me feel that you are my friend who disagrees with me in theological matters, and that is ok.

    Ditto! I would much prefer this conversation in person, because you could see my smile the entire time. Moving on to your comments:

    I am reading Kruger’s book regarding the canon so I have to finish that up.

    Glad to hear it. I have that book on my “to read” list. Next, regarding the “ekklesia”…

    Given that a local community can “fail”, can the “ekklesia” fail? In other words, did Christ build an “ekklesia” that is no more or less than the local congregation? If so, how is it not the church failing if the local “ekklesia” fails? Am I to be consoled when my local “ekklesia” failed because there still exists on the earth some local congregation that has not failed?

    It is supernatural in the sense that it is only through the redemptive sacrifice of Christ towards His people that the church exist and are kept by the power of God.

    But, I thought you said the church can fail?

    Regarding the natural vs. supernatural, do you think that natural institutions exist? In other words, we agree that God sustains existence, ordains leadership, permits all matter of governments, but isn’t it not the case that some institutions are of the natural order and not of the order of grace? That is the supernatural/natural distinction I am getting after.

    But this is not the context of the passage as already explained.

    No, but wouldn’t it be in the broader Scriptural context of the concept covered in the passage given that it “can be seen in the Scriptural data”?

    The best to you brother! If you don’t want to respond to the rest of my comments (in the previous comment or this one), feel free to decline. May God bring you and your family much peace in these troubled times.

    Pax Christi,

    Brent

  143. I have been confused about the different views about the Lord’s Supper and when I look around at the choices, I don’t like it that choices exist. It makes me wonder why there hasn’t been an agreement among all Reformed and Protestant when we all believe that it is sacramental and very important.

    I, too, wonder why. Certain texts in the gospels indicate that Jesus was not speaking figuratively when He said, “This is my body”:

    With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples. (Mark 4:33-34)

    Jesus was speaking to His disciples privately during the Last Supper, so it seems pretty clear to me that in that instance He was speaking plainly, not figuratively. For this reason, I, too, am uncertain as to why there is such disagreement about the meaning of the Eucharist.

    Jeremy

  144. Hello Mark (140),

    I do think it’s fair for the Reformed to have to account for other positions from those who follow the same paradigm as the Reformed for arriving at divine truth.

    Hmm… A single infallible voice or office such as that of the Pope, one can say, is a paradigm used by any number of Christian sects and cults to arrive at divine truth. Should the RCC have to account for them? Though they’re not of the RCC they follow the same basic paradigm.

    Some thoughts:
    It seems to me that taking the sola scriptura view of final authority for truth or that of the the RCC per the Papal office involves a final step based on a faith-choice. Yet the argument I seem to often hear in support of the RCC is that its paradigm is the right one because it works better than sola scriptura, i.e. one voice rather than many… clarity. It might be said then that the path to truth is now vindicated by institutional unity and outward results which, it could be said, opens the door to a self-reinforcing circular reasoning. Yet as you agreed above, that paradigm “doesn’t necessarily prove that the Papal authoritative voice is always correct.” We do know that Scripture is always true, even if that truth is not always equally clear to all. One could say that the RCC is really just one voice among others that must be humbly and prayerfully measured by Scripture. And the presence of these many voices doesn’t make a case to invalidate the Scripture as the Church’s final authority.

    I’ll stop here. This is a much bigger topic than a few quick comments can satisfactorily address.

    Thanks for the back and forth. Blessings…

  145. Alicia said:

    I have been confused about the different views about the Lord’s Supper and when I look around at the choices, I don’t like it that choices exist.

    Love this. This was me in the final years my family was Reformed. I went from
    1. searching for the correct view of the Lord’s Supper, to
    2. finding what I thought was closest to the truth (Calvin’s spirit mediated real presence view as explained in Keith Mathisons book Given for You),
    3. then to being an evangelist for that view,
    4. then to being frustrated at the lack of consensus among the Reformed elites and laity on the issue,
    5. then to frustration, given Scriptural perspicuity, that there were different views at all,
    6. then to frustration that the Reformed ‘church’ couldnt authoritatively tell me which view was correct!

    ““in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” sounds good on paper and among those you agree with, but when you start disagreeing on things that are obviously and crucially essential, like the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, and particularly essential to laymen with lots of young children to train, then the saying is shown to be a sham, because it is obviously assuming from the start what is “essential” and what is not. The most crucial question of all is “what is essential?” It was starting to seem like to the Reformed mind, the mere fact of disagreement seems to show that something is non-essential. But that makes no sense.
    To me my view of communion (highly sacramental, ex opere operato, real presence, Paedocommunion) reached a level of doctrinal certainty that it became incredibly essential. Yet I was surrounded by Reformed types that either said
    A. it was obviously a non-essential, I should sit down and be quiet
    B. Paedocommunion was heresy
    C. I should just go to another denomination if I felt that conviction.

    Huh!? Isn’t the Church supposed to tell me what to believe? Is the issue essential or not? Turns out I was wrong, and the Catholic Church does not see Paedocommunion as a big issue. They have both Paedocommunion and ‘age of reason’ communion. But I feel so relieved to finally at least have an answer! Being wrong doesnt bother me, I will conform my mind to the mind of the Church, but not knowing does bother me. Because if they leave it up to me to decide things, I will mess it up every time! Thank God for giving us a living Church to guide us!

    Vivat Papa!

    -David Meyer

  146. Oh my goodness, David! That’s exactly my story as well!

    1. searching for the correct view of the Lord’s Supper, to
    2. finding what I thought was closest to the truth (Calvin’s spirit mediated real presence view as explained in Keith Mathisons book Given for You),
    3. then to being an evangelist for that view,
    4. then to being frustrated at the lack of consensus among the Reformed elites and laity on the issue,
    5. then to frustration, given Scriptural perspicuity, that there were different views at all,
    6. then to frustration that the Reformed ‘church’ couldnt authoritatively tell me which view was correct!

    Of course the first time I read Mathison’s book I kept thinking how Catholic it all sounded. (of course he did his best to distance himself from the Catholic perspective as well). But I found it left me in sort of a no-mans land. I found very few Reformed folks who held this view (only one actually, who told me of a church 50 miles away that also held this view) and the Catholic Church was still a ways off for me and my family. Ultimately I concluded that Mathison proved too much. His reading of Calvin’s view of the Lord Supper was more like the Fathers than Calvin’s contemporaries, yet it opened the door to understanding the historic understanding of the Eucharist. At the time I didn’t realize the paradigmatic implications as you did, but Mathison’s book turned out to be a strong gateway drug to the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. And today, o boy, I worship the Blessed Sacrament!

  147. Eva Marie,

    I like what you said about “proving too much”. I’m sure you know the saying about being deep in history…

    Also, I love your name. It evokes an immediate thought of Mary as the new Eve. Quite Catholic. I will put it on the list of options for future daughter’s names.

  148. David and Eva Marie( beautiful name BTW;),

    I will immediately order Mathison’s book.

    ” Ultimately I concluded that Mathison proved too much. His reading of Calvin’s view of the Lord Supper was more like the Fathers than Calvin’s contemporaries, yet it opened the door to understanding the historic understanding of the Eucharist”

    I wish we could hear from the author why he was able to prove too much. I am very curious about this book and why it hasn’t been recommended to me yet when I keep bugging people for answers.
    It’s like the Reformed Fathers tried their best to distance themselves from Rome but at the same time realized that they couldn’t do this and still be safe, so they reformulated it—-demystified it is more like it— and now it is palatable to modern sensibilities. No wonder I deal with doubt! When I ask, “what do I get from the Lord’s Supper?” I am told, “We receive it by faith”. I respond, “Yes, we must receive by faith, but what am I getting?” ——“Well, his body is in heaven so you can’t be getting that, so we are receiving Christ by faith in the sign of the thing signified.” Am I getting Christ or not? And this is the still the question.
    I’m at the point where I want to respond as Flannery O’Conner did at a Manhattan dinner party, “Well, if its a symbol, to hell with it.”
    We keep coalescing around Rome, again and again without going in.

    David:
    I like the way you laid out the steps you went through. I am following the same path. I wince when I think about genuflating before the Host because of my Reformed beliefs, but I realize that the last of the “Pontificator’s Laws” is what I have really been wanting and believing all along.

    P.S. I saw a older gentleman wearing a white sleeveless undershirt today because of the extreme heat and he wore a big crucifix on a big chain. Will I ever come to love this show of faith?
    ~Alicia

  149. Alicia,

    What you will get with the Holy Eucharist is the Body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Also you will get the Father and the Holy Spirit. That seems like a lot doesn’t it? But that is what you will get.

    Blessings
    NHU

  150. Alicia,
    Mathison’s book doesnt itself prove too much (imo), but it does show a view that is definately not Zwinglian (memorialist). The view he presents as Calvin’s is closer to the Real Presense than Zwingli, and not so close as Luther, and I think this was part of Calvin’s goal. In his attempt to bring unity between Reformed and Lutheran he came up with a somewhat convoluted view that can be seen in a number of ways.
    Anyway, I don’t want you to get the impression that Mathison’s Given for You in itself presents something resembling a Catholic view of the Eucharist. Far from it. But it does present a non-Zwinglian view, and talks about partaking (spiritually mediated, recieved by faith) of Christ’s real flesh and blood… and that language was surprising enough for me to do more research and then move my view even more extreme than the book presented to a more ex opere operato view. So the book was a stepping stone. Much like Keith Mathison’s book on sola Scriptura was a stepping stone for me by proving to much in a supposed distinction between “solo” and sola Scriptura. In both books, he tries to make a distinction between low and high church views and fails. He tries to make the Reformed view look more authentic and traditional, but the reader just ends up looking for authentic tradition when he fails to prove his thesis. And in that failure, many questions are asked that only find answers in the Catholic Church.

  151. Let’s compare two different paradigms of decision-making:

    i) On one paradigm, you make decisions based on reason and evidence. You inform yourself about alternatives. You compare the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative in reference to the other alternatives. Then you opt for what seems to be the best overall choice.

    ii) On another paradigm, you investigate different cartomancers in your area. You use your reason to decide which one is the most convenient and affordable.

    Having relied on reason to make that initial decision, you then rely on the cartomancer to make all your subsequent decisions for you. Whenever you have important decisions to make, you schedule a session with your personal cartomancer for a Tarot card reading. This is “manifestly superior” to the first method because you can always ask her follow-up questions to clarify ambiguities. She can always lay another card on the table and explain its significance to your situation. You can be certain of what each cards means.

    Of course, there’s just little catch in this decision-making paradigm. It’s only as reliable as cartomancy.

    Catholics like Stamper and Liccione are like clients of a Tarot card reader. Yes, they can always get “answers” from their cartomancer, but if the source is untrustworthy, then they’re moving ever further from the truth.

    The above is an excerpt from this post: Tarot Card Catholicism.

    If there’s a desire to refute the above analogy and engage the author, then it might be done at the link above.

    Pax.

  152. Truth Unites and Divides,

    Peace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ! First, I agree that truth can divide, that is why I say, “distinguish to unite!” Let us reason together! Second, let me consider one thing you said:

    You use your reason to decide which one is the most convenient and affordable.

    Choosing to follow the Church Christ founded; namely, the Catholic Church, is far from convenient and affordable.

    Lastly, the problem with your argument is that it proves too much. Let’s try your analogy, only let’s call it:

    “Tarot Card Christianity”:

    Let’s compare two different paradigms of decision-making:

    i) On one paradigm, you make decisions based on reason and evidence. You inform yourself about alternatives. You compare the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative in reference to the other alternatives. Then you opt for what seems to be the best overall choice.

    ii) On another paradigm, you investigate different Saviors in your area. You use your reason to decide which one is the most convenient and affordable.

    Having relied on reason to make that initial decision, you then rely on the Savior and His Book to make all your subsequent decisions for you. Whenever you have important decisions to make, you schedule a session with your personal “Lord and Savior” for a reading and prayer session. This is “manifestly superior” to the first method because you can always ask him or her follow-up questions to clarify ambiguities. He or she can always show you another passage of Scripture or “illuminate” your mind and explain its significance to your situation. You can be certain of what each passage means because you have been illuminated or can be illuminated.

    Of course, there’s just little catch in this decision-making paradigm. It’s only as reliable as your Savior.

    Christians like Joe and Suzy are like clients of a Tarot card reader. Yes, they can always get “answers” from their “savior”, but if the source is untrustworthy, then they’re moving ever further from the truth.

    Only to make matters worse, as your friend notes (slightly edited):

    But their belief in the infallibility of the savior is a fallible belief. They fallibly believe the savior is infallible, even if the savior is actually fallible. There’s no certainty that what they fallibly believe about the savior corresponds to what the savior is really like.

    Any argument you make against this argument also works in favor against the argument you made against the Catholic Church. Not saying there isn’t a good argument a Christian can make against the Catholic IP, but the one you make is not one of them.

  153. Hi Brent, #152,

    Would you mind posting your Tu Quoque argument over in the linked post in #151?

    Pax.

  154. Truth Unites and Divides.

    Hi Brent, Would you mind posting your Tu Quoque argument over in the linked post in #151?

    Brent can do whatever he decides but if Steve Hays or anybody else wants to propose such an argument, nothing is stopping him from trying to make it here.

  155. TUAD,

    How do you use the “reason and evidence” paradigm to define orthodoxy and heresy? I am, for the moment, going to agree with you that the RCC is not the Church Christ founded and has no authority to define true doctrine and identify heretical teachings. How does your paradigm accomplish this?

    Burton

  156. Burton, #155,

    If you would be so kind as to post your question on the referenced post, you will obtain a response therein.

    FWIW, here’s a question-and-answer that I received on that thread:

    Question: “On this part: “You use your reason to decide which one [Tarot Card Reader] is the most convenient and affordable” wouldn’t the unoffended Catholic respond that they use their reason to decide which Tarot Card Reader possesses infallible authority? And then whichever Tarot Carot Reader has infallible authority is therefore the best Tarot Card Reader?”

    Answer: “But their belief in the infallibility of the cartomantist is a fallible belief. They fallibly believe the cartomantist is infallible, even if the cartomantist is actually fallible. There’s no certainty that what they fallibly believe about the cartomantist corresponds to what the cartomantist is really like.”

  157. TUAD,

    You did it again!

    Question: “On this part: “You use your reason to decide which Savior is the most convenient and affordable” wouldn’t the unoffended Christian respond that they use their reason to decide which Savior possesses infallible authority? And then whichever Savior has infallible authority is therefore the best Savior?”

    Answer: “But their belief in the infallibility of the Savior is a fallible belief. They fallibly believe the Savior is infallible, even if the Savior is actually fallible. There’s no certainty that what they fallibly believe about the Savior corresponds to what the Savior is really like.”

    So go ahead and defeat this argument, and then the Catholic will enjoy the benefits of your rebuttal.

  158. Truth Unites and Divides.

    If you want to make a comment of substance here related to the thread then feel free. If your only purpose in chiming in these discussions is to entice people to respond to an argument on Triablogue than you’ve made your point.

    No further posts from you asking anybody to visit Triablogue will be approved.

  159. TUAD,

    Please forgive my obtuseness, but I tried to re-post my question at your site and I was asked to pick a profile. None of them looked familiar. Which profile should I pick, URL to list etc to have my post accepted?

    Why not here at CtC?

    Burton

  160. Gentlemen:

    The analogy between the Magisterium and a tarot-card reader is the strawman fallacy taken to extremes. It suggests that the decisions of the Magisterium are as unconnected with reason as tarot readings. Of course that is false. Plenty of theological reasoning accompanies distinctively Catholic doctrines, both before and after. A Protestant as such will of course find such reasoning unpersuasive, but to suggest that it isn’t there, or is altogether opaque, is ridiculous.

    This sort of thing is why I don’t don’t comment at Triablogue. Correcting all the willful, uncharitable mischaracterizations takes more work than it’s worth.

    Best,
    Mike

  161. Burton.

    Some sites make you sign into a ‘Google’ account or some other user profile before posting.

    Truth Unites and Divides.

    As I already said, no further comments by you trying to get people to comment on ‘Triablogue’ will be approved.

  162. TUAD, re: #156 and the previous post.

    The fallible reception of truth by individuals is no argument against the existence of an infallible source of teaching. If it is, it likewise tells against the Protestant position regarding the inspired Scriptures.

    For myself, using the Protestant paradigm of Scripture as my authority, I came to see that Scripture identifies a source of Truth: Jesus; and a guardian of that truth, the Church. Scripture records Jesus saying he would be with us always. Scripture records that Christ and His Church (singular) are one. Going by Scripture, to find the One who is Truth, I need to find His Bride, the Church. No Protestant denomination makes the claim to be such a church (rings a bell with what Augustine said regarding those who were divisive in his day, if I recall right). If Jesus is who the Scriptures teach he was, then His Bride, the Church, should persist presenting the same scandal that Jesus did while on earth. For myself, I find such persisting most clearly in the life and teaching found within those in communion with the Catholic Church.

    In Him,
    Bill

  163. Several months ago, Daniel B. Wallace posted a thoughtful piece on truth, unity, authority, and ecclesiology. I think that Wallace’s thoughts fit nicely with Ray’s post, the latter filling in some of the blanks left by the former.

  164. Brent,

    I’d I found time reading this post again. From time to time, I’ll drop by. I a nice thing (stress reliever should I say) to share my faith. Here goes to stress reliever!

    Given that a local community can “fail”, can the “ekklesia” fail? In other words, did Christ build an “ekklesia” that is no more or less than the local congregation? If so, how is it not the church failing if the local “ekklesia” fails? Am I to be consoled when my local “ekklesia” failed because there still exists on the earth some local congregation that has not failed?

    As to the first question. Can the “ekklesia” fail? First, fail in what?

    The second question. Did christ build an “ekklesia” that is no more or less than the local congregation? The term “build” should be defined. The Scripture tells us that the “ekklesia” are people bought by His blood. They are the redeemed. It is the Lord who “adds” to the “ekklesia”. Therefore, the “ekklesia” are people who are “God’s New Covenant people”. In God’s perspective, he knows each one of them. When they meet together it is possible that there are people who gather together with them that are not in the covenant. In man’s perspective, we only see the external confession and habits of man and so therefore, our perspective over the identity of the “ekklesia” is not as certain as God’s perspective. The local church therefore is perceived only in man’s perspective and therefore may therefore be composed of covenant and non-covenant members. Thus, the answer to your question is God did establish a church that is beyond the “local assembly” — the local assembly being an entity that is seen at man’s perpective only.

    The third question. How is it not the church failing if the local “ekklesia” fails? See answer above.

    The fourth question. Am I to be consoled when my local “ekklesia” failed because there still exists on the earth some local congregation that has not failed? Consoled? I am not sure what the question is really asking. But if you are naming the name of Christ and you found out that in the locality in which you gather to worship, some impure doctrines were spreading or that the great commission is not carried out then what kind of consolation are you seeking? Look to the God and what He speaks in His Word as the source able to correct and instruct when you gather together. There is no greater authority that makes the believer in Christ bow down and repent of his ways than the authority of His voice which is the Scripture.

    It is supernatural in the sense that it is only through the redemptive sacrifice of Christ towards His people that the church exist and are kept by the power of God.

    But, I thought you said the church can fail?

    Redemption, my friend, is the context here. I am thinking of 1 Peter 1:5. This is not in reference to the idea that the those who are redeemed as a whole (the ekklesia) can never fall into wrong doctrine. Widespread apostasy is predicted in the Scripture but that God promised that though this occurs His true people will heed his voice. This is seen in the covenant narrative of Israel and the promise of Christ. The theme is not so much of infallibility but rather restoration. We can fail but God can restore.

    Regarding the natural vs. supernatural, do you think that natural institutions exist? In other words, we agree that God sustains existence, ordains leadership, permits all matter of governments, but isn’t it not the case that some institutions are of the natural order and not of the order of grace? That is the supernatural/natural distinction I am getting after.

    The distinction only exist if we are given divine(special) revelation that the distinction exist. Otherwise, what basis do we distinguish supernatural/natural? What is the definition of “natural order” versus “order of grace” if there is such a thing? Natural/general revelation can not give context to this distinction. Special revelation can. Therefore, what special revelation can you posit to sustain the distinction you are asking?

    No, but wouldn’t it be in the broader Scriptural context of the concept covered in the passage given that it “can be seen in the Scriptural data”?

    Where is the Scriptural data which can justify your your interpretation that the concept can extend beyond the context of the Scripture? Can we investigate at least your support of your interpretation given that I have shown that the context of Matthew 18 is not in the context of a “doctrinal dispute”.

    I have question in turn. It has been claimed by Ray, Cross and you that your method is superior even though you accept that just like any protestant, you accept that you are fallible in obtaining the certainty of the infallibility of the RC Magisterium. But you claim that the nature of what you are believing at is “thought” as infallible therefore you claim that you have an epistomological advantage. Or, in another argument, you posit that you escape the “tu quoque”. Does this summarize the position of cTc?

    Regards,
    Joey

  165. Joey,

    If you don’t mind, rather than get into the milieu of specifics, may I ask why you said this:

    The distinction only exist if we are given divine (special) revelation that the distinction exist. Otherwise, what basis do we distinguish supernatural/natural?

    Are you a presuppositionalist?

  166. I am somewhere in between school of thought (presupoositional and evidentialist). Why?

  167. Joey Henry,

    Because I’ve learned that you cannot argue with someone about second order questions, when you do not first agree about first order questions. It is a fruitless waste of time that will only lead to frustration and misunderstanding (for both parties). I decided a long time ago to not do it. So, when I smell a bit of first-order disagreement stinking up the conversation of second-order questions, I retreat from the second-order recipe because I know it is bound to not cook right.

    The reason I asked the question, is that your statement/question, “The distinction only exist if we are given divine (special) revelation that the distinction exist. Otherwise, what basis do we distinguish supernatural/natural?”, smelled of a presuppositionalist flavor. : ) And, I’m inclined to reject preuppositionalism prima facie because (1) I do not believe in innate ideas and I do not think they can be demonstrated as existing and (2) the entire system confuses epistemology and ontology.

    The supernatural/natural distinction does not require supernatural revelation. The fact that there is such a thing — supernatural revelation (which you admit) — as distinct from some type of knowledge that is not supernatural revelation, imposes upon the intellect (from the outside) the distinction that there is a supernatural/natural distinction that is not a human construct but rather built into the fabric of reality. In other words, the intellect only needs one instance of supernatural revelation to realize the distinction (due to an act of the intellect — abstraction — regarding a sense datum). Now, if there were never one instance of supernatural revelation, the intellect would never know the distinction — even if the distinction did in fact exist. But, that different, existence and knowledge, is precisely the thing presuppositionalism gets mixed up. And, we would take this thread off into the nether regions if we got bogged down into those details.

    Pax

  168. Brent,

    And, I’m inclined to reject presuppositionalism prima facie because (1) I do not believe in innate ideas and I do not think they can be demonstrated as existing and (2) the entire system confuses epistemology and ontology.

    Is one and two a presupposition on your part?

    The supernatural/natural distinction does not require supernatural revelation.

    I prefer the term special than supernatural. You would agree that there are truths that we can not know from general/natural revelation? The meaning of the cross or the trinity, for example, is not derived from a natural observation of cause and effect in the created world. It has to be revealed by God Himself to us in order to have knowledge about those truths.

    So, if as you said, we don’t need a “special” revelation to know the distinction about natural/supernatural institutions, I would like to ask how this “fabric of reality” informs you of this distinction. How do you arrive at such knowledge? If we don’t need special revelation to know this, how do you account this distinction from the “fabric of reality”? Or, is this reality of yours which posit a natural/supernatural institution which can be known without special revelation a presupposition which can’t be argued but stands as a first principle in your worldview?

    Regards,
    Joey

  169. Joey,

    Is one and two a presupposition on your part?

    No, it is a conclusion from my experience of reality. I cannot think of anything in my intellect that was not first in my sense. Using the term prima facie may have been misleading, for my rejection of presuppositionalism is not without inspection, but instead “prima facie” describes my current mode of rejecting it.

    I prefer the term special than supernatural. You would agree that there are truths that we can not know from general/natural revelation? The meaning of the cross or the trinity, for example, is not derived from a natural observation of cause and effect in the created world. It has to be revealed by God Himself to us in order to have knowledge about those truths.

    Yes, we agree.

    I would like to ask how this “fabric of reality” informs you of this distinction. How do you arrive at such knowledge? If we don’t need special revelation to know this, how do you account this distinction from the “fabric of reality”?

    We don’t need special revelation to know the distinction, all we need is an instance of special revelation (mediated through Scripture, the Apostles, Tradition, etc.) to know there is a distinction between special/natural. But, let’s consider the difference between natural revelation and natural knowledge. For that is another distinction we can know, given only one instance of natural revelation. In other words, the distinction is not a revelation but a necessary condition for knowing that what it is we are encountering as revelation is distinct from a thing we encounter that is not revelation (the difference being the object of knowledge — God versus natural objects). This is not something we have to posit as a presupposition that cannot be demonstrated, but rather something that we can abstract from an experience of encountering revelation (either natural or special).

    1. I know objects fall when I drop them
    2. I know that God is Trinity
    3. My mode of knowing 1 is not the same as 2
    4. Therefore, I can know there is a supernatural/natural distinction

    Under the purview of supernatural is special revelation, and obviously natural revelation is under the purview of “natural”. We can know a ball drops and certain attributes of God by just using reason (natural capacities). We cannot know the Trinity that way. I think we agree on this.

    Or, is this reality of yours which posit a natural/supernatural institution which can be known without special revelation a presupposition which can’t be argued but stands as a first principle in your worldview?

    No, it is not a first principle that I assume without demonstrating.

    The revelation that there exists a “heavenly host”, and my knowledge that there is a “Kawanas Club” is enough for me to know that there exists two types of institutions: supernatural and natural.

    With regards to the Church, She is both.

  170. Brent, you wrote:

    I cannot think of anything in my intellect that was not first in my sense.

    How would you classify the work of the law written in the heart? Does that happen first in your senses?

  171. Jeremy,

    Two ways to go about this:

    1. I could assume that what is written on my heart, is written in virtue of some special miracle of God. Now, I could not demonstrate that, I could only assert it on virtue of faith. (no article of faith can be demonstrated)

    2. I could assume that the Gentiles, who have the law written on their hearts, do so “by nature”, and I could demonstrate that when one comes into contact with the external world, he or she does so in such a way that God’s law is written on their hearts. That is natural law. In other words, they choose the good because it is naturally good (God’s law is), and by doing so have the law “written on their hearts”. Even in rejecting the natural good, the law is written on their hearts, only their actions contravene that law.

    #2 corresponds to what I experience in reality. #1 does not. Therefore, I accept #2.

    The rejoinder is typically “that we walk by faith not by sight.”

    I agree. That is why I believe articles of faith by faith. However, the law of God written on the heart is natural law — Scripture and reason corroborate as much. One would not “baptize their child” because God’s law is written on their heart (they would do so because they believe an article of faith). Therefore, I need not argue that “God’s law written on our hearts” somehow precedes or supersede our sense experience, but rather our engagement with the natural world (God’s creation) is precisely where we encounter those laws.

  172. Jeremy,

    I hope Brent will not mind my jumping in here.

    The answer is yes. We come to grasp the natural law, the fundamental aspects of morality, through the intellect’s grasp of nature’s intelligibility, mediated through sense experience. We see this in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 1:

    Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. [bold emphasis mine]

    Their minds should have been informed better by their ‘senses’ in relation to “the things that have been made”‘. Instead, their minds were “sense-less“. A handful of verses later, in Romans chapter 2, Paul writes:

    When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them . . . [bold emphasis mine]

    Given what Paul had written in Romans 1 about the knowability of truths about God and morality through knowledge of “the things that have been made” [a knowledge which comes through the senses; hence, his criticism of their minds as “senseless”]; there is every reason to understand his reference to Gentiles doing what the law requires “by nature” in relation to what he wrote in Romans 1. Namely, that “by nature”, does not entail that human beings possess some innate knowledge of God or morality infused into the soul at conception (or some such notion); but rather, that fundamental knowledge conerning God and morailty come “by nature”, in the sense that the natural interaction of the human intellect with the world of created things through the senses, constitutes a “writing on the heart” of the deliverances of the natural law.

    Of course, this manner of writing is no less God-induced than if He were to infuse knowledge of the law into the soul at conception; for God created both the world of created things with their intrinsic intelligibility, as well as the human soul, and placed the later within the former such that knowledge of the law should be written on the heart through man’s participation in the created order.

    Hope that is helpful,

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  173. Ray and Brent,

    Thanks for your replies. It seems (unless I’ve misunderstood you) that you both make external revelation (creation) to be the cause of the internal work of the law written on the human heart, via human senses. There is, however, another possibility: that they are both forms of general revelation, the one external and the other internal. I’m more inclined toward this view because of man’s natural tendency to worship *something.* This shows a consciousness of God that is innate, not derived from the senses or external things. The person who worships a tree, for example, would never do so unless there were first an idea, a consciousness of deity, in his mind to begin with.

    My take on this is further reinforced by the text in Romans 2 itself: “For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do **by nature** those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves:
    Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another,…”

    “By nature” means arising out of one’s own being or nature rather than from some outside force. Otherwise the phrase “by nature” makes no sense. When a person says, for example, “We are sinners by nature,” the obvious meaning is that we are sinners, not because something outside us makes us sin, although outside things can certainly play a part. We sin because it is within our nature to do so and, which means that sin is innate within us.

    As another example, consider Paul’s description of the Ephesian Christians before their conversion: “And you, when you were dead in your offences, and sins, Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief: In which also we all conversed in time past, in the desires of our flesh, fulfilling the will of the flesh and of our thoughts, and were **by nature** children of wrath, even as the rest:” (Eph. 2:1-3). Were they children of wrath because of something outside them made them that way, or were they so because of something within them that occurred naturally? It must be the latter, since Paul describes them as having been dead in sins.

  174. Jeremy, you wrote:

    It seems (unless I’ve misunderstood you) that you both make external revelation (creation) to be the cause of the internal work of the law written on the human heart, via human senses. There is, however, another possibility: that they are both forms of general revelation, the one external and the other internal.

    I don’t want to speak for what Ray and Brent believe, and I don’t understand what you mean by “general revelation”, but I agree with you that the “law written on the human heart” is something that is not known primarily through the five senses of taste, touch, smelling, hearing or seeing. My cat has those same five senses, but my cat will never know what it means to make a moral decision, because my cat lacks what is inherent in my human nature, namely a human conscience.

    To respond to your question in more detail would take this thread off topic. But I would like to answer you more fully, and it would be best to do that in the comboxes of a CTC article that deals with nature, grace and the effects of original sin. If the moderator could give us a hyperlink to a CTC article that is more appropriate for this conversation, I would gladly continue this conversation there.

  175. Jeremy,

    There is, however, another possibility: that they are both forms of general revelation, the one external and the other internal.

    Why?

    “By nature” means arising out of one’s own being or nature rather than from some outside force.

    I understand that you can *assert* that. How can you demonstrate it? Although in one sense, even if it was our own nature that taught us natural law (our DNA so to speak), it would be something we learn, abstracting from the sense experience of ourselves as an abstract thing in reality, not something innately known without sense experience. I would reject that we know it innately, but that God’s law is written into our DNA so to speak. So, if that is what you mean, I think we agree. However, having a spleen and knowing I have a spleen are two different things. I know “spleen” because I have a spleen, I don’t have a spleen because I know “spleen”.

    If we could do God’s law by nature (not know it), then that might make your comment make more sense. But, I’m sure that is not what you are advocating.

    “We are sinners by nature”

    But, that would be something different than what we are talking about regarding the natural law. As St. Paul talks about, these are things that are “perceived”, and as such, the law of God is written upon our hearts. Being a sinner is something we inherit — not as a mental state — but as a stain of original sin on the soul because of our first parents. We know this, not by the use of our natural faculties only (as in natural law), but as an article of faith (original sin).

    Were they children of wrath because of something outside them made them that way, or were they so because of something within them that occurred naturally? It must be the latter, since Paul describes them as having been dead in sins.

    No, they were children of wrath because they were sons of Adam. It was natural, but only in a disfigured way. The nature St. Paul describes in relationship to the natural law is a nature configured rightly to its appropriate end: God’s glory. Just because something happens internally doesn’t mean it happens innately.

  176. Jeremy,

    You wrote:

    There is, however, another possibility: that they are both forms of general revelation, the one external and the other internal. I’m more inclined toward this view because of man’s natural tendency to worship *something.* This shows a consciousness of God that is innate, not derived from the senses or external things. The person who worships a tree, for example, would never do so unless there were first an idea, a consciousness of deity, in his mind to begin with.

    I agree that man has a tendency to “worship” something, at least in a broad sense, although I think, given the historical and archaeological evidence, you would have to be careful about how to construe the term “worship”. Still, the evidence is overwhelming that man is fundamentally homo religiosus. However, I do not think it follows from any of this that man has an innate “consciousness of deity” – whatever that might be. And, of course, one could hardly verify such a claim directly. What we have evidence for, is that man, unique among all other animals, has shown from the beginning a need to make stories or myths which help him explain his origin, his lived experience of external things (changes of seasons, growth, movement, decay, weather and other cycles, etc), and often some notion of his destiny or state after death. Now it seems to me that all these things are accounted for by the fact that man, himself, has a rational soul which uniquely invests him with a self-conscious openness to the intelligibility of the created order. Man comprehends the universe, but the universe does not comprehend man. Given man’s self-consciousness and openness to the intelligibility of creation (which is part of his nature), man’s attempt to contextualize his experience of the external world “naturally” turns “religious” along the lines I have just described. St. Paul says that God and His attributes have at all times been known through the “things which have been made”. It is no accident, then, that the very starting point for the classical demonstrations of God’s existence are the vey datums of sense experience. Man’s conscious experience of the external world is alone sufficient to arrive at a broad conception of God’s existence and the basic demands of morality. Though I do not discount the possibility of some primitive knowledge of God passed down from the infused knowledge of God granted to our first parents, I do not think such a postulate to be necessary to explain what we find in the historical and archaeological record, even if nothing in that record speaks against such a possibility. Hence, to posit some additional, innate conception of deity within human nature as such, seems to me a conjecture beyond what the historical and archaeological evidence support, nor is it necessitated by the data of revelation (sic St. Paul). Hence, appealing to the law of parsimony (and especially in dialogue with non-religious persons), I personally think it best to avoid appeal to such claims.

    You wrote:

    “By nature” means arising out of one’s own being or nature rather than from some outside force. Otherwise the phrase “by nature” makes no sense.

    Yes, but this need not entail some “innate” concept(s) of God or morality. Notice that the Catholic understanding of natural law, to which Brent and I are appealing, entails not only the existence of external thing in contact with the five senses. In addition, it recognizes and requires the unique “nature” of man himself, as rational, as self-conscious, as endowed with intellect and will, as open to the intelligibility of the world. In so far as the “things that have been made” are able to lead men to God and to moral truth, it is because man – as man – possesses a particular and unique nature which makes such knowledge possible. There is no need to posit some additional innate conception of deity or morality within the depths of the human soul prior to interaction with the world to make sense of St. Paul’s phrase “by nature”.

    You wrote:

    When a person says, for example, “We are sinners by nature,” the obvious meaning is that we are sinners, not because something outside us makes us sin, although outside things can certainly play a part. We sin because it is within our nature to do so and, which means that sin is innate within us.

    Sin is not innate within us. Sin, as a species of evil is no-“thing” in any ontological sense, such that is might reside, or be innate, within human nature per se. Sin, broadly speaking, is the act of choosing some lower good at the expense of a higher good. No-“thing’ is evil in itself; but the use of things can be, and often is, evil. When someone says that we are “sinners by nature”, the only sense in which that phrase can endure philosophic scrutiny is to say that human beings have a natural potency or capacity to act sinfully. But the potential to sin – to choose a lesser good at the expense of a higher good – is a potency intrinsic to human free will – which is part of human nature, a nature good in itself. Sin is not innate, but the capacity to sin is. Just as the movements of our lower appetites (passions) constitute the movements of concupiscence, those movements themselves are neither bad or good or sinful or praiseworthy. It is only the response of the intellect and will to those movements which sets up the opportunity for sin proper. Like natural knowledge of God and morality generally, sin too is fully explainable in terms of the interaction of a natural human faculty (the will in this case) with the goods encountered in the created order.

    You wrote:

    Were they children of wrath because of something outside them made them that way, or were they so because of something within them that occurred naturally? It must be the latter, since Paul describes them as having been dead in sins.

    They were children or wrath and dead in their sins, not because sin was intrinsic to human nature, but because the potencies intrinsic to human nature make sin possible, by making possible the embrace of lesser goods at the expense of higher goods – which is the essence of the act of sin. But again, what is “natural” or innate is human nature itself with all its natural potentialities; and this nature and its potentialities are all good in themselves, even though they may be employed to produce moral evil. What I am saying here is confirmed by St. Paul who references those Gentiles who, though not having the [written] law, are nonetheless a law unto themselves. Sin is not intrinsic to their nature, nor are they determined to sin of necessity due to some intrinsic defect of human nature. They have the potential to sin, but not the necessity. Those who do, and so long as they do, are children of wrath. Those who use those same natural capacities to choose the good in accord with the order which God has established in nature are commended and acceptable to God. Of course, in the order of grace, there is more to say about the ability and means by which human beings utilize their free will in a way that is acceptable to God; but I am speaking here of what can or must be said at the level of human nature alone.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  177. Hi Brent:

    I understand that you can *assert* that.>

    It’s not an assertion. I’m just going by the meaning of the phrase “by nature.”

    Although in one sense, even if it was our own nature that taught us natural law (our DNA so to speak), it would be something we learn, abstracting from the sense experience of ourselves as an abstract thing in reality, not something innately known without sense experience. I would reject that we know it innately, but that God’s law is written into our DNA so to speak. So, if that is what you mean, I think we agree.

    That’s not exactly what I mean. We don’t have to first learn anything from our DNA in order to live by that DNA, in order for that DNA to take effect, as it were.

    However, having a spleen and knowing I have a spleen are two different things. I know “spleen” because I have a spleen, I don’t have a spleen because I know “spleen”.

    In Romans 2, I think Paul never made the Gentiles’ doing of the law dependent on their first learning from that law. You are positing three steps:

    1. Having the work of the law written in the heart
    2. Learning from that law in the heart
    3. Doing that law

    Paul, however, never indicates that the second step is ever done. All he says is that their doing of the law demonstrates that the work of the law is written on their heart.

    If we could do God’s law by nature (not know it), then that might make your comment make more sense. But, I’m sure that is not what you are advocating.

    I’m advocating what Paul wrote in that text: When the Gentiles do by nature what is in the law, even if imperfectly, they show the work of that law written on their hearts.

    Being a sinner is something we inherit — not as a mental state — but as a stain of original sin on the soul because of our first parents.

    If we inherit something, it’s part of our nature. I inherited certain traits from my parents, so they are naturally, innately within me. I didn’t have to learn them before they could take effect and become reality in my life.

    No, they were children of wrath because they were sons of Adam. It was natural, but only in a disfigured way.

    And we are sons of Adam by birth. The stain of original sin is innate, i.e., we are born with it, and as such it is in our nature.

  178. Hello Ray:

    Man’s conscious experience of the external world is alone sufficient to arrive at a broad conception of God’s existence and the basic demands of morality.

    I’m not so sure of that, at least not the last part. Although creation is sufficient to reveal that there is a God who, as Paul wrote, has “eternal power … and divinity,” I think it’s going too far to say that such revelation alone can bring man to an understanding of God’s moral requirements. Paul’s point in Rom. 1 is to highlight that man has no excuse for idolatry (vv. 23, 25); his aim is not to show that man has no excuse for a whole range of sins, and so mentioning man’s ability to learn morality from creation would not make sense. You are making the Gentiles’ obedience to law a result of the witness of creation to the existence of God, and I don’t think the one is dependent on the other. They work together, to be sure, but not in the way you indicate.

    Yes, but this need not entail some “innate” concept(s) of God or morality.

    I think it does because man cannot learn “don’t kill” from observing the clouds, nor can he learn “don’t steal” by watching the stars. If he cannot learn those specific codes of morality from creation, where does he learn them? The reasonable answer is that he learns them from within because they have been “written” on his heart. Since it would be horrendous to say that man writes it there himself, it must be that God has done so.

    When someone says that we are “sinners by nature”, the only sense in which that phrase can endure philosophic scrutiny is to say that human beings have a natural potency or capacity to act sinfully.

    Even if what you’re saying here is accurate, it doesn’t change my point one bit. Even if we say that people have a natural “potency” to act sinfully, that potency is something they are born with.

    But again, what is “natural” or innate is human nature itself with all its natural potentialities; and this nature and its potentialities are all good in themselves, even though they may be employed to produce moral evil. What I am saying here is confirmed by St. Paul who references those Gentiles who, though not having the [written] law, are nonetheless a law unto themselves. Sin is not intrinsic to their nature, nor are they determined to sin of necessity due to some intrinsic defect of human nature. They have the potential to sin, but not the necessity. Those who do, and so long as they do, are children of wrath.

    And all are under sin, so it must be by nature. If it were not by nature, then it would be plausible to say that there are some people who have somehow avoided sin altogether. That is not the case, though. Sin’s universality shows it to be innate, not merely a potential within people.

    Those who use those same natural capacities to choose the good in accord with the order which God has established in nature are commended and acceptable to God.

    Again, Paul does not say that they choose good because they have learned it from external things (if that’s what you mean by “what God has established in nature”). He says that Gentiles “do by nature those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves: Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts.” Like I said before, to say that they first learned about the law’s morality from external things before they could do the good in that law defeats the whole point of using the phrase “by nature.” If I must first learn morality from the trees and the stars and the rest of creation, and only *then* have it written on my heart, then I am not doing them by nature but instead because of a learned code that I personally tacked on, as it were, to my mind after God created me. While the ability to learn those things could be said to be natural, since we were born with that light of reason and the ability to learn, we could not say, in that case, that the work of the law is written in the heart innately. At most, all we could say is that **we** wrote the work of the law in our hearts through our own light of reason, and that is no more natural and innate than my knowledge of reading and writing. Paul says no such thing, though, in Rom. 2, and the text is plain: They “do by nature”–not “they do because they first learned from an external source.”

  179. This is interesting (from the Catechism):

    37 Though human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, who watches over and controls the world by his providence, and of the natural law written in our hearts by the Creator;

  180. Jeremy,

    We don’t have to first learn anything from our DNA in order to live by that DNA, in order for that DNA to take effect, as it were.

    How would you know it “took effect”? You would know it by its effect. You would not know it any other way.

    Remember, I’m not saying something cannot be internal, I’m say an idea (knowledge) cannot be innate, or at least cannot be demonstrated as innate.

    In Romans 2, I think Paul never made the Gentiles’ doing of the law dependent on their first learning from that law. You are positing three steps:

    1. Having the work of the law written in the heart
    2. Learning from that law in the heart
    3. Doing that law
    Paul, however, never indicates that the second step is ever done. All he says is that their doing of the law demonstrates that the work of the law is written on their heart.

    No, I’m advocating that through experience, (1) perceiving, etc. nature, they (3) do by nature what is in accord with God’s law, because their (2) interaction with reality “writes God’s law on their hearts”. St. Paul’s text does not ‘require that you conflate the perception of the natural order and the writing of the law on the hearts (1,2) because the word “nature” must of necessity mean that which is innate’ — nor does it mean that the “writing on the hearts” is an innate epistemological state.

    If we inherit something, it’s part of our nature.

    No, that does not follow. However, just as a note, I think we disagree more fundamentally about:

    1. the term “nature”
    2. the concept of innate vs. internal

    On 1, I mean a metaphysical category and on 2, I mean an epistemological category. Is that what you mean?

  181. Brent, apparently you think that “nature” is distinct from “innate.” I see them as being synonymous, and perhaps that is where we differ. How do you draw the conclusion that the two are different?

  182. Jeremy,

    An innate idea is different from a natural quality. An innate idea is something you can know without any sense experience. However, you cannot know any natural quality without sense experience. Something being in your nature does not mean that you know it without any sense experience.

    In classical philosophy, the nature of something is distinct from something being innate.

    I obviously agree with your comment #179. However, if you look at the main of my comment #175, I say as much. However, even if God wrote the law on our hearts (which we agree He does), it does not follow that we know the law of God innately, but only as a by product of us experiencing the effect of that law being written in our hearts. I can demonstrate the latter, the former would be a conjecture (as Ray notes).

  183. Jeremy,

    You wrote:

    Paul’s point in Rom. 1 is to highlight that man has no excuse for idolatry (vv. 23, 25); his aim is not to show that man has no excuse for a whole range of sins

    Actually, in Romans 1, Paul goes on immediately to link up the rejection of God’s existence, which can be known from the “things that have been made” to all kinds of immorality.

    I think it does because man cannot learn “don’t kill” from observing the clouds, nor can he learn “don’t steal” by watching the stars. If he cannot learn those specific codes of morality from creation, where does he learn them?

    One observes men killing other men and notes that one would not like to be killed himself. There is nothing innate about this discovery. I think you misunderstand what the Catholic notion of the “natural law”. By natural, the Catholic tradition does not merely mean “natural science” (i.e. rocks, clouds, etc). It means experience of nature, or the external world generally. That is why I have repeatedly used the phrase “created order” – of which man and his interactions with other men are also a part. There is no need (nor any evidence for) some mysterious innate sense of morality to explain the moral development of a child, onward into adulthood. Not sure why this is so important to you?

    You wrote:

    Even if we say that people have a natural “potency” to act sinfully, that potency is something they are born with.

    People are not merely born with the potency to act sinfully – which just means to be able to choose between various goods in a disordered way. To be a person at all – a human being – is to have this fundamental ability to choose – a will – which opens up the possibility for the act of sin. But that capacity is not sin itself; therefore, sin is not innate as you stated. Nor is sin innate after we have committed it. That is the problem with the point you were attempting to make.

    You wrote:

    And all are under sin, so it must be by nature. If it were not by nature, then it would be plausible to say that there are some people who have somehow avoided sin altogether. That is not the case, though. Sin’s universality shows it to be innate, not merely a potential within people.

    No, the fact that we have the potential to choose between goods means we have the potential to act sinfully. The fact that all people (so far as we know) do and have acted sinfully in no way entails that sin is innate – other than as a potency as I have explained. It points to the fact that human beings are weak and generally tend to choose immediate lower goods at the expense of higher goods; but it does not entail that sin is innate – which is strictly not possible. I noticed you failed to engage my explanation that sin simply cannot – as a matter of principle – be innate. It is not a thing, such that it even could be innate. That evil is a privation – a lack – and not a positive ontological thing per se, is basic to Christian moral theology. It cannot, therefore be innate.

    You wrote:

    Like I said before, to say that they first learned about the law’s morality from external things before they could do the good in that law defeats the whole point of using the phrase “by nature.” If I must first learn morality from the trees and the stars and the rest of creation, and only *then* have it written on my heart, then I am not doing them by nature but instead because of a learned code that I personally tacked on, as it were, to my mind after God created me.

    No, it does not defeat the point of the phrase “by nature” for all the reasons I explained in my previous post, and which you did not refute. You are forcing upon St. Paul a notion of the phrase “by nature” which apparently can only mean some innate “born with” imprint or disposition – for which we have zero evidence. Instead, I have explained that the phrase “by nature” need only entail that our human nature is uniquely constituted (call it an innate capacity if you like) so as to be capable of discerning both the existence of God and the basic tenets of morality from our lived encounter with the created order – including therein, all the activities and interrelations of human beings themselves. That is one of the reasons why Catholics speak of arriving at the “age of reason” or moral responsibility – because we do not come out of the womb or exist in our crib with a fully functional moral code open to our awareness. Our understanding of what acts are “good” or “evil” develop as we grow and our interaction with people and the world around us becomes richer.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  184. Hi Brent,

    However, even if God wrote the law on our hearts (which we agree He does), it does not follow that we know the law of God innately, but only as a by product of us experiencing the effect of that law being written in our hearts.

    How do we “experience the effect of that law being written in our hearts”? What does that actually look like?

  185. Hi Ray,

    Actually, in Romans 1, Paul goes on immediately to link up the rejection of God’s existence, which can be known from the “things that have been made” to all kinds of immorality.

    Not exactly. The “all kinds of immorality” are the result of God’s giving them over to those sins:

    “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions.”

    The same thought is brought out just a bit later:

    “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, …”

    The revelation they rejected did not consist in specific moral commands such as “Don’t steal,” “Don’t lie,” and so on. What they rejected was the revealed truth that God alone, and not the creature, should be acknowledged and worshiped.

    I had written, “I think it does because man cannot learn “don’t kill” from observing the clouds, nor can he learn “don’t steal” by watching the stars. If he cannot learn those specific codes of morality from creation, where does he learn them?”

    You replied, “One observes men killing other men and notes that one would not like to be killed himself. There is nothing innate about this discovery.”

    If we learn it is wrong to kill by seeing others commit that sin, then we are not learning through a revelation from God but through the evil-doing of others.

    You wrote, “No, it does not defeat the point of the phrase “by nature” for all the reasons I explained in my previous post, and which you did not refute. You are forcing upon St. Paul a notion of the phrase “by nature” which apparently can only mean some innate “born with” imprint or disposition – for which we have zero evidence.”

    What I’ve tried to explain is that the phrase “by nature” means arising from one’s own being, not from outside one’s being. To say, then, that “by nature” involves some process that begins outside one’s being, and depends on that external thing, is to redefine the term. The nature of a thing is what it is naturally, in and of itself. You and I, for example, are naturally human. That humanness is intrinsic to who
    we are. Thus we can say, “Ray and Jeremy are by nature human.” We were human from the very moment of conception; our humanness did not depend on something outside of us to happen to us after our conception.
    Instead, I have explained that the phrase “by nature” need only entail that our human nature is uniquely constituted (call it an innate capacity if you like) so as to be capable of discerning both the existence of God and the basic tenets of morality from our lived encounter with the created order – including therein, all the activities and interrelations of human beings themselves. That is one of the reasons why Catholics speak of arriving at the “age of reason” or moral responsibility – because we do not come out of the womb or exist in our crib with a fully functional moral code open to our awareness. Our understanding of what acts are “good” or “evil” develop as we grow and our interaction with people and the world around us becomes richer.

    You said, “Instead, I have explained that the phrase “by nature” need only entail that our human nature is uniquely constituted (call it an innate capacity if you like) so as to be capable of discerning both the existence of God and the basic tenets of morality from our lived encounter with the created order – including therein, all the activities and interrelations of human beings themselves.”

    First, I feel that you have yet to prove that man’s knowledge of moral do’s and don’t’s arises from his interaction with the external created world. You have tried to do so by positing a cause-and-effect link between the text about the revelation of God’s existence in Romans 1 with the text in Rom. 2 that speaks of the Gentiles doing by nature the things in the law, thus attempting to show that the knowledge of right and wrong took shape as a result of the revelation of God’s eternal power and godhead. But as I’ve pointed out, in Romans 1 it is clear that all that the natural world around us shows is the existence of a creator who deserves our worship. It does not reveal the details and specifics of human morality, such as honoring one’s parents, avoiding stealing, avoiding murder, and so on.

    Let’s get down to brass tacks: The word translated “by nature” in Romans 2 is φυσει. The same word appears in the Ephesians 2 passage I cited earlier. Here are some definitions of that word I found:

    nature

    the nature of things, the force, laws, order of nature
    as opposed to what is monstrous, abnormal, perverse
    as opposed what has been produced by the art of man: the natural branches, i.e. branches by the operation of nature
    birth, physical origin
    a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature
    the sum of innate properties and powers by which one person differs from others, distinctive native peculiarities, natural characteristics: the natural strength, ferocity, and intractability of beasts

    So, what does the phrase “by nature” mean?

  186. Jeremy,

    What does that actually look like?

    When you experience your conscience. The effect of the law being written on your heart would cause you to resist taking your neighbor’s wife as your own. Then, after experiencing the inclination to not take your neighbor’s wife, you might conclude that, “the law is written on my heart!”. In other words, without the actual experience, you would not know the law was written on your heart.

    So, from this example, you can see how the law being written on your heart does not mean that we know God’s law as an innate idea, but rather that we know it from its effect.

  187. Brent,

    The revelation that there exists a “heavenly host”, and my knowledge that there is a “Kawanas Club” is enough for me to know that there exists two types of institutions: supernatural and natural.

    How do you know there exists “heavenly host”?

    Regards,
    Joey

  188. Joey (#185)

    How do you know there exists “heavenly host”?

    Luke 2:13; Ref 19:19.

    jj

  189. Brent,

    Do you agree with John’s direct answer?

    Regards,
    Joey

  190. When you experience your conscience. The effect of the law being written on your heart would cause you to resist taking your neighbor’s wife as your own.

    In your view, does the person learn to avoid adultery from an external source?

    Then, after experiencing the inclination to not take your neighbor’s wife, you might conclude that, “the law is written on my heart!”. In other words, without the actual experience, you would not know the law was written on your heart.

    Perhaps, but that wasn’t the issue I brought up. I was just addressing the question of whether knowledge of right and wrong is innate.

  191. Joey,

    Yes. And I would not need to know that as as presupposition, but could know it as a conclusion of faith. So, while the shepherds knew that a “heavenly host” existed via direct sense experience, I know it via their eye witness account, recorded in Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and then taken in through vision (reading).

    Objection: How do you know that the heavenly host is an “institution”? Do you know it as a presupposition or by its effect?

    Reply 1: I do not know it as a presupposition for if I never came into contact with an institution, I would not know “institution”. Without a single individuation of the sensible form “institution”, I could not know “institution”. That is why a man, when happening upon a new thing is always surprised. “Surprise” is often the intellect’s response to a new sensible form. If an idea can know with sense experience, then a new sensible form would not cause surprise. Instead, a new sensible form would invoke memory, but that is not what happens.

    Reply 2: I know it by its effect. One can, in experiencing a thing in reality, abstract the concept of “purpose/design”. This concept implies that a thing has some end. The etymology of the word “institution” comes from this concept (concept = with the perception, “to grasp”). So, the word gives us access to the relationship of the knower and the thing known (act of the intellect). In this case, the relationship of an organon of people and some end.

    Thus, I know “institution” by its effect.

  192. Jeremy,

    Perhaps, but that wasn’t the issue I brought up. I was just addressing the question of whether knowledge of right and wrong is innate

    .
    Then we were completely talking past each other. In fact, I think we agree with each other. One could learn that adultery is wrong because it is written on their heart (not from an external source). However, my question is more epistemological, meaning how does one come to such knowledge? I would say that in order for a person to know that adultery is wrong, they would need to come into contact with some experience that they could reference in order to employ the ethic that is “inscribed on their heart”. Without the experience, the phantasm, one would not know what is written on their heart (even if it were — which we agree it is). In this way, while the law is intrinsic to their nature in the order of being, the knowledge comes about through experience of the world — themselves even being a thing in-it-in-relationship-to other things (ethics).

    For St. Paul, the Gentiles “show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts” precisely through their actions (show – effect) of what is “written on their hearts”.

    In summary, when I used the phrase “innate”, I was speaking about a very particular philosophical notion of knowledge, whereas you were reading “innate” and thinking “internal”. Your argument is ontological (and I agree with it!), whereas my argument is epistemic.

    Does that make sense, and do you think we have adequately covered this topic now?

  193. Hi Brent,

    Thanks for that explanation. It seems like you’re saying that the knowledge of right and wrong is latent within a person, so that the person does not become aware of that morality unless it becomes an issue in his or her life, an issue brought on by some external event. Thus, for example, if there were a married couple who were dropped onto a deserted island–having had no experience with any other people or society, and understanding they were married–they would have no concept of adultery unless a third person came to the island and seduced one of them to commit adultery. Then, and only then, would the concept of adultery be known.

    Is that what you’re saying?

  194. Jeremy,

    No, they would not need an actual third person. All they would need is the concept of another person, a concept they could abstract from the reality of the existence of each other, and from there consider the possibility of going outside of that marriage with some other person. At that point — and only then, what is written on their hearts (their being) would be known to their minds.

    Again, I think you are confusing “external event” as some kind of antonym for “innate idea”; but that is not the case. An internal event, whereby someone experienced themselves as a “thing in-the world-in-relationship-to other things ” would not be the same, philosophically speaking, as an innate idea. I think Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body would be a good example of our own body teaching us something about God. Nevertheless, that would not be an example of an innate idea.

  195. For more on innate ideas, go here, , here, or here.

  196. Hi Brent,

    Thanks for the explanation. Essentially you answered my question. Whether it’s a third person or just another person, you believe that the knowledge of right and wrong (in this case, that adultery is wrong) is only latent and will remain unknown unless and until some person (an external thing) brings them face to face with that moral code, through the abstracting you mentioned.

  197. you believe that the knowledge of right and wrong (in this case, that adultery is wrong) is only latent and will remain unknown unless and until some person (an external thing) brings them face to face with that moral code, through the abstracting you mentioned.

    No, that is not what I said. I said an external thing would not be necessary. For instance, one could only know themselves and know that murder is wrong. That, still, would not be the same as an innate idea. They would experience themselves, not directly as a thing other than that which can be experienced (sensate), but as a “thing that can be sensed”. This “thing” would be something different than an idea, but rather a concrete thing in reality (self) that makes the idea (concept) possible.

    Further, I don’t know how you could demonstrate (prove) to someone that the knowledge is anything more than latent. Just because I have a stomach, doesn’t mean I know I have a stomach. In this case, “stomach” is just under my heart. : ) But, just because “stomach” is under my heart, doesn’t prove that “stomach” is an innate concept. I must have an experience of “stomach” to know that which I already possessed.

    I recommend the links I left you, lest we talk past each other again.

  198. Thanks, Brent. I’m just trying to figure out how you arrive at your conclusion because, in all honesty, I have found your explanation to be confusing. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong; it just means I have to keep asking questions to figure out what you mean. Thanks for the links, but I think it’s far more practical to get clarification directly from you, since articles can’t answer my questions. :-) But it seems you are tiring of this, so I won’t trouble you any longer about it.

  199. Jeremy,

    I’m sorry if it appears I’m tiring of this. What is apparent to me is that you and I agree with each other (regarding God’s law being written on our hearts), and that when you say innate you mean internal, but I don’t mean that at all. I had recommended you look at the links (and I even linked you to the appropriate section of each article), so that you can understand what I mean by “innate ideas” in the classical philosophical sense. I figured that if you understood what I mean by innate ideas, my responses would seem less obscure or confusing.

    If you have more questions, that is fine. However, I would kindly ask you to look at those articles so we do not keep repeating the “internal vs. external” miscommunication. I think it would improve our dialog. Does that make sense?

  200. That makes sense, Brent. Thanks.

  201. Brent,

    Yes. And I would not need to know that as as presupposition, but could know it as a conclusion of faith. So, while the shepherds knew that a “heavenly host” existed via direct sense experience, I know it via their eye witness account, recorded in Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and then taken in through vision (reading).

    In this case Brent, is Scripture a special revealtion needed in order for you to know that such “heavenly host” existed? You believe Scripture to be under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which is a presupossition, or is it not? Can you know that a “heavenly host” existed without the explanation of the Scripture of such event?

    Regards,
    Joey

  202. Joey,

    In this case Brent, is Scripture a special revealtion needed in order for you to know that such “heavenly host” existed?

    For me, it would be a conclusion of faith. To the shepherds, it would be a sense experience (supernatural one!). To St. Luke, it would be the account of eyewitnesses, and to St. Luke, it would be under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    You believe Scripture to be under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which is a presupossition, or is it not?

    No, it is a conclusion of faith. See St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church. The inspiration of Scripture is not a rational principle I must presuppose regarding Scripture, but rather is an article of faith. It might become a presupposition after the assent of faith, but that assent would not be a priori to any evidence.

    Can you know that a “heavenly host” existed without the explanation of the Scripture of such event?

    One could, in principle, know it without Scripture. The shepherds did. One could have an angelic visitation themselves. We might say that the witness of the Scriptures is more trustworthy than a personal experience of angels, but then what else are we experiencing through the Scriptures but the direct experience of the shepherds of the angelic host (which is the nature of all eye-witness accounts)?

  203. Brent,

    For me, it would be a conclusion of faith. To the shepherds, it would be a sense experience (supernatural one!). To St. Luke, it would be the account of eyewitnesses, and to St. Luke, it would be under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    You didn’t answer the question. Is Scripture a special revealtion needed in order for you to know that such “heavenly host” existed? The shepherds knew it because God revealed it to them using his angels and His Word to proclaim the Messiah. I would assume that these shepherd is not ignorant of the testimonty of the OT Scripture providing special revelation about the nature of angelic beings. St. Luke also knew the O.T. Scripture and is not oblivious of the nature of angelic beings thus he can attest as to what the eyewitnesses has seen. It is not as if the shepherd classified these beings as “angels” or that they knew it were “angels” had not a previous revelation shaped their notions of its existence and what they look like. Given this Brent, Is Scripture a special revealtion needed in order for you to know that such “heavenly host” existed?

    No, it is a conclusion of faith. See St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church. The inspiration of Scripture is not a rational principle I must presuppose regarding Scripture, but rather is an article of faith. It might become a presupposition after the assent of faith, but that assent would not be a priori to any evidence.

    So does this mean, Brent, that an “article of faith” require evidence in order to function as an “article of faith” in your system? How is this practically applied? An article of faith such as the inspiration of the Scripture must be presupposed in order to make sense of the evidence about its inspiration. Otherwise, you begin your query with another presupposition.

    One could, in principle, know it without Scripture. The shepherds did. One could have an angelic visitation themselves. We might say that the witness of the Scriptures is more trustworthy than a personal experience of angels, but then what else are we experiencing through the Scriptures but the direct experience of the shepherds of the angelic host (which is the nature of all eye-witness accounts)?

    See above answer. I think, as a healthy criticism, your answer ignores the fact that there already exists a special revelation in the OT which informs their culture allowing the shepherds to know that what they are seeing are “angels” or to use your term “heavenly host”.

    May argument still remains. Special revelation is needed to justify our knowledge about the existence of the distinction between natural and supernatural institutions. Therefore, if you ask me whether I believe in such distinction, I would ask first, “What special revelation can you posit that justify the meaning, definition and scope of that concept or distinction?” In fact, I would like to ask how do you distinguish/define natural from supernatural institutions? And where do you anchor such definition or distinction?

    Regards,
    Joey

  204. Joey,

    I agree that God gives us special revelation (so the answer to your question is “yes”). However, special revelation is not a presupposition. It can be presupposed, but is not something that is first presupposed (a priori). That is why I answered your question when I said I believe it as an article of faith (which requires special revelation).

    One would either somehow directly experience God (the Biblical authors), or one would experience a witness account (what you and I do when we read special Revelation). See Bryan’s comment here (on the Wilson vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective thread).

    So does this mean, Brent, that an “article of faith” requires evidence in order to function as an “article of faith” in your system?

    Yes, or else it would result in fideism.

    It is not as if the shepherd classified these beings as “angels” or that they knew it were “angels” had not a previous revelation shaped their notions of its existence and what they look like.

    That would have not been the case for the first eye witness or author of such accounts (the “previous revelation”).

    Otherwise, you begin your query with another presupposition.

    I don’t know what this means. I don’t have to start an inquiry with a presupposition, other than a natural presupposition: that I can know reality. This is common sense in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. Again, see Bryan’s comment above.

  205. Brent,

    I agree that God gives us special revelation (so the answer to your question is “yes”).

    Good. Special revelation is needed to justify our knowledge about the existence of the distinction between natural and supernatural institutions.

    However, special revelation is not a presupposition. It can be presupposed, but is not something that is first presupposed (a priori). That is why I answered your question when I said I believe it as an article of faith (which requires special revelation).

    Brent, you might be confused here. We are not talking about “special revelation” being a presupposition. My inquiry was simple as stated in my previous post. Special revelation is a category that occurs when one presupposes a christian worldview. That worldview has presuppositions such as the existence of a Triune God who is able to communicate to the His created world. Evidences on this presupposition need not be discarded but the evidences can only make sense when seen in that worldview.

    That would have not been the case for the first eye witness or author of such accounts (the “previous revelation”).

    The regress would stop at God revealing to man what is and what is not about those things that are not directly accessible in the created world. In that case, God has to reveal it in order for the fallen man to know.

    I don’t know what this means. I don’t have to start an inquiry with a presupposition, other than a natural presupposition: that I can know reality. This is common sense in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. Again, see Bryan’s comment above.

    Of course, our minds can know reality given there are basic first principles that is innate in our perception of what is. But natural presupposition can not account for supernatural truths or untruths. Those things need to be revealed to fallen man in order to access such knowledge. The question itself that you pose to me is full of presuppositions already… you assumed a worldview that supernatural/natural institutions can exists. So my follow-up question remains. “Therefore, if you ask me whether I believe in such distinction, I would ask first, “What special revelation can you posit that justify the meaning, definition and scope of that concept or distinction?” In fact, I would like to ask how do you distinguish/define natural from supernatural institutions? And where do you anchor such definition or distinction?”

    Regards,
    Joey

  206. Joey Henry,

    Special revelation is needed to justify our knowledge about the existence of the distinction between natural and supernatural institutions.

    Special revelation is required to know special revelation. I do not need the distinction revealed to me, for the distinction is implicit in the intellect experiencing (either directly or indirectly) special revelation.

    Special revelation is a category that occurs when one presupposes a christian worldview. That worldview has presuppositions such as the existence of a Triune God who is able to communicate to the His created world. Evidences on this presupposition need not be discarded but the evidences can only make sense when seen in that worldview.

    No, I disagree. I don’t have to presuppose a “Christian worldview” to arrive at the conclusion that “special revelation” can occur. I might, after either directly or indirectly experiencing special revelation, arrive at a Christian worldview, but I don’t have to presuppose it to make sense of it. As Bryan’s comment notes:

    “But this very way of thinking about belief-formation, namely, as being hard-wired to form a true belief [i.e. that God exists] neither by inference nor by direct perception of God, disconnects intellect from reality. It does this by proposing that the intellect forms belief by a mechanism, rather than by receiving forms only through the senses. But from a Thomistic point of view, characterizing the intellect as jury-rigged to arrive at truth, rather than as directly perceiving the truth itself insofar as it is able through the senses, Plantinga’s epistemology starts already with a concession to skepticism, i.e. we’re already cut off from reality, and have to hope that this mechanism by which we arrive at beliefs is reliable.”

    You said:

    The regress would stop at God revealing to man what is and what is not about those things that are not directly accessible in the created world. In that case, God has to reveal it in order for the fallen man to know.

    Yes, I think, we agree. : )

    Of course, our minds can know reality given there are basic first principles that is innate in our perception of what is. But natural presupposition can not account for supernatural truths or untruths.

    No, I don’t have to have any “innate” anything hardwired into my mind to understanding anything. Why? Because the argument assumes that the mind is “cut off from reality” and can only obtain to truth if it is first “rigged” with the right presuppositions. While in theory that sounds good, in practice, I find it both completely unconvincing and against experience. I can start with my God given intellect, experience reality, come to conclusions and realize that: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

    According to St. Paul, my “natural faculty” can be used in concert with the created world to arrive at knowledge of invisible attributes, eternal power and nature”, and I can understand those things clearly. And, I do not need to first presuppose anything for that to happen.

    “What special revelation can you posit that justify the meaning, definition and scope of that concept or distinction?”

    I already answered that in the affirmative of what John wrote.

    In fact, I would like to ask how do you distinguish/define natural from supernatural institutions?

    Again, I already answered that question. If one experienced (either directly or indirectly) one instance of something other than natural, they would, through an act of the intellect know the distinction. The same reason we can know cause/effect from watching someone kicking a ball.

    Let me give you another example. Let’s say you never experienced the color yellow before in your life. Then, you experienced the color yellow. From that experience, you would have enough information to also know the distinction between a color that is yellow and a color that is not yellow. You would not have to first know yellow to know yellow, but rather you would only know yellow and not-yellow, after experiencing yellow. And this description corresponds precisely with how we find ourselves situated in the world.

  207. Brent,

    I’ll let readers of this conversation decide whether your answer suffices. God bless…

    Regars,
    Joey

  208. Joey,

    Thanks for the dialog.

  209. I grew up as protestant and converted to Catholicism mainly because history leads us to the Catholic-Orthodoxy. I am recently to revert back to Protestantism. This was a 6 year reversion and it relied heavily on the Holy Spirit for guidance but also Bible and history. I have to say that I have been around about every debate between the Catholic and Protestant bodies. None of the debates hit the heart of the issue, but rather focus on tangible concepts to reason. I have read many cases like mine, that have been led through history (e.g. Scott Han). Amazing stories! It is true like you said about the bible (it is a book), however there is an essence of truth, or theme of truth which both bodies hold in common and this is the part that all Christians hold as infallible in common. The gospels in Mass are truth of the bible which the bodies hold in common! The traditions are additional practice (rosary, adoration, consubstantiation, Pope,relics,indulgences, bible is verbal, etc.). Out of these, only few are actually dogma but most are doctrine (your not condemned if you don’t believe doctrine only dogma).
    There are two main difference which divides the bodies: 1) is the Marian theme in the Catholic church. You used the word “she” referring to the church, acknowledge your understanding of the bridegroom. The four dogmas about Mary, lead to a Marian theme of doctrine that the Catholic church uses. This theme is a beautiful concept of the new Eve. Which is also plays into the female church body (marian church body). 2) The last supper: When trying to understand what the apostles taught about the church, we look at the biblical early church and we look at the first 2 centuries. We can see from Saint Priscilla an image of the last supper how she pictured it. We can look at the early tradition of the Malabar church in India to see what they were taught. We can look at when in history did a true understanding of Mass appear. We can see when in history did adoration appear in writing. We can see in early gnostic writings the “mass”. When we read the didache, we can interpret the writings as Mass or not depending on our paradigm. We can see the unhealthy collection of martyrs bones as relics in 107+. Saint Justin Martyr mentions the Pope establishing tradition because the people wanted it. In a perfectly Holy world everyone would probably be able to embrace the Catholic theme.

    But there are worldly issues that are entangled with a church that is “Divine”. A history of faithful Catholics have shown how dedicated we need to be to Mary. Writings of faithful believers describe their faithfulness to Mary and how to earn salvation. Many apparitions approved by the Catholic church are an essence of the Marian belief. The “Mary” in the apparitions tell us to seek her to obtain salvation and to spare us the wrath of Jesus. That might sound comforting to you depending on your paradigm, but it is disturbing to me. Mary has become an intercessor to Jesus and Jesus an intercessor to God. This came about because of the early theme of a wrath and judgment of Jesus.

    Celebrating saints is a wonderful tradition. We seek saints as we are taught to offer our prayers to them because they had a special talent on earth and will be able to help us in that area of expertise. This can be debated but what is important is that we discern what helps us obtain salvation, what makes us close to God, what steers us to God. Using Ignations of loyola excersises (Catholic taught) to discern good and bad spirits we are in the spiritual world not the Bible book or the Church. We can individually have a relationship with the Holy Spirit to guide us.

    Following a leader like Martin Luther is a common attack for us Catholics, but the truth is bigger than that. I will share the info below, but I also want to mention that most of what is taught (catechism) stems from Thomas Aquinas and Constantine understandings.

    The lead to Martin Luther takes place over 1700+ years:
    *305AD – Many Christians left organized church because of Iconics and Adoration
    *354AD – Augustine complained that monks were selling bones as relics.
    *486AD – Eastern church rejected celibacy
    *735AD Charlemagne points out that it was better to admire saints then to collect relics.
    *754AD 315 bishops condemn icons
    *1320AD John Wycliff believed people should be able to read the bible
    *1415AD Jan Hus believed indulgences were corrupt
    *1517AD Martin Luther believed indulgences were corrupt.

    There is much to be said but little time…
    If you wish to discuss further feel free and inspired.
    God bless you on your journey, always seek God, and be willing to challenge your belief (paradigm).

  210. MTN (re#209),

    Welcome to CTC, and thank you for the comment. You raise many different issues here. I could attempt to respond to each one of them, point by point. There are answers for both Catholics and non-Catholics who wish to seek them.

    However, the subject of this post is the comparison of the Catholic and Protestant authority paradigms, so I’m going to respond to you on that basis (and also because I do think that the different paradigms are really at the heart of your comment– perhaps not as you intended though).

    In your return to Protestantism, you state that you “relied heavily on the Holy Spirit for guidance but also Bible and history.” You believe that the Holy Spirit has led you out of the Catholic Church and back to Protestantism. It’s important to note, though, that when one becomes a Catholic, one does *not* say (if one understands Catholicism, that is), “I assent to, and accept, the teaching authority of the Church, *because* that teaching authority happens to agree with my current interpretation(s) of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.”

    In becoming Catholic, one assents to, and accepts, the Church’s teaching authority as the *Christ-instituted, authoritative* interpreter of both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. This is far, far different from agreeing with the Church because (or when) the Church agrees with one’s own interpretations. The former is the Catholic approach. The latter is Protestant.

    Protestantism, of course, does not have to do *only* with one’s interpretation of Sacred Scripture. One can be a “Protestant” in one’s thinking, regarding Tradition and church history, just as much as one can regarding Sacred Scripture. Historic Protestants believed themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit in breaking with the Catholic Church. Intrinsically though, if not always in Protestantism’s claims, certainly in its daily “working-out” in life, Protestantism asserts the right of the individual to interpret Scripture, Tradition, and church history for him/herself.

    Now, as a former Protestant, I am well aware that many (perhaps most) serious Protestants might object to the above characterization, and then claim that they are not interpreting these things *for themselves*, but rather, that the *Holy Spirit* is guiding and illuminating their interpretations. If that is truly the case though, then these Protestants need to explain how it is that the Holy Spirit has seemingly led Protestants to radically differing conclusions, as to what Scripture, Tradition, and church history *teach us,* and what conclusions we are to *draw* from those teachings (!).

    Since the early days of the Reformation, Protestants have differed among themselves on serious, multiplying issues. Martin Luther broke with Zwingli over the Real Presence and at least seemed to strongly imply that Zwingli was not even a Christian due to his different understanding. Calvin differed with both Luther *and* Zwingli on the Eucharist. Most contemporary Protestants seem to hold that one’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper is a “non-essential” issue, over which Christians may reasonably agree to disagree, but this was *not* the understanding of their forefathers, the original Reformers. Who was/is correct on this issue, MTN? Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin all believed that they were being guided by the Holy Spirit in their conclusions regarding the Eucharist– and Luther and Calvin, at least, believed the matter to be a “Christian essential.”

    Moreover, as the centuries rolled on, and as the Reformation continued in its split from the Catholic Church, differing Protestant denominations multiplied– holding to radically differing interpretations (of Scripture, Tradition, and church history) on *multiple serious issues*, including not only the Eucharist, but also salvation, and whether it can be lost or not, divorce and remarriage (and whether, or under what circumstances, *they* can be allowed or not), baptism (infants or believers only?), church government (too many differences within Protestantism to even list here), liturgy (the same), artificial contraception (even though Protestants agreed with the Catholic Church on this issue from the Reformation until 1930), and the nature and application of ordained ministry (with women first being ordained by some Protestant denominations– in opposition to all of previous church history–, and now, open, practicing, unrepentant homosexuals).

    In the late 20th/early 21st centuries, even conscious, committed Reformed Protestants have even begun to sharply among themselves on the nature of *justification and the place of works therein*, as seen in the “Federal Vision” controversy. Two differing perspectives among the Reformed: http://www.federal-vision.com/?page_id=41 http://flockalert.wordpress.com/2009/06/19/what-is-the-federal-vision-is-it-heresy/

    Now, I certainly understand that conscious, committed Protestants object to certain Catholic dogmas, doctrines, and practices as being supposedly “unBiblical”, according to those Protestants’ understandings of Scripture and Tradition. I understand that, partially on that basis, Reformation Day is still celebrated around the world. However, it is also very hard for me to avoid the conclusion that the many serious and multiplying differences among Protestant denominations, listed above, are, ultimately, the troubling *fruits of the Reformation* itself– and, particularly, the fruits of the Reformation principle of “Sola Scriptura.”

    As I mentioned earlier, when one assents to become a Catholic (or when a cradle Catholic affirms his/her faith at confirmation), one assents to the teaching authority of the Church *as* the Christ-instituted, authoritative interpreter of both Sacred Scripture *and* Sacred Tradition. An honest question, MTN– was this your thinking when you were a Catholic, MTN? If so, then at some point, it must have changed, by virtue of the very fact that you *did* return to Protestantism.

    Given that Protestant denominations (and “non-denominational churches”) strongly disagree about what the Bible *even teaches* on so many serious issues, in what way is your authority paradigm, as a Protestant, intrinsically better, more sound, reliable, etc. than the authority paradigm that you accepted as a Catholic (assuming that you actually did accept it at that time)?

  211. I am delighted to focus here on the authority paradigm. It is a very interesting and important subject. It also certainly is a good basis to evaluate as you have mentioned. I have several comments for you regarding this topic and they are as follows:

    You mention “Church teaching authority” but not those whom have formed the doctrine withing the church. Because certainly the church is a body of people (Christians), is that your thought?. In the case of Catholic teaching, there is a hierarchy which is established to provide leadership and authority. The leaders of the “Church” are those whom institute authoritative doctrine, because a “Church” without democracy is run only by leader(s). If we look at whom specifically confirmed or instituted a particular doctrine we will find people. Now these people where either using ‘reason’ to rationalize the doctrine instituted or they used the Holy spirit (divinely inspired) to determine the doctrine legitimacy. If the later is true, does that mean that only those whom were accepted as truth were divinely inspired Christopher?

    Contrary to the average Catholic argument about Martin Luther setting the stage for protestants. That is simply incorrect. Martin Luther was a Catholic who lived at a time when the oppression of Church power did not limit the continuous spread of “protest” teaching. 100 years prior to Martin Huss was executed for opposing the church leaders about selling indulgences. 100 years before that was a man Wycliff that protested the church and wanted the bible to be available for the common person to read. An so on back to the beginning of church history…

    The formation of doctrine in the Catholic church: Though many traditions were practiced in parts of the Catholic world for centuries, they were not confirmed as doctrine or dogma until much later. If we look at these cases, we can see that there were theologians (“Protestantism asserts the right of the individual to interpret Scripture, Tradition, and church history for him/herself.”) that were accepted or partially accepted and those whom were not accepted. Many were not condemned for their heresy or partial heresy at that time. Many of These Protestant theologians have come to be known as Church fathers. This has taken place since the 3rd and possible the 2nd century. We are currently living in a time of opposition no different then those times. Is it likely that future Christians will think the same as we do?

    There are several written cases where Christians have opposed the bishop of Rome as early as 2nd century. Some cases are not seen as a problem but others are. If both are divinely inspired who is right? Does the holy spirit conflict itself? Who on Earth will decipher the truth? “Holy Spirit has seemingly led Protestants to radically differing conclusions, as to what Scripture, Tradition, and church history *teach us,* and what conclusions we are to *draw* from those teachings (!).” If as noted above (1) that someone is divinely inspired and sacred tradition caries a pathway to an answer of truth or heresy, then how can heretics perform miracles? I don’t like to use scripture to answer questions but only if I can use it in a way we both agree. I will leave out the versus since I’m sure you know your Bible. In this case I want to point to the fact that when Saint Peter came to Jesus and pointed out that a man was performing a miracle to cast out demons, Peter tried to stop him. Jesus pointed out that only good can come from the Father. Cases of the Holy Spirit: How do we know when it is the Holy Spirit according to the Bible? Two versus come to mind. a) Jesus one minute says Peter was speeking heresy (‘get behind me satan”), and then next Peter was divinely inspired to confess the truth about Christ. b) “… and no one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” This is informing us of truth by the Holy Spirit through a fallible man.

    You asked:”An honest question, MTN– was this your thinking when you were a Catholic, MTN? If so, then at some point, it must have changed, by virtue of the very fact that you *did* return to Protestantism.” My answer is that I had no reason to doubt the authority to which I presumed to be the authority, until I was inspired otherwise. And quite the opposite of many cradle Catholics that I have met, I learned the teachings and embraced the spiritual exercises that the Church teaches to improve spiritual life, graces, lesser judgment, and salvation. No doubt my spiritual mechanism works better now that I have learned these exercises. I further answer your question below.

    To answer your questions about who was correct Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, add [Catholic teaching], I need to ask you a question – Jesus mentions that your body is a temple and you must keep it clean for the Holy Spirit to dwell within you…, who is the leader of Your temple (or might I suggest that “leader” here might mean to you the “custodian” of Your temple)? How do you know that your temple is clean? It is very easy to point to versus in the Bible in the old and new to see how to clean it up. Now a step further: what happens when the answer is not clear in the Bible? This is where discernment comes in. A Catholic Jesuit Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught about this and a book on case studies is all about discernment of spirits (how to tell good and bad messages from heaven/hell). Or simplicity just refer to this as discernment of the the Holy Spirit. (side note:His own case was a personal battle of discernment which led him to a personal conclusion). An over simplification and elaboration of this method is that one would seek to be close to God, if it detours you from God, or adds a void between you and God, If it doesn’t prosper Joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, (1 Corinthians 13), etc, then it is not of God. Now look at your question and say who is correct? I don’t think you can answer based on this method unless maybe you look into their reasoning. Take a look at the “divinely” inspired brothers and sisters who are beatified. They had different convictions of the “Holy Spirit” not the same ones. It is those of the same convictions that we are forced to chose or become indifferent about.

    May the Holy Spirit reside in you, and may you seek Him with all your heart.

  212. MTN (#211)

    …these people where either using ‘reason’ to rationalize the doctrine instituted or they used the Holy spirit (divinely inspired) to determine the doctrine legitimacy.

    I’m not sure you can speak of an either/or here. Other than the (surely rare?) case of inner locutions by the Spirit, I should have thought that both inspiration of truth (which, in fact, no one claims on the part of the Catholic Church’s members, hierarchy or not) and correct understanding of doctrine are completely based on reason – and are possible by, and only by, the Spirit’s guidance. It seems to me that it is both/and, not either/or.

    The Church does not, you should understand, say that infallibility is a property of this or that member of the Church – not even the Pope – as an individual. Infallibility is a property of the Church – and, when push comes to shove, God guarantees that the Pope – who is himself a sinner – will not guide the Church wrongly when he commands this or that truth to be believed with divine faith. It is a negative property, not a positive. A Pope may never make such a definition – but if he does, we won’t be wrong in following him.

    jj

  213. Dear JJ,

    Since the topic of this forum is the authority paradigm, we can see that it is an essential basic disagreement between Christians. You mention that “God guarantees that the Pope – who is himself a sinner – will not guide the Church wrongly when he commands this or that truth to be believed with divine faith. It is a negative property, not a positive. A Pope may never make such a definition – but if he does, we won’t be wrong in following him”, but you have not established through what method did the Pope receive a revelation/message from God, or reasoned that he is given a guarantee will not guide the Church Wrong. While also you stated that we cannot determine how [Church leaders] are given doctrine, whether by reason or/and Holy Spirit. Please explain how you can be confident about your statement when you have not concluded yourself about the Church authority. Please do not use Saint Peter as the rock or passed down invisible knowledge for your answer!

    Additionally, you state that we won’t be wronged in following him – You are right about this and wrong. There are certain things that a tradition could trump in the Bible, but this is not one of them. If you blindly follow the your teacher, you are given forgiveness as it is stated in the Bible. But even the Catholic church teaches that once you become aware of the truth, you must obey. Despite you will disagree to see this my way because we don’t agree on what is truth I’m sure. There is no sense to further this conversation.

  214. MTN (#213

    …you have not established through what method did the Pope receive a revelation/message from God…

    I wasn’t trying to establish anything, only to say that I don’t think that any Catholic believes that the Pope – or anyone – must either understand things by reason or by direct revelation from the Spirit – infused ideas or whatever. I am sure that the Pope, like all the rest of us, uses his reason. That his reason is enlightened by the Spirit is something we believe. For the matter of that, I think that most, at least, and perhaps all, of Scripture is produced by the same process: Spirit-enlightened and Spirit-strengthened reason. I do not believe that St Paul, for example, sat quietly for certain words to come into his brain, for instance “…Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm…” – and then wrote them down. I think that Paul simply wrote those words from his own mind, in the same way you or I might. In Paul’s case, the Spirit guaranteed that what he would write was what God wanted him to write.

    I’m trying to explain something, not establish something. Perhaps I have misunderstood your apparent either/or, regarding reason vs the Spirit. It sounded as though you were saying that if the Holy Spirit inspires someone in some way, then reason has nothing to do with it. I don’t see how that can be so.

    jj

  215. Dear jj,
    My message above was a reply to Christopher Lake, so it may not make sense out of context or it may just not make sense.

    I will clarify the Catholic belief for you. It is in fact the same as protestant but different. All of the Bible and all of teachings are considered divinely (Holy Spirit) inspired. The difference between the Catholics and Protestant is that Catholics have an “Orthodox” theme (tradition) that is used to authenticate past authors as Holy Spirit inspired. To authenticate an inspired author of the past also takes the Holy Spirit.

    If “reason” was used it would not be truth!

  216. MTN (#215)

    I just don’t see how this can be true:

    If “reason” was used it would not be truth!

    Perhaps what you mean is ‘if onlyreason, unaided by the Spirit’s illumination, is used, it could not be sure to be truth.’

    If that is what you mean, then, of course, I would agree. But I cannot understand why you would think that if the Spirit guides one, then reason is not used. For the matter of that, I don’t see that the use of reason alone necessarily produces falsehood; it just cannot be certain of producing truth.

    Two examples: I use reason to determine that 2 + 2 make 4. The Holy Spirit is not a special enlightenment here – although, finally, all knowledge ultimately depends on the creator Spirit. But there is nothing ‘specially spiritual about my knowledge that 2+2=4.

    Second example: I am the Apostle Paul and I write that Jesus is Lord. I have – surely! – used my reason here. I know what the words mean. I know what He has revealed to me. I have talked with the other Apostles, those who knew the Lord in the flesh. But my writing that is guaranteed to be true because I am enlightened by the Spirit – specifically my mind, heart, and, yes, reason, are enlightened by the Spirit.

    No?

    jj

  217. “…for flesh and blood [reasoning power of your mind] has NOT revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 16:17.
    It is very apparent that Jesus did not include “reason” in his statement to identify how Peter was illuminated. One can argue as you did that reason might also discover the truth in the same that Science may discover God, but we are not discussing science, but rather faith. I will argue that not all truth or better yet fact is inspired or illuminated by God. That we can use reason without inspiration to conclude a scientific fact- but this is my own opinion. See but we cannot reason, but only be given a revealed knowledge from God, the fact that Jesus is the true salvation.

  218. MTN (#217

    “…for flesh and blood [reasoning power of your mind] has NOT revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 16:17.
    It is very apparent that Jesus did not include “reason” in his statement to identify how Peter was illuminated. One can argue as you did that reason might also discover the truth in the same that Science may discover God, but we are not discussing science, but rather faith. I will argue that not all truth or better yet fact is inspired or illuminated by God. That we can use reason without inspiration to conclude a scientific fact- but this is my own opinion. See but we cannot reason, but only be given a revealed knowledge from God, the fact that Jesus is the true salvation.

    Of course we cannot. I do not for a moment suppose that I can use reason alone to know the truths of revelation. The Catholic Church denies this. And it may be that you are thinking of ‘reason’ in the fairly narrow sense of ‘thinking things out’ – I mean the whole power of the mind to know things. Perhaps ‘intellect’ would be a better word. But what I do mean is that the reason – or intellect, if you prefer – must be used by men to know the things of God – and it must be reason illuminated by the Spirit. What else can the Spirit illuminate??

    I think we are arguing about different things. I was only responding to the apparent ‘reason OR Spirit’ – whereas I think it must be, given the nature of man, ‘reason FORMED BY Spirit.’

    jj

  219. MTN – a PS – I think there is something deeper going on here. There is a pretty fundamental difference between the Protestant mind-set and the Catholic here. I do not say that every Protestant shares it, but there is in Protestantism a deep distrust of nature. The Catholic ‘slogan’ is that grace perfects nature.

    I recall, as a young Protestant, reading in something by Francis Schaeffer that was criticising St Thomas Aquinas. Schaeffer thought that the ‘grace perfects nature’ idea was one of the fundamental errors of Rome. ‘Nature always eats up grace’ was the way Schaeffer put it.

    The extreme version of the Protestant view – which, in my opinion, has a bit of Manichaeanism floating around in it – is that all that is of the ‘flesh’ – not merely of fallen nature but of nature itself – is suspect; that God, by grace, intends to replace nature by grace.

    This does, of course, to me seem a virtual denial of the Incarnation. I do not at all say that this is your view. But I think the idea that ‘reason is a whore’ (Luther’s words, so I am told) comes from this.

    But as I say, I don’t see what it can mean to say that a man receives revelation – but it has nothing to do with his reason. What other organ can revelation be made to?

    jj

  220. Dear jj,

    The context to which you extracted reason or H.S. is important for my original post. I was not focusing my post on a normal conversation like ours to whom is Holy spirit inspired but how Catholics vs Protestants have discerned there results. I pointed out that both have the same basic belief in the Holy Spirit. So regarding your post:

    …reason – or intellect, if you prefer – must be used by men to know the things of God – and it must be reason illuminated by the Spirit. What else can the Spirit illuminate??

    What teaching of Jesus do you know that He states that his disciples must ‘think’ to know His prophecy?
    What other teaching besides ‘salvation’ does Jesus teach in the Bible that the Holy Spirit inspired?
    What else does Jesus and apostles say in the Bible that people use when they know (think) something? Where do the apostles say that it leads them?
    What O.T. prophecy do you know that you rationalized that Jesus is in fact (not faithful-truth) the messiah?
    Is it impossible to be Holy spirit inspired if the inspiration does not coincide with Catholic tradition?

    Jesus gives presentation of Holy Spirit “illumination” as a confession rather than a rationalization. Prophecy on the other hand was revealed.
    The apostles disagreed about theology and I am not aware of any apostolic dogma, are you?
    Where does Jesus say you can use the Holy Spirit to rationalize dogma?

    Reason or intellect has nothing to do with a basic confession of Jesus Christ. It took the poor in spirit, the unwise, and the non-thinkers to believe that Jesus was the prophecy. It was those who ‘rationalized’ that believed Jesus could not be the fulfilled prophecy. Jesus made a specific point that you cannot rationalize His truth in Prophecy. Does this support the argument of Lutheran or Catholic?

  221. JJ ,
    Regarding your PS:

    As far as I’m concerned Catholicism is another theology (Calvin, Lutheran, Aquinas). There is nothing among them to distrust or trust as a salvation factor – when you don’t believe H.S inspired any of them. You see reason leads to something in addition to your confession of faith – it leads to a division in the Church. Who were you baptized in the name of? Who died for you? Peter, Aquinas, Constantine?

    There is no natural order in following a Catholic tradition, but rather an order of historic beliefs that fallible people accept as dogma that then defines future doctrine.

    Biblically speaking grace perfects people not nature.

    What organ of intellect do you mean? The flesh and blood? Perhaps it will be easier to understand if we use words like wise and unwise instead? Those who are unwise will be easier to accept the Salvation story.

  222. MTN (#220 & 221)

    What teaching of Jesus do you know that He states that his disciples must ‘think’ to know His prophecy?

    This is why I think we are using words differently. Reason is vastly more than thinking. I have already said that if, by ‘reason,’ you mean ‘ratiocination’ – the sort of thing you have to do to figure out how to get to the Post Office – that, certainly, there is no way reason in that sense can discover the truths of God. The Catholic Church agrees with that. You seem to equate ‘reason’ with ‘rationalisation.’ This not what I mean. I mean the power of a man to know things.

    You see reason leads to something in addition to your confession of faith – it leads to a division in the Church.

    Hmm… Isn’t this what seems to have happened since the Reformation?

    There is no natural order in following a Catholic tradition, but rather an order of historic beliefs that fallible people accept as dogma that then defines future doctrine.

    This, however, is a question of fact. Just asserting that Catholic tradition has no special status doesn’t make it so.

    Biblically speaking grace perfects people not nature.

    I’m not sure you are saying anything different here from what I am saying. ‘People’ have a nature.

    What organ of intellect do you mean? The flesh and blood?

    There is only one. I do not have two intellects.

    I am not attempting to demonstrate the validity of the Catholic view of authority, but only trying to contribute to an understanding of it. I think that you are refuting a position I am not taking and have no doubt I have been guilty of being unclear.

    jj

  223. second example: I am the Apostle Paul and I write that Jesus is Lord. I have – surely! – used my reason here. I know what the words mean. I know what He has revealed to me. I have talked with the other Apostles, those who knew the Lord in the flesh. But my writing that is guaranteed to be true because I am enlightened by the Spirit – specifically my mind, heart, and, yes, reason, are enlightened by the Spirit.

    It Is not that your reason here is unclear. It is unclear how you believe that you or anyone are enlightened.

    I also don’t understand how you mean reason as a power.

  224. MTN (#223)
    I’m sorry, it is clear that I am being very poor at communicating. I am not, in fact, the Apostle Paul :-)

    I think that by ‘reason’ you mean ‘discursive thought unaided by the Holy Spirit.’ If that is what you mean, then no one can know the things of God that way.

    Let me make one last attempt to explain what I mean. Your statement that I commented on was:

    …these people where either using ‘reason’ to rationalize the doctrine instituted or they used the Holy spirit (divinely inspired) to determine the doctrine legitimacy.

    I read Scripture. Do you think that from Scripture I can discern, for instance, that Jesus is Lord? Supposing you to say that I can. Do I discern this by reason or the Spirit? It surely must be that I discern it by reason enlightened by the Spirit. By ‘reason’ I mean the ability – you seem not to have liked the word ‘power’ – that I have to read, to understand the meaning the what I read, and so forth.

    But unless the Spirit aids my reason, I cannot know – cannot ‘say’ as Paul says in Romans – that Jesus is Lord. It is utterly impossible.

    Now that is all I meant. I must use my reason. I cannot read words without using my reason. I cannot know anything whatever.

    But except the Holy Spirit enlighten my reason, I cannot know the truths of God.

    Now regarding the Pope – no one claims that the Pope is ‘inspired’ in the same sense that the Apostle Paul was inspired. But his understanding is Spirit-enlightened, if he does not turn his heart away from God.

    So let’s take some doctrine such as the bodily assumption of Mary. The Pope reads Scripture. That involves his reason. He studies the history of the Church and what Christians have believed. That involves his reason. He thinks about these things. But unless the Spirit enlighten his reason, he cannot know that the bodily assumption of Mary is true. I am positing here that, in fact, it is true – obviously you don’t believe this – I am just trying to explain what I mean when I say that the Pope – and every Christian – does not somehow go into a trance, turn off his reason, and magically issue statements. It is not reason vs Spirit; it is reason enlightened by Spirit.

    jj

  225. How do you suppose that John the Baptist leaped in the womb?

    Is Mary less inclinded to be assumed then Enoch or Elijah?

  226. P.S.
    I want to share a Catholic Theologian Scott Hahn’s point of view:
    “Therefore, according to the Roman Catholic Church, each and every deed I do that is pleasing to God is nothing other than the work of Christ active in me through the power of the Holy Spirit. St. Augustine said as a result, “When God rewards my labors, He’s merely crowning the works of His hands in my life.” As Paul says, “We are not competent of ourselves; our competence is from God who has made us competent.” It isn’t me but the Holy Spirit in me enabling me to cooperate and operate

  227. “But within the Protestant authority paradigm, no persons are recognized as possessing divine authority when offering clarifying answers regarding crucial matters of faith. Therefore, such answers can only be the product of fallible human reason – they are at best educated guesses.”

    This is partially correct- Protestants lay no claim to living prophets or divine interpreters. However, we can do a bit better than educated guesswork, and we do command a certain kind of authority. That authority is the kind that comes from expertise. Not educated guesswork, but expertise, and the degree to which one can demonstrate expertise is the degree to which one has doctrinal authority.

    And what role does expertise play in the Catholic Church? Seems like it must necessarily be held in low esteem, relative to the guy who’s supposedly invested with divine revelation. Divine revelation which presents quite infrequently as a burning in the bosom, but is nonetheless unfalsifiable and somehow….preferable? Is the demonstration of expertise at all important to Catholics, I wonder? I would assume that they believe their expertise to be far superior to that of Protestants, maybe you guys even believe you can beat the Protestants at their own game without necessarily playing the “God says I’m always right” card. But I can’t help but notice that the word, or even a description of expertise, appears nowhere in this article. Are educated guesses really supposed to pass for that? Is that all you think of the role that expertise plays in your own paradigm? I can tell you right now, it is right at the center of the Protestant paradigm, and you either completely missed it or you somehow don’t believe Protestants have any “real” expertise worth mentioning.

  228. Dear Mike,

    Thank you for your comment here at CTC. You wrote:

    “This is partially correct- Protestants lay no claim to living prophets or divine interpreters. However, we can do a bit better than educated guesswork, and we do command a certain kind of authority. That authority is the kind that comes from expertise. Not educated guesswork, but expertise, and the degree to which one can demonstrate expertise is the degree to which one has doctrinal authority.

    I understand expertise as a term concerned with one’s facility in applying or carrying out an art or learned discipline; whereas my article is concerned with science – in particular – the epistemological first principles of Divine science or theology. Therefore, the specific kind of authority which I take up by way of comparison with respect to the Catholic and Protestant paradigms might be loosely termed “revelatory epistemology”. The article compares the ability of each paradigm, given their respective epistemological principles, to provide men with the content of revealed truth in a definitive way, such that the revealed truth promulgated is known as promulgated with divine (not merely human) authority. And it seems to me that the only way in which a human agent might promulgate some truth as being divinely revealed is if God were to allow some human agent(s) to participate – in some way – in His own divine authority. And affirming the fact of such participation in the present day, is precisely that feature of the Catholic authority paradigm which differentiates Catholicism from the Protestant paradigm vis-à-vis the problem of revelatory epistemology.

    Of course, there are other forms of authority besides divine authority. Within the Protestant paradigm, the sole locus of revealed truth is situated within a book containing writings, the last of which were penned nearly two thousand years ago. But books, as I explain in the article, are ontologically inferior to living persons with respect to self-interpretation. Books cannot answer second, third, fourth (and so on) order clarificatory questions, as can living persons. In light of this distinction between books and persons, it becomes apparent within the Protestant authority paradigm, that men living in the present must interpret the words and meanings of authors from the distant past in an effort to gain access to those revealed truths which God would have men know.

    Unsurprisingly, this paradigmatic situation gives rise to a host of scholarly disciplines directed at “the book” in various ways; such as hermeneutics, linguistic arts, socio-historical studies, etc; by which Protestant scholars and theologians attempt to accurately construe the proper translation of texts, as well as the likely meaning(s) which the author intended to convey – by way of the text – with respect to revealed truths. And certainly, within these book-directed disciplines, one may gain expertise as –say – a Greek scholar, or old testament scholar, or 1st century historian, etc. No doubt, expertise in such disciplines entails one type of authority; what might be termed academic or scholarly authority. All things being equal, one is well served to pay attention to an expert within a given academic discipline, rather than a novice who lacks the scholar’s expertise. But in no case do the sort of academic textual/hermeneutic specialties in which one might gain expertise yield anything like definitive, divinely authorized, accounts of revealed truth. At best, what such scholarly efforts achieve is a narrowing of the sphere of plausible interpretations or theological options which are compatible with textual translation, the broader cultural situation, and (a Catholic would add) the Tradition of the Church through the ages. In an effort to highlight this point in an efficient manner within the article, I made recourse to the central doctrine of Justification as an exemplar. I wrote:

    “The hard truth is that scripture is only partially perspicuous and that perspicuity – quite frankly – does not cover all the essential doctrines of salvation. For however the “essential” doctrines might be defined, justification is clearly one of those essential matters, if not the penultimate case. Yet, the biblical data pertaining to the doctrine of justification, perhaps more than any other doctrine, requires assimilation and coordination of more texts from more authors and from more biblical books than any other. Moreover, each one of those texts, in turn, are open to serious scholarly disagreement as to the proper “context” in which the text itself is to be interpreted. Hence, from a strictly exegetical point of view, the doctrine of justification is possibly the most synthetically difficult doctrine known to theology – but it lies at the soteriological core of Christianity!”[bold emphasis added]

    I think this example highlights the limits of scholarly expertise with respect to a doctrine which most Christians would consider central, rather than peripheral. What academic expertise delivers is a certain kind of authority with respect to the specific academic discipline in which a scholar or theologian has been trained. What such training does not do, nor can it ever do in principle, is enable a scholar or theologian to promulgate one plausible interpretation of a doctrine as definitive or binding upon the Christian people. The reason is that scholarly interpretations, by the nature of the case, and by the admission of scholars themselves, are rarely, if ever, promoted as enjoying anything like divine sanction. Thus, most sectors of Protestantism (implicitly or explicitly) hold to a twin set of epistemological principles with respect to human access to divine revelation:

    1.) The notion that the locus of all revealed truth is situated in ancient writings which must be interpreted by men in the present.

    2.) The explicit denial that anyone in the present participates in divine authority.

    The union of those two principles entails that there is no possibility – in principle – of attaining revealed truths as revealed truths in the present. The most that scholarly expertise can achieve are plausible theological opinions which are compatible with the text/culture/Tradition. That is why there neither is, nor can be, anything like “dogma” within Protestantism.

    Hence, when I speak of “educated guess work”, I do not mean to disparage the “educated” dimension of that phrase. For there is certainly a sort of academic authority involved in a Protestant approach to the 66-book Protestant canon (i.e. men educated in hermeneutic disciplines approaching a text to decipher meaning). Nevertheless, it remains “guess-work” with respect to any definitive meaning which God would have men know. And the reason for that is precisely because (in general) Protestant scholars, theologians and pastors deny (as a fundamental principle) that any living human agent (including the uber-educated) participate in divine authority with respect to definitive doctrinal promulgation. That fact, combined with the notion that the locus of revealed truth is said to be solely embedded within ancient documents which require interpretation, erects (within the Protestant paradigm) an epistemological wall between modern day Protestants seeking revealed truth as definitive or binding on divine authority and the ancient authors who were, during their lifetime, presumably capable of speaking with divine authority. Within such a paradigm, all theological positions (including Trinitarian and Christological doctrines) remain open to revision in principle, based upon further academic insight, research, etc. Therefore, with respect to doctrines known to be true on divine and binding authority, it does not follow that: “expertise, and the degree to which one can demonstrate expertise is the degree to which one has doctrinal authority”

    You wrote:

    ”And what role does expertise play in the Catholic Church? Seems like it must necessarily be held in low esteem, relative to the guy who’s supposedly invested with divine revelation. . . Is the demonstration of expertise at all important to Catholics, I wonder?”

    That’s an excellent question. A key principle within the Catholic paradigm is that grace builds upon nature, rather than working against nature or without nature’s contribution. Dogmatic definitions flowing from the ecumenical councils of Christian history, as well as the dogmas flowing from the rare exercise of papal authority, occur within the context of a historical and trans-cultural theological tradition which generally takes into account the sort of linguistic and hermeneutic disciplines practiced by Protestant scholars. Moreover, in addition to such disciplines, dogmatic promulgations of the Catholic Church are also formed by the patrimony of the Fathers, prior councils and papal promulgations, and the general theological heritage of the Christian people down through the ages. In this way, the scholarly and theological elements which materially inform and constrain dogmatic definitions within the Catholic paradigm are arguably broader than anything which happens during the development of a Protestant creed or statement of faith.

    The difference is that, whereas the Protestant paradigm might conceive of scholarly expertise as sufficient to determine creedal or confessional stances, the Catholic paradigm recognizes such expertise as contributory, but insufficient in itself, to reach a divinely authoritative rendering of revealed truth. To achieve the later, the unique authority granted by Christ to His apostles and their successors must necessarily operate in conjunction with scholarly expertise. From a Catholic point of view, the reason that scholarly expertise is contributory but insufficient, and that Episcopal authority is necessary, turns upon the sort of epistemological considerations mentioned above. For recent examples of how the Catholic paradigm works in practice, one might consider Vatican Councils I & II. In each case, there was wide and far ranging debate and consideration of the hermeneutic and theological issues at stake, including the theological Tradition of the Church herself, most especially her prior dogmatic promulgations. Such considerations both formed and constrained final counciliar outcomes. In this way, the final exercise of magisterial authority was intentionally carried out within a broad theological and scholarly context, because the Catholic paradigm understands the Holy Spirit’s action within the Church as an animating Presence within the Church as a body, a living organism, a divine-human society. In this body all members contribute to her life (including scholars and theologians); while the ordained episcopate exercises a specific kind of authority, granted and maintained by Christ through the Spirit, for the very purpose of overcoming the sort of epistemological wall between de fide teaching and mere (human/scholarly) theological opinion which hampers the Protestant paradigm.

    You wrote:

    ”Divine revelation which presents quite infrequently as a burning in the bosom, but is nonetheless unfalsifiable and somehow….preferable? I would assume that they believe their expertise to be far superior to that of Protestants, maybe you guys even believe you can beat the Protestants at their own game without necessarily playing the “God says I’m always right”

    The phrase “burning in the bosom” I understand to refer to a situation wherein a person or group claims to speak with divine authority, while implicitly or explicitly justifying that claim by nothing other than an appeal to their own subjective sense of certainty that their thoughts, words, doctrinal positions, etc. enjoy something like divine affirmation. The Catholic claim that the bishops in union with the bishop of Rome (or the bishop of Rome in particular) are protected from error under specific conditions when exercising care for the universal Church by virtue of an authority originally granted by Christ to the apostles and passed on through their successors to the present day; is rooted in a wide range of scriptural and historical motives of credibility which make the comparison to “bosom burning” ineffectual. Certainly, one might attempt to argue that the scriptural and historical data do not support the Catholic claim. But the notion that the Catholic claim is predicated upon “bosom burning”, rather than a scriptural/historical apologetic is counterfactual.

    You wrote:

    But I can’t help but notice that the word, or even a description of expertise, appears nowhere in this article. Are educated guesses really supposed to pass for that? Is that all you think of the role that expertise plays in your own paradigm? I can tell you right now, it is right at the center of the Protestant paradigm, and you either completely missed it or you somehow don’t believe Protestants have any “real” expertise worth mentioning.

    As I indicated above, the Catholic Church – even in the exercise of dogmatic promulgation – has a high regard for scholarly expertise. The Church herself has no shortage of brilliant linguists, scripture scholars or professional theologians; nor does she shy away from attending to the very excellent scholarship of many Protestant and Eastern Orthodox academics. Indeed, many, if not most, of the authors on this site hold advanced academic degrees and – as converts – are well read, not only in the best Catholic scholarship, but in the best Protestant scholarship also. I, for one, certainly have no intention to denigrate scholarly expertise in any of its forms. Nevertheless, for all the reasons given above; when comparing the Catholic and Protestant paradigms in light of their respective ability to reach a definitive knowledge of revealed truths; the essential problem is epistemology, not scholarly expertise – regardless of degree. And that is why nothing like a detailed description or account of expertise appears in the article.

    Pax Christ,

    Ray

  229. […] following is an excerpt from a blog post thread written by Ray Stamper, a guest writer for the Christian apologetics group, Called to […]

Leave Comment

Subscribe without commenting